Archive for May, 2011

Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

This hard workin’ guy has to take a little time off sometime…I did just that Memorial Day weekend when on Saturday and Sunday I attended the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival in (where else?) Simi Valley, California.

My main impetus for going was the fact that Tracy Nelson was going to appear at the festival on Saturday backed by The Mannish Boys. I thought I’d never get a chance to see Tracy perform live in my lifetime, as she seldom leaves her home of Nashville, Tennessee.

Tracy appears on about 26 CDs — and I got ’em all. Her first CD was a solo blues CD, Deep Are the Roots (1965), recorded when she was just 21 (she looked like she was eleven).

The first time I ever heard Tracy’s music was in 1968. I had met this knockout Manhattan Beach blonde, Millie Biela, at a Shrine Exposition Hall concert. Millie and I dated (in my clumsy way) for awhile. She invited me to a party in Laurel Canyon — the first time I had ever been to this holy habitat of rock, folk and blues musicians. As I recall, I was the only guy there. I was surrounded by Millie and her friends, who were all beautiful hippie chicks. They began rolling joints from a big bag of pot. It was the first time I had ever smoked grass.

A couple of the girls began raving about Tracy Nelson, the lead singer for a band named Mother Earth. They felt it was their duty to turn the world on to this magnificent chanteuse. One of them grabbed a guitar and began performing what would become Tracy’s signature song, “Down So Low”. We were all moved by her heartfelt and passionate performance. Then she popped the vinyl on to the turntable and played me Tracy’s own version with Mother Earth from their LP Living With the Animals.

I was astounded. What came out of the speakers was one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. Tracy’s big voice vocals were mature far beyond her years. Tracy purportedly wrote “Down So Low” after her breakup with Steve Miller (both were University of Wisconsin at Madison students in the 60s). I still consider it one of the finest recordings ever put down on vinyl. Her version of Memphis Slim‘s “Mother Earth” still raises the hairs on the back of my neck. I like Janis Joplin but I love Tracy Nelson.

Tracy Nelson when she was with Mother Earth, ca. 1968

I had recently visited Tracy’s website to purchase her latest CD, Victim of the Blues (get it!). I looked at her site’s tour calendar and got depressed; there were no gigs even remotely close to southern California.

But the next day I idly visited her site again and clicked on “Tour Dates”. Up popped her upcoming Simi Valley Appearance. It felt like I’d been given a second life. I began to look forward to this festival like nothing else in my life (do you think maybe I’m a fan?).

I was impressed by the festival’s line-up. There were several other performers I was eager to see. The festival had two stages: a Blues stage and a Cajun/Zydeco stage. There was Cajun food (including crawfish and gator), BBQ, soul food and all kinds of other tempting sweet and savory goodies for sale. The longest line was for the funnel cakes.

On Saturday I arrived in time to catch the second act, Los Fabulocos. They were fantastic. They sounded very similar to Los Lobos, with whom I was told they toured. Their guitar player, Kid Ramos, is now one of my favorite axemen. They were followed by Mikey Jr. & Stone Cold Blues. Their guitar player, Matt Daniels, knew every crowd pleasing performance tactic in the book but made each of them look natural, spontaneous and effortless; a very fine set.

The excellent Kirk Fletcher Band came on at 2:25 PM. Kirk reminded me of a cross between Freddie and Albert King.

I had wanted to see Serbian blues beauty Ana Popovic from the first time I heard about her. An unbelievably skilled guitarist and decent singer, I felt that initially she took a little while to reach that true inner place of heart and soul (her first few songs were crisply played but I felt she was just sort of going through the motions, albeit at a very high skill and performance level).

In anticipation of seeing The Mannish Boys I had purchased all of their CDs. This band is a collection of some of the finest Old School veteran blues players in L. A.

