VILLAINY – Just in time for Halloween!

Mr. Dark, Lo Pan, Baron Samedi, Maleficent, and The Blue Meanie.
Mister Burns, The Count,  Pharoah, Sir Edmund Blackadder, Futura, der Sabbat, The Mirror, and Pumpkin Spice

If you (or indeed anyone you know) would like to order a Halloween print ($75, highest-quality giclee 8.5″ x 11″) this month, please send me a note. And if you want to see more of this sort of thing, would you please Like and Share them where you can? Thank you!Malificent

MrDarkLoPan    BaronSamediBlueMeanie

Of course these pieces came from my annual participation in Kristina Carroll’s marvelous Month of Fear

But because I wanted a full deck of Villains for Solitaire’s Tarot, I got…. well, a little carried away:

MontyBurns TheCount BlackAdderMirrorderSabbatPumpkinSpice

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this bunch of no-goodniks as much as I enjoyed making them.

Le Morte d’Artiste

The Germans probably have a word for it.
But in English the closest I can get is “the feeling you have when someone speaks your heart far better than you can”. And its sad addition “and the feeling you have when they die”.

Terry Pratchett’s death (or should I say Death?) was long in coming – Alzheimer’s is a cruel and truly terrible thing. Many of you know Sir Pratchett’s writing, and some of you the man himself. And while I could single out Small Gods as my favorite of his works, I was never sorry I read even one book of his.

That I associate him with Stephen Colbert may seem bizarre, but I do. I well remember watching Colbert’s Press Club evisceration of George W. Bush, and that exact moment when he went all in – the look in his eyes that told me he hated the mendacious suckfish of the U.S. media as much as the policies of the killers they were failing to report accurately about. And not only that he got it, and was taking a rare moment to speak truth to power, but that he was simply better at all of it than I was. There are many reasons of course, but I cannot shake the idea that it’s because the real Colbert so adeptly used the character of “Stephen Colbert, right wing press hack” as a mask. The way Pratchett used all the hackneyed tropes of fantasy and fiction to tell true stories about all the things that matter.

I’d heard tell of Discworld for several years, but we’d never really “met” before I read Good Omens, his collaboration with the esteemed Neil Gaiman. But once begun, Pratchett’s oeuvre proved hard to put down, and after a couple decades of reading, I was asked to be the artist guest of honor at The North American Discworld Convention. By then I was ready.

But the sad truth of Pratchett’s Alzheimers diagnosis had just been revealed, and Pratchett stayed home. Rather than have a few drinks with the legions of adoring friends, fans, and families, Pratchett sent a high-tech “hello” from across the briny and the likes of Bernard Pearson to keep things lively. (Trying to match wits with Bernard was a highlight of not just that convention, but the entire year).

Pratchett’s Calendar spread shows the not-quite-penultimate one we call ‘November’ but the denizens of Discworld, in their 13 month cycle, call ‘Ember’.
The 8 day week proved problematic, but the double helix makes so many things possible. Nothing was off limits to Pratchett – everything could be questioned, altered and enjoyed.

MonthOfEmberDeath is everywhere in Pratchett’s books (Gaiman’s too, come to that), but some things transcend it – art and love among them.
He left his all on the page. A reformed Om’s blessings to him for that.

LeeMoyer_OmPratchett never got to see these pieces – all from ‘Good Omens’ (and including my favorite joke in the entire book: “Admittedly he was listening to a ‘Best of Queen‘ tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into ‘Best of Queen’ albums”). I hope you’ll enjoy them.

AziraphaleCrowley GodSaveTheQueen GoodOmen4Horsemen A&ClogoAdded bonus! The pin-up that goes with the calendar page above.


Doom Update

I received a splendid update today from the fantastic Cryptozoic regarding The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. It even has pictures! If you would like to see the grotesque beauties in person, Cryptozoic will be demoing the game at Board Game Geek Con in Dallas, November 20-24.Please go visit (and play!) if you’re in town!

Shaping Your Doom

doom_atlantic_city_pr_box_web_2_Dear Kickstarter Backer,
We’ve been making some great progress towards creating a beautiful game to send straight to your door. We wanted to keep you in the loop and show you some fun insider photos of what it takes to make a board game!

Miniatures from Another World

DoomPanda2_1_0034f1Check out these incredible resin models that the factory has created. These are based on the sculptures by Paul Komoda that we sent to them. The factory used these to create the actual molds for the plastic figures.

We have the proof copies of these figures in the office now and will be bringing them with us to Board Game Geek Con in Dallas Texas this week!

The detail on these guys is simply amazing. We wanted to retain as much of it as possible while keeping these figures tough to avoid damages in shipping. We also needed to  keep the costs within the realm of sanity.  After some discussion with the factory, we were able to narrow it down to the correct weight and blend that we feel will provide the durability and cost effective solution we required. We can’t wait to show you the final product!

