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Friday, September 28, 2012

SPX PLUS Part Two

 Saturday was the big day.  Got up early and set up the Spit and a Half Zone.  I was sharing a table with Noah, Joseph Remnant, Lisa Hanawalt, and Domatille Collardey, so space was tight.  But fun.

Joseph and Noah: Reverse Boppsey Twinz.  Weird, huh?

Two of comics' best and brightest:  Jim Rugg and Tom Neely.

The excitement, the thrill, that is SPX...

Domatille and Lisa hold down the fort.

Lisa and I compare animal-themed shirts.  (Photo by Julia Wertz)

Saturday was a rough one for me.  I failed to eat anything substantial, and didn't drink enough water.  Couple that with bodily exhaustion and too much Diet Cherry Pepsi™, and, well, you get blurry pictures.

Adrian Tomine signs at the D+Q booth.

Tracy Hurren and Julia Pohl-Miranda of D+Q, with a shocked, shocked I say, Brian Ralph.

Julia Wertz signs copies of her new book The Infinite Wait, with publisher Annie Koyama in the background.

MariNaomi.  Whoa, I really should have paid attention to those blood sugar levels.

Oily Comics' Chuck Forsman!

Kilgore Books founder, and Blammo publisher, Dan Stafford showed up!  What's with the dress code you guys?

Here I am checking out Noah's new book, The Hypo.  (Photo by Fanta's Jen Vaughn)

Sunday I actually ate food and drank water, and things went much better.  Everyone said this was the bestest SPX ever, and maybe they were right!  I got to see a lot of great people, and pick up a lot of great books.  I love the social aspect of SPX, where everyone is constantly hanging out and passing each other in the hallways.  

VIVA LA SPX.

The sad remnants of someone's Ignatz Dream.

Nerdage:  NVS, Neely, Mike Dawson, Joseph.

The weekend concluded with the highlight:  getting to have dinner Sunday night with Los Bros at a nice Indian restaurant. Can you believe I got to shoot the bull with Gilbert about Marvel Masterworks and Harvey Horror comics the whole time?  (L-R: Gilbert Hernandez, Jen Vaughn, Jaime Hernandez, Neely, Remnant, NVS, JP -- Photo by Jacq Cohen.)


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SPX PLUS

It was time for SPX, the best comics show in the country, so Noah flew into Milwaukee and we got in the car.  We decided to head south a bit first, to visit Springfield, Illinois, on the way.  Noah's new book on Abraham Lincoln, The Hypo, had just been published by Fantagraphics, and was debuting at SPX.  Since Noah had never been to Springfield we thought it'd be good to pay our respects.

Getting gas at the Road Ranger in South Beloit before heading out.

On our way down we stopped in Normal, Illinois at ACME Comics, and I sold some copies of the new King-Cat and looked around at horror comic reprints.  But time was wasting.  In a few hours we got to Springfield and headed toward Lincoln's house, now a National Park Service site.  After the house tour we wandered around the neighborhood before driving up to Lincoln's Tomb.

Approaching Lincoln's Tomb.

Apparently it's good luck to rub the statue's nose.

The grandeur and solemnity of the tomb was quite powerful.  Inside, it consists of a circular hallway adorned with statues of Lincoln from throughout his career, interspersed with engravings of some his most memorable pieces of writing.  At the far end of the circle is his actual burial site.  The sense of history and loss was palpable, and very moving.

Next we made our way down to St. Louis, where I sold King-Cats to Star Clipper, and we visited the great cartoonist Tim Lane.  We stayed up late talking about comics and life, and after Noah and Tim had put away three bottles of wine, and began shouting at each other about Mad Men, I went to bed.  Above, Noah enjoys Tim's copy of Four Color Fear, finding a copy of which became a kind of holy grail of the trip.

A page from Tim's sketchbook, with nary a drop of White-Out to be seen.  Amazing.

Another page from his sketchbook.

On our way out of town we stopped at the Sheldon Gallery for a retrospective of Al Hirschfeld's portraits of Jazz and Theater legends.  They wouldn't let me take pictures of that work, but I was able to snap a few of the neighboring exhibit, Turtles Can Fly: The Art of Artists' Children.  Above:  From Cat Town, an installation of drawings by Li Hodson.


Down the block from the Sheldon was this abandoned church, which I've driven past several times, but never stopped to inspect before.




