Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hulk vs. Thor

...Yawn. Honestly, it was kind of boring. Watching two Hulk animated films back to back may have been a mistake. Yes, it was "Hulk smash!" time after time, and there was Loki, being all tricky, and the Enchantress wanting Thor for herself, while Thor's attentions were cast toward Sif and well, it just wasn't that great.

Now, if Marvel ever really wants to do Thor up right, they'll take a page from DC's book and adapt the Walt Simonson Thor saga. I would pay big money to watch something like that!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

I was going to write about Hulk vs. Thor tonight, but we got home too late to watch it! So, it will have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, here's Nite Owl's snowsuit from the upcoming Watchmen movie:

You can see this and more here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Hulk Smash Claw People!"

I bought the Hulk vs. DVD today, and watched the first disc, Hulk vs. Wolverine. All I can say is that that you've never seen Wolverine like this before...on video. There are amputations, blood by the gallon, and mass slaughter.

That said, there were good elements of the video as well. There are classic Wolverine lines like, "I'm the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn't very nice." There are classic screen shots, like the McFarlane image of the Hulk reflected in Wolverine's claws:

In a flashback we get to see a quick origin story ala Barry Windsor Smith's Weapon X. The fights are well worthwhile, evocative of classic Wolverine/Sabertooth matchups of the past, as in this movie Wolverine takes on some of his greatest enemies, including Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red,, well, Deadpool too.

It never fails to amaze me how Wolverine went from a guy with unbreakable bones and a healing factor that would allow him to recover from a sword wound in a few months to an unstoppable, nigh-invulnerable fighting machine who can be punched literally miles through the air without his little squishy brain running out of his ears. The battle between the Hulk and Wolverine rages throughout the Canadian Rockies, which I think the Hulk actually breaks at one point. It's too bad because the background paintings were beautiful!

Kudos also go to Jeff Matsuda, who designed the characters for this movie. Watching the special features, I love the detail he provides in describing the designs. You get to see turnarounds for the main characters and some sketches as well, which as I've said before, is my favorite part of animation and comics work.
As usually happens in Marvel films, you'll want to watch all the way through the credits for a little bonus shot at the end.

Tomorrow: Hulk vs. Thor!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The other day I was thinking about retirement. I'm eligible to retire in 11 years, but what complicates things is that Sera will only be about 14 and in 8th grade when that happens. My thought right now is to retire to my hometown in Michigan, at least while she's in high school. A couple of my friends from high school started in Mesick in middle school because their fathers were retired police officers from Detroit, and didn't want their kids going to high school in the big cities. Sera would face a similar situation, attending a high school with 3,500 students. It seems daunting to me, and I don't want her to get lost in the crowd. One of the things that my high school did for me was to give me the opportunity to excel and stand out. I could participate in every sport I wanted to, and if I had gone to a school the size of the one Sera would attend, I probably wouldn't even have made a single team. The competition is simply too fierce.

I love my little town, but it's hard enough for Magi to live so far from her family now. This move would be another four hours away, but my solution would be to fly when we want to travel. Since last summer I have subscribed to Traverse Magazine, and reading the new issue every month makes me miss home. I know my experiences in high school were special, and my daughter deserves no less an opportunity to shine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jonny Quest

I've been going through some old animation and comics seeking inspiration for my book, and I can't find a better example of classic television animation than Jonny Quest. Jonny Quest was originally a prime time show that only lasted one season, beginning in September 1964, three months before I was even born. However, it found new life in syndication being shown on Saturday mornings in 1967, which is when I first saw it.

Jonny Quest is the 11-year old son of Dr. Benton Quest, a scientist who often works for the US government. Both Quests are accompanied by Roger T. "Race" Bannon, who serves as tutor, bodyguard, and pilot for the Jonny, as well as his Indian friend, Hadji, who joins the family in the second episode. As Dr. Quest travels the world working on various scientific projects, Jonny and Hadji learn at Race's side. He teaches them Judo, SCUBA diving, as well as academic subjects. They were often faced with international intrigue, as villains would try to steal Dr. Quest's technology or research.

