Mike Dawson Comics

August 17, 2012

SPX, Ignatz, and Childhood Memoir

Filed under: conventions,Secret Acres,Troop 142 — Mike @ 8:43 am

A recently drawn panel, from the book I’m working on, which I’m pleased to say is cooking along nicely. My favorite thing is when you really feel like you’re getting into the thick of it with a story. There’s still a long way to go. I have it in my head this will be a book that comes out at the end of next year, but I might be kidding myself. But, best not to think about it too much, and keep on pushing ahead.

In other news:

The alternative comics world is abuzz with talk about next month’s Small Press Expo (SPX), held annually in Bethesda Maryland. I’m going to be at the show all weekend long, camped out at the Secret Acres table, as sort of a nice closing bookend to the little Troop 142 mini-tour of conventions that I did over the past year, which I essentially kicked off at SPX 2011, when the book was released.

I was pleased to receive a nomination for Outstanding Graphic Novel Ignatz for Troop 142 as well. The Ignatz Awards are the SPX festival prize, and anybody who attends gets to vote.

I’m also going to be moderating a panel on Saturday afternoon:

Drawing Out Childhood: Summoning Childhood Experience
3:00 pm | Brookside Conference Room

Comics, which often juxtapose discrete fragments of time, are well-suited to the representation and exploration of memory. This panel will specifically address the process of summoning and depicting deep memories of childhood and adolescence within the comics form. Moderator Mike Dawson (himself a cartoonist of childhood experience in Freddie and Me and Troop 142) will lead a discussion with Derf Backderf (My Friend Dahmer), Marinoami (Kiss and Tell), John Porcellino (Perfect Example) and Julia Wertz (The Infinite Wait and Other Stories).

June 27, 2012

Recent Drawing Wednesday – 6/27/12

Filed under: comics,life,Troop 142 — Mike @ 1:39 pm

A recently drawn page.

Elsewhere on the web, Tim o’Shea recently talked with me about Troop 142 over on the Robot 6 blog. Thanks Tim! I appreciate the platform. We discussed a couple things, including a question about whether or not any other Scouts from my former troop had read the book and given me feedback. There hadn’t been a lot, I admitted.

Interestingly, since doing the interview, I did actually get to spend some time talking with an old High School friend who I hadn’t seen in many years, who had also been a Scout.

He ‘d been in a different troop, and like me, had spent many more years as an active Boy Scout than might be considered very “cool” (I think he made Eagle, whereas I famously dropped the ball one merit-badge and a service project shy of the big prize).

It was very revealing to hear how the story had sat with him, because I believe our experiences had been quite similar, especially going to the same Summer camp in New York that I modeled Pinewood Forest on.

We talked about the speech that Big Bear, the camp leader gives at the end of my book, which was based on an event that actually happened in real life. He told me that the same speech was also actually delivered his troop a number of weeks later. That boggles my mind.

I don’t know if this was the exact case that Big Bear was speaking about (IRL), but based on the date it probably was (I set my book in 1995, but that’s actually a few years after I’d already grown too old to be in the Scouts).

The speech that I heard that Summer, as it sticks in my mind, was about the Boy Scouts being under attack, I suppose from an Enemy on The Left, who wanted to deny them their rights to expel or prevent gay men from serving as Scoutmasters. I realize now that it must have been something that was ongoing over the course of that time-period, and this was all probably heading into court sometime around the time I was at camp. It’s funny how insulated the world-view of teenagers is. To me, the speech was a shock. I was probably dimly aware of the general controversy, but to hear the official bigoted BSA position stated so explicitly and passionately… well, clearly it stuck with me.

I’ve pondered the nature of memory in other comics, and the truth of it is that it’s a frustratingly slippery thing. Even events like this speech, which etched themselves into my consciousness, are hard to recall with clarity. I remember the mood, I remember Big Bear’s speaking excitedly, and the crowd of boys becoming more fired up. I remember phrases along the lines of “there is an evil sweeping across the land” (or “across the nation”, one of those…) and I remember the climax of the speech, about how they will “NEVER” allow a gay man to be a Scoutmaster, and the crowd cheering. Very disturbing.

And I guess I always assumed it was just something that occurred to Big Bear to talk about on that night. Perhaps it had been on the news that week or something.

