Pilgrimage

So I mentioned a little while back that I’d started work on Vol. 2 in the Mixtape saga,. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that it will be a while before you see it. Scripts need to be written, obviously, but I also need to figure out a way to pay for the art/printing etc. given that each issue runs north of a couple grand. Plus each issue takes 2-3 months to produce (penciling, inking, lettering, assembly), which is a factor as well. In addition I’m debating whether to stick with single issues like I did with Vol. 1 or do a straight up graphic novel telling one larger story. And I’m trying to do all this without crowdfunding it through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo if possible. Chalk that up to crowdfunding fatigue; if everybody and their cat is trying to raise $ what chance do I have? Also that potato salad guy. Fuck that guy.

Plus there’s Real Life Stuff. I’ve been occupied on three different film and TV projects which have ben eating up a lot of time, though if any one of them pops the whole “how do I fund Vol 2” problem gets solved so fingers crossed.

Which is my way of saying Mixtape Vol. 2 is on the radar but still a ways away.

But if you’re still hungering for your Mixtape fix, you’re in luck, because this is the part of the job I love. It’s where I tell you all about the comics that influenced Mixtape. All are readily available, and all come highly recommended by yours truly. Every creative endeavor is built on the foundations of the work that inspired it, and these books more than any convinced me that Mixtape could indeed be a thing.

LCOAL HC C1-C4 LAYOUT9.indd

The genesis of Mixtape came when I was packing my things to move to the USA.  This involved sorting through boxes that hadn’t been opened in a good number of years – since High School in some cases. Among the many things I uncovered were many comic books, and many mixtapes. And so, rather than packing things, I spent my time listening to these tapes, and reading comic books, and saying to myself “self, there’s a story in this somewhere”. By the time I moved to New York, the idea was already simmering – I knew I wanted to write something about music, and how important it is to a teenager.  I also wanted it set in the 90s. I didn’t have a format – a movie like Dazed and Confused?  A TV series like The Wonder Years? I hadn’t really considered a comic book until I was browsing the racks at Midtown Comics and saw a hardcover collected edition of a series called Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.  Local follows Megan McKeenan, a young adult, over the span of a dozen years, as she moves from city to city, ranging from Portland Oregon to Chicago Illinois, to Halifax Nova Scotia, and to my old stomping ground of Toronto, Ontario.  I’m a fan of Brian’s from his amazing DMZ and Northlanders series, and as someone with a wanderlust similar to Megan’s I scooped up Local, and by the time I finished reading it, I knew what that “90s era rock and roll story” was going to be. The stories in Local are self-contained, each separated by a year and by the geography of North America as Megan drifts from one city to the next, changing before our eyes from a wayward teen to a young woman looking for a home. It spans 12 years and by the end of Local you really feel you’ve been on a journey. It’s like a comic book version of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and like Boyhood should not be missed.

boxofficepoison_lg

So when I moved to NY and started thinking more about Mixtape, I knew I needed to do more research. One book I had heard good things about was Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison. Largely because the project that became Mixtape was originally a novella called “Daydream Nation” about a 40-something who travels back in time to inhabit his younger self in the early 1990s. Then I read about Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten and realized that story had already been done, and done well. I picked up TC2BF because to know your enemy is to defeat him, but realized Alex wasn’t an enemy and I wanted to read more of his work.

So there I was in Midtown perusing the shelves, and saw Box Office Poison. I pulled it out and flipped through it, and a customer passing by saaid “that’s a great book”. Then a staffer said the same thing. Convinced, I went to pay and the cashier said “that’s a great book.” And you know what? It is a great book – all 600 pages of it, all deftly charting post college life with an array of colorful characters, a love letter to that difficult time in life when you’re clutching your college degree and going “now what”? I just reread it again too and love it even more.

Oh, there’s an “epilogue” of sorts. At MoCCA a couple years later I was wandering the aisles and found myself at Top Shelf’s booth where Alex Robinson was helping out. A woman was glancing thru Box Office Poison and I said “that’s a GREAT book”. And she bought it. Alex was happy that day.

