It is with mixed feelings that I must announce that I will be shutting down Sparkplug this year. I appreciate the opportunities that running Sparkplug has given me and the wonderful people it has introduced me to. I know Sparkplug means a lot to many people and I want to assure you this is not a decision I’ve made lightly. It’s become increasingly difficult for me to balance my day job as assistant manager at an art gallery, my own comics career, and Sparkplug. I don’t have the time to put into nurturing the press and its artists that they deserve. I would like to express my gratitude to people who have joined and helped me on this journey, and everyone who has supported Sparkplug and me in the years since Dylan’s passing. You will always have a place in my heart. My plan right now is to spend about five more months as Sparkplug - tabling at LAZF, Linework and CAKE - and then close up shop. The back catalog will be transferred to Marc Arsenault of Alternative Comics - a person who takes great care in promoting older titles. Until then, the online shop will remain open, with plenty of Sparkplug’s wonderful selection to choose from.
Again, thank you all. It’s been an honor to publish in this community.
-Virginia February 18, 2016
I finally started a short story I’ve been kicking around a while. It’s called This Is All We Have. It’s sort of a western. Here’s a very short video of me inking page three. It’s a simple page, without a lot of bells and whistles, so I’m not really sure why I decided to record drawing it. I always get a kick out of seeing people draw and work out ideas though, so maybe you will too.
Check out the page above marked “comics” for links to Jezebel and a few older things I already had lying around in my archives. Chances are, if you’re reading this or know who I am, you’ve read at least some of that stuff already but there you go. I have plans to add a few new stories in the near future.
If my jezebel book ever gets published, I want it to look kind of like this
I usually end up doing some warm up panels every morning just to get the juices flowing. Sometimes they turn into actual comics, usually they go nowhere. This one was me playing around with a red niji pen and an orange micron. I never have any need for those pens so I figured I’d play around. These girls might show up in some comic somewhere in the future, I kind of like them. we’ll see.
quite often, pages like this just come out. sometimes they can get rolling pretty easy and jump start some kind of story. Usually I just file them away and hope they do me some good somewhere down the line.
This page was just a little exercise while I was winding down and getting ready to go to sleep last night. I really like the way this page came out. I mean, the lettering is gross and the panel borders are a little too sloppy but I wish I could keep my drawings this loose and fun.
Hey everyone I figured I should remind you that this comic is for sale. It’s being serialized over at the Studygroup 12 site but if you want to get a jump on the story, here’s your chance. There’s 34 pages of Jezebel and a two pager about a fistfight I got into recently. excitement! It’s five bucks plus a dollar postage. More accurately it’s like four bucks and two dollars postage. god damned post office charges an arm and a leg nowadays. dumb. Happy Easter!
My comic Jezebel premiers on the studygroup site today. It’s dope, man, check it out. It will update on Wednesdays.
San Diego, the event, the convention, has come and gone. I’m still here at the moment. Visiting friends and seeing what the town has to offer. I think I like it here but I’m still on the fence. There’s a desperate normality to this town that turns me off but the weather has been nice and the ocean is clear and blue.
San Diego has always been a fluke for me. I have never paid to get into the event and that affords me the luxury of viewing it with a critical and somewhat disgusted eye. I have a place to stay here, the show is essentially a free weekend of trying to sell books to people that are more interested in posters and tv shows. Having not paid for the show offers a flip side to that dispassionate disgust though, I’m also able to see the trip as all gravy. While lamenting the sad state of comics in america, I can also realize that the San Diego show is just a part of the world I have no business being in. It’s not my crowd, it’s not my scene, everything at the show is geared to things I find horrible and wrong but I act as a covert investigator into that world for no other reason than to reaffirm my loyalties.
It all started right after I quit my graveyard shift job and decided I would take any and all opportunities that came my way. I’m still in that mode I think. That bohemian, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of thing I do every few years. It’s a crazy way to live but a lot of realizations about life usually open up before me. The internet has made that reality easier. Opportunities spring up like weeds in comics and I’ve said yes to all of them.
Andrew, the curator for the cartoon art museum was looking for someone to help run their booth at SDCC and I said I’d do it. It’s a simple gig, do a little drawing, take donations, talk shit with Larry Hama, the usual. Like I said, a good friend lives in town so I had an excuse to go see her.
I booked a greyhound which was the most, uh, affordable way to travel but 29 hours of sitting on a bus really busts your tail bone apart. On the way down the coast We stopped by a Burger King, I was tired and desperate and I decided to get a burger there because I’m a true nihilist. When the kid behind the counter, overworked and pocked with acne from the fry grease, told me my card was declined, he looked at me with eyes that said “you poor, dumb fucker.” that’s when I found out my bank had killed off the last of my funds and sucked out a little extra for good measure.
When I arrived in town and saw Fina, whom I’ve known longer than almost anyone I know, I held onto her like she would keep death away.
Before I rant any more about the comics show, I need to express my thanks to Fina and her hetero life mate Vanessa for taking me in and being the absolute best girls on the planet. If not for Fina, I’d probably have gone off the deep end. I love you Skinny, you’re family.