But, from what my friend tells me, it was clearly premeditated. On some level, there had been a decision to publicly discuss the issue with all the troops over the course of the Summer. That really distresses me.

It’s been noted that the depiction of Boy Scout life that I present in Troop 142 is not entirely positive. The kids are all awful to each other, the adults are clueless. They are either oblivious to the truly horrible things that occur, or over-the-top with discipline on the stuff that doesn’t matter.

But, I’ve said, a couple times now, that my own experience with the BSA is one that I think of positively. To me, the story is more about being a teenage boy (or a middle-aged man for that matter), less an indictment of the Scouts. The ideal of Scouts serves as a contrast to the reality of people.

In all of my years in the Scouts, I can’t remember a single instance where an adult expressed the kind of opinion Big Bear put forth in his speech that Summer. It wasn’t a place of indoctrination. The adults weren’t trying to politicize us. The closest I can think of things coming would be the instance where a debate came up about allowing an atheist boy to advance, because of the requirements for a Scout to be reverent. But even then, I don’t remember any of the Dads ever insisting that the Scout be more reverent. I’m sure they could’ve given a shit.

I’m proud of being a part of the troop I was a part of, and in part because they were completely and utterly divorced from this Culture Wars bullshit.

May 29, 2012

Book Club Patrulla 142

Filed under: press,Troop 142 — Mike @ 2:49 pm

Troop 142 was recently translated into Spanish by Ediciones La Cúpula. Fantastic Plastic Mag, a Spanish publication, asked me to recommend three books I’ve read recently for a Book Club series they have been running. The link is here.

For those of you who can’t read Spanish, or don’t enjoy reading the Google translation, here’s my original text:

Europeans might have noticed how heated US partisan politics are. Intense, intractable partisanship in the national conversation is something Americans have learned to live with; at least in how our media portrays it. In real life, most people aren’t the fire-breathing extremists we see on television, and people on both the Right and Left are coming at their World View from a sincere place. I’ve always leaned Left, but have been interested lately in reading books that write about Conservatism in an intellectually honest way. I am less interested in seeing The Right as The Other, and more interested in understanding that World View. These are three books that have shaped my perception heavily.

There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, by Claire Berlinski. I am not sure what the common Spanish opinion of Margaret Thatcher is, but in the UK I know she’s polarizing. I think it’s important to understand that Thatcher came to power because of the state of the Left Wing in the 1970’s. Endless strikes and a dysfunctional society turned the population away from Labour, and to their only alternative. What is interesting about Thatcher is how hard-line and energetic she was in implementing her policies, radically remaking the country in a very short period of time. How We Got Here: The 70’s: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life – For Better Or Worse, by David Frum. The conventional wisdom in America is that the tumultuous 1960’s were the decade that changed the social fabric of the country. Frum argues that it was the conflicts and convulsions of the 1970’s that transformed the USA in ways that are more relevant to our modern era. Similarly to the Thatcher book, he convincingly shows how the American Left Wing lost its way, and made way for the rise of Reagan. This book was published in 2000, but is still a fascinating assessment of America. Culture of Complaint, by Robert Hughes. This book is even older, published in 1993. I was inspired to read it after re-watching the excellent Crumb documentary. Hughes has both Left and Right wing leanings, depending on the topic at hand, which is exactly how normal people are. The book focuses a lot on pop-culture, and the world of Fine Arts, and is also an interesting time-capsule of the “Politically Correct” nineties.

In terms of American comics I’d recommend; Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks, Berlin Books I & II by Jason Lutes, and My New York Diary by Julie Doucet are all perennial favorites of mine.

May 2, 2012

Recent Drawing Wednesday – 5/2/12

Filed under: appearances,comics,conventions,Freddie & Me,Troop 142 — Mike @ 11:20 am

This coming weekend, May 5 & 6, I’ll be present at the Toronto Comics Art Festival, camped out at the Secret Acres table. I’ll obviously be selling Troop 142, but will be bringing copies of Freddie & Me, Ace-Face, and Gabagool! as well. I think I’m going to be offering a sweet deal of a heavily discounted copy of Ace-Face and free copies of the Gabagool! Hedonism saga with every purchase of Troop 142. I am also going to see if I can rummage up a little original artwork to put on sale too.

