The Last Mechanical Monster

Brian Fies has had two comics run on GoComics, Mom’s Cancer, a very personal look into what happens when someone in the family has cancer (also available on amazon.com), and The Last Mechanical Monster. LMM is a bit lighter-hearted than Mom’s Cancer. It’s inspired by the original Fleischer Brothers’ Superman cartoon, The Mechanical Monsters. In the cartoon, the mad genius is defeated by Superman and put behind bars. Brian then asked, what if the genius was finally released after serving his sentence, and then went back to his destroyed but long-untouched lab and put together one last monster from the pieces of the others? The story just wrapped up on GoComics on June 8, and as thanks to his readers, Brian added a link to a Mechanical Monster papercraft. I like making papercraft models, and I had extra cardstock left over, so, why not?

It took me at least 10 hours to cut out all the pieces, form them and glue them together, but I wasn’t really timing myself. The finished model is a huge 16″ tall. It would be even taller if I had the arms raised in rampage mode.

Brian suggested using brads for the hip-leg, neck, and shoulder joints if you wanted stuff to move, but I didn’t feel like buying a package of brads just for this. So, I made paper rivets. I cut out disks from the torso joint locations for the neck, shoulders and hips, then I trimmed the disks down to be a bit smaller than the diameter of the holes. I glued one side of the disk to the glue point for the appendage, positioned the appendage so that the disk was inside the matching hole on the body, then glued a larger piece of paper to the disk on the inside of the body. The limbs and head swivel just fine, but the rivets are loose enough that the limbs don’t stay in place if I pose them. I either need to tape the rivets in place from the inside, or stick paper wedges into the backs of the joints. Right now, I like LMM as he is.

I also didn’t glue down the tabs holding the neck collar and hips to the torso, because it’s easier to carry the monster if it’s disassembled. And I left the chest flap and back of the hips free so I can get to the paper rivets from the inside if I need to. But, otherwise, yeah, LMM is fully ready to go out and monsterize people.

As Brian says, it’s not bullet-proof, and it won’t fly unless you throw it really hard. But, it can dream. In the land of giant mobile suits, Godzilla, and Super Saiya-jin, it can dream.

The world runs on Dunkin’.

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The Curse of the Crooked Mile comments

I have been reading a few new webcomics that I really like.

The Curse of the Crooked Mile is a relatively new webcomic (started on Oct. 26, 2017), by Dora M. Mitchell. It’s an atmospheric kid’s horror story that revolves around 12-year-old Owen Stark, a young boy that grew up in an orphanage. Right after his latest birthday, he discovered that he still had living relatives – 2 creepy, weird great-uncles – “man of science” Mortemius, and “I have no teef” Orphadel. The two men bring Owen to the family mansion in the cursed town of Crooked Mile, where the boy is expected to help them conduct their “experiments.” At the moment, we have no idea what those experiments may be, but there’s kind of a hint that it may have to do with resurrecting the dead (and then burying them again). Updates on Fridays, so it’s going to take a long while for the mystery to really start to unfold. In the meantime, though, the artwork is good, as is the writing and character establishment.

Creepy, but with a good sense of humor. Worth keeping an eye on. Just don’t pry.

Michael Paraskevas interview

Mickey has a very strong, very loyal fanbase. A few of them asked for an interview with him, and I sent the standard questions to him. His response?

MP: Here goes… this was fun. I wish more people would ask me questions. LOL Thanks.

BC: Who are you?
MP: Well, I’m Michael Paraskevas. Most people just call me Mickey. They have since I was born. I don’t respond well to Mike, Mikey, Mick,… unless you are going to give me money.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
MP: I grew up in Roselle Park, NJ. Not much to speak of but there are a few around who actually liked the town. I wasn’t one of them, however. I have fond memories of my childhood Star Trek friend, Peter Burbella. We still talk from time to time. He runs a great food Pie place, Burbelmaiers in Ocean Grove.

