Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Comic Books 101, Part Three: Tackling A Big Project

Another brain numbing day at work- been slogging through a lot of dailies. Therefore, I managed to get next to nothing done on Pop Zeus. When I am too tired to write, much less draw, I am TI-YERD! Did get a chance to screen Beautiful Plastic and some of the other nuggets on Watch Me Jumpstart last night, looking for good GBV history bits. Plan to put the kibosh on the GBV History section of Pop Zeus this weekend, and hopefully get my sketch on. We shall see.

Anyway, the second most asked question I get after "where do you get your ideas?" is "how do you do it?". A lot of folks can't imagine squeezing a big personal project into their already busy lives. Let me be the first to say that it ain't easy. There are a wealth of other priorities, distractions, roadblocks, and issues that could trip up anyone. And as I stand on the precipice of yet another huge undertaking, it's a thought that's been worming around in my brain- how do I do it, and can I do it again?

So here are some ideas that I've figured out along the way that may help (and that I need to remind myself of!). Keep in mind that this is all just off the top of my head, and I am by no means an expert on much of anything, heh. So here goes...

1. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step: Not to get all Lao-Tzu on you, but there's a lot of wisdom in that maxim. The hardest part of any large task is getting started. And once you realize that all you are responsible for is one step at a time, it makes things a lot easier. And if that doesn't work, you just have to force yourself! Sometimes I trick my procrastinating brain by getting all my materials out, but not working quite yet, and then watch some tv to make my mind all blank and distracted. And then I suddenly get started somehow, kind of like easing into a pool as opposed to jumping in. Sounds stupid, I know, but you do what you have to do to get going. Just do it! (this motivational slogan brought to you by expensive athletic sneakers made by children in third world countries)

2. Do a little bit every day: It's weird how this one works. It often feels like I'm getting nowhere because I am working at a slow pace, not getting much done at each sitting. But because i am so persistent, doing at least something every day, eventually the shit gets done. Just focusing on the next baby step, not the enormity of getting to the end is the key. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, be the Tortoise! The Hare just burns himself out and loses anyway.

3. Get support and help as needed: Having cheerleaders rooting you on can make a world of difference. As I mentioned above, having someone to impress can be a prime motivator as well. Sharing the workload is also good if you can swing it. I initially was trying to recruit some artist friends to help with Pop Zeus, making it more of a comic book jam, but it didn't work out unfortunately. But my friend Sean is helping with the Pop Zeus logo, which is sweet (not too good with the logo thing). And I have already gotten big time assistance and support from Jeff at GBVDB, Rich at Rockathon, Ana from DTS, Dave at LHB and I know Todd at Luna will be in my corner. Thanks all around, my peeps!

4. Make time to do it: You have to make the time in your life to do what you wanna do, end of story. I know, you're busy and blah blah blah. Hey, we are all busy these days. But what's more important- watching that rerun of Friends or creating something awesome? Working a second job to buy that SUV or rocking out? Sometimes in life, you need to isolate yourself from all that crap and the people you don't really like that much anyway to take care of the important bidness! Know what I'm saying? Which parlays directly into...

5. Make the project your first priority: Every once in a while, you have to look at your life and reprioritize- really question what you value. If you are spending most of your time doing dumb shit you don't want to do and your dream projects never get off the ground, something is horribly wrong. When it comes to my creative life, art trumps friends, activities, trips, shopping, everything. Sure, some people won't understand and maybe I will not have as styling a life as most- old car, cheap clothes (I've been Gapped), don't travel much. But without a creative outlet I feel like crap all the time. For me, there is no debate.

6. Create a physical space to work in: All artists, heck all people need a place in their cave with no distractions and where no one can disturb them. If you are trying to work and there are all these temptations surrounding you and have not the will to avoid them, consider yourself sunk. In my little room I do have a TV, DVD player, bed, and Playstation 2. But once I get going on a project, they are more of a nice break than a distraction. It all depends on how you operate. Either way, I believe all artists need room to create, surrounded by things that inspire them.

7. Don't worry about being the best, just be yourself: This is a hard won lesson for most artists. I am a total perfectionist and one of my biggest roadblocks is the fear that my work is going to suck. But as Dave Sim so artfully pointed out in his how-to comic book essays, emulating another artist's style is a waste of time. He believes as I do, that every artist needs to express him or herself- draw, paint, perform in their own unique style. And the aim for every artist and human being is to become more themselves all the time and find that style. And this requires a deep understanding of oneself and a deep self-love, which ain't easy.

So that's all I got. Have a fun weekend, good people and I will see you on the other side!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Groggy Visions Of Bobzilla

As my comedy hero Mitch Hedberg might say, goddammit anyway! Argg! I just got off the phone with a very condescending "banker" at Wells Fargo's 800 number because I am getting reamed up the yin-yang by bank charges this month. Granted, it's primarily my own damn fault. But if I had an inkling of what was going down, I would have taken steps to stop the bleeding sooner. And I have learned from my banker roommate that the big corporate banks are lovin' making money hand over fist from overdraft charges from Johnny and June Paychecks like me (BTW, I am terribly low paid in spite of working on a nationally televised tv show). The bastards.

