Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 in Review

This time of year always breeds best-of lists, worst-of lists, and random reflections. I'm not enough of an expert on any one thing to write such a list with any real authority, but random reflections are something I think I can handle.

So, in no particular order, here are 12 things that I thought were terrific in 2012. Some are personal, some are news, and some are just nifty. If you don't think so, make your own damn list!

1: The Curiosity Rover Landing on Mars
What a nail-biter! Watching the live stream of the scientists involved in this Mars mission during its final descent made me glad to be a human being living during the 21st century.

2: Safety Not Guaranteed 
Don't tell me you haven't seen this gem of a time travel movie! It's quirky in the best way possible, funny, and romantic. A great mix, and one of the best films of 2012 in my opinion.

3: The Taming of Vera Cat
This time last year new kitten Vera was a scared and scrawny kitten. Now? Rather the opposite. 

4: Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes and Exile on the Planet of the Apes Released as Trades
I'm really proud of the work Gabriel and I did on these books and I'm thrilled that we were able to partner with Marc Laming for Exile. BOOM! did a beautiful job turning the issues into books, too.

5: New Tattoo
Okay, so a couple of the things that made this list are a bit self-serving. Still, I'm really happy with this.

6: The Higgs (Almost) Announcement
How amazing is this? Humanity's understanding of the universe took a giant leap forward because of a huge, incredibly accurate machine and the work of scientists from all over the world. 

7: Good News for Tigers
Tiger numbers increased in key parts of Thailand, India, and Russia thanks to anti-poaching enforcement, new protected areas, and stronger governmental involvement. A step in the right direction!

8: My 14th Anniversary
Not to mention 20th as a couple! I'm lucky enough to both live and work with my partner. Not a bad setup by any stretch. 

9: Volunteering and Joining the Board at Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats
After our success with Vera I wanted to help other abandoned cats. Happily, I found Kitty Bungalow. When they asked me to join the board I was immensely honored. I can't wait to see KB grow in 2013!

10: Station to Station Premiering in Dark Horse Presents
This is a story that Gabriel and I had wanted to do for years now. We're thrilled that it's found a home!

11: Two Tiny Trips to Palm Springs
Sadly, we didn't get to do much traveling this year (except to cons) but we did make it to Palms Springs  twice for a day or two. Highlights: a crazy ariel tram, mid-century architecture, and a dog in sunglasses. 

12: Ten Billion Earths
Or thereabouts. That's how many earth-like worlds might exist in our galaxy, based on current theories. Can finding some sign that we're not alone be far behind? I can't think of anything more exciting. 

And now... Onward to 2013! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kitten of the Week - Batgirl

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How can it be that Batgirl is the last of her siblings to be adopted? Perhaps it's because her 3/4 mask makes her blend into the background. That's handy when you're hunting bright pink catnip birds but not so good when you're looking for a home.

Batgirl is also still a bit shy, but she warms up quickly once she learns that you're not an evildoer. And who can blame her? Life is hard for a kitten on the streets, even when that kitten is also a superhero. Luckily she's now safe at Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats, learning good manners and how how to be a bit more outgoing. She'll be ready for a new home January 2nd.

Happy New Year, Batgirl!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Station to Station Premiers!

I'm always happy when a new issue of Dark Horse Presents hits the stands but this month I'm thrilled. If you guessed that's because issue #19 includes a story by Caitlin R. Kiernan and Steve Lieber, you'd be half right. As to the other half, well...

STATION TO STATION, written by Gabriel and me and drawn by Gabriel, debuts tomorrow. It's set in San Francisco, it's full of monsters and destruction, and I can't wait for you to see it. This month's issue will present the first 1/3 of the story which will continue through January and February. You can see a preview here. I hope you'll check it out!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Exile on the Planet of the Apes Trade - Less than a Month Away

We're well into November, not even two weeks away from Thanksgiving... And less than a month from the release of the trade of EXILE ON THE PLANET OF THE APES, due in stores the first week of December from BOOM!

Written by Gabriel Hardman and myself, with gorgeous art by Marc Laming, EXILE is a story that I'm really proud of. I'm also incredibly excited to see it in book form!

Want to check it out? You can pre-order it on Amazon right now for $9.97, which is more than $5 off the cover price.