Rob Rio opened their set with a thundering solo performance on electric piano that aurally described and encapsulated the history of boogie woogie piano music. That historic keyboard lesson flowed right into one of my favorite songs, “Down the Road Apiece”, a song made famous by Amos Milburn (my favorite version is by Manfred Mann). Rob’s keyboard virtuosity was breathtaking.

The Mannish Boys celebrate a truly communal musical experience. Ordinarily, I’d appreciate seeing and hearing all of the guest stars they brought up on stage to play with them, but I felt that each one was cutting into Tracy’s stage time (which they were). To my astonishment I saw Tracy casually wandering through the loose crowd in front of the stage. She gave me a knowing smile, probably assessing (correctly) from my appearance that I was from her generation.

Tracy was left with just enough time for three songs — but at least I got to see and hear her sing in person.

The great Tracy Nelson at work (recent photo)

I talked to Tracy afterwards in the signing area (how nice that so many musicians don’t charge for autographs — my policy, too!). We had a friend in common, Jack Lee. Jack was the lead guitarist in the latter days of Mother Earth. I used to see Jack on practically a daily basis when I was living two blocks from Jack off of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Tracy was as nice as could be, seeming very down to earth and honestly approachable.

I caught a little of John Nemeth‘s set and took off for home.

On Sunday I brought my wife (having assessed the various comfort levels of the Festival experience first). We arrived mid-day. The first act we caught was Big Pete‘s tribute to Lester Butler (lead singer and blues harp player for The Red Devils; if you want to watch and listen to a KILLER Lester Butler/Red Devils track go to this YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBx0GxmAPPc). Big Pete is a big Dutch blues singer who became a blues harmonica player after seeing Lester Butler. The Red Devils were the band that backed Mick Jagger on his never-legitimately-released solo blues CD. Lester died from a drug overdose at age 38. Big Pete turned in a fine set.

A shot I snapped of Buckwheat Zydeco

Then my wife and I dashed over to the Cajun stage to catch Buckwheat Zydeco. There were some frustrating technical problems at the beginning of Buckwheat’s show but once the band was finally able to get going, they killed. Talk about tight! Whoo! Plus, Buckwheat’s a helluva old school entertainer. That was one crisp, entertaining set.

A mid-set shot I took of Elvin Bishop

We hustled back to the Blues stage where Elvin Bishop’s “Hell Raisin’ Revue” was already mid-song. Elvin began his career as the second lead guitarist (Michael Bloomfield was Numero Uno) in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. I first saw Elvin after he had left Butterfield to form his own band. He opened for Led Zeppelin the first time I saw Led Zep (Julie Driscoll & the Brian Auger Trinity were also on that bill).

With his Aw, Shucks down home sense of humor, Elvin has to be one of the funniest blues performers you’ll ever see. You can’t help but love the guy. His unexpected (this was a blues show, after all) performance of his big hit “I Fooled Around and Fell in Love” brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful song! It’s one of my favorites.

I chatted with Elvin at the signing tent. I told him I saw him open for Led Zeppelin. He responded, “I was just tryin’ to make a living.”

Maria Muldaur that Sunday afternoon

The show closer was Maria Muldaur. Although mainly known for her monster hit “Midnight at the Oasis”, she has been recording some killer blues CDs in recent times. If you’d like to sample some of her newer stuff, I’d recommend the CD Richland Woman Blues; you won’t be disappointed.

A good time was had by all. I’m already looking forward to next year’s show!

PS: I lied about not working. Besides just having fun, I was doing research for my forthcoming series of blues books. Who says you can’t work and enjoy it, too?

Memorial Day

Monday, May 30th, 2011

We have a great tradition here in Pasadena. Upon hearing a loud drone I’ll run outside on the mornings of Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day to witness a fleet of vintage WWII aircraft flying over our town a few times in the Missing Man formation, an aerial salute to the missing men and women in the military — missing because they gave up their lives fighting for our country and all of us here at home.

The sight of that formation always thrills me and brings a tear to my eye. It also never fails to make me think of my friend and plane aficionado Dave Stevens.