Then we headed back east, into Illinois once again.  (One of the earliest drawings I ever made was of the spaghetti bowl of highway ramps found as one crosses the Mississippi into St. Louis, above.)


Can't stop, won't stop.

Giant roadside cross outside Effingham, Ill.

We drove on through the night.  I'd wanted to stop in Indianapolis and Columbus to sell comics, but we got to them too late, so decided to skip it until the return trip.

Sleeping at a rest area in eastern Ohio, this was our view in the morning.

Fog approaching the West Virginia line.

Zzzzzzz.

Mr. Narrator.


That last stretch on Interstate 68 is beautiful, but loooong.  We made it into Baltimore with an hour or two to spare before Noah was to read at Atomic Books' SPXplosion party.  Ran into Dan Clowes and Alvin Buenaventura, who were doing a signing at the shop beforehand.  We had a few laughs and some iced tea together.

Ramsey Beyer reads at SPXplosion.

No-aah!!!

Then to Bethesda to check into the hotel.  SPX was beginning the next morning with set-up at eight.  True to form, we got very lost (who knew there were three Marriotts in Bethesda?).

NEXT:  SPX

Monday, September 10, 2012

KING-CAT 73 + SEPTEMBER TOUR



Just formally announcing that yes indeed, the new King-Cat, #73, is available now.  Also, I'll be doing a quick bit on the road in the followup to its release.  Details below!

- - -

KING-CAT COMICS #73 with that rascally Mr. Bowser, cat fun, In Search of the Cuckoo Bird, a Comix Dream (with cameos by Kevin H. and Anders N.), letters, a poem, Top 40, and more!  32 digest pages, in glorious black and white.

USA: $4 check/mo; $4.28 via paypal
CANADA: $5 USD via paypal
EVERYWHERE ELSE: $6.50 USD va paypal

Payable to:
John Porcellino
PO Box 142
South Beloit, IL 61080

or via paypal to: kingcat_paypal AT hotmail DOT com


ON THE ROAD:


Sat.-Sun. September 15-16
SMALL PRESS EXPO
Bethesda, MD

I'll be at SPX sharing table #49 with Noah Van Sciver, Joseph Remnant, Lisa Hanawalt, and Domitille Collardey.  I'll have the new King-Cat plus books and back issues, Tee-Shirts, and a selection of Spit and a Half distro stuff, including Ignatz-nominated The Lobster King by Clara Bessijelle.

Also, I'll be participating in two panels on Saturday afternoon:  Publishing During the Apocalypse at 1PM in the White Flint Ballroom, with Leon Avelino, Box Brown, and Annie Koyama, moderated by Heidi MacDonald;  and Drawing Out Childhood: Summoning Childhood Experience at 3PM in the White Flint Ballroom, with Derf, MariNaomi, and Julia Wertz, moderated by Mike Dawson.


Weds. September 19, 7 PM
QUIMBY'S
Chicago, IL

King-Cat 73 zine-release party with my special guest Noah Van Sciver, who'll be debuting his new Fantagraphics published GN, The Hypo.  We'll be reading, showing slides, answering questions, and signing stuff, so come on down!


Sat. September 22
TWIN CITIES ZINE FEST
Minneapolis, MN

I'll be tabling with a vast, luscious spread of King-Cat and Spit and a Half titles, two tables full!  Eat up!


Sat. October 6
HANDMADE AND BOUND FESTIVAL
Nashville, TN

Same deal as Mpls, this time at Watkins College of Art, Design and Film:  Loads of the best comics, graphic novels, and zines from around the world!

See you there!

Monday, September 3, 2012

MATERIALS AND PROCESS III


I've written the last few times (Part One / Part Two) about the materials I use to make my comics.  This time I'll talk a little bit about the process of putting them down onto paper.

PROCESS

Basically, I keep little notebooks around that I fill up with ideas:  memories, turns of phrase, poems, lists,
dialogue, which at some point become my comics.  Above are two recent examples.  The Florida/South Beloit one has all my notes from the last three issues.

On the left, a list of stories, with page counts, for the latest issue, #73.  On the right, a draft of the Snornose column.  Oftentimes I'll pull images and lettering directly from my notebooks:  That "Snornose '73" title lettering will be in the printed zine.

Here's another recent spread.  On the left is a bit of graffiti I saw in a Toronto bathroom stall.  I turned this into a comic for the new issue, but in the editing phase pulled it as it disrupted the general flow of the zine as a whole.  Maybe it will will show up in a later issue, or in an anthology or something.

