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Thanksgiving went swell, Shain cooked a big yet surprisingly inexpensive turkey and we watched the penultimate MAD MEN. This season has been outstanding, a big improvement over last season.

Friday we went down to the Trash Palace and saw H-MAN, starts off slow but once the slime people start dissolving gangsters into radioactive sludge you realize that this may in fact be the squickiest film Toho made in the 50s. They also screened a Weegee film about New York and HARDWARE WARS, which has gone from funny to tedious and back to funny again. The guy playing "Ham Salad" is just about perfect. Saturday we went up to St. Clair and had a early supper at a BBQ joint called The Stockyards. It's a really tiny place that does a lot of take out, has to, there's barely any room for customers. The sauce is a peppery North Carolina style (though a tad bland) and the sandwiches come with slaw and it's all prepared right in front of you in the big open kitchen. By the time we were finished the line was out the door, so show up early if you want dinner at Stockyards. Sunday we found ourselves in Oshawa so we did some comic book shopping at Wyldstar Comics (always friendly), made a Home Depot run for light bulbs and we got the last of the groceries for Monday's cooking. I also finished this week's Zero Fighter and Shain posted a new Element Of Surprise bonus story. I've also been working on that Rodak strip but it isn't finished yet. And I've been writing a Let's Anime column about "The Littles".

Yesterday we ate turkey and watched MAD MEN and some RiffTrax and finished watching MISSION "Perry Rhodan" STARDUST and the weekend-long SCTV marathon that the Comedy Channel's retro channel has been running. Lots of good stuff I hadn't seen in years, including the "1984" theme show. And we did go for a walk around the neighborhood in the crisp fall air. The "Cultureshoc" place that was advertising life drawing classes, it's closed and is now some kind of storefront church. I guess the hipster Queen West influence only extends so far.

Today I dragged my turkey-bloated carcass out of bed and made it down to the dentist's office - in spite of computer failure they were able to fill two cavities and replace one aging silver filling. Only took 40 minutes. Modern dentistry is wonderful. Lord knows where those two cavities came from. Cavity Creeps, I guess.

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yes, Alcoholics Anonymous! No, wait, Artists Alley. I got a PM on the AWA board this weekend from somebody concerned about the tone being taken in a gigantic thread about the recent convention's artists alley. The thread has since been locked and vanished into the Negative Zone, but before it got gone I dug through it some to see if it warranted my attention. And it really didn't; what was done is what I would have done. They are quick on the trigger on the AWA message board.

And really, as I explained to the person who PM'ed me, I don't know enough about AA culture to make any honest decisions about anything relating to it, other than "knock off being a dick". The artists alley has turned into its own culture that has moved way away from where it was the last time I held down a table there.

I mean, during my time in AA, (I'm talking 1992-2002, intermittent) the tables were ten or fifteen tables slapped down wherever there was space - outside the dealers room, in front of registration, generally in unsecured high-traffic areas. Artists were mixed in with convention publicity tables, small press publishers selling zines, minicomics publishers selling their minis, and anybody else who could talk the convention into giving them a table. I fit into all those categories. There weren't a lot of rules and if you brought a bunch of junk from home that you wanted to get rid of and sold it, nobody got on your case.

The AA now is a completely different beast. It is full of professional looking booths with signage and giant prints and displays. The level of quality in the artwork has taken a giant leap forward (right alongside the giant leap in things like Photoshop, haw haw) and most artists have achieved a certain level of slick, appealing, van-art kitsch that would not be out of place in any suburban youth culture store. The craft quotient has risen and there's an increase in hats, shirts, costume jewellery, candy, and other hand-made items. The days when it was just a bunch of people sketching and selling zines is over, dead, and buried.

Now all you need to do is to check out the rules portion of any anime con's website to see how much the Artists Alley culture has changed. It's serious business now. In particular is the rule about how only a certain percentage of work on your table can be fan art. Right now at AWA the ratio is 80-20 - only 20% of work on your table can be fan art of copyrighted characters.

Now, I can completely understand the rationale for this rule: anime cons are becoming increasingly connected to the copyright holders and want to limit infringement. But I think there's another reason for this rule, and it's that when you're holding down a table full of drawings of your own original characters and not making any sales, and you're watching the table next to yours sell piece after piece of fanart of Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Naruto, Card Captors, Tenchi characters, you start to get annoyed and jealous and pissed off. You're doing your original work that you spent time and work on, are emotionally invested in, and it's being ignored in favor of an appeal to the lowest common denominator. I've been there and I understand those emotions completely.

I can't help but think that the fanart ratio rule is in place because of those feelings. It's an attempt to level the playing field, to reshape the market into something with higher aspirations than a room filled with bare-titty Dirty Pair airbrush T-shirts. And in principle that's a good thing.