DoomPanda5_1_It really helps to work with great factories that have a ton of experience so they can offer helpful advice. The factory we’re using for Doom has created several other great games with miniatures and was recommended to us by some industry friends.  We know they’re going to make these figures as scary as possible!

What’s next?

We’re getting some more bits and pieces back from the factory soon and will be able to send lots of pictures with our next update. Once all the parts have been approved, we’ll also have a pretty good idea of when the release date will be for the game. We know you’re very excited to find out more so we’ll keep you up to date as much as possible.

Thanks again for funding this game and we look forward to offering you more updates in the near future!

-Adam Sblendorio
Board Game Brand Manager
Cryptozoic Entertainment

Big News!

Good morning lovely people,
Today, after more than a year, Keith Baker and I have some good news for you.

• Please check this page out:

• Please check this board out:

DoomBoard• Please check this press release out:


Cryptozoic & Creators Pledge that Kickstarter Backers will not be Abandoned!
Irvine, CA (July 31, 2013)—Cryptozoic Entertainment™, a premier developer of original and licensed games, announced today that it will be publishing the board game The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, created by Lee Moyer and Keith Baker.This news comes just a week after the previous publisher announced that the Kickstarter project had been cancelled.
“For Lee and I, the worst part of this is that people who put their faith in our game have been hurt by it,” said Baker. “After the Kickstarter was cancelled, many people came forward with ideas to keep the game alive. But we didn’t want to pursue an option that would save Doom unless it would also get the game into the hands of the people who first supported it.”
Moyer and Baker have fought to bring this whimsical game of cosmic horror to life for over a decade. In 2010, sculptor Paul Komoda joined the team with his unique vision of the terrifying Old Ones. In 2013 it seemed that the stars were finally aligned… until the surprising announcement that the project was abandoned.
“We were really shocked to hear the news about this last week” said Scott Gaeta Cryptozoic’s chief operating officer. “The game looked fantastic and I thought that we might be able to help, so I contacted Keith right away. Keith and Lee told me that taking care of the Kickstarter backers was the most important thing to them and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why we are going to be fulfilling all of the Kickstarter game orders ourselves.”
“Our first priority is getting the game produced and in the hands of the Kickstarter backers,” said Gaeta. “We are already working with the factory and should have a date we can share in a few weeks. We are also going to be demoing the game at Gen Con and the upcoming Alliance Open House. This game is just too much fun not to make it available to gamers everywhere.”
Soon to be available in hobby stores world wide, The Doom that Came to Atlantic City board game invites players to assume the role of one of the Great Old Ones – beings of ancient eldritch power. Cosmic forces have held you at bay for untold eons, but at last the stars are right and your maniacal cult has called you forth. Once you regain your full powers, you will unleash your doom upon the world! There’s only one problem: you’re not alone. The other Great Old Ones are here as well, and your rivals are determined to steal your cultists and snatch victory from your flabby claws! It’s a race to the ultimate
finish as you crush houses, smash holes in reality, and fight to call down The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!
For more information about The Doom that Came to Atlantic City Board Game, please visit, Keith Baker’s blog at and Lee Moyer’s blog at
Keep up to date with exclusive contests, promotions and game information on Cryptozoic
Entertainment’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

About Cryptozoic Entertainment
Founded in 2010, Cryptozoic Entertainment, Inc. is a premier developer and publisher of original and licensed board games, card games, comics and trading cards, including the World of Warcraft® Trading Card Game, The Hobbit board and deck building games, The Big Bang Theory: The Party Game and The Walking Dead™ Board Game. Following a philosophy and core principle of “Fans First,” the dedicated gamers and fans of the Cryptozoic Entertainment team are focused on producing fun and amazing products along with epic events that bring all gaming fans together as part of the Cryptozoic community. Visit for additional product and event information.

• Everyone who supported this Kickstarter deserves the game, my sincere thanks, and their money back from the Forking Path.

• Many thanks to those of you who have supported this project. My thanks to you for your patience and support – and to Keith, Paul Komoda and Cryptozoic for their brilliance! Thank you all!

Addendum. In regards to various notes I have received on the subject I would like to clarify one very important thing and I will use Keith Baker’s excellent words to do so:

“To be absolutely clear: This has nothing to do with The Forking Path or Kickstarter. The project was cancelled, and this is not a reward or refund from the Forking Path. Cryptozoic isn’t assuming responsibility for the Kickstarter project or the actions of The Forking Path: They are simply doing what they can to make things right for the gamers who have suffered because of it. As I said, they can’t cover all rewards The Forking Path promised, because they are doing this entirely at their own expense to lend a hand. But Cryptozoic will see to it that the backers get the game they thought they were backing, and that is a tremendous relief to me.”

Day 22 & 23

Day 22: A New Year

We awoke with a text from Jessica R, and eventually set off to meet her at noon by the lagoon for lunch. But en route we discovered something surprising. In avoiding the appalling high levels of ultraviolet and it’s attendant risk of skin damage that are a given down under on most days, we popped into an open door and the cool of a mall. And in the mall, came upon Elizabeth Barden, the most fantastic (and educational) salesman in the greatest clothing shop the Venetia has yet found. So many and splendid were the clothing options that we headed out for lunch without buying a thing, but promising to return.

