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Thursday, February 4, 2021

AIM Comics: Ten Years Later


Wow, how time flies. It was 10 years ago today that we published the first volume of Ian McDonald's "The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit", featuring not only an all-star lineup of webcomics artists and a ton of Ian's work, but also praise from renowned Conan author Roy Thomas and arguably the last published art by Savage Sword of Conan legend Ernie Chan.
It's been an interesting ride since then, with many changes both personal and professional. Sales on the books (7 volumes so far!) have been up and down and for a sales neophyte like me, it's still proving hard to find the presence in the market I think this work deserves.
However, it's also been nice having these books as a constant presence in the background, a pivot point for me to return to when my schedule allows. I've been working with Ian in one form another since 1988 and his work continues to bring me great enjoyment.
Volume 8 is due to be released soon. We're well past the midpoint and on the way to reaching the end of this strip; after that, who knows? Until we reach that point, I'm going to continue enjoying the work of compiling and publishing these books and will continue looking for ways to bring them to the readers' attention.
Thanks, Ian, for letting me play around with your work for the last decade. I'm grateful for the opportunity and for the lessons I've learned as an editor and a publisher. We've still got a ways to go, so let's see what we can do with this thing!


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Kicking Off 2021

 2020 is receding in my rearview mirror; 2021 lies ahead.  There were no new publications from AIM Comics in 2020 for one reason or another, but that doesn't mean that nothing's been happening.  Looking ahead very quickly, here's what we've got:

-Volume 8 of The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit is in progress and well on its way to being finished.  I've had the cover by our guest artist delivered to me within the last week, and once I finish coloring it and address a few formatting issues in the book itself, we should be ready to go!  The next one's going to be a bit bigger than the previous volumes, just because of the length of the stories that Ian was writing during this period.

-Just started work on a new personal project yesterday.  It's one that's hopefully going to play out over quite a long time, but I will be able to release it incrementally.  It's something I've been promising myself I will address for years now, and I finally decided it's time to get started.  Watch this space for more updates.

-Sketches are moving along on another project that I have had contracted for a couple of years now.  I've had to put it aside due to the need to take on a lot of commission work, but I think I may actually be making some real progress.

Not a lot of detail in there, I know, but it looks like AIM Comics will be showing some signs of life again in 2021.  Here's hoping for the best, for us and you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

New Work Published: Pocketwatch Pixie and Safyre V2: Unfinished Business

 I've been working with author David Brzezinski for several years now, ever since I did the cover for his book "Battle for Berridor".  Since then, I've done at least one cover a year for him, as well as some interior and design work.

One of the things I like about David is that he makes publishing a family affair, getting his kids to co-author books with him turning out some good stories in the process.  Children Caleb and Faith Brzezinski have co-written such books as "Safyre" and "Angelina and the Egg", all of which are worth checking out.

This year, David and family have published two books at the same time, one with Caleb and one with Faith.  I have had the honor of doing covers for both, as well as interiors for one of them.

"Pocketwatch Pixie" by David and Faith Brzezinski is a young adult tale of a girl who finds a magical pixie trapped in a pocketwatch.  A good story for readers who like a little magic with their heroism, with a strong female presence in both the authorship and the story.  The cover for this one was a bit of a stretch for me, with some inspiration by the DC "Superhero Girls" series of novels.  I also did a few black and white interiors that were fun and I hope will be charming.

"Safyre 2: Unfinished Business" by Caleb and David Brzezinski is a followup to 2013's "Explosive Origins: Safyre Book 1".  It's the ongoing story of two super-powered teens and their fight to save their home, Titanium Falls from nefarious villains.  Somehow a peanut-shaped car and a portable black hole get involved.  Look, you're just going to have to read it.

For the cover for this one, I tried to tap into some Kirby vibes to get that "comin' at ya!" feeling, with some of Kirby's trippy sense of color.  No cinematic movie grading here, darnit!

These are fun books authored by people who are just enjoying the process of writing and publishing, and aside from the fact that I worked on both of them, I can't recommend them enough...this is the kind of stuff that young people...or just the young at heart...should be reading when they're reading just for the fun of it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Bedded & Jess: A Kickstarter Project!


I'd like to bring your attention to a great Kickstarter project I'm involved in. 

