Can A Comic Creator Run A Comic Convention?

Okay — some time has passed since   I launched the Asbury Park Comicon. And at some point I’ll write more about what went into making it a reality. I could say it was a lot of work or it was hard, but there’s no way to measure that, and hard compared to what? We’d just come off of Hurricane Sandy — I think what the victims of the storm were going through was hard, what we went through was a challenge.

But with everything that life, nature, and city politics put in our way, we did reach May 30th, 2013 and the fans showed up. As did the talent. It was a glorious, if not frantic day. Friends from as far back as high school visited to wish me well (brought together through the magic of social media), as well as family, neighbors, old employees from my screen printing days, and the comics community.

We invited some great guests, some who’ve turned into friends. I especially had a great time with Ren & Stimpy co-creator Bob Camp and punk artist John Holmstom.
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At one point at dinner with them, I laughed so hard I though shrimp would shoot out of my nostrils.

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Other than that, the day was a blur with interviews, autographs, a costume contest judged by my neighborhood celebs Bryan Johnson, Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen of AMC-TV’s Comic Book Men, and Brian O’Halloran of the film Clerk’s.
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Oh, yeah — and here’s MAD Magazine’s Al Jaffee a week after turning 95 with me on the Asbury Park boardwalk. When I originally invited him 6 months earlier, he said, “Cliff, I’ll be there if I’m still alive.” To which I replied, “Me too, Al.” And a month later I was hit by a car. So never kid about that shit.

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And it was Judie’s birthday and someone made her a special gluten free cake!

I have a lot more to say about this event, with Allen Bellman, Danny Fingeroth, Herb Trimpe, Evan Dorkin Sarah Dyer, Jim Salicrup, and will ad to this soon.

Agent 88 For Heavy Metal Magazine Book

agent88xSome friends of mine out in L.A. are making a wild  webisode show called Agent 88. It’s been described as “Quentin Tarentino meets Mr. Magoo.”  They’ve asked me and other artists such as Jim Mahfood, Simon Bisley, Kevin Eastman,  David Mack, and many other talented humans to each contribute a page for a book that will be printed by the folks at Heavy Metal Magine. Looks like a groundbreaking show for the Web. Check it out at www.agent88films.com.

What I’ve Been Reading

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You may have heard David McCullough as the narrator on many of Ken Burns’ documentaries on PBS such as The Civil War,  The Brooklyn Bridge, and many episodes of the American Experience. McCullough speaks like the voice of history, probably because he’s not just reading a script, but because he’s steeped in the material.

His latest endeavor, weighing in at 752 pages is titled  The Greater Journey. It’s a collection of accounts of some the 19th Century’s greatest American artists, medical students, writers, thinkers, diplomats and scientist, who all were drawn to Paris for enlightenment. Such names as Mary Cassatt, Oliver WendelL Holmes, John Singer Sargent appear in their their formative years and go on to greatness. But my favorite was the story of the painter Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph on a steamship voyage home from France.

Other great accounts are the horrors and stupidity of the Franco Prussian War and the surgery school that fed human remains to a cage full of dogs. Those were the good old days!

What I’ve Been Reading

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Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake is a sad and imaginative near-future sci-fi about the downfall of humanity and those who bring it about. I love stories where the reader goes in completely blind, and gradually more and more is revealed until an entirely unpredictable turn of events leads to the scene of page one. The story is narrated by someone name Snowman, a pathetic lone human survivor of a manmade apocalypse. He shares what’s left of the world with the  strange humanoid creatures he calls “crakers” who were somehow created by his once friend Crake. Snowman recalls the events that lead to the downfall of humanity during his years of personal development as a teenager in the age of global warming. Atwood’s real strength is creating a range of totally believable characters. Good stuff.

What I’m Reading

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Alphaville: 1988, Crime, Punishment, and the Battle for New York City’s Lower East Side by Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett is a wild ride of cops, drug dealers, junkies,  in lawless days of NYC. Brought me back to the days when Manhattan was fun, but dangerous.

Co-author Bruce Bennett was the co-host on The Hound show on New Jersey’s legendary WFMU FM. It was great radio show that was broadcast every Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 6:00 PM from 1985 to ’97. Many a Saturday afternoon I would draw and listen to rare and bizarre rockabilly, soul, psychedelia,punk, r&b, and british invasion tunes. The banter between Bennett and The Hound, AKA Jim Marshall, was full of snide cracks, music trivia, horrible stories from the NY Daily News, oddities, you name it. It was like hanging out in the your favorite bar, with best jukebox and some of your most brutally amusing friends. Well, actually I had all that at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ, but with the Hound’s show, I could listen to all the great music and wise cracks, but actually get some work done.

