Happy Halloween (Inktober 2016)


The season is upon us. I’ve been keeping busy during Inktober  and a lot of the art I’ve been producing has been horror themed, mostly by accident, I’m just a spooky dude like that. A lot of the rest has been working out ideas for my upcoming project Lumen. Here’s some of the ink drawings I’ve been doing. Most of the stuff has been on a much smaller scale but this Godzilla up first is appropriately gigantic. (Less gigantic, me in my underwear…damn, self-burn.)







Here’s some of concept art for Lumen, the dude with the triangle head mask is Esteban Vela, our hero. Those angler men from up above also belong to this project.


5 Reasons Why, Despite Painstaking 80s Nostalgia, Stranger Things Isn’t a Great Show



Let me begin by stating that I was once like you: After watching the first episode of the Netflix original series Stranger Things I was reduced to a deeply smitten 10-year-old who had just landed their first kiss. Honestly after just watching the Stephen King paperback style title sequence I was already writing Stranger Things’ name all over my trapper keeper and practicing introducing myself to people as Mrs. Stranger Things. How could I not fall for this show? It was an homage to everything I ever loved growing up. But, turns out, that’s all it was.



Simply Recreating What Inspires You Isn’t Actually All That Inspiring

At first it was really fun catching all the overt and subtle references to various 80s movies and books sprinkled throughout Stranger Things. But like that cool guy who you meet at a party that knows all the same film quotes as you…that shit gets old quick. Because after the fifth Big Lebowski quote in a row it hits you: That’s what he does. “That’s all that he does!” Christ, now you’re doing it too. He just keeps quoting movies and when you call him on it he responds with, “Well, that’s just like your opinion, man?”

So initially when the telekinetic Carrie/ Firestarter cocktail named Eleven wandered into frame I couldn’t have been happier. Ditto for her predilection toward Eggo waffles, a nod to another of her progenitors, E.T., an alcoholic from outer space who took to Reese’s Pieces and Coors Beer and once got a ten-year-old psychically drunk.


But pretty quickly this whole Chris Farley Show-esque “Remember when E.T. made those bikes levitate…that was AWESOME” shtick became tedious. Yes, I loved Nightmare on Elm Street, It, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stand By Me and Altered States too but is constantly recreating various elements from these works all you’ve got going for your story?

Not Having Anything New To Say About What Came Before Just Reminds Me How Much Better Before Was

Even if you’re the world’s best imitation artist you’re still just going to be the world’s second best actual artist. Get me? Yes, the show’s creators the Duffer Brothers have a fine eye for the trappings of niche genre and for cinematic minutia. But they never really put their own spin on any of this raw material or reshape it into something that feels fresh or exciting. Yes, remixing old and disparate elements when done well can result in compelling and groundbreaking work; take what Tarantino does routinely or what most of hip hop is built on for positive examples. But there’s a huge difference between the inspired sampling of say The Bomb Squad or Dr. Dre and the unimaginative, just add a new drum machine behind it sampling of Puff Daddy. Stranger Things just regurgitates old tried and true Stephen King and Spielberg stuff and guess what, nobody can do old Stephen King and Spielberg stuff better than them and they already did it.

All the Stories that Stranger Things Emulates Are about Something, Stranger Things is just about those Movies and Books


Monsters, like the heroes they fight with, work best when they stand for something. Pennywise the clown sticks with us because he represents fear itself as well as fear of self; the change and uncertainty of adolescence. Likewise, the xenomorph from Alien will forever haunt us not just because of its pez dispenser from hell double mouth; but because it’s a rape metaphor tucked inside male fragility and pregnancy themed body horror. (Geez, Giger and the gang really covered a lot of ground didn’t they?) But the Demogorgon from Stranger Things what does it represent? Nothing, just a halfway cool looking design reject from Silent Hill or the crowd shot of a monster bar in a Del Toro film.


And it’s not just the monsters, E.T. according to Spielberg was actually about his own parents divorce.


Ditto for the crumbling family at the center of his companion piece Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Absent fathers and struggling, burnt out mothers are the hearts of many of these stories. We get tips of the hat to several of these notions in Stranger Things, we do, but they feel like only surface skims. The friendship expressed by the D and D playing foursome and their inclusion of Elle pale in comparison to the camaraderie and frankly the chemistry of the kids in The Goonies or Stand By Me.



It looks like the Duffers tried to emulate their heroes in a lot of ways but the results prove that they merely understand the bare bones of why these characters from old horror and science fiction still resonant or what motivates any of these characters. The one exception interestingly being Sheriff Hopper, a character who feels the least like a call back or composite of characters from other stories. Oh, and Douchebag Steve. Gotta admit, I kinda love Douchebag Stevie. He’s the anti-Ducky, the reverse Troy with the bucket from Goonies. His arc was one real effort of the Duffers to consciously buck genre trends and give us a curveball and instead of coming off contrived this change made the character seem much more real. Team Douchebag Steve all the way.


