Friday, November 8, 2013

Remembering Joey Manley

Last night I was reading the new SANDMAN OVERTURE comic by Neil Gaiman. After reading it, I decided I might be in the mood for some more Gaiman, or perhaps Lovecraft, or just something unusual to read. The comic had a lot of ads for Gaiman's other works, including his short story collection, Preludes & Nocturnes and Smoke & Mirrors (a collection of short stories). Revisiting the Endless definitely put me in a mood for something unusual, so I went to the cabinet in the back bedroom where I keep those books (along with pulps and a few graphic novels).

Now, I don't go to this particular area very often. Probably not more than once every six weeks or so.  I definitely hadn't been there for more than a month. But there I was last night, around 3 am, looking for something to read. I spotted a few battered old paperbacks on my Lovecraft shelf and spotted some I didn't recall having read, then picking one up I realized it was by Brian Lumley. Despite the many people who have recommended him to me, I just don't like his work. Or at least not any of it I've tried to read. So I skipped over it and moved on to the shelf below. There were a few promising things on this shelf, but nothing really caught my fancy, so I continued to browse.

Then my eyes fell on copy of the novel, The Death of Donna-May Dean by Joey Manley.

Joey was someone I used to know back in the days when I was involved in comics fandom. Back in the 1980s, when you wanted to break out of the confines of your small-town world and actually communicate with other fans of comics, SF, and fantasy, you did it by writing letters. There was no cheap and easy email and long distance phone calls could cost you up to 20 cents a minute. Not an economical way to communicate when you're a kid and you'd need permission from your folks before you could even make a long distance phone call.

So Joey and I knew each other through letters. And through comics. In fact, he was the first person (other than myself) to publish my work in his fanzine, Comics*Trips Weekly. It was a forgettable ongoing strip called "Warriors of Horn" about two modern guys who wound up in another world where magic existed and people fought with swords. Not original in any way, shape or form. I think the only bit of originality came from the bit of "humor" derived from the fact that one of the guys was running around in his tighty whities (i.e. jockey shorts) because his pants had gotten ripped up when the "explosion/wormhole" transported them to the new world. The art was by Kyla Morales, someone I knew from our mutual association in a group called The Collectors' Club. I honestly don't even remember how many episodes were published, but if I find any of them, I'll post them here.

But Back to Last Night
I hadn't noticed this novel in a long time, and I recall actually thinking, "Maybe I should finally read it." But I wasn't really in the mood for "literature" at that moment. I had picked it up only because Joey had written it, but as a coming out novel, it really didn't interest me. I had read a few pages way back when I bought it (probably 10 years ago, if not more), and it's been sitting on a shelf ever since.

I honestly don't know why I thought about reading it last night, but I did. For just a second. And I recall an odd thought passing quickly through my head, "There's still time."

This afternoon when I checked Facebook, you can imagine my surprise when I got the news -- from mutual friend Ben Adams -- that Joey Manley passed away yesterday.

I have no idea when Joey passed yesterday -- it could have been day or night. But I can't help wonder if his energy wasn't still moving about the earth at 3 am  (perhaps one final tour of this earthly sphere before ascending to whatever lies beyond?) and found me at that moment and exerted just enough influence to cross my mind with a soft whisper, "Remember me through the words I've left behind..."

As a writer, I think that's something I would want. To know that when I'm gone, someone, somewhere, will find something I created and benefit just a little from the energy I invested into it. That for just a moment, the words or pictures I crafted will touch someone, even if it's just a soft whisper, and for that small moment, I will be remembered.

I know I'm remembering Joey today, and I'm happy for the little bit of creative energy he left behind.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I hit the Renderosity Top 20 this week!

I received a really big honor this week. I was selected as one of the Top 20 Favorite Artists of the Week by If your not active in the digital art world, here's a little info about them (taken from their website) to bring you up to speed.

