Friday, April 27, 2007

Birthday Booty

Okay, my new photo? That was one of my birthday presents! My holy grail of Pez collecting, the Creature from the Black Lagoon! I cried when I saw it, as I have wanted this for like a decade. Chris gave me 30 other Pez, one for each year, and they are all great. Japanese mini Nintendo, Ultraman, frogs, a Jungle Book set, the Crazy Animals (all European releases) an E.T., MGM set (Tom, Jerry, Droopy, Spike) and an Earth from the Planet series. We are getting ready to go out so I can get more shelving for my new Pez. I collect Pez. Just in case you haven't been to my house. Because I collect Pez, this is like the best gift ever. Seriously. I can't believe I actually have a Creature! I am like a little kid, I won't put it down. If it weren't so delicate, I would probably sleep with it.

That last bit was written on my acutal birthday. It is now a couple of weeks later and I still cannot believe Chris got me a Creature! Since he is so old (The Creature was not manufactured after the 1960s except as The Fishman which really doesn't hold a candle to the Creature and the glory of his pearlescent stem. Sorry, no more Pez history lesson!) he does not have the usual "feet" that you see on Pez dispensers these days. The feet make them easier to stand up, and the ones without feet topple easily. So instead of displaying him on my Pez shelves, I put him in a shadowbox with a Creature From The Black Lagoon movie poster. It looks super cool, and he is well protected. Like I said, for me, he is the holy grail of Pez collecting.

As well as opening mad cool presents on my birthday, my friend Shelley came for a quick visit on her way to see her family in Southern Ohio. She arrived around 10 the night of my birthday, then we spent the next day just hanging out, record shopping, our usual. My gift from her was the Criterion edition of Slacker, which is fantastic. I always forget how good that movie is until I see it again. Some people swear by Dazed and Confused, I am a Slacker follower. Both are Richard Linklatter, so you really can't go wrong either way.

Shelley left to see her family Friday afternoon, and Friday night was the traditional Spaghetti Warehouse dinner with my parents and Juice. I went there with my oldest dear dear friend Lydia the year I turned 9, and we have been going ever since. Presents from Mom and Dad included an iTunes gift card and cash. Still deciding how to use the gift card, but the cash is gone. Spent on an eye massager and a Wii. More on the Wii later.

The weekend following the Thursday that was my birthday was S.P.A.C.E., the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo. For those of you who have never been, think like APE or SPX or MOCCA. For those of you who still have no idea what I mean, it is a comic convention for independant comics and self publishers, web comics, the indie scene of comics. Always fun, and I always get a lot of fun new stuff. My friends Steve and Bret (the old roomies) came from Chicacgo for the event. Steve does an amazing self published comic called Saki the Panda, which can be checked out at That's 4 underscores, or you can find him on my friends page as Pandaman. Bret's girlfriend Crystal also does a comic called Lucille Brawl which she was selling at the show. I had not met her until she came out here for S.P.A.C.E. and I just loved her. She's also on MySpace as Lucille Brawl. Her roommates Cassie and Evey (I think I spelled those right!) also came along, and we all hung at my house Saturday night and went to the convention (hung over, all of us) Sunday. I once again spent Sunday reading comics. All in all, a fantastic birthday week. And I didn't even mention my carrot birthday cake. Those bakers at Whole Foods, they do some nice work.
(Reprinted with Kind permission from Xan's MySpace page)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Busy Month, Part 2: Toronto

Toronto's CN Tower, No. 2 in our tour of North America's
Space Needles

Shortly after our return from Seattle, we packed up and headed to the airport again, this time for a trip to Toronto. This was the first time either of us had actually been to Canada. Unfortunately I had convention duties at the Toronto Comicon a few hours after we checked into the hotel, so the photos above and below showing some of the unusual architecture around the hotel document pretty much all of what I saw of Toronto and Canada this trip. I won't complain, however, because the convention was another nicely run and very successful affair and everyone I met--both fans and organizers--treated Xan and myself very well! Since I spent the entire weekend hunched over a clipboard sketching again(except for a wonderful dinner Saturday night), I'll turn this blog over to Xan, who actually got out and saw some of the city/countryside thanks to friends Sara and Henning.