AC

Hold on, your’re saying. A superhero book influenced Mixtape? Are you hiding something from us, Abraham? Do the teens in Mixtape suddenly manifest super powers? How can a superhero book be an influence on Mixtape?

Well, probably because Kurt Busiek’s Astro City isn’t really a superhero book; at least not the way I read it. Sure it’s about superheroes and the world they inhabit, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the people of the titular city and how their lives intersect with the superpowered beings who stand watch over it. It’s about a family moving to this city and wondering if they have a place among the heroes and villains who they share space with. It’s about young woman deciding whether to stay in the cloistered and protected neighborhood she’s grown up in to get an apartment in a different part of town. It’s about a man haunted by visions of a woman he’s never met, only to learn she was part of a life wiped out by a battle between good and evil.

But also because in its earliest issues, each Astro City story had a beginning and an ending; what you call “one shot” stories. And Mixtape’s structure has been the same; single stories spotlighting a single character, with the others running support. There is an overall theme and story that these individual ones comprise, more like a mosaic than an ongoing storyline. It’s the snapshots of life in a city and world where superheroes are real that linger the most when I read Astro City.

The-Waiting-Place-cover

As I’ve probably mentioned too many times to count, I spent my teenage years in a small town, and that was at the tail end of a life spent in numerous cities. To say I felt rootless is an understatement; in fact to a degree I still do feel that way. And The Waiting Place captured that feeling of house parties, aimless driving, dead-end jobs, and deciding what you want to do with your life. Focusing on small-town teens as they navigate the world unfolding in front of them I fell in love with the characters and their stories from the get-go. Also writer Sean McKeever was gracious enough to answer some questions and offer advice when I was in the planning stages of Mixtape. He’s good people. Check his work out.

Ghost-World

Everybody knows Ghost World, right? Dan Clowes’ immortal saga is a definite influence on Mixtape, but when I say influence I refer to the movie more than the book (which I read some years after seeing it). Chronicling the adventures of Enid and Rebecca, recently graduated from high school and realizing they need to get their shit together and soon, Ghost World is one of those stories that somehow manages to be both eccentric and real at the same time.  It’s also a funny, sad, touching look at that monent in life when you’ve drifted away from your closest friends without realizing it until it’s too late. The arc of Mixtape Vol 2 is very much Ghost World’s, as the five mains face not so much the end of their friendship but the moment where that friendship changes, like it does for Rebecca and Enid.

Sleepwalk

Any Adrian Tomine will do, really but Sleepwalk along with Tomine’s Summer Blonde were and are my favorites of his, and probably Mixtape’s true genesis. It was reading Sleepwalk – a gift from one of my wife’s publishing pals – that really crystallized Mixtape’s potential. Because I saw Tomine was telling the type of story I wanted to tell. Stories about the little moments where those moments become, for a moment, important. I knew with Mixtape I didn’t want it to be an After School Special about Big Issues. I wanted it to be about the cleanup after the big party, and about the little moments in everybody’s life where important things happen and you’re too self-absorbed at the time to realize it. Stuff like that last time you were hanging out with a group of friends at someone’s house, and it was the last time you were in a room together.

So there you have it; the foundations on which Mixtape is built. And while I could only hope Mixtape achieves a smidge of the acclaim as these other books have received, it wouldn’t exist without these books. I strongly encourage* you check them out, both to support these creators and their work, but also because these books have meant a great deal to me and my work.

* I also VERY STRONGLY encourage you to buy these books from your friendly local comic book shop. Pretty much every town has one and they’ll be more than happy to order it if they don’t have it.

** And ICYMI Mixtape 1-5  are available for purchase right now with both print and digital options.

Right Here Right Now

So I have this website/blog thingy. I’ve had it for four years now. You can travel back to the very beginning and my very first post in August 2010.

The whole point of this website was to give me a web presence. So whenever someone (like a prospective employer or person I met at some industry thing) punches my name into a search engine, this website popes up, they click through, read about me, read my works and go “damn this dude is good –  let’s throw money at him.” As you can imagine this hasn’t happened yet, but having a web presence in this day and age is essential for a successful yet somehow still struggling creative type. People read or view your work or just want to get some insight into you as a person, they can find out.