 For the past couple of years, I've been inking a comic book called "Bedded & Jess" by artist Nick Woll.  Nick is autistic and has some difficulty communicating, but has some decent chops as an artist.  I find his work has a great energy and stylistic elements that remind me of some of the classic Disney artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gotfriedson.  He's especially good at packing a page with lots of frenetic detail and unusual characters, and has a talent for being creative with panel borders.

 With help from his brother, Nick has put together a series of adventures starring his creations, the titular "Bedded & Jess".  Simply put, it's a continuing story of their characters getting into one unusual situation after another and meeting a host of strange characters along the way.

They've got a lot of work done (over 300 pages so far!), but to get this thing off the ground, they're going to need a bunch of support, so they're running a Kickstarter campaign to get the first 8 issues published.

To help support their project, I'm donating an orignal watercolor painting based on one of Nick's drawings for someone generous enough to buy in at the $350 level.  Even at the basic levels they've got some fun rewards that I'm sure comics fans will enjoy, and at the top levels there's some truly amazing stuff.

Do me a favor and check out their campaign, even if it's only to see all the cool art they've got posted.  Be sure to watch the "About the artist..." video featuring Nick himself.

 This is a campaign for a worthwhile cause, but it's also a fun book that I've really enjoyed working on, so please support them if you can!



Thursday, September 10, 2020

Art on Instagram

 I have been slowly building my Instagram feed over the past few months, mostly populating it with old art pieces and sketches that I've created.  Followers can expect to see things that have not been widely published or may have never been published at all.  There's some fun stuff in there, and I'm enjoying rediscovering some of my own work that I'd forgotten about. Check it out!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Things to Do in the Slowpocalypse, Part II: The Audio Version - Podcasts

Coming back to the topic of ways to fiddle while the world (metaphorically, at least so far) burns, here's some of the audio delights I will be enjoying in the coming weeks.  Actually, I've been enjoying many of these for a while now, as my dayjob involves spending a lot of time staring at spreadsheets and moving around theoretical numbers.   Having something interesting to plug into my ears often makes the days pass a little more lightly.
This one's turning out to be quite lengthy, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of posts.

Podcasts have become both a lifeline and a daily routine for me.  The first thing I do every morning is to refresh my podcast feed and download the latest episode of any of the two dozen or so shows I listen to.  Whatever your interest may be, I can almost guarantee that there is a podcast out there to go along with it.
Some of the best of the current crop (in my opinion) are:

True Crime Podcasts - I'm lumping these together because I have several in my feed right now, but that does not mean that they're all of a type.  Casefile is a wonderful show with an anonymous Australian narrator who does deep dives into unusual and often unheard-of cases.  Invisible Choir attempts to take an empathic approach to often grisly events that you may not heard of (caution:  definitely NOT for the faint of heart).  On the other hand, My Favorite Murder is considered a comedy podcast, and is often funny even though they cover some heavy material.  Meanwhile, Serial Killers is much more polished and covers exactly what it says on the tin.  For a more unusual spin, Most Notorious covers famous historical crimes, and recently has done a couple of timely episodes on the 1918 Spanish Flu and other infectious diseases.

A bonus item for this section is Last Podcast on the Left...this also take a humorous slant on the true crime, conspiracy theory and other weirdness it covers.  It's a bit less mature, but fun to listen to.  Unfortunately, I recently had to drop this one because they have gone Spotify-exclusive and I can't get their episodes in my podcatcher of choice.

Fiction - There is a lot of good fiction being written for podcasts, and a lot of great older fiction being recorded.  Foremost among them for me are the shows from the Nightvale Presents network, which brings you such shows as the Welcome to Nightvale (think H. P. Lovecraft meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and The Orbiting Human Circus (think Neil Gaiman meets Jacques Tati).  Following close on their heels are the shows from Escape Artists (Escape Pod and Pseudopod are the ones I enjoy), which present horror and science fiction from some of the top names writing today.
Also no slouch in this domain is the District of Wonders network, home of Starship Sofa and Far Fetched Fables.  The former is a top-notch sci-fi podcast, while the latter presents fantasy fiction.  I'm a Patreon supporter of the former, but not so keen on the latter, but that's just because fantasy is not really my cup of tea. To each their own.