I will be appearing on a panel on Sunday afternoon, from 2:00 – 3:15PM, called Making Comics: The Process along with Adam Warren, Cecil Castellucci, and Kagan McLeod. It’ll take place in The Pilot Tavern location. I’m looking forward to it.

I participated in a panel this past weekend at the MoCCA festival, called Memoir, along with Jennifer Hayden, Derf, and Peter Kuper. The structure of the talk had us giving lengthy introductions and offering some of our thoughts about memoir/autobiography. There were definitely a lot of provocative points made, and I wish we’d had an extra half-hour to get a lengthier conversation going between the four of us.

A point that was raised more than once was that there are too many boring autobiographical comics about boring lives. I take a little bit of exception to this idea, though I think I understand where the sense of it comes from.

I don’t think there are too many autobio comics at all. I love reading autobio comics! I wish more cartoonists did them.

Sure, there are poorly made amateurish autobio books. But, I suggest to you, there are no more of them than there are, say, poorly made amateurish space-adventure epics, or poorly made amateurish Love & Rockets rip-offs. There’s poorly made comics of all stripes and genres.

In my opinion, the sense that there’s too much of this sort of work, glutting the market, comes from the reader’s raised expectations when presented with memoir. The immediate question the reader asks is Why is your life worth reading about? Why are your experiences worth my time?

And it’s a fair question.

But, I don’t think it’s the same thing as there being this overwhelming sea of sad-boy autobio, threatening to drown us in it’s navel-gazing. I just don’t think that exists. No more than any other kind of comic.

February 29, 2012

Troop 142 – earlier draft

Filed under: process,Troop 142 — Mike @ 8:00 am

This may be interesting to see all in one place: here’s an earlier draft of Troop 142, that I spent quite a lot of time on, drawing and inking, and then ultimately ended up almost completely scrapping. There are a one or two pages that I salvaged for the final book, and I published an excerpt from this in the Awesome II anthology. You’ll also see that lines of dialogue made their way into the final book, though in modified form.

It cuts off abruptly, because that was the moment I lost confidence in what I was doing, and decided to scrap everything to start over. I think a lot of the drawings in these pages are nice, but it was the right decision to toss it all in the trash and go back to the drawing board.

Some of the scenes worked well, I thought, such as Mr. DeMaria chewing out the two Davids in front of Alan, and I recreated those pretty close to the same in the final book. Other parts, like the heavy discussion about religion and free-will, felt clunky to me, and I axed them from the story (instead, now the boys have a very frank discussion about which way is the right way to wipe your butt).

I have even older versions of the story than this, including a very NSFW early-early draft from about the year 2000, which I will dig out and scan at some point.

December 22, 2011

2012 – looking ahead

Troop 142 got a nice shout-out on an NPR Best of 2011 blog yesterday, which did actually translate into some book sales, I believe. I don’t know what amazon sales rankings really mean, but I know that I jumped into the top 100 for Graphic Novels for the first time ever. Again, I don’t know what these numbers really mean, but it was all very exciting nonetheless.

(I actually suspect a lot of sales came from friends who’d forgotten that I’d recently published a book until I posted about the NPR list on Facebook. A couple folks responded that “ah, yes, they really oughta finally buy that thing off of amazon…”)

In other news, I’m not sure that I’m going to be posting anything new on this blog for the remainder of 2011, as there’ll be no The Ink Panthers Show! episode next week, and then before you know it, it’ll be 2012 already.

Also, I am not sure yet when I’m going to resume posting actual comics up on this blog again. I have to admit, keeping the work offline for the past couple months has probably been creatively beneficial. I’m happy to report that I’m knee-deep in a new story and I’m feeling generally very positive about it. A couple days “staycation” this past week, where I just holed myself away and just drew and drew, really did wonders for my feelings of momentum and progress. I’m excited about the work, and am thinking maybe I’ll have something I feel good about showing sometime soon.

Here’s a video of me lettering a word-balloon, to tide everyone over.

Next year, I don’t have a ton planned. I’m going to be attending the big Angouleme Festival in France at the end of January, and will be doing some signings in Paris following that. My wife will come join me out there after all the comics business is done, and we’ll have a little mini-vacation to celebrate ten-years of being together.