BC: Do you have a cartooning hat? Is it on straight?
MP: I dress for work. Living home in my studio forced me a long time ago to insist that I dress. I can’t walk around the house in pajamas all day. I’m not Hugh Hefner.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
MP: For cocktail conversation (for the record I don’t drink, never did, not now not ever. Don’t do drugs either. I don’t know anything about any of it. I always thought my reality was enough to deal with… I didn’t need to alter it.)… as I was saying… For cocktail conversation I always refer to myself as an animation producer but I’m really all of the above. I never ever wanted to do a daily strip, let alone a weekly comic.

BC: How did you get your start as an animation producer?
MP: I always was drawing. From an early age. I always remember picking up a sketchbook in a frame store when my father was picking up something he had framed… I picked up a sketchbook and thought that if I could get this…I could draw in it and I could keep it as my own. That anything I drew I could make mine. I was twelve. I still have that book and from time to time I post something from it on my instagram account. @paraskevas_studios

As far as getting my start? I was always somewhat lucky in terms of bumping into great illustration jobs. I was lucky enough to have a mother that really knew how to write but didn’t get anywhere with writing until I told her to write me a kid’s book. We had a great partnership. 23 books and three animated TV series and an ABC Christmas Special: The Tangerine Bear. The three series were: Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, Marvin the Tap Dancing Horse, and Kids from Room402.

BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
MP: Our biggest break really came from Brown Johnson at Nickelodeon. She really believed in Maggie and the Ferocious Beast and spearheaded the show. You need someone at a network to really believe in your vision and Brown had total confidence in my mother’s ability to write the show herself. There aren’t many children’s authors that could have pulled that off. I sure learned from the best and Betty help me learn to write. I penned a bunch of outlines for Maggie and also outlined many of the Marvin scripts.

All through this period I never stopped painting.

BC: Are there any differences in process between animation, illustration and cartooning?
MP: Hmmm… not sure. It’s all connected.

BC: Are there any specific things you like or don’t like about each job?
MP: The grind of the daily strip really does you in. I admire Peanuts because (Charles Schulz) stayed with it for fifty years. I was disappointed to see Calvin end but in reading it over… I can see where Watterson had said everything he had to say. I don’t understand why he lives out of the public eye but that’s his choice. People really loved the comic. I like fans.

BC: What led up to your starting Lili and Derek, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
MP: The comic strip Lili and Derek is based on my sister-in-law’s Westie Lili. And my wonderful mother-in-law’s German Shepherd Derek. They’re nuts. The back story of Lili’s Hotel for Families and Pets came from our love of hotels. I always liked hotels growing up. I love the mint on the pillow. I love the activity and the adventure a hotel offers. I love that movie: Grand Hotel. If you haven’t seen it… you should.

I write this strip with my wife. She’s been involved in my work for years now and is a wonderfully funny writer. Lili and Derek is a joint effort. Sometimes she writes. Sometimes I write and sometimes we write it together. She has a much more visual sense of humor than my mother did. Betty, my mom, was more of a wordsmith. Maria thinks visually and has a good sense of humor too. We’re working on a lot of other ideas too.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
MP: I think Maggie but I do take a lot of pride in the weekly comic The Green Monkeys. It’s a labor of love. I always like what I’m doing at the moment… so let’s just say I’m happy about it all. But if I had to pick something, I would say my sketchbooks. Some of the on the spot work is online at the website.

BC: How long have you been on Comic Sherpa, and do you have any comments on the reworked layout?
MP: I like comic sherpa… they are still going into a relaunch last time I looked. I do the strip. It’s there to see. They don’t provide viewer numbers. I wish they would. You have to really promote your strip yourself. I do on facebook and instagram and my websites. I think Sherpa is going to revamp the site but they haven’t done it yet. It used to be that all my comics that I watch could be on my list.. but now the Sherpa site is separate and I don’t see the comics that I like. I used to get more comments… now that that’s changed I don’t see them.

