Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival: A smashing success

This photo pretty much sums it up.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table, and extra kudos to those who shelled out a few bucks to keep us in beans & rice. Thanks to my tablemate Victor Kerlow who was entertaining as always and didn't smell too bad this time. I think he had fun, but I'm sure he's anxious to get back to hanging out with his undercover cop friends.

I refrained from spending too much money (my kid can't eat comics, though lord knows I've tried), but I did buy a few books. I've been waiting to buy Tom Neely's "The Wolf" directly from him 'cause he always draws something amazing inside, but I was too busy chatting to remember to ask him to draw something in it! I also picked up Mike Dawson's "Troop 142". He & Alex Robinson entertain me through many an hour of inking with their podcast (The Ink Panthers Show), so I wanted to support him by buying his new book. Not to mention that I loved "Freddie & Me" (another of his books).

Besides that, I picked up a few minis here and there including Domitille Collardey's "What Had Happened Was II" and John Porcellino's newest "King Cat".

I am ALWAYS up for trading comics, but not too many people asked to this time. Maybe it's the recession's fault? A few people did, though. Sam Henderson gave me his "Free Ice Cream and Other Cartoons You Could Have Drawn", good ol' Josh Burggraf gave "Kid Space Heater", Maggie Prendergast gave "Over And (Over)" and "Old Men" (hope that wasn't a dig), Max Clotfelter gave "Andros #5", Hazel Newlevant gave "168 Hour Week" and "Evil Bus Driver" and of course Victor Kerlow gave me his newest "Something Big" which almost didn't get printed 'cause the printer "doesn't print pornography".

There were a bunch of folks I didn't get to talk to since I'm strangely averse to leaving my table (to the point where I usually get faint with hunger before running out to get food), but all in all a good time.


Thinger Dingers!

That fresh toner smell is in the air again here at Birdcage Bottom Books. We've learned enough from current global trends (Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, etc.) to know that we must offer SOMETHING to satiate the dissatisfied mob while they anxiously await our upcoming anthology "Tempeh & T-Bones: A Food Fight" due out in April 2012.

So, here we have "Thinger Dingers", a collection of comics by J.T. Yost (that's me) originally included in a variety of anthologies. Think of it as "Old Man Winter 2" but funny instead of depressing. Lord knows we've got enough to be depressed about these days.

At a trifling three dollars for 24 densely packed pages, it should definitely occupy you through at least one bowel movement. Well worth it, I should think.

Thinger Dingers will be officially released at the upcoming Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival on December 3rd. It's available for pre-order on our website right now!


Please help!

Althought I don't know Tom Hart personally, we've been corresponding as of the last few days regarding a comic anthology I'm putting together. Through his work and the few emails we've exchanged, I've gleaned that he's as warm and personable as he is talented. 

Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen) and Leela Corman (Queen’s Day) have experienced a terrible, devastating loss with the unexpected death of their young daughter, Rosalie Lightning. Vineylandcreator Lauren Weinstein has set up a memorial fund via PayPal to help Hart and Corman in their time of need. Please consider giving if you have the time and financial ability to do so. Weinstein also says that anyone seeking information on where to send condolences should email rosalielightningmemorial@gmail.com.

As the father of a girl almost the same age as Rosalie, I can only imagine what Tom and Leela are going through right now. Let's all give what we can so that they have one less thing to worry about. 



I have been cyber-reclusive lately for a reason: namely, our external hard-drive kicked the bucket followed closely by our entire computer. We weren't able to retrieve the data from either, so I've been scrambling to reassemble invoices, contacts, etc. from more analogue sources.

In addition, I'm working on two illustration/comic projects that I can't let out of the bag just yet. One of them is for an organization that helps sick children, and it is alternately uplifting and crushingly depressing.

Anyhow, just wanted to let you know that I am alive, should you care.


Very good news & very bad news

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I'll go with the good first since the bad is more important and requires some action from YOU...

