Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Drawing Strength

Although I've been active on Facebook, I haven't blogged in a while and feel bad for leaving any non-Facebookers who might check in here hanging. Karen and I are doing all right. The Army Corps of Engineers cleared our lot yesterday. There are no more artifacts to recover, no more wondering what I might find in the ashes if I just look one more time.... Now there's no going back; only forward.

People ask if I'll do more "Fire Story." I hope so, but not here and not soon. I'd like it to be published as a graphic novel, and have good reason to believe that could happen. I'm working on a book proposal now.

Meanwhile, here are some photos from last Saturday's "Drawing Strength" benefit at the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center. Three people who worked hard to make the event happen were "Pearls Before Swine" cartoonist Stephan Pastis; Stephan's wife Staci, who really ran the show; and the museum's education director Jessica Ruskin. And of course it couldn't have happened without the enthusiastic support of Jeannie Schulz, whose home was destroyed in the firestorm as well.

The benefit began with a panel on healing through art, moderated by local journalist Chris Smith. It was intended to include me, Pastis, and author Christopher Moore, who called in at the last minute with a horrible case of food poisoning. Moore felt terrible about it, and dispatched his wife to drive boxes of signed books to the museum for anyone disappointed by his absence. Cartoonist, writer, and reality-TV pioneer Judd Winick stepped in at literally the last minute. Judd's terrific graphic novel Pedro and Me, about the death of his "Real World" co-star and friend Pedro Zamora, made him an ideal fit for the theme.

Before the event, Raina, Stephan and I enjoyed a nice dinner of pizza, pasta and salad provided by the museum.

I took along books for Raina, Judd, Dave Eggers, and Christopher Moore to sign. Hey, I have a library to rebuild! I'll catch Moore later.

Stephan, Judd and I waiting in the wings to be introduced before the panel.

I stepped on stage blinded by the light of my own drawing. The museum's Great Hall was packed with 250 to 300 people.

Judd started us off with an excellent impromptu talk about "Pedro and Me" as well as his new work "HiLo" while Stephan and I lurked in the shadows. Judd's done a lot of public speaking and stepped in confidently and smoothly.

The view from my seat as Stephan reads from his comic strips, including more serious ones about Middle East violence and gun deaths. He genuinely choked up. I was touched. Note the full house.

Doing my best. I touched on the fire, Mom's Cancer, graphic medicine, and the fact that when I evacuated my studio I grabbed pieces of original art by Charles Schulz, Walt Kelly and Winsor McCay but left my "Pearls Before Swine" behind. Stephan pretended to be peeved until I explained that I only saved dead guys' work.
Part of my talk included photos I took as I walked into my neighborhood that first morning and the comic panels they inspired/informed.

After the panel and coinciding with a wine and beer reception, the panelists were joined by author Dave Eggers, bestselling cartoonist (and my friend!) Raina Telgemeier, and Pixar animator Andrew Atteberry (who was added to the program too late to make the poster) to sign books and posters, and draw for fans. To help raise funds, people could pay $50 to have any artist draw whatever they wanted within the artist's ability and good nature.

Honestly, I don't like doing sketches for money. I've done it before and I'm not good at it. Too much pressure. Somewhere in the world are a father and son to whom I owe $10 because my drawing of "Chewbacca playing basketball" was so bad. To be fair, I had no reference images (this was inside San Diego Comic-Con, where my phone got no reception) and Chewbacca is really hard to draw. Even his bandolier is hard to draw. I think the basketball turned out OK. But for the Schulz event I stepped up and did my best, and everyone seemed happy with their drawings. 

Books for sale in the lobby, including Mom's Cancer.

I had a good busy line all night. The Schulz Museum printed up little posters of "A Fire Story" and gave them to everyone, which I thought was a real nice thing to do. I signed a lot of those.

Pastis and me at work.

Other signing lines: From foreground right to background left, that's Raina Telgemeier, Judd Winick, Andrew Atteberry, and, standing, Dave Eggers talking to Jeannie Schulz.

What's great about this photo is that someone had asked me to draw a picture of Linus and Snoopy cuddling under Linus's blanket (I'm using the image on her phone as a reference). I joked about this being the worst possible place and time to be caught committing a copyright violation and made a big show of looking over my shoulder. Seconds later, guess who showed up and caught me red-handed.

I really appreciated the chance to meet Andrew Atteberry, gush at Dave Eggers, get to know Judd Winick better, and spend some time with Raina Telegemeier and her dad. Also the many people who stood in line for signings and such, many of them old good friends.

Great people, full house, and overall a really nice night. Thanks to all!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

An Animated Fire Story

Now THIS is cool, by San Francisco PBS station KQED.

Arts Editor Gabe Meline--who self-published zines when he was a kid in my hometown--proposed the idea, and Video Producer Kelly Whalen (now I know TWO women by that name!) came to my daughters' house to record Karen and me.

