Since the inception of this blog I've struggled to find topics to write about. Comics & Cognac has been and continues to be just two guys struggling to both produce our creative endeavors and to become legitimate producers of those projects. Things move slowly and the goings on and general C&C business doesn't provide a very deep (or entertaining) well to draw from. The struggle for blog content has had me thinking more and more of expanding the idea of what this is. Maybe this can be about more than just C&C. Maybe I can throw in some personal stuff, or some comedic and satirical stuff... Recently I took this idea to the weekly Comics & Cognac meeting to get my other half's opinion. We strive to remain united in all decisions so I needed his input before pushing this in a direction he would potentially be uncomfortable with. The following is a word for word transcription of that conversation*:
Alex: I want to be more on top of the blog. I'd like to get it on a weekly schedule.
Brandon: Yeah, you definitely should.
Alex: But I don't know what to write about. There isn't always Comics & Cognac stuff going on. If there's nothing to talk about I don't want to force it and make some boring post about nothing.
Brandon: I understand. I don't know what to tell you. You gotta do something.
Alex: Remember those old blog posts I read you? What do you think about something like that? Open up the content to more than just C&C stuff? Some funny posts? Maybe something more personal or some opinion stuff?
Brandon: Yes, God yes! You should do that! Make that content. Share your magnificent gift. In the future a whole generation of writers; from masters level Lit students down to angst ridden teens writing bad poetry will point to you and the blog as their single greatest influence.
Alex: Well, I don't know about all that.
Brandon: Drop the modesty! In fact those masters students will probably be studying your words exclusively!
Alex: Ok. Alright. I'll do it!
* Probably not "word for word"
So, in an effort to bring more posts on a more regular basis the content of our blog is going to expand. And as a special bonus this blog post is a two-for-one! So here's an example (written years ago) of some of the non-Comics & Cognac related material that will be coming in the future!
Caveman reviews - Iron Man 2
Caveman a little behind on make review. Iron Man 3 come out soon and me just now getting to review Iron Man 2. Caveman no see Iron Man 1 and me think that ok, me no really understand movie anyway.
Me hear saying about get caught with hand in cookie jar. Me wonder why Tony no have hand in pepper pot. Why movie move so fast? It make caveman head feel not good, Me fall down throw up. So much big boom Iron Man make thunder, it scare caveman. Caveman wish him had Iron Man boom stuff, maybe not so many me friend die when hunt the mammoth. Stop fly Iron Man! It unnatural. Caveman throw up again.
For all him smart Tony Stark sure dumb. Him not know violence not the solution. When caveman a caveboy him throw rocks and sticks at many thing. Caveboy grow big, strong, to be caveadolescent and him throw rock at neighbor caveman. Rock hit head and man die in bloody mess. Caveman no throw rock again. Maybe Tony need see up close repercussion of him action. Then maybe Tony no boom so much things, and maybe Iron Man just be super fast delivery man or sky writer. No violence, maybe then can earn delicious flavor of pepper too.
The blue sky was peppered with fluffy cotton ball clouds. Snacks and drinks were close at hand, Fear Factory pulsed from the car's speakers, and the excitement was high. It was time yet again to cruise across the state to Spokane and Lilac City Comicon. We set out on that warm morning last weekend not knowing what was in store for us.
The trip over the mountains and across the bare, sparsely-populated middle of the great state of Washington went well. Finding civilization in the east and entering that city so foreign to us also went well. The convention itself went surprisingly well considering last year's debacle. Goody Good issue 1 had its first public appearance and was well received. Brandon and I saw some familiar faces and made a few new friends. It was a good con and a good trip; and at no point during the three days of travel and lodging did we meet with any kind of adversity or obstacle. But at just about every turn we were presented with a lesson. There was much to learn. And it's in those lessons that we find the real story of Lilac City Comicon 2017.
Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and leave. The show and the trip had come to an end. The blue sky was peppered with fluffy cotton ball clouds. Snacks and drinks were close at hand, Fear Factory pulsed from the car's speakers, and the exhaustion was closing in. We were ready to yet again escape Spokane. Screaming across the state, a flat-out burn toward home.
It was a wonderful time in the early days of Comics & Cognac. Nothing but laughs and booze and booze and laughs. Every week Brandon and I would get together to work on our comics and spend all night drinking heavily and making each other laugh. But, alas, those days are gone and the hangover has set in.
These days our weekly meetings look very different. The laughs are fewer and the two man party atmosphere is gone. Instead, we've gotten down to the business of being in business. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being whiny about those days gone by; a little wistful, sure, but not whiny.