Fina works early and near the convention site so I showed up to preview night on wednesday about 10 hours before anything started. That early set-up ritual at the San Diego show is intoxicating to me though. Forklifts and cranes, foremen, engineers, all building a small city out of movie billboards and lego blocks. It’s my favorite part of the show. I always feel lucky to be part of the small club that gets to witness that industrial side of the comics show, the building, the work, the people behind the curtains doing their jobs and getting ready for hell-week, the security personel meeting before the show in little football team huddles, the unthanked and underappreciated custodial staff, the real people of the convention center who must hate that event more than anything, even though it does give them a job.
I ran into Greg Tugboat and MK right around the end of my stay that day. I helped them carry some shit to their table and they would remain an anchor point for me throughout the rest of the show. Small press, zines, DIY and art comics are a kind of niche that I dwell in and there are few people to help me feel grounded and sane at a show as big and gross as SDCC, having Greg, MK and a few others in my corner that I can run to and talk with briefly is a much needed respite.
The next day, when the show really got rolling, I was suffering from some existential funk that isn’t worth getting into. Again, I arrived to the show early and managed to get some work done on this new book while waiting for things to rev up. I spent most of that first day at the CAM table, only leaving once to see a bookstore panel with some guys I like. It was interesting but I’ve been doing this long enough that those panels kind of write themselves y’know?
My table mates at the CAM booth were pretty well planted, drawing and taking donations. I felt a certain comfort at that table where I could sit and draw and people would come by with admiring looks and potentially donate money for my drawing of chubby catwoman or whatever. I got a distinct impression that I may have been the old guy at the table though, that the other guys helping out there were still feeling out what it means to work in comics and what their place is there. It’s not like I’ve been doing this a long time but it’s been long enough I have those questions answered, at least for now. I also realized after that first day that my presence there was wholly redundant and it was silly to think I could really be of any help.
By the end of the day I was burned out and overstimulated. The crowds had blown my brain to bits and crashed me out. I had the thought that if Friday was that packed then Saturday would be crazy… Then I realized it was only Thursday and I had three more days of this nonsense.
About halfway through Friday I started to tune out of my duties at the CAM table. I did what I could but it was pretty nonsensical. The amount of people piling up behind that booth was unmanagable at times and I was simply one more body contributing to the crowd. Occasionally I’d pop back in and hold down the fort while people had other things to do but it was a rare occasion when I was needed.
I was still gripped by depression and ennui on Friday so I tried my best to distract myself with normal convention stuff. I went to artist’s alley and met Ramona Fradon who was just sitting humbly behind her table covered in beautiful drawings. I was informed later that there were plenty of people stopping to wish her well and talk with her but when I walked by it seemed like she wasn’t getting the attention she deserved. A sweet lady. As I briefly talked with her she was drawing plastic man in the margin of the comic-con promo book. That book is probably on it’s way to a landfill by now.
I didn’t sleep much Friday night and spent the morning curled up under the table at the show. I helped Andrew get the day started but quickly zipped off to a nearby coffee shop to get some work done. Much of my time at the San Diego show has always been spent at a coffee shop drawing comics. I’m not a hustler and I have no real interest in that show beyond novelty value. I have given up the notion that I will ever be offered a paying gig in comics that would appeal to me. I’m not going to hunt down editors from any of the major companies in hopes that I can draw wonder woman or something. Seeing celebrities isn’t exciting to me, I don’t play video games or watch new movies. Me being at that show is ridiculous, really, so I go do the work that is important to me and that I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I like the show, and it is a show. I like the effort people expend on their obsessions. I like seeing people who are proud of the costumes they wear. I enjoy meeting people in comics because the people in comics are the best people in the world. Sometimes though, you have to get the work done.
There were a few points during the show I’d stop and sit somewhere as out of the way as possible in a convention hall filled with thousands of people. I’d try to work there and noodle out some cartooning conundrum that had been pestering me. On one such occasion I realized I was sitting with my back to the wall among a slough of other folks, all with sketchbooks opened, working.
after the show on Saturday the girls took me on a long hike atop and around North Fortuna, a rocky little mountain park in San diego. It was exhausting for a doughy pudge like me but very enjoyable. That first little treck up the hill killed my lungs but once I got passed that I really got into the groove. I could breathe normal and enjoy the landscape. Anyone going to the convention should make time to see things after the show. I know it’s usually about drinking with your mates and solidifying relationships with folks you don’t see often but how often are you in San Diego? Go see a sight, visit the beach, go to a park.
The last day of the show was a slow burn. I was asked to man the booth that day because Andrew had a lot to do and the other guys were going to be leaving early. It was Fina’s day off and we slept in a little but I felt the need to bust it to the show as early as possible. When I got to the show, the booth was well stocked and it looked like the guys weren’t oing anywhere anytime soon. I took off. I hope I didn’t leave anyone on the lurch but I was desperate to make a little money. I walked a few blocks from the show and set up a little makeshift booth on my hoody that I’d laid out like a blanket. I immediately sold a copy of Blue Moon 5 and my spirits buoyed a little. If you’re going to street vend comics during the San diego show I suggest bringing a lot of minicomics and fewer offset printed books. My comic Reich, a professional looking affair (as far as printing goes anyway) was overlooked by everyone who stopped but my photocopied, hand stapled little monstrosities were pretty popular. I guess everyone going to that show gets enough of the slick stuff, inside.
