Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Colaborations Work...

 When something just seems to work, you can tell. You may not be able to articulate it the way you wanted to, but the result gets you excited. It's a mix of your work and someone else's work coming together to make something new. This was the result on a couple of projects I have worked on. The first was a splash page/ pin-up type page of Captain Marvel swooping down on Black Adam's blindside. I did the pencils. They were very loose and I just drew over what I was changing- I don't recall erasing anything. Half as a joke, and half in curiosity, I passed it over to Henry Eudy, who is an amazingly talented inker, and said, "Hey, Henry- ink this!" I thought he might throw it back at me and say, "When it's done. Maybe." But instead Henry picked up his pens and got to work.
 About a year later at the mini-con, Henry got the picture back to me as he finished it in front of me. I couldn't believe it. I had seen sometime back the bit of captain Marvel's face he had done. While I was going for a more CC Beck look to the character, when I saw Henry's embellishments I thought, " My gosh! That looks more like Jeff Smith's take on the character! I love it!"
 After Henry handed me the completed art, I scanned it as best as I could into a scanner (even trying to reduce it, some of the bottom and the right were somehow cut off) and then colored it in GIMP. I couldn't be more pleased with how this turned out!

 Another project I had involved creating a new character. I saw the words Snake Luster on a shoe box one day and thought it sounded a lot like a B-movie action hero. So I began trying to develop a character to fit the name. Somehow along the way I made him the captain of a pirate crew made up of monsters. But I was stuck as to how he should look. I called on fan-fic writer Alory Shannon (not gonna use her real name) to help. She loved the premise and sent me a long detailed write-up on snake-like gimmiks he could have that would dictate his clothing, his fighting style, the way he thinks, etc. I took that write-up and came up with a visual. I loved the ideas and she loved seeing the figure fleshed out! Another moment where two different things come together to make something great.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Library promotes reading with comics event

Here is the front page story from the Enquirer-Journal newspaper from Saturday:

Library promotes reading with comics event: John Tomkins is the children's librarian at the Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail. He began the Mini-Con Comic Book Convention four years ago to encourage children to read and get excited...

Second Picture Batch from Mini Con!

 Here are more exhillaratingly exciting pics from Mini Con IV! All of these were taken by yours truly, using the library's camera. Enjoy them anyway!
Early crowd. Check out the Action Comics #1 banner hanging in the back left!

Capt. America making an appearance the day after we showed his movie.

 Henry Eudy working his hand into a cramp...
Jim McGee also risking a blown thumb.
Two senior officers of the IKV Restless Star, from Morganton, NC.

"I'm taking a picture of you, taking a picture of me, taking a picture of you..." Al Bigley showing off his impressive work at his table.

W0lly, who was the main artist in the meeting room. He also got featured on the front of the local paper.
Comics are for READING! Father and son look over the great stuff they picked up between the mini con and the library's collection.

My son, Landon, manning the Cartooning Club's table.

Snow Wildsmith. Between all the talking about comics and selling her books, she STILL had time to read!
Later in the mini con- Henry is still at it. Go! Go! Go! Go!

A budding artists tries his hand at comics at the table showing my art.

W0lly- working on a Captain America sketch for a young man.

Snow talks comics to a parent.

A Spartan Warrior. Notice ALL the people around him!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: Victory

My son and I recently went to the Viet Nam Veterans' Moving Wall memorial when it came to Indian Trail's VFW. The veterans there had set up a first-rate display of vehicles from trucks and jeeps to a chopper. There were also a variety of items from the soldier's daily life including an old canvas tent. My son thought it was all "cool", but he wouldn't want to use that tent in a storm, or sit out in the heat in one of those old vehicles. First lesson learned- war is usually uncomfortable for people. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.
 As we strolled slowly by the wall we talked in very hushed whispers, trying to revere the silence such a memorial demands yet trying to answer my son's questions and give him an understanding of what he was really seeing- the names of more than 58,000 sons and daughters who never came home alive. Second lesson learned- war always comes with a price, even when it is necessary to fight. Once back in the car, my son read some facts from the brochure the VFW had handed out. Four soldiers on the wall were just 16 when they died. The youngest name on the wall is of a 15 year old. Lesson three- war doesn't care how old- or young- you are.
 I say all that to let you know that experience helped me get a perspective on war and its toll (seen and unseen) when I read the final piece of the Resistance trilogy, Victory by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis. What started in book one as children trying to save their Jewish friends and find a way to strike back at the invaders has grown by book three to a group of young people doing all they can to disrupt the daily workings of their occupiers while longing to jump into full combat and kick the enemy out once and for all.
 They learn quickly that war isn't fought with the enemy playing by your rules or plans. When Jacques and Paul, along with other members of the "Resistants", successfully attack a German supply train they learn their actions have also caused the death of many people in a nearby village as retaliation. Paul and the village priest argue the merits of fighting an enemy that seems to have every advantage with the priest telling Paul rash actions cost lives. The Germans are losing the war, why endanger the lives of these people now? Paul counters that the Germans cannot get their supplies now, meaning it is harder for them to just kill people. The actions of the "Resistant" have saved lives. It is an interesting argument posed several times within the story- never preachy, and with valid points on each side.
 Along with the argument of when to fight and who should do the fighting are the questions of: where to draw the line to loyalties? What is the right way to deal with the enemy? Can an enemy ever become a friend? How much effort proves you were a Resistant when weighed against actions that would prove you to be a collaborator?
 The book has plenty of cloak and dagger elements thrown in- a wounded pilot on a secret mission, passwords and hidden rooms, and an atmosphere of no one trusting anyone on either side. There are short moments of combat, and true to many people who lived through the war, there is little or no time to grieve for friends or family because the war does not stop and the needs do not stop. While the book is fiction, it is historical fiction, meaning the dates and events of many parts of the story, the experiences of the characters, etc. are real. I would love to see an epilogue story made that ties up more of the loose ends- especially of characters who fade out of the story. Unfortunately, the reader, like many who lived through the war will have to settle with "I wonder whatever happened to..."
 This will probably be shelved in teen collections in many libraries, but  I feel readers as young as 10 can begin to understand and appreciate this story. The book will appeal to boys simply for the historical and combat factors involved while girls will be drawn to Marie and Sylvie, Paul's sisters, who try to do their part for their people while also growing up and trying to keep their family together.
Book 2 of Resistance
Book 1 of Resistance