We had a great lunch with Jessica – discussing everything from travels to politics to the C of E and Eddie (Executive-Transvestite-And-Serial-Marathoner-Deserves-A-Knighthood) Izzard.A little later we were to encounter one of Izzard’s routines in real life:


We were delighted that she could use the balance of the phone SIM card we’d bought in Melbourne only a week earlier, but were a little sad not to be able to phone her amid the festivities later because she had “my” phone. We hope to visit with her again when we head to England later this year.

Jessica   The return to shopping was… Epic. And curiously time consuming. Apparently when one is a petite (or “VS”, or “very small”) person of a certain shape, finding properly fitted clothing can be very difficult. Who knew? But once that mother lode was struck, there was really no turning away. I suspect she will be all too happy to show off the new togs upon our return. And really, it’s all good reference….


After the well-earned (or would “well-spent” be more apt?) nap that followed, and as the final flying foxes races across the sky, we ventured forth into the twilight in search of a meal. But instead of the otherwise quiet street with the cacophony of parrots where we’d tried competing Indian restaurants on the previous nights, we turned down the street that had once, back at the city’s founding, been Chinatown.

ChinatownThere, much to our surprise, we encountered an inflatable Dragon Arch and a street festival celebrating the Chinese New Year. We paused to watch a couple dance to an all lost familiar tune, dueling English and Chinese speaking announcers, and an Indonesian troop on the makeshift stage. But it wasn’t just the Festival of the Snake that was crowded – everything was. Apparently Saturday night in Cairns is a wild time every time! We lacked the requisite reservations for the exotic Ochre (“Sorry loves, can’t get you in until 9”), but after a trip through Fried Food Alley and the spectacle of The Night Market, we found a fine Thai place.

After dinner we headed to the lagoon and looked up at the Southern stars while people thronged about having picnics and wading in the Lagoon. We were looking out toward the reef when a sweet quiet child with a slight speech impediment mentioned fireworks. Intrigued we waited a bit, and watched the exodus from the lagoon when the lifeguards called time. And then, when the sudden rain appeared, we moved back toward our hotel. We’d just about left the promenade park when the first explosion went. We knew it was from Chinatown by the incredible flights of birds rushing away from the site, and so we headed back the way we’d come for a better view. I grew up with masses of DC fireworks (and hope to see them again this year), but the explosion of tropical birds was even more impressive. And the number of waves! Apparently many groups of birds slept calmly through the first barrages, only to come unglued later. After the fireworks, we headed back to the hotel to arrange our new wardrobes for a safe return to the US.HappyYear

Day 23+: We Come From the Future, or “Once Around the World, James” 

What a day. It all began in Cairns at 7am. But our letters of transit were incorrect, and we waited an extra 40 minutes for our coach accordingly. When it arrived, we hopped on and headed out into the brief morning rain. We had to experience a little rain after all – for otherwise how would we see a full rainbow? And what trip to Oz would be complete without one?

IMG_5397bWeird to be visiting New Zealand again, but not stopping for more than an hour’s time.Nice to see the Dwarves guarding the International Arrivals Hall though. Those dragons are everywhere…

Airport1And wonderful to see areas we’d visited and knew from the ground ` and to be able to view the scenery as a topographical map with a scale of 1 to 1!

Coromandel On the 12 hour trip to LAX, we saw an absolutely hallucinogenic sunset. Hard to imagine missing such a magnificent show by sitting on an aisle….IMG_5452 Air New Zealand is wonderful (so was JetStar). It’s almost enough to make me believe that the US is home to the worst national carriers in the civilized world. In addition to the Crowded House album (NZ represent!) i listened to as a dozed, I watched 4 films, from stately to the ridiculous to the more ridiculous: Lincoln, Seven Psychopaths, the Aardman Pirate movie, and Cars. All while Venetia revisited our trip through New Zealand by watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (with the added Air N Zed safety film scenes, natch. Though we watched the same safety film thrice, the delight of passengers heretofore unexposed kept it fresh. Something no other such film has ever managed.). Airplane screens being what they are, we were always able to see more than our own screens. I took up Lincoln after the viewer in front of me turned it off when he realized that it was a largely procedural film about legislating. To see poor Boromir shot down during the successful House vote to end slavery was quite surreal. And weird cast and scenic interplay continued all trip long.

The captain woke the passengers for breakfast, ensuring that I’d have a view of the day’s second dawn. That was a first!


Santa Catalina was the tip off that La was near. How amazing that I’d been seated on the correct side of the plane for both New Zealand and Catalina. So much about this trip was lucky!