From the opening electric guitar notes of the theme song, with its jazz beat and horn section, quick cuts, lasers and explosions, I was hooked. This show, obviously inspired by the James Bond movies, shows the hopeful optimism of the pre-Vietnam 1960s, when American know-how and might were thought to be unchallenged. The Quests had lasers, submersible vehicles, jet packs, hovercraft, portable telecommunication, you name it. It was like every Q gadget wrapped up in one cartoon. It's this early 1960s sensibility that you can easily see inspired Brad Bird's "The Incredibles." He even appears on the DVD set's special features, singing the show's praises.

I'm watching the first episode right now, "Mystery of the Lizard Men," and the McGuffin that the bad guys are after is a (finger quote) LASER (/finger quote). It's funny that something so futuristic in 1964 that they were afraid the technology would fall into enemy hands is sitting in my drawer upstairs where I use it as a toy for my dog to chase in the back yard.
Jonny Quest is also unique to cartoons in its violence and intensity. They shoot real guns that fire real bullets that kill real people in this show. Race throws a grenade into the lap of a thug in a Jeep and it blows up all four passengers.

An unfortunate side effect of the 1960s sensibilites are the racial stereotypes shown. Asians were very often the bad guys and they were colored a most unnatural yellow. Mexicans were shown to be swarthy and untrustworthy. Germans were more often than not former Nazis. Unless you were an American on this show, or a friend of the Americans, you were eeeevil.

Still, the show in its historical context is the best example I can think of, of an action show. It was the target of parents' groups in the late 60s and early 70s, and yet I somehow managed to grow up a non-violent person. I wish there were more shows like this now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dusty Abell Does it Again!

If you're over 35, this picture is worth a billion words! Go here for the truly awesome full-sized picture.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Superhero Sundays, Part 2

As I wrote last Sunday, I used to really enjoy getting my pencil artwork inked by professional comic book artists. Here's another fun example. Brian Stelfreeze had done a great convention sketch for me in 1990 at the Chicago Comicon, long before it was Wizard World Chicago. He had been sitting next to Lurene Haines and Dave Dorman, for whom Stelfreeze had done little caricature signs. He was little known then, having basically done Cycops for Comics Interview. I was picking up (as I still do) comics that caught my eye artistically, and Brian Stelfreeze's style was fresh and anything but conventional. His drawings reminded me of Nagel paintings, and they had real life to them. By the time he got to my drawing it was nearing the end of the show on Sunday, but he did it for me anyway, finishing a half hour after the show was over. I was a fan for life after that.
The next year, I found him again all alone at the convention. Good luck with that now, by the way. I asked him to ink a sketch that I had done for my buddy Eric of his space-faring character Starhammer. He remembered me from the year before and inked the following sketch. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said, "Nothing. It's just an ink job." If he wasn't my hero before, he sure was after that!

I really need to get around to coloring this with Photoshop at some point. I can add the starfield and some effects for the sun behind the Earth:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Home Alone

I was home alone with Sera all day today, as Magi had a professional assignment that took her out of town with several students today. Holy cow, am I tired!

I teach all day long, but Sera wears me out. She is so active, and demands Daddy's attention. Even when she's watching a movie I can't so much as pull out a sketch book before she's all over me. She wants to do everything I'm doing. The interaction we have is unique to me. It's a closeness that I can't imagine having with a peer, like my wife or a friend. She watches everything I do, she follows my every move and learns like a sponge absorbs water.

I sure love being a father!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Questions You'd Rather not Answer as an 8th Grade Math Teacher

From a female student on Tuesday: "Mr. McClain, what's a douchebag?"

From a female student today: "Mr. McClain, what does ejaculate mean?"

Thank goodness for dictionaries.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My iPod

I've been leaning a lot on my iPod recently. At school, the new forced-air heating system blows air out so loudly that I can't hear people speaking in a normal volume from my desk. It's like flying in a jet. It's so loud that when we happen to have a meeting after school past 4:00, there's a serious hush over the entire building when the blowers turn off. Since my first period is my prep period, I use it to get ready for the entire day and it's just impossible to concentrate with that constant blowing fan in my ears. So, I've taken to my iPod with my Bose noise-canceling headphones to focus. It's nice being in my own little world for a while each day.

