Saturday, July 2, 2022

Kuš! It! Kuš! It Real Good...

Greetings from Riga, Latvia. As of last November, this has become my new home. This is my second time living an ex-pat life. The first time was in Ireland back in 2003-2005. The Latvian language and culture are less familiar for me then Irish culture, which is embedded into the American identity. I'm slowly learning Latvian and gain more of an appreciation of the deep and ancient cultural ways here. It is always good to keep your mind and heart open to new ways of living and looking at the world.

As an ex-pat, I'm also always searching for anything (books, movies, music) to cling to and give me some comfort when my brain has reached maximum saturation of the unfamiliar. Comics definitely fall into that category, especially of the small press variety.  I was fortunate to learn about kuš! komiks (kuš! (pronounced - koosh!), a Riga-based comics publisher, organizer of exhibitions, artist residency host and generally promoter of all things comics related. John Porcellino of King Kat fame had mentioned kuš! to me in an email and another local artist friend also had encouraged me to check them out.  On the publishing end, kuš! have two on-going projects; the Š! anthology collections put out a few times a year and mini-comics that are single artist, one-offs. I recently emailed kuš! asking where I could find their comics here in Riga and received a quick and friendly reply from David Schilter the founder of kuš!, letting me know about the one comic book shop in Riga that stocks their pubs and inviting me to visit kuš! HQ sometime! Wanting to sample some kuš! as quickly as possible, I made a visit to COMICS LV (in Latvian or Russian - use the Chrome browser to translate easily into English), a jolly, small shop packed with comics, graphic novels, figures and anything else a fan-human might want to buy. I inquired about kuš! and was guided to a box with a few dozen copies of Š! and mini-comics. I choose one mini-comic; (mini kuš! # 11 'All You Need Is Love', Emmi Valve, January 2013) and one Š! anthology; (#42 'Scientific Facts', August 2021). The story theme of friendship of "All You Need Is Love" grabbed my attention, as well as Emmi Valve's loose, personal drawing style and moody watercolor palette. The longer "Scientific Facts", is an international collection of a few dozen artists (as are all issues of Š!) featuring a wide range of art and writing styles, from the traditional to experimental, so there is something for everyone. I love the size and feel of both pubs, well-designed and printed on quality paper. I'm looking forward to visiting the kuš! HQ sometime soon and adding a few more pubs to my collection! I am actively seeking inspiration to get my creative life back on track. (book project update - don't ask)

kuš! ships internationally, but has distribution partners all over the world and lists all this towards the bottom of their shop page. I'm not surprised to see that John Porcellino's Spit and a Half is one of the many USA distributors, so my American friends, get over there and check out some kuš!


PS - here's the title background. -  "Kuš! It! Kuš! It Real Good... "(sing as...

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Padded Cell Blues

Illustration from Reluctant Sadist #7, Padded Cell Blues No. 2
Ever have one of those days, weeks, months, years when you just want to escape? Oddly enough, I've been feeling that way more and more these days, and I'm sure there are a few people who can relate. This one page bit I did for the back cover of RELUCTANT SADIST #7 struck a chord with me during these endless COVID-19 lockdown days. I don't know if this guy went to a better place, probably not, I can't think of anyone who lives in their head that is happy, but at least he escaped. I like the technique of a series of "photos" laid out to a tell a story; evidence of something that might actually have happened, though these days photos and video are evidence of nothing anymore as everything is so easy to fake. This idea also was ripe for animation and it's lived for too long in the back of my mind (a vast warehouse space not unlike the one where the Ark of the Covenant was stored) with hundreds, maybe thousands of other ideas gathering dust and classic Hollywood cobwebs, patiently still hoping that I might bring them to life. I've always loved getting ideas; that "a-ha moment" when the light comes on and I feel in touch with some new and different that the world may never have seen before. I'm good at recording my ideas, but not so good on the follow-thru of bringing them to the world. Some people see ideas as spirits, muses that choose a host, a portal to reach into this world, so those ideas should be nurtured and every effort made to give them expression. Unfortunately, my critic (working overtime right now to persuade me to delete this post and go on sleepwalking through another day) often sabotages any enthusiasm for the idea before I can even make a note or thumbnail sketch. Why is that? No matter, best to just put that critic in the corner, humor it, "Yes, yes, you are right. It is all shit and what is the point?" and carry-on anyway. Which is what I did when I decided the time was well past taking a run at making an animation from "Padded Cell Blues No. 2" (Yes, there is a number one, but that's a tale for another time.) As a first step in the process, I decided to digitally cut-out the individual "photos" and animate them as a previsualization for planning the final animation. I'm not sure which animation method (hand drawn cartoon, claymation, etc) that I will render the final piece in, but this was a good start to think about what the final piece might look like. I used the open source photo editor GIMP to create the animation (I am not a fan of Adobe's move to a subscription-based service), so if you are looking for a "free" (they do accept donations, and yes, I did) image creation and photo manipulation tool, check it out. I exported this as an animated GIF and then converted that into an MP4. Here is the final result. Note: this is a silent film, but the final will indeed have sound.

