Friday, February 27, 2009

Books and Burns
A rare Xan appearance on the blog today. Every year I say I'm going to stop neglecting the blog, but I'm never as diligent as I plan to be when the new year comes around. I haven't even kept up my blog on MySpace, I've been using it mainly to keep track of my Pez collection total. Which, by the way, is up to 641, I think. I really need to do another physical count. I'm not going to do the count anytime soon however, because I have 2nd degree chemical burns on my legs.

Now that sounds a little melodramatic. I wasn't actually diagnosed with 2nd degree burns, I'm just assuming 2nd degree because my legs look similar to 2nd degree burn photos I've seen online. I've been playing "Wiki Doctor" and doing the ever so accurate self diagnosis from the internet. And, it's not as scary as it sounds, the chemical in question that burned me was Veet, a depilatory. Technically, that is a chemical, but it's nothing that would turn someone into the Joker or anything.

The funny thing is, I never used to shave or remove my leg hair in any way. When I was in high school, it was this alterna-girl unspoken rule that you weren't supposed to shave your legs. It was a small bit of leftist rebellion that required only laziness to achieve, so it was a popular trend. And while I proudly displayed my hairy legs during the summer, in the colder months, this created a problem for me. You see, this was the 1990s, and one of the alterna-girl fashion trends was to wear tights under cutoff jeans. I actually still dig this look, and I can't wait for it to come back. And after about 3 hours of being covered in tights, hairy legs start to itch like mad, so I had to break down sometimes and shave my legs, succumbing to the media's standard of beauty etc. etc.

This being driven to the point of madness by the itchiness of winter legs thing was my motivation to get rid of my leg hair 2 days ago. I don't like to use actual razors because I am convinced that there is no way that I can do it without injuring myself. I've been shaving since the 5th grade, and every damn time I find out the hard way (usually when putting on lotion, ouch!) that surprise, I've nicked myself again. I finally got sufficiently fed up with that, so I decided to go with depilatory. Depilatory has it's drawbacks-it can be expensive, and it will stink. No matter how much the manufacturer tries to provide a "Fresh scent", it still smells like a perm. It's also a chemical intended to basically, melt your hair away from your body from the follicle, so if you have skin that is the least bit sensitive, or you get it wet during the application process, it can burn you. And the burning sensation lasts for a few days. Aloe vera gel has been wonderful to me, but I'm still in a lot of pain. It's better now than when the photos are taken, but still, it hurts.

And since I haven't been able to go many places so far this year (the flu kept me in bed and this burn makes walking sound like torture) I've been trying to get some reading done. I have a stack of books I have been meaning to read that is about as tall as I am, and this doesn't even include the comics that have been stacking up for months now. So far in 2009 I've read 9 books, which doesn't seem like much to me considering a few of them were quite thin and fast reads, and others were the guiltiest of guilty pleasures of readers, tv show tie-ins. Specifically, the "Supernatural" tie-ins. I love that show, and the books aren't bad as a tide-me-over until the next episode. I've read the first 2 and the 3rd just arrived from

I also finally finished "The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly. I purchased it in 2007 I think, started it, put it away, picked it up again, put it away, started other books, you know the score. I decided to get it finished once and for all so it wouldn't taunt me, and it was a fun read, but not my favorite book. It has a very "Labyrinth" feel to it, so it is fun, but a very "boy" story.

For Christmas I got one of Mary Woronov's novels, "Niagra" which I enjoyed very much, although the main character is about the saddest thing ever. I recommend her as a writer, and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of her novel "Snake" which should be arriving from a seller I found on the Amazon Marketplace any second now.

While I had the flu I had no energy or attention span, so I basically just stayed in bed and listened to DVD commentaries. Specifically, commentary from "The Simpsons" DVDs since I've seen the episodes so much, all I had to do was listen and I could pick where the episode was by the references made in the commentary. Sad, I know. Standard commentary cast of writers, directors, Matt Groening, and they all mentioned a Simpsons writer named John Swartzwelder as being a fantastic writer who never does commentaries. Matt Groening also mentioned he wrote novels. This sounded interesting to me, so I ordered the title with the earliest copyright date from It arrived, and these are no frills books. Paperbacks that look like they should say "Novel, net wt. 7oz" on the cover. The book I got was "The Time Machine Did It", which is a time traveling detective story. I loved it, and highly recommend his work.

