Friday Convention Prep and Graduate Studies (…and various and sundry other things)

Tomorrow I am off to the Puyallup library to teach a workshop as part of Free Comic Book Day, and then next week is all convention prep for the big Emerald City show. (That was actually a lot of this week, too.) So today you get another bits-and-pieces column of various things that have been piling up on me.


As I mentioned, my classes and I are about to attend the Emerald City Comic-Con; we have a table every year in artist's alley. We have been doing this, as a class, for a number of years now, and some things have become traditions.

My student Jessica reminded me of one a couple of weeks ago. She asked me, "Mr. Hatcher, will you bring Convention Bingo?"

This is an AWESOME game created by the fine folks at Young American Comics. There are other versions of it -- Moxie Comics has a good one -- but Moxie's is a bit too San Diego-centric. The one from Young American is the one my students love.

I was horrified to discover it was no longer on their website. Blessedly, our friend Bret had a copy and kindly sent me a scan, and I thought I'd share it with you all.

Truthfully, we are quite fond of Young American Comics here, period. They put out a lot of fun stuff. They were next door to us in Artist's Alley at the 2005 Emerald City show, which is how we discovered their work. They were really great neighbors -- the clear favorites, after five years of doing the show, and Julie and I have never forgotten how great they were with the kids. We felt we should support them by buying something, despite being nearly broke that year, and what Julie fell in love with were their button packs.

But they do great comics, too. Sadly, it's not something I can share with my students, but I quite like Snakepit.

This is probably the kiss of death for an indie hipster comics 'zine but I have to say it: what I like about this book is how it reminds me of my own angry-young-man days in high school and college. Back when I was trying to get 'zines going and hanging out with a bunch of musicians who were getting bands going (or getting thrown out of bands, feuding with other bands, whatever) and life was lived from Saturday to Saturday. Reading Snakepit is almost like getting into a time machine for me, even though it's about modern-day stuff: Styles may change but people and subcultures haven't changed a bit, judging from what this comic shows. The strip is often unflinchingly bitter and cynical in its depiction of the characters living in this particular subculture, and yet remains somehow affectionate towards them. I would not have thought it possible to sneer with affection but "Ben Snakepit" pulls it off. Anyway, I can't show it to my 7th graders because it's a bit raw for them, but I can certainly recommend it to you all, especially since there are actual trade paperbacks available now at very reasonable prices.

A Young American offering I CAN share with my students -- and they LOVE it -- is the 'zine they did about the ill-fated motor home "YACtour." Tod Parkhill and his new bride Corey, who essentially ARE Young American Comics, set out on the most disaster-laden road trip ever chronicled. The mini-comic 'zine recounting it is a delight, though.

Anyway, Young American does a lot of cool stuff. We are forever grateful to them for introducing us to Convention Bingo, and I hope we'll get to be neighbors with them at a show again some day. In the meantime, you should check out their site.


Speaking of small-press 'zine stuff, I am really, really thrilled -- seriously, I am grinning ear-to-ear as I am typing this -- to announce that one of my cartooning grads is premiering her very own 'zine at this year's Emerald City.

Amanda Stephens is in high school now, but she started as one of my Madison kids and put in three years as a regular contributor to Doodle Inc. Ninja Kigomi is a strip she started there last year as a serial, but it quickly grew to where our little 'zine couldn't contain it. It always killed Amanda that she was never able to see it all published, and it especially graveled her that the last chapter we DID publish had to be shot off the pencils to make our final deadline of the year, and it didn't turn out that well.

Except now it IS all published, the entire 48-page epic shoujo-style saga of Kigomi, Rye, and Riku as they are trained to be ninja guardians of the Seven Nations of Satoki. I had told her that if she was really serious and took it to camera-ready pages, I'd put her in touch with our printer and help make sure that went well. And she by God did finish it, over the course of the last year.

I get all puddled up looking at this. The learning curve on display just from the front pages -- reprinting the early chapters -- to the new pages in the back of the book is amazing. Here's what it started out looking like:

And this is what the last half of it looks like. For someone that claims to hate inking, Amanda's gotten pretty damn good at it.

She won't be tabling at the show, but she'll be circulating, and we will have a few of her 'zines at our table too. I daresay Amanda would be tickled just to trade with any of you small-press folks out there reading this who will be there, but if someone were to offer her a dollar or two for a copy, I imagine she'd take it. My kids all know that you don't work for free.


All the buzz this weekend is about Iron Man, of course. But I have to put in a good word for the new Incredible Hulk trailer -- because THAT movie looks like the Hulk we've been waiting for.