That being said. I still do Green Monkeys since it runs in the local newspaper out here. Lili and Derek has been on a bit of a break as I was working on a kid’s book called A Big Slice of Pie.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
MP: Sure do, on amazon.com. Just search for Michael Paraskevas and you can see it all.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
MP: Sheer terror. A blank screen is awful. I just start writing and see where it goes. A lot of time my wife and I have conversations and I say…. OH.. this is a Green Monkeys… or OH… wait, this is a Lili and Derek. You’d be surprised at how much real life is in Lili and Derek and also the Green Monkeys.

BC: Why “green” monkeys? Why not ripe monkeys?
MP: Green actually came from green card. And the fact that they were Greenhorns. And there is something called a green monkey. I like green. There’s other monkeys coming up in the comic that are different colors.

BC: Any suggestions for other Sherpa cartoonists wanting to take their art to the next level?
MP: It’s not always about writing. I’ve been accused of not being funny but at least my strip looks pretty good. I think Lili and Derek is hysterical. It’s not always drop dead laugh out loud. It’s more of a quiet character study of an obnoxious self-centered fairy princess Westie and a smitten German Shepherd who likes her. There’s a cat, too. He lives across the street. He’s a bit of a nut. We do a lot of eating bird jokes. But really it’s more of a character study. OH… and Lili owns a Hotel and Spa: The Grand Lili Land Hotel and Resort.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be like?
MP: I like EELS. Look them up. There are tons of great songs. I like the Grateful Dead but my wife hates them…so let’s not go there.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them?
MP: I love Peanuts. I think it was so influential on so many people. Nothing really comes close.

I love Mort Drucker’s work for MAD. I met him years ago and consider him a friend even though I haven’t seen him in a while. He’s a very nice man. I knew Stan Goldberg, too. Stan always taught me through his actions to be a nice guy. Nice guys do win in the end.

Robert Weaver was a big influence on me. Look him up. An American illustrator of the highest order. He is simply one of the best, and a national treasure. I was so honored to have him as a teacher at School of Visuals for the Masters program. His work doesn’t come up for auction very often but I did manage to hunt down a sketch he did of JFK on the campaign trail in 1958. What a find. It’s hanging in my home.

There are others: Gilbert Stone (he taught me how to paint), Marshall Arisman taught me about life. Jack Potter taught me how to draw.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
MP: I like Pearls Before Swine but I don’t think the drawings are very good. LOL. I suppose I’ll get a lot of crap about saying that.

I love Scary Gary. It always makes me laugh.

I still read Peanuts. It makes me feel warm and safe. It makes me think of my childhood and all the good things I had growing up.

Savage Chickens is just terrific and I always walk away thinking… I wish I had thought of that.

Calvin and Hobbs. Best one ever.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips? And, what do you think makes for a good comic?
MP: I like good drawing. That’s why I loved Calvin and Hobbs so much. It was the best drawn strip ever.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
MP: No. I guess I should look into this.

BC: Do you want to plug your site?
MP: You can look me up at my two main sites:
www.michaelparaskevas.com
or
www.paraskevasstudios.com
it’s all there. I do a lot of work.

BC: If Lili ran into Leona Helmsley, who’d survive the encounter?
MP: Lili would win.

BC: How would you describe Lili and Derek to someone to get them to want to read more? Same for Green Monkeys.
MP: As I said above: Lili is a slightly self-centered fairy princess who runs a Grand Hotel and Theme Park. Derek is a German Shepherd who loves her and sometimes wonders why. Someone a long time ago told me to do a strip about cats and dogs cause everyone has one. LOL.

The Green Monkeys learned how to talk by watching old movies in the jungle with a professor that was doing research. For a year they helped out the good professor and learned to speak. Finally, they set off for NY to see the world where King Kong lived. They opened a Temp Agency knowing they could probably do a job for a day. The comic has drifted into social commentary from time to time. It makes me laugh. It’s a bit of an off-beat strip. There’s a baby they babysit for that adds some fun. There’s a space alien living in the closet. There’s a snow man who is suing Flytrap for feeding him hot soup. They got a job draining the swamp. They wear Pink Pussy Hats only cause they like feeling like a cat.

