September 2005

09/30/2005

You Are A Fucking Machine

by Matthew Hawkins

- First up: the store page is finally up and running! So here’s a chance to pick up a copy of the first Unlucky preview minicomic if you’re interested. It’s only $2.00!!! And that includes postage!!! Though for US residents only… if you live elsewhere (I know that I have a nice UK contingency that visits this site) just drop me a line and we’ll work something out. And as mentioned before, in addition to comics, I plan on producing shirts sometime down the road.

- Anyway, its been really nice both yesterday and today. I LOVE the fall weather; the cooler temperatures, the constant breeze with that smell of fall… Plus I also like not feeling all hot and uncomfortable; I enjoy being able to regulate my own temperature, instead of being at the mercy of the summer sun. That and I’m a jacket kind of guy. Hence why it almost impossible for me to be here at work.

Also not helping is this one Nick Mag piece I’ve been slaving away for the past week that I’m totally sick of just looking at. At the end of the year, we’re letting kids vote for best video games in numerous categories and its my job to decided upon the nominees. Problem is, the games have to be rated E to T (absolutely no M rated titles) and its been a pretty shitty year for kids games. Even once reliable, kid-friendly franchises have gone totally dark, stuff like Jax & Daxter; in the newest game, there’s tons of tobacco smoking, and Jak even get drugged via spiked wine!

Even the standard fare categories, such as best console games, have been rather tough, but forget about the more playful. “wacky” awards, which is a staple of Nick Mag, like “most pointless object that needs to be collected”. I’ve been asking fellow game journalists for their opinions and verification on hard data and most of them agree that I’ve got a near impossible list to fill up. And who’s the genius who came out with the categories in the first place? Me of course… I should have realized that once I came up with “Most Pointless Object That Needs to Be Collected”, that I would be the guy who have to figure them out.

- So yeah, I’ve been busy, with barely any time to relax or goof off. Still haven’t touched those comics I got last weekend. As for playing video games? Ha! And I haven’t any time to surf the web for fun and stupid shit, which is driving me the most nuts since I’ve been online almost non-stop for the past few days for the Nick article.

At least I have friends who’ve been passing along some interesting stuff, like Michele who passed along a brand new trailer to the classic horror film the Shining, but edited as if it was a nice, wholesome feel good flick. They did an excellent job using footage from that scene when Jack kisses the dead woman/prostitute/his mom/whoever the hell it was.

- On his LiveJournal, Robin passed along a site that has booty call e-cards. Some of them are actually quite cute. Though my fave has to be the robot one…

… Make sure you check out the actual card. I animates, and very well might I add.

- Katie on the other-hand passed along film reviews for some a softcore porn flick featuring plenty of lesbian sex, but also tries to be a successful mummy movie at the same time, and actually succeeds!. I’m sold.

So I told her about Taste of Bread, the horror flick Dave & I made years back and she’s dying to see it. And she doesn’t even know yet that the whole thing was shot with one of those camcorders for kids, which you have to hook up to a VCR, yet we have plenty of outdoor shots! I gotta transfer it to DVD sometime soon…

- In return I sent Katie a link to something that I’ve enjoyed for quite a while, and I forget if I’ve passed it along here, but I may as well share the secret right now. It’s guaranteed to provide countless hours of entertainment, from now till the end of the internet itself: a LiveJournal image aggregator. The page displays the last 40 images uploaded to LJ at that exact moment. Trust me, go to the page and prepare for some possibly amazing/pathetic/cute/hilarious/digusting stuff. And be sure to hit reload every 10 seconds, cuz there’s always more. Though a warning: it can be pretty NSFW at times.

This, and this, and this have to be my current favorites right now.

- Meanwhile in the world of games, again, I haven’t had much time to check and see what’s going on, but I have played around a bit with the latest web game sensation: Grow Cube. It’s an abstract puzzle/sandlot-ish game from EyeMaze, which is created by the mysterious “On”. Trust me on this one, it’s definitely worth playing, even if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

- And I know this is old news, but everyone’s favorite game designer, Hideo Kojima, now has a blog of his own. Its called, curiously enough, HIDEOBLOG. And it’s a good old-fashioned blog alright… in his very first post, Kojima waxes philosophical over the new Charlie & the Chocolate Factory movie. the band Franz Ferdinand, and the weather.
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WARNING: To all my friends who aren’t into video games and game journalism, the following might be very boring. Though if you are a cartoonist, it might make you feel happy that you are doing the right thing.

