Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Professor Arnold Hugo & Marco Xavier Convention Pieces by Humberto Ramos & David Malki!

I hit my work area comic shop on Wednesday, which I don't like, and from which I only buy odd titles while killing time during my lunch break. I'd missed a very glossy, quality stock, four page pamphlet advertising Comicpalooza 2010 for however long it had been on display at their counter. It was being held at an unusually large convention center, with a unique multimedia line-up, making it quite the spectacle for Houston. The Bayou City has a bad reputation when it comes to cons going back to the '80s, with industry people and dealers getting ripped off big time by promoters and attendees (plus our agonizing summers.) I haven't even seen much traction in a comeback for the dingy old hotel showroom cons of the '90s, and hadn't been to anything myself since probably the 2001 San Diego Comic Con, so I figured I'd round up my buddies to check it out.

I've got a ton of stuff squishing me right now, but not only did that not stop me from attending, but the girlfriend and I were up until 4:00 a.m. gathering reference for the artists and printing them out. We were then awake before nine, and started gathering our group. We arrived after 1:00 p.m. today to $10 parking and a $30 door (internet purchased 3-day passes were about $40.) I really don't need any more dang comics in my house, so my main purpose for going was to get as many quality drawings of obscure Martian Manhunter characters as I could for about $300.00. I'd been spoiled by free sketches by folks like Phil Jimenez back in the day, so I was shocked to find that even the lowliest artists charged for their work at this cash-and-carry con. Since hardly anyone was buying anything, I guess this was the only way a lot of these guys could expect to recoup or profit from this venture. Well, the guys selling overpriced hipster decorative pieces did okay, based on the money my girlfriend dropped on glowing radioactive sheep, Tim Burton originals, and other pop culture ephemera. Anyway, for me it meant that I was faced to make a decision-- get a bunch of pieces for this blog from nobodies at $5-40 a pop, or shell out for some names. I chose the latter.

My first commission of the show was Ethan Van Sciver's take on Zook As I was figuring out who my second artist to pester would be, I ran into inker Rodney Ramos, who thought I looked just like one of the the Kids In The Hall (I assume Dave Foley, as he's not the first to make the connection, and preferable to my assumption he initially meant Jim Carrey circa Dumb & Dumber.) We talked for a bit about comics, movies and art supplies, and he seemed like a cool, opinionated guy. If I hadn't been so stingy with my funds this time out, I'd have gotten something from him, but the money flowed to the pencillers, I'm afraid.

Unlike most every other artist at the convention, Humberto Ramos (no relation) had a longish and slow moving line. I'd been a fan since his work on Impulse (what was with that book?), and especially dug his DV8. Clearly the man has fans, as I waited for an hour or so to reach him. Luckily, there were a couple of guys in line to chat with along the way. Since I'd brought inadequate supplies to get commissions with, I bought a copy of Ramos' sketchbook Fairy Quest: The Narrator's Book for $25 to use a glossy interior page for a $40.00 piece.

While Ramos worked off reference from a Joe Certa House of Mystery page, he and my girlfriend chatted in Spanish about Mexico City (his home town,) Monterrey (hers,) his family's dashed hopes he might become a civil engineer or architect, their mutual love of JoaquĆ­n Sabina, and her one-sided affection for Enrique Bunbury. I just watched Ramos work with a big grin on my face, as he outlined just the right outlandish proportions and diabolical grin on Prof. Hugo's face. I believe the whole process took just 15-20 minutes, and it was easily my best experience with hovering over a work in progress.

After scoring my first big piece (involving an hour-and-a-half in line,) I wanted to do some walking and make sure I wasn't missing anything in the dealer's room. I bought a couple of Heroclix, but the closest I could come to anything Manhunter-related was a Dr. Light, which I passed on. There were lots of cool shirts and other merchandise, but none at prices to entice. Trades/GNs were being offered routinely for 40-50% off with few takers. Regular comics were usually discounted, with a few dealers having large selections of fifty cent and dollar books, but I only bought a few (due to budget, time, and all the unread back issues I already own.) At some point, you must draw the line to avoid hoarding.

The pickings were rather slim, but there were more artists inside hocking their wares to be considered. As time and funds diminished though, I passed most of them up. I would have loved a Zook sketch from Phil Foglio, but I'd left all my reference with Van Sciver, and could see no signs Foglio was offering sketches anyway. He just seemed to be pimping his Girl Genius collections.