Recently heard that Wal-Mart might be getting in the banking business. And as much as I hate Wal-Mart as a concept, providing banking for many lower to middle income people who otherwise would never get a checking account is a much needed service. And I say more power to them. Even if you can get an account, big corporate banks could really give a rip about people who make less than 30 grand a year, hell more like 75 grand a year. And it's sickening to see all the high interest, low morals 'payday advance' shops popping up in every low income neighborhood the last 10 or so years, preying generally on good people in tough circumstances. There has to be a better alternative. And Wal-Mart could be just that, strange as it sounds (though I have a disturbing vision of people direct-depositing their checks into Wal-bank, only to spend it all at Wal-Mart, the Wal-grocery and the Wal-McDonald's. Perhaps they should issue Monopoly money-like Wal-bucks?)

Anyway, I didn't intend to just rant about money today, sorry. Had a really busy and exhausting week at work so far so not much real progress on the comic last couple days. But, while I was at the dentist for my six month cleaning the other day (thank god for health insurance) I had a brainstorm, a moment of inspiration.

In my interview for the forthcoming Harp magazine article (T-minus one week- yipes!), Randy the writer wondered whether I would be casting Bob and the boys of Guided By Voices in the roles of superheroes for Pop Zeus. Even though it's a terribly logical question, I had never really considered doing something like that. It seemed maybe too literal, or just untenable. How could I put the band in those inflated roles, when what I appreciate most about GBV is that they are regular guys, not goofy superheroes like KISS or something? There was something appealing about the thought though (and GBV are my superheroes in another sense).

I had been subconsciously rolling the idea around in my brain for weeks, wondering if I could give GBV superpowers (didn't fit) or perhaps put them in a kung fu movie (along with all my other interests, I am a kung fu film aficionado- Bob's kicks seemed to be the only binding element that worked). And that very day of my teeth cleaning, I had been listening to my Want Some Get Some GBV mix for the post below. And replaying some of the songs in my head, coupled with Randy's question and the subconscious influence of the doctored fan photo above (just remembered this) all blended into a groggy headed vision. Out of nowhere, the seed that had been planted in my brain sprouted forth- I had it!

Half asleep with my eyes closed, I saw in my mind Bob singing My Son, My Secretary, My Country (which I totally love) from Earthquake Glue. And the part at the end where it starts to kick-ass "future employers... cowboys and lawyers...and we all will be warriors" (damn I love that part). And right there I pictured Bob raising up his fist on the "Rahhhhhhhhh!" and suddenly growing, crashing through the ceiling! Can you say Ultraman? Godzilla? Kikaida? Voltron? Then as I'll Replace You With Machines kicks in, I saw a giant robot menacing the city, controlled by little business men who must be defeated!

A new song story for Pop Zeus was born! :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My GBV Mixes #2- "Want Some, Get Some"

Hi-ho! Made this kick-ass mix back in 2003 for twofold reasons- to indoctrinate a friend of mine into the world of Guided By Voices and to express the loss I was feeling at the time. Since it was for a totally green GBV listener, I was trying to impress her with the variety of Bob's musical and production styles, while keeping it poppy enough to hook her in. And even though I wasn't making it for myself, it has become one of my favorite GBV mixes. It completely captures how I was feeling at the time and for the last few years. Make it for yourself and let me know what you think!

"Want Some, Get Some"- 24 songs, 1.2 hours

My Son, My Secretary, My Country/ I'll Replace You With Machines (Earthquake Glue- smashed these two songs together into one track on my little laptop, a real noisy bombastic opener- RAH!)
The Flame That Cries (I Am A Tree EP- underrated b-side, my theme song)
Subspace Biographies (Waved Out- this song kicks fuckin' ass, 'nuff said!)
I Am Produced (Mag Earwhig)
Society Dome (Mist King Urth- reminds me of Simon and Garfunkle, sort of)
Mascara Snakes (Beard Of Lightning- am I the only one who thinks this song is awesome?)
Learning to Hunt (Mag Earwhig- an important song for Pop Zeus, hint hint)
Mannequin's Complaint (Wax Dummy Meltdown) (Bulldog Skin EP- I love this song, esp. when the guitar kicks in)
Messenger (Suitcase 1- "I wanna be your boy, your messenger")
Tear It Out (Suitcase 1- this song kills me, "finding out our love was none of us")
Meet My Team (Not In My Airforce)
Edison's Memos (Choreographed Man Of War- so brilliant and sad, one of Bob's best)
Drinker's Peace (Same Place The Fly Got Smashed- "organize my world, my world is pointless and chaotic")
Alone, Stinking and Unafraid (Ask Them- "I'm alone, I'm on the Conan O'Brien show, and I'm unafraid")
Action Speaks Volumes (Earthquake Glue)
In Walked the Moon (Suitcase 1)
Christian Animation Torch Carriers (Universal Truths and Cycles- top 10 Bob's best, easy)
I Can See It In Your Eyes (Suitcase 1- very bubblegum, very sad)
Choking Tara (Mag Earwhig- "shove it 'cause I'll just stay, like a lonely unwanted stray")
Go For The Answers (Suitcase 1- weird, sad farewell song)
If We Wait (Sunfish Holy Breakfast- "if we wait for our time, we'll all be dead")
I Am A Scientist (live) (X Fest 99- classic song, kick-ass version)
Beg For A Wheelbarrow (The Pipe Dreams Of Instant Prince Whippet- B-side that should've made the album)
Island Crimes (Kid Marine- great closer, great song)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Everyday I Write The Book