I didn't hate the first one, the Ang Lee effort, as much as some other folks did... but it wasn't all that satisfying, either. It kind of reminded me of how we all felt during Star Trek the Motion Picture, where we were so glad it existed that nobody wanted to say it was BAD, but... it wasn't good, either. Then along came Wrath of Khan and fans were all roaring with joy. "Yeah! This is what it should be like!"

Well, as far as I can tell from the trailer... Yeah. This is what the Hulk should be like. We're pretty excited. And we loved the little Kenneth Johnson nod at the end, too, the musical sting.


Since I mentioned our move a few months back some folks have expressed an interest in the new library, and I promised our friend Stephen I would eventually post pictures. Stephen lives in Glasgow, and when he'd fly across the Atlantic for Comic-Con International, he'd make it a point to come a couple of days early and crash here in Seattle with us. And he'd always reserve a day just to spend with the books. I find that both flattering and a little frightening.

Anyway, a promise is a promise. (And I had the camera out to shoot Amanda's zines.) This is too unbearably nerdy for words, but since people DID ask -- and other comics press people have done it -- here you go. This one's for Stephen and all the other nosy folks out there.

PREEEESENTING... Our home library.

This is where I am sitting when I write these words to you. Surrounded by books and comics.

The shelf in the foreground is pulps and westerns. The two in the corner are SF (A to G, anyway; the rest of the science-fiction alphabet is still in storage until I buy another stand-alone bookshelf for the center aisle) and the first half of the mystery/suspense stuff.

The mysteries and thrillers I have more of than anything else... except maybe comics.

Believe it or not, this is only a little over half of the suspense books. The mysteries and thrillers pretty much fill the north wall, and are threatening to expand to the point where I am considering buying TWO stand-alones for an additional aisle shelf. Above them, hanging, are a couple of memorabilia pieces from the Sherlock Holmes museum in London and the framed Alberto Giolitti Sgt. Preston page Julie found at the Goodwill.

Comics and comics-related books are the other two walls.

There's not that much of an order to it. I have it vaguely broken out as pulps, westerns, newspaper strips, 50's, DC, indies, Marvel. It makes sense to me and I can always find what I want but visitors are often hopelessly confused. And because I know someone will ask...

The figures are toys from the Jack-In-The-Box Justice League collection from a few years back that Julie found for me, with the exception of the little Ditko Spidey PVC on the far left, immortalizing the classic moment when he flings all that machinery off his back. That was from a student too, many years ago.

The painting behind the toys was a promo piece for an urban-vigilante thing I was working on years ago called Shadowboxer that didn't quite get off the ground. (Somewhere around here, I think in the crate of manuscripts in the closet, are about a hundred pages of unfinished story to go with it.) I keep meaning to fix the lighting on some of the faces, but I never seem to have an afternoon free to do touch-ups. Even with its flaws, I still rather like the picture, though, and I occasionally think about how much fun the book would have been and sigh. However, I love teaching too much to ever back-burner it, especially just to flog a spec project, and somehow my summer always is booked with other freelance things that are a higher priority. Someday, though, I will get around to putting together a real proposal package for it.

This is a mostly-Marvel wall, and also the Marvel/DC crossovers, as far as the bookshelves are concerned. Then come the actual longboxes.

The southwest corner is where the comic boxes live, in stacks of five high. There are seven such stacks. 'Live' collections, that are still being added to monthly, are on the top. Other than that there's no real order to the way they're stacked, they shift as I need to dig different things out of them.

Oddly, none of the figures on the Marvel bookshelf are actually Marvel toys; that's just how it worked out. The Superman display on the top of the shelf is that giant boxed "Superman Masterpiece Edition" thing that came out ten years or so ago, I think. It was a Christmas gift from Julie. The Spirit figure is from Tadhg Adams, who is technically still on the roster here at CSBG, I believe. It was in return for my bequeathing my run of Animal Man to him some years ago. The Batmobile is a gift from Tadhg's wife Lorinda, and as I recall it was a groomsman's gift in return for standing up with them at their wedding and even consenting to wear a Ren Faire-style poofy shirt. (Rin was at some pains to find the Adam West version of the Batmobile, still my favorite of all the filmed versions. Corgi made it and it's really quite cool. There's a Corgi version of the 1940's Batmobile up there as well, and that's from Rin too.)

So that's the tour. Surrounded by all this I wonder how I ever get work done at all. But it is convenient for this column when I need to look things up.


That's all I have for you this time. See you next week -- hopefully at Emerald City, and if not, I'll have something up here on Friday.

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