This past weekend I was lucky enough to see my friend Tony Isabella's creation, Black Lightning, become a TV show… and better yet to get to share some of that with him.
Sometimes, I really search for things to share in this weekly feature. Is that worth sharing? Do I want to reveal that? This week, I do not have to do that at all. Because Gymkata. So, a couple years ago I did a signing at Christy Blanch’s excellent Aw Yeah Comics shop. And one of her friends/co-workers, Kyle, asked if I’d seen Gymkata. “Gymkata?” I foolishly said. “What’s that?”
Kyle is a Gymkata evangelist. He would go door-to-door if he could. Scratch that. He may have already done that until a restraining order stopped him and I just don’t know. I think he’d have a bandolier of Gymkata discs if he could. So, when I told him that I hadn’t seen it, he fixed that. The Amazon shipment may have beat me home that weekend.
So, armed with a bottle of wine (or, as I called it, Gymkata Juice), I live-tweeted the experience of watching Gymkata. It is very much an Eighties film, combining the grace of gymnastics with the deadliness of karate. It is ridiculous and crazy and cheesy and it is a ton of fun.
Whip ahead to a couple months ago when I was writing the chapter breakdowns for Warning Label and I came up with the Mystery Science Theatre style night at Jeff’s movie theatre. My scripting uses brackets when I need to use a pastiche version of something. So, not Disney World but [Disney World] letting me know to come up with something close enough to the real thing so people get what it is, and not enough to get sued. In my script for this chapter, I of course wrote…
Sleepwalkers is a terrible, terrible film that came out during my tenure at the Kubert School. Some friends and I watched it and did I mention it was terrible? It shows Indiana with mountains. Neuman from Seinfeld gets killed with a charcoal pencil that travels so fast that it continues to pass through his head and come out the other side. And I hated that movie, which was Stephen King’s first original screenplay, up until the second reel. At that point, I realized he was trying to write a USA Up All Night movie. At least I hope so. But once I let go, it was a gloriously ridiculous experience.
So, the movie Jeff and the gang was going to watch was Sleepwalkers. But this was also the hardest thing I’ve written in this story so far.
Why? Okay, you write a fake movie which is earnest and yet amusingly horrible, do it in eight panels, and then write jokes about your own jokey movie. This is not easy. And I was trying to think how to make it work. And I kept hitting a wall. Until Gymkata saved me.
Combining disco and an action movie (which I’m pretty sure was done in a TV pilot called Young Guy Christian but I can’t find any tracks to that show on the internet aside from it’s IMDB entry, but I know I saw it) was funny in and of itself. Action tropes are pretty universal. And, as opposed to creating absurd situations, I could write a standard action film and then make the execution absurd. I wrote a quick little movie, and then the gang’s jokes just came.
There are cut scenes, of course. The focus of the story is Danielle and her bonding or not with Jeff’s friends, not Discottack! So I had to clip the scene of him teaching the local kid how to disco dance, or using his Discottack to stop a mugger in the first scene. But I think the world will continue to rotate anyway.
It's the New Year, and I'd like to get back to blogging a bit. That said, there are a lot of good places to follow me in the social media sphere, so I thought I'd mention them here. A lot of if the little ephemera I want to share goes there as opposed to here, which I'm saving for longer form discussions. So…
Instagram • I post a lot of stuff here, mostly in-progress artwork, pictures of food, and my cats. I try to lean heavily on the art stuff, because that's the obvious thing, but my cats are pretty cute.
Twitter • I cross-post Instagram here, so depending on your Twitter client you may see stuff twice. But here's where you can read me blowing off steam about being trapped in airports, commentary on the DC CW shows and other (hopefully) witty bon-mots that don't need graphics attached to them.
Facebook • I'm a little picky on my personal account, not that I post anything deeply personal but I try to keep that to people who know me in real life. But I have a Thom Zahler Cartooning account that I post to all the time if Facebook's your thing.
And I'll still be here, your go-to place to check my con schedule or read longer things about behind the scenes stuff on my projects and whatever else comes to mind.
