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May 24, 2009

This blog is moving out.

http://highway-62.com/wp is the new address. Don't come to this one anymore. I'm trying to get stuff to redirect automagically, but that may take some time yet.

Archives won't be here long, either.

May 23, 2009

Dystopia







Dystopia.jpg


Originally uploaded by maxwellm


Testing the flickr posting functions of the new blog.



And about this, obvously BLADE RUNNER-inspired image. I probably made this back in 1992 with the 3D package known as Bryce or Bryce2, the work of Kai Krause, who was a big deal in the world of Photoshop dabblers. Pretty simple really, one large ziggurat with fancy texture and a couple tiles of grayscale height maps (aka G2H maps) on a point grid. If you look closely, those spires are all very tiny triangles with a citylike prodecural on them.



I did have other versions of this floating around, but this is the only one I could track down immediately.

May 20, 2009

My low content mode.

Let me show you it.

"Appalachian Grove" by Laurie Spiegel, apparently based on the same piece by Aaron Copland. Can't say as I'm familiar with the original, but I've been in love with this version since I first heard it on the OHM: MASTERS OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC compliation. That comp itself has held a special place in my heart since I got it in the last couple weeks before I left my animation job at Netter Digital back in the late spring of 2000. I used to go in early, when there were only a couple other guys there, and play this at pretty high volume (because I'm a geek, and unlike other geeks at the time, didn't want to blast THE MATRIX soundtrack to get my groove on.)

It still takes me back to quiet mornings, surrounded by desks cluttered with other people's toys and christmas lights and the feeling that this was all going to change in shorter order than perhaps anyone wanted. Indeed, Netter Digital didn't last out the summer, and went through a major layoff some six weeks after I left, shutting its doors not long after.

Granted, I'm probably the only guy who hears it anything like that.

May 19, 2009

That pot ain't gonna stir itself.

So I'm looking at a number of changes for this place. That being the blog in particular and my online presence in general. Nothing particularly drastic.

Unless you count migrating to a new blogging platform as drastic, that is. Will probably go from Moveable Type to WordPress, mostly because it looks like WordPress has a bigger selection of tools for managing content, and webcomic-based material in particular.

Of course that means a lot of work if all the internal links are going to work. And really, I'm wondering about how much effort ought to be expended on this sort of project or if I should just keep a handful of old posts and then nuke the site from orbit. How much of this old stuff is worth keeping and how much should be jettisoned? I wonder about that sometimes.

Back to shovelling papers around the office and trying to tear myself from random YouTube videos or finishing re-reading V.2 of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN.

Aw hell, too late. Here's some Talk Talk for your troubles.


May 18, 2009

FULL BLEED SPECIAL

WE’LL SIT ON THE PORCH AS THE GOOD MEN STARE

As a matter of course, I attend a lot more comic shows than I used to. That’s the way things work now. I used to do one. That being SDCC. Then I started hitting the Bay Area shows: Wonder-Con (Oakland in exile) and APE. And one other, the San Jose Super-Con.

My first trip there was a Sunday two years back or so, at what might have been the nadir of my efforts into putting STRANGEWAYS out. The year before that, I’d watched Speakeasy go the route of the Titanic, even though nobody could point at one particular iceberg. The ship went down, but I managed to get onto a lifeboat safely and before the vortex of the ship being sucked under drew me in. In that I was lucky. But moving and trying to sell the book to other publishers and life in general got in the way for much longer than I’d have liked. It was at that show that I was asked by my friend James (Sime of the Isotope) if I was still planning on putting the book out.

That was kind of a wake-up call. I’d wanted to, but getting it all to come together was another thing. So in some ways, it was a turning point, since it was all continuous progress from then on: Diamond approval and printing and layout and publicity leading to the publishing of the book some ten months later.

I showed MURDER MOON at the San Jose show last year, got some solid response, including one reader who came back after buying the book on Saturday to get a second copy for her dad the following day. I wouldn’t say that I was on fire or anything, Sunday of last year was pretty quiet, but Saturday was respectable.

This year I was somewhat dragging my feet about going to Super-Con again. Temperatures were going to push triple digits at their peaks, and that particular venue is no damn good in the heat at all. Remember, it’s more or less a giant exterminator’s tent made of rubberized plastic (not known for its breathability) with metal ribs holding up the works. Put a couple hundred attendees in there at any given time all sweaty and breathing and you can imagine what it feels like (at least it’s relatively dry outside). Not the most pleasant way to spend the day, even when you’re selling books.

And when you’re not selling books, well, even less pleasant.

