Monday, August 28, 2006

Gettin' School'd

I've been to some cool parties over the past few weeks, and have been meaning to blog about them. Here's the first, and one of the coolest: The Birthday Party of the lovely and talented Vicki Davis, which took place the last Friday of July in Hollywood. The theme was "Back 2 Skool" so we were all to come dressed in prep school outfits - no exceptions. If you didn't come dressed appropriately, you didn't get in.

I arrived with Cornacchia and Luiggi Debiasse, and after making our way through the balloon archway leading into the backyard, we found ourselved in the "yearbook photo" area where our pictures were taken, to be later used in a video presentation memorializing the event. School spirit banners and posters adorned the walls, with candy and 80's themed wrist-wear covering the tables. Mini corndogs and grilled cheese triangles were the Hors d'Oeuvres and cafeteria food was the main course - hot dogs and pizza, of course.

After some fevered dancing on the basketball court to the 80's rock-stylings of Depeche Mode, Prince, Simple Minds, etc., we were all cleared to the bleachers where we sat and watched hula-hoop-sporting strippers. This was pretty spectacular enough, but when they lit their hula-hoops on fire and continued their steamy gyrations, minds were blown.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto is Dead

Poor Pluto.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Back to School

This past Wednesday I attended the first of 8 classes in Stephen Silver's Character Design class. It takes place from 7 - 10pm once a week, and Stephen teaches it in a small studio next to his house. He likes to be able to be very one-on-one with his students, so keeps the classes maxed out at 6 students, which is awesome, as we get so much personal attention.

Stephen's animation work has been an inspiration for me for a while now. His character designs have always blown me away so I jumped at the chance to get in his class when I found out about it. You've probably seen his stuff in the Clerks Animated Series or his work for Disney and Nickelodeon with Kim Possible and Danny Phantom, both of which he's the lead Character Designer for. He's got a couple of books out, too, which are always around in comic shops. He's great at caricatures and, well, pretty great at everything - he can go from cartoony to naturalistic, and is incredible at both.

This first class was pretty much just an introduction to what we'll be doing throughout the rest of the semester. He gave us an overview on his philosophy of what makes great character design, talked about how he goes about keeping up his skills and showed us a lot of the stuff he's worked on and the stuff that inspires him (Frazetta, Rockwell, Struzan). He also gave us homework, which I haven't had in a while. It's a lot of work, but it should be fun.

Between Stephen's instruction and the sheer amount of drawing we'll be doing in this class, my artwork should improve tremendously. Can't wait to see how it affects 60 and my (still) upcoming webcomic.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Con III : Partners in Awesome

Wrapping up my adventures at the San Diego Comic Con with John.

So on Sunday morning, John and I checked out of the hotel, then stopped at Denny's for some food, as there just wasn’t a lot of breakfast places around there. I haven’t been to Denny’s in a long time, and after my experience at this one, I can safely say I won’t be back there again anytime soon. Here’s what happened: I had ordered a 3-stack of pancakes and was taking my time buttering them when, upon raising the top two to get to the bottom one, was surprised to see half of it was missing. I couldn’t tell if it had been half eaten or if I had just gotten a mutant flapjack or if half had been torn off on the griddle or what. Regardless, it was disconcerting, so I called the waitress over:

Me: Excuse me, but (holding up the half-pancake), I’m not sure if this is someone’s leftovers or what but…
Waitress: Oh, (taking it and throwing it away) I’ll get you another one, don’t worry about it.

I wait patiently for a minute as she goes to the kitchen and comes back. John, meanwhile, is finding this whole exchange hysterical.

Me: (getting her attention, then pointing to the two pancakes left) Yeah, I'm probably not going to eat these so…
Waitress: (cutting me off, suddenly realizing) …why don’t I get you a whole new order.

John and I would be recalling this repeatedly over the drive home to much laughter, which made the whole Denny’s trip worth it.

We got back to L.A. around 4:30pm, I think. Just in time too, ‘cuz I had a callback for a Honda commercial soon after which I totally nailed and was sure I booked, but found out a couple days later that I hadn’t. After the audition in W. Hollywood I had to motor over to my parent’s house in the Valley for my niece’s birthday celebration. By the time I got back home that night I was completely exhausted and had no problems falling asleep and pretty much stayed asleep (which is rare) until my alarm clock woke me for work the next morning. I still don’t think I’ve quite recovered.

In the end, we got some feedback, some interest, and our proposal into the hands of some cool people. There’s still a bit of work I need to do before we formally send our full proposal out to the contacts we’ve made, but I should be able to get that done in the next week or two. Hopefully, if we make the trip again next year, it will be as industry professionals. Despite the crowds and overwhelming size of the convention, I had a lot of fun. Sometimes I can’t hang for too long with some of my friends, as we get tired and cranky of each other after a while, but hanging with John was a total blast the entire time. If that makes us “partners”, then so be it.

