Showing posts with label District Comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label District Comics. Show all posts

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Catching up with comics writer Michael Cowgill

Michael Cowgill (pronounced CO-gull) is one of the mainstays of the DC Conspiracy comics co-op. He's appeared regularly in the Magic Bullet free comics newspaper, including the new issue #10 out now. He also wrote stories in the District Comics and Wild Ocean anthologies that Matt Dembicki edited. While he defines himself as a writer, he draws minicomics too, which you can buy from him at the annual Small Press Expo. Michael tells me he will be appearing next week at Fantom Comics on February 21st for the DC Conspiracy's 10th anniversary bash.

Mike Rhode: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Michael Cowgill: I mostly consider myself a writer and have a background in prose fiction writing, which I still work on, too.  That said, I've done nonfiction/educational work for books like District Comics and Wild Ocean, and from issue 6 on of Magic Bullet, I've written and drawn my pages, featuring my characters Lil' P.I. and Trina Trubble and have done mini comics featuring them.  There, I'd say I use a style in the Charles Schulz school (but in no way mean to compare myself to him!)

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

"Skip Dillon: Son of the B.E.F." from District Comics, art by Rand Arrington
For writing, I might start in a notebook or on scrap paper or the occasional napkin with some notes and sketchy drawings if I need to think out a page.  There, I just outline or maybe write dialogue and very brief descriptions ("Fight!" "Pie in the face," etc.)  Then I'll write a script in Scrivener, a cool and inexpensive word processor that features templates for all kinds of formats, including a comics script template created by Antony Johnston (The Fuse, Wasteland, The Coldest City). It has a lot of automated features that speed things along and allows you to quick rearrange scenes without having to update page numbers and so on.

For art, I create panels in Manga Studio and print them to a board in blue line (so they won't scan later), then draw with a blue pencil and ink with various pens.  I'm still trying figure all that out and should probably teach myself to draw on the computer, but I find the inking stage particularly satisfying and relaxing.  I scan that back in and then letter, color, and fix everything in Manga Studio.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

1973 in south Jersey, but we moved to the Atlanta area (a planned community called Peachtree City) when I was 3.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I moved here in 1997 to attend the MFA fiction program at George Mason University and ended up sticking around.  I live in Falls Church.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

In cartooning, reading a lot of comics and books about comics. I don't have any formal art training.  In writing, I have a BFA in creative writing from the University of Evansville (in Indiana) and an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from George Mason.

Who are your influences?

Growing up, Chris Claremont's X-Men and the Star Wars movies and toys were huge influences, as well as Bill Watterson, Berke Breathed, and as a kid from the eighties, I'm sure Garfield's in there somewhere. In late elementary school and junior high, serious young adult fiction like Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia and Virginia Hamilton's books caught my attention, and in high school, less serious fiction like Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels influenced me, especially his dialogue.  From literature, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, William Maxwell, some Hemingway, Colum McCann, Michael Chabon, Ross Macdonald, poets like Seamus Heaney and Stephen Dunn, many of my teachers. Musicians like Bruce Springsteen, The Band, The Beatles, Dylan sometimes, R.E.M., Tom Petty, Scott McCaughey. All sorts of movies and TV have infected my brain from all the dumb crap I watched as a kid to comedies like Seinfeld, NewsRadio, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Community to dramas like Homicide, The Wire, Breaking Bad, etc.

From current mainstream comics, writers Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction have influenced me.  Bendis especially.  In my prose fiction, I like to use a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, something that can get tricky in comics because of visual aspect and space limitations, and seeing Bendis' work showed me that you can accomplish that.  Brubaker has influenced things like tone and pacing, and I admire Fraction's swing-for-the-fences attitude.  Some artists that inspire me include Walt Simonson, Paul Smith, and Chris Samnee. My colleagues in the DC Conspiracy inspire me. I probably wouldn't be doing this without their support.


If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Maybe start earlier--I didn't know about Eisner's instructional books, and we didn't have things like script books or Understanding Comics when I was finishing high school and first entertaining the mysterious idea of writing comics.  If you look at a novel, you might not be able to see how the writer did it it, but the book you have ultimately represents that work in a way a comic, especially one done by multiple creators, doesn't.  With a comic, you see the house but not the blueprint.  Also, I would have taken some art classes.  I drew a lot as a kid but never had any training, and now I'm playing catch-up.  Especially in terms of my prose writing, I'd be more aggressive about getting my work out there.