Also, many thanks to everyone who picked it up in its previous incarnation. You all deserve a big chimpanzee style pant-hoot!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Is it Too Late to Say Happy Halloween?

Vera seemed to enjoy her first costume
Hard to believe that Halloween was almost a week ago and that we're well into November now. Especially since it's after dark and we still have the air on. Today was hot, no joke. Fall weather? Not in LA.

Anyway, happy late Halloween to everyone! Vera Kitten is more properly Vera Cat now since she turned one in September, but this was her first Halloween with us so of course she got her first costume. Much to our surprise she seemed to take it in stride.

Camila got to dress up too. She was a skunk this year, but wasn't quite as happy about it as Vera was about hers. She did enjoy the big pumpkin-shaped cookie we got her from Three Dog Bakery though.
Camila seemed less than pleased with her costume...

but no less than in years past.
After the annual shaming of the pets we took the night off from work and went to Border Grill where we were served by a guy dressed as a bear-Jedi. Or maybe a Jedi-bear. It was hard to tell which, and I was too shy to ask. After that it was off to the LA Phil where they were playing The Cat and the Canary with live organ accompaniment. I had never seen the picture (kind of a goofy horror/comedy silent from 1927) or been to the venue, so it was time well spent. When we told the Jedi-bear where we were going he was quite jealous.

Sadly, now it's time to take the skeletons down from our trees and turn our thoughts to other things. For instance, what to dress Vera as next year!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Many Faces of Fizgig

Tyler Crook

Just realized that I forgot to include the sketches I got in that last post about NYCC. My sketchbook is all Fizgig (of The Dark Crystal fame) all the time.

Major thanks to everyone who's drawn the little fur ball for me. I couldn't be more thrilled with how these turned out!

If anyone needs a writer for a Fizgig comic, look no farther...

Declan Shalvey
Kevin Mellon

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kitten of the Week: Macaulley!

A lot of folks know by now that I volunteer at Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats. At the Bungalow we take scared, unsocialized kittens and teach them that humans are a-okay. In practice this means that feral kitties, taken off the mean streets, are introduced to the charms of being lap cats. And boy does that lesson take! It's nothing short of a miracle to see these kids transform from hissy balls of fluff into sleek purr monsters. But that's not the end of the story. Each kitten needs a loving home to graduate into so they can continue to practice what they've learned and make room for new underclassmen. With that in mind, I thought I might show off some of our students:

Macaulley here is a perfect example, and so he's my inaugural KITTEN OF THE WEEK.

Ready for action...
Too much playing makes for a tired kitten! 
Born into a feral colony, Macaulley somehow contracted a nasty stomach bug. Tiny kittens are fragile beasts, but the Bungalow was ready. After several tests the right antibiotic was found and Macaulley was soon on the mend. In the meantime he decided that he adores people, and now he's ready for a home of his own. As an added bonus, he promises to dispatch any flies or moths that are rude enough to invade your space. Already got a cat? Macaulley doesn't mind. As long as there are enough pats to go around, he's happy to share your lap. Know someone in Los Angeles who might like to meet Macaulley? Just tell them to shoot an email to to set up an appointment. Want to help him out with a scholarship? You can do that too. Just $10 makes a big difference to someone this small.

I now return this blog to its regularly scheduled routine of comic book news and weird factoids. Thanks for indulging my soon-to-be-weekly round of kitten news too!

Friday, October 19, 2012

New York Comic Con - We Survived!

One of Gabriel's Con Commissions
And... We're back! NYCC was a whirlwind, as always. The crowds were possibly even more insane than last year, but this time Artist Alley was in a sort of backwater pod area away from the main floor. That turned out to be okay because there was (gasp!) actual natural light. The traffic flow was better too, since we didn't have to fight for air and space with the major booths. The only downside was that the crowds were so crazy that I didn't make it to the main floor at any point during the entire show. New Doctor Who figures? None for me this year.

The fact that the crowds were a little easier to handle in Artist Alley was a big advantage though, since it meant that the folks who made it to our neck of the woods had the space to hang out and chat for a bit. I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hi, purchase books and art, and say encouraging things about our work. That goes double for the podcasters who made the trek all the way from the complete opposite side of the con, often carrying equipment. You guys rock!

