Projects

"Spire City Noir"
"Spire City Noir Anthology"
"Spire City/Johnny Saturn Series Bible"
"Johnny Saturn No 18"
"Johnny Saturn Planar Eclipse"
"Medieval Book of Lists"
"Name of the Shadow"
"Requiem"

2018, Well Well

While I cannot say that 2018 snuck up on me, I can say that 2017 went by very quickly. It was a whirlwind from beginning to end.

Strangely, none of my plans have changed. I’ve still got covers I’m working on, I’m still writing a lot, and I still have a couple of other project in the background chugging along.

One thing I have to do this year is learn to make smarter use of the time I have, maximize it. Work has not gotten any less time consuming, so if I want to get stuff accomplished I need to squeeze maximum productivity out of what I’ve got. I’ve made great strides in this, but greater strides yet are on the horizon. I know this challenge isn’t unique to me, but everyone’s answers are somewhat specific to them.

I didn’t do any graphic art in 2017, and I don’t foresee doing any in 2018. However, this does not mean that I won’t be involved in comics! I plan to complete write my part of Planar Eclipse this year, and coordinate it with the parts that Benita has written. I also plan to finish writing and publish the Black Dirigible, and probably write an additional story for another artist to illustrate. The extra story will fill out a Spire City Noir trade paperback. It will include issue 1, aka Spire City Hauntings, and issues 2 and 3, the Black Dirigible, and some other as yet to be determined story.

I’m not sure if I have a social media strategy this year. The whole world is down on social media after the last elections, and I am of the same mind.

 

 

Darn It All…

In a remarkable fit of misfortune, my recently rebuilt dedicated graphics computer has crashed again. Apparently, it has lost its “BOOTMGR.”

So, until I can figure out what to do, no more illustration work.

I don’t know how serious the problem is, but the computer worked great for about a month but now, then no more…

I’m not as rattled as I was about this last time. When one door closes, then another may open, etc., and so forth.

I got almost all my programs reinstalled on this computer, and it worked great, and I kept all the content off the hard drive. Mind you, even though I’ve lost no content, I have the vast joy of reinstalling Daz3D, Poser, and Clip Studio Paint onto a new computer. These apps are troublesome and time-consuming to reinstall, as you can guess.

I had not gotten around to installing Photoshop yet, so that’s a small blessing.

So, what to do? How to handle this? Honestly, it was less of a hassle to have broken ribs or appendicitis. Ok, I’m exaggerating. A little.

There is no reason for this to hold up any writing assignments I may have.

This is a loss, but I’m still alive, still have my talent and experience to pull on, and another day will come. This is not the end of my illustration career.

(Note: My mom would tell me that I’m being overly dramatic. I’m not. Not much, anyway.)

Superhero Prose Anthologies

I’ve had the opportunity to have stories in several prose superhero anthologies, and for that I am quite greatful. In that spirit, here is a list of superhero themes that I believe would make great anthologies on their own.

1) Replaced: The hero has been replaced by a successor, or an imposter, or a version of themselves from another universe or the future, etc. Examples are numerous, such as Wonderwoman being replaced by Artemis or Hyppolyta are good examples, or the Ben Reilly Spider-Man, or the Christophe version of Dr. Doom, or the various Bat Man replacements (Azreal, Nightwing, etc.)

2) Exposed: The hero’s secret identity has been outed to the public, or his archnemesis has discovered it, or a loved one has found out. An example could be Daredevil’s public outing in the comics, or Spider-Man by the Green Goblin.

3) Framed: The hero has been framed and sent to prison, or slandered until the public hates them, or sought for a crime he didn’t commit. All of these have happened to Spider-Man, but even Bruce Wayne and Daredevil have been sent to prison before.

4) Possessed: The hero has been taken over by an enemy, or mind controlled by the same. Dr. Doom once took over Daredevil’s body, for example, just as Dr. Octopus once took over Spider-Man’s body.

5) Broken Origins: The hero thinks he knows his own origin, but finds out there is a whole lot more to the story than he thought. Examples would be such as when Spider-Man found out his parent were spies and killed by the Red Skull, or when the whole Elektra epic was inserted into the Daredevil story.