None of the artists are really complaining about that rule. The artists spend a lot of time accusing other artists of breaking the rule (which is most of what made the AWA thread go on for 8 pages), but for the most part the artists are OK with it.

What the artists AREN'T okay with are poor sales. And if you know anybody who ever has any kind of table at a convention, they are NEVER happy with their sales. The AA has all sorts of reasons their sales are down - the room's too big, the room's hard to find, the table layouts are weird, those other assholes are selling too much fan art. And this is another reason that thread went on 8 pages.

Some of the artists were talking about how they are trying to make a living out of selling art at Artists Alleys. Now there's some wishful thinking. It's not impossible to make a living selling prints at shows - but you need to hit all the arts and crafts festivals in all the fairgrounds and city parks in America, you need to make the same circuit the folk artists and the landscape painters and the caricaturists do. Not anime cons.

Nobody addressed the fact that America is still in a recession and that people have a lot less folding money to spend on artwork. Nobody was pointing out that the AA this year was 20,000 square feet of full color glossy booths selling full color glossy fan art at full color glossy prices, to customers whose wallets had already survived the SHFS on Friday and the giant dealers room right next door.

And the kicker - none of the artists were pointing out that Joe Average Anime Con AA Customer thinks of the Artists Alley as a place to buy fan art. In his mind the two are inextricably linked. So we have two opposing forces coming into play - the artists want to sell their original work, but the customers want to buy fan art of their favorite characters. And as long as these two mindsets are in conflict we're going to see sparks.

And let's keep in mind that my appraisal of the situation is that of almost complete ignorance - I got to hit the AA this year for the first time in a while, and my knowledge of the issues involved comes from the anime con message board, which since the dawn of time has been the primary arena for gigantic flaming piles of drama to erupt after every single anime con artists alley ever.

So I don't really have any solutions, and I don't know enough about things to even formulate a solution, and that's what I told the person in the PM. That's right world, somebody willing to say, "I don't know."

Speaking of artwork - new ZERO FIGHTER this week!! Page 74 already. It's like I've been doing this every week or something.

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We are in our final countdown for AWA this year! It's this weekend! Yes! Thursday night is the SUPERHAPPYFUNSELL and I will be selling SPECIALLY SELECTED junk that I packed up and dragged down there in July in anticipation of this event. Then Friday the con starts and I have a bunch of stuff I have to do including ANIME HELL which is going to BE PRETTY ENTERTAINING IF I SAYS SO MYSELF. I have spent the past weekend editing video of forgotten robot shows and cavemen and Astro Boy knockoffs for various panels. It should be a pretty good show, I think. Hopefully it won't rain like it did last year... I don't think that's physically possible.

In the mean time you should go over to Mister Kitty and read the latest installment of ZERO FIGHTER. In fact you should read the whole thing and then when you see me at AWA you should tell me what you think of it. This latest update is the first time I've ever drawn an animal in a comic book, actually. I'm pretty happy with the last batch of strips, there are a few back there that will be getting redrawn at some point, but on the whole it's doing what I want it to do. I thought after taking a month off I'd be rusty and incoherent but that doesn't seem to be the case, the brick walls I occasionally run up against aren't as frequent or as high.

And in case you're thinking about asking a question on the AWA message board, no, you can't wear signs, you can't holler 'THE GAME' at the top of your lungs, you can't sell manga out of the back of your pickup truck in the parking lot, and if you bring a cooler past the hotel front desk they are, in fact, likely to take a peek inside to see if it's full of liquor.

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This week I'm still on that schedule where I work 12 hours for 3 days and then am off for the rest of the week. In practical terms it means that you get a long weekend, but you can't stay up late, and the last day of your "weekend" you get up as early as you can and try to get all the things done that you'd normally do during the week, like laundry and shopping, because when you get home after a 12 hour shift all you want to do is fall over. On the other hand, I don't really mind getting up early and being out in the mornings. There are benefits to having a schedule that's more in line with the rest of the world. In other words, it beats third shift.

Nope, not going to San Diego Comic Con, or whatever they are calling it these days. The last time I went, 15 years ago, I already felt it was way too crowded and being overrun with movie studios, video games, and TV producers hyping their newest products - I can't imagine what it's like now. 7th circle of hell, I imagine. My requirements for a trip of that distance are probably going to involve a little more relaxation than the SDCC can provide.

To be honest I have neglected many conventions that I spent a good chunk of time 1998-2002 going to. But you only get so much vacation time every year, you only have so much disposable income to spend on travel, and if it's a choice between visiting San Francisco or a hotel ballroom, Vancouver or a convention center, or let's say, Tokyo versus a hotel ballroom, well, the convention is going to lose every time.

