Love is in the Air

Here’s a quick post to let everyone know that SHAM Comics #2 (Our Love is a SHAM) is finally, officially out now. I had copies at last weekend’s convention, but the online link at the left has just been activated and operators are standing by to take your orders. Or just see me for a copy. Walk boldly up on the street and offer me money for one.

SHAM Comics is a really fun side project that requires no drawing whatsoever on my part. But, boy, is the writing part tricky! The premise is simple. I research golden age comics to find the ones that have passed into public domain. I choose ones that strike me as likely candidates for satire. It might be something in the art or the subject matter. Whenever possible, I buy the old comics, even coverless copies, and scan them. Next comes the painstaking process of erasing all the text from the stories in Photoshop. Then the real work begins. I start filling in the blank captions and word balloons, trying to build a new story that is both funny, as well as coherent. Sometimes I have an ending in mind, but occasionally I have no idea where the story may go. It’s quite a challenge and uses a completely different set of skills than writing a story I’m planning to draw myself. I’m locked in to the visuals of the existing comic, but the new text has to make sense and go with the pictures.

Not only are there comics from the forties and fifties in SHAM, but also between the stories are rewritten ads for bodybuilding secrets, x-ray specs and adorable animals to order through the mail. It’s a golden age funfest, nostalgic and hip at the same time.

Not enough for you yet? Well, each issue features not just my insane ramblings, but Daryll Collins provides stories too. Issue number two features all romance comics, just as bitter and twisted as we could make them. The comics are PG-13, and then some, for unrestrained language and mature situations. Issue number two also features love advice columns, beauty and dating tips and four tales of love gone horribly wrong drawn by some of the best artists to ever pick up a pen.

Grab one up today!

The Long Con

Not all conventions are created equal. Saturday morning, Dale Trush and I packed up the car, and headed to Lexington for their Comic and Toy Convention. A more accurate name might have been, The Toy Convention With Comics Thrown In As An Afterthought. By a wide margin, comics were in the minority, and independently produced comics were an even smaller minority. That should not have been a problem, I’m used to artist’s row being a smaller section of the convention floor, maybe a little off the beaten path. And, as this was the first year for this show, I expected a few missteps in the planning. But someone in their questionable wisdom chose to scatter all the dealers throughout the rather small space regardless of what they were selling.

Most of the guests were D-list film and TV wannabes. One of the guests of honor was a reality TV “star” called Johnny Fairplay, who looked like he might have changed his name from Johnny Foreplay. He came to party, dudes! And what guest generated the most excitement, you ask? People lined up the length of the hall all day to get a chance to meet the effin’ Power Rangers! Sweet merciful Mothra, this was not our crowd!

Zombie Marge Comics was sandwiched between a couple of unusual dealers, though I'm not quite sure what either one was selling. On our left was a guy who had created his own rather simplistic video game and set up for convention goers to stand and play. On our right was a Star Wars toy collectors club who were giving out free SW happy meal toys to anyone and everyone. Any time a potential customer stopped at our table, they screamed out "Free toys here!" and said potential customer left us immediately to choose their toy.

The crowd was huge! So many toy-crazed people were packed into one smallish hall, hardly able to move, and they were all ignoring us. Our location could not have been worse. Wait a minute! Yes it could. It was rumored that the poor guy stuck beside the Power Rangers sold nothing.

In the plus column we spread the word about the Zombie Marge blog. We handed out nearly a hundred trading cards and even more flyers. Across from us was a guy that produced several podcasts about comics. We gave him a full set of books, everything we had, to be reviewed on his shows.

Again on the plus side we had lots of great conversations, mostly with the creators we've met at other shows. And we spoke to a few very nice civilians who showed interest in our brand of weirdness and were not tempted by the promise of a free Happy Meal toy.

All told, it was not a very productive day. And not a show we plan to return to next year. How did you spend your Saturday?

Time to buy some funny books!

I’m packing this evening for a very early start tomorrow to the Lexington Comic & Toy Show. For an antisocial recluse, I’m once more pushing myself out of my snug little comfort zone to sell comics. This year I’ll be spreading the gospel of Zombie Marge, in the hopes of drumming up some more members here at the blog. The hope being that at some point the books and the blog take off promoting each other in a self-perpetuating cycle. I have brand new Zombie Marge trading cards (collect ‘em all) to pass out to entice new readers to join us here.

I’ve attended cons since the early 70s as a fan without ever considering what it was like to sit on the other side of the table. It’s fun, it’s hectic, and at times, it’s tedious. That’s why I always welcome Dale Trush when he can man the table with me. The Twelve-Way artists know Dale as our highly capable proofreader. My copy, in particular, looks like a drunken monkey wrote it, until Dale gets a hold of it.

Turns out, Dale is also a natural at selling strange comic books to an unsuspecting public. We’ve found we can tag team the confused lookie loos and dazzle them with our banter until they buy a book just to get away from the table. The photos above typify our respective styles. Ask yourself this; which dealer would you rather buy comics from? The photos are from the Cincinnati convention last fall and were taken by our good friend, co-worker and master photographer, David Leighton. He shot all the great stuff we were missing by sitting at the table. Thanks, David.