 I think it's cleverly and sensitively done. In particular, Kelly and animator Farrin Abbott had to edit "A Fire Story" for time but ran all the proposed revisions by me to be sure I was OK with everything, and shared a rough cut as well. The version below is a "director's cut" that includes the original story's profanity. There's also a version that omits it because KQED hopes other PBS stations will pick it up.

Many thanks to Gabe, Kelly, Farrin and KQED. I'm very happy with both the process and its result.

A Santa Rosa Cartoonist’s ‘Fire Story’ Comes to Life from KQED Arts on Vimeo.

Friday, November 3, 2017

All I've Got is a Photograph

That title courtesy of Ringo Starr....

As we dig through the remains of our house, I've been taking photos of things that catch my eye. Some are sad, some are just weird.

Formerly a Honda Accord, left in my garage the night of the fire. The insurance agent on the phone didn't quite believe that when I said "totaled" I meant "TOTALED."

I'm pretty sure this handful of ashes was a copy of my book Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? My publisher and I went to great effort to layer two different types of paper in the book, never knowing it would have forensic applications someday.

We found these Art Deco salt and paper shakers that belonged to Karen's grandmother sitting side by side straight up in the ashes. They barely look scorched. So far, this is our miracle recovery.

A molten mass of glass, porcelain and other matrices, built around a little swan at its center. It's almost pretty.

Two steel cans full of change, mostly pennies. Anyone interested in making a quick six bucks drop me a note and I'll send them your way.

A surprising survivor: a relatively fragile terra cotta drum, formerly topped by leather drumheads. The fact that terra cotta came through OK makes sense, although many other fired ceramic pieces became very brittle and fell apart in our hands. 

My neighbor's car bled molten aluminum all over his driveway. 

The EPA sent inspectors around to basically look for any jugs, bottles and cans of hazardous chemicals. Since every jug, bottle and can in our neighborhood melted, their task was quick and easy.

The old manual typewriter that got me through high school and college.

A long-arm stapler I found in the footprint of my studio. Coincidentally, I took the photo below of the very same stapler just a couple of weeks ago to post to a Facebook discussion about staplers, because that's the sort of topic that comes up from time to time. I really liked that stapler.

I'm pretty sure this is Mom's Flower: a delicate little bulb plant that for years after her death bloomed on her birthday, August 22. It didn't bloom this year, which we chalked up to weird weather and such. Looks like it's coming up now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Little Update

It's very hard for me to believe it's been three weeks since the fire.

We're hanging in there. Karen and I just bought a car this afternoon to replace the one that burned up in our garage.

I did these two pages at the request of a TV station that's adapting "A Fire Story" into something really special. I'll tell you all about it when it's time. They asked "How are you doing now?" and I wrote and drew this in response.

I expect I'll have a lot more to say about this experience in time. Starting to feel like maybe I can process it into something interesting.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Fire Story, COMPLETE

This is A Fire Story. Today's Part 2 is below, but I also reposted Friday's Part 1 so the complete story would be together in one place.

Which is not to say I won't do more, depending on what else happens.

It's much less polished than my usual work, but that's part of the point. Writing, penciling and inking an 18-page comic like this would normally take me a few weeks. I did this over parts of four days using a bad brush pen and art supplies from Target--Sharpie pens, highlighters and crummy paper--because Target was the only open store I could find within 20 miles.

It's a first-person report from the front line. They're not always pretty.

Page 9 has some profanity. Actually, it has nothing but profanity. Sorry. I wrestled with that, but that's exactly the way it happened and I am an honest reporter.

My family, pets and I are all fine--a lot better off than many others. There's not a person in the county who hasn't been touched by this disaster. Karen and I know at least a hundred people burned out of their homes, including a lot of cops, firefighters, and government staff who've been working hard for others all week.

A Fire Story has drawn a lot of readers, Facebook comments and shares, and other attention. I appreciate that deeply. Thanks.

We'll be fine. I'll keep you posted as we rebuild.

OCTOBER 31: Three weeks after the fire, I posted a short update as my next blog post, HERE. Thanks again for reading.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Fire Story, Part 1

My house burned down. I made a comic about it.

That seems to be how I handle trauma. It's kind of a feature and a bug.

This is quick, loose work. Materials: Pencil, Sharpie pens, highlighter markers, and one nearly dry brush-pen on crummy paper. These eight pages are Part 1; I have another eight pages planned that I'll post as soon as they're done.

I'd be pleased if you'd consider this as a journalistic dispatch from the front.


Part 2 spoiler alert: Everything was not just fine.

EDITED Sunday to Add: The rest of "A Fire Story" is now up. Read the whole thing on the next post (click on the link to go). Thanks.