Monday, January 27, 2020

Comic Art Collection 2 - Acroyear

Acroyear of the Micronauts.


Well folks, let's take a walk back to when I was a kid. When I was really young, I was given Archie digests and some marvellous digests called "UFOs and Other Stories" where I learned all about planes disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle and that aliens have a fascination with doing terrible things to cattle.

But after that I started buying comics from Marvel. And the big five for me starting out were Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, Battlestar Galactica, Fantastic Four and....Micronauts.

If you're so interested, here's the link to the Wikipedia article giving some of the history. They started off as toys, but later debuted as a comic in 1979. If a team of galactic rebels (an explorer returning home to a world that has changed for the worse, a rebel princess, a deposed warrior king, a quippy arachnid, and two feisty robots)  fighting a power mad tyrant in cool black armour welding massive mystical/technological powers seems oddly familiar, well, there were a lot of people trying to make a buck copying Star Wars at the time.

Pretty sure this was the first issue
I bought. I though it was cool
because of the toys, plus I had
been to Daytona Beach.
Oddly, Marvel was printing the Star Wars comic at the same time as Micronauts, but I never had any time for it. I liked Micronauts. Writer Bill Mantlo (truly a tragic figure in the comic industry) put together a book that had action and some surprisingly mature themes for a series based on a toy. The villain, Baron Karza, was effectively immortal and controlled the population with his "Body Banks", where the poor could gamble their body parts and organs for a longshot chance at immortality. The rich merely bought what they need to remain ageless. As long as they remained loyal.

It's a hell of a dark think to put in a comic. If the dialogue was occasionally a bit much to swallow (Mantlo was known as the guy you went to at Marvel if you needed a story turned around quick because someone missed a deadline), the rest was fantastic stuff. I still maintain the first 12 issues are some of Marvel's best comics from that time. In particular #9-11. I read those issues to death and stalked my local corner store waiting for the next issues to come out.

But it was Michael Golden's artwork that captured me. Even now I can't exactly explain why I like the art so much. It was just dynamic, bursting with energy and style. When he eventually left the series interior art around issue #13 the series never really fully recovered.

Frustratingly, I mostly only have memories of the comics. My original issues are in storage and due to complicated copyright issues, Marvel has never collected the issues in paperback or hardcover. Nor are they available digitally through any legal means.

So getting to meet Michael Golden at a Comic Con would obviously be a big deal for me....if I knew he was there.

When I went to New York Comic Con in 2015 I was a "veteran" of these cons now. I had a plan of attack. For weeks leading up to it I carefully planned which artist tables I would hit first to get sketches before their lists filled up. I had my budget. I had my overflow budget. I was all set. And for the first two hours I was at the con I stuck to that plan. I hit all the tables I needed to, was disappointed that some weren't doing sketches (but I had planned for that too).

And then I discovered that Golden was there and I hadn't known.

I was horrified. Both because I figured his commission list was surely full by now, and that what he would ask would be beyond my budget.

I was forlornly looking at some prints at his table when he started talking to me. I tried very hard to not gush over how much I'd love Micronauts as a kid, something I'm sure he heard all the time. Then I explained I was quite sad I hadn't noticed his table sooner because I was sure his commission list was full by now.

"Actually, I haven't had a single request yet. What would you like?"

And we were off.....

I briefly considered getting Dr. Strange, which he also drew, until he told me he'd have to charge me more because he hated drawing the cape. Fair enough. That made Acroyear an easy choice. Noble warrior king from the planet Spartak, deposed from his throne by his evil brother. I might tease Mantlo's dialogue, but he always gave the best melodramatic lines to Acroyear ("Come. Betrayer of worlds." Corny. Don't care. Loved it when I was 9). Plus the armour and sword are spectacularly cool looking.

I commissioned him on Thursday afternoon and he had this ready for me by Saturday afternoon. I'm not saying he spent two straight days on it, but every time I walked past his table he was hunched over it. Golden was never the fastest artist, which is why he later switched to covers or very short runs.