Hey all, Xan here, finally writing about our Toronto trip! As Chris mentioned, this was the first trip to Canada for both of us. Which is pretty shameful for me, considering I live and grew up in Ohio. Anyway, for leaving the country, it was pretty painless. The Columbus Internation Airport can pretty much call itself "International" only because AirCanada flies out of it, so our flight was mercifully a straight shot with no connections. The down side to that was that both going into and coming home from Canada, we were on a prop plane. I had never been on such a small plane before. There were so few people that our one flight attendant just took drink orders and walked a few feet back to the drink station to prepare them as a drink cart was a bit pointless on such a small aircraft. And my opinion of prop planes? Loud. Not just white noise loud like a jet can be, but loud and you vibrate. It was very Indiana Jones. I kept picturing a little red line tracing our path from Columbus to Toronro.

The organizers of the Toronto Comicon were nice enough to provide us limo service from the airport to the hotel, so getting to the hotel was even less painless than getting into Canada. They gave us travel vouchers, and when we showed ours to the limo driver he said "Everything's cool" and took our bags and got us on our way. And I have to say we could not have had a more stereotypical welcome into the country. Not only did we drive by a Molson bottling plant, but we swear, the air smelled of bacon once we got off the plan. We just looked at each other and said "Canada really does have the bacony stink of Canada!" (see "The Final Sacrifice" episode of MST3K for more information on the bacony stink of Canada)

Our hotel was right by pretty much every touristy thing in downtown Toronto. It was within walking distance of the convention center, right below the CN Tower and had rooms overlooking the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays play. So there was plenty of food and souvenir shopping. I'm still working on my box of maple fudge! The gift shop of the CN Tower was as far as we got. No way in hell were we going up in that thing. No way in hell, I don't care if it is the world's tallest structure. That means it is high up. No way.

After a quick lunch and unpacking session, I called my friend Henning who I learned conveniently works in downtown Toronto and could come pick me up. So Chris went to the con (where he says he was swamped from the second he got to his table! I am so proud of him!) and I went with Henning to Markham, a suburb about 30-40 minutes outside of Toronto depending on traffic. He lives there with his wife, who is my friend Sara that I met in the 1st grade. Her blog is One Blue Tree that you can check out by clicking our link. She has photos of what it is like up in the CN Tower, if you are curious.

At the time I went to their house in Markham, Sara was pregnant with who we now know as her daughter Vala. We hoped she would arrive while I was there, that way I could stay home with their 2 year old son Gavin (who I love) and their dog Bonnie. But alas, Vala waited another 2 weeks before she arrived, so I spent Friday night hanging out with Sara, Gavin and Henning, and Sara's very active pregant belly. They took me to this fantastic restaraunt called Firefly, which was this odd Chinese Russian fusion that was amazingly tasty. More Chinese than Russian, but all the dinners came with an order of borscht, and beef stroganof was on the menu. We then went back to their lovely townhouse filled with even lovlier furniture and inspired by our restaraunt, we watched Serenity outtakes and geeked out until we fell asleep. The usual for me and Sara.

The next day, Sara and Henning piled Gavin and Bonnie into the car to drive me back to the hotel. They took me the long way so I could see some of the countryside. That part of Canada is very similar to the American midwest. Very urban, but if you drive a bit and pass the suburbs, you are way out into the country.

They dropped me at the hotel, and I went up to the room to shower and get ready for the convention. I got dressed, watched a little bit of King Kong, then made my way to the convention to meet up with Chris. The convention was small (I started calling it the appetizer convention since Toronto holds the 3rd largest comicon in North America in August) but was quite fun. I of course spent my day shopping while Chris was pretty much at his table the whole time. This being his first time in Canada, it was a whole new group of fans for him, all of whom were great. After the con on Saturday, the organizers took a bunch of us out for Italian, and I am kicking myself because I forget the name of the place. We ate, drank, hung out with other comic creators (I finally got to talk to Kevin Nowlan for more than 3 seconds) and had a generally good time. Needless to say, we were pretty bushed when we got back to the hotel.