Another writer I discovered from some form of gadget is Simon Rich. After downloading the Stanza application for my iPod Touch, I went searching for free e-books to download. The Stanza app turns your iPod into an e-reader, so I now have an iPod that is part Kindle. Not that I don't still want a Kindle. Anyway, on the list of free downloads from Random House, I found a book called "Free Range Chickens". It's not a novel, just vignettes of alternate points of view that are extremely funny. For example, one of them is a conversation between God and an angel during which God complains that Simon Rich is not attending Temple even though he swore he would after praying for God to make sure "Perfect Strangers" was not cancelled. Simon Rich is a writer for SNL, and I am convinced after reading this and his first book "Ant Farm" that if you see something funny on SNL and it's not Andy Samburg, it's Simon Rich.

Other than Mary Woronov, Carrie Fisher and Gene Wilder are two other movie stars with books I finished recently. While I couldn't get into Gene Wilder's novel "My French Whore", my favorite book I've read so far this year is Carrie Fisher's new memoir, "Wishful Drinking". She has led one hell of a life, and she is hilarious. The style of this book made me feel like I was listening to her tell me these stories, and I found myself devouring it completely in about 2 hours. I highly recommend this one.

Well, I think it's time for me to put on some more aloe vera because bending my knees is hurting again. Thanks for reading my half-assed book reviews and looking at my gross legs!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fun Stuff for Comic Nerds and Tech Heads
Xan gave me her old iPod Touch earlier this week when she upgraded(thanks, baby!) and I've been toying around with it every night. I already have an iPod that I love and use constantly(a 160GB Classic used to store and play pretty much my entire music collection and for listening to audiobooks on a constant daily basis), so I wanted to find some unique uses for the iPod Touch--with its larger screen and touch controls--so I could justify having it and not just feel really decadent about it.

Well, I've decided to use the Touch more as a PDA or little portable computer than as a music player. I've found a few games and some useful applications that I like, including one called ComicZeal, which allows you to view comics on the iPod.

I've already used a program called CDisplay, a digital comic-reading program for the PC and Mac. With CDisplay loaded on a laptop, one can bring along entire comics series to read on long plane flights or car trips. CDisplay reads .cbr or .cbz files--folders full of jpegs of scanned comic book pages which have been compressed and stored as tiny .rar or .zip files. Once the ".rar" or ".zip" parts of the file names have simply been retyped as ".cbr" or ".cbz," respectively, the compressed files can be read by CDisplay. ComicZeal takes your .cbr and .cbz files and converts them so they can be used on iPhones and the iPod Touch. I have CDisplay files of most of my own work, and I have a huge collection of other series i plan to read on my new iPod now! I'm also thinking about putting together a reference file I can view using ComicZeal while sketching at conventions. I'm often asked to draw characters whose costume details I just can't dredge up from the murky depths of my memory, and a small portable collection of all the major Marvel and DC Comics characters would be very useful!

Number of the Beast #2 on the iPod Touch


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February Update: Sick As The Proverbial Dog, But Still Productive
Xan and I have been as sick as we could possibly be with the cold/flu thingy that's going around, spending most of January and all of February so far coughing and feverish. Having no appetite and no interest in leaving the house gave me plenty of time to focus on work, and I've been really productive. While I still can't discuss my current full time project, I can talk about some small jobs I've been able to complete lately.

First, Tom Strong is getting the "Deluxe" treatment this Spring/Summer when Wildstorm collects ten or twelve of the best issues of the series as a deluxe hardcover collection. Editor Kristy Quinn asked me to do a new cover for this collection, and the results are pictured below. I'll post more details about the Deluxe Collection when I have them.

The pencil art for the cover of the Tom Strong Deluxe Hardcover Collection

At some point this year, Ocean is also getting collected in a new edition. I don't have too many details on this collection either, but one thing I do know is that it will have supplemental material from both myself and writer Warren Ellis. I provided Kristy Quinn (who's editing this book as well) with every Ocean character design drawing, sketch and unfinished page I could find.

When not working, I've also been busy arranging convention appearances for the rest of the year. In April, it looks like we'll be returning to Toronto for the Toronto ComiCon Fan Appreciation Event on the 18th and 19th. In September, we'll be heading to Spain for a Comics Festival in Aviles--more on that when I have the details. Then in October, it looks like I'll be attending the Mid-Ohio Con here in Columbus again. If you're able to attend any of these shows, come out and say "hi!"