Cartoon Crossroads Columbus – CXC

The 2nd annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus has been in full swing since Thursday, and will be going on through the weekend. I will be at the expo portion of the event on Saturday and Sunday (Oct 15-16) at the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library downtown.

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So please drop by and say hi to me and the dozens of fantastic creators who will be signing books, doing presentations, and holding panels.

Persia Blues named one of 25 Essential Columbus Comics

As part of their coverage of the 2nd annual CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, the Columbus Alive has compiled a list of 25 Essential Columbus Comics. These are comics and graphic novels created by Columbus writers and artists, and I’m proud to have Persia Blues (by yours truly and artist and fellow Columbusite Brent Bowman) be part of the list!

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“Dara is a wonderful storyteller, and his Persia Blues trilogy is a great story with a strong female lead.”

The list was compiled with the help of 11 local creators and comic book fans, of which I was a member (and no, we did not vote for our own books). Go check out these books, and be sure to read the Alive’s other reports about CXC.

Persia Blues original art at Shadowbox Live gallery

This past October, Columbus’ own Shadowbox Live – the sketch comedy, short play, and live music troupe – presented “The Tenshu,” a unique production featuring live martial arts, magic, giant puppets and supernatural experiences, accompanied by an original rock score. The show was a collaboration between Japanese choreographer/director Hiromi Sakamoto and New York Times Best Selling author of the Kabuki graphic novels, David Mack.

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Accompanying the production was a gallery show featuring original comic book art from several local creators, including my artistic partner in crime, Brent Bowman. Several of Brent’s pages and paintings from volume 1 of Persia Blues were prominently on display:

We hope to make this the first of several more gallery shows.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the original art from the book, drop me a line via the Contact link on this site.

Spitball Anthology: sneak peek

So a short while ago I told you about the Spitball comic book anthology being put together by the students at CCAD. I wanted to share the first page from the short story I contributed to the book, with art by the talented Lee Meyers.

Here are her roughs:

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Followed by her pencils/inks:

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And the nearly complete colored and lettered page:

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I can’t wait to see the finished book, which will feature artwork by many of Lee’s classmates, and stories written by the likes of Matt Fraction, Noelle Stevenson, and Ivan Brandon.

First look at Spitball anthology

The Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) is offering an advanced comics workshop course for a small group of talented students, and at the end of their class they will be producing a full-color comics anthology titled Spitball.

Print

The instructors sought out professional comics writers to supply 5-page stories for the students. I was fortunate to be asked to participate in this cool new project, alongside such comics luminaries as Chris Sebela (DEAD LETTERS, ALIEN VS PREDATOR, CAPTAIN MARVEL), Kate Leth (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ADVENTURE TIME), Karl Bollers (WATSON AND HOLMES), Lora Innes (THE DREAMER), Matt Fraction (SEX CRIMINALS, HAWKEYE, IRON MAN, X-MEN), Jen Van Meter (HOPELESS SAVAGES, BLACK CAT), Ivan Brandon (WOLVERINE, VIKING, MEN OF WAR), and Noelle Stevenson (LUMBERJANES, THOR).

The artist illustrating my story is Lee Meyers, and you can check out her tumblr here. But I’d like to share a few pieces of her art right here:

Character designs

Character designs

Drone designs

Drone designs

Setting designs and color studies

Set designs and color studies

Thumbnails/roughs for page 1

Thumbnails/roughs for page 1

I’ll post more info on the book as the semester progresses and Lee finalizes the pages. In the meantime, you can follow Spitball on tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

Writer’s Talk

Back in the November of 2011, I was a guest on Writer’s Talk, a local show hosted by Doug Dangler and produced by The Ohio State University’s Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing. For the show, Doug interviewed writers in various fields and disciplines, “focusing on how they produce text and communicate in a variety of genres. Its purpose is to demystify and promote writing, especially for academic writers.”

(Note that Writer’s Talk is no longer in production. However, Doug is currently hosting a similar new show, Craft.)

The episode I was on also featured 2 other prolific Columbus comic creators: Ken Eppstein, editor, writer, and publisher of the Nix Comics Quarterly, and Max Ink, creator, writer, and artist of Blink.

You can watch the entire episode right here:

Dial B For Brimstone

This piece of flash fiction is actually my very first professionally published story. It was selected as one of three winning entries (from 407 submissions) in a “short, short story” contest held by my hometown newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch. They called them “Noveleenies,” and I think they had to be under 400 words. My story was published in the Sunday edition on May 13, 2001.

Art students from the Columbus College of Art and Design were selected to produce mock book covers for the stories. Here’s the one for my story, by artist Genevieve L Wood (I think this is her website, but I’m basing that solely on the mention of CCAD in her bio):

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The final layout in the paper:

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Aside from publication in the paper, I think we were also supposed to receive a copy of The Best American Short Stories 2001 anthology, but I never got mine. Yep, stiffed by a newspaper on my very first published work 😉

Anyway, here’s my story:

Dial B for Brimstone

“Thank you for calling the Hades Hotline,” the lifeless recording announced. “This automated service is brought to you by Corruption, the new fragrance by Calvin Klein. Corruption. Entice mortals into premarital sex. If you know the extension of your party, please enter it now.”

The old woman’s bony, wrinkled finger impatiently punched in a three-digit number.

“We’re sorry, that extension is no longer valid. Please select from the following options: To check on the status of your soul, press (1). For real-time quotes on pestilence, famine, war and death, press (2). To listen to the latest ‘N Sync single, press (3). If you are a Fox executive looking to develop a new show, press (4). To search our patented Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife database, please have your ZIP code handy and press (5). If you are a telemarketer looking for a listing of families currently sitting down to dinner, press (6). If you live in California…”

After two dozen menu options, 18 minutes on hold, and several threats of disembowelment directed at an obtuse customer service representative, the old woman’s call was finally transferred to its destination. In a cluttered, unassuming office, buried under piles of legal forms, a phone emitted discordant rings. Without looking away from his computer screen, a rotund middle-aged man with a graying goatee picked up the receiver.