Victory completes the trilogy, and it does so in a way that the reader is not feeling elated or victorious, but relieved. A very well crafted tale with a lot of food for thought about war. Victory is published by :01 Books and will go on sale in July with a recommended cover price of $17.99.
Recommended: This book has a cloak-and-dagger storyline while dealing with the war on the American homefront. Growing up, family relationships and prejudice are all tackled in this great tale!
Another recommendation, a young boy discovers a trunk of items and from these and his grandmother he learns of what the war was like for his family in Europe, the choices they made and how those choices tore them apart and forged new bonds- within the family, with neighbors and with strangers.

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Picture Batch from Mini-Con!

This is the first batch of photos to go up from the mini-con- all of these were taken by the incredible Al Bigley!
The Spartan ( was big, tall, and geared up in weapons and armor- quite an imposing sight! (Notice Capt. America is very smartly keeping his shield between him and the Spartan!)
Next- Al has an eye for the silver and bronze-age artists, and this great t-shirt of Spidey hitching a ride on Thor caught his eye!

Two crew members of the IKV Restless Star! Just so you know, that is how a Klingon smiles!

...and finally, a close-up shot of this cleverly hand-crafted Capt. America uniform (Not a costume. A uniform- he is a soldier, y'know!)

Mini-Con Follow-up, part 1

 The Mini-Con has come and gone and the response tot his year's event was great! No child left with fewer than four free comics, and Jim McGee, W0lly, and Henry Eudy all toughed it out PAST the end of the event, still drawing and talking to kids and parents! Al Bigley had a huge spread of impressive items across his table, the Cartooning Club had Landon and Jennifer drawing a variety of things, A Klingon and an Andorean came all the way from Morganton to join us, and they made friends with an ancient Spartan warrior, a banner featuring the cover of the New 52 Action Comics 1 was hanging impressively in the library, Snow Wildsmith spoke to plenty of parents about graphic novels and her books- it was just a big, fun time!
 Pictures to come soon! (I promise!)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini- Con Live Blog pt 1- Klingons!

Word has it the Klingons have arrived, but they are simply scouting the area undercover at the moment. More to come as details emerge....

Also, Tables have been set up, name tents folded, prizes sorted out- its just some small details to take care of in the meantime!

Mini-Con! Today is the Day!!!

Alright boys & girls, ladies and germs- today is the day I know many of you have been waiting for- the one big (and really only- wait- isn't that what "one" would imply?) comic book event in all of Union County!
 With the generous support of Oni Press, Top Shelf Comix, IDW, and others every child will leave with at least two comics of their own- some as many as four!!
 A great assortment of local artistic talent will be on display today as well, including Al Bigley (Geminar, Batman TAS, Avengers West Coast, Darkhawk, Archie, Sonic and a ton more stuff!), Henry Eudy (Big Dog Studios, Sketch Charlotte), Derek and Nikki Davis (The Ered Adventures), Troy Hasbrouck (publisher, writer and creative froce behind the "Night" comics, Jester Press, Rebel Base Comics, Jim McGee (Area 51 Comics), W0lly (Fairy Tale Knights, Legends of the Black Panda), John Tompkins (The Sword's Stories), Snow Wildsmith (A Parent's Guide to the 100 Best Comics for Kids), and MORE!
 Make sure you bring a notebook or something for the artist to write and sketch in for you. Be prepared to wait at times. Feel free to look at what is on the tables, but be careful about touching things. It's always best to ask first! Also, please don't bring food into the library- you don't want it spilling on someone's art or onto a pile of $20 books you weren't expecting to buy! And most of all- have fun!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tomorrow: Mini-Con Phase 2- Capt. America on Flag Day!