In terms of other conventions, I am not sure what I’m attending or not. I imagine I’ll still make it down to SPX in the Fall, and am hoping that TCAF in Toronto is a possibility.

Nothing is changing with The Ink Panthers Show! I think this past year was really great for the show. We had some wonderful guests, and I think really had some strong episodes with just The Panthers (Tony “The Desert Panther” Consiglio is included in that. We should change his name to The Honorary Panther). TIPS is continually a work-in-progress, and Alex and I are always trying to figure out what is the best balance of solo-Panthers shows vs. Special Guest episodes. I think it’s probably best we keep aiming for that pleasant mix of both.

TCJ Talkies will return in January. It’s probable that those are going to be coming out at a slightly slower pace. The biweekly schedule really began to catch up to me at the end of this year, and listeners may have noticed a bit of a slowdown. My plan is to roll them out at a more relaxed rate, but we’ll see. I’ve found that I feel worn out before I record an episode, but once it’s done I get all excited and motivated again. I think I just really like talking about comics!

Happy New Year everyone!!

December 6, 2011

BCGF – wrapup

Filed under: conventions,Troop 142 — Mike @ 10:38 am

The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival happened this past weekend, and with it, my little Troop 142 mini-tour also came to an end. Sad. Oh well, it was a good show to end on. A ton of great stuff there, and even better, it’s just a subway ride away.

Here’s a photo I took on the subway of someone reading RAW.

My assumption was that they were headed to the con, but in fact, they were not. They got off the train well before we made it to Williamsburg. It still feels strange to see people reading art comics in public. I see people on the subway reading X-Men all the time. It’s much more rare to see a comic like this.

November 21, 2011

Inkstudded! Again!

Filed under: press,TCJ Talkies,Troop 142 — Mike @ 12:26 pm

This is something fun. I was a guest on The Inkstuds Comic Book and Cartoon Power Hour this past week. Thanks to podcast rival Robin McConnell for inviting me on his show. I really enjoyed the conversation.

It actually was pretty great to talk to another comics-podcaster. I am hesitant to listen back to the audio, because I am pretty sure I am guilty of hijacking some of the interview and turning it around on Robin. I am not sure it’s something I can help at this point – I’m finding that hosting my own podcasts week in and week out is making me a compulsive interrogator.

But, in a way, I think that the fact that we’re putting each other in the hot-seat, probably makes for a pretty interesting discussion. We talk a lot about the reasons why we’re making podcasts, and how doing all the research and thinking about comics in terms of discussing them publicly is having an effect on our abilities to continue to enjoy reading them personally. This is something I wonder about a lot. At the moment I’ve really focused on guests for TCJ Talkies whose work I was already very familiar with and a fan of. I have not yet tried bringing someone on whose work I hadn’t already read. I am not sure how that would change my enjoyment of their work – if I needed to cram and read the material to prepare to talk to them. Robin on the other hand (who has interviewed a ton of people) is in a completely different boat – reading comics to get ready for shows. He even talks about reading Troop 142 the day before our conversation, while sitting on a bus going to work.

Also, if you want to hear the audio of my first appearance on Inkstuds, back in 2009, I’ve got the link here.

November 16, 2011

Friday: Troop 142 Book Club @ Midtown Comics

Filed under: appearances,Troop 142 — Mike @ 12:38 am

This Friday, November 18, 6:30-7:30 PM
Midtown Comics Downtown
64 Fulton St
New York, New York

More information here.

Hope to see you!

November 8, 2011

MIX PIX & Con Report

I’m back from the Minneapolis Indie Xpo, and in keeping with tradition here at Mike Dawson Comics, I have almost no pictures to show for it. I’m going to post what little I’ve got, and assume that some of the other cartoonists who were there this weekend will pick up some of the slack.

I’m thinking about one event in particular, where a group of us all went over to Zak Sally’s studio to see his printing press. That woulda’ been a good time to take out my iPhone. But, I never got it together. I saw other folks snapping photos though, so I’m sure the event will get covered elsewhere.

Here’s what I have!

