Friday, June 20, 2014

The end of the line

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, this ending was written long ago.

My last memories of Jeffrey were in the hospital. It's not a story I want to tell here, but he spent a long time going from one ward to another, and he was pretty miserable most of the time. In all the time I managed to spend with him during those many weeks, I kept thinking of how familiar I had become with the Pittsburgh Hospital system.

Between Jeffrey, his father and mother, I had been in and out of a hospital or nursing home almost every other time I went to the city for the past eight years. That doesn't count assisted living.

Jeffrey was always worried, concerned, or panicked, but he was always THERE. He would come, sit in the room, ask if he could do anything, and then just sit there some more. There was never any question that he had to be there...I don't know if it was obligation, love or duty, but Jeffrey would never even think that he would not be waiting for his father or mother to see if they needed anything, if only company.

I wanted to capture that sense of Jeff, because it was so sad to me that when he was in the hospital for his final days, he spent so much of his time alone. Everyone tried the best they could, and when he finally passed away his sister Carol was beside him, which I'm truly grateful for, but his last days on earth were devoid of the comfort and support he so often tried to give.

As I've said before, Jeffrey's life is the foundation for this story. If there's one thing I want my readers to take away with them, it's that we are not alone, and when we look for support, it is not always returned in the same kind as when we offered it. Maybe we're all a net, joined together, and if one of us lets someone slip through that net, then they are lost. Would we want that to happen to ourselves? Then, perhaps, we should try not to let it happen to others.

Thanks for reading. I'll be taking a few weeks to get my kickstarter going correctly (lord know it needs attention) and then I'll pick up the tale that starts in the Mountains east of Pittsburgh.

Monday, June 16, 2014

As we come to the finish

I am not embarrassed to admit that these last pages had me pretty choked up at one point. Not to give anything away, but if you're paying attention, you've noticed that I take advantage of one of the unique properties of sequential art in the last panel of today's page (1-118.) This is the kind of cliffhanger you could not get away with in the movies, and if you tried it in a book, you'd be accused of cheating.

I had a couple of decisions to make when I got to this point, but the ending to this story was written long ago. I hope it lives up to the rest of the tale, and Jeffrey's memory.

So enjoy the last three pages of "When Hadrons Collide" and let me know what you thought about it. The next story is already partially written, and I have an idea for the story after that, but call it vanity or practicality, I need to know that they're being read if I'm going to commit to this kind of pace. In any event, if you're reading this, then thank you for following along, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A small joke to point out a bigger issue

When Jeffrey passed away he was very overweight and out of shape. His condition was part of the cause of his death, and he was often cautioned that if he did not do  something about it, he'd be in trouble.

As someone on the hefty side of the scale, I sympathized with his having to deal with all these admonishments. I find it hard to believe that there is a heavy person out there who, listening to someone tell them how fat they are, stops and says " golly, now that you mention it, I AM obese! Thanks for pointing that out - I'll get right on it."

Jeffrey knew he had a weight problem, and thought he was doing his best to get healthy. His reaction to criticisms about his health was to affirm that he was on top of the problem. I never chided him about his weight, but at the same time I was always honest, sometimes painfully so, whenever he asked me if I thought he weighed too much. It was my belief that his asking the question opened the door to accepting an honest answer when it might do some good, and I really believe that he took my frank response to heart, if only too little and too late.

The bigger problem, and here is one that aide agencies and other help organizations that encourage independent living for handicapped individuals must start to consider, is that even with the best advice and guidance, Jeffrey could not make good decisions about his diet and health. At what point should his personal freedom been taken away? If he lived in a group house where his meals were prepared and snacking somewhat moderated, he might be alive today.

My father was living on a diet of ice cream and cereal when we had to move him into assisted living. He did not enjoy the experience, and still has issues, but his overall health has improved from the healthy diet and lack of junk food (even if we do bring him more than his fair share of snacks.) The insurmountable gap is the leap from where he was to how he got there. I know Jeffrey was very proud of his ability to live by himself, and what it would have taken to get him into a similar setup. This also overlooks the incredible cost of providing this kind of care.

Everyone had an answer for what was best for Jeffrey, including himself. I guess the sum of the parts was not sufficient to meet the total of his needs.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Agony Airlines

As anyone growing up in Pittsburgh would know, the main airline servicing the city was Allegheny Airlines, which later became absorbed into US Airways. It was a nice enough little airline, but every time someone (ourselves included) would fly into Pittsburgh, there would always be a problem of some kind. A bag would be lost, or the flight delayed, or (and this was good for a few years) the terminal would be under construction.