In keeping with my crazy new schedule (that this is the last week of) the update for Zero Fighter was a day late. On the other hand there is a whole whack of new inserted Element Of Surprise pages up that Shain did to flesh out her continuity. Found Sound will be up later today and Stupid Comics will be tomorrow and there will probably be one more Zero Fighter and then we're on vacation, and regularly scheduled updates will be happening sometime in August.
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Last night we got back from an ultimately frustrating secret mission into the Welland Canal area for, you know, junkin'. Most of the stores were closed, even the place in Fonthill which from the sidewalk looks pretty awesome. Fonthill used to be called "Temperance", until they opened the Beer Store, I guess. Anyway, after we got back I went to update Zero Fighter and realized that I'd moved a strip three weeks ahead so when I thought I had one in the can, I didn't, so I had to get to work. And that's where the 20 year old mix tapes come in. Lots of college radio stuff like St Etienne, Lloyd Cole, Jazz Butcher, the Connells, Teenage Fanclub, Inspiral Carpets, and somebody called 'Strawberry Zots'. I saw the Connells a few times and they were a good solid band, unpretentious and hardworking. No place for guys like THAT in the music industry, I guess. The new strip is up and I agree with Shain in that I could probably break those word balloons up, but once it gets past midnight I'm going with what I've got.

Saturday I got up early to brave the impending rain and hit the Trinity Bellwoods park yard sale - not as busy as previous years, mainly because everybody thought it was going to rain - but I got a 45 single box and a Little Lulu coloring book and a 1952 government booklet about raising children and what I believe is a hardcover first printing of the first Dennis The Menace collection. Then I went over to the Cowan street sale; they blocked off the street and everybody hauled out their CDs, computer software, VHS tapes, and other assorted junk to sell. One woman had a fairly nice Hitachi deck and two boxes of home-taped movies, completely indexed in a little book. The deck was tempting but there is no way I am bringing two more boxes full of VHS tape into this house. Cowan is a surprisingly classy neighborhood considering it's hard up against the Gardiner on one side and some not-so-classy parts of Parkdale on the other. It was a really friendly sale, all neighbors chatting, a couple jamming on guitar and banjo, kids chalking the sidewalks, lots of cats and dogs wandering around.

We did wind up getting some rain later Saturday; wound up going out into the hinterland to Glen Williams, took a wrong turn down a dirt road which led to a misty, secluded valley where a big turtle was just sort of hanging out on the side of the road next to a pond. Sunday we didn't get a drop; not where we were anyways. On our way back we stopped off at the Arboreum in Hamilton to walk some trails. Saw a lot of rabbits, got lost a bit, didn't get too bug-bit. Totally didn't go to the small press show at the Reference Library or the screening of Blue Velvet at Toronto Underground Cinema, the new movie house that's where that Golden Harvest theater used to be in Chinatown. We fail at being urbanites, I guess.

We're going to be going through the Niagara region again next month on our way south, so I suppose we'll postpone our return visit to Fonthill until then. Unless we get bored and feel like another road trip.

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Went to the "fan appreciation" comic book show downtown yesterday. We went to the convention center, went up 3 sets of escalators, across the tracks via a pedestrian bridge, down 3 more sets of escalators, and into the south building which I had never been in, and which is huge. And subterreanean. There was actually some neat stuff at this show, we found some good old cheap stuff. Better than the last downtown show by far. I picked up a LOT of Harveys, more than I usually see at these things. Also one dealer had a big box full of original comic book art pages- some superhero stuff, but a big whack of Archie pages and original Stan Goldberg Millie pages. And some Sad Sack pages that got me thinking there might be some Little Dot or Little Lotta pages, but no such luck. I bought one page with two half-page gag strips, one by DeCarlo, one by Joe Edwards. There was an Edwards splash page for $90, I thought pretty hard about that one. The dealer is based out of a store in Hamilton, maybe we'll take a trip down there and buy it one of these days.

Came home and I did another Zero Fighter page. Actually I had one finished for yesterdays' update since before Anime North, but I pushed it back and replaced it with a new one, which I'm much happier with. After that we got some Pizza Gigi and watched some TV. We've been going through the Southern Cross set we picked up at AN and it's a much more entertaining show without that Robotech narrator and without it having to be shoehorned in as a bridge between two shows that didn't need a bridge and in fact are better off without a bridge. Also watching fansubs of the '68 Cyborg 009 series, which is primitive and energetic.

I'll probably be doing a few panels at Con Bravo the first weekend of July in Oakville. No Anime Hell, but I'll be doing an Old School Classroom thing and maybe sitting in on a classic anime panel or two. Will not be buying any LPs at that record store, though.

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I haven't had a lot of time to scan things, but they're reporting that Howie Post died. You don't know the name, but you've seen his work if you ever read a Harvey comic, which you probably have at one time or another. Since according to the world of comic book nerds Harvey Comics don't exist, they don't mention this, but not only did he work on and possibly create Hot Stuff, but he also had a long and fruitful run on Playful Little Audrey in which the character's Little Lulu roots were allowed to grow unchecked until they grew up under the sidewalk and through municipal water conduits until they became something new and strange. Post's work was always a little meatier than the typical Harvey stuff, his inks were a little stronger and the action was always a little cartoonier with lots of hollering and stuff breaking. He was one of the few Harvey cartoonists to get away with signing his own work, at least for a little while.