The first Lil' P.I. story from Magic Bullet #6
What work are you best-known for?

I suppose Lil' P.I. since it appears in Magic Bullet, which has a nice big print run.

What work are you most proud of?

Lil' P.I. means a lot to me and makes my friends and me laugh at the very least, and I've done it all on my own.  I'd say it's a tie between that and my story in District Comics with Rand Arrington. It comes closest to what I'd like to accomplish.  It has an emotional arc and a voice and uses the comics medium to accomplish its goals rather than just telling a story I could have written in prose.

How long have you been a DC Conspiracy member?

About 4 1/2 years.

Tell us about your Abstract Garage comic book...

"Night of the Jackalope" art by Art Hondros
I put together Tales From the Abstract Garage last year for SPX. I wanted it to serve as a showcase for some different styles of writing. I also wanted to work with artists I picked and write to their strengths. It features a few framing pages of Lil' P.I. and Trina Trubble introducing and closing the book and two stories. I wrote "Duet" in a literary style. It focuses on a moment when two strangers make a potentially romantic connection, and it's probably closer to a poem or song than a full-on narrative. I asked Jacob Warrenfeltz to draw this because he has a fairly realistic and humanistic style, and I decided to put one character on a motorcycle because Jake likes those and likes to draw them. For the second piece "Night of the Jackalope," I wanted to write an action-style piece and chose to avoid narration. It plays as a supernatural western, where a mysterious stranger faces off with a giant jackalope but discovers a secret. For this, a chose Art Hondros, whose great use of black white and crosshatching fits the mood and the old timey feel of the story. I know both artists through the DC Conspiracy, and they brought a lot to their stories. Jake did things with the layout that added a sense of weightlessness an floating to the dancing and motorcycle elements, a sense of what the characters feel physically and emotionally. Art added a lot to the design of the stranger, most notably the snake hatband and rougher look. I'm hoping to do more of these.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Maybe get better at drawing so I can do something long form on my own, even though I like collaborating with other artists I'd really like to do something like This One Summer from last year.  I love quiet grounded fiction that still has a lot of emotion, and if I can do something along those lines that uses the medium to accomplish things I couldn't in prose, then I'd like to do that.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?


Take a break.  Work on something else, play guitar, watch TV, spend time with friends or family.  From writing novels, I can say it also helps to have a long-term project because you have something to work on each day, as opposed to, say, poetry, where you might just tinker with a few words for weeks at a time.  I believe in the just write it, then fix it method of writing.  It helps you keep momentum.  It sometimes helps to leave yourself problems to solve or a cliffhanger of some kind.  After feeling the sting of rejection in the prose world, delving more into comics reinvigorated me. Having friends and colleagues to commiserate with helps, too, or a good editor.  For Wild Ocean, I couldn't quite get the script down and alive, and Matt Dembicki suggested I just write it as if writing an article first and not worry about the comics part of it, and that helped a great deal.  A good editor can do that, send you in the right direction without doing the work for you or making you feel like you're failing.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

It's hard to tell.  I've more or less embraced digital books, but I still buy and prefer comics in print and like the communal aspect of going to the comics shop.  We're in a period where more people are embracing the medium, and I like that, and I think using the medium more for educational purposes, not just to educate about a topic but to encourage literacy by having fiction and nofiction comics about all sorts of things, has a lot of potential.  I've come to enjoy the DIY aspect of comics, and given that we live in that kind of world with e-books and YouTube and web comics, it makes sense that that could spread even more in comics as the kids that are reading graphic novels now grow up.

Awesome Con comics convention in Washington, DC. District Comics panelists - Art Haupt, Rafer Roberts, Mike Cowgill, Andrew Cohen, Jacob Warrenfeltz, Mike Rhode, Carolyn Belefski and Troy-Jeffrey Allen.
What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I've attended Baltimore just as a fan and had a good time.  I like its comics-centric nature.  I've spent time on both sides of the table at SPX now, but I missed the early years, which sound a little more fun and unpredictable than the institutional role it plays now. I'll be exhibiting at Smudge this year and have exhibited at Bmore Into Comics in Baltimore a couple times, which is small and a good place to get some con experience.  Awesome Con has potential, but ultimately, I wonder where comics fit into that.


