Monday, October 29, 2012


I hate recommending things to people. It's an uncomfortable responsibility. What if they try my favorite dentist/barber/restaurant and hate it? What if they read a book or see a movie I recommend and not only hate it but think I'm an idiot for loving it? I'd feel like I owe them their money back. Maybe do some chores around their house to make up for it.

Still: here are some low-cost, low-risk things I'll go out on a limb and publicly vouch for, with the understanding that tastes differ and caveat emptor.

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After five years of work, Cameron Stewart has finished his Eisner-Award-winning webcomic Sin Titulo. I would've been reluctant to recommend it before, since Stewart took a few very long breaks from the comic to do paying work, but now that it's complete I can do so enthusiastically. "Sin Titulo" isn't for everyone--there's some gore and nasty language in its 160 fast-paced pages--but I began following this noir horror mystery a few years ago and it became one of a few bookmarks I religiously clicked even when months passed between updates.

Sin Titulo follows Stewart's young hero Alex as he visits his grandfather in a nursing home, learns that he died a month earlier, goes through his effects, and finds clues to a mystery that lead to a beautiful young woman, a brutish thug who is probably a little more (or less) than human, and a peaceful beach that seems to be accessed, Matrix-like, via telephones and radios. Alex becomes a classic man-on-the-run wrongly accused of horrific crimes, while at the same time trying to figure out how he's managed to thoroughly screw up his life.

Honestly, I'm not sure if Stewart's climax actually explained everything--or anything--but I don't mind ambiguity and found the story very satisfying.

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My pal Mike Lynch and three of his cartooning compadres recently published the third issue of their 16-page comic book Raconteur, whose mission statement is "True stories from cartoonists who don't usually do this type of thing."

I'm cheating a bit, since I reviewed an earlier issue of Raconteur back in June, but Mike, David Jacobson, John Klossner and Jeff Pert--all single-panel cartoonists whose work appears in top magazines--keep putting out good work so I have no problem continuing to recommend it. Each issue has four four-page slice-of-life stories with humor and heart. All three issues are available here. I admit I feel some warm fuzzies giving a few bucks directly to artists whose work I enjoy as encouragement to keep making more. If they offered subscriptions I'd subscribe.

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I'm also cheating a bit in recommending this next work because I haven't seen it yet. But I have faith.

My friends MK Czerwiec and Mita Mahato, both cartoonist/artists I got to know through our graphic medicine conferences, have published a zine titled Ivy. They've set up a blog about it here and an Etsy store here. In addition to work from MK and Mita (who does wonderful multimedia storytelling with paper cutouts and such), this issue contains a piece by our mutual friend Sarah Leavitt, author of the graphic novel Tangles.

What especially interests me about Ivy is that MK and Mita were inspired to create it after studying their way through Ivan Brunetti's book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. They figured the only way to really know if Brunetti's book was any good was to see if they could follow it to actually make a comic. They assigned themselves homework, shared their results, and put out a book. That's wonderful! As I say, I don't even know what's in it, but I know the people and they deserve some support. Just look at that spaceship on the cover; that beauty's worth a couple of bucks by itself.

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Someone taking all three of my recommendations would be out less than 11 bucks (Sin Titulo is free, each Raconteur is $5.99, and Ivy is $4.50). Even if my taste stinks and you hate them, you'd be fortifying your karma. I don't give refunds.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Came, I Signed, I Ate a Bag of Chips

Storefront of Illusive Comics & Games. If you look closely, you can see a row of my books in the window announcing the signing. Nice promotional hustle!

You never know what you're gonna get at a book signing. Some writers are guaranteed to draw a crowd out the door anytime and anyplace; I am not one of them. I've never had literally nobody show up, but I can't remember an instance when a line at my table was any longer than, oh, say, three deep. The nice thing about being unpopular is I get the opportunity to really spend time talking to my readers, who are often passionate about my work (true for both books, which makes for some challenging gear-shifting) and smart, interesting people.