This is a photo taken from my point of view at the airport gate in New York with a box of Troop 142′s sitting in my lap. See, another thing I never get on the ball about is shipping my books to the show ahead of time. So, my solution is to always stuff a large suitcase with as many books as possible, and just bring the bare minimum’s worth of other items, such as say, clothes and toothpaste and that sort of stuff.

With MIX and also APE, my suitcase weighed about 80lbs. Different airlines have different rules about baggage. I flew Virgin America out to APE, and the nice lady at the check-in desk gave me a break on my heavy bags, and just charged me a $25 additional bag fee. I flew Delta to MIX this past weekend, and their approach to luggage is to charge you 25 bucks just to bring anything at all. When I heaved my suitcase onto the scales at Delta, they basically said I could pay $100 in a heavy-baggage fine, or lighten up the suitcase. Thus, the photo of me sitting with a box of Troop 142 graphic novels on my lap, treating it as a carry-on item.

I guess truthfully, once I was on the plane it wasn’t so bad, because I just shoved it in the overhead, but it was definitely a pain as I waited in the loooooong security line…

The above three pictures were taken at the Friday night show pre-party. In picture one, that’s Jim Rugg and Dustin Harbin, in picture two we have AdHouse head-honcho Chris Pitzer and his lovely wife, and in picture three we see Grimalkin Press publisher, Jordan Shiveley, and rival comics podcaster and cartoonist, Rina Ayuyang. Well composed photos, one and all.

I never really sell full pages of original art, but this year I’ve been bringing a little Apple-Jacks binder filled with small images and scraps from comics. You can see, there are panels from my Ace-Face book there, as well as odds and ends from Troop 142. I think a couple of those visible there are panels that did not actually make it into the book.

Anyway, it’s nice to have a little something for people to pick through, and a way for me to make a few extra dollars, but my word of advice is to not use an Apple-Jacks binder to display such stuff, but rather to invest in an actual real-binder thing with plastic sleeves that can be turned and easily flipped through. It’s just tough for people to pick through the pile when it’s all stacked all higgedly-piggedly like I have it here. It might be a passive-aggressive I-don’t-really-want-to-sell-original-art thing on my part, because not selling much of it is surely the outcome!

Julia Wertz gave me an elephant cookie! That is some heavily applied frosting right there…

View from my Table 1: That’s Top Shelf’s own Brett Warnock talking with cartoonist and upstart publisher, Tom Kaczynski.

View from my Table 2: Tom is giving Kevin Huizenga the hard sell.

Tom K. is a Minneapolis native, and generously allowed me, Kevin, and fellow Secret Acres artist Eamon Espey (not pictured) to crash at his place. There were a number of other groups of cartooning friends also staying nearby, so the evenings were these great gatherings of funny, interesting people. I think one of my favorite things about MIX being a smaller show, was that it was easy to talk to all the people you wanted to talk to, and actually feel like you had a good amount of time together, as opposed to a show like SPX or MoCCA, where it feels like you barely spend four or five minutes in conversation with people you really enjoy talking to, and even then realize after the fact that there were a ton of people you didn’t even say “hello” to at all. MIX was a much better pace, socially. I mean, that’s from my point of view. Maybe all those other cartoonists are going to write con-reports that say stuff like “one downside to MIX being so small is that it was impossible to get away from notorious comics-chatterbox, Mike Dawson”. We’ll see.

I ate some of the cookie! Yes, that sure is some generously applied frosting, indeed.

This food truck outside had the most delicious vegetarian curry, which I ate for lunch both days. It was pretty much the perfect savory food to eat after consuming ten pounds of sugary elephant cookie frosting…

And finally, here’s a photo of the live TCJ Talkies podcast I recorded on Sunday morning. It was a spotlight on cartoonists Noah Van Sciver and MariNaomi. I think it went well. I listened back to the audio recording, and I think a combination of my nerves and the chilliness of the Soap Factory at 10AM (note the woolly Jets cap atop my head) made me a little manic, so we moved through an hour’s worth of questions at a clip which kept the panel under 45 minutes, but I think that was alright. There were a lot of laughs, and I think some interesting back and forth between Noah and Mari. I think it went well, and will of course eventually post the audio recording.

So, that’s really all I have. It was a great weekend. I sold a lot of comics, and came away from it amped up to get back to work, which is always the best outcome you can ask for. Here’s hoping MIX comes back in 2012!

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