I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got six new comics.

  • Empowered and Sistah Spooky’s High School Hell – 5 (of 6)
  • The Highest House – 5
  • Hillbilly – 11
  • Paper Girls – 22
  • Uber: Invasion – 14
  • The Walking Dead – 181
  • Check them all out here:

    I was at it again this week. I was working on my calendar. On a normal day I write notes in my calendar on my computer of what I did that day. What artwork I worked on, where I went, or any other simple or complex thing that I did. I’ve been doing that since December of 2008 in an attempt to show myself that I do get things done. Otherwise whenever I make a piece of art and put it away I tend to forget about it and it feels like I’ve never done it or anything. With a glance at my calendar I can see that I have accomplish something and it can lift my spirits.

    It was back in 2012 that when I was going to clean out the garage of a bunch of old tax receipts that I realized I could use those old papers to reconstruct what I was doing back then in the 1990s and enter that information into my virtual calendar. I ended up doing research on myself. Sure it interested no one else but I thought it was cool. I made a little map of my past. It was a lot of work though. And like many things that are a lot of work for no real reward I worked on it for a while and then put it away. I figured I’d finish the rest of it some other time. Then six years passed by.

    From 1999 until 2004 I kept a paper calendar. That’s where I first got the idea to keep track of some of the things that I did and I also used it to write in. Just a short paragraph a day. Over the years I’ve mined those short paragraphs for various things but I never transferred the general information into my digital calendar. Back in 2012 I was mostly working on early 1990s receipts so I never made it as far forward in time as my paper calendars. I’m not even sure why I stopped keeping the paper calendar but I did. Still it was those ones that inspired me to start up on my calendar project again.

    For about a week in May I became obsessed with filling in the missing years from my paper calendars into my digital one. Early in the mornings, at lunch time, at dinner time, and while watching TV at night I entered information into my computer. Instead of reading or surfing the web I typed for the week. It took a lot of effort.

    The paper calendars were easiest because all the information was in one place. It was all written down in a handy spiral book. I used to buy and write in the Ansel Adams desktop calendars every year. I guess I got bored with them by 2004 since I used a different calendar that year. It must have broken the spell though because that one odd calendar was the last one I ever used.

    The other part of the project were the receipts in the garage. That were also broken down by year and by subject matter too. I had receipt categories for art supplies, transportation, equipment, and a few other things I can’t remember right now. Plus there were bank and credit card statements in there. I could tell if I bought something or if I used an ATM near me or in NYC.

    As I was doing this I couldn’t decide if the receipts or the paper calendar were easier to deal with. The receipts could be broken down into pieces and handled a little at a time but they took time to organize. The paper calendar took no organization but had a lot of information in one single volume. So it took some time to do. It somehow seemed easier to just take the art supply receipts and do them but then when I was faced with a years worth of receipts to organize it seemed easier to grab a paper calendar. I, of course, ended up switching back and forth between them.

    One of the little things that particularly interested me this time around was that I got the the year to eighteen months where I took the train from Tarrytown into the city instead of the bus from Haverstraw. I remembered doing that but I had no idea when, how often, or for how long that happened. I had receipts for the rides so I could tell when I was on the train and not the bus. It’s a minor thing of no consequence but it made me happy to know.

    I ended up finishing a lot of years. I think I had from 1990 until 1997 already done and this time I finished up 1998 until 2004. Now I just have a gap between 2005 until 2008 in my calendar. The earliest information I now have in my calendar is from 1983 and 1984. One of the things I note is when I go to the comic shop. Usually I go every week and so I put it in my calendar. I found among my tax papers receipts from when I went to the comic shop back in high school. I have no idea why I kept them but most of them had dates on them so I entered that info.

    By the end of the week I burnt out on doing it. I wanted to finish and fill that four year gap but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I even organized the receipts for 2005 so they were all ready to go but I didn’t get to them. It seemed so pointless as is the danger of doing this sort of work. It’s emotionally taxing. At first it’s fun and fascinating to go through my life and see all the small things that happened. It can be nostalgic and joyful to say to myself, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” But after a while I start to feel bad because I’ve forgotten so much. Most of everything gets forgotten. That’s the way life is. I wonder if it’ll take me another six years to finish up.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.