Me, Gabriel Hardman, and Yildiray Cinar
Speaking of podcasts, we had a lot of fun at the the iFanboy party Friday night. It still amazes me that it's held in a basement bar in Alphabet City. When I lived in NYC way back that neighborhood was rather... less posh.

The weather in New York was amazing too, perfect for walking and shopping for books. It turned out that the High Line ran almost all the way from the Convention Center to our hotel, and we took full advantage of the crisp fall air. I love the idea: an old elevated rail path upcycled into a lovely park that runs for blocks and blocks. It's like some idealized vision of a future city brought to life.

On Thursday we visited The Strand, finally. Wow, what a book store. Pro tip: they ship! Just $4.99 for the first book and $0.99 for each book after that. Way, way cheaper than packing back a bunch of heavy art tomes in the luggage. We also made it to The Village Vanguard to see the Bill Charlap Trio so I can now say that yes, that place fairly reeks of history. I can't believe we'd never caught a show there before since it's well worth the trip downtown.

Of course I'm paying for it all now with an epic case of con crud, but it was worth it. Now to catch up on all those deadlines before the next con season begins!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Apes News - Party at Meltdown Comics!

Summer may seem like it's over but it's still hot in Los Angles. What better time to celebrate Planet of the Apes?

Tomorrow night, Wednesday September 5th, Gabriel and I will be at Meltdown on Sunset Blvd with a bunch of the BOOM! crew as we launch our new Planet of the Apes series. There will be free snacks and drinks, even booze! Oh, and the best part: Meltdown is full of comics!

Apes! 7-9 pm! Tomorrow! 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm! This Week!

September is finally here, and with it comes the launch of our brand new Apes ongoing series! The first arc is called CATACLYSM, so you know we start things off with a bang. Not sure what you might be getting yourself into? You can check out a longish preview here.

Gabriel and I are handling the writing again, with art by Damian Couceiro and colors by Darrin Moore. Ape society will never be the same again!

Find it at your local comic book shop this Wednesday, September 5th.

And to everyone who has pre-ordered, thank you!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

National Dog Day

Today is National Dog Day. It's hard to tell around here since Camila makes sure pretty much every day is a dog day.

Camila is a rescue dog (you can read more about her story here) so you know that we are devoted to mutts.

Not as devoted as some folks though. Claudia, for instance, does more for the dogs of SoCal in a day than most people do in a year. She's especially keen for dogs that need extra help, like senior chihuahuas (remeber Pocita, who bummed a ride with us to San Francisco a couple of months back?) and pit bulls. Rescuing dogs like these takes hard work and can get expensive. But fear not, there's a way to help!

Claudia just opened The Rescue Shop and started selling super cute shirts. I ordered one right away and it arrived lightning quick. The shirts are good quality, fit great, and, best of all, $5 from each one sold goes to helping dogs like Pocita and Camila. Celebrate National Dog Day in style!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What to do in Vegas if You're a Vegetarian Tiki Bar Loving Music Afficianado

I'm convinced this is an angry squid and a Tiki mug
There's really only one thing that gets us to drive for hours through the desert when the temperature is over 110 degrees, and that's the lure of seeing live music. We usually only have about 16 hours to spend in Las Vegas when we do, so we've learned to make it count. On the off chance that you might like  the same things that we like, here are some suggestions for a whirlwind trip that includes very little gambling:

Vegetarian Food
Hot tip! The Wynn  has secret menus at every single one of its restaurants. Actually, they have two! One is vegan, the other vegetarian. And, believe it or not, the food is good. If you order a veggie burger they even give you a chocolate almond milk shake with it for free. All you have to do is ask.

Tiki Bars
Good Tiki bars are hard to find. The last time we were in San Francisco we went to one that was so bad we left before even getting drinks. Imagine our surprise when we found Frankie's Tiki Room just a little ways off the Strip in Vegas. It's a new place, but it's perfect. The lights are low, there's goofy stuff in every corner, the drinks come in ridiculous mugs, and the bartender (and even bouncer) are friendly. We left with two fabulous mugs to add to our collection and a conviction to return to buy more. 