SantaCatalinaAs I write this, we are trapped in the long layover at LAX – where the lines are not short. Where the airport is squalid. Where the prices and amenities are outrageous. And where the fascism of the optimally-intrusive and appallingly-surly security apparatus has me quietly humming an Orwellian take on Steve Goodman’s “(If Your Life Was On) Video Tape”. Fear – it’s the American Way. And like the now-sacred words “under God” added to our coinage during the Red Scare, this bureaucracy created during the Islamofascist Scare looks to be just as eternal and seems to be getting evermore entrenched. As do an absence of food or even snacks on flights, and all manner of asinine hidden fees. And unless one is lucky enough to travel abroad, such things will ever seem “normal”.


By the time we are home, it will have been 30 hours of travel.
And ALL on the same Sunday.

Addendum: We got to talking in the airport with Chicago’s Jack & Diane, and when they moved our gate, we barely had time to board. No food was taken. Happily, we met the wonderful Bruce Hostetler on the way home. Turns out we have scads of people and taste in common, and that he’d directed the version of The Hobbit I’d done the poster for (yes, it’s Hobbit all the way down). Bruce was returning from a Revels Board Meeting north of LA, and he was kind enough to pass over his banana in self defense. :)

Speaking of self-defense, there was a fellow in the Portland Airport openly brandishing a submachine gun while he was chewing gum. Clearly he’d come to kick ass and chew gum, but why? Just another ratcheting up of our country’s endearing paranoia….

2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar: Peter S. Beagle

I am thrilled to announce the 2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar.

This year I again partnered with Worldbuilders to publish my charity calendar, but this time instead of deceased authors who couldn’t fight back, we invited 12 amazing fantasy authors to participate. I will be previewing each author, one a week, which leads me to the splendid Peter S. Beagle.

I’d love to write all manner of words that might in some way suggest Peter’s own writing. But I can’t. What I can do is tell my brief story and hope that a picture or two will be sufficient keep your interest.

I was invited to be the Artist Guest of Honor at Baycon in 2010, and happily accepted. I love getting out and seeing people, talking about art and fantasy and science fiction and the media, and….
the guest of honor was none other than Peter Beagle!

There’s a strange integrity to properly told tales, and to their tellers.
Peter is an original – a marvelous person who writes of marvels, but never took on airs of the high-falutin’. We shared panels, cookies, and stories. Never enough of any of course – there was just not time. But any storyteller powerful enough to keep me quiet for longer than 10 minutes deserves all possible praise. :)

He and his companion enjoyed the still-unpublished Literary Pin-Ups I had in the art show and I sent them away with one.
Two years later, when the calendar premiered at the World fantasy Convention in SanDiego, there was Peter again!
I was kicking myself just a little for not bringing anything for him to sign when, by strange twist of fate, someone put a new edition of The Last Unicorn on the Freebies table!

When it came time to work on this year’s CHECK THESE OUT! calendar, publisher Pat Rothfuss and I immediately agreed that we wanted Peter included. And, after various calls, notes, and emails with Peter in several different locations about the country: voila.

This piece is not representative of the calendar as a whole.
It’s not even representative of Peter’s fine multi-faceted career.
But it is a picture. And I hope it’s worth at least 1000 words.

Calendar pre-order are available on-line at The Tinker’s Packs.

Stage Fright Friday – Principles

Welcome to what I’m calling Stage Fright Friday.

This little end of the week outpost will be the new home for old pieces I wrote when I lived for a year in Charlottesville. Virginia. No Shame Theatre was lifeline and outlet both – an unparalleled chance for me to learn by working with people like Todd Ristau and Clinton Johnston who really knew their craft.

Please be kind to these old timers, they’re still doing the best they can in these changing times.


Ali – A smart and thoughtful young woman – principled and straightforward.
Johnson – A slightly sputtery authority figure.
Eric – A cool young man.

(lights up full)

Ali: You wanted to see me?

Johnson: Yes Alison, I did. Have you reconsidered my offer?

Ali: (stern) Yes Sir, I have.


Johnson: And?

Ali: And I’m afraid I still can’t accept.

Johnson: (surprised) …because?

(slightly longer pause)

Ali: Because it’s Fascism Sir, plain and simple. I refuse to be involved with anything so morally bankrupt.

Johnson: (in total disbelief) …Morally bankrupt? …Fascism?  I’m not sure I/

Ali: (interrupting) Don’t patronize me Sir. You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. (begins to rant). Fascism is extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates conformity to a mythical standard of “normalcy”. It cuts through all other notions of what is right or natural. It attempts to lull us into a false sense that there is no death or decay, just your perfect – and perfectly artificial – status quo. Any natural tendencies toward variety or individualism threaten your perfect organic community and must be crushed beneath your jack-booted feet.