Once, Jeffrey's Uncle Sydney arrived at their house for a family event after a particularly long trip. The plane red lighted and they had to be assigned another aircraft, and the reshuffling of passengers and luggage proved particularly arduous. When we asked him what was wrong with the plane, he said "I guess the rubber band broke! Allegheny Airlines, hah! They should call it Agony Airlines!"

This became Jeffrey's favorite joke about flying, and anytime he could work it into a trip's narrative he would. What I found interesting was that he credited his uncle every time. Think about how often you have heard and retold a joke, and ask yourself how many times you would explain where you heard it and from whom.

I'm sure Jeffrey was just being considerate; in his mind it was something like "...this is a funny story - whoever I'm telling it to should know where I got it from!" He was so anxious about doing the right thing and so afraid of taking credit for anything he thought he didn't deserve. I've hinted that Jeffrey's life was not so happy. There were a lot of reasons for this, but if I could do anything over again, it would be to let him know it was okay to get credit for the joke now and then.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Page 100

A number of cartoonists have mentioned it to me about characters that they have created. After a certain amount of time, the characters start to take over the story line. This is what happened with Dr. Moreno.

I did not intend for her to be secretly working for Professor Larsenous. I had a completely different role for her in mind when this story started, but them Master Jeffrey started to point some things out to me. The hole digging thing, the unlikely timing of the attack at CERN, all these were, I told myself, the fault of a bad storyteller on his first attempt. Then Jeffrey turns to me and says "...why do you THINK I brought her along?"

There are some other small reveals which I might still let out, but I'm running out of time. I only have 20 pages left in this story - yes, this story will end at page 120(ish) and a new Master Jeffrey adventure will begin, assuming I make it that far. For a minute I thought I was in charge of all this - now even I can't wait to see how it all turns out!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cake? During Passover? WHAT was I thinking?

If you're new to Master Jeffrey and haven't had a chance to read about the Time Dumbwaiter (click here,) take a minute now. In writing this story, I've had to learn how to write to the pacing of a book published three pages a week. What I didn't want to lose was the overall structure of the story, and this includes foreshadowing. When the entire story is completed, (and we're about to wrap up chapter four of the five chapter book) I will hopefully have made it worthwhile to re-read the entire tale in one sitting. Yes, I'm looking at a kickstarter in the near future.

Passover started this week, and thinking back, I find that Jeffrey and I never shared a Seder meal together. Being in two different cities, and Passover coming at a time of year, it just never happened in the 34 odd years since I met his sister and eventually married her. This is especially significant when you consider what the Passover Seder is all about.

We go to my wife's cousin's Seder, and have been doing so since the eighties. Joan and her husband Arnold (Mo) are more than relatives, they are good friends. Every year Joan gets a little more intense about the Seder. To give you some sense of degree, about twelve years ago they moved into their current home, which they renovated from an older kit home circa 1945. In all of their considerations regarding the architecture and refinishing, there was one consistent requirement: there had to be room to have 24 people to dinner at ONE TABLE during Passover (and she's been upping her game ever since.)

This year we were given homework. We had to contemplate why the Passover Holiday and Seder were such a significant part of being Jewish. A lot of points were made, including some keen observations by new guests (the list changes every year) but it drove home the point that this meal was at the core of the Jewish community, and it commemorates an event which can be said is the essential center of Jewish existence. And Jeff and I never had one together.

Realizing this, I get thrown back onto the pile of things we should have done together. All the places I should have taken him, and things we could have done. A Passover Seder was never on the list before, but it would be nice to have had one memory of that community meal (if you've never been to one, you should try it.) One of the traditional sayings during and at the end of the meal is "next year in Israel" and I never paid much attention to it. From now on it will remind me that there is not always a next year, and that the family and friends we have should be enjoyed every day while we can.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tired but still mushing on...

Last night I was soooo tired. Still, I wanted to stick to my schedule and post the new page. That has been my policy so far, but in the wee hours of the evening I couldn't see straight, and more than once I found I had done the old "pen scrawl" off the page. There was a lot of retouching in Photoshop.

Even if the art is not up to my standards, I still want to keep the story going. I'm pretty happy with how the action is developing, and if the art is suffering a little from the pace, I pick up my copy of Action #1 (I keep a couple around for reference and the occasional scrapbooking source) and notice tha the art is dynamic, the composition superb, but nothing like the level of stuff being done today. The art, to me, is meant to work with the story- they carry each other.

Anyway, time for a nap, but I have work to do. Hope I don't doze offfffffffffvvvvvvvvv....................

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Building Tension

I've always loved Japanese monster movies. the first movie to really terrify me (when I was 7) was - dum-da-dummmm Mothra. Really, that giant caterpillar crawling through all those buildings really gave me nightmares, and that was black and white television.