So yeah, I love this piece. I love all the detail he put into it. And I love that when I look at it on my wall it's an easy reminder to when I was 9-years-old, getting obsessed with sci-fi and a comic about rebels from a microscopic universe who were, coincidentally, the size of action figures when they came to Earth made absolute sense.

Last Five
1. I will survive - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
2. Fireside - Arctic Monkeys
3. Marry Song - Band of Horses
4. Supersonic - Pearl Jam*
5. Please do not let me go (live) - Ryan Adams

Monday, January 20, 2020

Comic Art Collection 1 - Origins and Wonder Girl

Most of my friends know that I collect comic book art. It got started in 2008 when I went to my first comic con - NYCC - and immediately got hooked. If you go to a comic con and walk around Artists Alley with a sketchbook, it's a lot of fun and immediately addicting.

I've been doing this for almost 12 years now which means I'm accumulating quite a collection. To an extent I didn't even know how big it was getting. Over Christmas I got the bright idea that I should scan all of my artwork. There's a practical purpose to this. The website Comic Art Fans has a feature where you can upload your art and add details about it, including estimated value. So if nothing else, if something happens to me Cathy can sell the artwork for what it's worth and not what I told her I paid for it.

(These are the jokes, folks. Tip your waitress.)

This process ended up being a lot more complicated than I thought because:
a. I had to pull a lot of pieces from frames and I didn't keep track of what picture goes with what frame as carefully as I should have. Which resulted in a mess I'm still dealing with.
b. I have more art than I thought. Including commission, pages from actual comics, and drawings in my sketchbook, I'm pushing around 150 right now.

Geeks with money, man. It's dangerous.

But it also occurs to me that nobody really gets to see most of this artwork except for me and Cathy. And while Cathy is tolerant and supportive of this hobby she doesn't exactly understand and love it the way I do. Fair enough.

And if I do say so, I've managed to build a pretty decent collection. And perhaps it's egotistical and perhaps no one will really care, but I though it might be interesting to show people who still read this blog what I have.

So once a week I'm going to post up an image and tell a story about it. Sometimes it might be very brief. Not all of the pieces have awesome stories. There are a few "I bought this on eBay" (Not many. Buying art on eBay is risky.) Or "I bought this through the artist's dealer."

But sometimes there's a cool story involved. It also has the added benefit of getting me writing again.

So if this is going to be the first one of these I do, it's best to start at the beginning.

So if you want to know the official date of my addiction, it would be April 18, 2008. I was wandering around Artist Alley trying to figure who to get a commission from and how it even worked. Todd Nauck had a few people in his line and I liked his work on Young Justice with Peter David. Plus, if I recall, he was asking $25 a sketch which seemed pretty reasonable. So I decided to ask for a Wonder Girl sketch.

This is pretty much a perfect $25 sketch for its time. I forget exactly how long it took for him to draw it, but I suspect it was around 15 minutes and that was with him chatting with people. Some quick penciling to establish what he wanted to do, and then using ink or a marker to fill in the details. I was very happy with it at the time and I still am.

If you ever go to a con and he's there, find the time to swing by his table. He's absolutely one of the nicest guys in comics. I've stopped by his table at other cons and he always makes a few minutes to chat. Although it's a bit harder to get a sketch from him these days and it costs more.

Hilariously he looks almost exactly like Peter B. Parker from the "Into the Spiderverse" movie, and the internet is filled with pictures of him posing with cosplayers as a middle age Spider-Man. Like this one:

He has a blast with it too.

Anyway. My first sketch in my first sketchbook. Only three more years to go.....

Last Five
1. Arms aloft (live) - Pearl Jam
2. The infanta - The Decemberists
3. White boy blues - Mo berg
4. Stay free - The Clash
5. Saint Simon - The Shins

Friday, January 17, 2020

Proof of Life: 50

I went to the beach to get a selfie, but the
combination of cloud and snow washed
everything out.