Sunday was more convention, but we had to leave a few hours early to make our flight home. But it was still fun as all get out and we were so glad we were able to go. Thanks again Amat for inviting us, and thank you Tiz for putting a word in for Chris. We owe you guys-you are the best.

The trip home was again loud but uneventful, which is my favorite kind of air travel. My mom and dad picked us up from the airport, and Mom had food waiting for us, which was so great as we were so tired. And, since I pretty much had the rest of the week off for my birthday, I could just veg all Sunday night and Monday because Mom had bought meatloaf and pizza. So Sunday night we spent reading all the comics and books we bought, eating meatloaf and watching The Simpsons. Really, the perfect way to wind down from a convention, and the perfect way to start a week of birthday decadence!


Our hotel(at right) with a sculpture celebrating
25 years of baseball in Toronto in the foreground

Giant woodpeckers threaten the convention
center(left) and Xan(center)

Young Gavin does his best Count Dracula impression

Sara and Gavin await the arrival of baby #2;
note bunny suit at left

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Busy Month, Part 1: Seattle

Above: Michael Golden's colorful poster for the 2007 Emerald City Comicon
I haven't posted in a while because we've been incredibly busy lately...
The last weekend in March, we flew to Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon. The show's promoters were kind enought to arrange our flight so that we had an extra day before the convention for fun and sightseeing, and we sure milked that day dry, visiting the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project and the Museum of Science Fiction, followed by much music shopping at the amazing Easy Street Records. Xan's pick of the day from Easy Street: Andrew Bird's new album, Armchair Apocrypha; my faves: the At Least At Last rarities box set by the Posies and the Fuzzy Warbles Collector's Edition from Andy Partridge of XTC.
Photos, from top:
-Xan poses with some local kitsche
-The Space Needle
-Xan and Robby the Robot at the Museum of Science Fiction
-The original Twiki from my beloved Buck Rogers In The 25th Century(I know, I know--there's something wrong with me)--also found at the incredible Museum of Science Fiction
-A real live Mystery Machine on the streets of Seattle
-My new favorite record store

Saturday we attended the convention, which was a phenomenal success and loads of fun. I was so busy selling artwork and sketching I never left my table! I had a good time chatting with fans--everyone I met was as nice as could be. I was able to see a few old friends(Gene Ha, Adam Hughes), put some faces to some names(Hi, Neil Hill!) and I even got to talk music with the talented Matt Southworth, who has a band called The Capillaries which is well worth checking out. Xan shopped the con floor and artists alley, scoring some rare PEZ and meeting up with old pals like Georges Jeanty and Michael Avon Oeming. The day ended on a high note as fellow guest Michael Golden, whose art made me want to draw comics in the first place, invited Xan and me to dinner. We eagerly accepted the invitation and had a wonderful time with Michael and his agent Renee Witterstaetter at a local microbrewery.
From top:
-Renee Witterstaetter & Michael Golden
-Checking out Matt Southworth's artwork
-Gene Ha, Frank Cho, Ron Marz
Sunday saw us back at the con, where I pretty much just drew and talked for six or seven hours while Xan had more fun out on the con floor. She met Paul Chadwick, creator of Concrete, one of the best comics series of the last two decades and commissioned a drawing of "li'l Baby Concrete" from Paul. I can attest that she was absolutely delighted with the results! Xan continued to fill up her sketchbook with some lovely drawings from Jim Woodring(Frank) and Karin Yamagiwa Madan, creator of 8-Bit Chicken and other Stumpytown characters and merchandise, which you can check out here. The promoters took all the guests out that night, and we dined and chatted with Frank Cho, Ron Marz, Kurt Busiek and Michael and Renee.
From top:
-Paul Chadwick displays the "Li'l Baby Concrete" he drew for Xan
-Karin Yamagiwa Madan displays some sort of Chicken plush doll--not sure if it's 8-Bit Chicken, though
Xan says this convention was the best she's ever attended. I've never been treated better by promoters, and I've never been to a better organized show. Add in the nice fans, personal highlights like dinner with one of my idols, and the fun we had in the city, and I can't help but agree with her!

Next: Busy Month, Part 2: Toronto