I moved around a little from further away from the show to closer in, by my third move I was across the street from the show. I settled on an area with a lot of foot traffic but it was pretty close to those weird christian protesters so I didn’t get a lot of eye contact from anyone.
I was about to give up on that spot when a woman came and stood in the shade next to me. She was on the phone with a friend, telling said friend that she was done with the show, burned out, tired, through. The woman, a kind hearted soul gave me her ticket and told me I could use it.
I spent about an hour trying to scalp that fucker but no one was looking in the waning hours of a sunday show. I called Fina and asked if she was interested.
Being a local San Dieg…ian Fina has a pretty low tolerance for that show. Like I said, she works close to the convention center and her boss was selling her parking space to the highest bidder. That sort of stuff happens in San Diego, it’s fucked up. Also, Fina has an appreciation for comics because she’s known me since she was fifteen and she’s always had some dumbshit hammering comics into her head. She’s not a fan though. Hell, I don’t know if I’m enough of a fan to stomach SDCC.
So I was hesitant to ask if she wanted to see what was essentially a superhero themed Las Vegas casino, or “Nerdi-gras” as one of my more clever twitter friends called it. Fina accepted, later admitting that two hours of that show was probably the perfect amount of time to spend there. She was pretty stoked to meet Peter Kuper whom she’s a fan of… he’s not as good as me but whatever. What’s Peter Kuper got that I don’t got? fuck that guy.
After that I found an empty table in the small press area next to some friends. The table had been abandoned by someone who had to cut out early. I dumped my wares all over it and jumped back there for a bit. Again, minicomics sold pretty well. In an hour and a half of that show I sold about as much as I sell anywhere else after a full day. Not a lot but enough to buy dinner after the show.
I was in a pretty weird state of mind fuckery as the show reeled down and the lights dimmed and everyone applauded. I was unsure of my place in the world, where I was going, what I was doing. I said goodbye to some friends like I’d never see them again. I wasn’t sure what was going on with me.
The Stumptown Comics fest in Portland was my first show after a long tough year and it was exhilarating. It was the first time in a long time I had new minicomics and I saw a lot of good people, I was excited to go back to being a real cartoonist instead of that half-assed kind of thing I’d been doing for a few years. After Stumptown I was pumped and in love with everyone in comics. I was optimistic, which for me, is saying a lot.
After SDCC I wasn’t quite the opposite. I’m still excited by comics and I’m still enthralled with the people that inhabit my world. I realized after San Diego though, how small that world is and how specific a cartoonist I am. There’s only a handful of people in comics that seem to understand what I’m doing or why I do it. I wouldn’t really have it any other way though. I love my peers, I love making art, I love comic books.
Hey y’all. I’m starting to put some stuff into the shop. I think everything works the way it’s supposed to. I’ll have all the issues of Reich available and more minicomics and stuff coming soon. go here.
update: I guess the checkout part of the shop isn’t working. not really a surprise since I could fuck up a cup of coffee. I’ve been noodling with it all day with no real luck. probably something really simple I’m not doing. anyway, check back later. sorry for being stupid.
Update 2: I think the thing is working now. send me an email or leave a comment if you have any issues buying crap. Thanks.
Issue five of my minicomic Blue Moon is available for four bucks plus post. please email for details if you’re outside the US. The entire issue consists of embarrassing diary strips from 2008 it’s part one of four.
I’ve been pushing the bounderies of my ego with this kickstarter thing, really getting into people’s grill and being a jerk about it (look over to your right) but to tell you the truth I’m a little sick of asking people for money. No one I know has any and those that do have money can think of better things to spend it on than my stupid comics. If you’re not sure about donating to me then you should be sure about donating to Aron’s kickstarter project. that guy’s got the goods. I really enjoy his comics and #5 sounds like it will be something special.
Get to it.
There’s an interview with Stan Sakai over at the comics reporter site in case you haven’t seen it yet. It’s always tempting to refer to Sakai as under rated but that’s probably not true at all. He is honored with awards and his fans adore him. I think Sakai is just a humble dude that doesn’t puff out his chest every time he completes a new issue. He’s been working on the same title forever and he obviously cares more about getting shit done than getting accolades for said shit getting done. I wish I had that ability, I want people to pat me on the back every day I don’t starve to death. His humbleness and workhorse ethic is all just inference from interviews and whatnot, I’ve never met the guy. I hope to get a chance to shake his hand and tell him how much I like his comics at the Stumptown show next year where he’ll be a special guest (I heard that somewhere, I’m not involved with the show, so the details may change.)
Check out the video parade over at Comics Reporter. I always feel like anyone reading my sparsely updated blog is probably already reading the same comics-related websites I am. just in case you’re not, you should go over there and check out the video of the recently deceased and sorely missed cartoonist Gene Colan. The other videos are also pretty cool.
I posted something about this on my old blog almost four years ago… I just can’t believe it’s still going.