Never give-up on your ideas or dreams. Keep fighting!



Friday, July 3, 2020

I'm Not Dead Yet...

It has been too long since I posted here. There are many reasons, but I have come to realize that my "posting energy" these days gets expended on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram, so there's nothing left for blogging. Besides, even when I was writing here on a regular basis, few eyes were hitting these words, so what's the point? There is so much demand for our eyes and attention these chaotic days, for those precious seconds and minutes of our lives, that one more chunk of random writing from an unknown human waxing on about an obscure underground/D.I.Y. comix from so long ago, seems like performance art for one. A random, mad, holy act for a god absent or maybe dead, or maybe never existed at all. But no matter, here I am. Strangely enough, it's the fact that I know that no one is likely to read what I am writing that compels me to drop my pebble in this pond. I'm sick to death (a tricky phrase to use in this pandemic days, but fuck it) of social media. All the vibrating, self-absorbed nonsense and free-flowing hostility and hot culture wars and the ghosts of dead friendships stinking up the cyberspace like a fart in a small elevator. Since I know these words will be unseen, this blog is a tiny cove safe from the jet skis and speed boats racing around and knocking the paddleboarders into the drink. 

So, after two years, I am motivated to write here again. There have been other opportunities that I let pass, for no apparent reason other than pure sloth.  But this is a new time, so get to the point, right?
I am working on the book again and I don't mean just picking at it, I mean actual progress, like ass in the seat, piling the bits and pieces into something that resembles a book. I decided to lash all the elements together to see if it made any sense and to understand how close I am to being finished. There was, as there often is with a creative endeavor, good news and the not so good. First with the positive, if I squint my eyes and cock my head, it looks kinda like a book. The less good news is, I have much more work to do before it is ready for a close up or to have a pin stuck in it or bow put on it. At least now I can see the holes that need filling and can make lists of clear tasks to move forward. The hill sits at one hundred and forty pages and will likely rise a bit higher by the end. This will likely just be a vanity project, but for me, it helps to honor that era of my life when I labored with intensity motivated by pure and innocent energies. It's been a lovely journey to dig through ancient boxes and rediscover the relics of my life from thirty years or more ago. I have to complete this task in order to move on to whatever I will do next.

So, thanks' for not reading this. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Some Corpses are More Exquisite Than Others...

I've known Ralf Schulze a longtime, since the late 1980s. We met in the wild, weird world of underground comix and 'zines. I think Ralf sent me a few of his comix in trade; "Dinky-Doo" and "Zombie Vomit" and that started a friendship that has endured until today.

