September 9th, 2004


Under my wing

This past March I'm at a book party with my pal/comix writer Vito Delsante, and college alum/filmmaker Paul Yates, when we meet writer Rachel Cline. Her crows feet has an ear for black humor and she hangs with us for the night while we make jokes and survey a proof sheet of snapshots Yates took of a Connecticut cop fucking his girlfriend in an abandoned warehouse. Later that month, I get invited to the release of Cline's book, WHAT TO KEEP, at a local signing. Later still, I get an email from Cline asking if I'd like to write a bunch of comix springboards for The Worldstudio Foundation [], an outfit that champions social and environmentally aware community creativity as funded by Kellogg, the late, great, and cooky philanthropist whose name graces my box of cornflakes. The comix springboards are given to a set of hand selected students who would then reinterpolate my high concepts into their own unique 6pp visions and get collected/published into a grandiose comic book sometime next year. Cline did it last year but doesn't have the time for it this year. It pays VERY WELL.

Meet & greets over email and telephone with the Worldstudio directors has me writing a bunch of comix springboards that must employ super philanthropic heroics that yield communal and/or ecological resolve. This is a tough one. I do a quick study on Kellogg and other philanthropists and go to town. After four extensive drafts and re-writes, Worldstudio is finally happy with six of my surgically plotted concepts for them to parcel out to their budding cartoonists. They ask if I would be a mentor to one of the kids [that pays a nice sum, too]. I don't feel confident about teaching and my practices are somewhat unorthodox but they convince me to do it and so I do. I get Jarrett, a black kid from New Orleans, who's studying comix at Savannah College of Art & Design. He's chosen my springboard "Captain Concept," and has already broken it down into his 6pp interpretation. The guy is ambitious. We spend the summer checking in on a weekly basis where he emails me progress reports and we discuss various comix crafting phases over the telephone. I find myself getting the hang of teaching by example yet not letting my sensibilities interfere with Jarrett's. Experience can only take a budding cartoonist so far before they get inundated by too much information. Otherwise, the proverbial horse led to water might just drown. The mentorship went well and Jarrett completed his project in record time.

Worldstudio decides they want all the mentors [including cartoonists Peter Kuper and Ward Sutton] and mentees from all over to congregate in one room in a Manhattan photographers studio so they could shoot us discussing the program and the process on digital video for an eventual DVD industrial for Kellogg. Only, somewhere -- somehow, wires get crossed and Jarrett never got to make final arrangements to participate. He was disappointed and I was livid. After the film shoot, I asked the administrator if Worldstudio still had it in their budget to fly Jarrett to NYC? I felt it unfair that Jarrett got lost in the mix and I wanted to host him for a day. Plus, I wanted to meet the kid I'd gotten to know and work with! Worldstudio was game to my plan and we arranged for Jarrett to fly to NYC, his very first visit to the big apple, on his 20th birthday!

Jarrett arrived in JFK @8:30am, and was driven to the Worldstudio offices in the west village for a quick visit. Then, Jarrett took a taxi to my home @11:30am where Pulitzer prize winning photo journalist David Turnley hazarded the flooded subways [thanks to Hurricane Frances], to take snapshots of us for the Worldstudio book and DVD. Having shot pix in nearly every war the past 15-years, Turnley was an unusually kind and caring man. One must achieve some sense of Zen in order to document the horrors of mankind. We three discussed 9/11 and the evil of the Bush clan and shook our heads in anger. After Turnley split, I showed Jarrett my art and a few digital coloring tricks on Photoshop, and treated him to Indian food lunch on Smith street. NY1 News warned that traffic underground was abysmal, so I suggest we stay in Brooklyn but I can see it in Jarrett's eyes that he wants to visit the big city, for real. So, we hop onto the barely existent F-train and he notes how many different cultures and attitudes are sitting in one subway car. Stuff I never notice anymore. I'm just one of the many attitudes. We plan to ride to 34th street to visit Jim Hanley's Universe when I decide we should get off at Broadway/Lafayette and walk up to midtown. That way, Jarrett gets to see the east village, graffiti, union square, the Flat Iron building where Godzilla got busted, the hustle and bustle of rude New Yorker's, and The Empire State Building where King Kong came to know his final star-crossed rest. The wind destroys my $2 umbrella within 2-blocks of resurfacing from the subway and our trek is a wet one. Doesn't matter, Jarrett's eyes are glued to the sky. That is, at the tall buildings with the occasional wide-eyed glance at our great city's fine women. After a few tall tales about what I did in this place and that, we finally enter the doors of JHU, soaking wet. Vito looks at my like "What happened?" and I point outside. "Hurricane Frances" is what happened. We high-five and I introduce Jarrett to the JHU staff. There are a couple of indie/alt cartoonist pals milling about [Mike Dawson & Alex Robinson] and we hit the comix racks. Jarrett has a $50 ceiling for buying comix and at my 40% discount, that means he can go much more than that. If and when it goes over, I know I'm covering the balance for his birthday. Marvel and DC and Dark Horse comics are easily accessible to him in Savannah, so my one rule is that he can't choose superhero comix. After surveying the packed aisles of wonderful choices, we arm Jarrett with comix like James Sturm's THE GOLEM'S MIGHTY SWING, Dan Clowes' CARICATURE, Paul Hornschemeier's MOTHER, COME HOME, and THE BEST OF DRAWN & QUARTERLY. I snag me a copy of Scott Morse's SPAGHETTI WESTERN and PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES Vol.6.

Elated yet exhausted by the day, Jarrett and I waited patiently for his car service to pick him up in the harried storm by the comix shoppe. The car never comes. It's rush hour. New York City rush hour! He has to make a 7:20PM flight back home. Finally, at 5:45PM, I make the executive decision to hail a yellow cab, throw cash for the ride, and send him on his merry way. Jarrett makes the flight within seconds of their departure and crashes. Asleep, that is.

The final four comix springboards that were chosen:Collapse )