First off, yes, I got the math wrong! Six bucks times two is twelve. The discount is wrong. I originally priced the burritos at eight bucks, so it would have been $16.00, and the ten percent discount would have been $14.40… and yes, I still got the math wrong, But only by forty cents. I apologize to all of you, Mr. Yanosko my high school algebra teacher, and numbers in general.
After the dramatic ending of Chapter Three, Chapter Four needed to be a little more low-key. And, as much as the last one, this one sets the parameters for the story. I’m going to reveal some stuff I haven’t revealed before, and while they’re not spoilers, they are very specific.
The important takeaway from this chapter is this: Danielle doesn’t have to change her mind, she has to change her attitude. I thought this through a lot in the concept for the strip. She doesn’t have to become a different person, but hopefully a better one. It’s all about broadening her horizons.
The burrito truck setting came about because my Man on the Ground in Austin Bill told me that these trucks are very, very popular. So, when I had to have them spend a little extra time, a burrito truck was so much more interesting than a coffee shop. (But, for those of you who know my work, don't worry, there will be coffee in the strip.)
This one’s kind of light on detail. There’s no clever reason behind the name Deja Baja, other than I thought it was funny. Their discussion i pretty straightforward, and the biggest challenge was making the visual of two people sitting and talking funny.
Sometimes It’s Just Staring You in the Face From the beginning, there was always a moment where Jeff would give Danielle a warning label of his own. It’s one of the things that hopefully makes it more than just about one person changing for another, it’s going to go both ways. But, I didn't always know when. It was a generic “at some point he’ll do it”.
Webtoons encouraged me to think of the first three chapters as one larger block, since they'd release at the same time. Once I realized that, I realized Jeff would have to do it on their first date. It’s the big gesture that Danielle responds to. How I didn’t see that before, I don’t know.
I Love Digital Art
The chains for that cool scene on the swings? I drew it once and then reused it over and over. That would have taken me forever if I was drawing in the real world.
A Question from the Message Boards
One of the things I saw on the Webtoons message boards was this: Didn’t Jeff get her number? So let me answer that right now. Yes, he did. There’s a jump in time from when they leave the park to when they’re kissing in front of her door. Lots of stuff happened there. And he got her number.
So why does he run back and not text her? He’s caught up in the moment. She’s right there, he’s barely crossed the street and he can just tell her. How can he not tell her?
Also, let’s be honest, it’s better visually and romantically for him to run back as Lifehouse or plays in the background of the scene in the eventual movie of this strip, right?
Once again, I wrote myself into a corner. “They have an awesome date.” Easy to write the sentence, hard to write the story. But, I’ve been to a couple gaming bars here in town. I like them a lot. Side Quest and Tabletop. But since I was setting Danielle to work at a Cards Against Humanity type place, going to a gaming bar made a lot of sense. Jeff figuring out that she might like going there would score him points with her. And since she works at such a place, it’d give me the opportunity to have her show him up and have Jeff just roll with it.
It’s fun making up the names to the games, too. Fortress Unicorn is just supposed to be silly. Sohmer’s Day is named after Ryan Sohmer of The Least I Could Do. Zoe’s Quest is named after my friend Kara’s daughter.
in Long Distance, the lead characters have a lengthy geek-tastic conversation. I don't want to cover the same ground with this series. So, I tried to keep the references to a minimum. But the warp/impulse line was too good to pass on. Not that I don’t want to write banter, though. I’d say the closing walking line covers that.
You’ll notice Jeff mentions watching movies when he grew up. That will be touched on again.
With the launch of Warning Label, I'm going to try to post a behind the scenes look at each new strip.
My new book, Time and Vine, is coming out from IDW in July. Previews order code MAY170517. In a shameless effort to promote it, I’m going to be sharing some stories about making the book here. This one's going to have to be a little oblique, because the book's not out yet.
Last year, when I was at Denver Comic-Con, I stopped at Stout Street Social with Sean Tiffany and some friends. There, I saw some really cool wine bottle displays. I've got a blurry photo here. But it was really cool looking, and I had to borrow it.
