The Importance of Place

What lots of Kentucky is like.  I love it.

I remember going trick-or-treating once as a kid.
Now, we grew up out in the country, so there wasn’t any of this ‘roaming the neighborhood’ kind of thing happening.  Instead, we’d put on costumes, load up into the car and drive to the houses of friends and family, where we would get fist-fulls of candy and mom would catch up on the latest small talk.
So, one year, I was dressed up in (what I imagined to be) a pretty cool ghost costume.  I think I had a Casper mask on, but my mom had pressed an old sheet into service as a shroud, and the way it draped and folded looked pretty awesome.
We had just visited my Grandma and Grampa’s house, and while Mom was catching up, I went over to my uncle’s house next door and stood on his deck. (more…)

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15,000 Words

So, I’m closing in on 20,000 words now in “Ghost Zero: Spookshow”, and so far nothing awful has happened other than mispellings and bad punctuation.  Some of the few, early Grave Diggers (God love you) have given pretty positive feedback. One actually said “my first impression is that you’ve been published before”.  Very cool.
But the coolest part is being the first person ever to actually “see” the story I’m writing. I’m a very visual person, so I see everything happening like a movie. It lets me describe things in very vivid detail. That this snippet where Eddie encounters his first ghost:

“I turned my head to look behind me, just in time to see the brick wall burst into flame.  I wasn’t even sure what could be flammable about a solid, brick wall, but the fire spread, yellow tongues of flame growing and then appearing in other places…connecting together to form the rough outline of a man.

“Ma!  Fire!!”
I took a step back and reached for a blanket from my bed to smother the flames, but before I could get close, something walked through the wall and fire and smoke.  It was a small, bald man whose skin looked like it had been blasted and melted by a blowtorch.  I had heard from G.I.’s who told stories of burned corpses they saw in the war, and this looked like one.  Flames crackled down his arms and I could hear the skin sizzle as black smoke carried the smell of burning fat into the room.  He looked like the fire was coming from inside him…the skin lit up like a lampshade, all of the veins showing through in red.  His closed eyes snapped open and focused on me, roasted, bloodshot things with sticky blue irises.  His face cracked open in an awful smile full of blackened teeth, and he came toward me.” (more…)

Ghost Zero: Spookshow

Working Cover

Um….so….

I’m writing a book.

See, a funny thing happened several weeks ago.  I was in the local public library and saw a copy of “Fugitives”, one of the “Escape from Furnace” young adult books by Alexander Gordon Smith.  I didn’t know anything about them…I just saw the cover, thought the premise was interesting and took it home for a look.

Now, I’m fan of 1930’s pulp fiction, and I know it when I see it.  This stuff read like that…fast action, heaps of trouble, and the main character has to do something about it.

What WAS new was that it was written from a teen’s perspective.  I’m not a teen by any means, but I enjoyed the character and the story enough to keep the pages flying by.  Then, I had a realization.  Well, two of them, really.

  1. Ghost Zero IS a Young Adult novel.
  2. I was pretty sure I could write it.
One of the really frustrating things about turning out Ghost Zero in comic form is that it takes so…freaking…long to tell a story.  Honestly, it would take me a year to complete a 32-page comic book.  A whole year.
If I wrote a novel, I could knock out a rough draft in a couple of months, polish and revise the thing in a few more and have it ready for publishing in maybe 3-6 months.  A whole novel of 50,000 words of GZ, while keeping my day job.  Win.
So, I pulled out my Ghost Zero moleskine (Yeah, I have one of those) and started jotting down ideas, mapping characters, and shaping plots.  I came up with a novel that tells the Ghost Zero origin story.  I’m calling it Ghost Zero: Spookshow.  I started writing it last week and am roughly 7500 words in.  I’ve got a small group of “Beta-Readers” who I lovingly call “Grave Digger Local#66” who are looking over the bleedingly-raw words and giving me reality checks.
Grave Diggers.  Gotta love these guys.
So far, it’s been a hell of a ride.
One of the things I realized quickly is how much more I had to know about….EVERYTHING…when I was writing the novel than when I wrote the comic.  It’s actually been really cool to come up with back-stories for all of the characters…I mean, I’ve had plenty of thoughts about them, but writing a novel means you have to have them DOWN.
It’s also an incredibly intense and exhaustive experience.  I’ve lost sleep because I’ve been so excited and involved in the story. 
It’s like your imaginary friend comes over to stay for a month.  It’s a little weird.
But, it’s fun, too.  It’s great to have such awesome things to think about, and to push such depth into a world I’ve been running around in since 2007.  My task now is to cross the 50,000-word finish line, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be pretty.  That’s okay…pretty will come later.
So, here we go.  I’ll be putting out a general call soon for more Grave Diggers, so if you’d like to be in on reading the novel and giving feedback, keep an eye out.
More soon!

Batphone RED

Coming home from (read “escaping”) school when I was a kid was something to look forward to.  I’d come home, starving, fix myself a peanut butter sandwich and sit down in front of the TV.  I’d catch “Gilligan’s Island” reruns, “Flash Gordon” serials and maybe, Batman.

There’s nothing that sticks in a child’s mind like something imaginary made real.  That’s what Batman was to me…a comic book come to life.  Sure, there was campy humor rampant (and to be honest, the comics weren’t that great), but that didn’t matter to me…Adam West and Burt Ward WERE Batman and Robin.  They were the heroes I wanted to be like.  I mean….the Batcave and Batmobile were AWESOME!