Speaking of blogs…. I think I’ve made it no secret that I find them sorta dumb. But I the thing is, almost all of the negative stereotypes I have associated with them… at least not the ones related to dopey teenage girls that act all emo or drama queen-sih in hopes of attention and adulation from complete strangers… are due entirely to gamers. Yes… I have a gaming blog, I know, but again, I have my reasons for maintaining one, and again, I’m not necessarily proud of it. Or at least I not to make a big deal about it. But for many gamers, blogging is a very serious thing.

Game blogs, or specifically gamers who blog, are so strange… I’m into tons of stuff besides video games: old movies, sketch comedy, wrestling, etc. and yet I don’t nearly find as many people in those respective interests passionately blogging about it like gamers do with their main thing. Why is this?

Well I think I have a possible reason, which I actually first realized at SPX last weekend, and which I brought up when explaining to a person I know via LJ why I personally dislike 1UP.com (Ziff Davis’ online presence, which pushes game bloggers quite heavily, much to my annoyance). Instead of just repeating myself, I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote…

First off, let me state that I have no problems with the actual news or editorial content that’s generally found at 1UP. There’s some fine writers there, and even some awesome developers. Course I never read any of it, simply because the entire site is a technical mess (and everyone knows this, but the assurances that its getting fixed seems to lessen as times goes on, but that’s another issue). My problem with 1UP is the whole blogging thing and how they are “used”. And I guess it ultimately relates to my issues with gaming blogs in general…

Like many folks, I too have a gaming blog. Its for personal reasons, primarily for my friends, many of whom have pursuits elsewhere (mostly in the field of comics) and since I’m always looking for interesting and weird tid-bits relating to the world of video games for my friends, have a journal site is a effective means to pass the news along in a timely and low-hassel manner. But I also have one for professional reasons: I’m a professional “game journalist” (yes… dirty word, I know) and having a blog allows me to be visible and active, and via my own platform. I believe it showcases my skills when it comes to digging aforementioned news and info, as well as the commentary I occasional provide. Plus I pimp my whole “New York” angle as much as possible.

Do I take blogging seriously? …. Eh, not really, cuz its all goofy fun in the end, at least for me. Perhaps I should since I do reap immediate benefits, but I just find bloggers in general, at least the ones who take it, and therefore themselves, too seriously humorous at best, and annoying at worst. Yes, its officially “the next big thing” and as is such the case with all next big things, there’s sparks of genius in places, but the landscape is mostly riddled with deafening mediocrity.

But I’ve noticed that a lot of gamers who blog take what they do VERY seriously. Perhaps too much so. Yet that’s okay… whatever floats their boat. Some go way overboard by having three of four blogs simultaneously. That’s overkill I think. Granted, I have two blogs, one on my site and a LiveJournal, but the LJ is simply there to pass along notice that I’ve made an update on my own site, nothing more. But again, having multiple blogs is also fine in itself. Though I think the very act does deserve some analysis.

I went to school for cartooning but shortly after graduating, I pushed it aside to pursue game design. And recently I’ve decided to make comics once again. This past weekend I went to SPX, a major small press comic books show were folks sell their own comics to like-minded folks. And then it finally dawned on me… the reason why so many folks I know, the gamers, are so frustrated. You see, everyone at the show, the folks who were selling their own books obviously love comic books, enough that at one point, they decided to take a stab at it. And it seems that whenever someone really loves something, that person will try to create something of their own, whether its film, or music, or any other form of art. But its just not as feasible when it comes to video games. Its almost impossible these days to create a game by one’s self, and that level of frustration, or something stemming from it, is fairly evident from almost every diehard gamer I encounter. And many, it seems, have decided to use this frustration, this energy, to write about it video games, as a means to be more closer connected to them. Which again, is fine and dandy.