But sweet Jeebus I hate blogging. Hate. It.

If I’m lucky I can knock out one, maybe two posts a month. Contrast that with people who do it every day and I’m failing at it. Often I write and post just to make it look like the website is still active. Sometimes I’m inspired, other times amusing, and occasionally I say things relevant to the writing process. Once I even had a post go viral, though the subject matter – my discovery of David Bowie and Duran Duran – may have had something to do with it.  But my need to keep this website current means too often I fall into the trap of this little nostalgia bubble. I’ll write about stuff that happened years if not decades ago, and try to make some tenuous connection to present day, but more often than more often it comes across – IMO – as being too maudlin. Yes, I did shit when I was younger. Some was fun, some wasn’t, but increasingly it looks and feels like the sad reminiscence of someone past their prime.

That’s bullshit. I’m better now than I ever have been, creatively, personally, you name it. Cool stuff – a lot of cool stuff – is happening right now, and I hope to be able to divulge details on all of it very soon.

But what about the here and now? What is exciting me or entertaining me or making this a very cool time in my life and one that I’ll look back on years from now? What keeps me moving forward by not looking to the past?

Well, I’ll tell you.

jack-white-lazaretto-628x541Yes, I dig Jack White. Yes, I dig his music, his business model, his attitude. Yes, his attitude. Sure he’s a cocky asshole – and one of those types I can’t stand to be anywhere around – but if you were in one of the few genuinely *great* bands to debut at the turn of this millennium, formed your own record label specializing in vinyl albums of all things, while forming two other bands and producing a bunch of other albums before launching one, then another solo album of your own, you earned the right. Plus his new album Lazaretto is really good and you should pick it up now.

(And you should listen to the 7th track at least once a day like I do because it’s my fave)

gregory-s-coffee

Gregory’s Coffee. Picture a less douchey and less corporate Starbucks. They’re a NYC based chain and they do coffee right. Seriously, I need to grab an Americano there once a week, and they have a location conveniently close to Midtown Comics, so you can go grab your purchases and then read them at Gregory’s. Plus they bake their own croissants, biscotti, cookies, muffins, and donuts. Plus the WiFi is free and speedy. And unlike Starbucks their coffee doesn’t taste like ass. Actually screw the rest of this update, I’m going there now.

house_of_cards_poster_2

House of Cards. Apparently it doesn’t hold a candle to the original (nothing ever does), and it gets awfully silly at times but damn if it isn’t totally addictive. I’ve been soaking TV up like a sponge lately as I’m in development on two different TV series of my own so naturally I like to see what’s out there so I don’t fall into the trap of “oh there’s totally a show like that right now, sorry you wasted all that time on your thing”. I’d also add Masters of Sex, Justified, Hell on Wheels, Turn, The Americans, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Da Vinci’s Demons, Downton Abbey and Spartacus to the mix. That said I’m not a fan of the whole “binge watch” – I need time to absorb what I’ve seen before speeding through the story. Like reading a really good book you have to apply the brakes to avoid racing to the end and wanting more.  But another thing I’ve found is the most TV I can handle at a time is 2 hour-long episodes. Any more and my eyes glaze over. Probably because I spend most of my day staring at a screen there’s only so much more of that I can take when I want to unwind. I am in awe and a little bit frightened by people who can tear through a season in a weekend, the “binge watch” that has become ubiquitous. Me, I’d rather read a book.  And speaking of reading:

ALL-AMERICAN ADS BOOKS (3)Taschen. In particular their All American Ads series. Partly for research as one of the aforementioned TV projects is set in the 1950s, but also because I find them utterly absorbing. Like:

GAYAnd:

frigid-woman-cold-war-pushbutton-ease

And let’s not forget:

(The "T Zone" is cancer)

(The “T Zone” is cancer)