The Renderosity community is made up of members who have a passion for helping others learn, share and grow in digital art... The Renderosity membership is a very interactive community with forums, chats, free content and a marketplace for digital products and 3D models. Membership is always FREE.

What they don't say is that Renderosity is one of the largest online 3D art communities online. Right now there are almost 78,000 members (as of 9/25/2013, the day I wrote this, there were exactly 77,956 members). I'm not sure exactly how many images are uploaded each week (back in a 2005 press release they mentioned that they passed the one million images mark and had more than 1,000 images uploaded each week), but I recall reading in the forums that an administrator said they get about 3,500 uploads in an average week. And based on the image ID tags, it looks like we're about to hit 2.5 million images.

I've been a member of this online community since 2001, and during that time I've posted about 125 images. My work ranges from material I've created to promote my game, Gutshot, to work I've created for clients (like book cover designs and sci-fi illustrations) to some fabric snapshots I took in a store one afternoon while shopping with my wife. I like to have a mix of my professional work and things I see around me that I think are visually interesting. I'm not overly prolific, but I follow some great young artists and help others by commenting on their work and making suggestions on ways to improve composition and layout.

This past week I posted two new images to my gallery, and apparently the Renderosity site ran some behind-the-scenes voodoo calculations and selected me as their #16 Favorite Artist of the Week! Considering the sheer volume of people I was selected from, this is a really big honor.

Here's what the site says about their selection process:

Renderosity's Favorite Artists are displayed here after careful calculation of the statistics artists have accumulated in the last week. The base statistic being the number of members who have added a particular artist to their favorites in the last week, also taken into account are the number of images each artist has uploaded in the last week and the number of comments that have been posted on those images, to distinguish the more visited of two artists with the same number of favorites. 
The Artwork Itself
So, with that being said, here are the two images I uploaded this past week (by the way, I suggest clicking on both of them so you can see a larger version that will reveal a lot of detail):

Deadwood - Cowboy Mike

This first image is a simple character study for my upcoming game, Gutshot: Night of the Living Deadwood. It's just a cowboy sitting that I set up in Daz Studio 4.6. I was mainly testing how quickly my digital inking techniques could transform a simple 3D image into acceptable line art, and add a suitable background. (If you're interested in more details about the 3D models and software I used, you can check out the image at the Renderosity website. For this image, I'm using a combination of techniques to get an old-fashioned wood block look. I plan to use this method to create a few dozen images for the game book.

Like the above image, this next one is in black & white. Even though I do work in color, I focus on b&w because this is professional work for print in game books that are printed in b&w.

Galaxy Prime - The Loser Goes 'Boom'
This second image is for the game Galaxy Prime, published by my friend James Shade at Epic Age Media. This was rendered in Strata 3D CX7 and, again, I used a variety of techniques to convert it into b&w line art. I was really going for a retro look with this piece. This image may be used in a future Galaxy Prime product.

If you'd like to take a look at the rest of my gallery, you can mosey on over to the Renderosity Website. However, I don't think you'll be able to view all of my images unless you register for a free account: 

Closing Thoughts
There was no 'prize' attached to this, but it is a very cool honor to be recognized as doing work worth following. Especially from such a large group of talented people.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Need help finding some hardware

I think I love shelves. Yeah, I know that's weird, but I love the way they help organize stuff. And I've got a lot of stuff. I've got books, office supplies, hobby supplies, kitchenware, and so much more. I like my stuff, but it's hard to find what you want -- or need -- when it's all lumped together in a drawer or cupboard.

I think what I like best is the way shelves maximize the use of vertical space. By putting things in neat rows, one atop the other, I can see everything at once and get it when I want it.

These handy undershelf baskets add some
much-needed storage options to any closet.
That's why I love the Container Store's annual Shelving Sale. All their shelves are 25% off. This includes some great space savers, like Undershelf Baskets, which let me add more functionality by dividing an existing shelf into smaller spaces. Like here, where I can mount the basket under a shelf in my office closet to hold paper, labels and other office supplies.