Good Coffee
Every single Starbucks I've been to in Las Vegas has been over priced and bland to bad. Coffee joints inside casinos cater to tourists so they don't have to be good enough to attract repeat customers. Not so with The Beat on Freemont Street. They make great coffee (espresso drinks included) and terrific breakfasts. Plus, they sell record albums and zines. It's a bit of a local hangout, something that most people don't see too much of in Vegas. It's also independent, so spending money there actually helps the local economy. 

So there you have it, three important things for any whirlwind vacation, at least in our book. Now, if we could just find a great Tiki bar in Seattle...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Black Cat Appreciation Day

Today is the day we celebrate miniature panthers. Why do black cats need their own special Appreciation Day when grey, orange, and tabby cats don't get one?

It's because black cats are often overlooked and even vilified. It's not uncommon for them to be the last kittens left when their litter mates have all been adopted. Some of this is because, being black, they tend to disappear into the background. They're notoriously hard to photograph in a shelter setting, and they don't have the facial markings that animate their tuxedo-marked friends.

None of which means that their personalities are any less varied than that of other cats, or that they make worse pets. But, unfortunately, there's still a strong undercurrent of superstition in the United States that makes some people afraid of black felines.

Even folks who don't actively admit to fearing bad luck from a black cat crossing their path sometimes hold back from adopting them. It's an odd idea, born of the middle ages, that associates color with virtue. White is considered pure, so the opposite must be... Yeah, stupid when phrased like that, but still pervasive in the culture.

In our house we have a tradition of keeping black cats around. Gabriel already had Lucy (a quirky, loving, male kitty) when I moved in with him, and several years later we found Fredo living off pizza crusts in an abandoned apartment. Turned out that the girl who originally had him moved and left him behind despite naming him "Hero". We took him in and changed his name, making him our very first rescue. He lived with us for 17 years.

After Fredo passed away last fall the house seemed like it lacked something. And so we got Vera in December, a kitten who had been dumped in a parking lot and was living off Christmas cookies (see a pattern?). We think she may have literally been dumped since she is missing a tooth-shaped piece from her tongue and has a notch in her nose as if it was broken from landing on her face. Fortunately none of this ruins her good looks and she's happy and healthy now.

Whenever someone asks "what's the harm in having a couple of little superstitions?" I always think of black cats. Superstitions and lazy thinking can do active harm when they make it culturally okay to mistreat or dismiss individuals based on superficial identifying characteristics. And if it seems like this is applicable to more than just cats, you're right.

Superstitions can be insidious. No one is free of them. But I can assure you that black cats are not bad luck. If they are, I'm pretty screwed. Because this is my latest tattoo.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes - The Trade

It's been out for a week already, but it's still exciting news to me: our BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES miniseries is finally a trade paperback!

All four issues, plus cover art, an intro by Ed Brubaker, and cool extras  bound up in one stylish package. You can find it at your local comic book shop or you can order it from Amazon. Want to see what others have to say about it? You can check that out on Goodreads. Need even more Apes action? Our latest miniseries, EXILE ON THE PLANET OF THE APES is available for pre-order on Amazon now too.

Can't stand to handle print books now that the digital revolution is here? Our Apes work is still all paper, but you can buy our horror graphic novel, HEATHENTOWN, from Comixology for just $3.99.  

And let me say a big thank you to everyone who has read our work so far! These books are labors of love for Gabriel and me. We're thrilled that so many folks have enjoyed them! Thanks everyone!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mid-Week Mid-Century

Reading poolside.
Folks who have been to our house know that Gabriel and I favor a kind of atomic ranch aesthetic. We believe that there are plenty of reasons to be glad that this is 2012 and not 1952, but the distinct absence of boomerang bars from most living spaces is not one of them. And that's why I need to tell you about the Orbit In in Palm Springs.

Front entrance
Palm Springs is a really odd place. It's a tiny desert town way out past the giant windfarms that stand sentinel along the 10 more than an hour east of Los Angeles. The temperatures are extreme (108 degrees fahrenheit on one of the days we were there) and terrain is practically Martian. Yet somehow this has always been a get-away spot for Angelenos with an eccentric streak. Apparently this was particularly true during the middle part of last century, when the Orbit In (then called  "The Village Manor") was built by Herb Burns in 1947. It was later photographed by the famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman, so a nice record remains of what the original property looks like. It isn't really much different now, what with the original tiles in the bathrooms and the vintage furnishings in the guest rooms.