Though it should be pointed out quite a few can become noticeably far too attached with the concepts and ideas regarding gaming, at least their own… yes, the act of video gaming is often a very singular, person experience, but I believe its a tad bit absurd when folks become so accusatorial or defensive in regards to something which they themselves had no creative involvement in, let alone that its just a video game in the end. And I know that statement might be offensive to some, but speaking as someone who’s life has been profoundly impacted by video games (I grew up with, they’ve helped forge many friendships in my life, as well as my career), at least I can still view them as just video games at the end of the day. And if gamers have a problem with that, and perceive my outlook to be condescending, well, that’s their problem. Hence why when I encounter fellow game designers or writers who are so bitchy about their professions, I have to roll my eyes… we are living every fifteen year old boys wet dreams! But again, that’s a whole another debate. My point is that gamers can be a very over-emotional, scatter-brained set, and much of the writing unfortunately reflects this.

…. But regardless of my personal opinion of diehard game bloggers, if its what makes them happy, then more power to them. But I seriously object when such personal words and thoughts are being used by a large media conglomerate. Actually its not so much the act in itself, its the lack of proper compensation.

Let me just reiterate that I’m not some whiny game writer who’s pissed that its tough to get a paying gig nowadays because so many people are doing the same thing, and for free (since there is that very clear connection between blogging and New Games Journalism), but I do find it very dirty how Ziff Davis is pimping the writings of some 15 year old at zero cost. Its not like he’s writing the actual news, but he is the poster child for a major corporation, and that kid is not getting his dues.

1UP pushes the whole community aspect with their point system, but its such a hard sell… like being buddies with editors of the magazines. Hey, while I’m not necessarily friends with any of them, though I will sat that folks I am acquainted with are indeed very warm and personable (well… they were cool bosses, what else can I say?), but putting them on such a pedestal seems a tad bit ridiculous. Yet people seem to be stumbling over-themselves (or at least that’s the implied message) to be “buddies” with these folks, who again, are people that write video games.

Speaking of the folks who work for ZD that blog, how much of an open forum is it exactly? I’ve had discussions a few times about this, and have brought up a possible scenario of someone saying something that might be offensive to the parent company, to the point of censorship taking place. All have said that ZD is very hands-off and that nothing has even come close to resembling such a situation, but the fact that its a very real possibility is bothersome.

But back to the use of bloggers, what’s most annoying is their use of their female quotient. In almost every ZD mag you have some girl’s smiling face and her going on and on about how cool 1UP is, as is the ability to blog about games and the community that’s attached to it. Hey, did this girl get a check? Because if not, that’s pretty fucked up. Though if they do, I am willing to change my stance on this, but no one in the multiple times I have brought it up has answered my question. Forgetting all that, if I was female gamer, I’d be a bit annoyed by it all… its just a far nicer, less outwardly offensive variant of the booth babe. It appeals to horny males to join the site, period.

Do I feel that blogging is killing game journalism? Well it is to a certain extent, but those who are doing ZD’s dirty work should at least be paid for their efforts. And it isn’t so much that people are possibly being taken advantage of that bothers me, just the fact that everyone is so willing to play along; I guess bloggers who have their faces and words featured are happy for the exposure. Maybe some believe that it will propel that to a writing career of some sort, but if ZD is getting the work for free now, why should they bother paying later down the road?

Well, you have it. Not sure if that really answers your question… I’m not saying you should stop doing your 1UP blog, but I think everyone who puts a lot of time and effort into whatever they do should just once in a while stop and think about things.

… BTW, you can find the whole thing here, including the conversation that prompted the response, as well as some follow-up, which unfortunately validates some of my fears. Oh, and for the record, this was all written very late at night, after being frustrated with not being able to wrap up the aforementioned Nick article for a solid six hours.

Okay, its the end of the work day, time to go. I’m tired of writing about games, time to play some!