But I swear we didn’t share the bed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Con II : Passion of the Jerk

So where was I…? Oh yeah –

After John and I partook of the (free) breakfast buffet, we got showered, dressed and on our way to the San Diego Convention Center where the Comic Con was being held. I was thankful John has AC in his car, cuz it was FREAKIN’ HOT and seriously humid the entire weekend. We found parking several blocks from the SDCC, in a lot we parked in last year, and (after a stupid mistake on my part where we had to pay for parking twice) hoofed it to the Con where there was a HUGE line along one side of the entire length of the Convention Center, for the people who hadn’t pre-registered. The heat and humidity that day was unbearable and to think these people were going to wait 2-3 hours in a slow-moving line, many wearing Jedi robes or wookie costumes or mithril armor was just astonishing. If John and I hadn’t pre-registered there’s no way I would’ve attempted that line. It would’ve been a great time at the nearby pub, at least until that line subsided.

Once in, we sniffed around to see if anything interesting was going on in the seminars, then made our way out onto the convention floor. This year was even more overwhelming than last year, with thousands of people swarming over hundreds of comic book, movie and videogame booths. We looked around a little then decided to check out Kevin Smith’s Q&A session going on in an auditorium at the other end of the convention area. After what seemed an eternity, we finally made it through the crowds, found the correct auditorium and sat down and just chilled out for a while. My roommate Michael Cornacchia was in town, brought there by Warner Bros. to promote Legion of Super Heroes, an upcoming cartoon for which he does a voice for, and he and his friend Brice hung out with us with while we waited... and waited. Finally, Rosario Dawson walked onstage with a, “Hi. I’m Kevin Smith,” and entertained us with some anecdotes about working with Kevin, being in Sin City, her comic book, and sang an a cappella rendition of “Sing… Sing a Song…” which was just plain weird. I mean, she was in Rent – pretty much any song from that would’ve been more of a showcase. She finally had people line up to a microphone for some Q&A, which was also weird and uncomfortable, with fanboys alternately fawning over her and sniping at her with questions like, “Can I have a kiss?” and “Were you afraid of the curse of being the female lead in a Kevin Smith film?” (eg Shannen Doherty, Joey Lauren Adams), until finally, after we’d sat through over an hour of stalling, some dude gets up to the mic and asks her, “Do you have Kevin Smith’s number?” Rosario: “Yeah. I used to call him when we were filming all the time.” Him: “Then why don’t you call him and find out when he’s going to get here.” Applause went up, and Rosario took out her cell phone (I think it was a Treo 650 or 700. Cool.) and called him.

I must say, Rosario was a great sport about the whole thing, and put Kevin on speakerphone so we could hear their conversation. Turns out he had already talked to the convention people and rescheduled his appearance to “Maybe 6:30.” It was now around 2:45. So… when were they going to tell us? Were they afraid we’d riot, with our lightsabers and +2 vorpal blades? (I’d be more afraid of all the girth and B.O. going on.) Or did they think we were just so distracted by Rosario’s hotness, we’d just kind of forget? Actually, her hotness almost worked. Almost.

After this non-event, John and I hit the convention floor again, checking out the booths and getting some people to check out 60. I was amazed (and somewhat dismayed) by just how much Comic-Con has changed over the past several years. It’s gotten so big, so bloated with movie studios and videogames that I think it just might just collapse under its own corpulence, much as the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) has done recently. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Square-Enix booth, showing off their upcoming Fullmetal Alchemist (Al and Ed, pictured) and Final Fantasy games, or The Behemoth’s booth, where I got to play (a slightly buggy, non-final build of) Castle Crashers on the XBOX 360, but a smaller, more comic book-centric experience wouldn’t be a bad thing. I did get to meet Dave McKean (smaller and more normal than I imagined) and Alex Robinson, from whom I purchased a hardcover of Tricked, based on the acclaim it’s received and a recommendation from John. Alex was very cool and signed the book and did a little sketch on the inside for me. I’m about half-way through the book now, and I’m loving it. I’ll be posting more thoughts about it once I’m done reading it.

I saw Ray Bradbury (pictured) as we were walking around, a childhood hero and favorite author of mine during my junior high school years. He’s one of the few authors I wrote to in my youth, and he wrote me back, along with a cool little piece of artwork he signed that I still have (not saying much, I never throw anything away). Unfortunately, it was during a time when I spelled my name “Geoffrey” – but I met him years later and had him sign some books and photos with the correct spelling of my name. Was a great treat to see him again.