The reality is that we've finally been forced to do some things that we'd either been ignoring or been putting off until "later". We've been spurned to action by our first real setback, our first real failure. Until now we've been cruising along with a certain kind of drunk driver luck. We all know that person who drives drunk all the time and somehow never gets caught, never crashes, never has any consequences. That's been us, that's been Comics & Cognac. Living a party life and flying by the seat of our pants with no real planning going into our decisions. Let's own our own website, done. Let's hand make Goody Good books, they look great. Let's get ourselves a table at some cons, great time meeting great people. Let's put together a Kickstarter campaign and get these books professionally printed... and that's where we jumped a curb and plowed into a telephone pole. Luck only holds until it doesn't. The failure of our Kickstarter campaign after so much going so well was a gut punch. A gut punch but not a knock-out blow.
We've decided to move forward with the printing and publication of Goody Good #1. We believe in our work so much that we took out a loan to finance our endeavor. Switching gears from crowdfunding to personally funding the book has already been beneficial to both our readers and us. Our stress over a hard deadline for shipping the final product to our backers is gone. Reward fulfillment is no longer any concern (although I think I'm going to try to make something happen for certain champions of our cause). Because we don't have to ship out books to backers, the overall cost of the project has dropped. These silver linings have allowed us to give a little more to our first professional book. The page count has gone up. Now included are four new, never before seen, beautiful watercolor paintings by artist extraordinaire, Brandon Stewart. That's in addition to his newly hand painted cover (which looks awesome, by the way). And a a few paragraphs about the origins of Goody Good by yours truly.
We've got a few other irons in the fire as far the business side of things goes.
All in all it's an exciting time of change here at C&C. Stick with us, lets see what happens.
Kickstarter has dominated all of the goings on at Comics & Cognac HQ for the past couple weeks. According to some online reading and real life advice... it hasn't been nearly enough.
It all seemed so simple. Create a good looking page with a clear purpose and a low realistic dollar amount goal. We thought it would be easy. It was a simpler time... two weeks ago. We were so naive. At launch we really thought that our combine total of several hundred Facebook friends and almost two thousand Twitter followers would make easy work or our modest $1800 goal. If only half of those people pitched in the change they could find in their collective couch, we'd be funded in a day, right? Not so much. As the days began to tick down some heavy truth bombs fell.
We're now seven days into this, our first, Kickstarter campaign. Days one and two saw some pledges roll in and we were elated, hopeful, down right optimistic. And then came the lull. Our glorious crowdfunding juggernaut dipped into a valley. A valley that now, looking back, is a yawning chasm boxed by steep sheer cliff faces. This is where those multi-megaton truths come in. As the Great Dip (as I'm sure it'll be called in the years to come) set in we got down to some research. Really dug into the guts of the thing. We aren't prone to sitting back and weeping while watching the ship go down. No, we strive for proactive behaviors. Well, while we're on this subject of truths, I'll admit... Brandon did the research. He got the advice. He's the planner, the driving force behind things like this. I just try to keep up and do my best to aid the process. It's kind of funny, he says he hates doing it. But I know better. I've known the guy a long time and I know he loves it. He's in his element digging in and wallowing in detail and nuance. Anyway, back to the catastrophic truth: According to the research, most of a Kickstarter's pledges come at the beginning of the campaign. Devastating news as ours slides down that slope. The other bowel shredding concussive force came by way of real world advice. Brandon was told (presumably by a seasoned Kickstarter pro) that months of ground work needs to come before actually launching a campaign. Spreading the word that it's coming, reminding people that it's coming, teasers, more reminders, in-process updates, reminders... on and on for months. How could we have known? It all seemed so simple.
While it looks like our failure is inevitable we will not go quietly. We're going to kick and thrash, rage against the dying of the light so to speak. We will continue to bludgeon everyone who has eyes and ears with a deluge of status updates and rooftop cries for attention. "Hey, you! Point your face at this and love it!" And in twenty-three days hopefully our cries and general scrappiness will have prevailed... if not, at least we'll be a little wiser.
Goody Good Issue #1 on Kickstarter
Dr. Corbin Quinn has done it. He has cracked the mysteries of traversing the Time-Stream. He, with the help of best friend and equally brilliant scientist Danny Reilly, plan to record history as it unfolds. Sounds like some dry science fiction, huh? It's really not. They call it a "Time-Stream" but really it's more of a "Time Water-slide" at the wackiest amusement park imaginable. Chrononauts is science fantasy to its very core. There's not a chronoton particle in sight, and not a single capacitor was fluxed.
Co-creators Mark Millar and Sean Murphy have crafted quite the entertaining tale. Filled with bombast, the best of friendship, and turbo-charged fist bumps that will have feeling the need... the need for speed. Because Time Bros [strikeout] Chrononauts is a flexing in the sun, playing with the boys, bromance of truly Top Gun-like proportion.
