Year X at MX

A recent Twitter tweet about a Facebook post about making fun of the evergreen topic about current residents complaining about how Asheville isn’t like it used to be, caused me to remember a cartoon I did on the very same subject, and that caused me to realize that said cartoon was now ten years old, almost exactly to the date. Then, all of that caused me to make this blog post, and construct that crazy run-on sentence.

So it seems that today, November 14, 2017 is exactly ten years from the date that Mountain Xpress first published the cartoon I created a month earlier to respond to their call for new local cartoonists. That’s not a huge deal in general, seeing as how their longtime political cartoonist, Randy Molton, has been drawing for them for over 22 years now. Other than Randy’s mainstay status, and David Cohen‘s memorable tenure until 2006 (when he moved to be the still-current Asheville-

The publication of my first cartoon in the 11/14/2007 Mountain Xpress, along with Johnny Cantrell and some others that were not chosen. The color version is at the bottom of this post.

Citizen Times cartoonist), I rather got the feeling as an occasional reader (living in rural Henderson County, I didn’t get a chance to pick up the Asheville alt-weekly very often) that the “local cartoon” slot was hard for the paper to fill. If you defer the local political cartooning to Randy, that leaves only local non-political, non-national things to lampoon each week, so after making the easy jokes about the few local issues that seem to stay the same, and some local event or people, you kind of run out of “local” and revert to a general cartoon about… something. The Mountain Xpress seemed to go through a lot of different artists in that spot, from what I could tell, and I heard from them later on, that such was the case. Getting the cartoonist to remain on-mission as doing “local” cartoons was a difficult cat to herd.

So, being that my main, long-time freelance graphic design client had recently gone the way of many other Ad Agency/Design firms in the newly-evolving world of cheap internet alternatives and self-publishing, I decided to leave the commercial art world once and for all and try my hand at my real love, cartooning, once again. I had given it a go back in 1993, creating a strip that I sent out to all the syndicates to some very nice rejection and no takers. I had also been surprised to sell my cartoon idea to MAD magazine, but deflated somewhat, that they had their in-house artist redo the artwork to save costs of just paying me as a writer only. After some more promising, but ultimately rejected submissions, I got off-track from doing cartooning/illustration, and into the more lucrative and dull world of layout and prepress of industrial marketing. Sure, industrial caster catalogues and industrial freezer brochures can be fun (not really) but do they really feed the soul? No, but when they stopped feeding the family, I was kind of glad to let them go.

When I saw the Mountain Xpress call for submissions in October 2007, I spent some time creating three of them, one color and two black and white (the paper didn’t publish color inside back then, but I think they called for one anyway) and emailed them off (I had moved on to the nascent world of digital cartooning by then). When I got a phone call from then editor, Jon Ellison (the same man whose quoted Facebook post cum Twitter tweet would create this unrequested book of a post a decade later), telling me “we really like your cartoons” I was quite pleased to hear it. He told me they would run my cartoons in the “all comics” ‘issue they were planning for 11/14/2007 and that afterwards, they would need a cartoon from me every other week, as they would alternate between me and the other local cartoonist they chose, Johnny Cantrell.

Now, however, I was terrified. I used up all my ideas to make fun of Asheville on those three cartoons already! “How the hell am I going to come up with another cartoon, much less another one every other week?” said I to myself after hanging up the phone. I had always just flirted with the idea of being a regular cartoonist. The realities of coming up with some hilarious and local idea twice a month were now staring me in the face, but it was too late to back out now.

Somehow, I made a go of it. Handing in a new cartoon (well, emailing in, I was still digital) each two-week deadline became a regular exercise and they were usually shrunken down and placed in the back amongst the classifieds. Eventually, Johnny Cantrell’s “Tooth and Jaw” comic was dropped. (It was a very well-rendered and bitingly satiric strip that I think ruffled more than a few feathers and caused much consternation with the editors. More than one of his comics attacked the Xpress itself as being too bland. A look through the comics he still has on his blogspot page reveals that more than a few never saw print due to what can only be assumed to be their libelous or profane elements for a paper that was becoming increasingly more family-friendly.. For whatever reason, his final cartoon was not published, but one can assume the final letter from MX that he portrays in his final, unpublished comic was pretty close to the real thing.)

This caused two things to happen: 1) I would now be in the paper every week, as opposed to alternating weeks, and 2) my deadline panic about what to do a cartoon about was now going to doubled from bi-monthly to weekly. One day, I met with Jon Elliston in person, and he let me know the paper was going to move my comic to the front of the paper and increase the size to the full width of the page with a headline of the title. The comic had no name to put on the new, decorative headline. The first comic I did with a recurring character was going to be called “Land of This Guy” to play on the old Asheville nickname of “Land of The Sky” and to infer it was about the cranky old man character I had as the main protaganist in the first two or three comics (a leftover from my failed Vast Wasteland comic strip). So I told them to just call it that.