One of the fun things about my iPod is hooking it up to my computer speakers so that the kids can enjoy some of my music. When they ask me if I have any rap, I quickly jump to the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." They tell me that it's not rap, but I have to disagree. By definition, talking to music with a beat is most definitely rap. It's not hip-hop, but that's not what they asked for.

It's funny how many of the songs that my kids actually do know. Some are the children of metalheads and crave AC/DC, some are fans of Journey, and I never realized how many of these kids know "YMCA" from school dances. I point out to them that the song was released when I was their age, but they don't mind. It's hilarious to watch these kids attempt the "YMCA" dance. They almost always do the "C" backward. I have to show them that you make the "C" so that it's legible to the viewer, not to the people standing behind you. You're probably wondering what this has to do with math. Well, you see, it's all about horizontal symmetry. They do the "C" backward, beause it's not horizontally symmetrical. They can't do the other letters backward because they are horizontally symmetrical. "Y," "M,", and "A" all have lines that you can draw right down the middle of them that can act as a mirror. I know, what a way to introduce a concept, right?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The New Frontiersman

Here is a new site supporting the upcoming Watchmen movie. It looks pretty interesting. It has photos of historical events in the Watchmen universe:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I know I've said it here before, but Sean "Cheeks" Galloway is a genius of design. Here are his versions of Mysterio and Kraven from the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, the second season of which will be seen here in America on Disney XD starting in March. Cheeks is being recognized with an Animation Award nomination for best character designer. I wish I had his talent...and his job!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Get Off My Lawn!

"Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have f---ed with? That's me."--Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood

Eric, Rob, and I went to see "Gran Torino" last night, and it was great. Clint Eastwood didn't quite play Dirty Harry, but his Korean War veteran/Ford factory worker came pretty close, at least for a while. Using virtually every racial slur ever spoken (except one), Kowalski is a holdout in a Michigan community (looked like Detroit to me) where he is surrounded by Hmong and other minority neighbors. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather. He had a garage full of tools, a house full of memories, and no tolerance for youngsters and their collective lack of manners and respect. When Walt rescues the neighbor boy from some Hmong gangbangers, Kowalski finds himself an uncomfortable hero to the locals. Recently widowered, Kowalski starts to take a paternal interest in the kids next door. If it hadn't been for his constant, continued racial slurs he would have been a great grandpa for them. Walt quickly finds himself over his head, however, as the violence and threats against the kids escalates. He has no idea what he's going to do to get them out of the situation and give them a hopeful future.

I won't spoil the movie, but I give Eastwood credit for surprising me. He passed up opportunity after opportunity to hit cliches and left them behind. I love it when directors do that. As Rob said, I probably could have done with his singing over the end credits, though.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Superhero Sundays

Sunday used to be my favorite day of the week. I lived for Sundays.

As I wrote about here, I joined a role-playing game campaign that changed my life. Seriously, it changed my life. I met the friends in that Sunday Champions campaign that I have to this day. I moved to the area in which I live to be closer to them, so that we can go out and do things together. The campaign has long since gone by the wayside (in 1994, to be exact), but my friends and I still hang out. Even the ones who have moved away hang out when we play City of Heroes on Wednesday nights. And when Champions Online comes out soon, I suspect we'll switch over to that, because it will be the electronic version of the pencil and paper game that we played all those years ago.

There's a certain element missing (no, not your character, Carl) when you create our characters for online games, though. You can create your character using the templates provided in the game itself. You can choose from thousands of costume parts and millions of color combinations, but it's still limited by the game engine. It seems that every group back in those days had an artist, and back in 1988, I was that guy for our group. Whenever someone had an idea for a new character, they would approach me and I would accomodate them by drawing their character the way they wanted them. I would throw in suggestions here and there, and sometimes what I suggested would inspire them to do something a little differently. I would take their order one Sunday and by the next week, I would have a finished sketch done for them on 11 x 17 Bristol board. Sometimes I even got paid! Ten bucks went a long way back in 1988, especially for a substitute teacher who worked part time at Pizza Hut. That was my fun money. I would use it to buy art supplies, comics, game supplements, and the like. My paychecks always took care of bills, but my sketch money was mine.

