Thursday, July 31, 2008

My in-studio interview with 10 WORLDS STUDIO

Now up at the PLANET COMIC BOOK RADIO website is my interview with the creators of LAZARUS:IMMORTAL COILS.

L to R: Editor Vincent S. Moore, penciller Alex Lugo, creator/writer Joseph Gauthier and your humble and happy radio host...ME!!

I had met Alex a few months earlier at the local comic book show I helped organize through the NUVEIN FOUNDATION (backers of my radio show). Alex is a local here in the San Gabriel Valley, and so I extended him and invitation to appear on the show.

He brought along Joseph and Vincent, this way we could have the principal creative team of the comic book. Beforehand, I wondered how this would turn out, because I hadn't had three guests all on at the same time. Plus I had not really met Joe and Vince before, and only met Alex briefly at the festival.

Turns out though that these three folks were tremendously entertaining and informative. They not only joined me in going over my weekend at Comic Con (I promise I will blog about that over this weekend!), but we spent 70 minutes talking about all kinds of issues related to the business and craft of comics! Topics that were discussed included Hollywood's love affair with the Con and comic book properties, spirituality, Jesus Christ, collaborating with others, the dedication needed for self-publishing and on and on. They even got a few words in there about their own comic book!!

Seriously though, I was really happy with this show. I hadn't had an in-studio guest for a few episodes, and to have three really interesting people all at one was wonderful. The three of them are pretty close in terms of friendship as well as philosophically, and the synergy they demonstrated was genuine and inspiring. I think we could have gone on for another half hour, but it's always good to leave 'more for next time'!

So thanks to Joe, Vince and Alex for coming on the show and sharing their passion for comics! (Now my next guest better not be a killjoy!!)

Let me share a little behind-the-scenes of the radio show. Usually, with the in-studio guests, we head over to a local Mexican restaurant for a post-show dinner. Well, the four of us continued the tradition and the energy level actually went up! What happens at these dinners is more shop talk, but really uncensored!! If the guest isn't too familiar with me, they'll usually ask me about my comics and the EL MUERTO movie. We'll also get to know more about one another on a more personal basis, but as I mentioned, we usually discuss more private matters about our work and industry issues! To be professional on the podcast, we save this stuff for outside the studio. (Avoids lawsuits, no doubt!)

Well, with that little tidbit, I guess I'll sign of the blog for now!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trailer for XOMIX COMIX imprint!

So here's the trailer I debuted earlier this evening on my radio show. It's for the co-publishing venture I'm doing with my friend Ted Seko, XOMIX COMIX. This will be the imprint I'll be publishing DEMOLITION DOVE under. Ted's new character will be ZOMBIE MAN ZERO.

Look for the debut book from XOMIC COMIX in the Fall! For now, enjoy this great video!

New, post-Earthquake episode of my radio show!

Friday, July 25, 2008

San Diego Comic I come!!

Well, I originally wasn't going to attend Comic Con (which is why I haven't posted about it!) but it turns out through some good fortune I will indeed be attending Comic Con!

I'll be there by Saturday afternoon, just hanging out and checking in with several of my friends in the Small Press Pavilion. I also want to attend the Steve Ditko panel, hosted by Blake Bell.
Saturday July 26: 5:30-6:30pm, Room 4
"World of Steve Ditko" panel featuring Jim Starlin, Kim Deitch, Gary Groth, Dean Mullaney, Liana K. and Carl Potts.

As I mentioned, I wasn't planning on attending the Convention this year. The cut-off time to order a table came and went just way to quick for me! 'Early bird gets the worm' nowadays at Comic Con, that's for sure. The show has just grown beyond the capacity of the Convention Center in the last couple of years, and if you don't jump on getting an exhibitor table, or even an attendee badge, you might get shut out.

But I'm sure glad to be going! I actually like attending the show as a 'spectator', believe it or not. I think the first show I attended was about 1992, and went every year up to 1998, when I started exhibiting under LOS COMEX. And doing the Con as an exhibitor is also fun and exciting in it's own way. But being able to walk the vast cavern of the Exhibit Floor and checking out assorted panels ,well, that's fun. I know a lot of my fellow exhibitors wouldn't go out of there way to attend the shows if they're not working it. And that's fine for them. But for me, I still have that love for not only the comics, but the whole crazy culture of comics. To be able to walk a floor and look for inexpensive 1970s back issues, or find bobble heads of characters like Speed Racer of the Banana Splits, or running into old friends, well, how could I not like that!