It’s not like I was in a bad location. I was two tables down from Howard Chaykin (did you know he’s doing a new DOMINIC FORTUNE mini for Marvel Max? I sure as hell didn’t, but it is something I would buy without hesitation). I was next to Alex Sheikman of ROBOTIKA/ (designer on the ALICE games and a penciller/inker back in the 90s for both Marvel and DC) and next to new publisher Hightower Comics. Not a bad location at all. Granted, up the aisle you had Humberto Ramos creating a giant line and Eduardo Risso right next to him, so some guys could generate traffic. But us on that other half of the aisle? Not so much.

Horses only come to water if they’re thirsty, apparently. Who knew? I could still troll up a few with the promise of cowboys and werewolves (remember, they don’t want to know that it’s really about family and friendship and the obligations of both—they just want something interesting to read.) But not as many as last year.

And perhaps that’s an unfair benchmark. Because I didn’t have much of anything new, other than telling people about the second book starting out as a webcomic (though I did have one buyer convinced that he’d bought the first issue of STRANGEWAYS a long time ago, which is weird, since even I don’t have one of those.) But if you apply that same logic, I shouldn’t have doubled my sales at the Stumptown Comic Festival like I did this year over last.

It’s probably a testament to the nature of the show. Super-Con is very much more a mainstream comic fan’s show with lots of dealers, a solid number of high-power artists. There just weren’t a lot of fans out there. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe they were all going to the beach or going to the Bay to Breakers in SF. But they sure weren’t coming to the South Hall of the convention center. And I couldn’t help but feel that it was the kind of show that was being put on that people just weren’t coming to.

Bear me out here. Stumptown, in Portland (which is actually Comicstown, USA, just ask anyone) was literally a quarter of the size of Super-Con. Yet the aisles were bustling at all moments of the show (minus the two hours of startup time on Sunday, even hipsters gotta sleep sometime, as well as attendees of the Comic Art Battle the night before). People at Stumptown were hungry for something to read, new or not, familiar or not, mainstream or artcomics.

Another example, probably unfair in the extreme, is Wonder-Con. Granted, Wonder-Con is far larger than Super-Con, and it’s held at a time of year when considering going into an enclosed space with hundreds if not thousands of eager pop-culture hunters isn’t tantamount to madness. However, my discussions with indie comics folks at Wonder-Con led me to believe, along with my own experience, that Wonder-Con’s attendees were much more interested in diversity than it first might appear. Remember, San Francisco is home to three great comic stores that I can name without any thought (okay, one of ‘em is in Berkeley), so they already have an obscene amount of choice when it comes to the gamut of comics out there.

And yet the people who came to Wonder-Con were still eager to find independent stuff, or stuff that simply couldn’t compete in the direct market (albeit exemplary direct market stores). Much more so than the perception that I got from the San Jose crowd. I dunno, perhaps people were saving their pennies for the big Anime show that’s happening this weekend. That could certainly account for some of it. But again, the facile perception there is that anime/manga fans aren’t interested in mainstream US comics at all. So maybe there’s not going to be overlap anyways. I’m not entirely sure of that and feel there’s probably a great deal of cross-audience siphoning going on, particularly when spending money may be tight amongst the core audience.

Now, contrast Super-Con, which is very much a traditional comic show, heavy on the mainstream creators, heavy on the dealer’s booths, working on building programming, but still far from the core draw. My feeling is that there was a small amount of actual collectors, a number of people out seeking weird old stuff and quarter bins to go through (which I’d have been given more time), a few seeking celebrities, but by and large, people going after a particular signature/sketch/chat and not really open to much else. Very particular, not omnivorous. They knew exactly what they were looking for and not really interested in anything else.

There’s stores like that, which I’m not usually interested in. Sure, if I’m lucky, I can get the new AGENTS OF ATLAS there and maybe a Vertigo book I’m after. But by and large, it’s not cultivating an audience that I’m a part of and is either unwilling or unable to be a bit adventurous. So I don’t shop in those stores as a rule. This, however, was the vibe that I picked up from the show. And really, after the energy and enthusiasm of Stumptown, it was a huge buzzkill.

I really felt like I was looking at two ends of the same continuum. On one end, was the audience that read webcomics, read independent stuff, wasn’t latched onto the direct market 100% and took some chances. On the other end was a very focused show aimed at a chunk of the audience that wasn’t biting. I’m probably projecting. I tend to do that. That said, I’d rather keep my powder dry and head to more diverse shows with what resources I command (hah, “command.” More like “beg and plead with.”) If only Stumptown was every weekend.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t good reasons to go to Super-Con. I sold a few books that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Got to get a sketch from Howard Chaykin and chat with him for awhile. Not to scare anyone, but Mr. Chaykin doesn’t seem like someone to hold his feelings back (as I found out when I startled him with my ninja-like stealth). I had a chance to talk with Eduardo Risso (would’ve gotten a sketch had the show gone better for me). Ran into a couple independent comics guys who I’m sure will make for good contacts and sounding boards in the future. And I managed to get some cheap comics. Here, let me make a list.