My pal John Gandour sent me the following Memorial Day link:
http://www.usba.com/memorialday/

I think it is worthy of sharing with all of you. My father and daughter both served in the Army. Happily, they were able to return home safe and sound. Other families weren’t so lucky.

Please think of them when you watch the video.

Peace and Love to everyone — and let’s bring all of our men and women in the service back home as soon as possible, safe and intact.

It is time.

Actually, it is long overdue.

Paying For It

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I just picked up Chester Brown’s new graphic novel, Paying For It – A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John. My eyes virtually consumed this 280 pp. Drawn & Quarterly publication in one sitting last night. Brown’s compelling autobiographical narrative about his relationships with prostitutes is told with a frank honesty about the world’s oldest profession that I found both refreshing and illuminating.

I became fascinated with the subject of prostitution many years ago (around the late 1970s/early 1980s) when my girlfriend at the time got a job manning the phones for an escort (call girl) service owned by an enterprising straight-laced young Republican. I joined her at her job occasionally and got to meet many of the women who worked as escorts. All of my preconceived notions about prostitutes and prostitution were turned upside down and inside out by my conversations with them.

The escorts consisted of all kinds of gals, including at least one exotic dancer (stripper). Most of these women, though, were single moms with no education, nor the time or money to get one. Being a call girl gave them a chance to make decent wages and avoid being trapped in minimum wage Hell until they could get married or get back on their own financial feet and apply themselves to some other form of work.

In addition to the new “clients” who would call in response to carefully-worded ads placed in the local free newspapers, most of the gals had regular customers as well. A lot of these women loved their work. Many had formed pretty close relationships with their regular guys, most of whom were just lonely men aching for female companionship (a lot of the johns would not have sex with the girls; they just wanted to chat with a kind, pretty female listener — an experience for which they were more than willing to pay).

Several of these guys had physical issues (ugliness, weight problems, etc.) that, coupled with their defeatist attitude of resignation to their physical lot in life, practically guaranteed they were never going to have a girlfriend. I recall one gal, a single mom, who had several of these kinds of guys as regulars. She felt very protective (and rather motherly) toward them.

When she asked, “Who says that good looking people are the only ones in our society allowed to have sex?” it stopped me in my tracks. Being a decent enough looking guy with a few social skills (and being in a band), I rarely had trouble finding a bed mate. It never occurred to me that there was a substantial and overlooked part of the male population for whom this was a near impossibility — unless they hired a hooker.

Now, getting back to the main topic here (this wonderful new book), I have to say I was extremely impressed by nearly everything about this volume. The simple, easy-to-read drawings have a reportorial elegance to them that I found instantly appealing, their subdued quality perfectly appropriate for the sensitive subject matter described within the book’s pages. Mr. Brown maintained thorough documentation of his encounters during the time period covered in this book (1996-2004). I appreciated that he was very protective of his ladies in the telling of their tales. There is also a well-documented section in the back of the book regarding the different public attitudes toward prostitution as well as Brown’s own thoughtful personal responses to each of those attitudes, all of which I found totally fascinating.

Chester Brown is close friends to two other cartoonists I admire, Joe Matt (to whom the book is dedicated) and Seth. They often include each other in their comics and this book is no exception. In the substantial Appendices section there is a carefully considered response by Seth to his “scenes” and conversations in the book that is also well worth reading.

Paying For It is a valuable addition to those folks like me who consider comic books a powerful and worthy art form. Anyone interested in reading truly adult comics or a personal and considerably thoughtful analysis of the world of prostitutes and the guys who employ them will not be disappointed in this fine, heartfelt tome.

Thanks, Chester Brown, for a great book.

Justified

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Mags & Me

Last night, thanks to the thoughtfulness of my friend & costume designer to the stars Terry Gordon, I attended a Q & A with the cast of Justified at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

The Academy screened the season finale of the second season of Justified. After the screening there was an entertaining Q & A. Among those in attendance were sexy female heartthrob Timothy Oliphant, the amazing Walter Goggins, Graham Yost (the producer of the show) and one of my favorite actresses, the incredible Margo Martindale.