I'll share my weekend at the Con, with the all-important photos, when I get back. Look for the post by Wednesday or so next week!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

'Rowdy' Roddy Piper is a COBRA agent?!

This is too dang cool not to blog about!

Apparently, Roddy Piper was made into an action figure for the G.I. Joe Real American Hero line!! This was released last year as an exclusive convention special. Only 1000 were made! Piper appeared at the convention to sign the figures. I have no idea how Hasbro came to approach wrestling icon Piper to become an agent of the international terrorist organization, COBRA, but how freakin' cool is that!! I know Sgt. Slaughter was part of the toy line back in the 80s, so I guess it was time to have another wrestler in the line!

Soon as I found out about this the other night, I jumped on eBay but was crushed to discover the figure is selling for over $200!! Man, I would so love to get one of these, but I ain't paying a couple of hundred bucks for one!

Piper, it goes without saying, is my favorite wrestlers. I used to watch him as kid back in the mid-70s, when he'd be wrestling in LA on the Spanish stations, waging war on the entire Guerrero Family! Then of course, in the 80s, when Vince McMahon was able to turn wrestling into a mainstream entertainment business, there was Roddy Piper battling against champ Hulk Hogan (and really, what would Hogan have been like if he didn't have such a superstar to fight against?). Piper brought wrestling right into the mainstream by feuding with Mr. T and kicking Cindy Lauper in the head on MTV!!!

Ah Roddy, you were the best!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Blake Bell's new biography on Steve Ditko is a long-overdue retrospective on one of comic's most imaginative creators and true iconoclasts. "STRANGE AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO" takes us on a 216 page odyssey covering Ditko's 50+ years in the comics business. And every step of the way we're following the path of an artist whose independent streak remains unfaltering year after year.

A few years ago Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth approached Bell with the idea of producing a monograph on Ditko, immediately after Bell had conducted a successful panel on Ditko at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con. Blake soon began researching a subject who hasn't given any formal interviews, or made any appearances at comic conventions, since the late 1960s.

The end result is this exceptionally written book detailing the professional career of one very private individual. Beginning with Dikto's early life in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the book details young Steve's love of comic books (Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT, The Batman) and his development as the class artist. Comics were all Ditko really wanted to do, and by the early 1950s Ditko is working in New York as a professional comic book artist. Some 10 years later, in 1962, he and Stan Lee co-create create The Amazing Spider-Man for Marvel Comics.

The chapter dealing with Spider-Man is probably my favorite part of the book. If only because of Bell's analysis of all aspects of the creation of the strip, guided so strongly by Ditko himself, and for best portrait we have on how the partnership began to grow increasingly difficult to maintain. It's Ditko's steadfast belief in fighting for what he believes to be right that made him stand up to Stan Lee and demand he get the plotting credit on the book, in addition to the art credit. The 'Marvel Method' in which the early books were created would often involve no more than a suggestion of a storyline from Stan, at which point Steve would basically create a whole 28 page comic book from scratch. Stan would afterwards write the actual dialog and add the captions, endowing the book with much of it's success. The day came though when Ditko turned in his last pages and walked off the book, the reasons put forward by Bell.

The co-creation status of Ditko on Spider-Man has long been a point of contention between the two legends. Lee often claiming sole 'creator' status for coming up with the initial idea, Ditko maintaining that as the person who came up with all the visual elements (costumes, physical appearances, gimmicks, etc), co-creator credit is an indisputable fact. Regardless of whatever Stan Lee believes, his very own Marvel Method gives validation to Ditko's claims, (and Jack Kirby's, for that matter) of co-creating the characters he worked on with Stan Lee. As young kid in the 70s, when I read Stan Lee's ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS, I immediately realized that the Lee-Kirby-Ditko partnerships were responsible for creating the original Marvel universe. To dispute that is intellectual dishonesty.

© Fantagraphics Books 2008.

After Spider-Man, Ditko continued to work in comics, creating characters such as The Creeper, Hawk & Dove and Shade the Changing Man for DC and working on Captain Atom, The Blue Beetle and The Question for Charlton (these three would later inspire Alan Moore's creation of the Watchman). For Ditko though, he would never work on as high-profile an assignment as Spider-Man. Bell's book chronicles Ditko's adherence to the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand and how the decisions he made regarding work, and even the way in which he would tell his stories, have had a hand in taking Dikto further away from the comic book spotlight.

An unexpected and welcome account in the book chronicles Frank Miller's contacts with Ditko to collaborate on a project. My friend Mort Todd, who in his capacity as Editor-in-Chief of CRACKED Magazine hired Ditko as an artist, and again at Marvel on a line of Marvel horror reprint books in the early 90s, also shows up in a chapter.