6) Fallen: The hero has become a villain, or the villain has become a hero. This might be happen because of mind control, or insanity, or trauma, or loss. Superman in the Injustic video games, or Iron Man (several times), etc.

7) Reborn: The hero has returned from the dead, in fact (Superman) or metaphorically (Batman). Or, a depowered or retired hero has gotten his powers or sense of purpose back. Maybe even an exiled character has been recalled home.

8) Crisis: The hero’s world is ending or rebooting, and his version of reality is getting destroyed. It could be a simple retcon, or an universal retcon, but the character has to wrap up his business and say his goodbyes.

9) Powerless: The hero’s powers have become unpredictable, or are fading, or lost altogether, or replaced with a different set of powers. Think of Superman Blue/Superman Red, for example. Maybe the hero has simply been made redundant.

All Over The Place Here

Interesting article about American airships. Educational more than eye-opening.

Black Lightning: This new WB show had an excellent opening episode. The politics of race and Black Lives Matter was a strong element throughout the show, and while some may find that heavy handed, I think these issues should stay in the national dialogue until something is done to correct them. I thought Luke Cage was covered some of this well, but ultimately bad plotting brought that show down, not the politics of race.

Star Wars: I haven’t watched any of the recent movies, not because I’m boycotting them but because I’m not as interested in them as I was a kid. I was 14 or 15 when the first one came out, and it was a mind-blowing cultural super phenomena. It was something new, and as a teen I ate it up. But, 1977 is a long time ago, and I just don’t feel it anymore. Additionally, the fan rancor surrounding the new movies is off putting. I didn’t let the internet hate around the Justice League movie keep me from seeing it and loving it, but for Star Wars it did.

The Scribbler: This is a little known movie from 2014 on Netflix that was surprisingly good, delightfully dark, and very well written. I really enjoyed it. It’s a gem worth searching out.

Superman: So, he’s back to his more iconic costume with the red shorts. Whatever.

Personal: I have not watched nearly as much television on the computer lately because I have been obsessed with writing. A vampires vs. metaheroes story I was writing as a short story for an anthology looks like its actually on its way to becoming a novel. I used to love vampire fiction, so the guts of this story were already lined up in my subconscious and ready to go, apparently.

Personal 2: Benita got me a longbow for Christmas, and I am looking forward to warmer weather so I can go and start playing with it. I don’t hunt, and I have no desire to shot or kill any living thing, but I do love medieval history, and the longbow was key to many great battles (Crecy, Agincourt, etc.) The medieval connection is why I wanted a long bow, not a modern compound bow of some sort.

Sidenote: Arrows are expensive.

Personal 3: About three weeks back I began a campaign to lose weight. I’ve battled obesity most of my adult life, and I was ready to make a change. I should have been ready decades ago, but that’s a story of its own. Anyway, I got a Fitbit and I signed up for My Fitness Pal. It was interesting to find out that I had been eating about 4K to 6K or more calories a day, and had been for years. So, I dropped all processed sugary stuff cold turkey, and brought myself down to a 2400 calory per day goal. The weight so far has slowly been coming off. 9 pounds so far. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll make the first 10 lb. goal. Anyway, I began at 286 lbs, I weight 277 now, and my long term goal is in the 230 to 200 lb range. Weight loss so far has been about 3 lbs per week, which I know is painfully slow, but I believe consistency will win the race.

Side Effect 1: Without all the processed food and sugar, my energy level is up a little bit, and my mind is clearer. That ranks as downright awesome in my book.

Personal 4: 2018 is looking to be my greatest year as a creator yet. I am thrilled with the literary and artistic projects I have underway right now, have great projects lined up, and I am deeply satisfied with the jobs, the process, and ongoing results. After being miserable all those years, I feel almost guilty enjoying it all now and. Happiness is a fragile thing, but right now I am choosing to embrace it and enjoy the ride. Right now does not seem like a struggle or desperate, and I am so grateful for that.