My problem was that I was a sketch artist. I had no formal training beyond taking one art elective in college. I didn't even take art in high school, since it wasn't offered. I didn't know anything about inking, coloring, painting, or anything other than simple pencil work. I loved design work, but the other elements of comic book art were way beyond me. At that time, though, you could go to a comic book convention and get a professional sketch done by a penciller and have it inked by a professional inker for a reasonable price. We had to have inked artwork so that you could transfer it to a character sheet, and pencil art didn't copy especially well, and this was long before Photoshop. So one of my friends, Scott Burnham, decided to get a pencil sketch I had done for him of his character Quantum inked by a pro. I loved that drawing so much that he gave it back to me for my birthday several years later. It also provided me with the inspiration to have more of my sketches inked by professionals. I have had my sketches inked by a pantheon of comic book artists. I still have it done once in a while, and it's still a thrill.

I think I'll put one of these sketches up each Sunday until I have used them all. There will be a story behind most of them, and it'll be fun for me to remember watching the process, as I was almost always present when they were being done.

Here's Quantum, pencilled by me and inked by Mike Gustovich. Mike was the creator of the Justice Machine and did a lot of work for Palladium Games back in the 80s:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Barack Obama"

"Barack Obama."

Those were the words that my 2 1/2-year old daughter uttered tonight when the lead news story mentioned the president-elect's train trip on the way to the inauguration. Magi did a double take and asked me if I heard it. I couldn't believe that she had said it, so I asked her what she said. She repeated and pointed at the screen, "Barack Obama." We have never talked about Obama in front of her, at least by using both of his names. They didn't mention his name on the news program tonight, either...until after she said his name. Sera has actually been paying attention to the news and recognized the president-elect on sight.

I'm impressed!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wild Cards: Inside Straight

A new triad of Wild Cards books began this past summer with Inside Straight, the first new Wild Cards book in over two years.

Inside Straight introduces us to a new generation of aces, including blogger Jonathan Hive, a wannabe journalist who can turn into a swarm of insects; Curveball, who can throw and then control objects before she makes them explode; The Amazing Bubbles, who can create irridescent bubbles that, again, explode; Earth Witch, who can shape and move earth; Rustbelt, an armored ace who can rapidly increase the oxidation rate of metals; and Drummer Boy, a joker/ace with six arms and the ability to create powerful sounds from tympanic membranes on his torso and in his throat.

We meet the aces in a nice little setup in the form of a television show called American Hero. Like most reality shows, American Hero has teams, challenges, and eliminations. Hosted by Peregrine, and judged by classic characters Digger Downs and others, American Hero introduces us to the new line of aces and lets us see them at their modern-day backbiting worst.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the Caliphate of the entire middle east has been assassinated, making way for new leadership. Remember, in the Wild Cards universe, there are most definitely some altered parts of history, and the Nur took over in Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad back in 1988 or so. This chain of events brings out the true hero in some of the "discards" from the American Hero show and they make their way to Egypt, where the forces commanded by the new Caliphate are slaying jokers by way of genocide.

Inside Straight is a nice addition to the Wild Cards universe, which had laid dormant for too long. It's a rich world with lots of stories to tell, and the creators obviously love to tell stories about their characters. The first time I read it I didn't care for the reality show aspect of it, primarily because I hate reality shows, but when I looked at it as a vehicle to introduce the new characters it made it much more tolerable. The characters start out extremely unlikable, but their actions in the end redeem them and win the reader over. The new book, Busted Flush, just came out and I look forward to that one as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Heard in Heaven

Heard in heaven yesterday: "The plane! The plane!"

I watched Star Trek II last night just because it needed to be watched.