BC: If you went back in time to when you first started out, what would you want to tell yourself?
MP: Don’t worry so much.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
MP: I should go to conventions. I give a great talk with slides. I will be doing more of this if anyone wants to have me.

BC: If you could have dinner with any one famous person you wanted, who would it be, and what would you talk about?
MP: I’d have dinner with my mother, Betty and tell her I’m okay, and I finally married Maria… and that I always always miss her every day.

(“All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Paraskevas Studios, INC (c) 2018.”)

Worth Mentioning – Wild Hunt

Still no new interviews, but I’ve been reading some new (to me) webcomics.


(Holly)

Wild Hunt is kind of a standard comic book super hero webcomic that features a young woman, Holly, as the main character. Holly was a college pre-med sophomore who was on her bicycle when she was hit by a car. While in a coma, she was approached by some supernatural thing called The Wild Hunt. The Hunt recruits Holly as the next incarnation of what turns out to be a long string of people able to turn their dreams real. When Holly sleeps, her dream self manifests as a horned woman in a green tattered dress, hood and cape.


(Dream Holly)

After recovering from the coma, Holly drops out of college, returns home to live with her parents, and spends the nights fighting spirits, harpies and other creatures that threaten the well-being of the inhabitants of the city. There are hints that a few other humans have powers as well, but Holly hasn’t actually befriended any of them yet. The comic started March 21, 2014, and updates every Monday. It’s up to chapter 6, and the story still hasn’t gotten fully up to speed.


(Holly in training)

The writing is by Shaun Gilroy, and art by Dima Derzhavin. The character designs, background art and action sequences are as good as anything from Marvel or DC. Visually, Wild Hunt looks professionally made. It’s very impressive, and the art is what keeps bringing me back every week. The problem is the writing and the pacing. The narration is hammy, and it takes forever for Holly to come to grips with her current state. What I really dislike, though, is that the jump cuts are too abrupt, and chapter changes feel like 1 or 2 pages are missing. Cliff hangers are resolved too quickly, and certain plot points get left dangling in the air after the chapter ends. One specific example is when Holly’s little sister gets kidnapped by a family of harpies. Holly teleports to safety with her sister into a tunnel system below the city, and the chapter ends. There’s no mention of how the girl gets back home without the harpies spotting them, and, although Holly tries to make her sister believe this is all a dream, the girl never mentions having subsequent nightmares or irrational fears of being attacked by harpies in her sleep. In fact, the girl becomes something of a non-character after this.


(The Wild Hunt)

Overall, Wild Hunt shows promise. It’s unfolding slowly, and will take years to reach any kind of climax. But, if you’re patient, it’s worth giving a chance. And, you can always go back through the archives occasionally to see if there was anything you missed. Who knows, maybe the pacing will improve as Gilroy gets more experienced. Recommended if you like oddball superheroes.

Worth Mentioning – Questionable Content

Still no new interviews, but I’ve been reading some new (to me) webcomics.

This one has Questionable Content. Very questionable.
I recommend going through the archives from the beginning. The artwork starts out rough, things are very talky, and there’s an unnecessarily heavy emphasis on indie music and fake indie cool, but that subsides eventually. The main thing here is that there’s a massive amount of character development, weird arrangements of romantic entanglements, and some very off-the-wall humor. If you can get past all the swearing, you’ll be good. NSFW, but nothing outright “graphic”…

And often, the artwork’s really good.

Plus, Jeph Jacques did an interesting little SF short named Alice Grove. The science part gets a bit weird in the middle, but the story is good. Numbering starts at 220 and goes down from there…

Worth Mentioning – Gunnerkrigg Court

Still no new interviews, but I have been reading a few new webcomics that I really like.

These illustrations are from Gunnerkrigg Court, an SF/fantasy series featuring a young girl that goes to a special school and makes some … unusual friends. The character designs tend to be a bit erratic, but the story is fun, and the special splash pages are great.