  • Kill or Be Killed – 20 (out of 20)
  • Saga – 53
  • The Prisoner – 3
  • Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses – 36
  • Outcast – 36
  • The Wicked + the Divine – 37
  • The Un-Bedable Vark – 1
  • Check them all out here:

    A few years ago I was talking to Carl Potts and he was telling me about a book that he, Tom DeFalco, and Jim Galton wanted to write. Jim Galton was the president of Marvel Comics, Tom DeFalco was the editor-in-chief, and Carl Potts was a group editor. Being that they all had a lot of leadership experience the book was going to be about corporate leadership. One of the points of the book was that if you want your company to have a fun vibe that has to come from the top. A place is only going to be as happy as its leaders want it to be. Their book deal fell through but I think their hypothesis rings true.

    The myth of the Marvel Bullpen was something Stan Lee put in place in the early 1960s. He wanted Marvel to be thought of as a fun place populated by artists, writers, and behind the scenes people all having a good time making comics. Most of the artists and writers were freelancers who worked at their own homes and studio spaces but you can’t let reality get in the way of a good myth.

    When I was working in the Marvel Bullpen around Halloween of 1991 it could certainly be described as a fun place. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There were the usual suspects in any workplace: office politics, power struggles, people who didn’t get along with each other, deadline pressures, departments that were at odds, incompetence, and occasionally people who were just plain jerks. But still the overall vibe of the place was loose and fun. The Marvel vibe of having fun making comics was alive and well.

    For example the Marvel Bullpen that I worked in at that time was probably about twenty people (it peaked at 35 people a couple years later) all in a big room sitting mostly at drawing tables where lettering corrections, color corrections, cover coloring, paste-ups, and general comic book production got done. It was fairly mundane and repetitive work but we were allowed to talk as we worked. And talk we did. All day.

    Everyone who worked in the Marvel Bullpen was an artist or creative person in their own right. So there was always a lot of imagination and liveliness in the room. It was a place of constant humor and joking as we went about our day. And we were rarely stifled. Sometimes we would get too loud and our boss, Virginia Romita, would step out of her office and give us a look to quiet us down. Then there was Flo Steinberg who needed some quiet when proofreading and would shout “Modulate people!” when we got too loud for her white noise headphones to baffle. Even more rarely George Roussos, the staff colorist (who had been working in comics since the Golden Age), would step out and say something like “You people are so loud. They’re going to fire us all!” That’s when we really knew we were too loud.

    There was a long row of offices next to the Bullpen that ran along the outside wall. This was “Editorial Row” where, of course, the editors had all of their offices. Each office had its own individual character depending on the editor’s likings but there was rarely a closed door. A few of the offices even had couches and were hangouts for freelancers, interns, people from other Marvel departments, and random assistant editors. We in the Bullpen worked directly with the editors so we were also in and out of their offices all day. If the editors wanted a break they’d also come out to the Bullpen for a few minutes and shoot the breeze.

    The king of “Official” Marvel fun was Mark Gruenwald. I say “Official” because there were a lot of fun people at Marvel who were the center of shenanigans but if there was anything organized or recurring Mark was often behind it. He loved games, he loved parties, he loved pranks, he loved the idea of Marvel being a fun place, and he loved having a good time in general.

    I’m telling you all this as a prelude to a video made on October 25th of 1991 of a Marvel office Halloween party. It’s a Mark Gruenwald tour de force. He’s there with a megaphone leading the office in a bunch of silly games. He’s assisted by Renee Witterstaetter and Rob Tokar. This is the stuff Mark loved to do. Not every game was a winner but he always gave it his best. You won’t find much slacking from him when it comes to having fun.

    Not everybody was a fan of the types of games. Though no one was complaining about having an office party for some people the silliness was too much to participate in. They enjoyed watching the festivities but were too self-conscious to join in. Some people aren’t built to handle even a little embarrassment. Mark had to work hard at times to keep things going.

    You won’t see me participating in the games because I have my own little quirk. As silly as I can be I take my competition seriously. I love to compete in games and to win. But silly games are usually not about the competition. They’re about having fun doing silly things. Somehow not being able to compete fairly in a game turns me off from playing it. That’s my own bit of weirdness but you can still see me on the tape having a good time.

    All of this was courtesy of Marvel’s leadership. The myth of the Marvel Bullpen was important to them as a brand and as a creative choice. It made Marvel a better and more creative place to be. At the time I didn’t really think about that and took it for granted but then I also worked at Marvel post-bankruptcy when it had a new owner who cared nothing for the myth of the Marvel Bullpen. A lot of people tried to keep the spirit alive but without leadership at the top it was impossible. But here for just a little while the spirit of 1991 boom-time Marvel can live again.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got five new comics.

  • Encounter – 4
  • Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden – 4 of 7
  • Deadly Class – 35
  • Wayward – 26
  • Kaijumax – Season Four – 1
  • Check them all out here: