Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Monday, January 31, 2005


The ordinary will ignore

Whatever they cannot explain

As if nothing ever happened

And everything remained the same again

Those of you who dwell in the Pacific Northwest should know that the EMERALD CITY COMICON takes place at Seahawks Stadium this Saturday and Sunday. And that I will be there. And if you're there, then we'll both be there, talking about comics. Now quick, which band are those lyrics from? Huge clue in the title...


Thursday, January 27, 2005

No You Don't Have Food Poisoning 

Let's just continue Ailment Week here at the Oracle and end on a rant, which stems from my rant today in the studio. Artist Drew Johnson (Wonder Woman) was questioning his friend's claim that he got food poisoning from a restaurant they ate at the night before, and that got me started. In the past few years, everyone seems to keep throwing around the term whenever they get sick. My retort: Really? Did everyone in the restaurant come down with something afterwards? Did you have to go have your stomach pumped? Did your abdominal pain and diarrhea last for days? No? Then you Didn't Get Food Poisoning.

Maybe people are embarrassed to admit they've caught the flu, as if it's some point of pride to resist a common virus. And maybe they're making an unfair correlation--"I threw up the pasta primavera I ate earlier, so that Italian place poisoned me. No, the virus you could have picked up anywhere, most likely from handling something, the food is just ammo. But it's likely your cooks weren't using unpasteurized milk, or conveying parasites to your entree. Yet you're willing to make statements that could get the place shut down by health inspectors. So let's quit trying to blame everyone for your chaotic bowels.

When you probably did get some bacterial intrusion is if you've been in a country where the water isn't that well regulated and filtered. I had a horchata in Mexico that kept me imprisoned at home for days when I returned. And that's probably still a mild case. So bust people's chops when they overreact and make such claims. These are the same people that say "I have a migraine" whenever they get a headache. Ask people who really have migraines what it's like- they get completely laid out and often have their vision impaired (wow, I squeezed in an extra rant!).
So anyway, go get your flu shots and stop pretending you live in a third world country. Now I'm trying to think of other trendy illness claims that people make nowadays. When did we become a nation of hypochondriacs? It's like all the callers on the Public Radio show, The People's Pharmacy, out of my home state of NC. That one's just for pal Chuck Wojtkiewicz, who was particularly irked by the self-medicating crybabies that called the show all the time, being way too familiar with prescription drugs. Okay, that's enough scat for today, my apologies.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Sleepy Origins 

Tonight on my favorite non-NPR radio show, Loveline, Adam Carolla made a good point about sleep. In essence, the world is made for people who sleep on their backs, and everyone else has a tough road to hoe. He falls into the side-sleeping category, typically light sleepers who are always having their night ruined by sounds such as dripping water or mousefarts, and they usually end up with back problems to boot. The snoring of back sleepers like myself are their greatest curse. We who could fall asleep at a racetrack if the seat declined enough, and won't wake up for earthquakes or sirens. Our greatest benefit is being able to doze through cross-country flights. That's like upgrading your accomodations on your own.

I used to be a fetal sleeper years ago, and like so many people I was converted by a medical injury. At 15 I crashed a moped ( I don't blame my pal Dean anymore for wiggling on the back, I was simply going too fast), got my leg caught between the pedal and the hotplate, and burned my skin down to near bone. I somehow convinced myself it wasn't that bad for about a day, and since I had no nerve endings anymore, my stupidity won out. I wasn't supposed to be on the moped, which is why I was hiding the injury-- only a teenager fears getting in trouble over their health. Then I got up from a nap (on my side of course) and fell when I tried to walk. Mom took me to the hospital and soon I was laid up for the whole summer with a skin graft and a big cast. My leg had to stay elevated, and there was no way for me to lay but on my back. It was hell at first, but by the time the cast came off, I couldn't sleep any other way.

Of course, the other benefit of that summer was that I did nothing but draw full-sized comics while laying there. There is the crucial point where I went from being a dilletante to a kid who had logged a few hundred hours at the board, getting bad art out of my system and getting firmly on the road to realizing that storytelling is a process of many steps. I've since found that lots of artists have a history of injury or ailment that rendered them unable to do anything else but draw or write. It's a fine substitute for dedication and discipline, more qualities teenagers are usually short on. Someday I'll dig out that Swamp Thing epic that I produced on the couch and scan it in. You will truly believe that Practice is Everything.

Now I think I'll lay back and go unconscious within five minutes. At least you side-sleepers don't drive everyone insane by sounding like a 2-cycle engine at night, so enjoy not being poked in the ribs.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Farewell, Carnak 

The king of late night is gone, and I imagine the outpouring of fans and loved ones is going to be unparalleled. It figures that I would mention Johnny Carson here in the blog just a couple of days earlier. At the studio the other day we were just talking about watching the Tonight Show as kids, seeing Johnny smoke on the set, how long the show was (an hour and a half!) and so on. Even when a boring guest was on and I was falling asleep, I'd still keep the tv set on-- who knows, that capricious Bob Hope might bust into someone's interview with his "Mind if I play through" walk on, carrying a golf club. Or you might get to see Uri Geller come on and try to bend a spoon with his mind while James Randi doubted from the sidelines (or as in the above picture, Ricardo Montalban I believe). The only disappointment I ever had was that during one of the times when Johnny would take vacation and use a guest host, I wanted to see Ed MacMahon move over to the main seat and do the job, because in my mind that's the way the hierarchy should have worked. And if Ed was also gone, then Doc Severinsen would have to step up to bat.