4 comments

09/29/2005

It’s Amazing What One Good Milkshake Can Do

by Matthew Hawkins

I was under the impression that once SPX was over with, I’d all of a sudden be able to take it easy for a bit. But its now four days later and I still haven’t had a chance to even touch any of the comics I got. Though I did read Katie’s Worrywort, and as expected, it’s super cute and super awesome!

For a while there, I was feeling pretty miserable; I really wanted to take the day after SPX off, but I had teaching commitments waiting for me, so I simply couldn’t (plus I had to attend the SIGGRAPH MetroCAF screening on the behalf of the school). So the feeling of exhaustion, coupled with so much still on my plate, left me pretty groggy and irritable most of Monday and Tuesday. But just one single chocolate milkshake Tuesday afternoon gave me the proper pick-me-up that I needed and I’ve been flying high ever since. It was just that damn good!

But now I’m finally at a point where things are finally under control and work is getting done, hence the lack of updates. Plus I really haven’t had a chance to surf the web for game related news, just general research for whatever I’m working on. I bet by now there’s got be a billion different Photoshops of different attachments for the Revolution floating around on the GAF.

- Speaking of, a major headache is finally out of the way. Here’s another reason why freelancing sucks: I did some work for an ad agency a couple of weeks ago. Almost every ad exec you’ll meet is guaranteed to be some overbearing, self-absorbed prick and a mindless workaholic, expecting everyone around them, meaning the lowly work-for-hire types like artists and writers… you know, the one’s who really do the dirty work… to put in as many hours as the bosses, despite the fact that they are paid shit comparatively speaking. Again, there’s a clear difference between some guy slaving away at drawing board till 1 in the morning to finish their own mini-comic and waiting around for some call from another exec from Miramax or something to seal the deal to a punch of pop-up ads for the next Vin Diesel flick.

Anyway, these folks needed some concept pitches and pronto, so I did it over the course of just a weekend, and even though I was well aware of the limited time frame, they were nice enough to send along needless emails to drive the message home. Once it was done and sent… nothing. As usual, something they just had to have ASAP ended up just sitting there for who knows how long. And as the weeks passed by, I heard nothing in regards to my payment, not even a confirmation that my invoice was received or being processed. And then I get an email asking for more work, and this time I get four different emails in the span of just two hours. When I got the call from a friend that works there (who was the initial hook-up) stating they wondered where the hell I was (I was at SPX), I was pissed, not being because the outright unprofessional hounding, but the fact that I had gotten fucking paid for the first job! So my complaint finally forced them to cut the damn check.

Once I got back home, it was a game of email tag; this new job was copy for or a major website promoting a major game, and they needed it the very next day. So I quoted them a very fair price, given the amount of work and urgency. And of course, all of a sudden, they asked if they could pay less if I delivered on Friday. To humor them, I have them an adjusted rate (I knocked off about $200) and then they asked if they could pay half of my new lower rate. Plus they asked why I charge so much, and I simply explained that it’s based on what I get paid from my regular, professional gigs, and stated that I would be willing to pay this much lower rate, but the work turned in would reflect the amount, which is still a very good deal of work. And I guess finally they got sick of me and declined the offer… I was willing to do the work, and at the mearger price that they set, but they just didn’t like my pay per word scale, which is still pretty reasonable given the amount of work they needed, meaning I was turned down due to how I do the math in my head! Idiots. At least I finally got my check, which was pretty paltry… I cut them a pretty sweet deal for the first job, in hopes for a higher pay-off the next time around… shows what these dicks are made of. So there’s goes another source cash flow, but in the end, I’ll have less headaches in my life (and yeah, I hope they’re reading this right now… I’ll give them one thing: the check didn’t bounce).

As for other writing gigs, I’m not too worried, now that I have a new agent… MK’s brother Kevin who’s currently combing potential jobs for me!

- Aside from all that, I’m also still working on Unlucky. One of my hopes with having a mini was to attract folks who I’m don’t know that well personally, but who’s work I enjoy and would love to have contribute. And it seems that it worked! I’ll be making a more formal announcement regarding who else’s work will be featured in the future.

Also, I plan on selling the first Unlucky mini via a new store section on this site very soon. Eventually, I hope to have stuff like shirts and perhaps other junk. Plus, I’m in the process of updating the links section as well.