Sorry for the lack of posts last few days. Had a very productive but fast weekend and an all too hectic Monday at work. Got a lot of writing done, including entire the Bob Story section of Pop Zeus all in one long 4 hour spurt Saturday evening (I have no life). Pretty much nailed down the styles I would like to emulate for the section as well. Had a great time with this one, so much more fun (and way less draining) than the autobiographical stuff. I won't spoil the details, but the 3 or so page section is an actual Bob story he told me and the band at a 2003 record signing here in San Francisco. It was such a cool story and Bob's such a natural storyteller that it totally stuck in my mind. And it was one of the first things I thought of for Pop Zeus.

And yet again, physically writing out my recollection of the story brought up a lot of details that I had forgotten, enriching the story ten-fold. Very exciting! In fact I have filled up an entire journal, my "Grail Diary", for this project and had to go buy another on Sunday. And I killed two pens this weekend as well- a good sign, I think.

So looking at the big picture, the bulk of the writing for Pop Zeus is done. Here is a story by story breakdown culled from the Adding It Up post from a while back that I keep referring to. Most of the info still applies, with the status of each section in bold.

GBV MVP profiles- 6 pages- WRITING STARTED (most of the research done)
Secret Origin of GBV- 3 pages- WRITING STARTED
My GBV Experience (in 3 parts)
-Enlightenment- 3 pages?- WRITING DONE
-The Search for the Holy Grail- 3 to 4 pages?- WRITING DONE
-The end of GBV- 3 pages?- WRITING DONE
Illustrated Song- 3 to 5 pages- WRITING ALMOST DONE
Bob Story- 3 pages?- WRITING DONE
Fun Page- 1 page- WRITING STARTED (not much to do)
Cross Section- 1 page- WRITING STARTED (not much to do)
Illustrated Song Part Deux- 1 to 3 pages- WRITING STARTED (not much to do)
Possible 3rd Illustrated Song- 1 to 3 pages- WRITING STARTED (not much to do)
Fake Comic Ads- 3 to 6 pages?- WRITING STARTED (not much to do)
Out of the Mind of ????- 1 page- POSSIBLY ABANDONED?

Total estimate: 40ish pages

I think I will be able to start the art for one of the Illustrated Song stories relatively soon! Still need to print out a bunch of reference articles, photos and art from the internet for many of the stories, but that's what work is for, right? ;)

Will post again tomorrow! (nearly T-minus one week to the Harp article!)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pop Zeus Article In Harp Magazine, April 5th!

Big news! I am jumping out of my skin because Pop Zeus will be featured in the May issue of Harp Magazine, out on newsstands April 5th! Harp is a relatively new, mostly alternative music magazine and I've had the chance to pick up the last few issues here in the city (should be found at your local Borders, Tower Records or any decent magazine shop). And it's great- lots of Robert Pollard coverage too.

No clue as to whether it will be a full article or a blurb, but either way it will be huge publicity for the comic! I am expecting a ginormous jump in visitors to this here blog in the first few weeks. Thinking I might have to warn the good people at Blogger- wouldn't want to crash the blog.

Quite concerned that new visitors to the blog will be expecting the comic to be complete, wondering how to order it. Hopefully it's clear in the magazine that Pop Zeus is a work in progress. The timing of the article is something I have no control over, as well. May have been better if it came out in a few more months, but who could complain about this kind of exposure? I know the hardcore faithful GBV crowd will stick it out with me to the end. And if we lose some fair weather people along the way, that's alright by me.

Also added some Adsense ads to the sidebar over there---> in anticipation of more traffic. Please click on an ad to help support the printing of Pop Zeus. I will be fronting the dough for the printing (thousands of dollars), so every little bit helps. Thanks in advance!

And go check out the My Big Day post from a while back to get the lowdown on the interview I gave for the article. The writer, Randy Harward was extremely laid back and cool, a real pleasure to talk to. Hoping that the publicity might parlay into some kind of distribution deal for the comic. We shall see.

Huge thanks to Bob, Rich and the entire GBV family for making this project possible! And extra bonus thanks again to Dave at for getting Randy in touch with me! Cheers!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Batman's Greatest Boner

(100% real, courtesy of

Stylistic Influences Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Good lord, I am one sleepy brother today! Been burning the midnight oil after work writing, reading and researching for Pop Zeus. Pretty much working all of the time these days. And before bed over the last few nights I've been glued to my bootleg DVD of the Muppets hosting the Tonight Show back in the 70's- so funny and Frank Oz was spot on with the improv that night. I am back to being a full-fledged Henson/Muppet super-fan (was a big part of my childhood as mentioned in an earlier post).