The majority of Ditko's career is formed by his Objectivist views, and Bell covers this in detail, providing the reader with an understanding, and critique, of Ditko's career choices. But also, the book spotlights the virtuosity of Steve Ditko the artist. With a rich variety of artwork covering everything from many rare pieces (Ditko's 1970s contributions to the San Diego Comic Con program) to the landmark iconic imagery of Spider-Man and Mr. A, this book also functions as an exquisite coffee table book. With virtually every page containing artwork from Ditko's entire career, the visual power of his inventive cartooning and design skills are really why Ditko is in the upper pantheon of comic book artists.

If you're interested in comic books, you owe it to yourself to read about this iconic practitioner of the art form. And if you consider yourself an independent artist, or thinker, then I would suggest to read about this man who steadfastly stood by his core values, regardless of the cost to him socially or professionally. A man who co-created on of the top three comic book characters of all time. And a man whose artwork is teaming with innovation and imagination.

FYI: I had the good fortune to interview Blake Bell on my radio show, PLANET COMIC BOOK RADIO, a few weeks ago. You can listen to it here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

CARTOONISTAS Opening Night-wrap up

Last night's opening night for the month-long CARTOONISTAS art show was a rollickin' good time! The show is hosted by GEEKS comic shop, located in the historic Uptown Whittier section of my fair city.

GEEKS hosted the Q&A for the Uptown Whittier Film Festival screening of EL MUERTO earlier this year. Saturday evening's festivities brought it's own type of fun. All but one of the exhibiting CARTOONISTA's attended (Jose Cabrera was out of town). As usual with these type of events, my picture-taking moments were sporadic at best. But here are some shots:

GRASIELA RODRIGUEZ with her Punisher painting!

WILL CAULFIELD with a digital print of his one and only BAT-BAT!

Me an' JIM LUJAN, fun-lovin' and multi-tasking animator/cartoonist.

Jim had several pieces in the show, all from his classic 'Security Man' toon. Jim's other claim to fame is that he came to me with the dream of uniting area artists into a league that would rival, well, the Mafia, in terms of impact on American culture! I was honored to co-found the Cartoonistas with him. ( Check out the Cartoonistas blog Jimmy maintains for more pix and a cool little video he made...)

Me and Steve Romo, another Whittier artist. Steve actually colored Jim's 'Security Man' pieces, using a real nice application of watercolor. You can see a couple of the pieces above us.

I created three new paintings for the show. One being the first-ever Demolition Dove painting. Appropriate to create it for an Independence Day weekend opening. And in an egg-shaped (well, okay...oval) canvas!

And in honor of their new movies, or perhaps in homage to their classic tv shows I grew up on, Speed Racer and The Incredible Hulk!

A few years ago I had the good fortune to have been contacted by an old friend of mine from my High School days. Raul teaches at a local elementary school in the area, and I've been visiting his class every June for the last three years. Last week he and his wife hosted a little get together at their home. Among the attendees was myself and a mutual friend of ours I had not seen since 1984! My best friend from Jr. High School and into High School, Elias Hernandez! Well, both Raul and Elias came to the opening. The Whittier High School Class of 1984!

Elias, (on the right) and I seemed to have seamlessly picked up where we left off 24 years ago! He still has a box of comic books he collected when I got him into comics. THE HUMAN FLY, Jack Kirby's ETERNALS, SHE-HULk, etc. Wow, the memories are crystal clear and they come flooding back. Very nice to be able to have the three of us long-time Whittier residents finally hook up at the same time again! See guys, all them comics and drawing led me to something cool!

This was a very special night for me personally, no doubt. Sure, I'm always glad to have a chance to exhibit my artwork. And to share the space with so many great artists, especially in our first Cartoonistas group show, that was really gratifying. And having friends dating back to 1980, well, it makes one glad to be alive.

By 10:30pm, everyone had finally cleared out! Here are the final five, starting from the left: Tony Saxon (a friend I met back in college, which would be about....sheesh, 1989/90!), Jennifer and Sal (Sal is another friend from High School that I ran into about 2 years ago. He and I, and a few other artists, formed an art/discussion group called Cesos!), and on the far right, Bernyce Talley (an artist herself, and a best friend to me for several years now....)

Thanks to all the artists and friends for coming out that night. And thanks to GEEKS for hosting the show. The exhibit will be up until August 3rd, so please visit the store if you can!