New Gaming Blog Reading on a Snow Day

As I read on io9 this morning, there's a new gaming blog on the web that talks about that beloved hobby of mine, tabletop gaming. That includes RPGs as well as CCGs. And that reminds me, I should write about Magic the Gathering soon. Those were a fun couple of years for me.

And why am I reading a not-necessarily-safe-for-work website (gaming sites are forbidden in my school district) this morning? Well, about a million schools were called off today, including ours. So we're socked in at home. Below on the left is Sera's water and sandbox, and on the right is our dog Shadow, romping through the back yard. The trees are beautiful with all the snow on them!
The only thing I don't like about snow days is that we make them up in the spring. I'd rather have days off when the weather is nice and we could go outside and do something. But you know, with MLK day coming up on Monday, if we have another snow day tomorrow we'll have a five-day weekend!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Yesterday I wrote about "The Prisoner," starring Patrick McGoohan. Yeah, turns out he died yesterday. I'll be accepting donations via PayPal to not write about you next!

Ala Harper's Index:

Number of web and print articles remembering Patrick McGoohan that are either entitled, or contain the phrase, "Be seeing you:" 44,321.

A funnier quote that might be more appropos here would be from his role as King Edward Longshanks in 1995's "Braveheart:"

"Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"The Prisoner" was "Lost"

I've just been watching the first episode of Patrick McGoohan in "The Prisoner" at AMC's site, and I was immediately struck by the similarities between that classic cult show and another newer one, "Lost."

I guess it's been 20 years since I last saw "The Prisoner," but as soon as I saw the bouncing ball sentry, the thing roared with the same sound as the smoke monster from "Lost." But the thing that really got me was the pantry in #6's apartment. All of the food had Village Foods labels, just as in the hatch, the Dharma Initiative has their own food labels. Then when I started looking at it thematically, people trapped on an island where the storyline provides more questions than answers is basically what "The Prisoner" is about, too.

I guess it just goes to show you that there really are no original ideas left.

Be seeing you!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush's Achievements, aka Another NCLB Rant

According to this Weekly Standard article, written by Fred Barnes, George Bush's presidency was marked by several successes. The only one I even saw among them:

"His fifth success was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the education reform
bill cosponsored by America's most prominent liberal Democratic senator Edward
Kennedy. The teachers' unions, school boards, the education establishment,
conservatives adamant about local control of schools--they all loathed the
measure and still do. It requires two things they ardently oppose, mandatory
testing and accountability.

Kennedy later turned against NCLB, saying Bush is shortchanging the
program. In truth, federal education spending is at record levels. Another
complaint is that it forces teachers to "teach to the test." The tests are on
math and reading. They are tests worth teaching to."

Uh, no. First of all, sir, how would you know that they are tests worth teaching to? Have you ever looked at one of them? Each state has their own tests, and there are tests for each grade level. So, fifty states times an average let's say of eight testing levels per state, with tests for both math and reading (or, as we like to call it in the educational field, language arts), that's 800 tests. I wonder how many you have even seen.

Secondly, federal spending is at record levels but the mandates placed on schools is greater than those levels. Where is that money coming from, sir? When you mandate programs that cost $34.3 billion in 2005, but fund it with $24.9 billion, where is the extra $9.4 billion coming from? Existing programs, which had to be cut.

It's not testing and accountability we teachers loathe. It's politicians and magazine reporters who can't subtract whole numbers and write out of complete and utter ignorance of their subject matter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fever Pitch

Like "That Thing You Do," another one of those movies that I just have to watch whenever I see that it's on is Fever Pitch. The Farrelly brothers' romantic comedy is set in 2004 during the Red Sox's historic baseball season in which they won their first World Series championship since 1918. Jimmy Fallon plays 9th grade math teacher Ben Wrightman, who meets Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore), an up-and-coming mathematician, while showing his students what kind of living one can make with applied mathematics. He finds himself attracted to Lindsey, and asks her out. On their first date when he shows up at her apartment, Lindsey is suffering from food poisoning and vomiting. He takes it upon himself to not only look after her but to clean her bathroom, which in my opinion, nominates him for sainthood.