I'm still drawn to the genre - and I enjoyed the Mathew Broderick Godzilla too. One big difference between the USA depiction and its Japanese counterparts is the amount of screen time devoted to the beastie just wading along...not even breaking up buildings, just lumbering while the Godzilla music plays.

"AIIEE! A man in a rubber suit walking through a model! Terrifying!" Really, do a comparison with a stopwatch (assuming you have more time that I do) and tell me, all you film school grads, what the significance is. Anyway, Page 80 is my tribute to the great flics of my youth.

Maybe Ultra-Man will show up!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Last Saturday was the inaugural of the newest comic show in the WASH-VA-MD area, SMUDGE. Organized by Matt Dembecki and Tina Henry, it was a fun day of indie local cartoonists and kids "of all ages" as the saying goes.

In my high school days, I went to a lot of Sci-Fi and fantasy cons - not too many comics shows. When Jeffrey was alive, I thought it would be fun to take him to one of those. The geekasphere abounds at these events, and I would sometimes be asked by my more normal friends (when I would drag one of them along) why I enjoyed them so. My answer would always be the same - I would glance around, and within a second or two spot someone in a wheelchair or otherwise disabled, with a big smile on their face and surrounded by friends.

When our bodies fail us, it is our imaginations which we turn to for freedom. No one judges at these events - everyone is an equal or potential hero. I wish I could have exposed Jeffrey to that mentality. If I had thought of Master Jeffrey while he was around, he could have been a celebrity. Oh, it would have been so great for him to sign prints and pose for photos... another lesson about opportunities lost and acting on your dreams before it's too late.

Anyway, I was given the chance to run a comics workshop and the group was wonderful. From 6 to sixty, they all participated and had fun, and many of them read my Master Jeffrey samples and promised to look him up once they got home. Little by little, Jeffrey's memorial grows.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Third Chapter Now Finished...Where Do I Go From Here?

To paraphrase my daughter, that is one big kitty.

We were about due for a cliffhanger ending. Of course, that's in terms of print. If this was a regular comic book, you'd have to wait a month (or more) to see what happens next. Thanks to the web format, the next chapter begins Monday....hope you can stand the suspense.

I've always had the overall story sorta figured out, and now I have all the basic building blocks aligned and know where everything is supposed to go, with only one big exception. One of the characters is arguing with me about where they finally fit in to the story; other than that, all I have to do is write the details, lay out the pages, draw the suckers and get them on the pages in time to the crazy pace I've managed for the past six months. Two more chapters to go aand I'm finally beginning to believe I can pull it off.

You may have noticed the ads at the top of the page; if you are not familiar with Project Wonderful; it's a cool web advertising system recommended to me by one of my heroes in web comics, the inimitable Danielle Corsetto. I may add some other ad boxes in the next few days, time allowing (what are the chances of THAT?)

Finally, I hope the city of Kyoto will forgive me for what's about to happen. I used to love giant monster movies as a kid (Mothra gave me nightmares after I first saw it) and I used a lot of reference photos to try and get as many details right as I could. That being said, my mind DID start to wander as I was doodling all thoes buildings, so I started to add in a few extra items. ET, phone home!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Happy Birthday

Today would have been Jeffrey's birthday; the second since he passed just before his 53rd. He would have been 54 today.

I'm preparing the last pages of the 3rd chapter of this story, and the end is in sight - I know how most of the story fills out from here. While the pace has been tough to keep up, I'm now pretty sure I will be able to finish this story. I'm beginning to wonder about the next one, which is already taking shape in my head.

A number of unusual things have happened while I've been writing this. As has been described to me by other artists, the characters start to take control of the story and at times it seems I'm just writing down what they tell me to. A number of plot lines have changed completely because the "people" involved didn't like the direction I was going in.

The best thing, though, is that Jeffrey has stayed fresh and alive in my mind for the past year. Master Jeffrey was officially started as a one page, one time thing for Magic Bullet, but now he's evolved into something a little grander, and one that I hope will last. I still don't know if Jeffrey would approve of everything I've done with this, but for now, I'll just be grateful that he's still enough in my thoughts that I can bother to ask the question.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


As the area (I'm in Virginia, outside of DC) poises for yet another big snow, I can't help thinking about Jeff and how he worried about snow. Anyone with Jeff's aerodynamic had trouble if there was more than 8 inches on the ground, and he lived in Pittsburgh, which will probably get well over a foot tonight.