There's a new Zero Fighter up as of last night. I've been doing this strip for more than a year now. Actually I started physically inking the finished pages around January of 2009, by May I had enough of a backlog to start posting them on Mister Kitty, and since then I've managed to get a page up every week, more or less, with weeks off for vacations and such (and of course the basic idea dates back to 2002 or 2001, and isn't amazingly original in the first place.) I'm actually pretty pleased that I've been able to keep current. I have never worked on a weekly schedule before, or any kind of a deadline, really; back in the old Animanga days we'd have to have something in every couple of months, which usually led to a furious weekend of writing and drawing and a quick trip to the Kinko's and the post office. With Zero Fighter I have to have a finished strip ready to upload sometime Sunday evening, every Sunday evening. Some of my work isn't as polished or as good as it could be, but I'm meeting that deadline, and to me that's as important, if not more important, than being "perfect".

What I'm learning about myself is quite interesting. About ten years ago when we were working on the strips for JUKU I can remember thinking that there wasn't any reason I couldn't be a professional comic book artist, I'm good enough, I have the skills, I just need time to sit down and draw, sure, whatever. Ten years later I am amazed at my lack of fundamental drawing skills on just about every level. And it's not that I don't have any skills, it's just that the more I learn, the more I learn how much MORE THERE IS TO LEARN.

And that's a good thing. If I was working at the same point all the time, never struggling or having to work through something I hadn't figured out yet, I'd be amazingly bored with it and I would not be drawing. I have to have that struggle to keep it interesting for me. I don't know if this results in anything readable or interesting for anybody else, but hopefully it does.

Also, we saw IRON MAN 2. Enjoyable, but about 20 minutes too long, and the whole manic Tony Stark schtick gets real old about halfway through. It's called Ritalin, Tony, you could probably afford some.

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Haven't been posting a lot lately. It's not that nothing has been postworthy, but me, I been busy. There's a new Zero Fighter page up that will explain how I managed to get two pages finished week before last. This past week I only managed one page and an embarrassing amount of time was wasted trying to work out how car headlights would be pointing at the road surface. Still, the past Sunday update has basically all I want out of drawing comics - lots of thick brush lines and plenty of stars made by blowing white paint at the paper. As long as you give me those two things, I am a happy camper.

I am working on a flyer to advertise the Ozone Commandos screening at Anime North next month, and after two or three days of beating myself about the head trying to come up with a movie posterish image that (a) uses actual images from the film and (b) has a cheesy B-picture vibe to it, I might have something that I actually like. It involves the Death Blimp, and even sketching the thing out reminds me of how tired I got of drawing that thing and how glad I was to blow it up and never draw it again.

Thanks to Rifftrax we've managed to watch a lot of middlin'-to-terrible films that otherwise we wouldn't ever see. DAREDEVIL was a curious failure. ERAGON, while lousy, was nowhere near as bad as that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS movie. The remake of THE WICKER MAN was absolutely freakish in its badness. The TWILIGHT movies are actually entertaining with Rifftrax commentary. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was awful, if I'd paid to see that in a theater I'd be really mad. The Rifftrax version of PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE is entertaining, their take on MISSILE TO THE MOON has Fred Willard in it, and their REEFER MADNESS is a hoot. GLITTER is a really curious film, the kind of slow-pitch star vehicle they don't make often any more (for good reason).

Last Friday my impulse purchase of the week was a couple of LPs, VELVET UNDERGROUND LIVE AT MAX'S KANSAS CITY recorded live via Brigid Polk's portable cassette deck. I'd heard cuts from this record years ago on a college radio Velvets special, but it hadn't leapt into my hand until now. Tough, no-nonsense versions of Velvets hits and a guy in the audience asking for Tuinals. The other LP was Jefferson Airplane's VOLUNTEERS, a record introduced to me tangentially by cartoonist Terry Laban's CUD. Everybody's heard their two big hits and I'd even listened to SURREALISTIC PILLOW, an LP that contains their two big hits and what seemed to me at the time to be a lot of junk. In VOLUNTEERS you can hear the origin of a lot of music that I really despise, but the Airplane was ahead of the curve and is firing on all cylinders with tracks like "Volunteers" and "We Can Be Together", and the rest of the album isn't bad either. I can excuse the noodly digressions, it was 1969 and if I was cutting records at the time I'd be noodling away stoned out of my mind too. I'll be honest here, it's only recently that I've realized I only have two criteria for good music - if it works in the background while I'm drawing comics, and if it sounds good while I'm driving. Do these two LPs make the cut? Absolutely.