To the right is another, earlier, list of stories/pages for #73.  A huge part of my process is editing stuff out.  The Bridges of South Beloit was a story I worked on diligently for many months this summer, but again, it just didn't fit into #73.  I plan to make this story the core of #74, though.  Lists like these help me keep track of how close I am to having enough material for a new issue, and they're constantly being updated, edited, and reformulated.

Sometimes I just draw funny pictures.

This spread dates from King-Cat #72:  A Snornose page (left) that was totally redone in the finished version, and the first page of the Batty Batty Batty story that closes the issue.

I almost always draw my comics from a well-considered script.  The script usually contains just text-- descriptions, narration, and dialogue.  Sometimes I'll throw in little drawings, but it's mostly just text.  In the first draft I typically throw in everything that comes to mind, and the writing process for me is editing all that down into a more streamlined, rhythmic story.  The vast majority of the time and energy I spend on an issue of King-Cat is on the writing part of it.  Some stories come out just fine the first time around, but many need extensive revising and editing.  The Perfect Example storyline, for instance, took ten years of work (off and on) before it felt ready for me to start drawing.  That's an extreme example, but it just goes to show you, you can't force things.  When it comes time to actually sit down and draw the comic it usually goes pretty quick, because the script is so precise.


Above two images:  The rest of the Batty story, plus Snornose from #72.

It's very rare that I do thumbnails or things of that sort.  I may occasionally do very small, rough ones, to help me gauge panels breakdowns, but usually I can "see" the pages/panels in my head before I draw them, and I just try to bring that out on the page when I start drawing.  Above, the thumbnails for "At the Movies," which originally appeared in Roctober #50, and is being reprinted in the new King-Cat.

Pages from the script to "In Search of the Cuckoo Bird," from the new issue.

Once the script is complete, I begin drawing the actual comics pages.  I draw first with a non-repro blue pencil, and ink over that.  The penciled lettering is often pretty rough, and acts as more of a place-holder, as seen above.  The drawings themselves though are pretty tight.

A big part of cartooning is fixing up your mistakes.  When I'm inking, and I make a mistake, I usually note it immediately in the margin, so I remember to go back and clean it up.  I'll also usually place a little mark on the drawing to help me remember where to clean things up.  The dot in the drawing above means "clean up the inside of the word balloon."

When lettering this panel, I ended up with a hanging "I" and moved it to the start of the next line.  The arrow and crossout will remind me to remove the extraneous "I" later.

Another stray line, marked for cleanup.  The little tag makes sure I remember which line to white out.

A close-up on one of my fix-it jobs.  When inking, I couldn't decide whether to cut the boot off at the panel-line, or have it break through, so I drew it both ways and decided later.  Hence, the question mark in the margin.

Using tracing paper to re-letter a title.  (The original inking bled badly on the paper.)

My margins are often fairly crooked.  Sometimes I let them stand as is, but in really egregious examples I'll go back and redraw them.  Here I've drawn the new panel line, and marked the old one for removal.

A page from my sketchbook.  A portion of this drawing ended up being pasted into the "Cuckoo" story.

It used to be that the very first page I got done of a new King-Cat was the cover.  I'd finish the previous issue and immediately draw the next cover.  Nowadays it's usually the last thing I get done, and oftentimes the guts are complete for weeks while I struggle to come up with a suitable image.  For #73, I knew I wanted a cuckoo on the cover, so this is just a sketchbook page where I started working the ideas out.

A more precise drawing I made for the cover design.

At some point it occurred to me that the drawing might look good in a woodcut style, so I went to Hobby Lobby and bought the supplies, and made my first linocut since high school.

Then, once the pages are all drawn, inked, and edited, I sit down and start scanning them into Photoshop.  (I use Photoshop Elements, the mini-version of the program, which has always suited my needs just fine.)  I'm pretty intimidated by technology, so I always dread this part.  But I put my head down and do it.  I use the guidelines offered in Jordan Crane's famous Reproguide:  Scan in at 600 dpi grayscale, run the linework through the Threshold filter, convert to bitmap, and then save as a TIFF with LZW compression.  (My printer uses 600 dpi files; for other work I sometimes upsize the grayscale files to 1200 dpi before running Threshold.)

I try my mightiest to have the pages completely done by hand BEFORE scanning, so that my Photoshop editing is kept to a minimum.  But I still do plenty of cleaning up and fine-tuning digitally before saving the final files.


And here's the finished zine.