I’ve been in kind of a lull since I’ve done trading cards for Topps, simply because I don’t know how to do anything cooler. And then I got an idea.

I started bugging other trading card companies to see if I could do sketch cards for them. I currently have a small portfolio of Marvel characters which are in at the great Rittenhouse. I’ve exhaustively browsed around, looking for other examples of cards by Rittenhouse artists. Many are comic-styled, and many are graffiti styled, and there are a few ultra-cute ones in between. I opted to approach this in an animated-detailed style. They’re currently being reviewed by the trading card company and Marvel. Getting real, honest-to-god work with Marvel would probably be another highlight I’d never be able to surpass.

Here’s what I submitted.

PS : If I get this Marvel job, I’m shaving my head. I’m shooting for a 50/50 chance, but I know I can do better than some of these folks.

Other current projects include a baby mobile comprised of robots, and a design for the case of a small pinball machine mechanism. I’m squeezing all of this in between jobs, jobs, and more jobs – including applying for roughly 25-30 jobs on eLance this month. No bites yet, but that’s because I’m asking for a realistic wage.

I’ve been especially ornery and impatient at work. I want that to not happen anymore.

It has been an absolutely miserable month for mail-order retail therapy. I have this thing where I don’t feel like I earn enough to really save anything, so I buy things to try to feel better about it, and then you shut up and leave me alone. I pay all of my bills. But it’s been a bad month for this kind of thing.

It starts with Batman car seat covers. I wanted to get a little something nice for my car after paying $700+ to get the roof-scar removed after the snowstorm / branch incident, so I ordered some Batman car seat covers. These, of course, were to match my Batman floor mats and Batman steering wheel cover. After excitedly waiting for these things to arrive, they appear and they’re made of stocking-quality nylon, stitched onto incredibly cheap foam material, with a Batman logo embroidered weirdly in the center. The material was already developing runs, and apparently, the Toyota Corolla has unnaturally malformed tumors for seats, because nothing was fitting anyhow.

I’m not sure how such cheap materials are supposed to protect the car from anything, but these were promptly returned for ‘not being as described’. My car is naked on the inside. My search for Batman shoelaces continues unsatisfied.

I accidentally placed two orders for the same two action figures from an import shop in CA, so when I realized this on the e-mail shipping notice, I just swallowed hard and decided that I’d sell the extra two as a set and earn a little bit of my money back. Why an experienced retailer would ship $140 worth of goods in a thin cardboard box, uninsured, and at Parcel Post rate, is beyond me. It took 16 days to reach here, and by the time it did, it was so crushed that the figures had actually been sprung from their packages. I battled over e-mail for the right to return these, which cost me an extra $10 in shipping for the negligence of the USPS and the retailer. So, don’t shop with HobbyFan. Their shipping FAQ page is a manifesto of dirty, dirty lies.

Finally, I ordered the first 5 appearances of MODOK from Mile High Comics, via eBay. When the order arrived today, two of these five comics were wrong. I mean, these are honest mistakes : ‘Tales of Astonish’ #94 instead of Tales of Suspense #94, and Avengers #112 instead of Captain America #112, but that’s nearly 50% of my order that they colossally screwed up because no one bothered to properly inventory what they were sending out. I’ve yet to hear back from them.

I know that I’m going about life the wrong way, in some way that I can’t understand, but these little things suck royally. Maybe it’s a sign that I should stop buying nice things for myself, or focus on something else, or that the laziness of businesses and employees has reached a sleepy, fever pitch – but this is a collection of annoyances that have clustered together to form a trifecta of suck that takes too much valuable time to deal with. I spend enough time at work fixing everyone else’s negligence.

Get it right, morons of the world.

I’m on page 4 of Coptopus, and things are going smoothly, creatively. The best part of page 3 (which is a splash page) is the fact that I can leave a big section of it undetailed, as I can slap the title over it later in Photoshop.

These are the things that concern you when you need to crank out 22+ pages – layouts, pencils, inks, lettering, scanning, prepping for the publisher. Economy of time is wonderful – but so is making an artful, complete page.

I’ve also been drawing live on webcam. I wish that I could present a closer, more detailed view, but I’m not exactly sure how Mark Crilley does it over on the YouTubes. I liked him better before he went all manga.

Someone asked me why I don’t just quit my job and crank out more pages, more paintings, more art. It’s something that I ask myself every day. It’s a catch-22 : I can’t do it because the market for ME doesn’t exist enough to support me, and the market doesn’t exist because I don’t have enough time to dedicate to it. I think that maybe, maybe after I pay off 2 of my 3 Trifeca Of Debts (student loans, car, credit card), there’s a window of opportunity there. That’s what selling everything on eBay is for, I suppose.

Anyone want a nearly complete run of Diamond’s 7″ scale Star Trek : TNG & DS9 figures? Oh, how I’d love to have an army of variant Picards running around my place – a Locutus in the kitchen, an ‘All Good Things’ on the TV, a ‘Dress Uniform’ in the bathroom… there are bigger dreams, though.

There will eventually be a place where I can go and exist uninterrupted, make my own mistakes, choose the people who I involve in my life.

