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Saturday, 28 July 2018

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday was productive.

Yes friends and geeks yesterday good ol' CoreyGeek was kicking ass and taking names. Let me tell you a story.

It began with a simple comment to the WifeGeek that I wanted to spend a couple of hours sequestered in my basement studio working on a strip. The plan, or so I hope, is to get new comics going up weekly starting on the seventh of August, returning to putting new strips up on Tuesdays.

The WifeGeek agreed on one condition, that I have a new comic up by the end of the day. Well friends, sometimes that's easier said than done but I figured, I can do this.

I spent the afternoon working on a revamp of a previously existing strip, updating the artwork and working at my craft. By five I had managed to finish the four panel strip and just needed to come up with another strip by the end of the day. Fortunately I had a plan.

Going back to December, the wife bought me a cell phone. She had been playing Pokemon Go since it's release back in 2016 and I had struggled to understand the appeal. I liked the idea of a game that encouraged the user to get out into the real world and walk around but I didn't, at the time, have a way of checking it out.

So with my new mobile phone I downloaded the game and quickly found myself addicted. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked. It is fun and getting out to a park with the family looking for Pokemon is rewarding. I quickly came up with the idea for the comic and drew it out in one of my sketchbooks. And there it sat, never finished beyond being inked.

So when I needed a finished strip I just needed to pull the artwork out of my sketchbook - fortunately for me it has perforated pages - and scanned it into the computer. I finished up the border panels, speech balloons and lettering in an open source editing program which has become my preferred alternative to Photoshop.

I had to download a few plug-ins and fonts as I was working on the family computer rather than my laptop, but I managed to hammer out a the double paneled strip in a couple of hours.

Moving forward Meet the Geeks and SeanGeek's podcast, available on his website and Podbean will be creating new content and will have a Patreon account available (you have seen the button in the sidebar right?) with exclusive content and swag available to subscribers.

But the strip and this blog will always be free. So friends, keep coming back, look for new content and support the Geeks. We'd do the same for you.


Monday, 16 July 2018

Sean on Ditko

Steve Ditko. Despite his most famous co-creator credit, the creation of Spider-Man, Ditko never really seemed to really get his due. At Marvel, there was Stan Lee, almost single-handedly writing most of their books, and there was Jack Kirby who was drawing most of the titles. Ditko had always been “the other guy”. When I started reading comics, Spider-Man had already gone through Romita Sr, and Andru on the art chores, and Stan Lee wasn’t even writing the book anymore. I was introduced to John Byrne and Chris Claremont’s run on the team-up Spider-Man book called Marvel Team-Up. Sure I had read Spider-Man’s first appearance a bunch of times in various re-prints, but I had largely been unaware of Ditko or his influence. I was aware of Stan Lee and his larger than life writing ability, as it was often talked about reverently by everyone in the industry. Because I had been groomed on John Byrne’s Spider-Man, I was very receptive to John Buscema and John Romita Sr’s version of the hero. And I was always being drawn to that style, emulating it on my own comic book creations years later.

The initial run of Spider-Man had often been mythologized by the other creators and eventually I came around to reading more of Ditko’s run on the title. And since there were rarely any interviews with Mr Ditko, I was unware of his involvement on the book other than the artwork, thinking everything was in fact Stan Lee’s ideas.
I was a big Spider-Man fan and I was collecting back issues of Spider-Man, working my way as far back as Buscema’s work and quite a few Russ Andru issues. Eventually and quite finally, I was unable to go any further back without completely breaking the bank.  Marvel started putting out collected editions of their early titles under the Essentials trade format series, a black and white chronological reprint of an entire runs of titles. I was a completist and I needed to fill in what I could to have all of the Spider-Man issues. This was how I glomed onto Steve Ditko.
I also learned that Ditko’s involvement on the title was far more involved than what I had at first assumed. Ditko was not only drawing the title, he was co-plotting all of it. In fact, it was Ditko that controlled the narrative, the pacing, the invention of all of those early villains that have forever remained one of the best rogue’s galleries in all of comics. Peter Parker’s pathos, his frustrations, his anger--- all key elements to the book, were from the mind of Ditko.
I found Dr Strange immediately thereafter. Here was another Ditko co-creation (with Stan Lee again). For all the greatness of his Spider-Man, Dr Strange was on a whole other level. Spider-Man was grounded in reality, with the art really sharing a real New York to the world. Dr Strange was abstract, other dimensional and really trippy. My young brain exploded on the visuals Ditko came up with. Even in black and white, the art was out of this world.
It became apparent that Ditko’s roles in both Dr Strange and Spider-Man were much more than artist. His work raised these characters into the public consciousness. He made them relatable that they were just like us yet they were fantastic enough that we all could escape from the real world. All due credit to Stan Lee as well for his work on both of those titles. His role in both characters should not be minimized. It took Stan’s vision to pick Ditko, who was NOT the mainstream artist designed for Spider-Man and later for Dr Strange, but the one Stan chose to go with. It took Ditko’s quirky art to elevate Spider-Man. Without Ditko, it is entirely possible and plausible that Spider-Man and later Dr Strange might have never taken off. It was essentially Spider-Man that was responsible for Marvel Comics’ growth as a company, and the first title to really push Marvel to the next level.
We all owe a debt to Ditko. Without him, we likely would never have had the Marvel Comics we know and love today. Without him, Marvel might not have taken the chances they took. Marvel not only changed how comics were created, they created a revolution, a movement that extended far beyond the comic books. Comics were being quoted in the mainstream press often, and the edgy stories within the pages of these “funny books” were changing the sociological landscape.
Decades later, I still find myself going back and losing myself in those pages. Every time I forget my writing ethos, Ditko takes me back. I re-read all of Ditko’s early Marvel work to re-ignite my own writing.  It is essential to taking chances, bucking the norm and finding the character within the character. It is about making things relatable yet fantastic, about writing visually, about believing in what you are creating and just running with it anyway, even if others think it wouldn’t work. Ditko was revelatory and revolutionary. There will never be another like him. 