Ralf lives in Richmond, VA and recently I spent a weekend up there hanging out with friends. Ralf and I met for lunch then settled in for some beers at Steam Bell Beer Works (sidebar - great beer and friendly folks, worth the trip). Ralf brought along a sketchbook and asked me, "Do you want to draw?". I sheepishly admitted that I haven't been drawing much, feel self-conscious drawing in public and have no idea what I would draw and after the bullshit excuses were out-of-the-way, we settled down to work.

I started off with a shapely dragon-salamander creature, falling back on the ten-year old boy mind that is forever doodling during geometry class.
Ralf is more in-touch with his abstract side and went with these two images; one vaguely obscene and the other reminded me of a Simpsons nightmare (I'll leave it to you to figure it out)

After warming up, we got down to business and decided on the theme "MASKS" for some exquisite corpse fun. The rules of EC are simple, gather a group of artists (or those that want to pretend to be artists, essentially the same thing) fold some paper and each person gets to draw a section. The rub is, you don't get to see what the other people drew in their sections until the end.
We set-up two pieces of paper so we could both be drawing and pass the paper back and forth until it was time for the big unveiling. The first two drawings we set-up with horizontal folds and one of us started at the top and the other the bottom. These two drawings turned out surprisedly coherent. I particularly like the one on the left (above photo) with the eyepatch.

For the second group, we decided to mix it up and folded the paper in quarters, working vertically with one and horizontally with the other. These two certainly hit a more zany quality that we were hoping for.

I appreciate Ralf prodding me to get back to drawing, lighten-up and have some fun.

Good times!


Monday, February 29, 2016

A King Cat Card Carrying Member...

I got some "real" mail today, something other than some junk mail or a bill. I got my official "King Cat Comics Fan Club" card and a thank you note for being a "Patreon" of John Porcellino the artist/writer behind the zine. "King Cat Comics" was begun back in 1989, the same time I was doing my own comic "Reluctant Sadist", but instead of folding after a few years like I did, John has persevered and King Cat is still going strong. I admire his tenacity and dedication to his zine, so was happy to contribute to a  Patreon campaign that he launched to establish consistent financial support. He's very close to his goal of $981 a month (the US Federal government's poverty level for a single person), so please take a look his page and consider throwing down a little dough.

The link to John Porcellion's Patreon Page.

If a monthly commitment is more then you can do right now, then check-out an issue of King Cat Comics. You'll be glad you did!

Order King Cat Comics.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

"You Can't Get There From Here"

I don't read enough mini-comics these days and when I say "mini-comics", I mean old school, printed or rather, photocopied hard copies. Nothing against web comics, I can see the appeal from a production and distribution viewpoint, but my preferred method of ingesting comix is the old-fashioned way, sans electronics. The internet is a blessing and curse when it comes to connecting with the underground comics world (does that even exist anymore or has everything been flatten out onto the same level?). On the one hand, it's easier then ever to find even the most obscure stuff and often read it immediately online. On the downside, the internet is an ever present time suck that often makes me wonder, "Well and just where did that day, week, month and year go?".

So, it's been too long since I had any REAL mail, but that drought ended yesterday when I received a couple of issues of one of my favorite 'zines,  "You Can't Get There From Here" by Carrie McNinch. It's an autobiographical theme with small snapshots from Carrie's life. I identify with many of the reoccurring topics including being middle-aged, cats, travel, running, cats and depression. The format is the classic three panel layout like you'd see in the Sunday comics and each day is "tagged" with a specific song (with band name). Usually I know the song, but when I do not, I have to track it down.

If you haven't read Carrie's 'zine and want to give it a try, check-out her Etsy Store.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

3-D Speed Freak is back and standing in solidarity with the people of Paris and France and all free thinkers across the world on this dark day. I was sadden and outraged to hear of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo today. Let us not forget the brave artists we lost today who ran straight at the sharpest edge of free expression. They are;

Stéphane Charbonnier "Charb"


Georges Wolinski


The final joke will be on the terrorist that instead of silencing them,  those stupid actions have assured that their courage and good work will now be seen by millions and the message that a free society is not a half measure is more clearly understood. 

Je Suis Charlie!