Things progress normally between the two until one day, baseball season starts. You see, Ben is a Red Sox fan. And when I use the word "fan," I mean it in its original sense: fanatic. Everything in his apartment relates to the Red Sox, including a wall decoration which is a replica of the Green Monster (the left field fence in Fenway Park), that is complete to the degree that the hand-operated scoreboard is set to a specific game. Lindsey is a little taken aback by the degree of Ben's enthusiasm, and the tension begins.

As the relationship deepens, Ben and Lindsey agree that while he dives in headfirst into his obsession, she will focus on her job and getting the big promotion she wants. If only it were that easy!

There are so many things that I love about this movie. It captures the spirit of baseball, the tradition, the superstition, the beauty of the game, and yes, the math. Ben explains the game and his team to Lindsey, and I wish I could be as eloquent as he is, bringing home the majesty of a great pastime to a relative n00b.

Like a typical Farrelly brothers movie, not only is it funny, but it's sweet as well. The emotional depths of the characters is well-written, and the way the two characters reflect on their relationship with their friends seems very authentic. Lindsey talks about everything with hers, and Ben doesn't. Well, with the exception of a rhetorical rant in front of one of his students. Yep, he's a man, all right!
The eventual heartbreak that comes seems very, very real. How it is presented and how they deal with the resolution seems right on the money.

The only thing I would change about this movie is that I would make it longer. When I watch the DVD, I always begin with the deleted scenes and watch scenes 1-13, which extends scenes dealing with Ben's childhood. Then I start the movie with the actual scene 3, which begins the part where Ben is grown up. The fleshed-out "young Ben" scenes do a lot to explain the importance of some of the things in his apartment, where if you don't watch them, they just seem like random memorabilia. But the meaning these deleted scenes give the items, deepens Ben's character appreciably. It's a shame they weren't included in the original release.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Treasures in the Basement, Part 2

I was going through some of my old sketchbooks from the 80s and found this. I re-lettered it, but the drawing is exactly the same. This is from 1988, a glorious time for comic book fans:

Friday, January 09, 2009

Super Sera!

I'm home with Sera today, because her nose is leaking like a faucet and she's not sleeping well at all, and I thought I would introduce her to the world of City of Heroes.

Every Wednesday night, my friends and I get together to play, but it's right about the time I would be putting Sera to bed. So when I told her this week that I was going downstairs to play with my friends, she said she wanted to come, too. We laughed about it, I told her good night, but promised to take her to play soon.

Well, today we went down to the basement and got busy. At first she watched me play one of my characters, and then I thought to myself that the character creation tool is basically multiple choice, so why shouldn't she make her own character?

She picked the hair, she picked the face, and she picked the colors and the costume parts. I chose to keep the parts simple, but she did the hard work.

I set up a macro to target the nearest enemy and fire her main attack, and I controlled her movement. She seemed to enjoy shooting lightning, so say hello to Super Sera!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Jersey Girl

I am a huge Kevin Smith fan. That said, I still think his best movie is Jersey Girl.

Spoilers follow.

One of his only commercial failures, Jersey Girl was the victim of bad timing. At the height (or its opposite) of the Ben Affleck/J.Lo controversy along with their disaster Gigli, it was an unfortunate time to release a movie where Affleck and Jennifer Lopez play a married couple, even if it was only for ten minutes. What's really too bad about it is that as Lopez's character, Gertrude Trinke, dies in childbirth, the soul of the movie is born in little Gertie, whom Affleck's character, Ollie Trinke, names after his late wife. Stressed out over having to take care of his infant daughter, publicist Trinke goes ballistic at a press gathering, smearing his client, Will Smith. This move effectively ends his career as a flack.

Cut to seven years later, Ollie and Gertie are living in Highlands, New Jersey with Ollie's "Pops," played masterfully by George Carlin. Ollie works for the city, but is now a committed father, forgoing even the most casual relationship to concentrate on raising his daughter. While renting videos, Ollie meets Mia, played by Liv Tyler, a college student who is interested in Ollie's, let's say, interesting renting habits for a paper she's writing. When she discovers that Ollie hasn't been intimate with a woman in seven years, she offers to alleviate the situation, only to be caught by Gertie, who comes home early.