Jeffrey's biggest lament was to wonder how he would survive all by himself, but I would remind him how many people were around to support him. The Metzgers, who would come over and dig out his car; the various helpers at JSS who would come to check on him and make sure he had enough milk and TP, and the resident assistants who made sure he had heat and running water. I would sit on the phone, sometimes three or four times a day, just helping him remember all the people in his life.

I think we all forget sometimes about the old "no man is a n island" adage, and how much we all need to take care of one another. Indeed, how much we ARE being taken care of, no matter how alone we sometimes get. Take a minute and remind yourself of that, and while you're at it, remind someone else that they're not alone. Stay warm.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Yortzeit is the Jewish ceremony remembering someone on the anniversary of their passing. Prayers are said, and a candle is lit. Not much beyond that; there are other things to do if you want, but the point is to not let their memory fade. We used to light a candle for people's memories in church, but you don't see that any more. I guess fire regulations don't like all those unattended flames.

Jeffrey passed away one year ago, and it still seems like yesterday that I was talking to him. I guess it's because the story is keeping him alive for me, and for that I'm grateful. I'm not sure how he'd feel about the book; hopefully he's be amused, and I'm sure I'd have to explain some of the jokes and events that take place. Part of me really wants to know what he thinks, and part of me wants to avoid the thought because it will make it that much harder to finish, but for now, I'm just grateful that I don't have to light a candle to picture him.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tech Talk

This project is self serving in a number of ways. Besides the obvious, I wanted to try some new techniques and technologies the "yunguns" were using. I'm still getting the hang of the stuff, so you've probably noticed a lot of ups and downs in the artwork. I'm not looking for an excuse, but just offering an explanation. If you have some cures, I'd appreciate hearing them.

I do a pencil thumbnail when I write the book, and tighten the pencils as I get ready to do pages. The pencils are scanned into Photoshop and I blow them up to 10x15, then lay in borders and text. Next, I save a non-photo blue version of the page as a JPEG and print this out on Strathmore 200 series smooth finish. I ink in the line art using PITT artist pens from Faber-Castell, and scan the finished pieces back into Photoshop, where I lay the line art behind the text, borders and word balloons. Duplicating this layer, I add color, and the finished piece (10x15 at 300ppi) is saved and a second version at 72 ppi is created for the web.

My first big stumble came today when my printer ran out of cyan without warning. I have another cartridge around her somewhere, but managed to get by without it, although this added time to the inking.

My regular problems involve distortion; I have to scan the line art in two pieces and piece them together and this is not always perfect. Additionally, the scanner seems to distort the art, and the printer distorts it the other way. As a result, I have to do a lot of eyeballing when I ink, and I still get some funky facial features because I'm usually right up against the deadline. All in all, it can be a headache, but it's a lot faster that traditional pencils, and while the art is far from perfect, I'm slowly getting better at correction for the technical flaws.

And I'm still having fun doing it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What is Bravery?

Jeffrey was scared of a lot of things. He worried all the time about disasters, natural or man-made, and what he should do to avoid or survive them. Sometimes he would panic and we'd spend time on the phone, while I assured him that things would be okay.

That he would worry too much is unquestionable. What was significant to me, as the recipient of most of his panic calls, was that he wanted to know what to DO. He was always looking for a solution, a way to fight back against whatever it was coming. I'm not saying that all of his ideas were practical or unselfish, but they were never cowardly.

If the ship was going down, or the house was on fire, Jeffrey would be the guy pounding on doors telling everyone to get out. He wouldn't try to carry anybody down the stairs of a burning building, but he'd call the fire department. If there was a fight, he'd be terrified, but he wouldn't back away if it meant leaving someone behind.

To me, brave is a matter of degrees. As James Arness said in Gunsmoke "the man who is never afraid is surely a fool." Jeffrey was afraid a lot, but usually all he needed was someone to assure him that things would be all right. In the end, isn't that what we all need?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Whew, I'm Back!

The holiday break can be brutal, especially when you have multiple holidays to keep track of. Since I'm Christian and my wife and daughter are Jewish, we run through a whole list of to-dos each season, and when you add in the stuff we had to take care of these past few weeks, I needed a week to get the comic back in order. Thanks for your patience.

Jeffrey always called at Christmas, as he always wanted to stay in touch. I think he enjoyed the holiday as much as anyone, especially as he did not go in for the traditional Jewish ritual of Chinese food. He and his friends would take in a movie, but his Christmas dinner was usually fast food if he could find it, or something he'd heat up for himself.

This is the first year since his passing, and I was pleased to find that whatever else went on, Jeffrey was never too far from my thoughts, and those thoughts were pleasant ones. The web comic is serving its primary function in this respect; Jeffrey is alive and having adventures in my mind, and that makes me happy. Somehow, somewhere, I dare hope it makes him happy too.