Took a visit to my groovy local comic shop Comix Experience over the weekend. It was a much needed mental break from the grueling writing slog I was going through. I grabbed a copy of issue two of Batman Year 100 by Paul Pope while I was looking around. Read the article about Pope and the project in Wired a few months ago, and was glad to find it already hitting the shelves. Sadly, I missed the first issue- can anyone out there find me one?

Plus I needed to get some other stuff as reference material for Pop Zeus. Haven't spent much time shopping for or reading comics in the last 5 or so years (Cerebus is over?). But, it was fun to pick up work copies (ones I can beat up) of old favorites and leaf through them at the store. Also, discovered some new inspirations while I was milling about.

So here is the second list of influences/inspirations for stories in Pop Zeus. Won't spill which ones go with which stories just yet. But I am still stoked to pay tribute to my favorite band in the world, using my favorite cartoon styles...

Tales From The Crypt (EC Comics in general)- This inspiration was unexpected for me. But, it fits in perfectly with one of my ideas for the comic. Plus the originals are just so so classic (and still very creepy and somewhat brain damaging). Hard to hate something that spawned a Congressional investigation, the creation of the Comics Code Authority, and the creation of Mad Magazine!

Dork by Evan Dorkin- Can't recommend Dorkin's work enough. Possibly the funniest man in comics. Milk and Cheese is another big influence of mine, but it is some of the stuff in Dork which will directly apply to Pop Zeus.

Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware- Extremely depressing but eye-poppingly beautiful comics! If you are not familiar with Ware's work by now, run don't walk to your nearest decent bookstore and check this stuff out. Thought of ANL immediately for a particularly dreary section of the comic.

Land Of Nod by Jay Stephens- As mentioned in an earlier post, Land Of Nod is one of the funniest and most crudely drawn comics ever. The minimal style of Stephens early work still cracks me up and would be great to emulate.

Mad Magazine by the usual gang of idiots- One of my cornerstones- there was nothing that gave this young lad more joy than pouring over the pages of Mad (Cracked and Crazy were pretty good too). And it is still a bold, daring and damn funny magazine. If you haven't checked out Mad in 20 odd years, I challenge you to go to your local newsstand and not embarrass yourself laughing.

Archie Comics by the usual gang of idiots- Another big childhood influence on young Phil (along with the music of the fake Archie band- see earlier post). The clean line drawing style and light adolescent humor of Archie comics buoyed me through many a lazy afternoon. And the cute girls certainly didn't hurt (I'm a Betty guy all the way- what did they see in Archie anyway, two babes fighting over that guy?).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Acid Ranch

Finally brought my digital camera into work so I could upload my Acid Ranch for Jeff at the Guided By Voices Database and the rest of you mugs! (my crusty home computer and digital camera don't get along) If you are not familiar with the Acid Ranch project, these are extremely lo-fi recordings that pre-date Guided By Voices. Robert Pollard recorded these bizarre tunes with Mitch Mitchell and his brother Jim, both former members of the GBV. The first Acid Ranch, 2002's Some Of the Magic Syrup Was Preserved was a limited edition vinyl-only double album in the Fading Captain series, largely ignored and today quite valuable.

The new Acid Ranch limited edition vinyl-only release is titled As Forever: A Manifesto Of Fractured Imagination And Wreckless Living. It came out late last year and sold out in just 48 hours through Rockathon Records. I'm definitely digging the music more on these newly unearthed Acid Ranch tracks. Supersonic Love Funky Love Gun has quickly become one of my all-time favorites and it's great to hear the full version of Beautiful Plastic. What makes As Forever even more special is that every single copy is in a unique sleeve, hand repainted over crappy old album covers purchased at thrift shops- a hilarious and very DYI punk concept.

And I really lucked out! The original sleeve on my Acid Ranch was for Peter Frampton's 1975 classic "Frampton". The negative lettering is in bluish purple, which is pretty rare- most of the Acid Ranch's are in blue or red. And as you can see above, the face of Frampton is peering out nicely between the letters, axe in hand. Very cool! And the original album cover is below for your comparison.

Until next time!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Straddle The Hourglass

(photo courtesy of barthatronic and DTS)

All I can say is "ugh". Finished writing out the "My GBV Experience" three part section of Pop Zeus this weekend and man, has it been a wrenching process. I've scribed many a comic book story and also spent many hours journaling my experiences, but never have I faced this much stress and despair while writing, for real. I was really wigging out and not sure why.

I talked to my brother Martin about it on Saturday and he really hit the nail on the head. He said there is something about the process of writing, beat by beat that helps you to remember things. Getting thoughts and memories physically down clears space in your brain for other thoughts and memories. And what I was remembering were terrible mistakes, dark and troubling times back in 1996 and 2004 specifically. And simultaneously letting images form in my mind, thinking of good images to capture for the comic, was really putting me right back in those painful days. It was rather like reliving some of the worst times in my life- not fun.