Ollie soon realizes that he misses his old life and tries very hard to get that life back, much to the chagrin of both Pops and Gertie. He works his way back, only to find that he's having trouble deciding which he wants more: his old life or his new one.

This movie has a real heart, and for a change is only rated PG-13. I watched this movie for the first time since Sera came home tonight, and I was brought to tears by the relationship that Ollie and Gertie share. I can only hope that Sera and I are that close when she's seven.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Guess what's back tomorrow? If I were to make an over/under on 20 students' parents out of 105 students, I'd bet under. But, I'll get to have a nice lunch at Jade Garden and some quiet time working in my classroom on my book, so it's not all bad.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Treasure in the Basement, Part 1

I wasn't as close to my grandma on my mom's side as I was the one on my dad's side, but she gave me what was probably the best birthday present a boy could ever want in 1975. Yes, that's the Six Million Dollar Man action figure. Do you remember this fine piece of action figure technology? You could look through a viewfinder in the back of Steve Austin's head so you could get the POV from his bionic eye (doodoodoodoodoo...). You could roll up the plastic skin on his bionic arm to reveal removable modules. If you turned his head and pressed the lever in his back, his arm would lift a plastic engine block to demonstrate his superior strength. This toy gave me hours and hours and hours of fun when I was 11. I never got any of the other figures or outfits or accessories, but this one was plenty.

My stepfather would never allow me to play with action figures without merciless comments about how effeminate it was for a boy to play with dolls. Never mind that every kid in the neighborhood had multiple GI Joes and Mego superheroes. The same grandma bought me a Mego Superman for Christmas in 1973. It was funny because when the rest of my third grade classmates where playing with their 12" GI Joes in the classroom, I had my 8" Mego Superman. He naturally became Superboy because of the relative sizes. We had a two-shelf cross-section submarine in our classroom, which was the setting of many of our adventures. Superboy was the one figure who could get to the surface without a wetsuit.

Whenever we visited my grandmother, I knew I was safe from ridicule. My stepfather wouldn't dare say a word in front of her when she was the one who bought me the toys.

My grandma would have been 88 yesterday, and if she were here today, I would thank her all over again for some of my favorite toys.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Who gets up at 5:15 AM? Who in their right mind wakes up at 5:15 AM? I'm not sure about being in one's right mind, but I do, too. This morning we had to go back to work after 16 consecutive days off and I'm pretty sure that waking up this early to go to a job should be illegal. There needs to be a study that shows that students don't accomplish much when getting up that early. Oh, wait. There is.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Annual Font Sale

As I mentioned here, I am a big fan of using different fonts. Working on my book, which has superheroes in it, I love comic book fonts. And this year, like every year, I had to get a couple of fonts from Comicraft, which has a sale every New Year's Day, selling all of their fonts for an amount that coincides with the year. This year, all of their fonts were $20.09. Here's the two I got:

The first one, Biffbamboom, is based on the sound effects lettered by Artie Simek for Marvel in the 1960s. The other one, Phases On Stun, is a more science fictiony font that is used to letter the sound effects in the Image comic, Invincible. It's reminiscent of some of the lettering John Workman did in Walt Simson's legendary run on Thor.
I already have the lettering font I want to use for dialogue, and I wanted to have options for sound effects. These two are pretty great. I wonder what they'll have next year...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Goofy Holler

Has anyone ever heard of the "Goofy holler?" I hadn't until I was looking up information about Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." I had noticed the soldiers making this sound as they were launched into the air, and it was the same sound that Goofy made the other day on an episode of Mickey's Clubhouse that Sera and I watched the other day. Sure enough, it is mentioned in the Wikipedia article. Then I found a blog where the writer actually put a video together of all the Goofy hollers he knew about.

I love learning new things about old stuff that I have enjoyed for years, don't you?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sesame Street Live!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Morris...