The good news is that we (Birdcage Bottom Books) got a half-table at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival! It's a one day comics fest curated by Gabriel Fowler of Desert Island ComicsPicturebox (one of my all-time favorite comic shops), Dan Nadel of & Bill Kartalopolous. I've gone the two previous years as a customer, and it's been my favorite of the east coast conventions (never been to any on the west coast). They use the money that they charge for tables to fly in really great guests that don't often make it over to our side of the country (last year Lynda Barry, Renee French & Jordan Crane were there, among others). Then there's a slew of great local artists and really good panels.

Now, the bad news.
Dylan Williams, the man behind Sparkplug Comics has been diagnosed with cancer. Apparently this is his second time dealing with it. His medical bills are going to undoubtedly be substantial since the U.S. can't get it together and fix our crummy health insurance system. I can tell you from first hand experience that small press comic publishers do not make much (any?) money, so let's all do what we can and order comics from him.  Okay?


Paul Hoppe & Man-Belly Touching (no relation)

Little Lulu and I just got back from seeing Rabid Rabbit compadre Paul Hoppe read his new children's book ('The Woods') at Book Court in our old neighborhood. The reading fell right during Lulu's usual nap time, so I was impressed that she neither nodded off nor wailed during the event. She did scream 'MORE!!' a few times because I'd bought her a bagel with tofu-veggie spread that she enjoys smearing across her face in what I'm guessing is an anti-Al Jolsen performance piece. Anyhow, the book is great, so pick one up at a bookstore or buy it online or send your money to Paul by carrier pigeon.
In absolutely unrelated news, my longtime fellow employee/friend at Utrecht, Jen, threw a surprise party for her manfriend/my not-as-longtime fellow employee/friend Billy. She asked a bunch of us to paint something for him on a 5x5 wooden panel. I only had a couple of hours to paint mine, but I think it came out pretty well regardless. I'll leave it to you to deduce the meaning. I was impressed by the other panels. Who would've guessed that a bunch of artists would be working at an art supply store?!

I also got to break in my new cupcake carrier. I bought it in anticipation of bringing vegan cupcakes to Lulu's friend's birthday parties and such (let's just hope she has friends). It's basically a muffin pan with another tier that is covered with a snap on plastic cover with a handle. I got a few shout outs on the bus up to Harlem.


The Bitch is Back!

While living in the real world I occasionally neglect this sad little virtual world. Interrupting my pleasant dreams of sharing vegan milkshakes with Calvin Broadus, Jr. (you probably know him as "Snoop Dogg", but we've been dream-bros for almost a decade now, so he insists I call him by his given name), a nagging snuffling series of zeroes and ones overtakes my subconscious and hounds me relentlessly until I passively aggressively type a new entry into this here blog.

So, what's been keeping me so busy that I can't even be bothered to write or call? I'm glad you asked!

Here, I'll present it as a series of bullet points for maximum efficiency:

  • We moved! Yes, after only two years in Brooklyn, we've returned to Manhattan. We could no longer resist the siren call of my in-laws' offer of the bottom floor of their brownstone on the Upper West Side. My wife and I now both share a studio that is NOT part of our living room/kitchen, which is a first. The UWS is quite a different scene than our previous apartments in the Lower East Side or Brooklyn. You can't find a (vegan) meal for under $10 and the mean age is 65, but there are lots of parks and museums for our little one. The apartment wasn't finished being renovated for the first six weeks after we moved in, but now we're almost done unpacking and getting back to a semblance of normal life. 
  • I finished a new ten page comic for Nicole Georges (Invincible Summer). It's for an anthology she's putting out about bad roommates. I've been blessed with mostly amazing roommates, but there have been a few stinkers. This comic explores four of the worst offenders. 
  • Chainsaw Comics accepted my five page comic for an anthology with the theme of "fear". I originally drew this one for the Dapper Chap anthology (with a "horror" theme), but the founder volunteered at a primate sanctuary in South America (can't fault him that!) and I don't think it will ever come out.
  • My publishing company, Birdcage Bottom Books, was working on a project with a couple of fairly high-profile comic artists, but it seems to have fallen through. Now that my tears have dried, I'm thinking of putting together a split anthology. Half would be comics by vegan artists and half would be by carnivores or whatever the more accurate term for non-vegetarians might be (since true carnivores eat meat almost exclusively)...omnivores? I'm not sure if I want to impose a stricter theme beyond that of diet. I'm still in the brainstorming stage. Anyone out there interested in submitting or have any bright ideas?
  • I'm writing the final chapter of my Losers Weepers comic. I took a break after issue #3 to work on some shorter comics and in anticipation of moving to our new apartment.