The DUNE adaptation by Bill Sienkiewicz
A copy of BIZARRE ADVENTURES featuring 2 Dominic Fortune stories with art by Howard Chaykin on both (and a totally out-there robot story by Tony Isabella and George Perez)
A copy of the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK adaptation for my son
MIGHTY MARVEL FUN BOOK #4 (partially completed, can be erased clean)
The first Walter Simonson FF VISIONARIES volume
A P. Craig Russel CONAN hardback that I’m forgetting the name of
GIANTKILLER by Dan Brereton (can finally finish the story after getting only half of it back in the day)
Said sketch by Howard Chaykin – The Shadow, since I’m a fanboy.
A couple offerings from Hightower Comics, which I’ll recommend to fans of pulpy/voodoo-y/tiki/gangstery bents.
I could have absolutely killed myself on cheap Bronze Age comics. And I mean killed.
Alex Sheikman’s ROBOTIKA v.1 from Archia. Looking forward to reading that.
SEAGUY V.2 #2 (At the Isotope on the way home. Like any vendor there at the show was going to have it...)
Really, I want every show I go to to be an interesting, engaging (and at least semi-profitable) experience. I know, I’m at the stage of my “career” where I should be clawing out one reader at a time and stay from dawn to dusk to get the job done. But when the fish are not only not biting, but staying the hell away, you long for the comforts of home.

Of course, I’m staring down the barrel of another show in two weeks. This one being in my old stomping grounds of the San Fernando Valley. Have to say that I’m looking forward to getting to introduce STRANGEWAYS to what amounts to a brand new audience. I have to say that my preconceptions lead me to believe that the horror audience will in general be more accepting of a western/horror hybrid than the western audience will. Perhaps I’m wrong. I’d love to have the opportunity to be proven wrong in that.

In the meantime, unpack, collate addresses, tabulate expenses, ship out a lingering order to Baker and Taylor, oh and measure the sight distance to my monitor so I can get my new glasses fitted.

And maybe write up that STAR TREK review.

May 13, 2009

New THIRSTY and another MURDER MOON up for grabs

Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment - Strangeways: The Thirsty - page 070

Like every Wednesday, we're giving away another copy of MURDER MOON. You can get your chance into the drawing by reading along with the book at Robot6 today. Just hit that link.

May 12, 2009

Look! Up in the sky!

Full Bleed 41

It's FULL BLEED #41! And it's COMING RIGHT FOR US! FLEE!

Wherein I discuss the sexiness of catastrophism, its wrongheadedness and why comics will probably be okay anyways. Bonus Morrison and Quitely action!

May 11, 2009

Podcasted

Wherein I am interviewed at Comic Book Outsiders from the UK. Recorded on a landline. Yes, I need to get Skype. I need to do a lot of things. I need to resurrect my iPhone, which took a dunk in the dog's bowl of water this morning. I need to finish my column for this week. I need to get more artists for Strangeways stories.

Anyone know any good artists who can work for pay?

Sigh.

May 06, 2009

New Thirsy page and WIN FREE COMICS!

Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment - Strangeways: The Thirsty - Page 067

So, I'm starting a weekly contest for readers of the online serial version of THE THIRSTY. Every Wednesday, there'll be a simple question to answer in order to enter. Mail the answer to me, and your name goes in the kitty, or the pot, or whatever, to draw for a free copy of the first STRANGEWAYS book, MURDER MOON. Hit the link to read the rest of the rules, such as they are.

May 05, 2009

Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan on METAL MEN

metalmen-pencilsblog.jpg 712�1000 pixels

No, really. Not a joke, not an imaginary story! Click on the above and look at those beautiful pencils!

May 04, 2009

Very good MURDER MOON review

Graphic Novel Review - Strangeways: Murder Moon | GamersCircle

Over at the GamersCircle site, which is a comic store local to me. And I say it's a very good review because the reader got it, understood what I was going after and even managed to discuss the book's shortcomings without resorting to flat out slagging. Think this is the first time anyone's ever picked up on my fondness for the early HELLBOY comics, too (indirectly, mind you.)

I give this review two enthusiastic thumbs up.