- Back to gaming news, I’m now an official contributor to Insert Credit’s front page (you can check out my first contribution here).

Over the past year or so, various news items from my blog have been picked up for news section, but now I have the means to post items directly. I’ll still be posting bizarro game related crap around here, but I’ll be passing along headline worthy stuff, at least by IC standards, towards there.

- Meanwhile on the IC boards, here’s a few interesting bits that others have passed along that’s worth looking into, including…

… an amazing and insanely exhaustive site that seeks to connect video game imagery and the movies from which they drew “inspiration”. Many have already made the connection between certain games and old 80′s action flicks like Rambo, but the Neverending Story and Teen Wolf?

… the da Vinci Surgical System, which allows surgeons to perform delicate procedures in a virtual space via a videogame-like interface

… some images from a very awesome Ikaruga art book

Super Mario Bros in 2.5D

… and in the vein of Namco X Capcom, Data East X Sunsoft. I’d love to see Konami X Treasure, which would actually be very doable if you ask me.

- Also featured on the IC boards was GameGame, the game making game. Its suppose to be like Scott McCloud’s Understand Comics, but for games. Though thus far, most seem pretty disinterested.

Last night was another gameNight at gameLab, and I was actually expecting it to be there, but it was absent. When I brought it up, the consensus was, it sounds interesting and all, but is probably boring. And considering that this is coming from game academic types, that’s pretty bad. I think ludology might have hit a wall here, so to speak.

As for gameNight itself, it was what I’ve come to expect: a chance to chill out and play some non-video games for once. I’m always encouraging my students to play as many pen and paper or board games as possible, if only to better observe game-playing habits. Sorry, but you just can’t get a proper read when against someone in a video game; you’re not looking at them, just a screen. Plus, games work at a whole different level when you can physically touch and move things by hand, as opposed to just hitting a button (hence why I’m so excited for things like the DS and the Revolution). Unfortunately, many of my students simply don’t get the point, and will admit that they have a hard time playing board games because they spend too much time playing video games, where things are far more immediate.

Anyway, I had fun playing some gambling type game involving witches and dragons and Boggle (which I had never played before, but have always been interested in, due to King of the Hill), but will admit that I was really disappointed that the Japanese soccer playing robot which was advertised was nowhere to be found.

5 comments

… That was what MK wrote to me Thursday afternoon, while still at work. And that pretty much set the tone for this year’s show, which was chock full of disappointments, pleasant surprises, and absurdity.

The Night Before

When MK picked me up from the train station in Jersey after work, I received the next slice of bad news: Toby was not coming to the show because he was stuck at home. Due to Hurricane Rita, the roads in Texas were completely clogged, leaving Toby without any means to reach the airport. At least his home was not in the expected path, though both MK & myself (plus plenty of others) were really looking forward to hanging out with the guy.

Toby was also the second person I discovered that day would not be attendance; Tim Kelly emailed me in the morning saying that he was also sitting out, though there were plans to celebrate 24 hour comic day with a 48 page mega-jobber. But there was one small bright side to the bad news about Toby; he was nice enough to offer his half of the table. So instead of being stuck in the small no-man land’s room which traditionally receives very little traffic, and behind the pole no less, which would have rendered up completely invisible, we were given a seat right next to Todd in the main room.

But it was still the night prior, and there was yet plenty to do, mostly folding and stapling, but before that, MK & I had some breaking and entering to attend do. After getting our gear from her place, we drove down to the shore to Morgan’s beach house, with the idea of putting together books and crashing somewhere relatively closer to our destination, to chip away at the six hour drive the next morning. Problem is, we didn’t have the keys, so we had to bust through the downstairs bedroom window; MK managed to pop up the rusty bug-screen with a snow shovel, while I crawled through the window (and thoroughly fucking up my knee big time when I got myself pinned against the bed-stand that was right against the window… didn’t notice it before since it was dark as hell). When I was finally up and able, I went up front to let MK in, and saw her being confronted by a next door neighbor who was ready to attack with some huge bat or something. He thought we were burglars, but MK diffused the situation by assuring the guy that we were friends of Morgan’s, so MK wasn’t clubbed to death (thank God).