Feeling Better

I was just thinking, and I believe it’s safe to say that I am over the critical burnout that just about ended my creative career and did end my comic, Johnny Saturn. Right now I have a full slate of writing, covers, and commissions that I am working on and I feel fantastic about it. This is a happy realization for me.

Burnout is no joke. It’s much like clinical depression, but it can last year’s, and for some people it never ends. Mine lasted for years, and it brought almost everything creative to a crawl. For the first time in years I feel like my head is in the game again.

Johnny Saturn Behind the Scenes

You’ve read some or all the “Johnny Saturn” stories, in comics or prose, right? Of course you have. If you haven’t just play along.

There were a lot of underlying precepts that went into making these stories, and that’s what this blog post is about.

SEXUAL PREFERENCE, RELIGION, ETHNICITY, ETC.

When I got going on this series, it was important to me to include a wide range of different backgrounds among the characters. Gender, age, sexual preference, religion, ethnicity, political leanings, they all needed to be there. I wanted the full array of human (and inhuman) experience to be at play.

What made the Saturn-verse different from other comic universes is that these differences just didn’t matter all that much. People accepted each other for who they were, or at least they didn’t make those differences an issue. Women weren’t to be patronized or disrespected; LGBT people weren’t stigmatized, or novelties, or misunderstood; Muslims weren’t marginalized; and so forth. If you know me and my own world views then I supposed this approach could be expected. I supposed I was indirectly influenced by Gene Rodenberry and his “different but celebrated and accepted” philosophy from later Star Trek episodes.

How well did this all play out? Sometimes well. I pretty much got no blowback from making the Utopian gay. He was always a popular character in the series, and remains so till this day. I expected some negative reaction, but attitudes in America were changing quickly, but my no-nonsense gay superhero character came off as more quaint than divisive. Even then, I did break my guidelines a little by showing how much Utopian’s father Elect was in denial about his son’s preferences. I did that as much to show generational differences as anything, and even then there was never any doubt that Elect truly loved his son. I suppose we did this for a little humor as well, but mostly to indicate what kind of person Elect was.

I’m afraid I didn’t come off quite so clean on the political divide issue. It was easy for me to point fingers during the second Iraq War, and Titanium Tom’s rampant nationalism and gung-ho military positive attitude were easy targets. Even then, however, I went against steryotypes sometimes to show that even Titanium Tom could be civil or reasonable. His bluster and tactlessness were real, but he was still a human and capable of a little empathy. It would have been too easy to villify the far, far right characters without showing at least a little understanding.

Women hold much of the power and honor in the Saturn-verse. I admire women and always have, so it was natural for me to treat them with respect. I’ve been surrounded by strong women my whole life, so purposeful sexism just isn’t in my nature. How well will my writings hold up by future standards? It’s hard to say. We are products of our time, but I would like to think that history will at least look kindly on my treatment of women.

I should add one caveat–women are great, but I never wr0te them to be indistinguable from men. Our basic biological makeups can make us, in broad strokes at least, different. In general, women can be peace makers, community builders, multi-taskers, caregivers, and pragmatic. I’m speaking in very broad terms, and no individual character fits those steryotypes perfectly. From what I’ve been able to tell about men, the steryotypical man is focused in a way that makes him a good hunter, avid tool users, and given to physical responses to problems. Maybe future science and psychology will call me out on these views, and that’s fine. Histiography in college taught me that it’s impossible for us to completely divorce ourselves free of the times that we live in and the prevailing ideas that we have been born into.

Race and ethnicity is one such issue. Perhaps foolishly, I had always assumed that I was 100% free of racial bias. Now the idea of White Privelidge has been made popular, and I have realized that I am not qualified to think myself free of prejudice. This is humbling and upsetting. Maybe I’m without bias or preconception on these issues, and maybe not. I can’t know for certain, because I’m a white male and thus the beneficiary of all sorts social benefits that other peoples cannot take for granted. I could be patronizing without any desire to be so, and unable to avoid it. This bothers me because it’s not what I wanted or expected from myself.

Being honest with oneself like this is not easy. I may not always like the answers when I dig far enough into my basic life assumptions. Do my good, all-inclusive intentions excuse me from all this, even a little? I would hope, but who knows.