Here's the first page of the bad roommate comic to pique your interest...


Moving is a Bitch

Long time, no post. Will return with a vengeance once we've fully moved into our new place!


Drawing for Brian Heater

Here's a little drawing I did in honor of Brian Heater's 30th birthday. In addition to co-piloting the excellent comics review site The Daily Cross Hatch, he organizes & facilitates discussions and panels at various indie-comic festivals. 

 Before he was sucked into the vortex of artist-wrangling you'd see him hob-nobbing with festival vendors & attendees at a leisurely pace. At the last MoCCA fest I only briefly glimpsed him once above ground (the panels are held downstairs) frantically searching for something or other. So, I've imagined him as a naked mole-rat making a brief foray above ground. 

I've included a photo of a mole rat just in case you're unfamiliar with them (P.S. This comparison is in no way intended to comment on Brian's physique or pallor!).


MoCCA 2011

For some reason I've had an allergic aversion to posting anything this month, so for the three of you out there who care (talkin' to you, mom!) here's, uh, something:

The MoCCA comic fest was MoCCA-y. Losts of great comic artists and comics all crammed in a huge military armory. Usually I get up and walk around quite a bit to holler at my brethren and pick up some new comics. This year, however, I didn't. I think it was mostly due to not having money to spend (baby often needs a new pair of shoes) and possibly because my table-mate Victor is endlessly entertaining.

I did do some trading, though. I'm still working through what I got at SPX last year, believe it or not. Oh well, I can't complain about having too many comics to read.

Here are some dueling portraits Victor and I did of each other. They look crappy because we were each wearing the other's glasses while drawing them. You can see what we look like unfiltered through incorrect ocular correctors in the accompanying photo (Jonathan Baylis on the left, Victor Kerlow in the middle, and me screwing up the hand-chain format on the right). 

Oh, and thanks to everyone who bought stuff. The Snoop shirts sold really well, and I sold completely out of the new issue of Losers Weepers! 


Ohhhhhhh Yeahhhhhhh!

Losers Weepers #3 is finished! The proof is in the pudding.

This little gem will be debuting at MoCCA this weekend (April 9 & 10), but we'll have them up on the Birdcage Bottom Books website for preorder in the next day or so.

Victor Kerlow & myself can be found at table B8 if you care to come give us terrorist fist-bumps and/or cold hard cash. 

Rabid Rabbit Art Opening at Bergen Street Comics

Rabid Rabbit is releasing a new anthology (in conjunction with C'est Bon) at MoCCA this weekend. As mentioned previously, I've got a piece in there (you can see my process step-by-step in this post). Bergen Street Comics is going to have a bunch, if not all, of the original comics displayed & for sale along with lots of the artists signing books and possibly reenacting early episodes of Degrassi Junior High on Friday, April 8th at 8 pm.

Here are the details.


It's on!

Okay, so international playboy Victor Kerlow and myself will once again be sharing a table at the MoCCA indie-comic fest this year. Hopefully we will NOT be sharing any communicable diseases this year (last time I accept an offer to "take a pull" from his Rockstar Pink energy drink for ladies).

Sadly, me and Sophia Wiedeman didn't get our application for SPX in in time to get a table. BUT my local neighborhood comic buddy Jonathan Baylis has been kind enough to offer to share his half-table with me. I'm not sure how I'll fit everything on 1/4 table, but I'm more than willing to go vertical.

I'm moving full-steam-ahead on the third issue of 'Losers Weepers'. Just finished inking the whole thing, and now I'm starting the tedious task of coloring and laying it out. Here's a peek at the cover (uplifting as always!!)...


Sticky Fingers on Cupcake Wars!