Once that was taken care of, we sat around putting books together while watching Cartoon Network. How I miss cable television… plus I had totally forgotten how awesome Robot Chicken is.

Day 1

After a long humid ride, made only bearable with a chicken sandwich from Wawa, we arrived in Bethesda about an our before the show. I was in the lobby with all our stuff (while waiting for MK to park the car) for less than thirty seconds when I ran into a familiar face, that of the my “long lost brother” Alexander Danner (editor of the Graphic Novel Review). But I also overheard about two different parties grumbling, which would be a common occurrence throughout; it seems that there were ton of problems related to the planning of the show, and many people who thought they had tables never got one. While I can certainly sympathize with organizers who have the daunting task of organizing and orchestrating such a major show with so many people involved on so many ends, its hard not to also feel bad for those left in the dust, like a couple that drove for 12 hours in a van chock books of stuff with no place to sell their stuff. So the fact that MK & I even got one in the first place was cause for celebration.

We finally ran into Robin and Katie, but the party really began once Todd showed up, and sporting a snazzy cane no less. We were among the many folks dying to see the guy since he wasn’t able to attend MoCCA due to a car accident this past summer. But despite it all, Todd was his usual happy go lucky self, and ready to make mini-comic magic, which he certainly would as the show progressed…

Along with Todd, we were right next to Dave, John, Raina, and Marion, which made for a nice, cozy little section of the floor. Our end of the table was bursting with comics and buttons and shirts and all-around cool shit… but unfortunately my book didn’t sell so hot. Though having something of my own allowed me to trade for other books instead of paying from them, which in the long-run, saved me a ton of cash, and was lots of fun to boot. Plus those who did pick it up were highly complimentary, and that felt very nice (along with the “about fucking time!” sentiment which I also got plenty of as well). I really didn’t think the stories would make such an an impression on folks, but the reactions I received were quite strong (a few like John and Marion seem to really hate my dad!). In the end, I didn’t mind the poor sales too much due to the fact that I just had a blast sitting around with friends and the such. Now, if I was at that small room and not selling books… then I would have been super depressed…

As for the original half-table, we gave to it to Dave Keirsh who didn’t have one (though I’m not sure if its due to some clerical error like other folks). I also finally got the chance to talk to the guy and he turned out to be a super cool. Along with some complimentary copies of his stuff (which I’m a super fan of), he also had some bizarro blacksploitation comic that he’s a big fan of and which he gave me. MK originally offered our table to Nick Gurwitch (of Perry Bible Fellowship fame) but he seemed more content with walking around with his own Canadian posse (long story which no one seems to know the details of). And as for the supposed pirate next we were originally supposed to be sharing the table with, he just turned out to be some emo looking regular dude. Sorta anti-climactic in the end.

After the first day of selling, myself, MK, Robin, Katie, Todd, and Travis Nichols ran towards the burrito place for dinner, which is a first dat/Friday night tradition at this point. And… surprise!… by the end, Todd and I were screaming about old Nickelodeon shows. Then it was a trip back to the hotel lobby for drinks and finger foods. Todd and Travis ran back to their room to start their 24 hours books, leaving the rest of us to deal with crazy expensive drink prices (I’m talking New York bar prices) so MK pulled out her flask full of gin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t mixed with tonic water or anything, it was pure gin, which is as about tasty as a cup of rubbing alcohol (I’m certain they’re both pretty much the same exact thing). Thank God for the liquor store across the hotel.

Day 2

Things picked up a bit on the second day, but not as much as one would expect for a Saturday. We would all discover that quite a few things were working against the show, including the shitty weather down south, some other book convention with the First Lady as a guest across town, and the throngs of people clogging the roads for said convention, either to attend or protest. At least hipster girls were out in full effect, many of whom flocked to Katie’s stuff (as annoying as she finds them, Katie’s not foolish enough to pass the chance to make money off of them).