You can even do your own coloring with sticks with color on them!

Highly recommended.

 

Tim Rickard interview

An interview years in the making! You’re seeing the future right in front of your very own eyes! Today, I’m overwhelmed to present… … …

BC: Who are you?
TR: Tim Rickard, cartoonist, creator of the syndicated comic strip “Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!” Also I’m the newsroom artist for the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, NC.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
TR: I’m from Kentucky originally, I have a short attention span and I … Oh! Shiny object! 

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
TR: I consider myself a cartoonist first. I am, by profession, a cartoonist, illustrator, graphic artist, designer and writer. 

BC: How did you get your start as that thing you just said?
TR: Drawing in school when I should’ve been listening. Started working professionally as a newspaper artist out of college.

BC: How long have you been at that, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
TR: Too long. My biggest break came when Tribune Media became interested in syndicating “Brewster Rockit” in 2004.

BC: What led up to your starting Brewster Rockit, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
TR: I always wanted to do a comic strip and I tried almost every kind of strip – unsuccessfully. I tried doing strips that I thought would sell. But I decided if I was going to do a strip every day, I’d better do one that I’d enjoy doing, so I developed a sci-fi strip – which are a very hard sell. And whatta-ya-know? That’s the one that got picked up.
I’m working on developing other ideas, but nothing to show yet.

BC: Do you have a favorite Brewster strip character, and why?
TR: Probably Dr. Mel. I just like the fact that – because of his mad scientist status – he can do about anything: Time travel, teleport, build robots. I also like to have fun with Brewster’s stupidity. 

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
TR: Brewster – of course. I like how it’s been embraced by the actual space community. I’ve had requests for strips by people who have headed major space missions and had my strips included in books about science.

BC: How did your relationship with NASA get started with the Sunday Rockit Science strips? Do any of the NASA guys have Brewster or Pam artwork taped to their monitors? Have any of your strips made it to the ISS?
TR: I started getting some fan mail from NASA-types, some asking for reprints of certain strips. One of those correspondences was from Dr. Marc Rayman, mission leader of the Dawn Spacecraft. I had the audacity to ask him to help me with my science strips. He agreed, and that was several years ago, and he has been helping me ever since. The beauty of Dr. Marc – as I call him – is that he has a wonderful sense of humor also. Which isn’t fair, if you think about it – a rockit Scientist AND a keen sense of humor. “Hey, Dr. Marc – don’t be greedy – pick one or the other!” Don’t know if any of my strips made it to the space station, but a Brewster strip was one of many messages beamed to Mars a few years back in a publicity stunt.

BC: How do you decide which science topics to run with for the Sunday Rockit Science strips, and how much help do you need in getting the details right?
TR: Mostly my topics are whatever I find interesting myself. I surprisingly need only mostly minor adjustments and tweaks to my research from Dr. Marc to nudge it to accuracy. Sometimes he provides the research for me.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
TR: Paperback: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind on Amazon.com
ebooks: Dork Side of the Moon, Rockit Like It’s Hot!, both available on iTunes.

BC: Does Dr. Mel really come closest to who you are in real life, and if so, which of you has the most killbots?
TR: I wish. Unfortunately, I’m most like Brewster (with Cliff a close second) A lot of my strip ideas simply come from – “What would I do in this situation?”
BC: So… Dr. Mel wins.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
TR: In a state of sheer panic. Sometimes I’m lucky and an idea comes easily. But that almost never happens. Usually, it’s off to the internet and news sites and sometimes TV until I find a subject matter that interests me. Then I start brainstorming ideas on that subject.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
TR: Yakety Sax.

BC: Do you have any idea as to which of the characters in the strip are the most popular with your readers? Any guesses as to why?
TR: Probably Winky. For some reason, people love it when he loses his spleen. “AAHHH! MY spleen” has become my strip’s best-known catch-phrase.