But, these stories need to be told. They will directly show how much Guided By Voices music has meant to me, through good times and bad, especially bad. Even though the process of getting these thoughts out will be painful, ultimately I think it will be worth it. And all storytellers, especially in the biographical form, need to be as honest as they can.

I won't spoil the stories for you here, you will have to read Pop Zeus for yourself and decide whether they were worth telling. As I've said before, I believe they will be the heart and soul of the comic.

Anyway, more updates as the week goes on. Cheers!

My GBV Mixes #1- "Tiny Music"

Heya! It's a groggy drizzly Monday morning here in the San Francisco, perfectly appropriate for the following mix I whipped up a few months ago. Just to warn you, I consider myself a Guided By Voices mix making master- king of the ultimate sequence for every occasion, hence this mix post series. Upon listening to Suitcase 2 starting last October, I realized that a lot of my favorite songs were of the dark, spooky and acoustic variety. And at the time my mind was dark and spooky (and acoustic?), so a mix began to formulate in my mind. Assemble it yourself, give it a spin and let me know what you think! It's one that I've learned not to partake in when I'm already feeling down, so listen at your own risk...

"Tiny Music"- 13 songs, 30 minutes

You're Not the Queen Anymore (Suitcase 2 Disc 2)
Double Standards Inc. (Not In My Airforce)
Color Coat Drawing (Suitcase 2 Disc 3- this song makes we weep openly)
It's Only Up To You (Suitcase 2)
Sinister Infrared Halo (Suitcase 2)
Supersonic Love Funky Love Gun (Suitcase 2 Disc 2- unbelievably brilliant, make me grin then laugh out loud the very first listen)
Metro XVI (Suitcase 2 Disc 2)
beautiful plastic (Acid Ranch- As Forever- damn I hope you were able to get a copy of this, if only for this track!)
Party (Not In My Airforce)
Happy At The Drag Strip (Suitcase 2)
Did It Play? (Not In My Airforce)
Breadcrumbs For The Whales (I'm A Strong Lion EP- great track that makes getting this import EP worth it)
Stingy Queens (unreleased version or Suitcase 2- I prefer the unreleased version with the loud volume spike, but either does the trick)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Insightful GBV Interview Circa 1994

Been reviewing all biographical type materials for the Brief Visual History of Guided By Voices section of Pop Zeus. Want to focus on the more interesting and fun moments to illustrate rather than rehashing the tried and true history replicated many times before (primarily in Hunting Accidents and Watch Me Jumpstart). But, in doing the research, I remembered an article I saved from a while ago that had some very insightful and funny thoughts from the entire band. It originally appeared in Wind-Up Toy magazine #3, April 1994. Highlights include...

Robert: But I'm Robert Pollard, this is Mitch..
Mitch: Mitch Mitchell.
Jim: Jim Pollard.
Robert: Jim Pollard, my brother.
Liz: And how long have you known Jim?
Jim: Since birth, I believe.

Robert: Well, mostly, I've taught fourth grade for about eight years now, but before that I taught different grades.
Liz: In public school?
Robert: Public school, in Dayton.
Liz: Do the kids know that you're a musician?
Robert: They know. I used to.. before they knew, before, we got a couple of things written on recently in the Dayton paper, in the local papers, now they end up reading it, their parents.. Before I used to take them stuff "Hey, man, here's our stuff! Lemme play this for you..." and I'd put it on, some kids'd get up and jump around a little bit, some kids'd be "uugh, that's terrible" and pretty soon they'd all get bored, but it wouldn't take long before that..

Robert: It's not really, it doesn't mean anything, it's neat, and it's like something neat to look at or listen to. And the words, you know, the lyrics and stuff, sometimes you have to look at it, you gotta write it down to see if it looks cool. A lot of the same kind of letters, a lot of "o"s or whatever. An "x" here and there. Certain words like "kick", I love the word "kick". What were some of the words that we said were cool? Double-consonant "g"s?
Mitch: Double-entendres. (laughs)
Robert: "Witch", "witch" is a good word...
Mitch: "Zoo"
Robert: "Zoo" is a great word. There are certain words we like, we use them a lot. Oh, "moon", we love "moon". "Giant moon", "moon balloon", we love the word "moon".

Lots of great stuff in there for the comic. Check out the full article here!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lessons Learned From The School Of Rock

Making a point in this writing, research and psyching myself up phase of Pop Zeus to get inspired by and glean whatever I can from film sources. The obvious Guided By Voices choices of Watch Me Jumpstart, The Electrifying Conclusion, The Who Went Home And Cried and Some Drinking Implied (Wild People!) will surely be in my viewing pile in the coming weeks. But one of my recent favorites that really captures and encapsulates the spirit of rock is Richard Linklater's School Of Rock. Yeah, it's kinda corny and family friendly, but Jack Black's (apparently a big GBV fan known to appear at LA shows) performance is particularly inspired and you just know that he is praying to the gods of rock for reals. His lectures to the kids on what defines rock and his solo performance of his song are brilliant beyond belief. So after having finished watching the DVD again, here are some tasty nuggets I picked up...