Other precepts and attitudes that made it into the Saturn-verse include a dislike of the “will-they-won’t-they” romance theme. I really dislike overbearing romantic drama, and I’ve preferred to let the characters carry on much of that behind the scenes. Yes, the Saturn-verse characters become romantically intangled just like people do in our world, but I prefer to let them work it out on their own. I never expected Greg Buchanan and Victoria Shelbourne to fall in love, for example–it happened organically, on the comic page, and sort of took me off guard. I didn’t write about their first dates, or first kiss, or doubts about dating each other, or any of that. They did that on their own time, and then I showed the result of their developing union in the comic as flourished.

Well, that’s more than enough for now, and I’ll revisit this subject in the future.

Scott.

 

Lessons Learned as an Artist

I love art, and my enthusiasm shows. I’m always happy to share my knowledge and help other artists grow. I don’t believe in hoarding knowledge and looking back in fear of those who might (and often do) overtake me . . . I believe in generosity.

Here are my primary beliefs when it comes to fine art and illustration and living an artistic life:

  1. Study Life Drawing: Nothing competes with drawing real people in 3D space
  2. Become a Sketchbooker, and carry a sketchbook with you everywhere.
  3. Style should never be an affectation. It should be drawing to the best of your ability, and your style will emerge naturally. Style is not an excuse for weaknesses in your art.
  4. Develop a critical eye of your own art, and for the art of others. Recognize what you are good at, and learn to identify your artistic weaknesses so you can train for improvement.
  5. Learn to take your time develop images. There is a time to forego prepartion, references, etc., and rush through a picture. Then there are times to give it your all for as long as it takes.
  6. It is not “cheating” to use props, 3D applications, the computer in general, photo reference, or the like. What matters is the end product.
  7. Make a lifelong habit of studying life, ie. paying attention to things around you. Study people of all sizes and shapes, hairstyles, automobiles, brick patters, textures, reflections in glass or chrome, the folds of clothing, and everything else.  This is a way of seeing as artists see, and adopt and use it for the rest of your life. Build a huge “morgue file” in your brain.
  8. Make ongoing study and improving a lifelong goal. Never be smug or overly satisfied with your skills as they stand, but continue to work towards greatness.

Lesson Remembered

I’m pretty good at being miserable.

Conversely, I’m terrible at being happy.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

For the last few decades or so, I’ve been pretty good at turning my glass-half-empty world into a glass-half-full one. I’ve learned to take a different stance on my problems, a position where difficulties are best taken on in positive terms. For example, I could pray (yes, I do that) “please keep my terrible temper in check today,” or I could pray “please grant me a placid day of personal serenity.”

Which prayer is more likely to yield a positive response? As far as I’m concerned the serenity prayer is far more effective. I’m looking for a positive outcome, right? Right. No good can come of focusing on what I’m trying to avoid.

Why am I writing about this on what is ostensibly an art, writing, and pop-culture blog? That’s because I’ve gotten into a head-space where doing art professionally for others has become a negative proposition to me. All I’ve seen are the difficulties meeting the requirements of vague, often contradictory briefs, finding time around my full-time day job, finding energy when I feel beat up by the week, and feeling guilty about other responsibilities that I’m not meeting when I’m doing illustration for clients.

I expect it to be hard, so that’s what I get, hardness. I expect to be tired, so I’m worn out. I expect… well, I need not keep repeating this formula. You get the idea. If you are reading this blog, then you are likely pretty intelligent.

All this has had a chilling effect on my creativity, my mood, and my willingness to take on new projects. How could it not? Misery breeds more misery!

(As a caveat, I must say that I have not been miserable pursuing my personal projects. They have been a balm to my troubled soul.)

All this attitude stuff really kicked into gear when I burned out very badly about six years ago. I crashed and burned so thoroughly that it was easier to get a day job than to keep fighting as a freelance artist. Then, when my mother was severely injured a few years later, my downward spiral was on, and I spun out of control. I quit doing the Johnny Saturn comic strip, stopped appearing at comic conventions, and proceeded to do less and less. I was pretty much convinced that it was all pretty pointless.