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There's a Thing that happens in issue one that I needed some solution for. And when I saw these wine displays, I remembered going to the late, lamented Potpourri in Mentor, Ohio. They had bottles built into their booths, and each bottle was signed with a note about whatever event that party was celebrating. So Happy Birthday or We Got Engaged or whatever.
The Stout Street Social display keyed that memory and, when you see the book, you'll see the problem it solved. Sometimes, it's not the big things, like winery tours or history books, but the little things that inspire you.
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My new book, Time and Vine, is coming out from IDW in July. Previews order code MAY170517. In a shameless effort to promote it, I’m going to be sharing some stories about making the book here. Free Comic Book Day took a little more out of me than I expected, so I’m a bit late with this update,. Doctor Christy Blanch runs a great shop at Aw Yeah Comics Muncie. Also, I have it on good authority that she’ll be glad to order a copy of Time and Vine for you, too!
A year or two ago I was exploring some Northeast Ohio wineries. One caught my eye and I had to stop. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before (I didn’t miss anything. It was new.) It was the Hundley Cellars.
It’s got a great feel to it, kind of a rustic cabin feel. Big fireplace, lots of wood and comfy chairs. And it’s got some of my favorite food, especially the chocolate brownie pretzel dessert. Oh my goodness, get one if you go there! So very very tasty.
They also use Uno cards as your table signs to bring you your food. It’s a great blend of classy and fun.
The big fireplace at Hundley, you’ll see that in Time and Vine. The main room and counter are certainly inspired by Hundley, Before I had a chance to tour Debonne or Brotherhood, this was in my head as I built the Aeternum Winery. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by!
My new book, Time and Vine, is coming out from IDW in July. Previews order code MAY170517. In a shameless effort to promote it, I’m going to be sharing some stories about making the book here. Northeast Ohio has some spectacular wineries. They are some of my favorite places to visit. I don’t know how well known the area is for those wineries, but it should be known. They’re awesome.
Through a weird confluence of events, someone I went to grade school, Joel, with is the sommelier at Debonne Vineyards here in Ohio. And Ed, the winemaster and brewmaster? I went to high school with him, and his sister and I were in the same art class.
So, I was able to trade on that and get a tour of the winery. It was invaluable to my experience. I learned a lot about wineries and how wine is made. When you’re writing a book like this, sometimes you just need to know what kind of background to draw in a scene. Your scene may have nothing to do with actually making wine, but it should look like the room they’re in really does make wine.
One of the coolest things they have is Cask Wine. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in a French oak barrel. Every year, they remove a third of the barrel and bottle it. The space is then filled with the best wine of this year. It is such a cool idea that I almost stole it outright for my book… except cask wines have no vintage date. And I thought I needed that more than anything else.
I couldn’t have written this book without that trip.
I’m taking tomorrow off for FCBD, where I’ll be signing at Aw Yeah Comics in Muncie, Indiana. But Monday, maybe I’ll tell you about another one of my favorite wineries.
My new book, Time and Vine, is coming out from IDW in July. Previews order code MAY170517. In a shameless effort to promote it, I’m going to be sharing some stories about making the book here. When I got the idea for a time travel story featuring a winery, I immediately started researching wineries in the United States. It didn’t take too long to stumble upon the Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson Valley in New York state. The place had been in operation from about the time of the Civil War and is the oldest winery in the United States.
From the outset, I wanted a winery on the east coast. California is certainly known for it’s wineries, but I wanted to be able to tie into the American history available on the east: Civil War, electrification of Niagara Falls, all sorts of things. And weather! I could do fall, winter, whatever. Brotherhood became a great source of inspiration.
I got the book of their history and learned how they survived Prohibition through making church wine and that champagne was still made because it was considered medicinal. It’s been through three owners. It was a perfect place to start my story.
Of course, I had to take a trip there. You know, for research! Some friends and I took the tour, bought some wine and cider… whoa, is their cider good… and learned a lot about the place that hopefully anchors my story nicely.
And I bought some wine. Including a bottle that’s waiting for me to finish the last page!
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about a local Ohio winery and how important that, and grade school, was to the story!