(trying out a wild new letter, not number listing format)

A. Even if you don't think you are cool, if you can rock, you ARE cool: "You could be the ugliest sad sack on the planet, but if you're in a rocking band, you're the cat's pajamas. You're the bee's knees." Indeed!

B. Christina Aguilera and Puff Daddy do NOT rock!: And if you think so, you really need to get the Led out.

C. If there is no passion or joy in your playing, you do not rock: In case of emergency, employ the "power stance", raise a goblet to the gods of rock, then smile, nod your head and make your eyeballs wide like there is something wrong. Exhibit A photo of Mitch Mitchell below demonstrates this technique perfectly.

D. Rock is not about "doing things perfect", "scoring chicks" or "getting wasted", it's really about sticking it to the Man!: "But you can't just say it, man. You gotta feel it in your blood and guts. If you wanna rock, you gotta break the rules. You gotta get mad at The Man!"

E. Get a good scrunched up rock face if you want to rock: Bob has the classic rock face, exhibit A below.

FU. You're not hardcore unless you live hardcore!

G: One great rock show can change the world: "Rock ain't about getting loaded and being a jerk. This is serious business here. We've got a mission. Putting on a great show is the most important thing. One great rock show can change the world." Yessss!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Some Say That's Progress

Just wanted to give you folks a quick status update on how Pop Zeus is coming along. As mentioned below, the collecting of ideas, source materials and final drafting is going really smoothly, full steam ahead. Having a solid base of ideas to work from is making the writing easy- just a matter of getting it all down. I estimate that I'm about a quarter of the way through the final writing, maybe more.

And as I write, I am already accumulating images in my mind so the thumbnailing should come just as easily (thumbnails are the tiny drawings that the comic book panels are eventually based on- drawing the panels really small helps to nail the compositions while keeping the spontaneity of the final full sized panels intact).

As I blogged (is that a word yet?) earlier, this weekend I have been focusing on the My GBV experience three part section of Pop Zeus. It's really the heart and soul of Pop Zeus, I think. And to be honest, as easy as it's been to recall all the details and write it all out, the actual process of dredging up those days gone by has been tough. The first part, tentatively called Enlightenment, takes place in my post art-school days slumming back in New Jersey. I was eating some major humble pie once again living with my Dad in the home I grew up in. Those two years spent in limbo were both really fun, with little or no responsibilities, and really sad, feeling like my life was going nowhere fast.

But far more difficult to get through was the second section called The Search For The Holy Grail. Remembering and logging the year I finally left home for parts unknown with my soon-to-be girlfriend was at first fun, but soon I was stirring up the pot on some painful memories of that time. Along with the cross-country search for Clown Prince of the Menthol Trailer, those months were more importantly spent opening myself up to a girl in a way I had never had before. But there was a little dark cloud growing in my mind, a sense of the collapse that would eventually come to pass. That loss reverberates to this day, so to recall its origins is not fun. It's not only a reminder of what an awesome time I had back then and since have not even come close to, but its also a clear reminder of the mistakes I made and how the seeds of my trouble were planted from the beginning. Rough stuff.

Well, that's it for now. Will get back to the fake ads that I'm noodling with on my work computer tomorrow- found some cool fonts online that will allow me to alter the ads with ease. And I will blog again soon. Excelsior!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Comic Books 101, Part Two: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Another quiet and lonely Saturday night here at the homestead. We have had our fair share of rain the last month or so here in San Francisco after a unusually rain free winter. And it's gotten frightfully cold on top of it over the last few nights, to the point where it's been snowing at higher elevations in the city. I saw some hail myself early tonight. Needless to say, it's pretty nasty out there so I could do worse than relaxing at home tonight.

Spent a few hours earlier this evening at my favorite squat and gobble working out some more of the "My GBV Experience" part of Pop Zeus (see the Adding It Up post below). Moved on to part two, the "My Holy Grail" story and the writing is flowing smooth and strong. The only issue will be deciding what parts of the stories to cut. Better to have too much material than too little, I suppose.

Speaking of writing, a question that I've heard many times is "where do you get your ideas from?". And as a storyteller of any stripe, if you got no ideas, you got nothing. The honest answer is that my ideas come from everywhere and nowhere! But I should explain...

As a kid, I was a highly imaginative and a natural storyteller. I easily constructed vast epic narratives with my toys and creating original characters with their own detailed backstories, etc- especially in the world of Star Wars which I was programmed to love as a child of the late 70's- early 80's. I was also totally obsessed with the Muppets, so I would put on fairly well puppeteered and intricate shows. To this day if you put a puppet on my hand, it will come alive. Also spend many hours running around outside totally wrapped up in an imaginative game, pretending to be Indiana Jones, James Bond, Voltron, a ninja, whatever I was into. So, I think I was predisposed to dream and daydream from day one.