I also enjoy the series because it reminds me of how the mundane and everyday can gain extra meaning once time passes. It makes me think of my parents growing up under the shadow of these same ads. It makes me think of the comic books in my collection from the 80s and 90s, and how the ads and letter columns are what keep me from selling them and converting the series into trade editions; it’s that “in situ” act of reading them knowing how things changed but at the time nobody knew the ending.  In fact I’d say vintage advertising is the best way to get a sense of how people lived decades ago and – aww, there I go again down the nostalgia hole. Moving on. …

coldinjulyposterMovies. I still watch them, I write them for a living. And increasingly the bloom has been off the rose. I enjoyed The Winter Soldier and The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Raid 2 and Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow but I didn’t love them the way I would have once (and I really disliked the Godzilla reboot after anticipating it for so long). And while I could blame The Movies for sucking, it’s not so much them as it is me. Tastes change and the stuff that used to get me excited before just doesn’t anymore. I want stories about people, not explosions, not comic book video game rebooted remakes.  And that’s why I keep watching and looking and occasionally find something unexpected that reaffirms my faith in the medium.

CIJMe and Joe Lansdale go way back as far as “author and fan” are concerned. I interviewed him for Rue Morgue a couple times. And Don Coscarelli’s adaptation of Bubba Ho-Tep was directly responsible for me meeting my wife.

So in 2009 when I was on a set visit to director Jim Mickle’s Stake Land that he mentioned he and co-writer/co-star Nic Damici had optioned a novel called Cold In July, I perked up. “Oh, the Joe Lansdale one?” The fact that I knew this “obscure” novel and “cult” writer grabbed Mickle’s and Damici’s attention too. And as I mentioned already I’m something of a fan:

securedownload

As the “Lansdale” shelf in my office would attest. And that’s only half of them.

Flash forward to 2014. That adaptation of Cold in July is in theaters and On Demand as I type this, and if you’re a fan of vintage John Carpenter or just plain good storytelling and propulsive filmmaking, you owe it to yourself and to cinema to see it. It’s also kind of restored my love in the movies. It’s the type of movie I got into the movie business to make. It’s the kind of movie that keeps my faith in the medium.  It does all of those things despite the fact that having read the book several times I was in suspense throughout it (even though I knew how it was going to end). That, my friends, is the hallmark of great storytelling.

And if you don’t support stuff like Cold in July you’re just going to get Tran5former$.

CSCCarmine Street Comics because they’re one of the few brick and mortar stores who stocks Mixtape, and because they’re a great conduit for indie comic creators to find an audience for their niche books. They have artists in residence, they hold regular events and signings and podcasts, and are everything a good comic book should be; carrying the Marvel DC books on one hand, but giving over substantial amounts of precious little shelf space to indie books. Plus, unlike a lot of comic shops they’re not dudebro dickish to female fans and creators so visit them and glimpse the future of comics retail.

TravelI should probably announce right now that I won’t be at this year’s NYCC. My request for an artists alley table was declined, and while I am on the wait list, there’s a thousand people gunning for the same slot so it looks like I’ll be out in the cold. It’s not all bad news; I’ve applied to some other shows and hope to appear at them instead, and while I could apply for a NYCC pro pass and would probably get one, that leaves me to just wander around aimlessly without benefit of a place where people can meet me, pick up some books and so on, which is why I go to conventions anyway.

Besides, if I’m going to wander aimlessly I’d rather do it here:

Stockholm

And here:

Norway

And here:

icelandscenery

My wife and I last got away – really got away, in late 2011 to Paris. And we’ve wanted to go back to Europe since then. We’ve been diligently kicking money into our vacation fund. All we’ve been lacking is time. Stuff keeps intruding. So when the rejection from NYCC came in I told her we were going back in October. Not back to Paris but a tour of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and probably Iceland because why not? And because we only have so many opportunities to have adventures and the worst thing you can do, whether you’re a writer or not, is to pass up that chance to look at the world with different eyes.

So there you have it. Stuff I like in the here and now. And in 20 years time, assuming the Internet is still a thing, this blog somehow still exists and I’m amazingly still alive, you can read my ravings about how awesome things were 20 years ago and hear me wonder where I left my car keys damn it.