We rented GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (English title VERSUS THE SMOG MONSTER) and it's definitely a creature of its time. Lots of psychedelic go-go dancing, animated sequences, really disturbing Cronenberg style ooze. Fun!

In other news, the weather is nice, the cat is annoying, and there's a whole bunch of stuff happening in May that I am totally not ready for.

by the way

Mar. 29th, 2010 10:08 pm
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New Zero Fighter page update, featuring interiors and dialog. I'm working into Act Two now and I was having difficulty figuring out a character design for a new character, but I think I have a good solution. I was curious as to how it was going to be, working so close to a deadline - will it keep things fresh or just reinforce my half-ass tendencies? - but I think it's working out well, I'm having to come up with new ways to get things done in a timely fashion, and at the same time I can realize when I'm up against the wall and should quit for the night.

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(Jeff Foxworthy voice) If you wake up in a hotel room after a night of pill-addled sex with your lead guitarist and you still have your roller skates on, you might just be in the 70s.
Yeah, we went out and saw THE RUNAWAYS last night and it's a good solid film, not a great film, but solid garish 1970s entertainment filled with earth tones and Stooges tunes and Rodney Bingenheimer cameos. Lil' Miss Twilight does a great job becoming Joan Jett (well, okay, granted, capturing the emotional range of Joan Jett may not be the most demanding task, but she does it well) and Dakota Fanning rides the "Behind The Music" rollercoaster of Cherie Currie's bad home life, escape into Bowie, shaped into rock star, can't handle the drugs and touring, escape back to normalcy. And whoever they have playing Lita Ford, well, that is Lita Ford right up there on screen. Film does NOT end with Kim Fowley dying of a drug overdose while riddled with syphilis and being destroyed with flamethrowers, as much as we'd like it to.

The movie condenses a lot of the history. Some scenes sort of peter out confusingly, and their Japanese tour lacks even one exterior shot of Tokyo, which would be nice to see, a 1977 Tokyo. Even though the band continued for 2 years after Currie left, we don't see it; it's a long falling action of mopey Joan moping and drug rehab, wrapped up with the triumph of MTV era Joan. I can't help but think this film needed a little more speed, maybe a little Julien Temple style bombast of pop cultural intercutting to give us some context (see: THE FILTH AND THE FURY). But as a document of disaffected, alienated rockin' youth, the film succeeds admirably; the dark, packed, grafitti-strewn nightclubs full of garishly-dressed people you only know because you see them at the show every week, the luded-up attempts to make it down anonymous hotel hallways, and the post-Runaways Joan experience of living the punk rock former star lifestyle of a house full of doped up freeloaders basking in your fame until you get pissed off and kick them out and get on with your life. It has the ring of truth.

New ZERO FIGHTER up at Mister Kitty, too! Went out and bought a bunch more comics from the guy with the comics at the Woodstock show, mostly 1968-69 era Archie books from the collection of a girl who felt the need to sign her name on each and every one, including a Josie with the first appearance of Alan M. And that was Sunday. Saturday I worked and then we bought some Ikea flooring stuff for the balcony, which looks swell but we need more of it. Friday I worked. It was a busy weekend. This week can be a little quieter, please.

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Had a pleasant weekend with nice sunny warm weather! It's not going to last, but we did enjoy it while we could. Went out to Woodstock on Sunday for the nostalgia sale held in the fairgrounds auditorium. Hours were 10-3, which basically means we got to see the last 45 minutes of the show while everybody was packing up because lord knows you don't want to be stuck in that giant Woodstock Ontario traffic jam when the nostalgia show lets out! Seriously, 3pm? You can't stick around until 4? I know the beer store closes at 5 and you don't want to face the possibility of not having a full 2-4 in the house during that long 20 hours before the beer store opens up again on Monday, but people from the Big City are here and they have money to spend on your junk, so don't be in such a rush! 3pm is a joke. Get with it guys. We did manage to find some neat stuff, actually we got better comics at the Woodstock Nostalgia Show than we did at the comic book thing last weekend. An issue of THIRTEEN, an Oral Roberts evangelical comic, some Tippy Teens & Go-Gos, some prime Al Hartley Jeezus comics, and at the antique store outside of town with the disturbing Victorian-era electric medical device, some metal Coke signage and a paperback edition of the seminal 1895 Moody Bible Institute work LITTLE DOT.

Saturday we did some shopping and went looking for episodes of GARTH MERENGHI'S DARKPLACE and/or interesting Blu-Ray DVDs to rent, finding neither. GARTH MERENGHI'S DARKPLACE is a 6-episode British comedy series that's purportedly a lost 1980s horror/supernatural TV show written, directed by, and starring Garth Merenghi, author, visionary, dream-weaver. And actor. It's one of those live-action things that gets shown on Adult Swim to irritate pedants, and it's really freakin' funny. Mike Horne showed us an episode in Boston and it kinda stuck with us; its deliberate 1980s syndicated-TV badness is pitch-perfect, and Garth Merenghi himself is disturbingly similar in appearance and attitude to several people I've dealt with in the fan world.