Albert Einstein in Palm Springs, 1932
Visiting from Los Angeles, it's strange to see so much history in one place. Most of Palm Springs seems to be a time capsule. There are entire neighborhoods filled with restored mid-century modern homes. Vintage shops line the main street, nestled between bookshops and tourist traps. The neighborhood surrounding the Orbit In is known as the Tennis Club and once played host to Albert Einstein, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, and even Winston Churchill, according to the Orbit In's website. And the thing is, you don't have to look hard to see it. The buildings have either never been altered or have been restored to their former glory.   Not a bad place to spend a couple of days in the middle of summer if you don't mind the heat.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vancouver! This Weekend!

It kind of snuck up on me, but Gabriel and I are leaving tomorrow for Vancouver where we'll be attending the Vancouver Comic Con on Sunday, July 8th. I love any excuse to visit Canada so I'm looking forward to spending the weekend there (despite the fact that we have to get up at 3am tomorrow. Gasp!) This is a great little show full of wonderful people so if you're in town, drop by! You don't even have to pay to get in. Bring along a gently used graphic novel and your admission is free. All donated books are being donated to classrooms. How cool is that?

Gabriel will be doing sketches (you can see his price list here) and we'll be selling books. Hope to see you there!

DISCLAIMER: If you do attend, I can't promise I won't talk a lot about banana slugs. Man, those things are crazy! Couldn't get over seeing one in the wild last year. Comics in the class room and banana slugs. Why can't I be Canadian?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Operation Senior Dog Transport

Pocita's a little nervous at first
Los Angeles can be a hard place to be a homeless senior dog.  Shelters here are crowded and there are tons of lap-sized dogs available. So what's a dog to do if she finds herself without a place to call her own?

If she's lucky, she gets noticed by someone like my Facebook friend Claudia. I've "known" Claudia since a mutual friend "introduced" us a couple of years ago when we were looking for help with an abused dog that Gabriel had found near our house. But I hadn't ever met her in person until this Friday. She's a very dedicated animal rescuer, and I'm so happy that we were finally able to help one of her charges. Two years is a long time to owe someone a favor!

Earlier in the week I saw Pocita's photo on her wall, and that she needed a ride to Muttsville, a senior dog rescue in San Francisco. Coincidently, Gabriel and I were heading that direction to do some research for a comic book project we're working on. What luck! A couple of messages back and forth, and we were ready to take on our small passenger.

Starting to get interested in the trip
She was a bit worried at first. She'd lost her person to cancer and ended up as a foster at the age of 8 or 9. And here she was getting in a car with a couple of strangers after already traveling all the way from Long Beach to Los Angeles with Claudia! No wonder she was too nervous to eat breakfast.

She was too well mannered to whine or complain though, and after we'd been on the road for a little while she decided that my lap wasn't too terrible of a place to sit.

Life looks better with cheese
Then, after I bribed her with a tiny piece of cheese , she decided that maybe things would be okay after all and started to relax.

More cheese?

We stopped a lot more than we usually do on the LA to San Francisco run. Six hours in the car is a long time for anyone, let alone an elderly pup, but we still made it to the city in time to stop by the amazing Isotope Comics and meet James Sime, who sold us some very nice books and recommended that we visit Blue Bottle Coffee which did indeed have fabulous coffee. Many thanks to James for making us feel so welcome!

Either Pocita is very short or Gabriel is very tall

Before we got to Isotope we met up with Pocita's new foster, who couldn't have been nicer. Convinced that she was in good hands, we were free to travel the city and get the reference we needed for our new project. Happily, Ron Richards of iFanboy was nice enough to meet up with us and give us some tips. Without him we would have never been able to get everything we needed in just one afternoon. We also would never have found the bar we ended up at afterwards. Specs is in an alley right across from City Lights Books. Who knew? It's quite a fun place. I have to believe that only in San Francisco would Gabriel have been able to have a conversation about Tombo pens with a guy at the next table in a pub.

Sadly, we had to head home after just 24 hours. The trip back was a lot less fun without our co-pilot, but I have high hopes that she will get a permanent home soon. And now, back to making comics!

Pocita's first look at San Francisco

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