(Every kid in America should have one of these!)
As I grew up, I took a dim view of the 1960’s Batman series…they seemed like stupid things that poked fun at my love of comics and my heroes.
Then, I grew older and realized something…..Adam West is a genius.  Seriously.  He took a campy character, embraced it, and delivered the most hilarious lines with a straight face that made it all look easy.  I don’t think anyone else could have done it.
(As an aside, if you want a SERIOUS hero tale from that era, go watch the GREEN HORNET series.)
So, where’s this all going, Dave?  Well, I’m glad you asked.
I belong to a group of artists that post on a website called PLANET PULP.  There are seriously talented people there who, every month, take on some pop culture topic to bust their chops on.
Jayson Weidel , who runs the collective, came up with the idea of Planet Pulp to have its own, physical show.  People got really excited about the idea, and it looks like it will be happening in June (expect more from me on this later).  The theme of the show is RED.  You can do any pop culture subject you want, but the color red should figure prominently in the artwork.
So, I started thinking about Batman.  I went to a small convention once where I stumbled upon Yvonne Craig who was selling autographed photos of herself as Batgirl from the 1960’s series.  She was a wonderful and lovely lady, and my framed picture sits on my book shelf (“Best Bat-wishes, Dave!”).  I decided that, since I had Batgirl, I should have Batman, shouldn’t I?  So, I tracked down Adam West and ordered an autographed photo from him.
The photo became the reference for my creation for the RED show.  I call it “Batphone RED”.

I like how it turned out.

The image is not of a gonzo Batman, but one that is somber and reflective..even though the color scheme does have that “mod” sort of sensibility.  It feels moody and intimate, and I can almost imagine that blinking, red Batphone sitting on a table in front of him.

Although it wasn’t intentional, the piece also reminds me of the wonderful portraits by one of my favorite Monster artists, Basil Gogos…which isn’t a bad thing at all.

So, there you have it…my effort to give this version of our caped crusader a little justice.

I’ll see you all next time…
…same BAT time…
…same BAT channel!

The Artist: Failing Accidentally vs. Failing Intentionally

Hello all!

This is a strange post.  Typically, I post artwork that I have done, or post thoughts on art that have been blubbering around my head.  Seriously.  They blubber sometimes.

Today, it is both.

In the small town where I live, there “has always been” (ie. that I can remember) at a local car dealership, a vintage, 1950/60’s neon sign dedicated to the Oldsmobile Rocket.

Now, for those of you too lazy to take time to Google “Oldsmobile Rocket” before reading the rest of this article, The Oldsmobile Rocket V8 engine was an 8-cylinder motor that had some modifications from the traditionally produced engine design that delivered more power.  It really was part of the birth of the “muscle cars” that we think about in the 50’s, and like all things 50’s, had a cool, space-age name “The Rocket V8”!

So, imagine me as a boy, if you will.  Other than time spent in a small, elementary school, I spent most of my time in pastoral beauty….green trees, tractors and happy cows.

Then, on a ride into town for come ice cream at the local Dairy Queen, I see something like this:

(only the sign I saw was mounted on a taller pole)
Pretty space-age, right?  That thing looks like it was ready to launch at the moon….or the Commies.  You know.  Now at night, the thing is completely different….lit up in pulsing light, shining like a pink, neon star.
And it’s still there.
So, stupid me, who never learns from other people’s mistakes thought “Hey, I’ll bet getting a photo of that rocket sign at night would make a really cool watercolor!”  Idiot.  But what the heck, right? 
So, I go down with my camera and tripod and snap a few shots of that neon beauty.  I work it up in watercolor, and after a few days of work, come up with this:
(Click to view it large)
So…it’s ok.  I actually thought I was done at this point.  I knew the background wasn’t dark enough to really pop the neon light like it should, but I enjoyed the blue color and the texture of the otherwise blank, night sky.  I was just going to leave it alone and move on.
And I would have Failed Accidentally.
What I mean, is that there comes a time when an artist needs to know when to leave a piece alone to keep from ruining it….before he pushes the thing beyond the hope of salvation…..but there’s also the danger of stopping BEFORE going far enough.
Tricky, isn’t it?  I mean, how far is far enough?
Well, this piece nagged me.  I wasn’t happy with the outcome.  Sure, I liked PARTS of it, but on the whole it wasn’t doing much.  In short, it was failing.
So, what to do when a piece is failing?  Well, the great thing is, since it is ALREADY failing…what’s the harm in pushing it?
So, that’s what I did.
(Again, bigger is better, so click!)
I slammed the background into black.  Well, it’s not ENTIRELY black…there’s plenty of subtle colors and textures back there…but it’s definitely dark.  I also pushed some of the darks in the sign itself to bring out the angles and to fade the top into the sky.
Maybe I destroyed the thing, but I think it focuses the eye on the bright, electric lights of the piece instead of bouncing around the background.  There is less motion, perhaps, but it has that icy stillness like that frozen moment before a rocket makes its jump for the stars.
So, it may still be a fail, but at least it is a fail because I did TOO MUCH and not because I lacked the guts to DO ENOUGH.  
My advice to you is to be gutsy.  If you screw it up, you can always do more art.
More later,
-Dave