Speaking of TV shows, this Sunday the new show from the guys who brought you BAND OF BROTHERS premieres on HBO - it's called THE PACIFIC and it promises to make "YOU DIE NEXT, JOE!!" the fun catchphrase among children and adults alike. I enjoyed the heck out of BAND OF BROTHERS and am definitely on board for this one.

Speaking of manly men man type entertainment, my subject line is Robert "Lucky Ned Pepper" Duvall's famous line from TRUE GRIT, which is currently in production from the Coen brothers. Not a remake of the classic John Wayne film, this new version will be a more faithful adaptation of the original novel, which means it will be even truer and even grittier than ever before. I'm a big fan of both the movie and the book and of the Mad Magazine parody "True Fat" and will totally be there to see Rooster Cogburn take the reins in his teeth one more time.

We watched the Oscars so I didn't get my Zero Fighter strip of the week finished until today. I always enjoy the Oscars, it's like a family reunion of the people you see on TV and in the movies all the time. I liked the dual hosts, I liked the opening song, I thought the John Hughes tribute was swell, and it clocked in at three and a half hours and some change, long but not terribly long. I was cooking spaghetti through most of the first hour anyway. I didn't see any of the best picture nominees so I didn't have any particular favorites, though I do feel not nominating PONYO is a criminal error. I guess they figure, Miyazaki isn't going to show up, so why bother? SECRET OF KELLS is coming out in theaters this week and we might just catch that one. I do feel like we missed out on a lot of good pictures for whatever reason this year. Eh, we'll rent 'em.


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Doesn't time fly. This week I got a haircut, and that's about all the non-work activity I expect to get squared away during the week. I needed one, though; my hair was Beatles level, it was approaching post-high school length and anybody who knew me back then knows how painful that can be.

I completely neglected to tell you about Sunday's ZERO FIGHTER strip, which is quickly approaching an extended dialog sequence where some of this stuff gets explained, and of courseFOUND SOUND is back with a record meant to comfort babies that features actual sounds of the human body, and ELEMENT OF SURPRISE updates as well.

I made up for my slack by getting two new Zero Fighter strips done over the course of the week and if I get one more done this weekend I will be ahead of the game. I'm kind of impatient to get the characters out of that field. Of course this Sunday is both the Oscars and the Woodstock nostalgia show which we will probably be going to. Woodstock is a little ways, but it's not too far for a junkin' expedition.

We got an official letter from the condo board and our yellow curtains officially have to officially go, condo rules state that only white curtains are allowed. So either we get different material and borrow a ladder to hang it, or call in the professionals, who probably have their own ladders. Or we just replace them with giant novelty flags bought from people in vans parked at gas stations, and wait for another letter.

If I knew what I was doing, I'd probably do it myself, but I prefer to push the envelope of knowledge on occasions when I'm NOT perched on a rickety borrowed ladder ten feet above the floor. I don't bounce like I used to. I got away with it once, and I could probably get away with it again if all I'm doing is swapping out fabric, but anything more complicated... not recommended.

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I repaired the "Guardian" with good old fashioned Tamiya Cement in the square little bottle. The repair job seems to be holding up and the robot is currently standing tall, protecting the shelf from all dangers which do not threaten his knees.

We watched "Black Dynamite" and it's hilarious. Unafraid to use both uncomfortable realism and insane hyperbole for humor, it's likely to be the only film you will see this year that will make you wonder where the set dressers found that ugly wallpaper.

New ZERO FIGHTER page is up for your edification. I would have been drawing another page last night but I had to watch the hockey. I don't feel bad about Canada losing; I live in Toronto, losing hockey games comes with the territory.

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We got like two inches on Tuesday night, which is the most snow we've gotten since Dec. 13. Nobody's really complaining, but at the same time people are kind of scratching their heads and wondering what's going on, waiting for the other snow shoe to drop.

Last weekend Donald and David came over and we exchanged Xmas gifts and watched MST3K and "The Day The Sky Exploded" off the 50-movie set of public domain SF "classics" we picked up during Xmas vacation. This weekend it's a little trip out of town due to the Monday holiday and the mild weather. If it was last year, we wouldn't even be thinking of going out of town.

In between it's been workin' workin' workin'. I have an article due on print anime zines of the "early days" very soon, and I'm still doing research, marvelling at how a really great looking professionally printed national club magazine can shift gears from translated anime theme songs to total fan politics editorial in the blink of an eye. Or the turn of a page, for that matter. I'm amazed when I read a fan club editorial (a different one from years later) that decries fan backbiting and name-calling while in the course of doing EXACTLY THAT, reciting a list of OTHER problem-plagued fan clubs while making the bold claim that their new, exciting fan club will avoid all those pitfalls. And they did, by not lasting nearly as long as some of the bad-example clubs mentioned in their newsletter.