80s Movies Commented on 80s Concerns, does our Obsession with Nostalgia Comment on our Times?


The real monsters of Stephen and Steven’s mythic suburbia were allegorical. Whether it was fear of nuclear war, fear of small towns dying out or fear of the disintegration of the American family, these were stories of their times. Stranger Things is a period piece but it forgets that all period pieces can’t help but comment on the times in which they were actually made. Because they are, no matter how much they fight it by adding film grain to their digital shots, just that: stories of their times.

So why not embrace that a bit and use the past to comment on the present as well as the times you’re depicting? Unfortunately Stranger Things doesn’t really do either and inadvertently gives us a telling lesson on the nostalgia addicted times we’re currently living through:

We long for the past imagined, like we always have. Not the actual past, mind you, but our idea of the past. Currently we long for that simpler, pre-internet time where we believe that while we were less widely connected as a whole we were also much closer connected to one another. Friendships carried more weight and you didn’t have to wear dorky helmets when you rode your bike.

But the Duffers didn’t intend for any of this insight about our current times, there are no real references or metaphors to the intrusiveness of constant artificial connection. If their concept of upside down is meant to be one then it’s handled sloppily. Because there are no apparent juxtapositions in the show between how the world we imagined 1980 was against how it really was. And if the characters have already failed to be more than cardboard simulacrums of our favorites from the past then even if this subtle message was encoded in the 8 episodes of this show would we even care enough to sift through it to find it?

Failure to Engage the Intended Audience

Not everything is meant for me. Thank god. But I’m reasonably certain that when the Duffer Brothers created Stranger Things the core audience they were looking to attract with it might look a helluva lot like me. I’m a 34 year old white American guy who cut his geek teeth mainlining Stephen King books and Spielberg and John Carpenter movies. It’s a safe venture that I’m the target audience here. Because, not for anything else, Stranger Things, like a lot of art was made by its creators primarily for themselves and subsequently for people like them. People who came up in the 80s when this sort of storytelling was commonplace and whose lives, upbringing and fantasies were reflected in the middle class humdrum settings depicted therein.

80s movies and books featuring posses of misfit kids mounting their bicycles in a quest to destroy certain evil or maybe just help out a lovable Coors pounding, otherworldly good ol’ boy with glowing Twix candy bars for fingers; that is my shit. It’s a formula I can fall for every time. Even the knockoff stuff. Sure, there were some Mac and Mes, some Prehysterias in there that I’d waste some time on but there were also gleaming weird gems like Monster Squad (Goonies 2: Wolfnards) and Watchers (A Dean Koontz penned, Corey Haim arthouse movie about a dog with a telepathic link to a murder yeti.) And both these knockoffs were better than this show.


I’m fully aware that right now Stranger Things is enjoying great success. That’s great, a lot of work was put into it. And I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be curious if Season 2 of the show might not improve on the problems with this season and at least have the creators forge ahead with more of their own voice and personality in the final product. But I don’t know if they will from what I’ve seen with this existing season. And if season 2 is more of the same I have the feeling that more will come around to my view of the show as an impressive but ultimately hollow imitation of better stories from the 80s. All that being said I will however watch the shit out of a spin-off revolving around the further adventures of Douchebag Steve and Winona Ryder in her adorably tiny hazmat suit as they contend with the issues which confront young douchebags and single moms alike.

Basically the show will be about teen pregnancy.





Unearthed Idols of Pop Culture

I’m working on a series of these, big giant statues of characters and people whose work I enjoy being excavated and repelled down by little figures with ropes and tools. You have to look closely to see them but they’re there crawling around like little doozers on the massive statues.



Here are the drawings without digital color:



This idea started with me doing the next image, which is just a character of my own creation. I liked the idea of it and thought I could do various already established characters in the same way.


I’ll Be Reading at Noir at the Bar This Sunday


Pleased as punch to be invited back to do another Noir at the Bar, apparently those folks didn’t learn their lesson the first time around. This time we’re going to do our readings at Osaka Japanese Sushi & Steak House this Sunday from 7pm-9pm. I’ll be doing a reading of a new short story (or possibly an excerpt from my one of my upcoming books) and I’ll be in damn fine company; check out this lineup of literary dynamos I’ll be reading with:

Joe Clifford

Bracken MacLeod

Kim Savage

Mr. Rory Flynn (Stona Fitch)

Stephanie Gayle

David Baillie

Books, booze, bullshit; Noir at the Bar has it all. All the authors will have books on hand to sell, the good people at Brookline Booksmith will be there to assist with those sales and there’ll be prizes and whatnot administered to the people in attendance as we see fit. I’ll put up some artwork prints as prizes (yes!)

Come down and get yourself a signed copy of one of our books and or just hang out and listen to some of the best crime/mystery writers in New England as they drop science on a sushi joint.