 

The second comic strip I sent in started the “old man” character as the outsider looking in on Asheville’s “freaky” people and positions. It also addressed some local news stories about the freaky people in the surrounding rural counties.

 

The third comic I submitted was a continuation of the second. It addressed some local controversies that were in the news at the time.

 

That was around 2009, and the comic has been in the same place in the paper, at the same size since. Editors have come and gone, and the headline with the name was eventually dropped, but otherwise, not much has changed. The paper used to have more national, syndicated cartoons, like This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow and The City by Derf, but those seemed to have been dropped in past years, perhaps to fall more in line with MX’s focus on “local” extending to its contributors as well, or maybe as a cost-saving measure.

I gained some notice and notoriety early on. That seems to have died down, once everyone got used to the presence of another cartoonist that didn’t change every other quarter. There would very occasionally be an email or letter forwarded to me from the editors and if I saw the publisher or editor at one of the rare times I would actually meet someone from the paper in person at a party or event, they would relay positive feedback they had received. Only a few times did I get a call about someone angry or threatening to sue. Eventually, the paper started putting the cartoons online as well, and the old MountainX.com web site would elicit many comments on the posted cartoons, and that was a good gauge of reactions, but once the paper went through a site redesign a few years ago, the comments stopped, and now It’s hard to tell what, if any impact the cartoons have, or if anyone is seeing them at all.

Some of the other cartoon submissions from that issue.

Whether as many people are looking at print at all, compared to just ten years ago is another consideration. Trying to share the cartoons through social media has been pretty uneventful, as the local nature of the comics make them relevant only to a very limited audience and, of course, topicality gives them a very short lifespan in addition. I’d like to say that I used this local exposure to launch into the broader world of regional and national publication, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I have neglected stoking those aspirations for whatever reasons (I like to blame the never-ending deadline of the local cartoon for not being able to concentrate on making something more marketable to a larger, general audience, but I’m pretty sure I would still be procrastinating on that front without it breathing down my neck each week.)

So now ten years have passed. I’ve done nearly 500 “local cartoons” to varying degrees of success or failure and to reactions ranging from outrage to apathy (mostly the latter in recent years, as I’ve learned to tamp down any possible offensive material that may cause headaches for my editors and me, but at the same time make for somewhat safe, tepid, unmemorable work). I’ve gotten used to a weekly deadline, but it never became any easier or less fraught with despair about what I’m going to do this week. I’ve seen my colleague David Cohen say how the never-ending eccentricities of Asheville  provide him with an endless supply of cartoon ideas. I wish I had the same Olive Garden-like “endless strips” view of the subject, but most times it seems like I have covered the same ground of “low wages”, “tourism economy,” “newcomers vs. natives,” “affordable housing,” “development,” “traffic,’ etc. etc. so much that there is nothing left to say again. Sometimes I have nothing for the week, and have to just comment on the weather or the season or (horrors!) just do something general and non-local just like I am not supposed to be doing. I was kind of waiting for that “we no longer require your services” letter from the Xpress that Johnny and others must have received, but it hasn’t yet arrived, and since I didn’t really have the initiative to do anything else, I guess, here we are.

Should I look at this 10 year anniversary as a milestone, or a wake-up call? Would stopping at a nice, round number and moving on to something more far-reaching and better-received be a forward-thinking, visionary approach to becoming a career-minded go-getter, or would ungraciously giving up a guaranteed regular gig for the unlikely chance that the modern marketplace is looking for new, fresh works from 53 year old white male cartoonists with huge gaps in their employment history be a dumb move?

I don’t know, but I assume that my indecision will likely result in another 10 years of me going through the same routine of starting the week thinking I should not wait until the Friday deadline to think of a cartoon and then spending Friday wishing I had listened to earlier-in-the-week me until the paper finally decides they want to try someone new or I actually create something worthy of moving on to.

Even if the cartoons are similar to this blog, in that nobody is actually reading them but me, at least they both have one quality in common: VOLUME!

Full color version of the first cartoon I did. The color version was put online. I have since corrected the “1,000s” date in the last panel to an unspecified one, after getting flak about how native Americans were here long before even that.

Drawlloween 2017 – Day 30: Cauldron Crones

Drawlloween 2017 – Day 30 is:

CAULDRON CRONES

The penultimate day of Drawlloween brings us a prompt of wizened old witches tending to their malevolent brew. Keeping with the contrary way I’ve been going with these prompts, I went for the opposite of crones, and found three comely cauldron keepers of animated fame. First, from Archie comics, Sabrina the Teenage Witch in her classic 60s look and hairstyle. She’s been reimagined plenty of times for modern audiences, including a more serious, ominous take in her recent graphic novel and in Afterlife with Archie in which she inadvertently causes a zombie holocaust in Riverdale by bringing Jughead’s beloved dog back to life, so making her a bit evil here is no longer that big a reach.

