Off the drawing desk

Here's another page I'm working on.
I'm torn about whether to print this chapter for LA Zine Fest. On the one hand, I'm long overdue. On the other, it should be read together with the next chapter (thumbnailed but not yet drawn). Thoughts?


It's the last day of my working vacation and I still have a lot of pages to go, but I got a lot of pages done. What a week! Ok, back to the drawing desk.


Moon Cakes

It's the autumn moon festival and about time for an update. Good things are simmering below the surface. Here are some covers I just sent to Tomas Moniz of Rad Dad for his next issue. Excited for some upcoming events in the winter... more on those later.



Summer is almost over, which means less time to work on the book. The good news is that I finished rewriting the next two chapters (so many thanks to my ACA friends for the feedback!) and am drawing final art. This next chapter wants to be penciled in full before I ink it. It's not the greatest method for posting updates, but it feels right. Maybe it's the influence of Jane Rosen, my drawing teacher from many years ago, who taught us to bring a whole drawing, whether it was 2 inches or 20 feet, up to focus at the same time. Thanks for being patient while things are still looking fuzzy.



I'm deep in rewrites so there's only scribbly drawings to show right now. But this is where a lot of the necessary work happens.

Sometimes a certain action, repeated, becomes an anchor for a part of the story. I don't think of it when I first write - maybe because writing for me is a disembodied voice, and I don't think about what the rest of the body is doing until I have to draw. Apparently, my disembodied voice likes to smoke. A lot.


In the evenings in Vietnam, I'd see whole families go for a ride on the scooter. It was awesome.


Got tired of drawing badly after two months of not drawing.
Saw something Brandon Graham said about getting started by redrawing panels from a pile of comics you admire. And listening to music. It made today, and drawing, fun again.

And now here's something I'm working on:


Flirting with Color

Musicians are cool.

I once told a friend that if the sunlight on my bookshelf could sing and play guitar, it would sound like M. Ward. And it adds to the comfort and familiarity of his music that he kind of looks like a hobbit.

There's some better music than the awful Ewok panpipe tooting in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Jonathan Richman opened for him at the Fillmore in San Francisco last night. What a treat to see up close a music legend having a good old time being himself.


Jeans, No Shirt

Palm Trees, Clouds

El Condor Pasa

I saw a California condor for the first time, flying high over a gulch at midday. It's a huge bird, and impressive to see in flight. I feel a little immature whenever I see pictures of condors up close 'cause I can't help but be touched by all the work folks have done to preserve such a weird looking bird. Something about the photo I copied this from makes me think of Alan Rickman in a David Bowie get-up. It's a ridiculous, marvelous animal, right up there with elephant seals.


Praise for BLUE

I just finished a supremely busy stretch of teaching-related business by coming down with the flu. But it's not all bad. Bedridden is a great way to watch the whole first season of "Downton Abbey." Boy, that is some brilliant television. It's made for today's enlightened anglophile who can't stomach Merchant-Ivory films anymore but is kinda sad about it. You still get the Edwardian fashion and obligatory marriage plot but with a nod to what goes on with the blind cook, the upwardly mobile housemaid and the socialist chauffeur. I haven't seen any of Season 2 yet so don't tell me anything more!

The other, even better, upside to being sick is having time to enjoy my friend Pat Grant's new graphic novel, BLUE. It's a comic about immigration, localism, racism, and the Australian landscape - both literal and sociopolitical. I could describe it more but he's already done a fabulous job in this "shameless publicity document."

Folks who follow me know that I teach recent immigrants, am an immigrant, and am working on a graphic novel about immigrants. I believe in underdogs telling their own stories and advocating for themselves. It's all serious business and I'm afraid sometimes of boring or scaring off people who just aren't into that sort of thing. I want to have conversations with people who aren't already on my side of the political fence.

Problem is, we're all with the exception of Rush Limbaugh pretty well-conditioned to use careful words around hot button issues like immigration and race. It's hard to have an honest conversation - the kind that moves us forward - when everyone's holding back. It was surprising how many times in college and grad school I found myself in a room full of white people, being the only person who would admit that I had ever been racist. (I mean, really?)

But now there's BLUE, which doesn't pretend at all to be politically correct. It's narrated by a crotchety old white fella in a fictional seaside town in Australia that has been changed by the influx of immigrants, whom Pat draws as aliens with blue skin and tentacles, which is what immigrants look like to the younger version of the narrator when he sees them for the first time.

Pat doesn't try to speak for the aliens. Instead, his story centers on the white narrator and his two white schoolmates. They're thirteen year olds who are not very nice; in fact the story opens with them stomping on their own sandcastle just so an out-of-town kid can't play with it. They react to the blue aliens with racist jokes, hostility, and eventually resentment. I told Pat on a beach a few years ago that if he could make these kids endearing to someone like me (read: left-leaning, easily offended immigrant), he'd be onto something. And he did it. He's made them so real, with the way they talk and the things they say, and that special blend of cruelty and vulnerability that thirteen year olds are made of, that I care about them and want to understand where they are coming from. And that is a powerful way to open up a conversation about anything, but especially about how we deal with people we perceive to be our cultural other. Though BLUE is inspired by racial tensions in Australia, its themes are relevant everywhere - and of course here in the U.S., where even though everyone is so politically correct and no one admits to being racist anymore, we pass new anti-immigrant laws and clamor behind angry pundits every time the economy is bad.

You can read BLUE for free online, but trust me when I say you'll have to buy the printed book to fully enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship with which Pat has lovingly put this story to paper. It's an amazing first book, and I hope there will be many more to come.


After Labor ... Balls.

It's been awhile but I'm back! Driving down to Los Angeles tomorrow 
for this little show that's mushroomed into an exciting event. 
The L.A. Zine Fest is this Sunday, Feb 19th 
at The Last Bookstore in downtown LA. 
I'll be at Table 7 with my comics.

In related exciting news,
LABOR (Chapter 1 of my graphic novel-in-progress) got a second printing,
and in the spirit of the zine fest, I've made this little mini-comic called BALLS.

Also, and this is very exciting...

I'll be bringing a few copies of this comics anthology I published with my students at Oakland International High School. There's a nice buzz building about the book, and the whole comics project behind it. Listen for a story on KQED (Bay Area 88.5), The California Report, on Feb 24. 

The book's official launch is not till Thursday, Feb 23, 
but if you're in LA, you'll be the first to see it.
If you're not in LA, you can buy it online.
All proceeds from this book benefit the arts at OIHS.

Thanks for following, and make sure to come say hello if you're in LA this weekend!



I made good progress on rewriting a chapter. Never enough but that's how it goes. These are the taking care of others years. May I learn enough patience to live them gracefully, and reserve the angst to party like a rock star later.