BC: Do you have one (or two) strips that you think represent the “best of class”? What makes them stand out?
TR: I liked the one where Brewster got his tongue stuck on an At-At Walker. Also one where Pam sends Brewster out to battle a space squid with a few simple instructions: “Rescue Winky, defeat the monster, and come back alive.” And like me when I go to the grocery store for just a few items – Brewster has to write them down. These two strips – I think – capture both Brewster’s cluelessness and the strip’s goofiness in general.

BC: What’s the dumbest, or most ingenious way Ensign Kenny has been offed?
TR: My favorite way is always the one that I did last. For example, I just finished a strip where ensign Kenny gets offed again, but it won’t run until sometime in February. Hint: it has to do with Kenny being a “red shirt.”
BC: It’s always with the red shirts with you guys, isn’t it…

BC: How many papers is Brewster running in now?
TR: I have no idea. I do not keep up with that – honestly. I don’t want those type of details to start to influence how I create my strips.

BC: Do you get much reader mail, and is it mostly positive, negative or neutral? How do you (or your killbots) respond to the negative mail?
TR: Not a lot of email now, but when I do get one, it’s almost always positive. So I haven’t had to deploy my killbots to any critics (lately.)

BC: Have you gotten any reactions from George Lucas, Disney, or any other copyright holders over your use of their characters in the strip?
TR: Not from them, but I did have to change the appearance of Oldbot, my elderly robot character. I designed him after retro robot designs from “The Forbidden Planet” and “Lost in Space.” Apparently, he was a little too close to the robot from “Lost in Space” because I heard from their lawyers telling me to change him. Hmmm … me versus a large corporation? I changed Oldbot’s looks.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
TR: I’ve met – by phone and e-mail – Stephan Pastis of “Pearls Before Swine”. He likes my strip (he has good taste). He was gracious enough to write the forward for my book “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind.” Also a fan – then friend of – Scott Meyer of “Basic Instructions” before he quit doing the strip to pursue writing novels. I met another one of my big influences, Richard Thompson, at a comic con. I’ve heard he’s a polarizing figure, but for my money, he’s a cartoon genius. I especially love his “Richard’s Poor Almanac” feature. Other influences include Gary Larson, Bill Watterson, Scott Adams and Mad Magazine. I have contacted other cartoonists whose strips I like to tell them I’m a fan. Surprisingly, most of them claim to also like “Brewster Rockit.” Maybe they’re just humoring me, thinking I might be a stalker.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
TR: Pearls Before Swine, Speed Bump, Basic Instructions, Dilbert and many others …

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
TR: Ideas I can steal. Nah, seriously, if it’s a strip I really like, I analyze it – try to see why it works. I also look at the subject matter they write about and think about how I’d translate that into my strip.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
TR: For me, it’s originality and something a bit off-beat. I’m bored by traditional comic strips.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
TR: I don’t use Patreon or Kickstarter. Maybe I should look into those. I did do an arc on a Kickstarter for mad scientists that my character Dr. Mel was using to try and get funding for his latest world-conquering project.
To read Brewster, go to GoComics.com/brewsterrockit.

BC: In a battle between Dr. Mel and Prof. Farnsworth, who would win with the most number of doomsday devices, and how many spleens would be lost during the counting?
TR: Professional courtesy would prevent Dr. Mel from battling Prof. Farnsworth. That and a 1000-year time gap. There’d be more doomsday devices than you could shake a disintegration ray at, though. And oh, but the spleens that would be destroyed in that conflict – all of them Winky’s.

BC: How would you describe Brewster Rockit: Spaceguy to new readers to get them to start reading the strip?
TR: I like to describe it as “Flash Gordon” written by someone with brain damage.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
TR: Nope. I do HeroesCon in Charlotte in June about every year.

(“All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright (c)2018 Tim Rickard, Tribune Content Agency, LLC, All rights reserved.)

TR: How’s that? Where do we go from here?
BC:  Infinity. And/or Bed, Bath and beyond.

TR: Rockit-On!

In search of good webcomics.