After the Q & A I was eager to meet Margo. I consider her Mags Bennett character one of the greatest screen villains ever created. She surprised me when she told me her first feature film was The Rocketeer. I surprised her when I revealed that The Rocketeer was created in my studio (by Dave Stevens, of course). Margo was the most illuminating person at the Q & A. I learned some new insights into acting from her entertaining answers.

Margo just got her own series. I can’t wait to see it! I’m sure she’ll be fantastic.

I love living in Los Angeles! Stuff like this happens all the time.

The Rapture

Friday, May 20th, 2011

As anyone who is close to me can tell you, I have a real mischievous side to me. This subversive bent served me well when I was drawing underground comix.

I live in a neighborhood with quite a few fundamentalist Christians. They’re not bad folks, really. None of them seem to be like the priests who prey on kids (that perverse predatory behavior is now being blamed on the moral looseness of the 1960s, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 60s? Really? Pathetic.).

I am very tempted to buy one of those huge plastic trumpet horns that people blow during sports events.

On Saturday I could walk down my street, give a big long blast on the horn (for the “Gabriel’s Horn” effect), conceal the horn and then have my Christian neighbors sign over their homes to me. Why in the heck would they need a house if The Rapture is coming?

I could give a house to each of my kids and turn one into a new studio!

Just a thought (a naughty thought, I know).

The Rapture is coming on Saturday. Honestly, I have heard of few things so stupid. I’m laughing today; I’ll be laughing on Sunday.

I don’t laugh, though, when those same folks try to ban Evolution from textbooks and replace that vital, valuable info with Intelligent Design (does the use of “Intelligent” in that phrase qualify it as an oxymoron?) text. Oh, brother.

We are all witnesses to the dumbing down of America.

PS: If there is a Rapture, though, could everyone leaving please each take a birther and a Bin Laden’s-Still-Alive nut with them? Thanks! Or is what I’m asking redundant?

WonderFest 2011, Part Two

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

There are two kinds of Rondo Awards: The “regular” award in the form of a bust of Rondo Hatton (sculpted by my friend and colleague, Monster Kid and fellow Rondo recipient, the talented Kerry Gammill) that is given each year for outstanding achievement in the various categories set forth by the Classic Horror Film Board.

There is also the Monster Kid Hall of Fame Rondo award which is in the form of a plaque bearing a bas relief sculpture of Rondo Hatton’s face. The latter can only be awarded once; it is presented for the recipient’s body of work.

I won in the latter category. I explained the term “Monster Kid” in yesterday’s Journal entry. Here is the acceptance speech I gave at the awards ceremony:

For me, receiving this Rondo and being voted into the Monster Kid Hall of Fame is almost like getting an Oscar — only cooler!

My mom is a total movie nut. Her favorite film genres are horror movies and musicals. She took me to see every film released in those two categories. My dad loved science fiction films and westerns. We never missed any of those, either.

Nevertheless, I didn’t get to see my first Universal horror film until I was eight years old; my parents were afraid that they’d give me nightmares. When I was eight, however, the Shock Theater film package found its way to one of our local television stations. The first film shown was James Whale‘s Frankenstein.

My parents primed me for weeks prior to the well-advertised screening. Nothing else seemed to matter to me in my life but that forthcoming evening. Once I saw Frankenstein, I was hooked. I needed to know everything there was to know about monsters.

Like so many kids my age, my gateway to that knowledge was Forrest J. Ackerman‘s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I saved my allowance, did extra chores for money and bought a subscription.

I read Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker‘s Dracula while I was in elementary school and wrote book reports on both.

Although I drew monsters all of the time as a kid — which directly led to my becoming an artist — I never dreamed that someday I would collaborate with my heroes of the genre, legends like Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury. I would have stared at you in disbelief back then if you had told me that some day those two gentlemen would eventually become my friends as well.