Jump forward to 2017. My mom is doing great, and my day job has been a positive experience. My self-confidence is better, I get to help support our little family in a reliable manner, my health and fitness haves improved, and I get to be around people. I think it’s high time I reminded myself that I need not be miserable all the time. I’ve stopped listening to the news because the current administration makes my blood pressure boil, and a continuous barrage of bad news makes it easy to be depressed. I’ve stopped watching or reading television shows or series that mess with my emotions. I’ve made a point of being generous and trying to bring light into other peoples’ lives.

It’s time for me to be happy again. It’s a choice, and I choose it. Happiness must be maintained and tended, and it’s high time I got back to it. This goes with art commissions too. I should be happy that people like my work enough that they want to pay me to draw and color pictures for them. I AM happy about that. I need to let all the negatives and hassles and resistance go and enjoy using my gift for others.

This begins again today. I choose to be happy. I choose to share my work with the world.

Scott.

Hanging Out With The Cat

Hey, Folks:

After lovely July 3 spent with my even more lovely wife, Benita, I’m now settled into my easy chair for the evening with my cat, Dylan. Pollen is floating through the air freely here in Central Indiana, so said feline is breathing and weezing loudly. For those who do not remember, this cat has had severe breathing issues from the beginning of his his wee little kitty life. Well, now he’s a big ol’ Tom, but you get the idea. He sounds like a frog, but I love him dearly.

I just picked up a book on the art and life of Alfredo Alcala, a supremely talented Philippine artist who inked some truly wicked lines over John Buscema’s work in Savage Sword of Conan.

SSoC was a black-n-white magazine formatted comic, and Alcala truly made color superfluous. Check out the linework! Damn.

Today at the antique mall in Westfield Indiana, I picked up four comics published by Atlas in 1975. The titles aren’t all that important, but it struck me how much like Bronze Age Marvel comics they were. Published by Chip Goodman, son of one-time Marvel publisher Martin Goodman; and helmed by Larry Lieber, Stan Lee’s little brother, this short-lived line of comics was made up of x-Marvel Bullpen artists including Gary Friedrich and Steve Ditko, among others. Atlas attempt to bully their way onto the comic scene with lots of money and high-priced talent reminds me now a little of Crossgen comics. Still, 37 years later, these Atlas comics still look pretty good.

Greetings, Salutations, Hola, Hello, Hi

Hey You, It’s Me–Yo!

Greetings from the great Midwest, the home of overly entitled and yet strangely polite people.

In the past, I would have written reviews of movies I’d recently seen, such as Wonder Woman (extremely good) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2(also extremely good).  I’d have shared my thoughts about the writing, the sets, the color palettes, the camera work, the costumes, and so forth.

I’m not going to do so.

I have come to the conclusion that the movies and television shows I watch are in fact not the same ones that other people watch and comment on. These other film critiques on the web can sum up their opinions into one or two words. The movie in question was shabby, the studio didn’t even try, shit, crap; and that the movie studios in question blew it, called it in, cashed in, or the like. I don’t need to make complete lists of these descriptions–you’ve probably read them before, and maybe made them yourselves.

I take care and actively watch films. I care about the writers’ choices, the work of unseen artists like set designers, costumers, foley, music scores, etc. I don’t see a movie and forget it. I remember it for years, and I think about it for a long time. I don’t issue blanket statements, because I know there were real people who really cared about the product they were making. These people thought long and hard about the creative decisions they made, and they did their best to make good movies based upon the resources they had at hand. People cared, so I care too.

Okay, let’s change the subject.

I’ve noticed that more and more people have left reviews for my books on Amazon. God bless you, you have paid me in greater currency than simply spending money for my works. You are my friends, and I owe you a debt of gratitude.

 

But, what if you read one or more of my books and didn’t leave a review? For that matter, what if you read any indie creator’s works and remained silent?