Quality > Quantity.

In light of that experience and standard, Wednesday's signing at Illusive Comics & Games in Santa Clara, Calif., was a very good one. Owner Anna publicized the event well both online and on site, managers Perry and Steve were fine and friendly hosts, and we sold about equal numbers of my books to folks who seemed happy to be there. Wednesdays are when the new comics arrive, so they had a steady stream of regular customers coming in to pick up their weekly fix. At the same time, half the store was turned over to gamers who huddled around three or four tables in the back. The joint was jumping.

Steve and Perry took good care of me. If you put their names together you get the lead singer of "Journey." They're probably sick of hearing that but I just figured it out.
They set me up right inside the front door. When I didn't feel I was getting enough attention, I could stick my feet under the table and trip customers as they came in.

I finally met Tim Schmidt, who corresponded with me about WHTTWOT and shot some photos of my book posed in the offices of his employer, Intel (I'm not seeing an obvious way to link to those photos, so you should go "Like" my WHTTWOT Fan Page on Facebook and then find them in the "In the Wild" Album yourself). Tim designs microchips, helping make all our Worlds of Tomorrow come true. In fact, he worked on the very Pentium chip I used as the basis of my Future Superchip in the last chapter of the book. That's cool! Tim is a friend I'd never met in the flesh (funny how many of those we all have these days), so I really appreciated him coming by.
Tim: Taller than expected.
Also surprising me were my friends Tina and Walter, with their son Kevin and service dog Loken. Tina and I became friends in college when we lived on the same dorm floor our freshman year. That was way back in the 20th Century. We both graduated, went our ways, lost touch, had careers and kids, and then reconnected through Facebook a few years ago. It was terrific to see them again.

With Walter and Tina. I didn't know Walter 30 years ago, but I bet he's changed a lot since then. Tina hasn't.

As much as I enjoyed seeing Tim, Tina and Walter, in addition to meeting new folks like John, Adam and Al, the night's highlight for me was being surprised by my daughters. Robin and Laura live about an hour away in San Francisco--in fact, I'd just taken them to dinner the night before--but they had some family business in the South Bay and came just to see the bafflement on my face as they walked through the door. Bafflement achieved!

Robin, me and Laura: Three-fifths of the WHTTWOT creative team (you may recall that my girls and two of their friends did a lot of digital coloring for me). I approve of Laura's sweater.
My thanks to Anna, Steve and Perry (now I'll have "don't stop...believin'..." stuck in my head all day), all my friends and family who came by, and especially all the people I didn't know before who came by. I'm grateful!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Elusive Illusive Allusions

I don't get out much, so I'm looking forward to next Wednesday, Oct. 17, quite a bit. Anna, the nice woman who runs Illusive Comics & Games in Santa Clara, Calif., invited me to sit and sign in her shop so that's what I'm gonna do between 4 and 9 p.m. Address is at the link above.

There's no speech planned. I expect to sit at a table and talk to friendly customers as they drop by to pick up their weekly periodicals (Wednesdays are when new comic books are delivered, which is why Illusive is open until 9 and Anna thought it'd be a good day for me to come by). I'll have a little slide show looping on my laptop and some original artwork from Mom's Cancer and WHTTWOT on display, and probably draw sketches for anyone who buys a book or casts big puppy-dog eyes my way. Mostly I look forward to just talking with staff and folks who know and love comics.

Santa Clara is about two hours from home and farther than I'd usually want to drive for something like this, but next Wednesday and Thursday I happen to be attending a professional conference for my day job that takes place 10 minutes from the shop. Serendipity!

Thanks to Anna for the invitation! I can already tell by how she's handled the book ordering and publicity that she runs a great shop and I'll have a good time. And if anyone reading this in the San Francisco Bay Area (especially the North Bay) ever wants me for anything, all you need to do is ask. I'm shamelessly easy.