Wednesday, May 10
Way back in March I read a blog
by a girl in Iraq. In fluent English, 'River' writes a
cynical and often funny diary about life in Baghdad. She now
believes the the US wants Iraq divided and warring. I wrote
a polite and supportive email to her saying that we in the
US are horrified by the chaos there. I dismissed the idea
that Bush wanted a civil war.
So you can imagine my dismay when I read this
in the Wall
"A behind-the-scenes battle among legislators
has made a crucial distinction between the new reconstruction
money and that already spent: The new funds won't be overseen
by the government watchdog charged with curbing the mismanagement
that has overshadowed the reconstruction.
The administration's main vehicle for rebuilding Iraq has,
in the past, been designated "Relief and Reconstruction"
funds, which by law are overseen by a special inspector general,
Stuart Bowen. The new money going toward similar reconstruction
goals will be classified as coming from "Foreign Operations"
accounts....By law, Mr. Bowen can oversee only relief and
reconstruction funds. Because the new money technically comes
from a different source, Mr. Bowen, who has 55 auditors on
the ground in Iraq, will be barred from overseeing how the
new money is spent. Instead, the funds will be overseen by
the State Department's inspector general office, which has
a much smaller staff in Iraq and warned in testimony to Congress
in the fall that it lacked the resources to continue oversight
activities in Iraq...
Mr. Bowen's criticism of how the rebuilding funds have been
managed has put him at odds with some administration officials,
who have waged several behind-the-scenes attempts to close
down his office."
Mr. Bowen was named to this position by Bush in January 2004.
It's now more important to efficiently funnel money and projects
to political donors than to rebuild Iraq. The price of this
corruption will be more war in Iraq, and the lives of innocent
Iraqis and US soldiers. Sorry to have doubted you, River.
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Wow. I've been waiting years for someone to do this. And amazingly
enough, it's free! I'm going to just swipe Zander's
blog post on this subject:
April 27, 2006
Good Ol' Green Lantern
copyright Zander Cannon 2006
some sketches this morning, and I thought I'd draw Abin Sur
(Oh YOU know, Abin Sur, the former Green Lantern of sector
2814 who, as he lay dying, gave his ring to ace test pilot
Hal Jordan, the SILVER AGE Green Lantern? Of course, you say.
is from a panel from Green Lantern #16 (1962), drawn by Gil
Kane and Joe Giella. It was written by John Broome, too, but
I didn't faithfully recreate the dialogue. Or even paraphrase
it accurately. So it goes.
news is that I colored this with the help of a flatting plugin
for Photoshop. Flatting is the process of selecting individual
areas in a picture so that you can color them in. It's time-consuming
and not terribly creative, and most colorists farm it out
to other people who can do it quickly. And the thing about
flatting is that the whole time you're doing it, you think
to yourself, "Shouldn't there be a computer program that
does this for me?" I always thought the answer was no,
but it's heck yes.
what you do: Download the two plugins, "Multifill"
and "Flatten" from Boudewijn
Pelt's website, decompress them, and put them into your
plugin folder that's wherever Photoshop is on your hard drive.
your bitmap art to where you want it (with hard edges, no
grays or antialiasing).
2. make file RGB or CMYK (however you like it) and make 2
identical layers of the lineart.
3. run "Multifill" on one layer, which will fill
all the white spaces with different colors.
4. run "Flatten" on that same layer, which will
extend all colors toward each other and eliminate the black
on that layer.
5. Voila! Black on one layer, color on another!
1. One problem with step 4 sometimes is that the colors will
be so dark that "Flatten" reads them as black, and
eliminates them. If you select the lineart, then inverse the
selection (selecting all the colors) and lighten them, you
won't have that problem.
2. The program is (obviously) very literal, so a) any areas
that are left open (my characters' eyes always have this issue)
are colored the same color as the area around them, and b)
any areas that are crosshatched or textured in pen or brush
will be a maelstrom of horrible websafe blobs. In either case,
you'll need to do a little touching up here and there to get
things the way you want it, but the time you save will be
PS from Gene: If the plugins help your work, don't forget
to write Boudewijn to thank him
and hit his Paypal button
to donate him some cash!
Wednesday, April 19
Wow, it's been a while since I posted. I've gotten some pretty
good creative work in on an upcoming Top 10 short story, which
should be done next week. Also, a one page something for my
oldest NYC editorial buddy, from a script by a brilliant TV
producer/novelist. Sorry, I can't show previews yet. My life
is full of hush-hush lately.
The Top 10 story had the hardest two pages of
my career in it. Expect the ultimate Top 10 cityscape. Everyone
who's seen it goes wow. I think of the two weeks plus it took
to draw. The story is by Peter Hogan, and it should come out
in a few weeks in ABC:
A to Z.