My buddy Doron Petersan who founded Sticky Fingers Bakery in D.C. will be competing on Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" tonight! We dirty vegans sometimes get tired of defending vegan desserts, so it's always nice when our peeps reap mainstream accolades (did I mention that Sticky Fingers is all vegan?). Sticky Fingers keeps winning all kinds of awards, and another vegan chef won a previous episode of Cupcake Wars, so I have no doubt Doron will bring home the gold.

Way back in the late '90s I designed Sticky Fingers' logo, the mischevious raccoon bandit. They've recently expanded into a restaurant and rebranded themselves as "Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats". Sadly (for me), the old logo didn't fit the new streamlined look, but it had a good decade-plus run so I can't complain. Anyway, be sure to tune in and send good mojo Doron's way!

UPDATE: Doron won the $10,000 and the chance serve 1,000 vegan cupcakes at the IceHouse Comedy Club's 50th anniversary party. I believe this kind of exposure is invaluable as "vegan outreach" in that people with no experience with vegan food may realize that it's not all about sacrifice and asceticism once they taste well made food.

As a bonus (to us, anyway), Doron was wearing a piece of my wife's jewelry (Anomaly Jewelry) and they briefly flashed my old logo!


New reviews

Here are those reviews I mentioned:

  • Short n' sweet reviews of Losers Weepers #1 & #2, Tales of Good Ol' Snoop Doggy Dogg, It's Dream Time, Snoop Doggy Dogg! and Old Man Winter & Other Sordid Tales by Randy Spaghetti right here.
  • Review of Snakepit 2009 by Randy Spaghetti here.
  • Nick Rennis & Eric Murphy's review of Losers Weepers #1 & #2 on Indie Street Radio here.
  • Jonathan Westhoff's review of Tales of Good Ol' Snoop Doggy Dogg on Osmosis Online here.


How it's made, comics edition

I was going to post two more reviews of our comics, but I just couldn't overcome the guilt of my recent persistent promises to post some more interesting fare. So, just to shut y'all up, here's a peek into my process of creating comics (a caveat: this may actually be terribly UN-interesting to some). I love seeing how different artists arrive at their final products, so here's my addition to the oeuvre...


I figured I'd pick a short comic for this, and they don't get any shorter than one page. The upcoming Rabid Rabbit anthology asked me for a one-pager that must also adhere to a few conceptual rules. It's going to be a square book, and the theme is "Square One". The first panel of every artist's comic must be based on a sketch they provided of a human (that's probably open to interpretation) about to open a door. We were to use the basic composition in the sketch provided. The title of our comic should also reflect the overall concept.

Telling an interesting story in one page is a challenge, especially when it can only measure 8" x 8" total. I decided to cram as many panels as I could onto my page. I started brain storming by reflecting on the concept's title: Square One. By changing the word "One" to the similar sounding "Won" a kernel of an idea began to take form. I decided to draw a series of short strips in which a square shape of some sort "won" against some other shape. At the end of each strip, the square would be declared the winner.

The idea of there being a winner led me to think of sports or video games. Since I loathe sports, I obviously drifted toward video games. The last video game I played involved actually putting a quarter in a slot at some dingy arcade in the '80s, so I decided to give it an old-school 8 bit feel.
I thought I'd set up each strip with a representation of the two shapes doing battle along with the words "Square vs. _____". Each strip would then end with a celebratory "Square Won!".


Originally I was going to do four strips of four panels each. This would leave me with only two panels to tell each story since the first and last panels were spoken for. You can see my early attempts at this format at the top of this first thumbnail sketch page. The second strip down would have actually been the first since we had to use that figure about to open the door at the beginning of our comics. So, you can see I was going to have a robot (square head) crush the doorknob (circle). I wanted to lend more visual interest by having the shapes in the first panels line up compositionally in exactly the same place in the second panels.

I was still working on the concept at this point, and I thought I'd have a man vs. nature, man vs. technology, man vs. religion, etc. theme run throughout. For instance, the first strip shows a tree standing next to a house (nature vs. man). A lightning bolt takes out the tree (rectangle) and the house (square) is left standing. The third strip was to show a Bible sitting on a table across from a television. A guy plops down on his chair and turns on the t.v., setting his coffee mug on The Bible. Yes, a scathing social satire, I know.