And more and more people whom I expected to see were no-shows. Along with Toby and Tim, there was no Farel, Nate, and many others whom I’m forgetting. Becky Cloonan and K. Thor Jensen was also folks without a table, though they just seemed to be there to enjoy the show (which sorta sucked cuz I really wanted to get some more Evil Video DVDs, plus the THOR WILL SCORE shirt he was wearing, referencing to the Blind Date episode he appreciated on).

Though I did pick up some nice books, including Spiral Bound, a few issues of Phase 7 that I’ve been missing, the new Liz Prince mini, and a slew of others than, again, I’m forgetting. I did notice that the new flavor of the month is the Paper Rad style, which I’m a big fan of… but only coming from Paper Rad. But seeing it being shamelessly ripped off was pretty annoying; its not like different folks doing the same thing, but with a slightly different spin on things, this is people blatantly copying another style to the “t”. Which in the end led to the real deal Paper Rad stuff to become super expensive, hence why I didn’t pick anything up (the fact that the art farty world is enamored with his stuff certainly doesn’t help either). When I got bored of walking around, I spent time at table, mostly watching Todd work on one of the two 24 comics that him and Travis was working on (one would do a page in a book, then pass it along to the other… there were two separate books, each with its own story, that constantly intersect…. and the books were actually cutsey stationary pads from CVS, with kittens and fairies on each page). Plus I got to draw in a jam comic or two.

On day one, there was this guy dressed as a mouse in a trenchcoat giving out free comics, and acting all “mousey” (at first I thought it was a Maus cosplayer). So when he returned the next day, I mentioned how funny it might be to give him a big block of cheese to see what might happen. Todd quirky drew a big block of cheese, and then next thing you know, we’re going from room to room on a huge mouse hunt. After a bit, I figured we might be out of luck, until Dave spotted him across the room. As Todd and I made our way, Dave caught up with the mouse to keep him at bay, until I sprung into action. After presenting it, the mouse and I “fought” over the hunk of cheese, with him making these squeaking noises, while Dave and Todd taking pictures. After a bit, I finally gave him the cheese to have, but he made some weird sound, like a mouse being disgusted, and just gave it back. As Todd said, perhaps I ruined his life. That or it really was a giant cat in disguise.

And the end of the second day of the show was highlighted by the triumphant return of the secret pink lemonade stash:

Then it was dinner at the Tastee Diner which is worth alone for the rude, sarcastic service. The minute we stepped in, the man who runs the place, who hadn’t seen us in almost a year, looked me right in the face and said with a forced smile “Oh, boy… you guys again.” And the best part was easily MK & Todd goofing on the guy while he was right behind them (leaving me with all the dirty glares of course). I was hoping for a reprise of Tic Tac Draw from last year, but Travis and Todd were both still working on their 24 hour comics, which was past the 18 hour mark and collectively about 90 pages long.

Next was the Ignatz award ceremony. This year around, the MC was Keith Knight who gave all the award winners, and presenters, a shot of tequila. If anyone refused, he simply took the person’s shot. By the end, he had at least eight or nine in him. As for the awards, the two nicest guys from the world of comic books (and considering that most comic book folks, at least small press variety, are quite friendly, that’s saying a lot) were recognized: Andy and Alec, who’s speech was actually quite powerful and moving. Oh, and as expected, Nick won for best web-comic, which was expected. And witnessing his acceptance speech was much like meeting the guy in person… let’s just say “interesting.” I’m dying to know how others felt, at least those who are only somewhat familiar with the comic and who know nothing about the person behind it (which is many… he’s sorta of an enigma).