But as an adult, with all the hastles and bullshit that one has to deal with on a daily basis, it's easy to lose that childlike spontaneously creative mindset. And there have been times where stress, exhaustion or depression have made the artistic process almost impossible. It's like a muscle that can atrophy after years of neglect or misuse. But it doesn't have to. Here are some ways I've come up with to stir the creative juices that I believe are within all of us, however dormant...

1. Read, a lot: I read about a book a week- just finished A Loyal Character Dancer, the second book in a really interesting and skillful Chinese mystery series. I also read The New Yorker cover to cover every week, The New Scientist, National Geographic, pretty much any magazine that piques my interest (not that I don't indulge in fun frothy crap like Playstation Magazine, Asian Cult Cinema and Entertainment Weekly). Ironically, I don't really read comics much anymore- I think I'm afraid of their influence on my work. My parents have always been and still are big readers, and I know I was read to as a child all the time. So, reading has always been important to me. And I really believe that what you put in your mind has a direct correlation with what you get out out of it. In other words, you are what you eat, in more ways than one. Good reading equals good writing and good thinking. Plus I've gotten so many great ideas and launching off points for stories from books and magazines. It pays to read.

2. Give yourself time to dream: The most valuable thing- free time. Real free time where I can just let my thoughts drift. I have found that ideas often come from nowhere, unsummoned when you are just sitting there like a big blank dumbass. I also get a lot of great ideas in the shower- I think its the combination of sensory deprivation (without my glasses, I'm blind as a bat), white noise and the heat and relaxation of the water. The only problem is that I'm nowhere near a journal! Similarly get a lot of ideas before I fall asleep at night- same sensory deprivation, comfort and relaxation that is needed for ideas to appear from the netherworld. And whatever you do, don't put any pressure on yourself to come up with ideas! Its like when you are trying to remember some obscure fact- if you try really hard, it wont happen. Only when you are relaxed and not directly focused on the task will it come. I believe a lot of writers block comes from this terrible obsessive loop- the pressure to come up with something is the very block which prevents it from happening. And that's just what it does, it happens by itself- its all about flow. When it flows, it flows and the more relaxed and at peace you are, the more it flows. Which brings me to my next big point...

3. Carry a journal (and a pen!) with you everywhere: I currently have 2 big Chronicle journals running at the same time, always in my old backpack which I carry with me everywhere. One journal is for story ideas, thoughts, working out things that are stressing me out- just an all purpose repository for emptying my brain. The other one is my Pop Zeus Grail Diary, where I am compiling and organizing only Pop Zeus stuff. Plus it has unlined pages for thumbnail panel sketches. I also have these really thin cool Moleskine journals in the pockets of every jacket I own, just in case. It is essential for me to write down every good (or even not so good) idea I have as soon as I can. There is nothing worse than forgetting a brilliant thought because you didn't write it down. This is a habit it took me years to develop, and I can't stress enough how important it is!

4. Surround yourself with the things that inspire you: Even though my room looks fairly ridiculous, it's decidedly me. As I type this, to my left is my Choy Lay Fut kung fu poster, my Robert Pollard signed photo, a wall shelf at arms reach of my desk full of books, sketch books and photo sleeves, my black and white steam train photography calendar. In front of me is the GBV Final Show poster, my fake P.H.D. (Pilkey Honorary Diploma), my picture of Bob Marley with Yoda riding in his backpack, my Marilyn Monroe photo, and a Darth Vader action figure. To my right, beyond my bed, is my family photo atop my big bookshelf full of DVDs, books and graphic novels, my framed original 36th Chamber of Shaolin poster, and my plastic Doraemon alarm clock. And behind me is my Playstation 2, my TV and DVD player, my big stack of cd's and my boombox, my acoustic guitar, my Guitar Hero fake guitar and some framed album covers on the wall (Circus Devils' Pinball Mars and Bob's Fiction Man). I have always surrounded myself with my stuff not only to have it at hand if needed, but to inspire me. Of course, this includes music- in the car, walking around and at home. I am like a sponge, always craving new stuff to feed my soul with. And if you feed your soul with crap, how can you expect it to give you anything good back?

5. Be interested in everything and never stop learning!: This one is much more inherent and hard to fake. Either you are interested in life, engaged in the people and things around you, curious about things, always learning, craving stimulation or you are not. It's about passion. When I am into something, I tend to really whipped up and involved, learning as much as I can. And I am always questioning everything, always curious about what's going on and how things work. If you are blah about life and everything in this world, I can't imagine you will have much to say about it. I think it's something fairly hard-wired in me, but certainly cultivating a creatively stimulating life could stoke this fire.

I've been extremely fortunate to never have experienced writer's block, to have had ready access to what I call "the void"- the dark fountain of ideas that I believe we all share. But, it has not been without many years of figuring all this stuff out, getting a real understanding of what works for me. And it's always a struggle to create a balance in my life between the stuff I have to do, the stuff and want to do and the free time to dream and imagine. And I humbly hope some of these thoughts can help you too!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Some Guy And His Comic Book

Amusing mention of Guided By Voices appearance in Logjam from a 2002 interview with Bob...