Today we went to see Sesame Street Live at the Morris Civic Auditorium in South Bend. Magi got free tickets from one of her "Mom's Night Out" friends who was out of town for the weekend, so off we went! Sera excitedly talked about seeing Elmo most of the way there. Once inside, we found an overpriced souvenir kiosk set up, selling Sesame Street merchandise for at least 50% more than we would pay at a local store. I did end up buying Sera her own set of binoculars, though. I figured they would be useful not only watching the show, but when we are on trips. The binocs were a big hit. She used them throughout the show, which she LOVED!

I almost fell asleep at one point, despite the music that was far too loud. I know what they say...if the music's too loud, you're too old, and I will gladly admit that today. I was too old for Sesame Street Live, but then again I was not the target audience. And let me tell you, the target audience in our family loved every minute.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I don't believe in them. Never have, never will. If there's a decision important enough that it will actually affect your life, then don't wait until some arbitrary calendar change to implement it. That said, however, I'm all about setting goals and the new year is as good a time as any to do so. I'm setting a couple of goals starting today. I'm going to write a post every day for a year. I just noticed how light my posting has been this year, and I think I can do better. I've used this blog to do a lot of things: to sell comics, to let my family and friends know how we are, to reflect on life and things that I enjoy. I'm going to continue to do that. But I want to become a more disciplined writer. Something happens to me each and every day that is notable. I want to make it my task to make those things sound interesting. So, if my blog starts to read more like a diary, there's a reason for it. I won't mind if you skip over the self-important ramblings when they eventually come!

Vacation has been interesting, to say the very least. Right before we left school, I had a few chest pains. I was scared, to say the least. My friend Barry Winston died two years ago today from a heart attack at age 36, and comic book artist Mike Wieringo died a year ago August at age 44, the same age I am now. I immediately scheduled, with my doctor's advice, a stress echocardiogram to check for artery blockages. Unfortunately, the earliest they could get me in was December 30. So there I sat, scared that every day was going to be my last with my family. If that doesn't get your priorities straight, I don't know what will. The test came out fine, by the way. Dr. Lee said, "Good, strong heart," and gave me a thumbs up before he left. I'm still being extra conscientious about sodium intake and my diet. Throw a little exercise in, which I was doing great with until snow started falling, and I'll be working to reverse any blockage that there may be. I want to be around to see my little girl grow up.

On Christmas Eve, as I (or rather, the Big Elf) was putting together Sera's toy kitchen, I developed a toothache in the broken tooth on which I had a root canal at the beginning of school. It was agonizing enough that I started taking my leftover painkillers and begged my dentist to see me when I called on the 26th. Unfortunately, his entire staff was out of town and my oral surgeon was on vacation as well. I couldn't get it taken care of until yesterday. This tooth was decayed because of my wisdom tooth being impacted against it, so this makes five teeth I've had to have pulled in the past 13 months through no fault of my own. I don't even have any cavities in my other teeth.

We've been completely broke for most of three weeks now. We took care of our families and friends, and that left less than nothing for ourselves until we get paid tomorrow. It's about now that I'm kicking myself for not getting my master's degree sooner so I could get paid more. But, I've had other priorities that, going back, I really wouldn't change. The difference in pay is $12,000 a year, so it's going to become a priority now that our family is complete.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I am writing a book. This isn't a pipe dream like you hear a lot of people talk about, but an actual book that is well on its way to completion. It's a math book for kids the age that I teach. It's also for teachers of those kids, because it includes activities that can be left as sub plans with their own easy-to-follow instructions. It could also serve to help parents who home-school their children,not that I support home-schooling. Everyone to whom I have shown the completed pages says that it's a sure thing. Let's hope they're right. My niece is doing the artwork for the book, and what I've seen so far really inspires me to get this thing done. My goal is to have it done by the end of summer and then to begin my master's degree program in the fall. I don't want to reveal anything specific about the book here in public. But if you email me privately and I know you already, I will be happy to show you some pages.

Here's hoping that this year brings health, joy and prosperity to all of our lives!