I was scoping out a table next to David Malki's, which was filled with amusing books and merchandise related to his Wondermark online comic strip. He was also offering "Mediocre Sketches for $1." I tried to ask him for something slightly better than that for only slightly more money, but didn't articulate the request well. With my poor planning of this outing, I'd neglected to buy a new sketchbook for the artists to work out of as needed. Just in case, I brought a twelve year old, poorly preserved, barely used spiral sketchbook of my own sorry work. Since Malki's comic strip is meant to evoke late 19th century newspaper art, down to the yellowed paper, I figured this was the perfect instance to make use of my crappy sketchbook. Malki began quickly scribbling out this amusing Prof. Hugo piece (I guess that's a cigarette? Tsk-tsk, Hugo. In this day and age? No wait-- is that a finger?) I gathered the first collection of his strips, Wondermark: Beards of our Forefathers (Hardcover) and a bumper sticker to bribe him into doing a second piece, Marco Xavier. Both turned out better than advertised, and I picked up everything for $20, so I couldn't fault my $2 art investment toward a totally adequate yield. The book is an absolute gas, by the way, and is highly recommended for fans of absurdist humor.

Back on the dealers' floor, one shop specialized in loose figures and old bubble gum trading card packs. This was the site of my first convention faux paus, mistaking a fanboy for my girlfriend and gently caressing his back. My girlfriend and I got a big laugh out of it, but the dude seemed a bit unsettled. The second epic fail on my part was, upon once again finding a set of escalators shut down to control foot traffic, I decided to ascend the downward escalators. My jeans were a bit tight, but I put forth quite the effort, and strode all the way to the top feeder. At that point, I did a belly flop onto the floor, eliciting cheers from the balcony. One of my friends, who was unaware of my whereabouts, heard the loud thud of my body and just knew I was involved. Another friend and my girl had waited for the elevator, and hearing the crowd roar while inside, cursed themselves for missing the show. I have a bit of a reputation of my own, you see.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, plus totally lallygagging on some stuff, we didn't finally roll out until 7:00 p.m. My friends have either gone to trades/loaned comics only or quit collecting altogether, so their good time came from my antics and openly mocking convention goers. For instance, there was the DJ room, filled with techno music, colored lights, and empty space. Some rollerbladers tried to get down in there, but it was carpeted, which cramped their style. Cosplay was pretty minimal. There was a short guy with a nice build in a very tight Spider-Man costume my girl devoured with her eyes. Some chick in body paint and a tied on top was running around with a sword, but I didn't recognize her reference nor ogle her. There were the usual Warsie dorks, increasingly among the lowest forms of fandom, especially when they dress as Anakin Skywalker in Episode 3: The Subtitle I Forgot and say stupid crap like "make way for the Empire." Your mother ate the Empire, nerd. I never caught so much as a glimpse of Bruce Campbell, but heard the lines were insane. Unsurprisingly, Chewbacca, Darth Maul, Cat Grant and Teen Wolf's dad were easily but irregular accessed.

My girlfriend passed on a couple of Bernie Wrightson prints due to the main one she wanted having sold out, but I shook the fellow's hand, so that was nice. A number of fantastic pieces were had, and I spent about $275 doing so. We all had a good time, and ate Greek afterward. More details to come (on the con. If you must know, I had the Chicken Souvlaki and a hazelnut gelato for dessert.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Batgirl Original Art

One of the things that will be changing around here once I get my shit together is more "bloggy" type crap. For instance, while I was trying to find someplace to protect some new original art I bought, I discovered some 15-20 year old Blue Line pages I never did much with, since I fucking suck as an artist. Still, I'm tired and I've allowed this blog to lapse from daily to whenever status, so I figure something's better than nothing. Here's Batgirl battling the Killer Moth, by me, drawn for reasons unknown after all this time. Some of the finer details didn't scan, and virtually none of my blue pencil layouts and text, so count your blesings, I guess.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

2010 "Judd Winick Named DC Comics Editor-in-Chief" Promotional Art by Billy Penn

Click To Enlarge

I recognize there's was a lot of love for Denny O'Neil in the '70s for restoring Batman to "Dark Knight Detective" status and for coming up with Green Lantern/Green Arrow. An alternative view (mine) is that O'Neil was technically a terrible writer. I'd say he exemplified the growing pains between the Silver Age "middle aged white guys writing adventure stories for children" and the Bronze Age "twentysomething white guys writing adventure stories for man-children." Read today, O'Neil's scripts are cringe-inducing in their hoary dialogue, sensationalism and self-importance. In my opinion, it wasn't until O'Neil stopped drinking and embraced the hubris in himself and his characters that he finally earned his stature in the industry.

In a roundabout way, my point is that Judd Winick was the Denny O'Neil of the aughts, and maybe he should start drinking/drugging to improve his writing, before he drives his remaining audience to do so. Certainly, this news announcement has me wanting to call in sick to work and crawl into a bottle. Check it out.


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