Archive for November, 2004

SO MUCH FUN….

I had such a wonderful time at my brother and sister-in-law’s for THANKSGIVING. I knew I would– but it was REALLY wonderful this time. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I brought Charlie with me. I was very apprehensive about taking him to Richmond with me, because Matt and Suzanne have a cat of their OWN named Toonces. Toonces is about 14 years old (he’s a very gorgeous cream colored long-hair), and has never lived with another animal– so I was afraid that he’d be very threatened over me bringing another male cat into the house (even though Charlie’s only 5 months old) and maybe lash out. I was also afraid that Charlie would react badly to going to another environment– that he would freak out and be scared the whole time we were there.

I shouldn’t have worried.

Charlie took to their house like it was his own– and he took to Toonces like he was a long lost brother. He immediately wanted to play with Toonces…. but Toonces was having nothing of it. He didn’t attack Charlie, and only hissed at him occasionally to warn him off (which didn’t do much good)– he never did so much as to swat him. But it was so evident that he hated having Charlie there and wanted him gone. I could actually see the wheels turning in Toonces head: “They’re not replacing me, surely….!” “Why is this little punk here….?!!??” Charlie was constantly after him to play. He wanted to play VERY BADLY with Toonces. He would face off with Toonces, trying to goad him into some play– and Toonces would get annoyed and trot off, which would only make Charlie chase him, which would then make Toonces run off faster. It was kind of comical– but I also felt very bad for Toonces. We were invading his space and making him miserable.

Charlie took to my brother Matt like he was in love with him. He would lay on his legs, or curl up next to him every time Matt sat down to watch TV. It was very sweet. Suzanne loved picking him up and scrubbing his head (which he took with his usual good nature). And my Mother and Father got a real kick out of seeing Charlie again. They think he’s hilariously goofy– which is true. He is.

The company, the food, the pets– it was all very wonderful. A THANKSGIVING for the books.

Mike

THANKSGIVING

I’m headed out today to make my annual trip to my brother and sister-in-law’s home for Thanksgiving. For the past– I think it’s about 10 years now– they’ve been generous enough to host the Thanksgiving dinner for Matt’s side of the family. They celebrate Christmas with Suzanne’s (Matt’s wife) family down here in North Carolina every year, so everyone gets some love during the holidays. Suzanne always prepares an amazing and utterly delicious feast every Thanksgiving– and I can never thank her enough for all the hard work she endures to feed our tiny “brood”. She’s amazing. I’ve got a LOT to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my wonderful family, my health, the fact that I’m living a childhood dream everyday of drawing comic books for my living…. I could go on and on. In a world that is becoming increasingly frightening, I’m very thankful for all the wonderful things and people in my life. I hope that every one of you has a terrific Thanksgiving holiday, and that you have a myriad of positive things in your own lives to be thankful for.

And ANOTHER thing I’m very thankful for:

I am SO THANKFUL that I have Charlie in my life. He’s such a wonderful little guy– so affectionate and sweet. He’s my best buddy in the whole world and I already can’t imagine NOT having him around. As you can see from the pictures, he’s gotten big enough now that he can make his way on to just about anything he likes (the only areas he can’t reach yet are the kitchen counters, but that will come soon enough– he’s only 5 months old). He spends a lot of time climbing on and around my work area. Most of the time, he spends that time knocking everything he can find onto the floor, watching it quizzically, as if he expects it to do something other than just fall to the rug. But he’s never discouraged by the fact that the things he bats onto the floor never do anything but lay there. He just moves on to the next thing that catches his attention to repeat the experiment. But sometimes, he does what he’s doing in these pictures. He’ll lay at the top of my big light box and doze while I’m working on something. And that is the physical manifestation of something I used to fantasize about when I was younger. I always dreamed of being a professional artist and having a sleepy cat napping either on my table or in my lap while I worked.

I’m thankful that’s a fantasy that came to life.

UPDATE!!!:

Since a couple of folks have asked about it (Yo, Chuck– HAPPY THANKSGIVING, man!)– I’m also posting the SYNDROME sketch I did recently for a thread on SKETCHBOOKSESSIONS.COM. Here he is in all his villainous…. uhm, villainy. I LOVE THE INCREDIBLES!!!!

Mike

ARGO

As I’ve said before (I think MANY times, so if I keep repeating myself on this, please forgive me. I’m setting these little stories up for those who may not have read any of the previous ones…) my family was stationed in Germany for a few years in the early 70′s when my father was in the Army. While we were there, we went to Italy several times for vacation. My parents were stationed THERE when they were much younger– in fact, it’s where I was born– in a small town named Vicenza. My folks both speak fluent Italian and have many friends there.

There was a couple named Batista (the husband) and Justina (the wife) that were my some of my parents’ closest friends in Italy. They were an older couple (older than my parents– and of course VERY old to a couple of young squirts like me and my brother). Batista made wonderful sweet wine in his cellar, and his wife Justina was an incredible cook (as are so many Italians)– and they were both very sweet people. They had a big, equally sweet black dog named ARGO. If I remember correctly, he was something like a German Shephard/Husky mix. Maybe not Husky– but he definitely had Shephard in him. He absolutely DOTED on my brother Matt, even though we only saw him at the most five or six times during our times in Germany/Italy. There was some sort of instant connection between Argo and Matt. Argo liked me as well, but not like he did my brother. Maybe because Matt was the smallest, it brought out the nurturing, protective side of Argo. I’m not sure what it was– but it was special.