Two panels seemed to be too short to tell a story, so I shrunk my panels and expanded to five strips of five panels each. You can see this in the three strips at the bottom of my sketch pad. I tweaked the afore mentioned religion based strip by changing The Bible into a home workout DVD (and the coffee mug to a beer bottle). The remaining strip is on another page of the sketchbook, but I'm too lazy to scan it in.

Oh, I was worried about the rule of starting our comic with that figure opening a door in the first panel. That's why you see the shape intro panel as the SECOND panel instead of the first in the bottom three strips. Then I decided that it looked and read strangely that way, and that a title/set-up panel doesn't really count as a REAL panel.


Next I drew out my fifteen panels on a piece of gridded tracing paper. I don't usually draw my panel borders using a ruler and pen (I use a brush), but I thought a more technical look would suit the video game concept. I decided to use the computer to create the first and last panels, so I left them largely blank in the sketches.


I then scanned my sketch into the computer and created the first and last panels. I'm sure it would have been easier to use InDesign or Illustrator or something like that, but I'm not proficient at either, so I stuck with Photoshop. I found some really great free 8 bit video game style fonts at a website called Miffies after some searching on the good ol' internet.

To further clarify that these are five separate stories, I dropped in alternating black and white bars of color.


As you can see, I converted the sketches to a light cyan color. This is because I've discovered (via other cartoonists) a way to cut out my least favorite step in creating comics: tracing sketches onto bristol using a non-photo blue pencil and a light-box. By converting your sketch to blue on the computer, you can just print it out onto bristol and ink right on top of it!

It's easy to do. Just scan in your sketch (greyscale, 300 dpi or higher). Adjust the 'threshold' (on Photoshop: image>adjustments>threshold) until your sketch is converted into pure black and white. You may have to fiddle with the numerical setting to not lose detail depending on how dark your sketch is. I generally set it to between 150 and 175. Next, change it into a duotone (image>mode>duotone). You only want to use one color, so select 'monotone'. Click on whatever color shows up in that first option and change the CYMK levels to: C = 25, Y = 0, M = 0, K = 0. You can make the cyan lighter (lower numerical value) or darker (higher value) according to your preference. The darker it is, the more likely it will show up when you scan your final inked drawing. This will require more fiddling in Photoshop to eliminate it. However, if you print your cyan too light it is hard to see while inking.

My local print shop (Minuteman Press) can print on bristol up to 13" x 17", so I brought in a piece of my 14" x 17" paper and they lopped an inch off one side. Actually, I don't use bristol...I use Borden & Riley 'Paper for Pens', but whatever. Since my printer at home only prints 8.5" x 14", I blew my sketch up to about 12" square and emailed it to Minuteman Press.


My favorite part is the inking. I try to avoid rulers and technical pens (never used a rapidograph) whenever possible. I wish I loved them like Chris Ware obviously does, but I just don't. I generally do everything I can get away with using a single brush (#2 or sometimes #0 sizes). Small details and cross-hatching are done with Pigma Micron pens, which are just disposable cheap-0 versions of Rapidographs. Since this comic was going to be reproduced in such a tiny format, I decided to keep it clean and not do any cross-hatching.

In case you care, I use Speedball Super-Pigmented Acrylic Ink or Higgins Super Black ink. Not sayin' these are the best, they're just what I use!


I usually scan larger inked drawings in parts since my scanner can only scan 8.5" x 11" paper. I then stitch them together, adjust the threshold and drop in the color. Since I was pressed for time, I decided to cough up $2 and have Minuteman Press scan it in one go on their large-format scanner.

Since you loose resolution and quality with each scan, I cropped out the inked drawing part of the scan and dropped it behind the opening/closing panels I'd set up on the computer. Lastly, I added the color (we were limited to just 40% grey) using my Wacom tablet and Photoshop.

And there you have it, folks!

I'd love to hear any suggestions, feedback, etc. I'm always interested in how others go about making their comics, so holler back!