I’ll post a full report on the Lexington show next week. And remember, zombies are people too. At least at one time they were.

Episode 2


Marge Madness continues! The first episode of Zombie Marge was a big hit! So I’ve been barricaded in the zombie-proof bunker working on more. Not many behind-the-scenes secrets to reveal for this episode. Marge will be spending some time just knocking around the cemetery, getting to know the locals. Now she has a scruffy dog to look after. It’s only the second strip and I’ve already resorted to fart jokes. But there’s nothing funnier than a flatulent dog. I know, I have three of them.

The strip itself was designed to be rearranged into a standard comic book page. Once a year’s worth of strips are complete, they will be collected in comic book form, including monster oriented ads, letters and other surprises.

Comic convention season begins for us on March 24 for the Lexington Comic & Toy Show. We will be handing out Zombie Marge trading cards to promote the strip. We will also be selling the latest issue of SHAM Comics, the all-romance issue. I’ll post some convention reports next week.

In two weeks, stop by again for the next installment of Zombie Marge’s adventures, when she discovers that living in a cemetery is not as glamorous as it sounds.

Until then, embrace the zombie apocalypse!

Episode 1

Well, there you have it! The first installment of what I hope will be a long-running and popular webcomic. I have big plans for Zombie Marge, with enough story ideas right now for several years’ worth of strips. To keep from getting overwhelmed by the work, I’m planning to release strips on Monday mornings every other week. I’m also planning to blog about the strip and offer insights and behind-the-scenes information, all direct from my zombie-proof bunker.

Those familiar with the “Twelve-Way with Cheese” anthology know that Zombie Marge was the hostess for that book. Since then, I’ve wanted to create a strip centered on the adventures of this lovable undead curmudgeon. Cartoonist extraordinaire Daryll Collins and I talked about it many times, but I could never figure out how to build a sustained narrative around a slow-witted zombie. To give credit where credit is due, it was Daryll who gave Marge the talking worm living inside her head. And for me, that was the key to making the strip work. Grubworth acts as Marge’s conscience, trying to talk her out of her bad ideas. He moves the story along in ways Marge can’t. And he can comment on the action as the only voice of reason.

Over the next few episodes, more of the supporting cast will be introduced. Humans will be in the minority, as Marge is most comfortable with monsters like herself. Tanglefoot Cemetery just attracts the paranormal, like that TV psychic did. What’s her name? Oh, Dionne Warwick. So Marge hobnobs with some very strange creatures indeed. Tune in again next Monday (3/19) for the next episode to see if Marge finds a suitable pet.

Finally, in a bit of legal business: My attorney, Bob Barrister, at the law firm Cheatem, Chisler & Slanderson, has advised me to mention that this strip is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons (living or undead), without satiric intent, is unintentional, purely coincidental, and highly unlikely. That goes double for monsters and dogs. This strip may not be reproduced without written consent from Zombie Marge. No zombies were actually harmed in the making of this comic. I’m just sayin’!

Bedtime Stories for Childish Adults

My sense of nostalgia is seasoned with a healthy dose of cynicism. I fondly remember the TV shows and books I loved as a child. But my recreations and tributes to them are always run through the filter of adult experience.

When illustrator extraordinaire Daryll Collins showed me an unused project of his, it struck that cord. It was a hilarious blend of childhood nostalgia and adult cynicism. Daryll had written and illustrated a twelve-page, b&w  book, called “Are You Our Daddy?” It was the story of two curious twins who just wanted a straight answer from their very busy mom. Their confusion came from the endless stream of men who passed through their house. For all they knew they could be related to the postman, or the plumber, or even the pizza man.

As I said, Daryll’s story resonated with me, plus it was pretty darn funny. So I suggested we pair it with a story of mine to fill out the book and publish it as a parody of those books we all got when we were young. This would be our Little Olden Book.

I began writing and drawing my story while Daryll rendered his in color. He worked in Photoshop and I set about rendering mine in Adobe Illustrator. My story became one of those “let’s find out about different jobs” kind of stories that were so often foisted on children in the hopes they would become productive members of society, and not cartoonists. “Chester Hare Gets a Job” follows a young rabbit who is looking for work and learns the valuable lesson that everyone hates their jobs*.

In designing the book, I wanted to give both of us a cover so it became a flipbook. Read Daryll’s story, turn it over and begin again on mine. I also designed interior pages to mimic the Little Golden Books exactly, even down to the list of “other” titles at the end. Here was some of the funniest material in the collection. Nearly 200 titles of outrageous children’s literature, like: Horton Hears a Ho, The Chicken Bride, The Shy Little Pimp, Goodnight Crack Head, The Bi-Polar Express, ‘Twas The Night Before Trash Day, Snow White’s Racist Rant, DJ & The Sticky PJs, The Dyslexic CBAs, and so on. You get the idea. We had a blast coming up with these.

Above are the book covers, below, some interior pages. Along the left side of the blog is the link to order this book online or catch me at a convention. I always have copies. Maybe one day I’ll do a book that can actually be read to children.

*Except us cartoonists.