Dr. Quinn is the first to take the trip into the past and things immediately go awry, as they often do when dealing with time travel. Refusing to let peril befall his hetero life-mate Dr. Reilly time trips to the rescue. It's here where the story diverges from the usual time travel formula. Instead of going to great lengths to preserve the time line this brash and cavalier duo bend time to their will. They're rich, powerful, date the most beautiful women, and generally live like kings... They do these things multiple times across the ages. Why live one life of leisure when you can simultaneously live many, era hopping to suit your mood?
In addition to the high octane action and breakneck pacing of the story; Millar wrote in an awful lot of tongue and cheek humor. Humor expertly brought to life by Murphy. Humor like the derpy eyed buck toothed drooling dinosaur that looks directly at the reader after stomping a man into a red puddle. Or seeing the main characters deliver gold to the new born baby Jesus... gold in the form of a crucifix. The body language and facial expressions as they acknowledge what they're doing really works to sell the joke.
Murphy's expertise extends well beyond selling jokes. It's a magical thing when art style and story come together so perfectly. The speed of Millar's story is matched with some amazing frantic art. Each panel gives the impression that Murphy and his pencil were under duress. That's not to say it is, or even looks, sloppy. Instead, Murphy gives the impression that everything is in motion with a sweeping cinematic sense. While we're on the subject of the artwork of Chononauts; special note must be made of colorist Matt Hollingsworth. The overall depth of color is amazing, you know, if you're so inclined as to stop and admire such a thing. Each era of time has a certain look and color palette that gives it a certain feeling, a certain character. Hollingsworth might be some kind of high powered super genius.
Overall Chrononauts is a fantastically fun and fast read. Almost regrettably fast. My two times through the trade paperback clocked in at just a little over two hours. I wont proclaim to be an expert in the craft of comics or the critical analysis thereof; and I have read some of the negatives espoused by others regarding the commercial nature of the book and its resemblance to a storyboard who's only purpose being to sell some movie rights. But in my humble opinion Chrononauts is worth the ten or so dollar price tag. Or you could/should borrow it from a friend like I did.
Check out Chrononauts on the Image website
More What We're Reading: Tripods Trilogy
I always thought that continuing to learn was a good life goal. After the recent Comics and Cognac lessons, I may be rethinking things. Lesson 1: The AI in the NES version of Othello is a damn cheater. We spent hours one night (so many that nothing else got done) trying in vain to defeat this foul technological adversary. In the end I, Alex Bauman, stood sweating, machine grease and coolant dripping from my battered hands. I had achieved victory over the omnipresent robo-brain... on the lowest difficulty.Lesson 2: Folding paper sucks! We're getting things ready for our upcoming trip to Jet City Comicon. We had the idea to spread the work out over as much time as possible, so after figuring out what exactly we would need we set to work. X number of Goody Good #1s, X number of Goody Good #2s, X number of Goody Good #3s, and Y number of ashcans. About half of the ashcans have been folded and I'm already sick of it! Lesson 3: Neither Brandon nor I is a web developer. We spent the better part of a day working in tandem on ComicsAndCognac.com. We discovered a sharp decline in web traffic over the past few months. A decline while our Twitter and FaceBook following has been growing. Could it be that most of our readers are following our links to the comics and skipping our site all together? There's really only one way to find out: move Goody Good from our Comic Fury site to our own web site. I realize that the task doesn't seem like much, but trust me, it was. We smashed our heads against this proposition for a good long time before we even figured out what we were going to do. The frustration and tedium was well worth it. Goody Good now lives on ComicsAndCognac.com. The link on our homepage no longer leads to some other site out there in the nets.
This weeks comic turned out very well. It started out very poorly. The concept was solid but the execution on my part was sub-par to say the least. Even after much thought and a re-write I was less than enthusiastic about what this ugly thought abortion would become. Luckily Brandon was more optimistic. Cutting through the bloat of my words he managed to cull some workable material. And that cat cleaning itself! I love that image!
Counting on two people to simultaneously be motivated is a difficult thing. Brandon and I seem to have a cycle of lethargy and productivity. Furiously working on Comics & Cognac for a time, followed by a period of inactivity and general burned out laziness. After spending so much time together, at least we're cycling together. Unfortunately we seem to be in a lull. It's been a couple weeks since we worked on anything but the bare minimum. Unless we count playing video games and watching TV as "official Comics & Cognac business"... maybe we should, It'd make me feel better about things.