Ink: I heard about your comic book, how did that come about?

Bob: I don't know. Some guy wanted to put us in a comic book.

Ink: Hmm, good answer.

And how. Here's the whole interview for you.

Use Your Illusion

This hurt my brain. And I'm wicked hungry for almonds. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Style Over Substance

Just for fun, here are some of my (least) favorite random examples of style over substance and its opposite. This all feeds into my recent blab about the importance of good writing. Maybe you disagree with my theory or picks, so flame away in the comments section if you are so inclined! Onward!

Style Over Substance

The films of Tim Burton: I will say that one of my favorite movies of all time is Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Edward Scissorhands is great, but otherwise Burton is a brilliant visualist, but a horrid filmic storyteller. The Batman films were stodgy and flat. Mars Attacks looked pretty, but you didn't care about who lived or died. And don't get me started about Planet of the Apes! Somewhere, a tear rolls down the face of Charlton Heston.

Heavy Metal: Amazingly terrible terrible animated film. One of the worst piles of crap ever put to celluloid. Somehow the brilliant cartoonist Moebius got attached to this turd and wasn't able to save it. Some of the designs were nice, but that's about it. The stories are idiotic, the characters unsympathetic- an excuse for pointless animated toilet humor, Frazetta ripoff imagery, and topless chicks. Ug.

The majority of what's on the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, etc.: We have entered the age of super designy, super flat, 50's retro cartoons. Sadly, most of them suck. And the designs are so fancy that it becomes unclear what you are looking at, which is death to a cartoon. If there's one thing I've learned, is that if the audience gets confused or are overwhelmed, they will tune out (no pun intended). And I don't know about you, but they are all starting to blend together for me. Boring!

Most Superhero Comics since forever: If it were a contest to see who would get the most lines on a page, these comics would surely win. But, where is the soul? Do we really care about what happens to these characters? Can you even name half of them? The monumental thing that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did back in the day was to give superheroes a human face. Sad that we lost it along the way.

Most recent R&B music: Similar to the superhero comic example, if it were a contest to see how many wide ranging notes one singer could hit in a 5 second time frame, these modern "singers" would win hands down. But, its not and they suck. Since when does every single line or phrase in a song need to be embellished so much? Can anyone hold a single note anymore? And anything that helped to spawn the karaoke hell that is American Idol must die. (if you can't play an instrument or never wrote a song, you are not a musical artist, period!)

Substance Over Style

South Park: Looks like crap in a homespun funny way. Crude looking characters and backgrounds, even cruder animation. But, oh shit is it funny and daring, and amazingly consistently so after a million seasons. Up there with The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants and Rocky and Bullwinkle as one of the greatest animated TV shows ever.

Rocky and Bullwinkle: Speaking of which, another classic example of a minimally animated, quickly scrawled show. But, the writing was so witty and sharp, kids of all ages enjoyed it and still do. You see, if your writing is strong enough, it can look like shit and no one cares!

The Blair Witch Project: OK, so its not one of my favorite films of all time. But it is a perfect example of what you can do with a great idea, verite acting and clever editing, despite having been entirely filmed on crummy home video cameras. The movie is damn scary and freaked me out but good. Come to think of it, the horror genre actually is one of the few to exploit crappy or homespun technique to good effect- there is something profoundly scary about the beat up, desaturated, scratchy look of films like Last House On The Left or Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Land Of Nod: This comic book by Jay Stephens cracked my ass up! And part of its charm was the stick figure drawing style- pure minimalism, pure goodness. Seek this out! (Is it a coincidence that the majority of minimalist cartoons or comics are comedic in nature?)

The early music Of Guided By Voices: Lo-fi trash, indeed! More static and crackle than you can shake a dick at. Enough so to turn off most slick pop music zombies for good (I was almost one of them). But upon careful repeat listening, the amazing and melodious songwriting hooks you in. And the ear-splitting DYI spontaneous one-take aesthetic gives the music a real raw edge so sorely lacking in this smooth digital age. RAWK!

I'm not saying that all things that are well produced, well drawn or fancy are bad, so don't go crazy. I appreciate beautiful plastic as much as the next guy. It's just that, especially in storytelling mediums, without a good narrative structure you are in deep doo-doo. And the visuals are way less important. Seacrest out!

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Holy Grail

Once upon a time, a boy journeyed out of his cozy hidey-hole across the mountains, rivers and valleys of a great land in search of that one thing that would complete him. That one object that forever escaped his grasp. That one and only vinyl 45 that contained the extremely relevant and geeky pop song "Matter Eater Lad", previously only barely glimpsed as a drunken chant on the bootleg Crying Your Knife Away. He had to have it. For it was his quest. His mission. His crusade, as it were and as was his wont. And along the way, he discovered something about himself, something unexpected, something magical...

And he got laid.

(perhaps from the forthcoming chapter of Pop Zeus, entitled My Holy Grail)