During these Saturday afternoon drawing sessions I was free to draw whatever I wanted. Even though I had my own art department at Talking Tops, I rarely had time to experiment — it was all business. But at home, listening to The Hound, it was all fun. I’d sit and scribble, and giggle, draw some more, and listen to more great music.

A third regular on the show was Eric “Roscoe” Amble. Roscoe was a founding member of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and was now touring in various bands throughout the years of the Hound’s show. While on the road, Roscoe would call in with a “Vibe Report” about what was going on where he was playing that weekend. He always had an amusing story or an observation about some strange venue he had just played.

All the time I was listening to The Hound and Bruce Bennett talk about Roscoe, I was working on the early version of Rat Bastard. Somewhere  around ’96 my character needed a name, and I knew that a “roscoe” was an old-time expression for a gun.  And that’s how Rat Bastard’s Roscoe Rodent got his name.

So thanks to Eric “Roscoe” Amble, The Hound, and Bruce Bennett, for all the Saturdays of great tunes and laughs, and inspiration for one of my favorite creations.

I’m Writing a Sci-Fi Story For This Guy

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Ten year old Cliff Galbraith in front of the United Nations building in NYC, after parade for Apollo 11 Astronauts in 1969
 

While he had many interests including cartoons, pro sports, art, rock music and comic books, this guy loved anything to do with space travel. Astronauts, space ships, science fiction or fact. It didn’t matter whether it was Neil Armstong on the moon or Charlton Heston on the Planet of the Apes. He read everything from Issac Asimov to Arthur C. Clarke to H.G. Wells. He was drawn to TV shows like The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, Star Trek, Space Angel, Astro Boy, Fireball XL-5, The Invaders, et al.

But the Apollo astronauts were his greatest passion. He’d cut out their pictures from newspapers and magazines and hang them on his bedroom walls. He’d draw them and their space crafts, and make little comic books of their journeys.

From time to time, I’d wonder what this little guy would say if he could meet the adult version of himself. What would be his reaction to the notion that he would one day be able to create animation or edit written stories on a personal computer? I think he’d ask me why I ever stopped drawing space ships, and when was I going start again?

This picture was taken by my mom, who took me to see my heroes in late summer 1969. She also taught me how to draw, and introduced me to Picasso, Dali, and Ruebens. Thanks Mom.

What I’m Reading This Week

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I just finished Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” which I felt would help me with writing for Rat Bastard. The book is very similar to the Humphrey Bogart film, it just has a lot more details. It’s hard not to picture anyone but Bogart as the cool-as-a-cucumber private dick Phillip Marlowe. I love the language, the terminology, the smart talk. At one point, Marlowe is questioned by a local hood, who never uses Marlow’s name, he simply refers to him as “soldier” — a kind of a put down, implying he’s a just a grunt in a much bigger picture. “What’s your angle, soldier?” he asks Marlowe. A great tough-guy taunt.

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Now I’m on to “Stanley” a reconsideration of the life of Henry Thornton Stanley by Tim Jeel. According to Jeel, Stanley got a bum rap up until now. He’s been branded a racist, opportunist, exploiter, and henchman of King Leopold II. But Jeel got a rare look at the archives of Stanley’s diaries, and found a much different man — A man who cared deeply for the people of Africa and a true love of the continent. His bravery was unparallel, and may have been the greatest explorer in modern history. I’m just getting into the book, but it’s a fantastic read so far.

“Spook Country” by William Gibson

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I think this could’ve been a pretty good short story: A new, underground artform called “locative art” uses a network of GPS technology as its method of display. Former lead singer of the band “The Curfew” Hollis Henry is hired by a new “Wired” type magazine to write an article on the new artform and hunt down the secretive hacker who makes it all possible. There’s Cuban agents, CIA, and a billionaire involved in the search. But it drags on. Gibson loves describing everything — even things he’s alread described. A coat is no long a coat, it is Paul Smith coat, and it’s the Paul Smith brand coat every time the coat is put on or taken off. Jeesh. If not for the former rocker angle, I would’ve put it down after the first 75 pages.