Nonfiction - I don't spend all my time in true crime and genre fiction.  I occasionally like to learn things, and when I do, I turn to shows like Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, a fantastic "boots on the ground" view of major historical events.  Dan doesn't release his episodes very often, but when he does, he makes it worth the wait, with 3 and 4 hour shows that make for a long and very enjoyable listen.
Much shorter in length, but no less interesting, are the companion shows "Stuff You Missed in History Class" and "Stuff You Should Know".  The former is bite-sized chunks of history covering topics wider than the military history that seems to be the mainstay of so much historical writing, while the latter provides regular shows covering a wide range of topics, from scientific discoveries, to famous people to every day things that you may never have thought to question regarding origin or process.

General geekery - This is where the list gets peculiar and particular to me.  Your interests may vary, but for me, I like shows that dig into the history and analysis of topics that I enjoy.  One of the foremost of these is The Cromcast, an analysis of the work of Robert E. Howard and his contemporaries.  Given that I publish Ian McDonald's "Bruno the Bandit", this one's a natural for me.  Closely related is The Lovecraft Geek, hosted by eminent Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price.  I can't fail to include Hypnogoria podcast.  Jim Moon's weekly reviews or readings of works by Lovecraft, M. R. James, Adam Nevill, and many related horror films and their creators are worth waiting for, and one of the audio highlights of my weekend.
At quite a tangent to them are The Tim Ferriss Show and WTF.  Both shows feature interviews with fascinating and successful people in a variety of fields.  The former examines the formula for their success, while the latter tries to get into their history and personality.  Both shows get rather long, but for the right subject can be worth the time spent.

Of course, even in the unlikely possibility that none of these catches your interest, you can always "roll your own" when it comes to podcasts, using the web service Fourble.  This service turns lists of mp3s into custom rss feeds that you can then plug into your podcatcher and have new "episodes" delivered on a schedule that you define. I find it especially great for listening to the many audio offerings available at archive.org, and have rolled custom podcast feeds for Ronnie Corbett's "When the Dog Dies", BBC's "Weird Tales" show and the classic weird literature show "The Black Mass".  Of course, their list of publicly available podcasts is quite extensive, and would probably make for a lifetime of listening on its own.

For all this, my preferred method of listening is the PocketCasts app, available for both Android and iOS.  Disregarding the aforementioned Spotify exclusive shows, this is the best and easiest-to-use app for discovering, subscribing and managing your podcasts and episodes.
If you're looking for a relaxing way to spend time while sitting out some isolation time, it's an equally entertaining and edifying experience to sit back, close your eyes and enjoy a good podcast.  Or six.  Or ten.  Or whatever it takes to get you ready to take on the world again.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Strange Days Indeed or Things to Do in the Slowpocalypse

Actually, John Lennon fibbed a bit...people did tell me there'd be days like these.  Specifically, Mary Shelley, H. G. WellsGeorge Stewart, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Pat Frank and  Margaret Atwood, just to name a few of the better ones.  But perhaps I'm being hyperbolic...I don't actually think we're headed into a new dark age where mysticism and superstition rules, identity is forbidden and some plucky Randian soul will have to rediscover the lightbulb...although the romantic in me is secretly thrilled at the prospect of getting to live out Rush's "2112".

What we are headed for is, among other things, record amounts of downtime as we enable the oxymoron of "social distancing" and shelter in place in our homes, apartments and hobbit holes of choice.  The results, on an individual level, will be record amounts of boredom and ennui and an almost Asimov's Solarian level of isolation.  In short, pretty much what I've been practicing my entire life.

Like a lot of people, I'm facing a lot of "involuntary vacation" time in the coming weeks.  However, I am taking a rather stoic approach to all this and choosing to see it as an opportunity to do some of the things I've put off for too long now.  To quote Shakespeare when he channelled Marcus Aurelius in Hamlet, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Fortunately, this is the best of all apocalypses in that we at least have internet while the world crumbles around us, and with that, there's some good folks out there willing to help me amuse myself to death (thank you Neil Postman!).  Here's just a few of the things I'll be enjoying in the coming weeks, presented for the edification and delight of anyone looking for some distraction. 