Unfortunately, when we were very young kids, I had a tendency to pick on Matt. I’m sure this is universal with all siblings and something that’s happened from the beginnings of humankind — but I still feel guilty about my childhood behavior toward my bro…. even now, so many years after that behavior has ended. (An aside– the picking behavior ended, coincidentally, when my brother grew to be about 3 inches taller, and much larger than me– able to kick my ass. Funny how that works out, huh?) Well, one day while we were visiting Batista and Justina, Matt and I were out playing in their yard, with Argo supervising. I was pushing Matt in a little wagon around the yard, and sure enough– my brotherly instinct to tease and pick kicked in. I started pushing him around in this little wagon faster and faster, to the point that Matt started to get scared. He asked me to stop several times, each time a bit louder and in a more agonized way. This only spurred me on to greater “heights” of pushing faster and giggling. When Matt’s consternation turned loud enough, Argo stepped in to stop it.

Argo moved in quickly– very quickly. He herded my away from Matt and the wagon with a low, menacing growl deep in his throat. He was looking at me in a way that said “HEY– this kid is my GOOD FRIEND, and you’re making him scared! I don’t like that, and if you keep it up, I’m REALLY NOT GOING TO LIKE YOU!” I backed up against the wall of the house, suddenly really afraid, with Argo facing me, his yellow eyes glaring into mine. I didn’t want to be scared of Argo– I really liked him, and I had sudden flashes of getting bitten by this dog I was really fond of. It was terrible. Fortunately, Batista saw what was happening from the window, and yelled out “Argo– BASTA!” It was like a spell was broken. Argo, suddenly his old self,trotted back over to Matt, with his tail wagging, to be greeted by my happy and grateful brother. Needless to say, I never teased Matt in front of Argo ever again, and Argo was always very sweet to me from then on. Not as sweet as he was to MATT, but sweet anyway. It was like nothing untoward had ever happened between us.

I have a great appreciation for Argo’s protectiveness for my brother more now than I did then. He was a wonderful dog– and that kind of loyalty, friendship, and love is something that is so common in dogs but seems so rare in mankind.

Matt could have used Argo a lot more when we weren’t in Italy, thanks to my brotherly “whims”.

Until he got bigger than me, that is….

Mike

It’s been GREAT….

Well, Dan Buckley and MARVEL let the cat out of the bag about Mark Waid, Karl Kesel and myself leaving FANTASTIC FOUR at WIZARD WORLD TEXAS. Obviously, they felt they had to begin the hype around the next creative team– and it seems to have worked. The comic book message boards are all abuzz with speculation over who the next team will be on the book. This is the most activity that I’ve seen in relation to FANTASTIC FOUR the comic book in months. Even with the “widescreen” epic alien invasion story that has led into the GALACTUS arc we’re working on, the message boards have been really silent of late.

Joe Quesada called me back in June about rotating off of FF– the day I was heading out to attend the HEROES CONVENTION. It was a bit eerie, since it was at LAST years HEROES that I heard from Matt Brady that Mark Waid had been pulled off the title in favor of a new direction. But this time was different. Mark and I had been discussing a growing desire to move on to something else, and so my discussion with Joe was a very positive one in regards to the book this time. He made the point that in today’s market, the only way to keep any kind of “heat” or “buzz” on a long-running ongoing title was to bring in a new creative team from time to time to reinvigorate both the book and the fan base. With all the evidence I’d been seeing about this over the past many years, I couldn’t argue. So– the die was cast.

And as I said, from the heated activity on the fan message boards, Joe was obviously right.

My tenure as artist on FANTASTIC FOUR has been a wonderful experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself artistically– what I can do… and what I CAN’T. There have been many incredibly challenges working on this book. Some uplifting… and some very frustrating. But it’s always been a great opportunity and experience overall. Just like life. The FANTASTIC FOUR is one of those titles that I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that I’d ever get the opportunity to work on. I’ve been so lucky in my career to work on some of the biggest icons in comics– SPIDER-MAN, SUPERMAN, THE X-MEN, BATMAN AND ROBIN– and now FANTASTIC FOUR joins that list. I’ve had more success than I ever thought would be possible when I got into this business. I’d like to take the time to thank Joe Quesada and Tom Brevoort for believing that I WOULD do a good job on the book, despite my own self doubts. They really helped me overcome them. I’d like to thank Mark Waid for writing some of the greatest stories I’ve ever gotten to draw– Karl Kesel for making my pencils look like they actually BELONG on the book (Karl, you are the best, man…!) and Paul Mounts for always going above and beyond with his incredible colors. The special effects work that Paul has done have been mind blowing.

And a big THANK YOU to everyone who has read and enjoyed our work on the book. I can’t thank you enough for your support. I hope you’ll follow us to our next big project at MARVEL. I can’t tell you what it is right now, but I CAN tell you this…..

It’s going to be a blast.

Mike

DID YOU…?

I hope everyone exercised their rights as a U.S citizen in what is probably the most important election in a generation. Fortunately for me, my polling place is very close, and there was no line, so I zipped in and out very quickly.

Sorry there haven’t been any new posts in over a week– I’m so overwhelmed with my FF deadlines that it’s almost impossible to find the time to sketch on the side these days.

I’ll leave you with a belated HALLOWEEN sketch I did for a thread over at the Robert Kirkman board at the IMAGE COMICS site. It’s in honor of his great book THE WALKING DEAD.

Hopefully I’ll have something more substantive soon.

Mike