Well, that happened fast.

Seriously. It was, what, six months ago I was put to work at the counter of my grandparents' store at the entrance of their campground out in Brookcove. I sold cigarettes to minors and conducted early morning raids on campers to steal their empty beer bottles and cash them in so I could buy comic books.

It was just a couple of months ago I was walking out of the used texts bookstore on the 2nd floor of the TSC and saw someone I used to work with at Shoppers Drug Mart (Murdo) hanging out at the Muse office. I decided to pop in and say hi.

Maybe it was last month that Susy and Erin suggested going to see Monsters Inc. and that, oh yeah, they were bringing along a friend named Cathy. Both of us blindly oblivious that was a set-up. But, you know, it worked out pretty ok.

And it was just a couple of weeks ago that Cathy said she was tired of living in GN rented apartments, so why don't we go buy a house and stay in Iqaluit for a little bit longer.

Cathy and I, like all married couples, have developed our own language shorthand. And in situations like this we often just say "Fruit" when time is flying by fast. As in "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." (Shockingly, I only learned this week when getting ready to write this that the quote is not actually from Groucho Marx, but from this.)

So yes, Fruit.

I don't really know how 50 is supposed to feel. My mother is probably more traumatized today than I am. Fifty means you're a grown-up, which if you saw what I've done to one of the spare bedrooms in our house you would doubt that idea a lot. The seven year old me conducting beer bottle raids for comics money would be thrilled and nod approvingly at the toys, bookshelves filled with comics, and art on the walls. Pretty much anyone else who visits the house wonders if I've lost my mind and why on Earth Cathy tolerates it.

("It's better than you blowing it on booze" is normally her answer.)

So older, a bit wiser, but no closer to actually growing up.

I'll miss my 40s if for no other reason it finally felt, after decades of restlessness, flare ups of bitterness and questioning if I knew what the hell I was doing, I finally seem to figure things out a bit. It took awhile for me to realize that as a hetrosexual, white, male from a Christian background living in one of the most prosperous countries on the planet, I'd been given some pretty hefty cheat codes to the world that most people don't get. So maybe I should appreciate that a bit more and realize what a gift I've been (probably undeservingly) given.

It took me awhile to realize that healthy, happy, secure, and being in a love with an amazing woman is filled with victory anyway you cut it. It's better than any Lotto Max win.

I got to see the world. By our count we've now visited 32 countries, something I would never imagine when I was a kid and getting to go to Florida was like visiting another planet (actually, that's probably still the case).

But most importantly, most nights I come home after picking up Cathy, and we talk about our day. One of us makes supper. We'll talk, or watch a movie, read, or play a stupid iPhone game. I'll walk the dog. I'll tuck Cathy in after she goes to bed and then I'll read or putter on the computer for a few hours.

It's probably boring and it's an absolute gift that I hope I never take for granted. We celebrate 15 years of being married this July.

So what's the plan for the next decade? Not really sure. More of that healthy, happy, security and love sounds pretty good. I could easily handle another 50 years of that. More travel, although in our age of Climate Change I'm certainly trying to figure out how we can do that better. I need to read and write more, and starting next week you might see some changes to the blog to help spur that a bit.

Keep going to the gym, because along with keeping me in decent shape I've discovered its critical to my mental health.

And the rest? Well, we'll take it as it comes.

One last's interesting to note that on the occasion of my 50th birthday mother nature has apparently trying to destroy St. John's. I mean, I've thought about it on occasion....who hasn't? But an Amazon gift card would have done just fine.

Stay safe if you're in St. John's and hang in there.

Last Five
1. Oceans (live) - Coldplay
2. Achin' to be - The Replacements
3. Ruins - First Aid Kit
4. Relief next to me (live) - Tegan and Sara
5. What is love - Postmodern Jukebox featuring Cassey Abrams*