For now, join The World of Coptopus on Facebook. Brian & I both update it regularly (so far), and I plan to run contests & community things through there also.

It’s been a very long time coming, but I’ve finally been able to start on Coptopus issue #2. I’m worse than Dale Keown, man.

The first issue was a little bit tedious. I approached my first real comic project as something very clinical, something that needed to be perfected. On an intellectual level, I can’t stand seeing a comic artist’s style change as a series progresses – but on a totally practical level, it’s inspiring. Seeing Sam Kieth evolve as he was doing The Maxx was one of the more powerful experiences of my formative period. This time, I’m keeping it really organic – just doing what comes naturally, and I’m enjoying it a lot more, and liking the results.

I’ve also read a lot of really really bad indie comics. I won’t name any, but the recent deliveries have been hideous, and it makes me sad that these people get creative work consistently while I’m kinda stuck spinning my wheels. I have no business sense whatsoever. Come and get me, guys.

It all began in July of 1995. Specifically, Image Comics’ ‘The Maxx’ #17. More specifically, the second to last page.

maxx17The Maxx had been, for over a year, my favorite comic book – and with good reason. It had always been a rather incredible, untraditional superhero-parody-turned-surrealist-tome. By issue #17, they decided to open up a classified ad section in the back few pages, and I leapt at the chance to try and make a few friends.

Understand that this was the days before the internet was THE INTERNET. I was a teenaged boy who lived in an upstate New York forest town, too young and too poor to drive. No sidewalks led to fascinating destinations, and just about all of my friends had turned to drugs and sex to make their lives more palatable. I turned to writing letters (and digging through old LPs while my friends were picking up new CDs). Just knowing that a piece of paper had come all of the way from Ohio, or California, or South Carolina made those places more real, and my own life a little more endurable with the awareness of the great big ‘something else’.

My ad is embarrassing. I was reading a lot of Sandman, spending a lot of time in graveyards, drawing a lot of dragons and wearing a lot of black. And probably enough pendants to choke a man with a slightly thinner neck. It read as follows :

“Desperately seeking spirits as dark as I. Is there anyone else who loves spring shadows & nighttime as I do? A promise to respond to any blessed soul who writes. You’ll be surprised.”

Followed, of course, by my address. These were days before you had to be terrified about printing your full address anywhere, also. Over the next few months, I received around 100 or more letters, and one by one, by hand, I’d write out replies. General repetitive stuff about myself that I eventually got fairly sick of writing, and the pursuit to fulfill my promises took up much of my time. I spent one year’s Jersey Shore vacation holed up in a dim room writing out letter after letter – for what ultimate purpose, I do not know. I was very angry and antisocial at that point in my life, anyhow. I think that I ended up maintaining about ten or twenty correspondences for a few years, while the others just could not hold my interest. I didn’t have a computer at my disposal to expedite the process – which would have been far less romantic anyhow.

As I was cleaning more parts of my living spaces yesterday, I came across a huge box of letters that I’d forgotten about, dating back to 1995. I threw many of them out – not for lack of care about these special people, but because the sentimentality is for people who just don’t exist anymore. I’m not an unsentimental person, but the prospect of carting around a 16-year-old version of myself isn’t exciting.

There’s the guy from California who sent me a video tour of his house who I really was in sync with. There’s the guy who took one of my letters out of context and I think started to try to romance me with phone calls. There’s the girl who I fell in love with, and who fell in love with me, over nothing more than immense stacks of letters, until it became clear that we were both too young to really implement any aspect of our relationship from across the country. The girl from Brooklyn who reminded me, at the time, of Sandman’s Delirium, and who befriended me briefly on MySpace years ago and vanished. Two people who I still retain casual communication with over Facebook, 15 years later. The girl who made daily phone calls from Scotland and ran up an absurd phone bill for herself, despite my protestations and blocks on my phone that prevented extravagant outgoing calls.

A girl from upstate New York who called herself ‘Felicity Darkstorm’, and whose real name I never learned. We sent art back and forth while she battled her own darkness, went off to Alfred University, and disappeared. This is hoping that she Googles her old pseudonym and finds me again, because I want to know how things turned out.

I ran into one old penpal while I was helping to host a booth at MoCCA this past year. I have a pretty bizarrely intense memory for names, so when I recognized his name on his badge, I accosted him. He had no idea who I was, but when I started describing comics that he used to draw, it became clear that I wasn’t just a very good salesman.

One special penpal I’ve retained actively for about 15 years – from letters and postcards sent to me in purple ink from all over the world, to e-mails, to online chatting, to the eventual phone call or two. It’s so strange to see these old letters, and who we were, and it helps to assemble this huge, intangible, four dimensional puzzle. I have kept every scrap that she ever sent me. They are the only things I am keeping from this immense box. As far as I’m concerned, these things are still present. These are the only things, over 15 years of correspondence, that are still valuable to me.

Where there was once an archive of a different time and attitude, there is now an extra two square feet of space to live in. Or to not have to take with me on the next leg of the journey. Lately, the freedom has been the more valuable option over keeping much of anything.