Today's been a memorably nice spring day. Just
enough clouds to keep down the sunburn, but more than warm
enough for shorts. I did see an old man with a winter coat
and a fur hat today, but most people seemed comfy.
I took my dogs to the park and bought some lemonade
from the stand across the street. The retailing superstars
are Reece, Ragin, and Erin, from youngest to still much younger
Fifty cents, but you've got to leave that tip,
no? Ragin (sorry if I misremembered the spelling) is the entrepreneurial
Here's some pictures of the pups off leash.
I don't trust them on walks this way, but they're OK in a
park with a fence around it.
New York was a blast. I was at the Big
Apple Con March 31-April 2. Thanks to all the organizers
and fans for bringing me out! The fan community there is much
different than in the Midwest. They compete hardcore
to get the best sketches. At the Chicago Wizard World you
see a few great sketch books go by. Almost every sketch book
I saw in NY was world class. Guess it helps having America's
top comic artists as neighbors. Here's a sketch I did in the
front leaf of a 49ers hardcover:
Lisa came along too, and she loved NY. There
aren't many towns in the US she can imagine leaving Chicago
for, but NYC is now on the list. Wonder what housing prices
are like in Greenwich Village? The one thing she hated was
having to take a photo of me while I recreated a drawing,
while standing on the most famous street corner in the world.
There were a few other things she didn't like.
The rats in the subway (how does the Chicago El keep them
out?) and the blood spatters on the bathroom wall in the Hotel
Pennsylvania. Scott Dunbier had warned me about the hotel
shortly before we left, but he said he hadn't been there in
two decades. He summed it up as "Barton Fink". I
tipped the maid an extra $10 and she got most of it off. I
think someone was shooting up on the toilet and got a little
Scott recommended John's
of Bleeker Street for pizza. They don't go in for that
wimpy "wood fired oven" crap; they use COAL.
We couldn't make it there the first day, so we went to the
branch location near our hotel. The pizza at the John's Pizzeria
off Times Square was the best thin crust I'd ever had. But
we did make it to Bleeker Street two days later. Significantly
better than the other location! Thinner, crispier, but still
a micro layer of chewiness to the crust missing from any other
crust that thin I've tried. Good call, Scott! (On the pizza
and the hotel).
I'll finish up with some photos of me hanging
out with some of my favorite comics folks.
And here's the first American to exchange the
49ers time door panels for a sketch!:
Quick shout out to the NYC
Mech folks. Worth reading, and also good folks to eat
Thai with. I've really got to get back to work, but when I
get a chance I'll try to write a little about my friend/idol,
Monday, February 13
Just got a cover done for Blöödhag.
It's my old pal Jake
Stratton's band. They're hard to describe. Punk thrash
metal with lyrics about classic scifi authors. The album name
is "Hellbent for Letters":
This has been great fun, but now I need to get
back to work that pays the rent!
Later that morning....
I decided the background is too high contrast (especially
with the stripes formed by the column fluting). And the boot
and the head were too low contrast. So I made some modifications.
Hopefully this one will work!
Wednesday, February 8, in the afternoon
Quick link for Batman fans out there. My
Batman "Get Caught Reading" poster is available
from the American
Association of Publishers. I'm amused by the choice of
reading material. I'd originally wanted him to be reading
Of Tomorrow: Geek, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book
by Gerard Jones. But that turned into more of a hassle
than we could deal with by deadline time.
Still, it came out pretty well. And I'm proud
of how the Batmobile design worked.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
is over! Thanks to everyone who took part. I recognized a
few of the names like Jim
McLauchlin and Albert
Moy (hey guys!). But for the most part it was folks I
don't know. So much obliged, strangers!
The piece was won by "Comicartboston".
So I'll get that to him, as soon as I get his address.
Great thanks to everyone who donated directly
to Brianna's college fund! Over $400 was raised that way.
I'd like to list the folks who donated:
Mark & Krystal Schweikert
The second person to donate was Yitzhak, a guy
living on a kibbutz in Israel (is that redundant? are there
kibbutzes anywhere else?). The next one to donate was Kevin
Huxford, a converted Muslim living in the US. That made me
feel a whole lot better about the world than recent news would
Finally, thanks to everyone in South Bend who
created the original fund. If it hadn't been for their love
of Barry and Brianna, none of this would have happened.
Good morning and good luck.
January 25, 2006
At a time when we can't expect the 'opposition' party to make
a stand, I found this
memo author and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
came to Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He defended
the Bush Administration's programs of illegal surveillance.
As he spoke, the students stood up and turned their back to
him. Then some more students came in holding a banner:
to remember, liberal or especially for conservatives.