Review: Notes From the Shadowed City by Jeffrey Alan Love


(Jeffrey Alan Love ‘s artwork gripped me the instant I saw it. If you’ve liked any of my newer pieces of artwork know that I’m using techniques learned from watching Love work online and reading interviews with him where he breaks down how he makes his textures. I found out about his art simply by looking up artists who use Pilot Parallel Pens, these are the pens I’ve been using lately and I’m quite taken by them and love to see who else uses them and to what purpose. Anyways, on to the book!)

This is a tremendous book. Lyrical, phantastic, whimsical, and surprisingly affecting for a book about the cataloging of magic swords.
The artwork here looks like scratched dreams engraved on tarnished medieval walls. But it’s the story that really makes the book work. Shadowed City nails the isolation of being an outsider in an unknown city, something anyone who’s moved to one can relate to. The city in this book just happens to be one full of masked swordsmen, winged sentries, other living floating cities replete with writhing tentacles, kings, wizards, and everyone, everyone wearing horns.


This book feels like an invitation into a mythic fully realized other realm.

With Notes from the Shadowed City Jeffrey Alan Love has announced his intentions as a storyteller and visionary. So in other words, take note.

You purchase the book direct from the publisher here.

Or  through Amazon.com here.

Chicken Showers and Cursmudgeons: Boston Comic Con 2016 Wrap Party



This was my 3rd Boston Comic Con and I did the worst I’ve ever done at this show.

I also had a fabulous time.

To explain: At cons I get a table, table costs money, most shows I make my “table money” back selling my books and prints and whatnot. Last year at Boston Comic Con I actually sold out of my book and made a nice stash of extra cash. I enjoyed this. This year I did just okay, made maybe 2/3rds of my table back but still, I had a good time.

I went home with ink stained fingers (a result of putting artsy smudges over my art) and still hating humanity but only as much as I love it.

Mostly I had a good time because I go to these things not just to sell my stuff and make my table money back at least (that is nice though) I go to get out of my fucking cave and see what my work does to people when they see it.

To see someone freak out over one of my prints, to watch them paw through my portfolio of originals and see the expression on their face change, to see it light up when they turn the page; to watch them read the back synopsis of Nefarious Twit and tell me, “This sounds great.” that’s the stuff I’ll go to conventions for.

I also go to talk to the rest of the folks who are busy practicing alchemy in their own caves. All my friends at Bad Kid Press who I share convention space with, all the talented creators who I’ve gotten to know in the Boston scene, all the pros who I get to talk shop or watch create on the spot; I learn something from everybody. And we find common ground.

Highlights this year for me:

Erik Larsen


I’ve been reading Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen since it came out 20 years ago, met him once before in New York City, and this weekend my friend Jeff told me his line was finally gone at the end of the last day of the con so I frantically tried to draw my version of The Dragon for Erik to have but I kept screwing up the fin! So I went for one of my personal favorites from The Dragon’s rogues gallery (and an easy one to draw) and drew up Mr. Glum and me and Jeff walked over to Erik’s table and I gave him my scribbles. Larsen’s a totally nice guy, thanked me for it and asked me what pens I use and then talked to us about his own tools of the trade; even showed Jeff and I some of his pages and where he used his different tools.

This is a man who drew some of the first Spider-Man comics I ever read.

That’s why I go to cons.

Chicken Showers


It was a very hot and sticky con this year, it was 95 degrees outside on Saturday in Boston, and we at Bad Kids Press might have had the hottest corner of the con (air conditioner was deader than disco hanging above us) so by the end of the day on Saturday I was a sweaty, hungry husk of a comic book creator. I take the train and then a bus to get home from the convention center so it’s about an hour and some change until I get back to where I live. I packed a nice little lunch for the con but didn’t have dinner at all so when I got home I immediately dropped all my art supplies, threw off my sweat-soaked clothes, tore open the fridge and grabbed a piece of chicken I cooked the night before and promptly took it with me into the shower and there, with no shame whatsoever, devoured it like some sort of feral, loofah using king.

Chicken showers are glorious; do try them if you have the chance.

This whole ordeal, this was a highlight.

Baby Groot is my Homie


Guess what else was, I know a baby who’s become internet famous. My friends Dave and Tracie have a baby named Charlie and these cruel caregivers are constantly dressing up this little crumbsnatcher in various outlandish garbs. The child is too young to walk or voice his protest so he could not stop his folks from dressing him as Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Photos were taken at the con and now Charlie’s beautiful mug has taken over the internet and has been featured on Entertainment Weekly and whatnot. Oh, and the director of the movie himself tweeted the pic of Charlie as a reveal of how Groot will appear in the sequel.

That, that is why I go to con.

Also, I was 5 feet away from Gillian Anderson as she walked past me.

That is why I do anything.

So I can tell my 14 year-old self, “Dude, you’re never gonna guess what happened.”