Next is the “sexy” version of Witch Hazel from the 1955 Looney Tunes animated short by Chuck Jones, “Broomstick Bunny” in which Bugs Bunny turns the tables on usually crone-like Witch Hazel by hitting her with the “pretty” formula she meant for him, or at least his disguised self as a young witch. She is then sexually harassed by the magic mirror genie and the short ends with him in pursuit. Hey, it was the 50s.

The last pretty witch is also animated, to keep with the theme, so no “only bad witches are ugly” Glinda the Good Witch here. It is, however, another live action witch, Samantha Stevens from the 60s-70s TV sitcom, “Bewitched.” Shown here in the animated version that opens and closes the show.

I tried to take the three different cartoon styles and make them appear similar enough to not seem to go together by giving them all the same dress, but letting them keep their individual style in other ways.

One more day to go!

National Teacher Appreciation Day

May 3rd is apparently “National Teacher Appreciation Day” (and also May 1-7 is National Teacher Appreciation Week). That may not seem particularly newsworthy, as every single day of the year has been proclaimed, designated, or sanctioned to be one or more particular days of something or other. I’m taking advantage of this particular designated event to finally post about a favorite teacher of mine from 8th grade in what was then known as Junior High School.

Having had many teachers in my life, both in school and out, (my father was a teacher for many years in local public schools before retiring, as was my mother-in-law, and now many of my friends from school have become teachers and professors as well. My daughter even works as one for pre-K children. So I have many “favorite” teachers and even narrowing them down to the ones I felt challenged and supported by in my own days as a student would be a difficult task, as there have been many more that I liked than disliked, thankfully. (Though the ones I disliked, I really disliked.)

Lynn Herrick was our Language Arts teacher at Rugby Junior High School in the late 70s. She had a creative “art teacher” type of approach to learning that culminated in many fun and non-traditional assignments. I still remember the excitement of being able to tape a “commercial” for a product that we had to come up with. This was very early in the days of video tape equipment and probably the first time I was ever recorded on this new medium. We only watched the segments we shot once, in class, but how I would love to have a copy of those commercials, just to see my fellow classmates and I hamming it up at that age. Uploading those to Facebook to embarrass countless incipient senior citizens would be a hoot. Now that’s making learning fun!

Ms. Herrick crossed my mind when I came upon a stash of my old school papers kept in an old steamer trunk, along with other school items. The kind of stash that only a pack rat/hoarder who hasn’t had to move from place to place in over three decades would still inexplicably have in his possession past age 50. Still, I wasn’t sure why these old Language Arts assignment sheets were here, even irrational hoarding has some rationality. Then I saw that on the back of each one I had doodled various superhero and fantasy characters in poses and action scenes. I had made up several of my own characters in my youth for my own “comics” and I suppose I was sitting bored with the finished paper face down on my desk one day and the potential of all that white space beckoned me to sketch something there.

derrick-test-front

Front of worksheet. The formerly empty reverse side shows signs of some kind of werewolf creature now. (click to enlarge)

The interesting thing (and I’m sure you’re glad I’m finally getting to the interesting thing about this longwinded post) was that, rather than getting reprimanded by the teacher for defacing the assignment sheet, Ms. Herrick included her own note about the artwork, along with the grade, when reviewing the papers. Always an encouraging one. Thereafter, the addition of artwork to the backs of all my classroom work became a frequent tradition and a enjoyable addition to the daily grind of 8th grade.

herrick

A Language Arts teacher who encourages creativity and expression isn’t that far a leap in credulity, I suppose, as it would be a for, say, a math or gym teacher maybe, if I may stereotype for a bit. However, any teacher with a sense of humor was always a treasure for me as a student, and one who appreciated my dumb superhero drawings was even better. The back and forth of my post-assignment drawings, her notes, and my drawn responses to those notes was a fun kind of correspondence between just the two of us. She even asked to keep the one I drew of her, but since I still have it, I guess she didn’t get to. The ones I found are scanned in below, click to enlarge them.

I would gladly send the requested drawing, and since I was curious what became of her, I looked her up on the internet and found she is now an artist in her own right and probably doesn’t need an 8th grade quality portrait on the back of a mimeographed word exercise sheet from 1978.

Since reading of her shows and works in articles in papers and magazines, and remembering how she had moved on from teaching to theater and other arts, I now understand why she felt a need to encourage a young visual artist more than maybe a less appreciative English teacher would. She was an artist herself, and since leaving education for her own art career, it must have been her true calling. The same as it must have been for me at the time (working as an eighth grader paid terribly, and I knew I had to move on to the only slightly-better-paying profession of cartooning and illustration).

Even though, she probably doesn’t remember it, her brief stint as a teacher had profound and lasting effects on me, and probably many other students and I want to take this designated opportunity to thank and appreciate Ms. Lynn Herrick once and for all.

If you still want it, I can send you the work sheet as well, Ms. H.