Long live Ditko.


Friday, 6 July 2018

My introduction to the Scumdogs of the Universe and seeing them live.

Back in 1990 I came across a band and album that would eventually change my life and outlook on the way that things could be.

That band of course was the immortal GWAR and the album was that bands second release: Scumdogs of the Universe.

On the cassette cover stood five grotesque monsters brandishing outrageously oversized and bloodstained weapons. Clad in armor that Warhammer Orcs would find impractical they dominated the cover under the bands name, rendered to look like cartoonish blood. The band stood on what I now know is the bleak, fissured landscape of Antarctica, the location of the bands fictional home (they really hail from Richmond, Virginia) but what, for the longest time, I thought was a sunny beach in front of a lake or sea.

Equally bizarre were the creatures names, Oderus Urungus: lead singer. Balsac the Jaws of Death: guitarist. Flattus Maximus: another guitarist. Beefcake the Mighty: Bass. And last but certainly not least was Jizmak the Gusher: Drummer.

Monsters playing metal? What more could a young comic book enthusiast and metalhead want from a band? I think their film "Skulhedface", filmed by the band to accompany the album "This Toilet Earth" best sums it up in this piece of dialogue:

Mr. Big: Mr.Martini, I must congratulate You on creating such an... innovated concept.

Glomco Executive: Yes, Barbarians from Outer Space playing Heavy Metal, joining your Comic book Nerds and Metal Heads together under one Product Banner. Your Demographics were right on Target!

Sleazy P. Martini: Hey, Asshole, Demo whatevers had nothin' to do with it. GWAR is for real Man!

Mr. Big: Come come now Mr. Martini, we're not your pimply faced Teenage Fans.

Sleazy P. Martini: ...and this ain't yer typical poser Band whipped up by a bunch of D&D playing Art School Flunkies! I... had to go to the ends of the Earth to find GWAR...

The album wasn't mine. I borrowed it from a classmate in my metalworking class. I quickly copied it and spent hours, then years, followed by decades, listening to it.

GWAR is a concept that probably never should have worked. A bunch of guys in monster costumes, playing heavy metal and spraying down their audience with gallons of fake blood and other fluids while dismembering varied victims and fighting various enemies? The band was a totally Gonzo concept that thirty years later is still touring the continent and putting out new albums.

GWAR is in many ways a satirical band, encompassing the decadence and depravity of the 80's metal scene, through Glomco roasting the corporations that exploited bands and musicians to their own end and over time satirizing politics, politicians, news and just about anything else they please.

But the way to experience them is in all their glory, live onstage, a grand guignol spectacle that I doubt many bands could ever hope to reproduce.

I didn't get to see the band until I was well into my twenties and I was fortunate enough to see them with Clayton and Sean when they appeared at the Pyramid Cabaret in downtown Winnipeg.

As I recall the location was packed to capacity. My first impression of the band as they made their way to the stage was the way that they dominated the room. These five band members in their battle armor. They seemed superhuman in height. In reality Dave Brockie, who performs as Oderus Urungus stood at about 6'7". At least that's how tall he seemed to me.

The show was everything I could have hoped. The band showed their social satire killing caricatures of the various politicians and villians in the news at that time. My love for the band was firm as they left the stage and the venue began playing "Beat it" by Michael Jackson while the bands slaves hosed down the people on the floor with the "Biledriver", a tripod mounted water cannon.

After the show we decided to hang around for a bit and I noticed with some amusement that the band, out of costume, was milling around packing up gear. One harried looking stage manager was wandering around amongst the chaos shouting "Has anyone seen Dave?". That was interesting. Where was the singer?

I looked over towards the stage and, yes, there he was. I'm talking about the slave of his Lordship Oderus, the late, great, Dave Brockie. I immediately ran over and said (I might have shouted) "Dave Brockie?" thrusting out my hand as I dove over the railing that seperated us. He turned with a look of fear on his face and went "yeah?".

"Great show man!"

Any stories about his copious drug use was immediately confirmed. his pupils were dilated to the point of being black. But after realizing that he wasn't under attack from this bald headed, goateed gorilla, he was affable and willing to talk not only with us but other fans that had stuck around. If my love for the band was firm following the show, after talking with Dave Brockie my love was cemented. He was a true gentleman and showed a great fondness for his fans.

It was a terrible blow when on March 24, 2014 I found out that he had died, later confirmed as a heroin overdose, in his home in Richmond.

While the band could have folded and died they have instead soldiered on with the original Beefcake the Mighty, Michael Bishop, donning new armor as Blothar the Berzerker and taking over the lead singing duties of the band.

Their first album post-Oderus was a solid thrash-metal offering called the Blood of Gods and confirmed, via a line in "Fuck this Place" "We ain't done yet man...".

And neither am I...