They come in a variety of sizes -- I'm fond of the 20-inch because it will hold two reams of paper, side-by-side. Unfortunately, about an inch of paper sticks out over the edge, but in the case of the cardstock in this photo, it doesn't matter because it's thick enough not to curl.

This small plastic "Camel Clip" attaches beneath
the shelf to provide the basket with
extra stability and support.
There is a problem with these baskets, though -- they are held in place only by the metal arms that slide over the top of a standard half-inch shelf. Although the baskets are metal, the fact that they are supported only in the front limits the amount of weight they can hold. To get around this, I screwed a small clip to the back railing to provide additional support and stability. The shelves don't come with the clip, but when I bought my first baskets two years ago, The Container Store had the necessary clip (the sales lady called it a Camel Clip).

Unfortunately, when I went to this year's sale, I was told by two puzzled associates that they don't carry this any more. Furthermore, they had no idea what it was. Thinking that this would not be overly difficult to find, I headed over to Home Depot and discovered that the head of the Fasteners section had no idea what I was talking about (he asked if it was like a miniature conduit clamp). He sent me over to electronics to see if any of the coaxial or ethernet clips might work for me.

To be honest, I found two that might work, but they are not exactly what I'm looking for. So I cam home and hit the Internet, but that's where I ran into a problem. I'm not sure exactly what this is called. That definitely hampered my search. And describing it doesn't make matters any easier. A 2-screw clamp? Mini conduit slip? Wire support? Is it a fastener or some other type of hardware?

After an hour online, I gave up and just drew the following diagram and decided to post it here in the hopes that someone can help me find them, either in metal or plastic. I'm not picky.

Side-view of the fastener I'm looking for.

And before someone suggests this -- yes, I know I could fabricate my own with a simple strip of metal and drilling some holes in it with my Dremel. And that may be just what I'll have to do in the end. But first, I thought I'd post it here and see if anyone has an idea of what it is and where I can get some.

Thanks in advance for your help.

---------- UPDATE from later that evening ------------

A friend over at the miniatures page suggested I go back to Lowe's or Home Depot and look carefully in their shelving sections to see if I could find the part I was looking for. And, Lowe and behold, I found it at Lowe's. They call it a "C" Clamp, and I bought a bag of 20 for about $8, You can see it here:

It's just a little bigger than I was looking for (it's a 1/2 inch tall, rather than 3/8 inches), but I think it will work out fine for what I need.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Crossed a Milestone: 6,000+ comics

It's been a while since I've reported on the progress with cataloging my comic book collection. Back in February I had 5,660 comics. Since then, work and other factors have really affected my progress. But tonight I devoted a half hour to it and finally crested the 6K mark. As of this moment, I've got 6,026 comics in my software.

I entered about 65 comics tonight. The bulk of them included:

  • 23 issues of Power Man and Iron Fist 
  • 39 issues of Darkhawk
These are mostly new comics to me. Well, sort of. The Darkhawk comics were a moving gift from my buddy, Paul Mauer. By that, I mean he gave me two long boxes of comics when he moved because he didn't want to haul them to Seattle. I've been slowly going through them, keeping some (and reading them now). Others (like the Image series Brigade) I'm just going to sell at my next comic/game convention.

The Power Man and Iron Fist comics, however, are new to me. They were in a bargain box outside the local Half-Price Books store on Free Comic Book Day (which was Saturday, May 4). I've always liked that series and recently picked up the PM&IF Essential collection, vol. 1. These issues I picked up are definitely reader copies and well worth the 25 cents per issue I picked up. 

To be honest, there were three duplicates in the run (that is, I already had them). But at 25 cents a book, it honestly wasn't worth the effort it would have taken me to call up my current collection and confirm what issues I already had.

