Celebrity sighting of the day

Every so often, celebrities wander into Utrecht Art Supply (where I work one day a week). Some of them make more of an impression than others. Drew Barrymore sang a Prince song as a duet with one of the workers then cracked a bunch of Michael Jackson jokes as she was being rung up. The singer of either 3rd Eye Blind, 311 or Matchbox 20 (they are all the same to me, so I honestly don't remember which one it was) came in blind drunk at 10 am and hit on all the female customers before getting in a shouting match with the gay male cashier. The guy who played Isaac on The Love Boat came in and bought a paint-by-numbers set and quipped that it would be fun to pass the time, say on a cruise or something (the cashier insists he was fishing for recognition).

Occasionally I help someone famous. It's kind of weird to see them in the flesh, not on stage or on the television. I mean, they're only human, but still you kind of feel like you know them. I helped Todd Solondz (one of my favorite directors: "Welcome To The Dollhouse", "Happiness", etc.) pick out paint. I knew I recognized him, but wasn't sure why. I figured out when I saw his name on the credit card. Today I had the honor of helping Ric Ocasek of The Cars.

I once listened to my Cars Greatest Hits tape for over six hours straight on a school bus trip in 7th grade. My friend was supposed to bring the tapes, and I was supposed to bring the walkman to share, but he forgot. The only tape I had was The Cars. Now I know every nuance of every song on that tape. I thought about sharing that anecdote with Mr. Ocasek, but I figured it wasn't exciting enough to share (funny, that's never stopped me before!). I am happy to report, he had on his Rock & Roll Hair.


Bon Voyage!

Amidst the chaos of getting my comic book ready for publication, we're going to visit my family in Georgia. We were supposed to go right after Xmas, but my brother busted up his foot snowboarding (he lives in Colorado), so we postponed it until this Friday.

I have to admit that I'm pretty confused with the submission process for getting distribution for my book, so I'm really glad to be meeting up with Chris Staros from Top Shelf Comics in Georgia. Even if they don't want to sub-distribute (saving me a lot of hassle), I'm sure he can point me in the right direction.

It seems that you are supposed to send out lots of review copies way before your book is supposed to come out. Plus, you are supposed to send a submissions package to Diamond (the big distributor in comics) many months before the book drops so that they can advertise and collect orders from retail shops before the publication date.

The catch-22 here is that you don't have any books printed yet, so how are you supposed to send them out for review?? I printed up some black & white mock-ups at Kinkos (well, actually Kinko's pissed me off, so I printed them at Staples), but they ended up costing me about $9 per book since they had to be trimmed & stapled! I didn't know it would cost that much until they'd already done it, unfortunately (would've done it myself). I'm going to use these mock-ups as a guide for the printer, to send to a few companies in hopes of getting sub-distribution (if Top Shelf isn't interested), and to send out to a couple of cartoonists that might give me some quotes for my press release.

I feel stressed about being away from this project for a week, but I suppose I can try to write my press release and do more research on what the hell I'm supposed to be doing. I'm reading Dan Poynter's Self Publishing Manual, which is helpful but geared to non-fiction writers rather than comics publishers.

We may be leaving our Chihuahua (Pony) with his grandma while we're gone. This tidbit of information was just a flimsy excuse to post an amazing photo of him. Enjoy!


New Logo courtesy of the great Michael Lassiter

My day was going pretty poorly. I had a major battle with Kinkos (Fed Ex-Kinko's, or whatever they're calling themselves today) this morning. I used to love Kinkos...the ones in Austin and Richmond were absolutely wonderful, and I even made some good friends there. The one in my neighborhood here in the East Village is hell on earth. They always mess up. Always.

Anyhow, I was pissed off at wasting several days worth of time with nothing to show for it when I came home to this little beauty. A logo designed by my buddy (see previous Shout-Out post) Michael Lassiter. He knocked this out in a weekend, and it's so perfect in every way.

It's eye catching, well designed, has bird-like elements without being literal and is somehow adorable. It's so much better than my butts n' boobs logo (it was supposed to be three Bs stacked up to make an ornamental birdcage, but it looks more...vulgar than intended). Thanks, Sassafras!!


Birdcage Bottom Books is Born!

Winning the Xeric self-publishing award has got me scrambling to get this book published. In order to get distribution, you've got to be thinking (at least) four months in advance! Diamond is the biggest distribution company in comics, but if you're a small fish like me, you've got to convince them that you're worth distributing. They prefer established publishing companies that put out books constantly, but hey, everyone's gotta start somewhere, right?

So, as part of the ruse to appear that I'm not just one harried individual I've created a publishing company...Birdcage Bottom Books ("The best pages for your cages!"). That also meant quickly putting together a logo & website. It's not the best work I've ever done, but it'll have to do for now.

In addition, I've been reading any self-publishing guides I can get my hands on (thanks so much, Tompkins Square Library). In my research, I came across a former Xeric grant winner, Lars Martinson, who was nice enough to put a series of posts dealing with his self-publishing experiences on his website. He ended up using Top Shelf comics, an established alternative comic publisher, to sub-distribute his book. The good side is that Top Shelf knows what they're doing and Lars gets risidual advertisement through them. The bad side is that they take an additional cut of the already paltry sum the self-publisher ends up making off of his books (should they sell).