LynnHerrick

#RIPBeleChere

BeleChere0009

Bele Chere, the street festival that began in Asheville during a time of Detroit-level urban blight and downtown deterioration (otherwise known as the 70s) is now coming to an end, due to the city ceasing funding the increasingly revenue-neutral and somewhat now-superfluous event.

It began during my still-under-driving-age year of turning 15 in 1979. Therefore, without a way to get to the big city, and later a lack of desire to drive anywhere at all, I don’t think I ever saw much of Bele Chere during its 35 year existence. I may have gone a few times as a semi-local when the kids were small, but other than participating in a few event-themed 5K races, the one real involvement with the festival circa 1989 when I was a paid vendor.

Me at 1989 Bele Chere, selling caricatures at my booth.

Me at 1989 Bele Chere, selling caricatures at my booth in front of what is now Pack Square Park.

Back then, the booth fee was around $500 and I sold caricatures. Unfortunately, unlike having an inventory of goods that can sell as fast as customers demand, I could only draw so many people at one time, no matter how many (or few) showed up to partake in this service/art form. At $6 each, I would need to convince about 83.333333333 people to have one done before breaking even on the booth fee alone. Therefore, I split the cost of the booth (I only needed room for an easel and two chairs anyway) with my friend Don, who enterprisingly sought to capture the zeitgeist and had several current pop culture phrases (what future generations would refer to as “memes”) printed up on T-shirts to peddle on his half of the booth. I believe he did a pretty good business selling the “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!” white on black designs.

belechere91Don

Don selling his “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!” T-shirts before LifeAlert™ trademarked the phrase a few years later.

After the three (very long and hot) days, I think I had made a pretty good profit, surpassing the booth fee and markers, pad and tent, etc. costs and then some. There was some hassle with not being able to park anywhere near my booth space and having to drag all that stuff up a bunch of winding stairs and steep mountain roads every day by foot (or leaving it behind to be upturned and vandalized at night) that kind of stuck in my craw and prevented me from working with the festival again. So, I never did become a Bele Chere vendor at any other time after that one experience. I believe the booth fees went up so dramatically over the years, that there would have been no way to make a profit with such a business model anyway.

Once I started doing a weekly cartoon about Asheville and Asheville-related things, I kind of had to address the Bele Chere festival each year. By this time, the festival had outlived the original need for it. The downtown of Asheville had now become a vibrant, booming and hip place to be. The boarded-up, seedy city center that once needed an injection of life was long gone. Eateries, pubs, coffee houses, art galleries, touristy shops and performance spaces were doing a booming business downtown all year round now. Except for when Bele Chere would happen. Now that influx of out-of-town vendors and unruly, sometimes inebriated crowds (along with an influx of professional street-preaching instigators to mock them) would turn up and crowd out the market and space to the downtown business owners who now felt the festival was something to endure, rather than embrace each year.

BBcartoon20BIG

There were also now a number of festivals that proliferated all year long, that were much more inclusive of and embraced by the locals than Bele Chere. B.C. was now seen as an outsider festival for outsider vendors to sell to outsider participants. Even local bands were being booked less often for the musical acts and local brewers (which were also proliferating) were often overlooked for larger, corporate sponsors.

BeleChere2SMSo, the focus of the cartoons took on a more adversarial tone, to reflect the feelings of most of the Asheville (and surrounding) community towards the fest. Making fun of both the crowds and the local business reaction to it, as well as the apocalyptic aftermath of the yearly tempest, was the gist of many of the cartoons.

MXcartoonBB128BIG

MCcartoonBB44BIGIn the end, the “Beautiful Living” festival accomplished (or at least became irrelevant because of) what it set out to do and for that, the community should look fondly on its 3.5 decade run, even if the last few legs of the race were like running in a sweater in July.

BeleChererun03sweater

 

Missed Conceptions, Part IV

No need to go into too much detail on this one. The topless protests that have been held in Asheville the past two years or so, have provided much fodder for cartoon and juvenile humor (which I am not above engaging in, hey I like me some juvenile humor!) but the reactionary voices against the horrors of public display of human female breasts made themselves another easy target. Therefore, though I don’t like to repeat subject matter, particularly not close together, I did two cartoons on both subjects within a few weeks of each other. One was just a bunch of boob joke puns:

MXcartoonBB132BIG

The other was a second iteration of the first Calvin and Hobbes style parody about the two protest opponents:

MXCARTOON135BBWEB

… and then another, the next year, this time focusing on the Raelian cult that is alleged to be behind the organization that initiates these protests, along with a caricature of a local opponent of the protests tied with the then-current Chik Fil-A controversy:

MXcartoonBB184WEB

(Also, when legislation appeared to counter the protest specifically, I even did a cartoon comparing it to the current gun show incidents and lack of any legislative discussions for those:)MXcartoonBB207WEB