The 33rd Goody Good made its way to the site this week. Seeing it for the first time finished, I laughed. I love it when that happens. I wrote the joke and had a concept of what the finished product would be so there shouldn't have been any surprises. That's where the magic of working tandem comes in. Brandon waves his wand and... poof. The thing I'm very familiar with suddenly becomes something new.
My satisfaction with this week's comic might stem in part from its inspiration. I saw a little kid, couldn't have been more than five, padded and helmeted scooting around on a skateboard. Seeing this kid reminded me of a story I heard years ago. I might have the facts all wrong, like I said: I heard this many years ago. Back in our early 20's Brandon and I worked at a record store. One day he took a female co-worker of ours to the local skate park to teach her how to drop into a half-pipe. After some preliminary instruction she stood, precariously perched atop a short quarter-pipe. Nice and easy, lean forward, one fluid motion, let your legs swing, your feet will catch up. She leaned forward and must have had a moment of doubt (it's a scary thing), but it was too late. Her feet swung out from under her and she landed heavy on her ass at the bottom of the ramp. I remember laughing a lot when I heard the story and subsequent complaints about the injured backside. The story and the image of the kid with his protective gear became this week's comic. I wonder if she ever learned to drop-in.
The books were thrust into my hands with a simple command, "Read these." I held the three thin young-adult readers wondering if I was subtly being insulted. After being assured that that wasn't the case I thought: if these mean something to someone who means something to me... I guess I have to. With this thought I set off on this brisk coming of age tale.
The world has been conquered by an alien race and their massive tripods. Earth's human population is kept docile and obedient through their caps, bio-mechanical head pieces that are grafted to the scalp as they enter their teen years. It's the kids, the uncapped, that hold the keys of freedom for mankind.
Will is a normal boy who's capping day is quickly approaching. His peaceful little village life is shattered by the arrival of an uncapped stranger, Ozymandias. He tells of a place high in the rough and frigid terrain of the White Mountains where a group of free people live outside the reach of the tripods. Ozymandias is one who is tasked with searching out and recruiting the uncapped youth to join the free people. After learning some truth about the alien masters who have enslaved the world, Will is given a choice: join the ranks of mindless livestock oppressed by these alien conquerors, or chase the freedom and self-determination all men crave. "... I could not stay, any more than a sheep could walk through a slaughterhouse door, once it knew what lay beyond." With those words Wills adventure and the Tripod Trilogy is launched.
Will is joined on his journey by his cousin Henry and a French boy they meet along the way, Jean-Paul. Through pitfall and peril friendships are forged and the three finally arrive at the famed White Mountains. Once there, battle plans are made, a war is launched, and friends become brothers. "One enjoys friendship most when times are good, when sun shines and the world is kind. But it is the sharing of adversity that knits men together."
Alright, let's get this out from the jump: when I said brisk, I meant short. The whole trilogy comes in just past the six hundred page mark. You could hammer this out in a weekend if you wanted to. And you should, it's pretty good. Telling a three part "save the world" story in so few pages probably has you thinking about all the plot and pacing issues within the books. Those concerns would be absolutely justified... if the story was written for adults. Fact is, the quick pace and concise plot are perfectly targeted and expertly crafted to capture the imagination of a young man. It's that quality that made these books so enjoyable.
It was difficult to read this story without imposing a younger version of myself into my own mind. How would I have read this as a younger man? Would the struggle for independence have resonated with me? What would I have imagined the oppressive alien masters to represent? My parents? School? My impending entry into the workforce? These questions made these books for me, and they will for you too. Never-mind the truncated plot and lack of details, let the thoughts of a younger version of yourself fill out those spaces.
For more story details (read, spoilers) the Tripod Trilogy wiki is excellent.
For more work by John Christopher visit his section of publisher Simon & Schuster's website.
More What We're Reading: The Humans
Comics & Cognac is more than a year old and we're just now committing to a weekly blog... I guess our parents were right, we are slackers.
Goody Good #31 went up this week and it's pretty good. It's got this weird nostalgic vibe that doesn't really bring a laugh so much as a wistful smirk. The inspiration for the page and the nostalgia comes from our very own childhoods. Back when playgrounds were made of concrete, steel, and right angles. Back when playgrounds were a place for children to discover contusions, broken bones, and summertime molten steel burns with little or no parental supervision. Ahhh, to be young again.
Our meeting this week didn't turn out to be very productive. Unless you consider playing NES for a couple hours productive. We had a serious case of work/moving induced lethargy.
We did manage to make progress toward our next con trip. Jet City Comicon application and payment, done! Next comes the preparations; all the material gathering and book making. It's not a fun process but I suppose there are worse ways to spend your time than drinking beer and making comic books with your best friend. Hopefully it all pays off when we get super rich selling our little funny books in a couple months.