I had the idea from childhood on that someday I might get to be a guest on the show. I don't know why I thought that, unless I thought that I might be one of those oddballs who collected potatoes shaped like American presidents or something. Or maybe I'd invent something, or become an animal handler, that would get me on there. And I could come on and bump the previous guest over to the couch with Ed because you weren't allowed to leave the show early back then without a damn good reason. That's a whole hour and a half you might have to listen to Buddy Hackett (or Jackie Mason!) slur his way through a story or Rich Little do his one voice that covered all celebrities, just to get to Tiny Tim's wedding. But I'd know I'd arrived--in Burbank at least-- because I'd have done the Carson show.

My favorite skit was Carnak. It got the most use out of Ed, including his famous laugh, and I just loved that turban.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Order Detective Comics #805 Because... 

... where else are you going to see Batman out on a date? With several beautiful women, in fact. This bizarre story is courtesy writer Jon Lewis and me, and is soliciting in Previews now. Check that box.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yay, I Don't Have To Think Of Something To Write 

I think I wrote in last year's Heroes Con report about working on a Poison Ivy commission for Tim Chandler and how I essentially was redrawing an image I did for an auction years earlier. Then Neil Vokes suggested I draw her popping out of a bloom like a stamen and the piece finally clicked. Timothy just sent me a scan (a mere six months later!), and there it is.
It's all about having a concept, even with a sketch. There's nothing more lame than looking through a collector's sketchbook and seeing an artist who got paid good money having drawn a character just standing there. You can always sneak an idea in there somehow, I like to think. Even if you have to resort to asking Neil Vokes (who's work you should be enjoying if you don't already).

Slowly but surely they all come back to me.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Money House Blessing 

I was just remembering an air freshener I used to buy years ago called Money House Blessing. I liked the name, I liked the smell, and I especially liked that it had the disclaimer DOES NOT HAVE SUPERNATURAL POWERS. I would buy the cans at that oddball chainstore that carries all sorts of cheap arcana, Big Lots. Then one day I didn't see it anymore. Googling it however, I see it still exists though the can is purple and it now comes in special scents, like Sandalwood. The first thing I found about it was appropriately, from a legendary figure in comics, Cat Yronwode. She has a page devoted to it and the practices of HooDoo at Lucky Mojo.com. Now I want to find out more about the manufacturer, the E. Davis company of Piscataway, NJ. They also make "Double Fast Luck Soap", and I've gotta get a bar of that.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Day of the Dude 

A few weeks ago we had an eventful day at Mercury Studio. Steve Lieber reminds us that a young cartoonist is coming by for advice and pointers, a college kid directed to us by Matt Wagner. Upon meeting Aaron, we're happy to see that his sample pages are mostly concerned with telling a clear story, and he does the exact right thing by listening to critique without getting defensive. He even takes notes, which impresses everyone. This brings out the gasbag in each of us, and Aaron gets an earful of everyone's theories on what makes good comicbooks and drawing.

Then Paul Guinan calls to let us know that Steve Rude is in town and that he's bringing the famous creator of Nexus by Mercury in a few minutes. Aaron gets to see the pecking order in stark relief as we scurry to our workstations to clean up, hiding any art or comics we might be embarrassed for "The Dude" to see. Guinan and Rude arrive, and even though we see him at conventions often during the year, it still feels like a Senator or Special Guest Star has shown up. When Rude sees that a new kid is in town to learn, he plops down on the couch to go over his pages the same way he did with me over ten years ago in Pasadena. For the full effect, Matthew Clark donates some of his vellum so Steve can do one of his famous tracing paper critiques.

There's nothing like having someone who knows the human form from every possible angle show you how to get ten more miles out of the figure you drew by working over it. Rude gives him quick lessons on using black to pop out elements and direct action throughout a scene. Join all these tentative bits of shadow into one strong solid one, create patterns, eliminate detail that doesn't have a function. Aaron knew he lucked into a special day, and left to go process the wealth of information he'd just been blasted with. It may sound run of the mill to you, but this was, we agreed, one of those defining days that puts a person on the path to a career in a chosen profession--everyone who's ended up doing what they love for a living has had this kind of day at some point.