Top Shelf happens to be based in Marietta, GA which is where I grew up. We're going to visit my family in about two weeks, so I've set up a meeting with Chris Staros at Top Shelf to see if he might sub-distribute my book as well. He warned me that they've already got too much on their plates for 2009, but I figure it can't hurt to try.

In other publishing news, Jeffrey Brown was nice enough to give me a flattering quote for the back cover of my book (he's a Top Shelf artist, too!). Kevin Huizenga gave me some good advice and Chris Ware wrote me an unexpected letter apologizing for his policy of no longer giving out quotes. Honestly, it was just a treat to get ANY correspondence from my all-time favorite cartoonist, and it was as charming and self-depricating as you might expect. Julia Wertz also responded kindly to my call for advice/criticism/quotes, and she let me know that the anthology she's editing should be out any day (I've got a piece in it...Adam Kidder, too). I'm still waiting to hear from several others.


Shout Out: Michael Lassiter

I'm not giving this next shout-out to Michael Lassiter for being one of the few people to actually read this blog (as evidenced by his frequent comment postings), but for his incredible talent for graphic design. Now, I certainly don't claim to be an expert on graphic design. In fact, it's definitely one of my weaker points in my own work. That said, I know what I like and I like Mike. His stuff is clean, succinct and all about functionality. He's not trying to wow you with fireworks, he's imparting the knowledge you need in a pleasing package.

I first met Lassiter in Austin, TX at an animal welfare protest of some sort (fur?). We clicked immediately. In fact, after we initially met until the time he moved away, we were rarely apart. Along with our third Muskateer, Paul Petersan, we could only assume others assumed we were a gay triage or something. Initially, we mostly hung out and played music together. It was only later that I discovered his penchant for design. Now I bug him whenever I need graphic design or typography advice.

He's won some awards & honors lately recognizing his talent, and I'm sure he'll win more. Check his work out. It doesn't disappoint.


Shout Out: Karen Yost

This may be just a little bit biased, but my next shout-out (really it should have been the first, but I didn't want to appear THAT biased!) goes out to the best artist in the world: Karen Yost (Anomaly Jewelry). We first met at an illustrator's conference, but she has since (wisely) turned her attention to making jewelry. I say "wisely" not because she wasn't exceptionally talented, but because trying to make a living from illustration is a pain in the ass.

I usually don't really notice jewelry unless it's either incredibly tacky or incredibly large. Anomaly Jewelry, however, is like tiny interesting sculpture. She mostly makes tiny intricately detailed sculptures in wax, and then has them cast in silver or gold. They're visually rich and often funny or clever while being simultaneously beautiful. That's hard to pull off!

Since we both feel the same way about blogs (disgusted), we decided that if we both have one for business purposes, then neither of us could think less of the other. So, with that inviting introduction, her Anomaly blog is here. She will be posting sales and new jewelry lines on it, so keep checking back in!


Shout Out: Adam Kidder

I've been intending on adding a links list to highlight some of my wonderfully talented buddies (& non-buddies) out there, but the sheer number makes the prospect somewhat intimidating. So, I think I'll just do individual shout-out posts every so often and add a link simultaneously.

The premier shout-out goes to Mr. Adam Kidder, illustrator & comic-drawer extraordinaire. Being the crotchety old man I now am I'm no longer excited about going to parties, but when I see Adam there I know I'll be sufficiently entertained. I am sad to say that I don't have too many art-friends close at hand anymore to talk shop with anymore, so I enjoy the chance to occasionally nerd out with him. As for his work, definitely check it out. I'm jealous of how animated his characters are (although it was suggested to me recently that the subject matter I gravitate toward in my own comics should be less animated) and of his ability to create non-cheesy caricatures of famous people.


Way Down In New Orleans

Aubrey Edwards, the curator of an art show to benefit children in New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina has told me that the exhibit is moving from Austin to The Pearl Gallery in New Orleans in February. If you live in Austin, this is the last week the show will be up at Super! Alright! Creative Studio.

My piece in the show was done for a children's book (A Frame For Cleo) that deals with the disaster in New Orleans in a positive way. It combines photographs taken by the afore mentioned Aubrey Edwards with illustrations done by a variety of people and text by Darcie Stevens.

The show started at Civilian Art Projects in Washington, D.C. Hopefully it's tour of duty will continue to other cities as well.


That Used Book Smell

I just came back from browsing at The Strand (a huge used bookstore here in Manhattan), and on the way home I suddenly had a flashback to the unadulterated feeling of absolute excitement of walking into the tiny used bookstore my mom took me to as a kid.

Then I started thinking that most little boys probably had that same feeling towards playing sports. Next, my brain reminded me of all those times my dad took me to football or baseball games. I would actually bring a book and read during the game! How mortifying for my poor old man. I mean, I loved every aspect of the experience except the game itself...I loved the Jumbotron, the organ music, the junk food, but I didn't give a goddam about those guys on the field knocking each other around. I'm sure I'll be paid back tenfold by my own (future) kids.