Johnson: (getting a word in) Now look here, I don’t even wear boots and you know/

Ali: (cuts him off, continues ranting) Your sort of Fascism promotes the idea of (counting them off on her fingers) class superiority, hybrid inferiority, persecution, territorialism, expansion, and – of course – (her sixth finger raised is a forefinger that she points accusatorily at Johnson) genocide. Oh, it wears the face of a socially acceptable, politically correct movement. Of course it claims a noble pedigree, but please! It’s a Procrustean hotbed of senseless conformity that flies in the face of science and nature. It’s a violent and elitist tradition that has traditionally be the province of pampered young men. You feel that I’m lucky to even be offered this job, because I’m a girl – a woman, but the truth is no one is lucky to have this job. This job – this working for the man, for the Fascist pig dog – this job sucks! I pity you Sir. I really do. Good day.

(Ali turns and walks to the door. Eric enters as Ali exits. She gives him a dirty look as she passes.)

Johnson: (turns to Eric and sighs) Well… your sister still won’t mow the lawn. I guess I’ll need to raise the price after all.

Eric: A cool 20, minimum. (pause) Ya big Fascist.



NOTE: Debuted June 28, 2002, performed by Bremen Donovan, Todd Ristau and Brandon Allison. Bremen’s sterling character and willingness to play the straight-woman inspired this loving diatribe.

Explorations of the East

This is the first year in a decade that I haven’t gone to the almighty San Diego Comic Con. But it was a worthy sacrifice as Readercon was a fantastic experience and a top notch convention.* And let’s face it, I’m not even a small fish amid the whirl of SanDiego (more like a small but stubborn barnacle). But to be the only artist invited to a convention of great authors, editors and readers? Priceless.

Flying into Newark, we had the extremely exotic experience of being the only people seated in the entire row of seats. This meant that as the plane descended we were able to quickly move across the isle to be on the side of the plane with the view of New York City. This was Venetia’s first view of NYC, and my first sight of the new World Trade Center building. From the air it looks suspiciously like a Transformer. Which is a rather brilliant defense strategy and we are very happy that the Transformers are so clearly on our side.

Untransformed Transformer

We spent a few days in New Jersey with Jim and Rhymer where a rare gathering of distant friends and family occurred, and where all food comes from diners. Fritz kindly gave us a ride north into NYC to stay with the gracious (and very talented) Michael Kaluta. His apartment in the upper east side is filled to the brim with art, books, and all sorts of fun objects like fighter pilot masks from different eras (and a few historical gas masks.) Venetia felt quite at home among the books, but the best book of all was the one that Michael gave her: “Venetia” by Georgette Heyer. Within the space of just two weeks she discovered that she is the star of two stories! (More on the second story later.)

We headed uptown for lunch at a delicious Thai restaurant with man about town Jack Lechner, but first stopped at the Nicholas Roerich Museum. It is a small but elegant three-story apartment, each room filled with art. Venetia was enthralled and after lunch, we returned again (this time with Jack) to marvel at the colors and vibrancy of the art, which is sadly lost in reproduction. His works are mostly done on canvas in egg-tempera and come from the mountains of Tibet and India where Roerich painted them.

Jack aided our explorations of the Upper West by bringing us to the cathedral of Saint John’s the Unfinished. While properly imposing on the outside, it was even more stunning within, both in the grandeur of its high arches and stained glass windows and the fantastic detail of the individual alcoves. One of the greatest things about a mighty cathedral is that there’s no need for sameness. It’s bigger than any one builder and it’s only mete that the styles reflect the mass of humanity within and without.

Upon leaving the cathedral, we hopped on the subway and headed down to the Village for our dinner engagement. We were a little early so we walked down Christopher Street and wended our way to the fountain in the middle of Washington Square where Venetia cooled her feet. Dinner was sushi with Lindsay Ribar a colleague of Venetia’s whose first book The Art of Wishing is about to be published. Though not at all a business dinner, everyone at the table enjoyed their jobs enough to talk primarily of business-related topics, which in our line of work means books and art and the publishing world.

After our dinner on 3rd Street and we walked along through the canyons of Tisch and NYU a while before coming to Broadway. It was a hot night, but our guest quarters were only 80 blocks north and Venetia needed to see the city. It was a surprising walk for us both, Broadway has changed in extraordinary ways since I was last in New York. We passed an aluminum Andy Warhol north of Union Square and enjoyed the generous space given to pedestrians now that the street is no longer a traffic-jammed diagonal thoroughfare, but a curious one-way side-street. Times Square proved that even such a good idea could make for a splitting headache. Having crossed it once, Venetia is of the opinion that it would be worth going out of her way to avoid in the future. It is loud, full of flashing lights and tight crowds of people; altogether a stifling and dizzying experience. We noted the bleachers set about at intervals, wondering if they indicated particular events that required crowd seating but at the time of our visit, they seemed to hold nothing more than tired tourists taking a moment to sit down and gawk at one another. 80 blocks later we arrived at Michael’s aerie once more, pleasantly exhausted, filled with frozen yogurt and ready to fall immediately asleep after making quick plans for the morning.