Later we get in more quality time with Rude, who's eager to hear of interesting work that his closed home life keeps him from. Lieber showed him the Tothfans website, and once Rude sees that Alex Toth has been providing director's commentary to his old stories, he's rapt for quite a while. Then when he bemoans the lack of energy and adventure in mainstream comics (we all do!), I'm happy to have a chance to introduce him to Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier miniseries. Just looking at that turned his mood around in a snap. The rest of the time we show him our current projects and talk theory, which is where Rude never lets you down. Every show I go to, other creators and retailers are talking about the industry, and how what book is selling or not, speculating on who's making more money and so forth. Even the readers do this now, which is pretty awful. Just like when non-entertainment industry people speculate on a movie's box office returns rather than concern themselves with the quality of the film itself. It's so nice to talk about comics in the sense of the Form, and we have a great time doing it.

Since he was delivered by a comics pro, Rude has to be picked up by one, and Paul Gulacy rolls up in his Lexus around 6 to collect The Dude. Lieber and I go catch the train, agreeing that a workday doesn't really get any better than that.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Stop Hitting Refresh 

Okay, I'll put up a new and interesting post later today or tomorrow morning, I've just been a wee bit busy now that we don't outnumber the kids anymore. Next time I get behind I'll appoint a Guest Blogger just like this were the old Tonight Show when Johnny Carson would leave for months at a time. Who wants to be Bill Cosby?


Friday, January 07, 2005

That's My Boy 

Stephen Reid Parker

Hobbies: nursing, sleeping. Interests: lights, sounds.

Named after our dads, li'l Reid made his triumphant arrival Wednesday at 5:09 pm, weighing 8lbs. 9oz. Allie patted him on the head, so I guess he can stay.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Thinking of Will Eisner reminded me that art lover Jim Reid once had the good taste to commission me to do a P'Gell in his sketchbook. I was so happy someone asked me to do a character from The Spirit. It's no Will, but here it is.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Greatest 

I see that Will Eisner died yesterday. It's impossible to overstate his importance to comics, and I wouldn't know where to start talking about that. Instead I'll just say that he impacted me.

It's the 70's and I'm spending most of my day around the comics spinner rack and magazine shelves at my dad's grocery store. I see THE SPIRIT among the Warren magazines and am immediately pulled in by the logo. From that point on I'm always checking for new issues of the hat wearing hero who gets beat up in sewers all the time. I put on gloves and fold the back ends forward when pretending to be The Spirit, and poke my tongue into my cheek because Eisner drew him doing that. What I don't realize at the time is all the subtle lessons that are sinking in-- the importance of atmosphere, inventive composition, believable environments, the fun of design, and most importantly, that one person can do all of these things.

Years later I'd meet Will at one of John Hitchcock's ACME conventions in Greensboro. Now I'm a college student with samples from a '30's period story, pacing nervously before going up onto the dais to show my pages. The other guests are heavy hitting talents, but I'm not as intimidated by them as by the man who practically invented the medium I'm hoping to work in. I know that I won't be able to hide my cheats and weaknesses from him, and he won't care how pretty my pictures are if the storytelling isn't up to par. I put off showing my work to Eisner for much of the afternoon, then I finally suck it up because I know this is the kind of opportunity that doesn't present itself much in a lifetime. Mr. Kubrick, will you watch a short film I made? I shake Will's hand and mumble something as I hand him my boards, reminding myself to shut my trap and not defend my weak drawing as young artists always do. He goes carefully through my pages, nods occasionally, and after a few minutes looks up as to make a pronouncement. Pointing at my word balloons, he explains that I have to leave more space between lines of text, and describes how to use an Ames guide. I also need to leave space between the balloon itself and the text. He shakes my hand again and smiles and I find myself standing over by the chairs wondering what this all means, as if an Oracle had just given me a cryptic message that might take me a lifetime to translate. Is my drawing and storytelling so good that it needs no mention, or so hopeless that we're not going to talk about it? How important is what he didn't say? What did he mean?

I've had several years, and now I know what he meant. He meant I needed to leave more space between the lines of text and the balloon, that's what he meant. I've looked at hundreds of young artist's portfolios since then. Some need me to point them to good text on process (Eisner's of course), some need me to hammer in the need for life drawing, some need to be focused on improving composition, or abandoning noodling, incorporating research. And every now and then I see someone who seems to working on everything equally, and I can tell that they're on the way to being a professional, all they need to do is not stop. Almost every last one of these newbies lags behind in the one area they're least interested: lettering. They assume it will be typeset or someone else will do it, like I assumed. Yet it's still there poking me in the eye on the samples, and like Will I just want it to look right so I can read the story. Without meaning to, I give them the same critique: neaten up that lettering, stop running it into the balloon. But what about my drawing? What can I do to make it better? Oh... just keep going, you're doing fine.

Thinking about that again, I do remember one art point Will made to me: you should be able to make a peephole in a piece of paper and moving it all over your page, be able to tell what you're getting a glimpse of through the hole by the texture you've put down (Years later Joe Kubert also gave me a texture lecture). Thanks for the advice to a young cartoonist, Mr. Eisner and special thanks for showing that someone can do this work at such high standards for a lifetime.


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