Man-Size (man_size) wrote,

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.

“Khan Ed”
Copyright 2004 Dean Haspiel

Besides inventing new modes of transportation that rely on electricity rather than gasoline and oil, philanthropist Edmund Khan, studies his beloved planet everyday concerned that earth is rapidly depleting of its natural resources. So, in an attempt to develop a pro-earth function, Khan teams up with radical scientists and engineers to invent a unique way to harness raw energy for society to employ. Several attempts at lancing raw energy from vegetation, the ocean, and the weather, fail to provide the energy boost America’s current technology needs in order to run. Upset, Khan sparks a hissy fit at the experiment site while engineers inadvertently record the outburst, discovering that they have captured Khan’s anger and converted it into raw energy, ready for universal use. They all laugh and they capture even more energy. The experiment a coup, they begin their tests as electronically dependent machines begin to rely on the new system to resounding success.

News breaks and a campaign to secure the attention and help of Americans across the states, begins. Eventually, popular vote allows for a government bill to pass and power lines are taken down, one city at a time, as a brain trust directed by Khan, stage 24-hour events to insure a plethora of raw energy from human activity, which is needed to provide the power to run the nation. Khan debuts affordable transportation, converting offices and housing, reliant on the pro-earth function as mini-towers emitting safe power signals are set up along the roads from east coast to west coast. For an entire week, America becomes virtually self-reliant on human energy.

International word spreads and before discussions to make this pro-earth function global, the system shuts down. It turns out, Khan Ed’s idea is too high tech and complex to work on a large scale, and too many American’s are overweight and/or too lazy, and can’t muster the amount of energy it takes to run a country. Distraught, Khan campaigns for society to take better care of their mother earth by taking better care of themselves. To make small, everyday changes in their personal lives by walking more, driving less, and conserving energy. Returning to their unfortunate gasoline and oil-powered engines, Khan creates a foundation that makes society more aware of diet, health, and exercise, in hopes of, one day, manifesting a revolutionary pro-earth resolve.

“Who Is Kid Cosmo?”
Copyright 2004 Dean Haspiel

Holle has a crush on Kid Cosmo. Her neighbor, Tommy, claims Kid Cosmo is corny and not nearly as cool as The Hulk or Superman. Doesn’t matter to Holle who collects and enjoys all of Kid Cosmo’s comix, DVDs, and computer games. She even witnessed Kid Cosmo stop a thief in her neighborhood, once. Holle takes a website design class to heart and builds a Kid Cosmo Website and Message Board where fans congregate online to talk about their favorite heroes exploits. One day, Holle receives an email from Kid Cosmo, wooing her. Tommy thinks it’s a sham and dismisses it as an “exchange with an uber-geek-fanboy.” Still smitten by the exchange, Holle continues her parlay when, Kid Cosmo reveals his private Blog [an online diary] for “friends only” and invites her to join. It’s at Kid Cosmo’s Blog that Holle discovers the daily perdition of a shy yet lonely boy who doesn’t do well at his college studies and finds it difficult to date. Kid Cosmo also writes about a world where superheroes beget super villains, wishing they could put their beef aside and join forces, helping to solve world problems. Other Bloggers weigh in with sound advice, chatting about current events and solutions, effectively becoming Kid Cosmo’s focus group; “Team Cosmo.” One savvy Blogger, a science major, suggests a way to defeat the villain Destructo, and the next time Kid Cosmo fights him, he uses said advice to much success. So much so, Kid Cosmo befriends Destructo and, with the advice of Team Cosmo, they help shut down a radioactive power plant. After awhile, Kid Cosmo gains confidence in his duel identity and the interaction with Team Cosmo helps him decide smarter solutions with his super powers while establishing tight friends online. One day, Kid Cosmo reveals that he’s going to ask the girl of his dreams on a date that evening and Team Cosmo wish him the best of luck. That evening, there is a knock on Holle’s door. It’s Tommy, holding a rose. He asks Holle on a date. Realizing Tommy’s secret, she blushes and says “yes.”

“The Geriatric League of Ordinary Gentlemen”
Copyright 2004 Dean Haspiel

They made for terrible superheroes and made for an even worse team. The Average Joes were the laughing stock of the superhero business, more an institution of parody and mockery than fighters of right from wrong. So, they split up. Costumes got hung up on hooks in the back of basement closets and secret identities were kept secret for fear of public humiliation and perpetual embarrassment. They evaporated into the collective unconscious, never to be heard from again.

Quitting 30-years ago was the best group decision The Average Joes ever made. It allowed them to work on their individual lives sans the pressures and responsibilities of being superheroes, much less a team. All three of these people left their fifteen minutes of fame to pursue quieter and more lucrative pursuits, aging gracefully while leading fruitful and rewarding civilian lives. They had to leave each other in order to succeed. Until, today.

The Average Joes’ arch-nemesis: The Man, is getting out of prison after serving 30-years for corporate cronyism and fraud. Having sheltered million of dollars in a Switzerland bank account, The Man starts up a bogus nonprofit organization and lures “them damn do-gooders,” The Average Joe’s, to reunite under one roof so as to finally defeat them, once and for all.

Challenged, The Average Joes come out of retirement to take starting positions at The Man’s bogus nonprofit organization. Week after week, The Average Joes turn the tables on The Man’s bogus nonprofit organization by combining their individual expertise, forward thinking, and resources to successfully solve hunger in third world countries, treating AIDS, and halting global warming. In the end, The Man’s bogus nonprofit is foiled by The Average Joe’s as they have made his business into a successful nonprofit, effectively downsizing The Man and getting him fired by the board of directors, before returning to retirement.

“Captain Concept”
Copyright 2004 Dean Haspiel

Captain Concept has been enlisted to help inner-city kids not for his super ideas but, instead, to help clean up a city park for their annual sports and games fair to raise the necessary funds for the after school daycare center. Captain Concept helps out by sweeping the leaves with his super-breath, landscapes rocks and trees with his super-strength and power of flight, and clears the weeds and garbage with his heat vision. In doing this, Captain Concept discovers makeshift homes littered about the park where derelicts have set camp to live. Homes he mistakenly destroyed during the clean up! Distraught, the derelicts curse the hero. Invisible to the homeless problem, Captain Concept feels ashamed. The kids wonder why the derelicts live in the park and don’t have jobs? A few derelicts relay what got them there and how. A common theme arises, as they all seem to have been involved in some form of arts & crafts yet victims of bad business. Ergo, squashing their dreams, losing their life savings, and being reduced to slim pickings. A bulb goes off in Captain Concept’s head and he suggests that the kids work in conjunction with the derelicts to raise funds at the coming fair, adding arts & crafts events to the sports and games, doubling their proposed fund raiser while lifting the veil off the homeless. So, they combine efforts at the park fair and successfully raise a years worth of monies for the after school daycare center while making the community, specifically merchants, police, and city officials, more aware of the homeless in order to help solve their problems. One of the kids suggests they recruit the derelicts talents to teach programs at their daycare, in an effort to provide jobs for the needy where everyone finds and fills their niche.

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