I thought I was fairly alone in my obsession for All Things Monster until I attended my first WonderFest, where I was wholeheartedly welcomed into the Monster Kid community by good  and knowledgeable folks like Bob Burns, Donnie Waddell, Dave Conover and Frank Dietz.

Prior to that, it seemed like most of my friends (who were fellow Monster Kids) and I got into the movie biz at about the same time — guys like Don Glut, Rick Baker, Mick Garris and Steve Czerkas — Sons (or nephews) of Forry all. Once inside the movie-making club I joined the ranks of and became friends with fellow Monster Kids like Ron Cobb, Jim Danforth, John Landis, Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, Thomas Jane, Bernie Wrightson and Mark Schultz.

I’m especially touched that this award is named for and looks like Rondo Hatton. My dad knew and worked with Rondo. In between films, Rondo worked at an aircraft parts factory with my dad. I asked my dad about Rondo. He said he was a very quiet, gentle man. My dad also told me Rondo had the biggest hands he’d ever seen on a human being.

In accepting this award, I’d like to dedicate it to all the past, present and future Monster Kids. Grow older — but don’t grow up. And create things that will gleefully scare the hell out of us.

Then JOIN THIS COOL CLUB!

Thank you.

After the ceremony, Cinema Watchdog‘s Tim Lucas (who, along with his wife Donna, received a Monster Kid Hall of Fame award) informed me that I was the first Rondo Award recipient to have a direct link to Rondo Hatton.

My speech was well-received. Frank Dietz gave me a big hug, saying, “Goddammit, Bill — you made me cry!” Well, I broke down as well during my speech, too (which would not have surprised my wife and sons) — as apparently several other attendees did. It was a good, proud, loving and glorious time had by all.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me! And thanks to the folks who continue to make WonderFest the best convention in America.

WonderFest 2011

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

War Eagles Book Cover

This year’s WonderFest, my favorite United States convention, was among the best (if not the best) ever.

What makes WonderFest so special? The event is an incredibly warm family affair. WonderFest fans are the kindest, politest, most loving fans you’ll find at any show. The people responsible for it (Dave Hodge, Dave Conover, Donnie Waddell and Lee Staton) are four of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. Heck, it’s worth my going there just to hang with those four guys.

Dave Hodge, besides being in charge of running WonderFest, is also a big mucky-muck keeper at the Louisville Zoo, in charge of the seals and the big cats. Although it didn’t occur this year, typically, Dave gives the WonderFest guests a behind-the-scenes tour of the Louisville Zoo the Monday following the convention. Dave is a wealth of knowledge about wild cat behavior; I always pump him for info about the big cats and other animals which I then use to inform my Pleistocene prehistoric life murals’ depictions of sabertooths, bobcats, American lions and mountain lions.

Dave Conover is a fantasy/horror/sci-fi scholar/collector supreme. He recently wrote an indispensable book chronicling the Merian C. Cooper/Willis O’Brien (ultimately abandoned) project War Eagles. No fantasy or King Kong fan should be without it! He sold out of his copies at WonderFest but I’m sure he’ll get more. My own War Eagles connection is the promotional poster image I painted to try to get help in financing a modern film version of the project. The painting was used as the cover (as shown above) for Carl Macek‘s fine novelization of Carl’s own wonderful pass at a new version of the War Eagles screenplay.

Guest Relations chief Donnie Waddell might just be the funniest guy I’ve ever met. A master mimic, Donnie can duplicate nearly any voice, famous or unknown, and do it in a way that would leave the Wolfman howling…with laughter. Donnie is also one of the kindest and most thoughtful and caring of all my friends.

Lee Staton, a founder of WonderFest, is the graphics wizard who transforms my T-shirt designs into something wonderful each year, adding thoughtful and appropriate color to my black and white designs.