It was the third cartoon that was not appreciated by one particular “conservative portal.” In the words of the webmaster:

Asheville’s Mountain Xpress found that women and some teens taking off their bras in the town square was simply an issue of humor of course, dissing people who were offended such as in this cartoon the pub posted on page eight of its September 4, 2012, issue and drawn by artist Brent Brown. The artist, of course to be politically correct, left out any drawing of the events where strangers were actually photographed fondling the breasts of women while young children were videotaped with their naked moms on the street.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 9.43.04 AM

Now, I would like to just point out that although the puritanical opponent is probably being dissed here, the people he is protesting are not exactly exalted either. The fact that many “supporters” were present only to ogle and catcall them some nekkid women parts is clearly manifested in the cartoon with the non-committal signs and the leering, lecherous dudes taking photos and otherwise showing “support” for more nudity, not whatever their actual message was supposed to be. The crazy-looking, glassy-eyed cult members are not faring well either, so deriding the cartoon as some kind of partisan exercise in blind political correctness is logical incorrectness as far as I can see. They are correct in that I consider the whole thing to be simply an issue of humor. Both the protest and the reactions to it. Everyone in it, however is being made fun of and what could be more egalitarian than that?

U MAD Bro?

Like a lot of 70s kids, I grew up with MAD Magazine and it had a big influence on me. I still own all my tattered, and sometimes coverless, issues from that period, up to whenever it was there stopped being newsstands to impulse buy one from. Not only was my sense of humor and irreverence affected by the “usual gang of idiots” but as a cartoonist, the way I approach the medium has the DNA of MAD all up in that.

A few cartoons I’ve done for Mountain Xpress have been tributes to various MAD artists, from Don Martin, Antonio Prohias, Sergio Aragones, and Paul Coker Jr., to the first MAD man himself, Harvey Kurtzman. Even when I wasn’t attempting a blatant ripoff, I mean “homage” to the artist’s style, I can’t help but find myself being influenced by years of enjoying work from people like George Woodbridge or Wally Wood or Bill Elder.

Brent Brown local TEDX cartoon using classic MAD man, Don Martin style. Click for larger version.

Brent Brown parody cartoon of Antonio Prohias MAD Spy vs. Spy strip for local paper. Clicken to Enlargen.

Paul Coker Jr. style of MAD feature appropriated by Brent Brown for local version. Click for larger version.

 

Sergio Aragones style for local evidence room scandal. Click for larger.

Woodbridge-esque influences in my work.

John Tenniel-type Alice illustrations with “Bill Elder/Wally Wood” influences comic on local Tweedle-Dum candidates by Brent Brown.

Harvey Kurtzman-esque comic by Brent Brown about local Duke-Progress merger.

In the early 90s, when I went from doing boring commercial art in ad agencies to full-time starving doing interesting freelance, I submitted some cartoons and ideas to my beloved MAD, sure I would get the same nice rejection letters I got from cartoon syndicates I sent my attempt at a comic strip to earlier.

To my delighted surprise, they actually were interested in my submission and subsequently bought it! When issue #321 came out, there I was: Writer: Brent Brown. Oh, they had another artist re-draw my cartoons. So I am still not a MAD cartoonist, just a writer. Oh well, I would still forever be linked to my MAD muse in the history of contributors!

Undaunted, I sent in more submissions and they were considered, but ultimately rejected for one reason or another. I did enjoy the snarky repartee we had in those pre-email days with making fun of each others locations in Noo Yawk and Naw Kerlina:

MADcorrespondence2 MADcorrespondence1 madart

A few years later, I applied for, and was summarily rejected from, membership in the National Cartoonist Society (when I found out they existed and contained so many great cartoonists that I would have loved to have met during their yearly conventions, held in various parts of the country). One of these annual meetings in particular was going to be quite close to home. RIght here in Asheville, NC at the Grove Park Inn!  Since I was not a member, I couldn’t go to the convention or the main event, the Reuben awards, not as an attendee anyway, but having such luminaries so close was too tempting. I had to figure out some kind of plan to worm my way in amongst my heroes that were going to be practically in my back yard.

Now, I had been hired by the Grove Park Inn on many previous occasions to draw caricatures for various gatherings at the grand hotel and so my plan was to put on a tux (or as close to one as I could approximate for the black tie dinner being held in one of their ballrooms that night) and just set up my easel and to put up a sign that said “free caricatures” in front of the ballroom where the awards ceremony was being held, pretending that the hotel had hired me to be there! This is what I did.
Of course, I had no right to be there, but no one questioned it. Even when the entrance (where I had borrowed two chairs to set up to draw) had become so packed with participants in penguin suits that I—and the few I was able to draw before the ceremony started—could barely move or be seen any longer.
I wasn’t able to talk to Sergio Aragones, who was being honored that night, but I did meet several cartoonists (one who did a caricature of me at the same time I was doing one of him, he declared me “the winner, hahah” but I can’t remember his name, although I have the drawing here, somewhere, still) and I even met Mad artist Bob Clarke, who recently passed away, who was happy to autograph my “Complete MAD” compendium that I “happened” to bring along with me. I still treasure that, even though he inscribed it “To Brandt.” (see below) as he was not able to hear me very well over the din.
MAD artist Bob Clarke signed one of his works on the pages of my "Completely MAD" paperback I brought to the Reuben awards at Grove Park Inn.