The fact that I'm stopping to read and reread so many of the comics is probably why it's taking me so long to finish this project. On the other hand, that's part of the reason I started this project to begin with. The reason I bought all these comics is because I enjoy reading them. Rereading them -- and in the case of Power Man and Iron Fist -- filling in the blanks on books I missed the first time around is what this venture is all about.

Friday, April 5, 2013

R.I.P. DC Artist Carmine Infantino

I just heard the sad news that veteran comic book artist (and onetime publisher of DC Comics), Carmine Infantino, passed away. He was 87.

New Flash and Old Flash meet on
one of the most iconic images
ever to grace a comic book cover.
Carmine was a legend in the field for many reasons (aside from helping create the new version of the Flash character and launch the Silver Age of Comics), one of which was his ability to tell a story in clean, simple lines. I don't recall ever having to look at a page he drew trying to figure out what was going on. This simple storytelling is something that many new artists could learn a lot about by studying Carmine's work.

Although I never directly spoke to the man (or met him), I have always suspected that I had a tiny influence on his work on one occasion. 

In the 1980s Carmine was drawing the series Spider-Woman. I was a fan of this series and liked it's dark artwork and unusual themes. But I wasn't always thrilled with the fact that the lead character was always getting her costume torn up, then she was captured and tied up (I like a little teasing artwork every now and then, but it was really getting ridiculous at how often she was knocked out and tied up). 

Being a geeky fan, this bugged me because Spider-Woman can't fly: she can glide with the wings built into her costume. But, that costume had been torn to shreds dozens of times so that she would start the issue in tatters, but as the story progressed, the outfit would seem to magically fix itself (and no, it wasn't self-repairing nano-fibers or unstable molecules). 

Anyway, I wrote a letter to the editors and complained about it. Low and behold, within six months, the title page of an issue opened with her sitting in her apartment, sewing her costume. I loved it!

Without having the issues handy (I still haven't cataloged and reboxed the "S" comics, yet), I don't have the issue references for you. But I still fondly recall how the series addressed my geeky concerns. Whether true or not, I always supposed that my letter was the impetus for that scene... and I thank them.

And I also thank Carmine for all his great years of work in providing solid entertainment and being a guiding force for good in the comics industry. He rightfully deserves to be called a legend and he will be missed.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Update: My Top Series

The holidays were a busy time and I didn't get as much sorting and organizing done as I would like. However, things are picking up and I'm getting back into the swing of things. I've put together more comic short boxes (if you recall, I bought a case of 25 of them last Halloween and I've now used 10 of them).

Right now the hardest part is the organizing. I'm trying hard to resist the urge to enter comics in my software (the awesome and then just toss the comics into generic boxes. That really wouldn't help achieve my goals of figuring out what I've got and -- importantly -- where it is.

It's slow going, but I'm getting it done.

Current Count

As of this moment, I've cataloged 5,660 comics. That should put me over the halfway mark, but we'll see.

These are the series I have the most of:

186 - Knights of the Dinner Table
133 - The Defenders
106 - Daredevil
101 - Jughead's Double Digest
93 - Archie's Pals 'n' Gals Double Digest
93 - Batman
83 - Archie Double Digest
82 - Betty & Veronica Double Digest
72 - Spider-Girl, Vol. 1
68 - Detective Comics, Vol. 1

Keep in mind, I have not cataloged all of the Batman books, nor have I even started on the various X-Men titles. When I come across these books (and they are scattered everywhere) I just toss them into a Bat Books Stack and plan to come back to them later.

JLA/JSA Surprise

I had originally put JLA and JSA in the same box, but now have to split them. I've just got too many of those titles (and their various spin-offs and related titles like Elseworlds Graphic Novels, Day of Judgement, etc.) to fit into a single short box. I'm also have some similar issues with Superman (there's just so many related comics and titles -- like Superboy and Supergirl) that he's outgrown one single shortbox.

Nevertheless, it's slow going, but it's going to be worth it in the end.

I'll keep ya posted.