Saturday was all about visiting with as many people as we could manage; beginning with the talented Tina Segovia and ending with a lovely dinner with Starstruck creator Elaine Lee and her brilliantly talented sons, Brennan and Griffin. Kickstarter and Starstruck were both discussed at some length. After dinner we went for a walk through Central Park with Tara Torre, a childhood friend of Venetia’s. We only walked through half of the park, not quite the same scope as the grand walking tour of New York the night before, but delightful nonetheless. Here, Venetia took here rightful place in Gotham’s Wonderland.

On Sunday, after a brief teaser of Sherlock and breakfast with the delightful Selena, we left the city. On our way out, we randomly stopped at a burger and milkshake joint for the best milkshake Venetia has had thus far. (We mentioned this to another New Yorker friend who immediately identified the name of the restaurant when we told her the location, so clearly we are not alone in this assertion of deliciousness.) Despite the wonderful start to the day, heading to Newark for our car rental we found what turned out to be the car rental from hell, though we were told at the counter that we should have expected nothing less at that price. Needless to say, this answer was not at all satisfactory and we were not happy with the deception of the Alamo car rental at Newark airport. In short: AVOID.

The ride up the Hudson was beautiful and green and we stopped frequently at the turnouts to admire the view of the city and river. We were additionally treated to a new view of the World Trade Center building and realized that it is not a transformer as we had previously believed, but in fact is the mounting space for a great, lidless eye, ever watching… Too soon? For dinner we had planned to stop at Mohonk Mountain House but after a remarkable trip to our nation’s great wonders in Glacier and Yellowstone, I forgot that the rich don’t much care for itinerant artists. We were turned away in the most snobbish and class-tastic fashion. So we stopped briefly in New Paltz and carried on.

We found our hosts, Stephen and Vicki Hickman, on their back porch enjoying a cool evening. They prepared us a delicious meal of chicken and corn on the cob. While I haven’t painted in Steve’s studio for years (not since we both lived in the Virginia suburbs), we stayed up well into the night discussing art and books and PG Wodehouse, and our curious industry.

View from the porch.

The next day was our excursion into Woodstock with Elaine Lee and her partner in crime Richmond Johnston – bagpiper extraordinaire. I’d been speaking with Richmond on and off for years, but this was my first chance to meet him. Woodstock did not live up to any possible expectations; we found it quaint, in its pipe and patchouli way. Upon our return, Steve took us on a tour of Red Hook, including a stop at the local ice cream shop where we split a giant milkshake. Venetia finished her namesake’s book while Steve and I got deep into the process of designing him a proper art book. Sobering to think that his last small folio is 2 decades old, and his new work is seldom seen (save for lucky collectors and those who commission his work). It was a long and productive night that included masses of show and tell (the sketches for upcoming paintings are simply spectacular). We left happily the next day, in possession of our own Stephen Hickman painting!

Before we left, we were given the helpful reminder that the Norman Rockwell Museum was in the area. After a tour of the New Barrington estate of Ethan Ham and his wife Janet (where V enjoyed some baby-toe-nibbling) we made the necessary detour to find the museum. The work is amazing. And Rockwell’s ambition was matched again and again by his results. We spent a good two hours admiring the Rockwells. And commenting on the heroification we observed in the descriptions of the paintings, the hagiography of Rockwell’s life, and the attitude of the hovering museum attendants. When so much truth can be found, when so much great work can be displayed, when so much actual scholarship exists, why dissemble? Why try to make a myth from a man? Who does it serve? I found it backward, unseemly and utterly unnecessary.

We were also surprised, but extremely gratified, to discover that the special exhibit this month was of Howard Pyle’s best paintings. While I had been a little sad to only have 2 weeks on the east coast, it was as though fate knew I couldn’t get to Delaware to see these old friends. And they had brought all the big guns: Stranded, The Flying Dutchman… glorious.

Interestingly, Rockwell’s entire studio had been transported to the grounds of the museum, which at first deceived us into thinking that he had actually painted in such a idyllic local. Too bad for him he didn’t. Too bad for context.

From the Rockwell Museum we headed into Belchertown, an apt name for the location of Jacob Lefton’s smithy. We received the grand tour of the forge and then of the charming town of Amherst, which of course included the local ice cream parlor. Travel in summer is difficult, and ice cream, it’s greatest reward.

As we settled in for the night at Jacob’s, various friends and roommates joined us for a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, at which I eventually ruthlessly triumphed. In the morning we journeyed out by foot for fresh blueberries and cream-topped honey yogurt for breakfast. Given the lateness of the day by the time we left, we decided to drive straight to Boston, or more precisely, to the town of Melrose north of Boston. We had a wonderful family dinner with my old friends and hosts Scott and Rachel and their extended family. Scott débuted his new ice cream flavor: spicy apricot. There was much rejoicing.