First and foremost, there's the Internet Archive.  I like these guys so much that I'm a regular financial contributor to them.  They are exactly the kind of resource we need at a time like this.  There are millions of books, movies, audio files, games and programs and other material available from their website.  I'm especially fascinated by their selection of magazines (they have the entire Warren archives!), particularly their Pulp Magazine Archive, where you can read scans of everything from Weird Tales to Fangoria to Amazing Stories magazine, with lots of diverting stops along the way.  In addition to all this, they have an extensive library of books on every topic imaginable, either free to read or free to borrow through their lending library service. 
In fact, they have just announced that in response to the current situation, they are suspending all waitlists on their lending library, making sure that the necessary books are going to be available to people who are stuck at home, especially to those students who will be studying at home and will require electronic resources to do so.
For an especially apt and timely read from their lending library, may I recommend Will and Ariel Durant's "The Lessons of History"?  It's a quick read that I've found very insightful in its broad overview of human history.
Or, if you're looking for something lighter, may I recommend "Eternal Lovecraft", an entertaining anthology of Lovecraftian stories, including some that are quite amusing.
Of course, if you've more video oriented, there's a lot of gold to be found in The VHS Vault, a vast collection of digitized VHS tapes from the golden age of home video.

On a more educational note, I will be enjoying and recommending the content at Open Culture,  Similar in intent to Internet Archive, Open Culture is a more curated collection of freely available material, including courses, book, audiobooks, images and movies.  True to their name, they definitely have a more cultural bent, highlighting such things as Patrick Stewart's one-a-day Shakespeare sonnet reading, lectures from the likes of Jorge Luis Borges, Margaret Atwood, and Buckminster Fuller, and films by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, and John Wayne

Open Culture is a great resource to do a deep dive into a topic that may have interested you for a while, but that you've never had time to explore.  Personally, I've been meaning to get to the films by Andrei Tarkovsky, especially Stalker and Solaris, and I'll probably get to those this weekend.  It may also be a great time to take in some art lectures, especially the Digital Photography course available from Harvard.

For those wanting to spend more time consuming something fun to take their minds off all the bad news circulating right now, I'd also recommend the Digital Comic Museum.  It's a fantastic place to read all those wonderful comics of yesteryear that have entered the public domain.  There's work in there by some of the masters, including Eisner, Frazetta, Bob Iger and Reed Crandall, among many others.

Naturally, I'll be spending some time just vegging out with some video as well.  Aside from the offerings from Youtube, which is an attention hole like no other, there's some great genre classics available from Shout Factory, including a ton of MST3K material.  For anyone who uses Kodi, there's a legal and official Shout Factory add-on for that app that will give you access to their catalog.
Same goes for Tubi TV, which has enough B-movies and action/horror/sci-fi flicks to while away many an hour when you need to turn off the real world.
Being the horror fanatic that I am, I'll probably also be checking out the free trial from Shudder, if only to see what's available there.  I already subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime, so I probably won't want another subscription in these tightened belt times, but I am curious to see their selection.

Finally, and biggest of all for me, while I'm not working I'm going to be looking forward to....working.
I've got the strips for the next Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit.  I've got inking jobs to do and sample pages for a comic book proposal.  I've got personal projects to work on that will keep me busy for quite a while yet.
In anticipation of my income decreasing even further, I've decided to try my hand at editing other people's writing.  To that end I'm currently reading the Chicago Manual of Style to learn how to do this at something like a professional level.  I know that's probably like saying that I'm reading the dictionary, but in a weird way, I'm enjoying this book more than most fiction books I've read in the past year.  I guess I've always had a closet grammar nerd in me.  Anyway, give me a hot minute to finish this blunderbuss of a book, and I'll be ready to proofread and edit your documents into something like a publishable format.  I expect to be slow and imperfect at first, but to get better with practice, so I'm going to take my time and ramp up with some easy work.  There could be a lot of potential in work like this, and if nothing else, it will be fun (to a certain value of "fun"). 

I'm sure there's a ton more resources out there...lots of creative folks and publishers are making work freely available in response to this situation.  Feel free to leave a comment with your favorites to share them with other readers. 
Also, although it may be difficult at a time like this, don't forget that most of these services run on voluntary donations from users so if you can, give them a little bit of support.  Every little bit helps, especially at a time like this.

Stay safe.  Stay home, as much as you can.  And do what you can to make this time enjoyable.