WonderFest also hosts the Rondo Awards, conducted by the Classic Horror Film Board, which are voted on by monster movie fans all over the world. Each year the Rondos celebrate achievements in the world (and tangential worlds) of monster movies. They are named after Rondo Hatton, the unfortunate soul famed for being the only movie monster who didn’t have to wear make-up, as he was disfigured (after being exposed to poison gas) by the disease known as acromegaly. The disease causes the bones in one’s face, hands and feet to keep growing. Rondo is perhaps best recognized as the spine-breaking maniac known as  “The Creeper”. His visage also appeared (courtesy of my friend Rick Baker) in The Rocketeer movie.

The people who are nominated for the Rondo Awards, as well as many of the people who vote for them, are loosely referred to as “Monster Kids”. It began as a term for the men and women who grew up loving monster movies in the mid-1950s and early 1960s (yup; the Baby Boomers). Our angry villager fires were stoked by the information and photos that Forrest J. Ackerman shared with us readers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (recently revived with covers by Yours Truly). The term has grown to include all of us who grew up with a love and passion for monsters and monster movies.

At WonderFest’s Rondo Awards this year I was proud to take the stage twice.

The first time was to collect the Rondo Award for Best TV Presentation on behalf of the recipient (and my friend) Frank Darabont for his AMC TV show The Walking Dead.

This is the acceptance speech I gave on Frank’s behalf (Frank was too insanely busy preparing the next season of The Walking Dead to attend):

FRANK DARABONT is perhaps best known for directing what is overwhelmingly considered one of the greatest films in motion picture history: The Shawshank Redemption.

What you may not know is that at the very core of Frank’s cinematic heart he is a tried and true fellow Monster Kid.

Frank got his start in films writing horror movies. He scripted Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Blob, The Fly 2, two Tales from the Crypt episodes, five Young Indiana Jones TV shows, an Indiana Jones TV movie and three Indiana Jones videos, as well as Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein.

At a recent career peak, Frank wrote and directed one of the coolest Twilight Zone-like movies ever made: Stephen King’s The Mist. He even insisted there be a black and white version!

Frank is being honored with a Rondo for writing, producing, directing and helming the biggest hit series in AMC‘s history, The Walking Dead.

Frank breathed humanity into this graphic novel tale of folks trapped in a world overrun by zombies. Working in tandem with our beloved long time WonderFest Monster Kid Greg Nicotero (the “N” in the special effects, creature and make-up manufacturing company KNB), Frank has reinvigorated and redefined the zombie movie genre.

Anyone who has met Frank will tell you that he is one of the nicest and most generous guys in the business. When I asked him what he wanted in regards to the substance of this speech, Frank told me, “You can tell them we’re pals, and that I have any number of your originals hanging on my walls.”

It’s the “pals” reason that makes me feel so especially honored to accept this award on Frank’s behalf. He is my friend.

Even though our intense work schedules keep us from seeing each other as much as we would like, the depth of our friendship profoundly intensifies with each passing year. It is profound because Frank is the Real Deal as a human being. I don’t think he could have made The Shawshank Redemption if he wasn’t.

So, Frank thanks you for his Rondo with an affection for the genre that is deep and sincere.

And I thank Frank for his years of friendship and for his continuing to think of new and exciting ways to creatively scare the hell out of us.

Tomorrow: My Acceptance Speech for my Rondo Award

Alex Toth – An Analysis

Monday, May 9th, 2011

My brilliant son and heavy duty comics fan Andy alerted me to Part One of an outstanding analysis of Alex Toth and his work by Jesse Hamm. I found his essay extremely perceptive and illuminating.

Here’s the link:
http://sirspamdalot.livejournal.com/81283.html

Alex and I were friends back in the day. We usually turn up together in early 1970s photos of Los Angeles comic art professional (and fan) gatherings.

In my beginning comic book years, it was my dream to work with three comic book professional giants: Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner and Alex. In the late 1980s I offered Alex a great job that would have allowed for a terrific collaboration between us but he passed on it.