Thursday June 14 is Flag Day! And not just any ol' mamby-pamby fancy hanky kinda of flag, but the true-blue, red-blooded and pure white flag of the United States of America! To celebrate, the Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail will celebrate this occasion in true comic book fashion with a showing of Captain America: the First Avenger! The movie begins at 4:30, and I will warn you to get there early- space will fill up fast both in the movie room and in the parking lot!

 While not a perfect film, this latest incarnation of Steve Rogers and his alter ego is by far the best. The General (played by Tommy Lee Jones) and Howard Stark make for some great moments in the movie, and the first half of the film is just 40's nostalgic thrills! If you know your Marvel Universe, you will recognize the original Human Torch at the Expo, and the prototype to SHIELD's flying car unveiled by Howard Stark. The Howling Commandos get into the action in the movie (minus Nick Fury). The film is rated PG-13 for violence and some language. The showing is FREE!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There will be Snow Today!

Just a friendly reminder to all the folks in the Charlotte area that author/ teen librarian/ graphic novel reviewer/ consultant/ non-fiction author Snow Wildsmith will be here at the Union West Library in Indian Trail today at 5:00! Union West is very excited to have Snow visit our branch and talk about her latest book, A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics.
Snow is an expert in the field of comics and graphic novels and will be able to give you all kinds of useful know-how and info and guidance. Park Road books will be on hand offering copies of Snow's book along with some of her recommended reads. I'm telling you- if you are a teacher, a parent, a caregiver, a tutor, or a fan of comics at all- you don't want to miss this!
 The Union West Library is located at 123 Unionville-Indian Trail Rd, between Kate's Skating Rink on Highway 74, and the BB&T and Johnny K's on Indian Trail Road. You can call the library at 704-821-7475 ext 4 or go to for more information.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Snow Wildsmith to speak and sign books at Union West!

Author, teen librarian, freelance reporter, and graphic novel critic Snow Wildsmith will be HERE at the Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail on Tuesday, June 12 at 5:00 pm to discuss her latest book- A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids Comics (look here) which she co-wrote with Canadian graphic novel guru, Scott Robins. The book details about 100 graphic novels that parents (and teachers and care givers) can recommend to their kids based on content, topics, or intended audience. And with the recommended and related reads for each title, you are really getting 300 books to consider, not just 100!
 Snow has worked as a teen librarian, and has consulted libraries in how to assemble and continue building a graphic novel collection. She currently writes reviews for various websites and trade journals like Graphic Novel Reporter, School Library Journal and Good Reads. It was Snow's involvement behind the scenes in the mini-con's second year that helped take the event to a whole new level. Thanks to Snow's input and contacts, the mini-con had direct contact with many comics publishers and has been able to get free comics and related items for the kids, while forging a bond with folks like Chris Staros at Top Shelf, Gina Gagliano at :01 Books, and Mike Richardson and Melissa Richardson at Dark Horse Comics.
 While promoting her book, Snow will also be talking about what is good about reading comics, and where the problems in reading comics are, too. Could a comic/graphic novel like Bone or Maus be used for a book report? How do you convince the teacher? or the parent? If you have questions about graphic novels, Snow is one of the best people on planet Earth to start asking. You don't want to miss this opportunity to get free access to an expert!
 Sherri at Park Road Books in Charlotte will also be there, selling Snow's book and some of the graphic novels she recommends. So be there and get your mini-con week off to an incredible start!

Snow has also written five books about careers in the military. For more on Snow, follow these links:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mini-Con: 10 Days Away & the Klingons are Coming!

So as the guest list for the Return of Mini-Con continues to gel together, I just this morning intercepted the latest transmission confirming that the mini-con will be visited by two Klingon Ambassadors! Best as I can tell, their mission is to distract some parents so the kids can have some fun, and to "peacefully intimidate" kids into reading if all the fun and free stuff makes no positive impact on them.
 The IKV (Imperial Klingon Vessel) Restless Star's crew has done much good on Earth, collecting food and raising awareness of hunger, supporting organizations in need, and standing with worthwhile endeavors like the mini-con to encourage reading and learning. Because to a Klingon, "A weak opponent is no opponent at all!"
 You can learn more about the IKV Restless Star at, including what to wear and how to join up, and where else they will be appearing like these great events:
Saturday, Jun 9 at 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday, Jun 10 at 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Friday, Jun 15 at 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Friday, Jun 22 at 9:00 AM - Sunday, Jun 24 10:00 PM

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rundown! Get familiar with the stars of Mini-Con, part 1

The Return of Mini-Con strikes on June 15, but before that, maybe you should take a moment to get familiar with the talent that will be on hand! Listing below will be two art samples along with where you can learn more about each artist on the net! Enjoy!


Henry Eudy-

Al Bigley-

Derek & Nikki Davis-

Troy Hasbrouck-