Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friends & Other Things

And while I'm thinking about it... my friend Dan Waters' excellent Young Adult novel GENERATION DEAD is coming out in paperback on April 7th. I really like Dan, I really like his writing, and I really like this book (not to mention it's follow-up KISS OF LIFE). And I'm not embarrassed to say that I wouldn't have found the confidence to write a FADE novel if it wasn't for Dan.

And a reminder that I'll be appearing at the Albany Comic Con on April 5th. I've gotten some requests for sketches (which I'm afraid I won't be doing at the convention, though if you want something, I'll draw it and bring it with me), and for original art (which I will have at the show). If there's a specific page anyone wants from SUPERNATURAL: ORIGINS or MIRROR'S EDGE, let me know and I'll make sure I have it in the stack I bring to the show.

I'm also happy to say that my former collaborator at CrossGen -- Ron Marz -- will be appearing at the Albany Con, so if anyone needs their old issues of THE PATH (at least the ones that I drew) signed by both of the writer and the artist, this is the show for you.

On The Nightstand

by John Le Carré

Whenever I find a new book that really moves me, I like to dig up everything the author has ever written and read it all in one big gulp. Witness my recent marathon of Gregory Mcdonald's Fletch and Flynn books.

In the last couple of years, I've discovered a lot of new (to me) authors that have really captured my imagination: Christopher Fowler, Kim Newman, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and Kelly Link, among others.

Finding new writers I enjoy on that level is one of the real joys in my life, and digging up all their books to read is a major hobby of mine. Without it, I feel listless and out of sorts. And since it's been a while since I've discovered someone new, I've been spending some time looking back and rereading some of my favorite authors and enjoying rediscovering how much I like them.

First up... John Le Carré. I read a lot of Le Carré when I was growing up. My dad used to read them and I would 'borrow' -- i.e. steal -- his copies when he wasn't looking. After seeing the excellent BBC adaptation of Le Carré's TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY on PBS, I was entranced by its unlikely protagonist -- George Smiley -- and wanted to read more about him. And to this day, Smiley remains one of my favorite fictional characters, right up there with the Doctor, Paul Atreides, Rumpole of the Bailey, and Repairman Jack.

Smiley's first appearance -- CALL FOR THE DEAD -- is more of a cozy mystery story than the complex International espionage tales of Le Carré's later Smiley novels. And there's a use of language in the first few Smiley books that really grabs me. It's hard to describe without getting pretty deep in the weeds of writing technique, but suffice it to say there's a sense of melancholy in CALL FOR THE DEAD and MURDER OF QUALITY (the next book in the series) that I really respond to.

A few years ago, I gave back the copies I'd swiped from my father and picked up newer paperback editions of the Smiley books. One of the benefits of these new editions are the short introductions by Le Carré where he talks about writing the book (something I'm always fascinated to hear from writers). Many of those short pieces are as engaging as the books themselves, which is saying something.

And while Le Carré's post-Cold War books have been interesting and enjoyable (THE TAILOR OF PANAMA is an excellent example), they haven't capture my imagination the way these Smiley books still do. If anything, I find CALL FOR THE DEAD -- and George Smiley himself -- more interesting now that I'm a bit older than I did as a teenager.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Now Playing

BBC Audio

Yeah, yeah... I know. More Doctor Who stuff. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.

I'm neck deep in laying out the first issue of my new (and still secret) project, so I'm back to listening to audiobooks while I draw. I obviously can't listen to them when I'm writing, but I really enjoy them when I'm drawing.

I burned through 2 very, very long Stephen King audiobooks while I finished the last issue of MIRROR'S EDGE, so I thought I'd switch over to something a little less involved -- one of the BBC Audio Original Staging releases of old Doctor Who episodes.

Back in the 60s when DW started, the BBC had a habit of destroying the prints of many of their shows. This was before home video and DVD, so no one really saw a reason to save them. Sadly, this means many early episodes of DW are long gone. But some of the audio tracks survived and the BBC has released them with linking narration. The result is a cross between an old radio show and an audiobook.

They're fun to listen to, and other than reading the Target novelizations, these audio releases are the only way to experience these older stories. I've got quite a collection of them on my iTunes by now. This particular one features the first Doctor -- William Hartnell. It's a fun story with some surprisingly sophisticated ideas considering it was made in the 1960s.

Just wish the video had survived, as well. I love watching the old B&W episodes of DOCTOR WHO. In a funny way, they have aged better than the full color WHO from the 1980s.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Upcoming Project News

Just signed on to draw a story arc for a new top secret comic book. It's another licensed project, but I can't say what it is just yet. But I will say that it's one of two licensed books out there that I really, really wanted to do. No word yet on the second one, but I've been doing samples for that one, too.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Favorite Things

As anyone who has seen my office knows, I've got a lot of books. And yes, they're in alphabetical order by author, with anthologies and non-fiction separated out at the end.

Man, I spent a long time working in bookstores.

But if you look closely, you'll see that most of my books look as if they've never been read. The spines are uncracked, the covers are in mint condition, and none of the pages have folded corners. This isn't too say I haven't read them -- I have -- but it does say something about how obsessive I am about treating my books well.

Can't help myself. I'm just wired that way. And as far as I know, it's the only thing I'm really OCD about.

Of all the books in my office, there are only three that look well-loved and battered. That's because they're the three books I still have from when I was a kid. As far as I know, they're the only ones that I still have from that period in my life.