MAD artist Bob Clarke signed one of his works on the pages of my “Completely MAD” paperback I brought to the Reuben awards at Grove Park Inn. (He didn’t get the spelling right, but I still treasure it, especially now that he is gone.)

It was a pretty crazy idea, but I was glad I went through with it. I never tried to reapply  for membership though.
Years later, I did join the International Society of Caricature Artists (ISCA) in 2011 and was able to meet a lot of very talented fellow caricaturists from all fields from all across the globe. One, Tom Richmond, was even nice enough to lead an impromptu sketch session by the hotel pool during a convention in Tampa, FL that year. Tom happens to be the main caricature genius at the current MAD magazine. He is the goto guy for movie and TV parodies and other parts of the issue that require spot-on caricature work. He even wrote a book on the subject and I was able to get a nice inscription on my copy from him as well as a free caricature (it would be priceless at any price!). Another MAD alumni I met at the 2011 convention was the great-in-his-own-right-but-also-a-sometime-contributor-to-MAD artist, Drew Friedman. Here are a few photos from those epic encounters:
BBTomRichmondISCA11sm RichmondBookBBsigSM TomRichmondcollageSM DrewFriedmanCollagesm DrewFriedmanBBsm

As far as MAD goes. The last correspondence I got from the MAD editors was in 1994, asking for more submissions for their “potpourri page” but I never got around to coming up with any ideas to send in and I never did.

Just this week, however, I’ve received in the mail, my first issue of MAD in years (from a subscription deal I found online and decided to see what’s been going on) and I see I can now download the whole issue on my iPad as well (with interactive all kinds of stuff). Seeing the many new contributors that make up this modern MAD makes me wonder why I had not sent in any more submissions in after their last request, and at this point, I can’t remember, but time must just have gotten away from me, and other projects came up and I probably also just ran dry regarding new and different ideas that they had not done similar things about before.

However, as I see the modern day MAD, where they are apparently still looking for and accepting such stuff (even more than they used to, it would seem) I’m thinking it’s not too late to try again. I wonder if they accept digital submissions though, as I haven’t had any letterhead since the Clinton administration.

New Kids on The Block

NKOTB in superhero town

NKOTB in superhero town

So, the whole family went to Asheville’s FANATICON, back in May and, being the well-read geeks that we are, thought we would participate in the Kipper’s Trivia Night™ trivia contest (held, surprisingly, during the day) as part of the daylong comic con experience. The four of us managed to exude enough geek culture knowledge to achieve a Fourth Place finish. However, due to an oversight during the award presentations to the winners, our spot was completely skipped and as I was trying to explain from the back of the room while prizes were being given out to Fifth place, Third Place, Second and First Place finishers, “umm… hello… excuse me.. but.. we wuz robbed!!!” Unfortunately, my non-traffic yelling must not emit a blast radius forceful enough to do anything but annoy the people sitting in the row in front of us. So, by the time I walked up to inform triviamaster, Kipper Schauer, of this oversight, the prizes had all been exuberantly handed out. Bummer. The host, bless his soul, felt horrible upon realization of this travesty of justice and scrambled to find something, anything to placate the impending disappointment my expression must have communicated. He managed to hand over a pair of extremely unmint-on-card, dusty, shelfworn New Kids on The Block action figures!

First of all, I never even realized they made action figures of this particular 80s boy band, but these were of Danny and Joe and I am more of a Jordan and Donnie man! Okay, maybe I’m more of a “Color Me Badd” dude, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have figures made. Seriously though, I am a certifiable action figure geek, but mainly of the movie/animation/comic book variety, and the only interest I would have in figures of said performers would be of the ironic, kitschy variety. I was thankful for the host’s effort to make right the omission and cheerfully accepted the booty as prize fodder. Later, however, I was informed by his dad that Kipper is a vehement NKOTB fan and that parting with these particular treasures (that I must now assume he had just purchased during the con for his own collection/shrine) was a heart-rending Sophie’s Choice for him and that he wanted to make sure that I truly would love and appreciate them. I assured him that I was indeed an action figure connoisseur, but before I could finish the sentence and add “… but I am not exactly a NKOTB fan and would be glad to give them up…” he nodded approvingly and moved on out the room with the rest of the crowd leaving the now ended trivia event.