I had another phenomenal convention experience last weekend at Gem City Comic-Con. It was my first time to Dayton. Spoiler: probably won’t be my last. Gem City is very much a comic show, and I appreciate that. I did the most commissions I’ve done in a single day in a long time that first day. And it wasn’t just Pony stuff (though there was that, of course), but I had some interesting Star Wars commissions, even a “draw Uncle Ben and Aunt May… and wheatcakes” commission that’s my favorite one that I've done in some time.
I had a couple great dinners with some great friends and got to do the Drink and Draw for the event, too. I love how many local breweries there are in general, and Twisted Wing even brewed a special Gamma Ray Bomb IPA for the event. It was good, but I’m not an IPA fan. I had a few of their other beers though and loved them.
And I got to hang out next to Christy Blanch most of the show, which compounded the fun. Of course, some of that is just sitting next to her and ruining DC TV shows for her. Ask her, she’ll be glad to share the experience.
Christy also hosted a drawing panel with me, Kyle Starks and Scott McMahon . It was a great panel. We all played well off each other, many laughs were had, and I think we all learned something. Like why I’ll never get a tattoo.
Gem City was a delight, and another convention that treated me like a star. It’s all those little things that go a long way to making the experience so enjoyable. So thank you, Gem City! We’ll meet again!
This past weekend, I was a guest at Great Lakes Comic-Con. It was my first time at this show, and I had a wonderful time. Mike DeSantis runs a great show and he and his staff took great care of me and the other guests. This was my first show of the year and it was a great way to start. The standout had to be Ellie, the little girl in the photo above. She was so excited and having so much fun, it was just the most awesome thing and my absolute favorite thing about my career.
I didn't get a chance to meet him, but Nicholas Hammond (the 70s Spider-Man) seemed like he was the nicest person, which is great to see. I got to hear some stories from Jim Shooter and Bill Messener-Loebs. And, of course, I spent a lot of great time with Tony Isabella and, the Dean to my Sammy, Paul Storrie. I look forward to seeing them at more shows this year.
I did a decent number of commissions, too. Lots of funs ones, like Doctor Aphra and Lightning Lass as well as some of the more common ponies. And, I even got to play several rounds of The Shadow pinball machine courtesy of the fine folks at Big Toys. They did a glorious job restoring what might be my favorite pinball machine. I love how they replaced a lot of the lights with LEDs. If this is a crazy successful year, maybe I'll give them a call.
If the rest of my con season matches this show, it'll be a great 2017.
First come, first served to purchase this 9x12 full color original of Mark and Abby from Love and Capes. The original can be yours for $80.00! Buy by 5:00pm, February 15 and save $20!
First come, first served to purchase this 9x12 full color original of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. The original can be yours for $80.00! Buy by 3:30pm, February 14 and save $20!
First come, first served to purchase this 9x12 full color original of Wall-E and Eve. The original can be yours for $80.00! Buy by 3:30pm, February 13 and save $20!
First come, first served to purchase this 9x12 full color original of Nick and Nora from The Thin Man movies. (Also, someone get the rights and let me write it!) The original can be yours for $80.00! Buy by 3:30pm, February 12 and save $20!
This piece is sold.
First come, first served to purchase this 9x12 full color original of everyone's favorite space-married couple, Hera and Kanan for $80.00! Buy by 2:00pm, February 11 and save $20!
Here it is: You can read the first fifteen pages of my new project, Time and Vine, for FREE at the IDW website. Because it's Valentine's Day weekend and we're nice people. (Yes, this is the mysterious Project Burgundy that I've mentioned.) Please share! Since this is my blog, I can go on a little more about the series. Because you'd probably like to know what it's about:
A grade school history teacher, looking for a respite from her life's problems, finds the ultimate escape when the owner of a local winery reveals its secret to her: drink the right glass of wine in the right tasting room, and travel back in time to the year it was bottled. Together, they’ll journey through the history of the 200-year old winery… as well as their own.
Written and drawn by me. Colors by the absurdly talented Luigi Anderson.
There's also a six-page Love and Capes story for free up there, too. It's been seen in the fourth LNC trade, but never available in print.
First come, first served to purchase this 9x12 full color original of Hercules and Megara for $80.00! Buy by 2:00pm, February 9 and save $20!