Each of them is special to me. They helped form the way I look at the world, or the kind of stories I like, or even what I think about religion.

In no particular order, they are a copy of DUNE by Frank Herbert (with the David Lynch film cover), THE KEEP by F. Paul Wilson, and SHADOWLAND by Peter Straub.

I can't count how many times I've read them. I probably take them down once a year or so to re-read them. So far, I have yet to be disappointed. They still resonate with me now as much as they did when I was younger.

Of course, I have new near-mint editions of each of these books, but I always like to re-read my original beaten-up copies. They're like old friends.

I've read a lot of books since I first discovered these three, but none of them has effected me quite so much. There have been a few that came close, but maybe only one or two that have become as important to me as DUNE, THE KEEP, and SHADOWLAND.

And yet, none of those have cracked spines or stains on them. They just haven't been with me long enough to become weathered with age or experience. I'll be interested to see how many of my new favorites will still hold up 20 years later like these do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Albany Comic Con

I'll be appearing at the Albany Comic Con on April 5th. Stop on by if you're in the area. They've got a lot of great guests lined up.

And while I won't be doing sketches at the show, I am taking requests, so if there's anything you'd like, let me know and I'll sketch it over the next few weeks and bring it to the show for you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who Watches the WATCHMEN?, apparently. Saw it last night, and still processing the experience.

Like most comic book creators of my generation, the WATCHMEN comic book had a profound effect on me. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of the comic book medium, and challenged all of us to add more depth to the work that we would grow up to do.

Unfortunately, that led to years worth of dysfunctional, psychotic superheroes that went a long way to driving most young readers out of the comic book audience and left it in the hands of adult readers who were more interested in intricate continuity that no one but other fans like them could follow. But that's a rant for another day.

As for the film, it was (much like SIN CITY and 300) slavishly faithful to the comic book, very loud (yet another sign I'm getting too old to be cool anymore), and visually stunning. But for me, it didn't quite translate to film. I just couldn't respond emotionally to the characters on the screen, which is odd, since I responded like crazy to more or less the same dialogue, story, and even pictures on the printed page.

Maybe I'm just getting old. WATCHMEN just didn't have the same kick-to-the-gut effect on the screen that the comic had. It sure was pretty to look at, though. Did I mention that it was visually stunning?

Monday, March 2, 2009

On The Nighstand

by Eric Pringle

When I was a little kid, my parents used to take us to a local mall in Maryland as a treat. We'd go to Roy Rogers for a hamburger and a milkshake before heading over to the toy store. As I remember it, my little sister would make a beeline for the dolls and I'd go straight to a little spinner rack in the back of the store, which held the holy grail of reading material -- rack upon rack of Doctor Who novelizations.

Back before anyone was putting old TV shows out on DVD (or even VHS), Target Books would take the scripts from old episodes of Doctor Who and turn them into short little novels. It was the only way to "see" those stories in those days, and for a young Doctor Who fan who also loved to read, it was just about the coolest thing ever.

I had a pretty good collection going (all lined up in episode order on my bookshelf) until I got older and decided I was too mature to read stuff like that. To my everlasting shame, I threw them out.

(Yeah, that was just about the stupidist thing I've ever done, and that's saying something.)

A few years ago, my friend Dan Waters and I were digging through boxes of books in the dealers room at a convention in Rhode Island. Buried between old editions of Horror and Sci-Fi novels were a couple of Target Doctor Who books. As Dan can probably attest, I nearly wet myself. I bought everything that dealer had and asked him to check to see if he had anymore. Sadly, he didn't.

Cut to a year or so ago, when I went to a little used Sci-Fi/Fantasy bookstore in Albany called FLIGHTS OF FANTASY, where my friend Jackie Kessler was doing a signing. When it was over, I wandered around the store to see what they had, and what should I find... shelves upon shelves of Target Doctor Who novelizations. I bought a stack of them, my hands sweaty with excitement, but I've been too scared to go back since then. I'd probably bankrupt myself buying them all.

And then, lo and behold, Claire went and bought me a stack of them for my birthday, which involved a stealth invasion of my office to write down all the titles I already had and dropping them into a spreadsheet for easy reference. I've been grinning like a little kid ever since I opened them. She wrapped each one individually, so there was a lot of unwrapping and grinning involved.

I started in on the first one last night, THE AWAKENING. Even though it's from a period of Doctor Who that I saw a lot of, for some reason I've never seen this particular episode. It's filled with the kind of fun, pulpy prose that I grew up with, and I'm loving every minute of it.

But the tough part will be deciding which one to read next. Just wish I had a Roy Rogers strawberry milkshake to drink while I make up my mind.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Birthdays & Other Dubious Milestones

I turned 38 today. Not sure how I feel about that. Creeping ever closer to 40, but trying not to think about it much.

Spent much of the day working on a sample piece for one the projects I'm considering in the wake of MIRROR'S EDGE. Turned out better than I had planned, which is always nice.

I'm trying to use more photo reference in my work these days. Not sure if it makes that big of a difference, but I like the results better.

Whenever I can, I like to use photos as a kind of "skeleton" for the figures in a piece. Makes the proportions a little more realistic and helps guide the shadows and lighting. It's a trick I picked up from my old studio-mate Tommy Lee Edwards, who does it much better than I ever could.

The project is top secret, so I can't show the finished product, but here's a little taste that won't give anything away.