Well, two out of three’s not bad (I worked with Harvey on Little Annie Fanny and a number of other projects and inked an Eisner Spirit cover for Will)!

Plus, it was my good fortune to work with comics greats Russ Manning, Al Williamson, Will Elder, Jack Kirby and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, so I ain’t complaining!

Your Vision — or Someone Else’s?

Friday, May 6th, 2011

I was just asked for advice from a young creator. He is frustrated. He has come to the realization that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life living in the world of someone else and creating their vision. He wants to create his own worlds and his own vision. He knows the entertainment biz on the whole is in a state of major change but he’s going to take a gamble that his decision is for the better. His project is going to be quite a risk but, nevertheless, he is going to try.

He asked for advice (I think he was hoping more for encouragement, actually and initially) and the opportunity to pepper me with questions over the next several months in an attempt to navigate through these possibly treacherous new waters. After agreeing to be a sounding board for his forthcoming queries, this was my initial reply to him:

A friend came up to me a couple of years ago at Comic-Con. He said, “I just wanted to thank you for the advice you gave me when we first met; it completely changed my life.”

“What did I say?” I recalled my first meeting with the lad at a convention in Florida so many years ago. He was a bright young illustrator back then, bubbling over with enormous enthusiasm.

“After showing you my portfolio, you asked me what I wanted to do. I told you I wanted to work for Jim Henson, drawing all of the Henson characters.”

“What did I say?” I had a suspicion as to what I had said but I wanted it confirmed.

“You said, ‘Why on earth would you want to draw someone else’s characters and make them money when you could be creating and drawing your own characters and worlds, something which you would own and could profit from yourself?'”

The young lad took my advice (in a major way) and went on to create several bestselling books and series, including The Spiderwick Chronicles (which was turned into a big budget studio motion picture).

If you’re a fantasy fan you know his name — Tony DiTerlizzi. If Tony had just worked for Henson as was his original dream, no one would have ever heard of him outside the industry and he wouldn’t have the DiTerlizzi creative empire (films, books, merchandising, etc.) over which he currently presides.

The film/entertainment business, like nearly all businesses right now (especially comics, book publishing, television and music), is in a state of flux and change. Creative job markets rise, fall and disappear with alarming regularity. One thing I’ve learned is that nothing remains the same in this world.

I don’t think there’s a good time or bad time to get into film, for example. There are better and worse times, certainly. My philosophy, though, is that if you’re trying to break in at one of the not-so-good times, you’ll stand out because there won’t be as much competition when it’s harsh out there. And if difficulty and timing can discourage you from entering the film biz (or any chosen creative field), then face the fact that you’re probably not cut out for it.

It’s tough out there — but it nearly always has been.

Those who persevere, survive. And, eventually, hopefully, flourish.

Wizard World Anaheim!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

I’m just writing to let everyone know what a great time I had at the Wizard World Anaheim show.

The event was run incredibly well. All of the staff was very warm and totally professional. I was happy to be the show’s first web video interviewee by Wizard World’s great tag team interviewers. Their advertising proved to be very effective, as well, as I had fans drive all the way from Seattle, Phoenix and Tucson just to see me! I sold stacks of books, saw old friends and made new ones.

I can hardly wait for their Chicago show! I look forward to guesting at any of the other Wizard World shows — they’re AMAZING!

“Thanks!” to Khandyce Menard, Stephen Shamus and the rest of the great WIZARD WORLD crew!

I lived in Anaheim for awhile (I put myself through art school painting watercolor portraits in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square during the summers). It is a city not known for its culinary delights. I was consistently let down by the food there this weekend (especially at my hotel) until I found Angelo’s #2 at 12885 Chapman Avenue (in Garden Grove; several blocks from the Anaheim Convention Center), about five or six blocks from Harbor Boulevard. Great burgers! They also serve Mexican food and breakfast food in large portions at incredibly reasonable prices. And did I mention they let you choose from over 100 different kinds of sodas? The family that runs the place are extremely nice, too.