And this wasn't via email or websites or message boards on the internets, either; this was all typed out on paper, photocopied or mimeo'd or printed, collated, bound, put in an envelope, and mailed using US postage and valuable USPS employees. A massive waste of everybody's time and money, especially considering that it was the 1980s and the pages you're wasting complaining that the fan club vote was rigged or that that other fan club over there isn't responsive to their memberships's emotional needs could have been spent giving us translations or synopses or episode guides or character guides or fan art.

So anyway I have to write that article (which is almost writing itself here!!) and I want to get another Let's Anime updated before the guy at Black Sun posts something about every 60s anime thing in the world, and I have crazy stuff I want to scan in and post here, and of course there's the beast of Mister Kitty to update every week. Found Sound isn't too hard, though ten minutes surfing through music blogs reveals vastly weirder music than anything I own. I'm going to be blunt about Stupid Comics though - we are running out of Stupid Comics. It's getting tougher and tougher to wring comedy out of our comic book collection; finding ten or twelve images that we can hang gags on, comics that aren't merely inane or tedious but actually the kinds of comics you would show to your friends and ask them what the hell is going on - there are only so many comics like that in the world, and a smaller percentage of those are in our posession. We're going to have to range a little further afield to find the dumb comics, and in the meantime I'm giving myself permission to take a week off now and then to let the creative batteries recharge, to parcel out the stupid at a more economical rate. It's a present I give myself, and those are the best kinds of presents!!

In the meantime, of course, I invite you to enjoy Mister Kitty updates of Zero Fighter and Shain's strip Element Of Surprise, and this week's Found Sound is all romantic and stuff!


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I have a bunch of writing to do, but I didn't do it yesterday because it was time for me to do my weekly ZERO FIGHTER strip! Also we watched the VHS of "Maris The Chojo", which is actually called "Supergal" but DC's lawyers are mean. This 1986 Original Video Animation was based on a manga by Rumiko Takahashi and is pretty much everything everybody thought Japanese cartoons were all about circa 1987 - girls in abbreviated costumes firing bazookas at spaceships. And wrestling. I know I'd seen it, before but the only thing that stood out for me was the end credits song about poverty, it's got a little hook that stays with you for 20+ years. The USMC dubbing was indifferent; one character has a Southern accent, except when she doesn't. I picked this up for $2 at AWA's SuperHappyFunSell last year and it didn't get home until this Xmas. It might go back to the SuperHappyFunSell from whence it came.

Friday I updated my drivers license and my health card, and it was really cold out so we didn't go to the 11pm show of "Spirited Away" at Cinematique. Saturday we did some driving around looking at stores that were closed for the day or closed permanently. We saw one mall that is about 80% abandoned. Last holdouts include the ubiquitous beauty supply place, always the last to leave the mall. Anchored by a grocery store and a Shoppers on either end, though, so you'd think they'd get some kind of traffic, but I guess not.

Yesterday was lunch at the George St and a little more shopping and then I had to get to work. Those of you in Tennessee and North Carolina will be happy to know that apart from a few flurries, we haven't gotten any snow at all recently. I predict we'll get spanked in a late-season dumping in a few weeks, but for right now conditions are dry.

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Excitement and adventure confronted us at every turn yesterday! Well, if you count "rain" as exciting adventure, then sure! Because it rained, which was good as my car really needed a car wash and I had actually seriously been thinking about getting a car wash, but then it rained. We did some toolin' around the sticks looking at junk that WE COULD NOT BUY BECAUSE DUDE DIDN'T PUT A PRICE TAG ON IT AND THEN LEFT TOWN FOR A MONTH. If we can't give you money for your junk THEN IT ISN'T FOR SALE, IS IT. Nossir. We did buy some cheap comics and one guy just gave us an LP -just said "take it" - so that's pretty cool.

I finished the latest ZERO FIGHTER and that's up, and we watched a bunch of old commercials and had pizza and wings. And got most everything squared away and out of sight, almost. Today I put up a new LET'S ANIME column all about fans! Because people love reading about fans.

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Every week like clockwork!!

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I finished another page this week too, so that means I'm breaking even. Yeah, I know we took a few weeks off and that should have provided ample time for me to build up a backlog, but you can't really do effective work while in the car or opening presents or watching fireworks or trying to avoid plunging into a snow-filled ditch on the side of the 401. That's just not conducive to good comic book work.

Also yesterday I put up the last shelf that needed to be put up, put up a shelf in the bathroom, painted and installed boards on top of the mirror frames in the bathroom so that they may also be used as shelves to display old plastic toys, moved the coat hooks, and put up a little blackboard thing by the front door. In other words I EMPTIED THAT JOB JAR AND SMASHED IT INTO A HUNDRED MILLION PIECES. Then I swept up the pieces.