For those who would still sacrifice our liberty,
here's a quick primer on the FISA court. Government agencies
can wiretap anyone, as long as they get permission 72 hours
later from the FISA court. The court proceedings are secret
and they have only rejected 3 requests out of thousands. But
Gonzales considers any oversight cumbersome.
January 8, 2006
It's the morning after the wake. It was a crowded affair,
full of warm memories and old friends, and my first chance
to meet Barry's family outside his dad.
I knew I'd get some details wrong in my January
4 post. That's not Barry laughing, that's Eric Ferm. I did
get a chance to hook up with Jim McClain again, for whom I
did one of my better pre-pro drawings. He has a much nicer
drawing on his site.
Barry's mom and brother from Hawai'i were there,
and his daughter Brianna. They all seemed well grounded in
the face of events, but his mom had faced a spate of deaths
recently. She was a little teary, but still able to laugh
and smile. Brianna is at an adaptable age, and she looks full
of life. Everyone watched over her, but not in a smothering
manner. They trust her.
The gathering brought together friends who hadn't
seen each other for most of the 90's. Matt Press was there
from B-town, along with Dusty Scharf and Jo from the outer
rings of Chicagoland. It didn't take us long to mix in with
the South Bend crew. Lotta catching up. As Lowell noted, whenever
Dusty entered a conversation it came to address porno. Dusty's
a funny and profane man.
I was surprised by how little most of us have
changed. Rob looked like he'd pasted on a gray goatee to give
the illusion of age, as he passes the years waiting for the
I ran into one of the same problems I run into
here. I have multiple projects where I'm not supposed to say
anything until the publishers are ready. Gahhr. Marvel is
the one company not being a pain that way:
It was wonderful to see what they were all up
to, creatively and in the real world. I was not the most creative
or the most talented person hanging out back then, but I feel
like I caught a series of lucky events. Being back invigorated
the teen geek sleeping in the back of my skull.
January 4, 2006
Winston died in the early hours of January 1 in Niles,
MI, just across the state line from my Indiana home town.
I wish I had one of his better drawings, but I do have a
lot of affection for the illustration above. It's pretty obviously
(to me) a drawing of the basement my friends hung out in,
at Lowell's house. That's where I first got to know my current
colleague Art Lyon,
and his best friend Matt.
We were geeks into comics and role playing games and, as you
can see on the table, junk food. I could be wrong, but I'm
pretty sure the fellow in profile is Paul, the focus is Lowell,
and that's young Barry himself laughing at the joyful idiocy.
At the time he drew this, I 'd been attending art school in
Detroit for two years and rarely got back to the Bend.
We were very different people, but I can't help but feel
he was in some ways a bigger, better version of me. We're
both 36 and grew up in the South Bend area. But until I'd
read the newspaper article, I'd thought he was a few years
younger than me. We were of pretty much equal drawing talent,
but my dad paid my tuition and room and board for art school.
That was a grand kindness: my Dad still laments my career,
but he put me through college anyway.
Barry's dad was certainly supportive too, but never had that
kind of cash lying around. So he went to the Army, and I don't
know if he ever got a degree. But he worked hard, and I never
knew him to despair. He worked hard and found work doing graphic
design locally. That's a hard search: South Bend is not a
capital of advertising and design. He hustled and found side
work doing illustrations for gaming companies. He showed steady
progress every year.
His website is down, so you can't see his later works. But
page on Google gives an idea of the breadth of work he
In person, he was a magnetic personality. He was tall and
broad. I think his mom was from the South Pacific, and Barry
had the big shouldered look we associate with Samoa. In his
spare time, he was an amateur body builder.
He laughed easily. He was briefly married, but it's bitter
fallout provided the jewel of his existence: Brianna. I would
only talk to him every few years, often just on the phone,
so I never met his daughter. She's about twelve now. The only
times I saw him lose his intensity and go drifting was when
he talked about her.
According to the SB
Tribune, he'd had car problems and needed extra cash.
So last weekend he worked as a bouncer. A brawl broke out.
After the room was cleared he was found on the floor. The
staff applied CPR, but he was dead by the time the police
arrived. Lowell suspects it was a heart attack. Barry had
been taking medication for his high blood pressure.
All of last year, I've been battling pre-hypertension. Medium
high blood pressure. So it felt out-of-body hearing of Barry's
death, looking at a South Bend life I'd never had. Barry's
body was taken to Memorial Hospital, where my dad used to
work. I've been pretty lucky over the years. Other than my
older brother Brian Justin, I've never been to the funeral
of a contemporary. I'll be going to Barry's wake Saturday.
Here's to you, Barry, and all of the relentless and passionate
geeks out there.