Reviews on Roctober Magazine blog

So, before I start posting the afore-promised interesting stuff, here are a slew of reviews by Jacob Austen on the always excellent Roctober Magazine blog:

Read the review of Old Man Winter and the first two issues of Losers Weepers here.

Read the review of It's Dream Time, Snoop Doggy Dogg! here.

Read the review of Snakepit 2009 here.

Read the review of Supertalk #1 here.


Review on Optical Sloth

I know it's getting boring just reading comic reviews (if anyone's still reading, that is), so I PROMISE to start posting other more interesting things in the near future. For now I'm rushing to get a comic done for the next issue of the Rabid Rabbit anthology and to finish the third chapter of 'Losers Weepers' in time for MoCCA Fest in April.

That said, please enjoy Kevin Bramer's short review of 'It's Dream Time, Snoop Doggy Dogg!' on Optical Sloth (read it here).

Here's a photo of my little lady reenacting a scene from E.T. since Optical Sloth doesn't seem to have a logo to post.


Review on Optical Sloth

Kevin Bramer continues to dish out reviews of Birdcage Bottom Books comics over at Optical Sloth. This one is for Losers Weepers #1...read it here!

Reviews on Syndicated Zine Reviews blog

Another couple of short reviews by Dan Murphy over on Syndicated Zine Reviews. Read the review of Losers Weepers #1 here and the review of It's Dream Time, Snoop Doggy Dogg here.


Review on BookLoons

Short n' sweet li'l review of Losers Weepers #1 by Ricki Marking-Camuto on the BookLoons blog. Thanks, Ricki!


Review on Optical Sloth

Nice little review of 'Tales of Good Ol' Snoop Doggy Dogg" by Kevin Bramer on Optical Sloth. Thanks, Kevin!


I'm on Top Shelf 2.0!!!

I consider it a badge of honor/feather in my cap to be chosen to be featured on the Top Shelf 2.0 website. If you are unfamiliar (tsk tsk), they throw up new comics by, uh, top shelf comic artists every few days for your reading/viewing enjoyment. These are stories in their entirety rather than just previews. Sometimes they'll split the comic into sections, as they've done with mine. You can see the first installment from "It's Dream Time, Snoop Doggy Dogg!" by clicking here. Since the homepage is constantly updated with new comics, I've provided a link to my bio page. Just scroll to the bottom and click on the icon for the comic.

If you like what you see, won't you please help a guy out and buy the actual print comic at www.BirdcageBottomBooks.com? It's only five bucks, for chrissakes! You can show it to your grandkids and tell them that you used to have to turn pages before webcomics took over the world.


Reviews on Syndicated Zine Reviews blog

Dan Murphy of Syndicated Zine Reviews was kind enough to ring in the new year with two Birdcage Bottom Book reviews. Read his review of 'Tales of Good Ol' Snoop Doggy Dogg' here and 'Old Man Winter & Other Sordid Tales' here.


Van Heusen

This has nothing to do with comics and everything to do with pure unadulterated awesomeness.

I went to see my old pals (really, they're old - pushing 40!) Van Heusen, the best Van Halen tribute band I've had the honor to witness. Half of them live in Virginia and half here in NYC, so they don't play too often anymore. In fact, I think the last time they played a show was at my wedding in 2007.

Much like the real Diamond Dave (fun fact: Dave Pollack, the dude who is David Lee Roth in Van Heusen owns a bar named 'The Diamond'), Pollack had a bit of trouble landing some of his leaps-into-splits from the top of amps these days. I saw David Lee Roth play in 2001, and they killed the lights just after he'd land a split, presumably so stage hands could drag him backstage and rub him down with Ben Gay. Anyhow, back to Van Heusen: A mid-air wardrobe malfunction, however, gave the ladies what they wanted. By the end of the show, Caselli/Eddie Van Halen wasn't the only one shredding. The afore-mentioned ladies (and a few gents) made mince-meat of Dave's net shirt.

But what of the music? It was as close to prime-era Van Halen ('78 - '84) as you can get today. I did a lot of ironic dad-type dancing, which I now realize is no longer ironic since I am actually a dad. My legs were sore the next day.