Watched the last episodes of Vifam last night; was pleased by Muller's exit and the way they worked a little downer into what was essentially three episodes of "Hooray!" Everybody should go download this show and watch it, the whole thing, it's good solid entertainment. It's one of the few series that can really be called "all ages" - it stars children, but it doesn't talk down to its audience or take short cuts or easy ways out. There's nothing faddish or contrived about it. Well, it has giant robots in it. That's kind of faddish. Naturally it will never get released here, so go download away, kids!

Last week we also watched the 2-part Dr Who holiday specials, which by and large were faddish and contrived. I mean, come on, the only thing that radiation suicide booth lacked was a slot labeled "insert quarter" and Bender standing there with a quarter tied to his finger. You can tell the writers are struggling when characters start shooting magical lightning bolts at each other (see: Return Of The Jedi, Dragonball Z). Important deux ex machina characters are trundled in and paraded around without ever giving the audience an explanation as to who they are, or what they are doing, or why. I don't mind mysterious characters, but at some point you should let the audience in on their little secret, that's why they call it "story TELLING". And yet it was better than the last season finale, because it didn't involve Every Single Character Who Ever Appeared On Dr Who Ever. And it's at this point that I realize criticizing Dr Who is pointless, because a show that lasted 20 years while frequently starring antagonists who were presented on screen as chromakey'd bits of brightly lit cellophane is likely immune to criticism. So I should chill.

We also watched some really terrible movies courtesy one of those 50-movie public domain packages via Best Buy: The Manster, Terror At Red Wolf Inn (aka The Folks At The Red Wolf Inn, Terror House, Red Wolf Inn, and Terror On The Menu), and Doomsday Machine. All in all I think The Manster is the one to go with, though Doomsday Machine has Mike Farrell and Casey Kasem in cameo roles and lots of footage lifted from other movies, and Terror At Red Wolf Inn has some quirky amusing parts amidst the shrieking and horror and ends with the movie literally winking at the camera. Okay movie, whatever.

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I acquired a set of big metal flat files over the weekend and spent Saturday night and a good part of Sunday rearranging everything in the studio area. Sunday night the Morgan Spurlock Simpsons anniversary thing was on and they interviewed a guy in England whose house is filled with Simpsons memorabilia and that's how I felt, I felt overwhelmed with junk. The plan was that the flat files could store my old artwork, the years of comics and work from college, and also posters and prints. This would free up the space taken by the work table, under which all the boxes of artwork were kept. The way this has worked out is, there's more artwork than the flat files can hold, I've lost wall space for two shelves worth of videotapes, I don't think we'll be able to get rid of the work table as originally planned, and I still have boxes of stuff - publications, zines, assorted toys and junk - that has to go SOMEWHERE. It's Tetris in real life! And while I do enjoy making order out of chaos, somewhere around 10pm, when you've been doing this all day, the sheer magnitude of junk starts to become overwhelming and you just want to set fire to it all and start over.

Obviously the plan is to put most of the VHS tape onto DVD, and I have been doing a bit of that. I filled a suitcase with converted, replaced, or otherwise totally useless VHS tape and took it to the Anime North staff meeting for free distribution yesterday. But that's a long process. Still, the journey of getting rid of a thousand boxes of junk starts with one trip to the thrift store.

I actually don't mind having a lot of stuff. What I mind is not having anywhere to put it and not knowing where everything is when it's put away, and not having space to work on things like artwork when I need the space.

Heck, we still have random boxes of stuff squeezed out of their hiding places from the living room reorganization last fall. Shain's dead old computer is just taking up space sitting on the floor. I have a box of Xmas lights and power cables that should probably be dealt with. I have two perfectly good speakers that should go somewhere. Of course we all know the solution to these spatial crises is held by the Great God Ikea, but that's not happening for a few months. I guess we will have to suck it up and live a cluttered uncouth lifestyle for a little while longer.

In other news, I did get the first Zero Fighter strip of 2010 up for you! (actually Shain put it up). If I had had the time and the space and not been surrounded by boxes and little jars of screws and stacks of VHS tape I probably would have redrawn this page in a few places, but dammit, deadlines are deadlines. NOT THAT ANYBODY'S READING THIS STRIP ANYWAY, sob sob.

I will say that it's nice to finally have something big enough to handle that enormous Grandizer poster and the Unico poster and the rest of the posters I've accumulated over the years. Of course now I feel like a goof for hanging on to posters that I don't have the wall space to use. I guess that's why I quit buying posters. Someday we'll have an enormous luxury house, and the walls will be lined with posters of stupid Japanese childrens robot cartoons. LIVIN' THE DREAM!!

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