“Hello? Mom? Ah jeez, I thought I asked you not to call me at work.”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young man! What, is The Prince of Darkness so busy with his career that he can’t even take the time to talk to his own mother? And why doesn’t your old number work anymore?

“They just installed a new voice mail system and I…”

“Couldn’t be bothered to tell your poor mother the new extension, is that it? And another thing…”

With a resigned sigh, The Dark One switched his call to the speakerphone and turned the volume down. Adjusting his reading glasses, he focused his weary eyes once again on the flickering computer monitor before him and continued with his e-mail.

To: Legal

Re: the Jordan contract

Please advise if Michael is covered for a second comeback under the terms of his original contract.

In the background a shrill voice droned on over the speakerphone. “…and when are you going to find someone nice to settle down with?…”

Review: The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics

The_CartoonistAnother library rental, and a very enjoyable one at that, The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics is a 2009 documentary about local boy made good, Bone creator and fellow Columbusite, Jeff Smith.

As you would expect with any documentary, this one charts Smith’s career, from his childhood doodles to his college days, animation career, and self-publishing Bone. Along the way, we’re treated to interviews with Smith himself, as well as a friends and fellow cartoonists like Paul Pope, Coleen Doran, Scott McCloud, Harvey Pekar, and Terry Moore. Oh, and of course Lucy Caswell, of the Ohio State University Cartoon Library & Museum, who was one of Smith’s early supporters and mentors.

There was a fair amount of time spent on Smith’s seven years with Character Builders, the animation house he co-founded with two friends after graduating college. It was fun seeing snippets of commercial animation from the trio, including an opening sequence for a planned Jack Hanna animal show called Super Safari, as well as ads for Warner Cable (featuring the superhero Warner Man) and White Castle (in claymation, no less!). Smith credits the discipline learned from years of doing animation, both in terms of craft (learning to draw every character consistently and with varying emotions) and business (heeding deadlines, interacting with customers and vendors professionally) as one of the reasons for his success as self-publishing.

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Smith himself talks about his early influences (Carl Bark’s Uncle scrooge, Walk Kelly’s Pogo), as well as the seminal comics from 1986 that opened his eyes to the potential of the medium: Maus, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. (Quick digression: I was lucky enough to catch a talk by Smith at CCAD about 10 years ago, where he spoke passionately about his love of comics, and incorporated dozens of images from the aforementioned books in his presentation to explain the intricacies of the craft.) Parts of the interview are also set in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, specifically Old Man’s Cave, wherein Smith talks about the influence of that specific geographic region on his art and the settings of Bone.

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Smith’s wife, and business partner Vijaya Iyer is also featured. In a humorous clip, he explains how he talked her into quitting her promising Silicon Valley job to help him make comics. In another interesting anecdote, talking about the genesis of his new series RASL, Smith mentions coming up with the basic premise back in 2001, and running it by his friends Paul Pope and Frank Miller. At one point, they were going to work together on a science fiction anthology called Big Big, with RASL being Smith’s contribution. Alas, scheduling conflicts kept the project from ever materializing, but that would have been a trip, no?

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Oh, and on a personal note, it was cool to see my local comic shop of choice, The Laughing Ogre, featured in several of the shots in the documentary. Ogre employee Lloyd even makes an appearance in a segment set at the Smith/McCloud talk at OSU’s Mershon Auditorium. Speaking of which, most of that talk (which I had the pleasure of attending) is included on the DVD as a bonus feature. There’s also a mini-feature where Smith discusses his new series, RASL, talking about his research into both the real science and fringe science that makes up the backbone of the story.

For fans of comics, Bone and/or Jeff Smith, I’d definitely recommend this documentary. It’s professionally produced, well written, and contains good interviews, with some clever bits as well (like incorporating black & white film footage as humorous interstitials).

(A version of this review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, February 2011.)

Jeff Smith interviewed by fellow cartoonists

The Tell Me Something I Don’t Know podcast on boingboing is “an interview podcast featuring artists, writers, filmmakers, and other creative people discussing their work, ideas, and the reality/business side of how they do what they do.”

In episode #7, indie comic creators interview Columbus’ own Jeff Smith.

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There’s a wealth of great material here, including talking about business plans, selling to retailers, and much more. I like his stories about how much resistance there was in the early days toward trade paperback collections and graphic novels from the likes of Wizard magazine and retailers. Well worth your time, especially if you’re interested in the business side of comics and comics history.

3rd Triennial Academic Conference at the Festival of Cartoon Art

Ohio State University will once again be hosting the Festival of Cartoon Art, scheduled for November 14th-17th, 2013. More details here.

CFP: The Third Triennial Academic Conference at the Festival of Cartoon Art

Beginning in 2007, the triennial Festival of Cartoon Art at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University added a one-day academic conference ahead of the weekend’s festivities. This year, 2013, the Billy Ireland will be hosting a special Festival to celebrate the Grand Opening of its glorious new home with a weekend of speakers, events and exhibitions. In honor of this momentous occasion, the academic conference this year will be a two-day event on Thursday and Friday, November 14th and 15th, leading up to the kickoff of the official opening festivities on Friday evening.

In addition, they are currently inviting academic papers in comics studies, with a special interest in papers focusing on topics that connect with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s collections and mission. To be considered for the panels, please send a 250-500 word abstract and a one-page vita to gardner.236@osu.edu. The deadline for abstracts is July 1, 2013.