At around six or so, we left the convention and met up with John’s friend Jay. We ended up drinking and eating at Kansas City BBQ near the SDCC. Cool little place where they shot the bar scene for Top Gun, lo those many years ago. From there, we walked over to the bar of a hotel (the Hilton, I think) and had some more drinks. We did some walking and ended up in the lobby of the Marriott, where we had a couple more drinks and met some cool people including a bigwig from IDW Publishing, who was pretty cool. Jay and John had a Texas Hold ‘Em Poker game to attend in one of the rooms of the Hilton, hosted by artist extraordinaire Jim Lee and rumored to be stocked with many industry luminaries. We went up and I hung for a while but it got claustrophobic real fast in that little room and I wasn't seeing any luminaries nor Mr. Lee, so I bailed and hung out with Michael, who was with some friends at a restaurant near the hotel.

Wow, this is going on way too long again. I promise I'll wrap it up in the next post. Stay tuned for, you guessed it, The Con III.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Con

Another year, another Comic-Con, and John and I were there again to show off our in-the-works comic, 60 Minute Broadway, get some feedback, meet people and have a good time.

Yeah, I always seem to wait until the last minute, and this year was no exception (much to John's frustration, I'm sure) as I stayed up almost 72 hours straight to get some new pages done for us to show. So, in that respect, our trip started off pretty much as a repeat of last year (read about that here). But eventually, after what seemed an eternity, I got the pages pencilled, inked and colored, and after a short detour to eat and print said pages, we were out of L.A. and on our date with destiny in San Diego.

In order to not repeat last year's madness-inducing marathon drive - where we absolutely could not find a hotel anywhere near San Diego, and in fact, the closest place to take shelter happened to be back in our L.A. apartments - I had made reservations at a hotel some 5-10 minutes away from the convention center itself, months in advance. I even extended our stay a night with no problems, when it became apparent that we were going to stay through Sunday, although there was this one, small, misunderstanding:

hotel: So will your “partner” be spending the extra night with you?
me: Excuse me? My what?
hotel: Your partner, sir.
me: Oh! Yeah, yeah. No. Yes, my friend will be staying in the same room, with me. Separately. That is to say, not together. I mean, same room. Two beds. Yes.
him: Whatever you say, sir.

Anyway, secure in the knowledge that we had a hotel, and after a couple of calls placed en route to make sure our reservation still stood, it was with a certain amount of smugness and security that we walked into the crowded lobby of the Town & Country Resort at 10:30 that night. These feelings soon evaporated however, when the following conversation between the receptionist and myself occurred after I moseyed up to the desk:

her: "Unfortunately, all our rooms have sold out, sir."
me (prepared, I pulled out my printed receipt): "Actually, no. You misunderstand: You see, I have a reservation. Here's my confirmation number - 48921..."
her (interrupting): "Yes, I know. But a reservation doesn't guarantee a room."
me (trying to keep cool): "But, isn't that the point of a reservation!?"

In order to escape the Seinfeld episode I had now found myself in, I asked what our options were. Well, they could stash us in an under-construction area of the hotel with a sofa bed and a roll-away, if we wanted...

me: Do we have any other choice?
her: No.
me (thoughts of us repeating last year's futile, multi-hour hunt for a hotel flooded my mind): We'll take it.

She eventually sweetened the deal with a free breakfast buffet, free parking and 50% off our bill, but it was with great foreboding that I took the key cards.

her: One for you, and one for your partner.

me (leaving): Whatever.

Following a map she had given us, John and I drove around the block to the other side of the “resort” and pulled into the parking lot. From the outside things looked okay. Nice lobby. Elevator’s functional. Ding! Stepping out onto our floor. Holy…! The thing looks like a prison, with gray, unpainted walls and concrete floors, I'm fearing the worst. Visions of the crack den my mom and I had to stay in during our Hawaii trip came to mind. Opening door to our room slowly – wow! Actually, this place is alright! Yeah, it was kind of like camping out in the living room of a hotel room since there weren't any real beds, but it had a huge balcony overlooking a couple of pools and it was clean and well-lit. Since we weren’t going to be spending that much time there anyway, we were happy.

Later, after we had both unpacked a bit and were sitting on the sofa bed (me playing PSP, John watching the World Tournament of Poker on television), one of the hotel staffers came by with the roll-away which she parked next to the bed.

us: Oh, good. We’ll need that.
she (looking at us slyly): Sure. I’ll just leave it here.

So it became kind of the running gag of the trip that the hotel staff totally thought John and I were “together” – the next morning the cleaning lady opened the door, waking us from our slumber (we forgot to put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign) and I jumped off the cot as she came in, startling her.

me (pointing to John, still in bed, and my disheveled cot): See!? Both the cot and bed have been used!
her: uh-huh.
me: The cot! I slept on it. He’s on the bed!
her: Okay, sir. We don’t judge, here.

Wow. I thought this was going to be a brief post, but I haven't even gotten to Comic-Con yet. Looks like I'll have to continue this tomorrow. Stay tuned for Kevin Smith's (dis)appearance, a hero from my past, trouble with pancakes and more!