NKOTB with movie figures 1

on DVD shelf 1

NKOTB with animation figures

on DVD shelf 2

We finished up the con and I took back my buttons, programs, framed poster, etc. I still am not sure what to do with old Danny and Joe. I’ve tried to see where they can fit in with my existing displays of opened and carded figures in both my office and the DVD closet we watch TV in. I had envisioned using them in a few action figure comics, interacting with more somber figures in which they are the butt of many jokes at their faded glory expense. The articulation isn’t very good on them though, so the possible poses for them are somewhere short of endless. I would say more like one, maybe two if you count lying down as a pose. I also still feel this nagging need to return them to Kipper, whom I imagine to be pining away at the nostalgic bounty he lucked upon only to have snatched away from him before he could even properly enjoy their NewKidsOnTheBlockedness. Therefore, I have been loathe to remove them from their unminty, but nevertheless, mostly intact original packaging.

I am going STEP BY STEP to figure out if these or other environs are a fitting home for these action figures or whether I should package them up and mail them back to Kipper. If he is indeed overwrought over their loss, I hope that he keeps HANGIN’ TOUGH until I can resolve the issue!

Here is how they currently fit in:

I discovered Henderson County’s Greenway!

Map of Greenway paths

Map of Greenway paths

So, I was not expecting to spend a long time waiting for an oil change when I drove my Hyundai Elantra GT into Hunter Chevrolet/Hyundai/Subaru on November 4, 2009, but apparently you now have to call for an appointment if you don’t want to wait (contrary to what I have been told in the past when I called for an appointment and they told me I don’t need one for just an oil change, hmmm..) After waiting in a long line just to get into the service check-in bay, I was told I would be in for a looong wait, but decided to go ahead and use my free oil change coupon I’ve been holding onto since May, even though I did not bring a bicycle to while away the time with, as I usually would.

Hunter Chevrolet/Hyundai on Asheville Hwy. in Hendersonville, NC

Hunter Chevrolet/Hyundai on Asheville Hwy. in Hendersonville, NC
The line to get in was at least 4 cars out the door, but gone when I got back.
The line to get in was at least 4 cars out the door, but gone when I got back.

I sat in the waiting room and read the only section of the paper I could find, the Local news. I read an article about the newest leg of Henderson County’s Greenway being Grand Opened/Dedicated on November 14th. Now it stretches from Jackson Park all the way to Patton Park. The article said future hopes would be to get it all the way down to Berkely Mills. That was not far from where I was sitting, dreading the time doing nothing and I decided to take a walk.

I headed up the huge embankment from Hunter, across a church parking lot and down another bank to the disused railroad tracks that I don’t think the Norfolk-Soutern train even runs on any more with all the plants closing. I crossed Berkley Road and followed the tracks that run parallel with it for a while until I saw Patton Park right next to the tracks.

Crossing road on RR tracks next to Berkely Mills/Kimberly-Clark.

Crossing Berkely Road on RR tracks next to Berkely Mills/Kimberly-Clark.

Running down the railroad tracks by Berkely Mills/Kimberly-Clark plant.

Running down the railroad tracks by Berkely Mills/Kimberly-Clark plant.

Junction where track splits off to go to Kimberly-Clark plant.

Junction where track splits off to go to Kimberly-Clark plant.

Creek running under tracks with buildings on yon hill.
Well-worn path from railroad tracks around end of chain link fence to Patton Park.

Well-worn path from railroad tracks around end of chain link fence to Patton Park.

I got off the RR tracks, and went around the chain link fence to follow the walking trails that oldsters and mommies pushing babies were making full use of. I found the offshoot of what I assumed to be the start of the connecting Greenway path from the walking path and headed down it. The new section starts right as you cross the railroad tracks and then cross North Main Street and you come to where the path deviates from it’s parallel course with the RR tracks and a wooden boardwalk begins beside the paved pathway.

I followed the paved path because the boardwalk said it was closed for construction and had a KEEP OUT sign on it. I went a ways and then turned a sharp corner and saw the end of the boardwalk with did NOT have a keep out sign on that end, hmmm. Then the path followed alongside the creek/river which I assumed was Mud Creek or the Oklawaha, hence the name of the Greenway as The Oklawaha Greenway.

Greenway path shoots off from walking path that circles Patton Park on Hwy. 25/Asheville Hwy.

Greenway path shoots off from walking path that circles Patton Park on Hwy. 25/Asheville Hwy.

Path crosses railroad tracks, then crosses road (N. Main Street)

Path crosses railroad tracks, then crosses road (N. Main Street)

Greenway path starts back here on other side of road. (N. Main Steet?)

Greenway path starts back here on other side of road. (N. Main Steet)

I took the boardwalk that runs sort of parallel to the paved greeway path, but cuts off the corner somewhat.

I took the boardwalk that runs sort of parallel to the paved greeway path, but cuts off the corner somewhat.

Boardwalk has offshoot pier that goes out to viewing point.

Boardwalk has offshoot pier that goes out to viewing point.

End of the boardwalk opens out onto paved path.