The next day was our excursion into Boston proper. We took the T out to Davis Square and then walked via Harvard Square back to Cambridge out to the river which was teaming with beautiful boats. The extent to which there are less-that-perfect neighborhoods within blocks of MIT startled me. I would have thought that Boston’s horrific traffic might have led to more gentrification. Later, we met up with the lovely and formidable Sara and helped her make some fantastic dress choices at The Garment District. After another delicious home-cooked meal of steak tips, we ran off to Readercon for my first panel, a discussion of the visual media in relation to creating. Can one ever truly create without the undo influence of film? It seems that the panelists (including Elizabeth Hand and Caitlin Kiernan) could have joined me on the PR team for Blade Runner, should that need ever arise (Ridley, call us). Elizabeth’s points about the Sublime tallied well with my own, and with my recent trips to see the sublimity of the NW. At the end of the panel we joined Caitlin and other worthies for a rousing discussion of movies and literature in Caitlin’s room. Ed Wood was a particular point of admiration and disdain. Unsurprisingly, Caitlin and I were on the admiration side. Upon our return home we got a tour of Scott’s basement workshop, filled with even more exotic metals and ancient mechanical contraptions than the last time I’d stayed.

Friday, we enjoyed a leisurely morning before the whirlwind of the convention – I somehow ended up on a total of eight panels over the course of the weekend. After sharing the final kaffeklatch of the evening with the redoubtable Kyle Cassidy, we headed down to mingle with fellow attendees and happened to run into pretty much every person we needed or wanted to talk to, including Ty Franck to discuss a secret project and Michael Swanwick to get a book signed for Jacob. Michael was at first suspicious to see the book under Venetia’s arm, thinking it an unauthorized trade paperback edition but she quickly explained that it was an ARC, the very ARC in fact that I had read through in order to create the cover for Michael’s “Best Of.” Jacob was the current owner of the book, however, and he had insisted that Venetia borrow it for the weekend when he heard she had not read any Michael Swanwick. In return for the introduction to such an amazing body of work, Venetia got Michael’s signature in the book for Jacob. A happy ending to a happy story about a compendium of wildly impressive and not-always-happy stories. I love it when a plan comes together.

On the left, the renowned Boris paints a bull’s backside.
On the right, I paint a cover showing and hinting at the book’s actual contents.

My favorite panel of the convention was the “Book Covers Gone Wrong” with panelists Liz Gorinsky, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Daniel Abraham, Jacob Weisman, and Katherine MacLean. I led a lively discussion of bad book covers and the resulting sounds of the crowd’s appreciation managed to drown out any competing laughter from the neighboring “Bad Prose” battle. Victory!

The majority of my time at Readercon was spent on the multi-day panel: A Story from Scratch. The plan was for Elizabeth Bear and Michael Swanwick to create a story based on characters from the audience and props from the guests of honor. Kyle Cassidy would document the scenes from the book, and then I would create the book cover. Due to her lovely cheongsam, Venetia was chosen as the hero of the story – the proprietor of an Asian restaurant. After proposing to Eileen, the woman who would be her wife for the story, and, menaced by the evil Bracken and Tom Purdom (but really, they were both wonderful), she spent much of the subsequent panels in photoshoots with Kyle. I sat and sketched in the panel room as the story evolved, and Saturday afternoon I worked more closely with Kyle, directing a few shoots so that I’d have the grist for my cover. Much to my surprise, Bracken’s extraordinary tattoos supplanted the cheongsam as my background, and allowed me to show that he and Tom were the same person, decades apart. And really, could there anything more fun than tattooing Tom? Later Saturday, I began working on the cover in front of the panel audience. It took longer than the time allotted for the room, of course, but all was completed, including my choice of title, by the appointed hour on Sunday when Michael and Elizabeth read the story aloud while Kyle showed his photos. While the story itself is not yet available on the interwebs, here is the first viewing of the cover. When I asked the authors what they wanted me to call it, Michael told me I could call it whatsoever I desired. But that he and Bear would have veto rights. They didn’t veto it.

The panel finally ended on Sunday and after one last rowdy lunch with friends, we departed. We stopped to pick up the newly framed Steve Hickman painting and then headed out to a remarkable gallery opening of fantastic glass and electricity.

Monday was our last day in Boston and we spent it lounging about on couches in front of the electric fans (though we roused ourselves to head into Boston proper for a delicious Thai luncheon with the delightful Lindsay and Alex, creators of Baman Piderman.) Tuesday we drove back to Newark, stopping briefly in New York City for more Thai (our traveling food of choice) and the company of Allison Taylor, whose own Apple Core Theater Company I once had the pleasure of branding.

And thus we returned to Portland, to dive back in to the exciting new projects (soon to be announced) awaiting our homecoming.

* We were very pleased to read on Aug. 5th that the Readercon board resigned and the Readercon committee, many of whom we met and interacted with at the convention, had issued a public apology. We enjoyed Readercon as a convention a great deal and hope that it will not be ruined by the disrespect shown by its former governing board.

One Nation

Sometimes the very worst things imaginable turn out to be the most important. And the best.