Afterwards we all just hung out to chat. At one point I ducked out to check on a Katamari party upstairs, but there was no Katamari, nor a PS2, just the heavy stench of pot, so I went back down for some fresh air and came across a very drunk Pat Lewis , in which I got to compliment him on his Marvel Gangbang mini, though I did express my disappointment that there was no actual gangbanging at all (the cover of Captain America giving it to Iron Man was a bit misleading I thinks). Then Katie and I went to for some beers and to just chill out at my room. On the way, we saw about six cops (and an army ranger) trying to disarm a guy with a shopping cart on the street. I’m surprised there wasn’t a one-sided shoot-out or something. Then it was to her room, which she was sharing with Robin, Todd and Travis, where a drawing party was in effect. Todd and Travis were still working on their now closing in on the 24 hour mark, while everyone else just drew robots; I tried drawing Conrad the super computer from the choose your own adventure book of the same name, which I hadn’t seen since elementary school, and which Robin’s lady friend had a copy of in her room (which was such a one a million coincidence) to compare with afterwards. And to my surprise and others, I was pretty spot on (I wish I had the drawing… I think Todd has it). We were up till 3 in the morning, and I recall becoming horse from doing my crazy girl and Hulk Hogan voice. Since many of us spent the whole night yelling and screaming, Travis made himself a place to sleep in the closet. Here’s a pic that’s guaranteed to be on the cover for the Boys of Mini Comics Calender 2006:

Day 3

This year, SPX went back to being a two day event, so Sunday saw the return of the after con picnic. When MK, Robin, Katie, and I arrived at the park, we went straight for the kiddie playset. The slide was tough to negotiate with due to our adult sizes, but the swings still worked (even though it felt as if we were slowly breaking them). After 20 minutes of solid screwing around, we were all exhausted, but thankfully the food showed up. And unfortunately, so did the bees, making eating a bitch. After kicking a soccer ball around for a bit, we got the call from Travis that his and Todd’s mini’s were done; they had spent all of last night putting the finishing touches on their books, and the whole morning at a Kinko’s putting it all together in one magnum opus, which they sold to the folks at the park.

Later I ended up drawing in another jam comic and also saw some dude with a CBC (Canadian Broadcast Channel) who I just had to say hello to. The guy turned out to be super nice, and we talked Canadian television for a bit. I was saddened to hear that Mr. Dressup passed away recently. Though the definite highlight had to be when, discussing a possible candidate to take over the driving to New York chores for a sick friend, Heidi McDonald’s name was brought up; as we all turned around to find her, she was just under some trees, her trying to hit a wiffle ball with a multi-colored wiffle bat, but she missed, causing her to spin around a tiny bit out of control. Plus she had pig-tales on. So funny and so cute!

The car ride home was, as expected, long. At least we had a mix CD by Katie to listen to. The best song? “Bad Bitches” of course.
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So yeah… the show was lots of fun. Again, it was disappointing that Unlucky didn’t do that well, but at least the rest of the gang fared better. And even though some friends were absent, it was nice to see the familiar faces that could make it. I know I say this every single time, but the show has really rekindled the desire to do comics. But I also know I say that all the time as well; I always give it an honest shot but I end up getting distracted or overtaken by other pursuits, mostly game related ones. Though now that I finally have the ball rolling, I sorta have to stick it. But something else has happened….

On the night before, MK & I were at Pearl Paint picking up some last minute supplies. As I was looking for pens, she recommended a set that Todd used, this particular Faber Castel set, and figured what the hell, I may as well give it a try. Well after a full weekend of using it, I’m converted. They’re so easy and comfortable to use, and it may change the way I do comics from this point on.

The thing is, inking has always been the one step of the comic book drawing process that I absolutely cannot stand. I just plain suck at it. It’s always been so frustrating to draw something cool in pencil and then to just destroy it via my shoddy inking skills. It’s the main reason why I don’t use brushes; I just don’t have the control, hence why I stick with nibs. Perhaps if I stuck at inking consistently over the past years I might have gotten used to brushing, like many of my friends who hated them in the beginning as well. But using nibs still sucks; its messy and even though strong, think lines are part of my style, which I can get via nibs, I still find them too constricting and awkward to handle. I knew some folks used pens to ink, but the idea was always “unprofessional”… a misconception that I picked up somewhere along the lines at SVA and has stuck ever since. But once I realize that some of my favorite artists used the same exact pens, I just realized that its best to go “fuck it” and just do what feels most comfortable. It’ll take me a bit to find out all that I can do with pens, but at least I’m on the right track.

But also, I guess the main reason to return to comics is that I’ve become increasingly tired and frustrated with video games. Specifically the professional side of things. I’ll explain later.

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