End of the boardwalk opens out onto paved path.

Divided lanes make biking easier. Saw one cyclist the whole time. Two other walkers. No joggers.

Divided lanes make biking easier. Saw one cyclist the whole time. Two other walkers. No joggers.

A few trees have signs marking their type along the greenway.

A few trees have signs marking their type along the greenway.

The Oklawaha river runs by the greenway (Also known as Mud Creek.)

The Oklawaha river runs by the greenway (Also known as Mud Creek.)

Lots of standing water from recent rains.

Lots of standing water from recent rains.

More Trees.

More Trees.

Nice bridge crossing when getting near 7th Avenue.

Nice bridge crossing when getting near 7th Avenue.

I noticed a few signs marking trees of different varieties and even one that pointed out the “Poison Ivy” vines growing on one tree. As I approached the public housing known as Green Meadows, I finally ran into some other people. A guy walking with an iPod going and then what appeared to be a group of haggard vagrants mingling around the Seventh Avenue entrance. I didn’t have to wonder how to avoid their gaze long though, as a city parks dept. truck pulled right into the path for some reason just as I got there. I crossed the Seventh Avenue bridge and road and started on the way to the Jackson Park path I already knew well from riding my bike on at other times.

Greenway stops at Seventh Avenue and goes on bridge across river and then crosses to other side of street.

Greenway stops at Seventh Avenue and goes on bridge across river and then crosses to other side of street.

Sign showing Greeway map on Seventh Avenue entrance/crossing.

Sign showing Greeway map on Seventh Avenue entrance/crossing.

Greenway path picks up here to go to Jackson Park.

Greenway path picks up here to go to Jackson Park.

Heading towards where path goes beneath the busy HWY. 64/Four Seasons BLVD/MLK Blvd overpass.

Heading towards where path goes beneath the busy HWY. 64/Four Seasons BLVD/MLK Blvd overpass.

Other side of Four Seasons BLVD. overpass, heading towards Jackson Park.

Other side of Four Seasons BLVD. overpass, heading towards Jackson Park.
This marshy area is next to a creek that sometimes overflows and covers the path.

This marshy area is next to a creek that sometimes overflows and covers the path.

I stepped off the path to take some photos but sunk deep into the water and muck hidden under the tall weeds. Great, I was planning on running back and now I will have to do so with a squishy left sock and shoe. Finally reaching Jackson Park’s entrance, I crossed the road into the park and went to where the dog walkers were parking next to the nature trail. Sitting on a bench, I wrung out my sock and sat it in the sun a bit. I visited the Parks and Rec offices to use their rest room and they looked at me like I may actually be one of those homeless guys I was looking at the same way earlier. That’s what I get for going out in public without my winter beard properly grown in yet. There’s something about grey stubble that just screams vagrant! for some reason.

Almost to where Greenway enters Jackson Park.

Almost to where Greenway enters Jackson Park.

Greenway path crosses the entrance road to Jackson Park here.

Greenway path crosses the entrance road to Jackson Park here.

Parking area at Jackson Park. Some still flooded from recent rains.

Parking area at Jackson Park. Some still flooded from recent rains.

Nature trail that veers off from Jackson Park path and loops back around to it.

Nature trail that veers off from Jackson Park path and loops back around to it.

Jackson Park part of path.

Jackson Park part of path.

This is where I came to a stop.

This is where I came to a stop.

Start of the Greenway path in Jackson Park.

Start of the Greenway path in Jackson Park.

View of Jackson Park from Parks and Rec office on hill.

View of Jackson Park from Parks and Rec office on hill.

Sitting down to wring water out of my sock after stepping off the path and getting it soaked.

Sitting down to wring water out of my sock after stepping off the path and getting it soaked.

Okay, time to go back now.

Okay, time to go back now.

Starting back on my jog back to Hunter, I was able to run the whole way since I already took all the photos on the walking trip down. I was fortunate to have my cell phone camera with me, as the scenes were really quite beautiful in many places, but unfortunate in that it is a really crappy camera and did not take very good photos. As I was about two-thirds of the way back (this time I took the boardwalk, since it made the trip shorter and I could truthfully say there was no KEEP OUT sign when I got on at the other end, in case anyone asks, which no one did), I got a call on the cell phone that my car was ready, but they can’t find me. So I hurried even more. I think I spent about two hours total. I would hated to have been sitting in that waiting room all that time. This is supposedly a 1.1 mile addition to the greenway at present, but I don’t know how much extra it is to Hunter Chevrolet. If they get it to go all the way to Berkley Mills, it might make waiting for your car service a more enjoyable experience.

ADDENDUM: A week later, the Greenway was officially opened. Here are the photos from the Times News.

Headed back to Hunter on Greenway.

Headed back to Hunter on Greenway.

Took the path, not the boardwalk. The board walk is faster though.

Took the path, not the boardwalk. The board walk is faster though.