When I met Jason Reeves in the inexplicably long Professionals line at the San Diego Comic Con neither of us had any idea what would follow. I had my portfolio (surprisingly declared “Gangsta”) and he had left his back at the hotel. Later, by chance, I ran into him in the mad hall upstairs and shanghaied him into showing me the big black folio of drawings he’d brought. He was a good kid who was trying mightily to get his work up to speed, but he had a long way to go. How long? Longer than anyone else in the Hall.

First back home to New Orleans. Then to lock-up, held under false pretenses and incommunicado, in the horrifically handled horror show called Katrina. Then, finally freed, back to look for his family.

When Katrina happened, my first thought was of Jason. My second was how sad it would be to never visit that fabled sunken city. But Jason was, like far too many, unreachable. But for all that I fretted for him, Jason took care of himself, and of his family. Finally we were able to get word that he was OK, even though his possessions were not. It seems that the original disaster was bad enough, but if you’ve been incarcerated for days for the crime of not being sufficiently pale or wealthy, you can’t really salvage the moldy remnants of your life.

And so it came to pass that I was his lucky host for 6 months (I offered him a couple years board, but he couldn’t stand the Oregon weather). He, who had lost so many things, found dear friends and work, and a landlord to critique each and every piece he drew – from comics to t-shirts to a first, (now-long-replaced) web site. He grew and thrived and grew some more – because that’s how he rolls.

And it was because of Jason I did finally get to New Orleans, several years later – for Jason and Kemi’s wedding. There, their Nanny June gave me an unparalled tour of the city, of its beauties, its damage, and its recovery.

I also got the call to make a comic cover for Jason’s new project: One Nation. So here’s the cover I painted of the mysterious and magical Sundiata (with helpful critique from our dear mutual friend Adam Danger Cook). Below that is the blurb for One Nation. Please check it out if you can.

ONENATION is a five-issue limited series featuring the hero Paragon, the first superhuman the world has ever seen, whose idealistic views of being a superhero and doing good for mankind is challenged when the reality of changing the world hits. At first harkening in name, design and deed to the likes of Captain America or Superman, as the series progresses Paragon; along with a rising generation of superhumans called Keramats, find the trappings of being a superhero ill-fitting when it comes to his larger role of saving the world…from itself.


Written by: Alverne Ball
Pencils by: Jason Reeves
Colors by: Luis Guerrero
On sale August 22, 2012 in digital & print @the 133art comicshop.

Olms For The Poor

Who is Gustav Olms?

When I first encountered this battered book, literally falling apart at the seams, I had no idea. And neither did the internet. What I did know was that it was excellent, fascinating work. The kind of work that I have long admired and yet created by an artist who was utterly unknown to me. And what’s more, I’d never heard my brilliant colleagues (Steve HickmanMike Kaluta and Charles Vess, et al.) even mention him. So I scanned the whole book and prepared to send them the files… only to discover that the assembled compendium was too big to send. So it sat on my desktop. For 2 years.

One of the greatest things about the internet, one of the greatest miracles that is opening itself up to us is the ability to meet and to better understand artists that we’ve never heard of and never had occasion to encounter in our lives.

Richard Hescox in particular  is doing us the great favor of introducing amazing talent such as William Joy, Gaston Bussiere, Maximilian Pirner, Frank Dicksee, Henry Meynell Rheam, Edward Frederick Brewtnall, Norman Lindsay, and John Bauer. And that is just from the last few weeks!

While I now know the works of Norman Lindsay and John Bauer that Hescox features, it’s sobering to think how long it took me to find out about them.

Excerpts hilariously translated by Google from the German website on Olms:

“(…) And if I still maintain that he was one of the most important artists of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, so shake yourself some head because he is still quite unknown to them.” (Willy Sparrow)

Painter – so called Olms officially, and with that title gives no indication as to what he in fact earned his livelihood. In fact, he worked as a graphic designer (he designed addition to the aforementioned illustrations and packaging for chocolate Tengelmann) and worked mainly for publishers. He moved to a certain extent as part of a family tradition, but he came from (the ninth child born as a book printer) Hildesheimer a printer and publishing dynasty.
The craftsmanship of his work as a service, it will always been conscious, and he’s probably the illustrating of children’s school books and not seen as art. The contradiction between free and applied art at that time may have been felt even more blatant, been bridged completely, he is not even today, at least in part, but has an awareness and appreciation for graphics and illustration established as an independent art form. Olms and also for posterity has been preserved primarily by his excellent illustrations.

“And so this book is in itself a particularly cordial atmosphere dedicated to the memory of this man, alone and abandoned, misunderstood and much loved, much hardship and suffering in his earthly existence lived, who was a man, honest and faithful in all, an artist full of passion and big, strong skills, as which he will long live up to what he made ​​of his contemporaries, – the suffering, but it, and perhaps most recently collapsed because it was not given the chance to all become what he in lowest was appointed. ” With those stirring words of the publisher William Steiger initiated from Moers 1930 his book Niederrheinisches say. Gustav Olms, whose last work, the book was brought, died shortly before.

So here I must shake myself some head at Gustav Olms’ big, strong skills.