I’m not going to shame you. In fact, before I learned how much reviews mean for indie writers, I often read books and didn’t leave reviews. I was that guy. Well, my point is this: if you enjoyed a writer’s work and want them to be able to keep writing books and make more stories, then write reviews. Even just a few lines, like “this kicks ass!” or “wow, I can’t wait for more!” I guarantee that new potential readers who are on the fence about purchasing a book read some or all of the reviews. Reviews make a difference.

Well enough of that. I wrote it, you read it, that’s enough.

Change of subject…

Yesterday (Saturday 6-24-17) Benita and I went to the Indiana Fiddler’s Gathering in northern Indiana. We’ve always had a good time there, and this year we had a fantastic time. All music festivals are not created equal, but this one was wonderful. The weather was perfect, and the bands were truly entertaining and a joy to hear.

While it is called the Indiana Fiddler’s Gathering, the bands included all forms of acoustic stringed instruments, or at least the most common instruments in American music. There were violins, guitars, ukuleles, mountain dulcimers, mandolins, five-string banjos, cellos, and basses. As far as the variety of music went, it was a mix of bluegrass, folk, classic country, Irish, blues, jazz, and a few other flavors as well. My favorite musician of the day was Bing Futch, a great singer, virtuosic mountain dulcimer player, and a nice guy to hang around and talk to. I plan on digging into his long catalog of recordings. I may have highlighted Bing, but all the acts were good.

Had enough? Me too. Signing out until next time–Scott

Around the Globe in 80 Videos. . .

Greetings, Friends, Colleagues, and Random Witnesses:

My name is Scott Angus Story, and I’m an indie writer, illustrator, cartoonist, and all-around rapscallion. I’ve drawn comics for lots of publishers, done lots of freelance illustrations for a zillion customers, and I also write novels and short stories. You can go to this blog’s link page and fine out more about me than you could want to know, or at least what I’ve done and for who. It’s been a busy couple of decades.

Here’s what I’ve got going as I write this:

  1. Me and my small team of collaborators (Steven P. Doty and Mike Vlasaty) are hard at work on issues 2 and 3 of the comic series “Spire City Noir.” We are creating a standalone tale called the Black Dirigible. It’s cool, and we are making good progress.
  2. I’m busy revising an anthology of Johnny Saturn short stories. Most of these have never been published. This project may get finished sooner than some of my others. Since Spire City Noir has already been taken by a comic series I write, I’m undetermined on the prose anthology’s title.
  3. I am hard at work plotting a novel that, while not a sequel, will be next in chronology after “The City of the Broken Gate.” It’s unofficial working title is “Time and the Tesseract Mystery,” but that is bound to be replaced.

Since anyone who reads my stuff knows I dig zeppelins, here’s a video I just ran across:

Midnight Rambler

Greetings and Hello, My Friends:

There is an interview with me on the Pen & Cape Society’s podcast, Throwing the Gun. It’s a pretty good conversation, really, as Jim Zoetewey proves to be a good interviewer. I had sort of given up that this would ever come out because it took about five months, but I had been assured that I hadn’t killed the podcast, so… Anyway, our conversation covers “City of the Broken Gate,” but it’s also a reasonable account of my early years and secret origins.  Listen, enjoy.

Today is the second day I had planned to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and today it got nixed again due to complications. Ah well, maybe I should stop going to the cinema. Maybe I should just wait for the Blue Ray or whatever to come out. It’s hard to have a full-time job, a creative life, a family life, and all the other stuff life throws at us, and still make it out to a theater to see a movie. Logan was the last movie I saw at the theater, and maybe that should be it. Food for thought.

I’m getting marginally better at painting with acrylics, and I’ve begun a new painting, but I am still not working at a professional level. I took a class on this at the Indiana Art Center, and I showed promise, but then eight years passed where I did nothing. I have pro water color skills, but then I have to remind myself that it took about three years to bring myself up to level on that particular medium.

Well, I could ramble on, and talk about the new glasses I picked out today, or the shirt design I just did for a fiber festival, or the all-nighter I worked last weekend that resulted in a 40 hour work day, or any number of other things. But, I won’t. Instead, I’m going to get back to writing.

Later! Scott

(This song has always been the unofficial theme to Johnny Saturn. At least to me.)