"Duet" art by Jacob Warrenfeltz
What's your favorite thing about DC?

Probably the people or more specifically the people I know and that it does have some kind of scene for literature and comics at least, and even though it takes a while to get places, I like the proximity to the city itself from places like Falls Church.  I also like the reasonable proximity to places like Philadelphia and New York.  The two weeks of spring we get.

Least favorite?

Traffic and what happens to it the day before holidays, when the weather gets a little cranky, etc.  I'd like to like and use Metro more, but I can't say that I do. I probably would if I lived in the city itself.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

I guess one of the Air and Space museums, mainly because my dad was a pilot and we would visit the main museum when we came through D.C.  FDR and Jefferson memorials work, too.

 How about a favorite local restaurant?

Hmm. I'm enjoying Ted's Bulletin a little too much right now.

Do you have a website or blog?





Monday, July 07, 2014

'District Comics' in AIA salute to Metro

The American Institute of Architects includes a segment from District Comics in its salute to Washington, D.C.'s Metro subway system, which AIA says still defines the city in "an unmistakably monumental mid-century modernist manner." Watch the video.

Story by Jim Ottaviani; Art by Nick Sousanis


Friday, July 26, 2013

Institute for the Arts summer program

Last week I visited with students in grades 7-12 in the cartooning program at the Institute for the Arts, a summer program in Fairfax, Va. We had a great conversation about the comics-making process (from thumbnailings to printing), getting published and working shows and events to get your name out there. I also showed them some of the original art from District Comics and Magic Bullet.

Monday, July 15, 2013

District Comics nominated for Harvey Award.

District Comics edited by Matt Dembicki is up for a Harvey Award! Also, several D.C. Conspiracy members are in several anthologies nominated for the Harvey Awards, including Team Cul de Sac edited by Chris Sparks and Once Upon a Time Machine edited by Jason Rodriguez.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dembicki at ALA this weekend

I'll be at the annual American Library Association convention this weekend in Chicago. I'll have a table in Artist Alley (booth 2356), along with free promo posters for the comics anthology Wild Ocean, due out in spring 2014 from Fulcrum Publishing. Plus, the original art for the promotional poster (below) will be in a silent auction as an ALA scholarship fundraiser!

I'll also be a one-man panel to talk about District Comics and what's coming down the pike for the project!

Other comics-related events at ALA: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) will be one of the featured speakers, promoting the first book of his three-volume graphic novel March (Top Shelf Productions).
There's also a slew of events centered around comics all weekend, with panels featuring Gail Simone, Paul Pope and Jeffrey Brown, among others.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Awesome Con day 1 is a success

101_5541 District Comics panelist
District Comics panelists - Art Haupt, Rafer Roberts, Mike Cowgill, Andrew Cohen, Jacob Warrenfeltz, Mike Rhode, Carolyn Belefski and Troy-Jeffrey Allen.

The Con sold out of tickets by about 3 pm on Saturday. They had a good mix of people, and it was bustling. Lots of cartoonists tell me they did well. Nick Galifianakis sold out of his book. Dan Nokes made his table money back in an hour. John Gallagher and Steve Conley were always busy. Bill McKay's commission list went into tomorrow. Shannon Gallant seemed to stay busy with commissions too. Troy-Jeffrey Allen and Jay Payne launched Bamn #4. Carolyn Belefski was interviewed by Comic Riffs today too.

The District Comics panel had about 40 people in it, despite being opposite the costume judging contest. I think this has the potential to be similar to Baltimore CC in a few years.

BTW, New Jerseyan Jeff Shultz is selling his Archie pages for $20 each. I bought a nice volleyball page.

Here's some pictures.

101_5538 Chris Flick
Chris "Capes and Babes" Flick.


101_5537 Dan Nokes
Dan Nokes has a new compilation book debuting at the show.

101_5536 Nick Galifianakis
Nick Galifianakis on the way to selling out of his book.

101_5535 Bill McKay
Bill McKay.

101_5534 Dalek vs Dr Who
A good looking Dalek vs Dr. Who. I thought Daleks were upside-down trashcans on wheels?

101_5532 Starro the Conqueror
Starro the Conqueror - I loved this costume.

101_5531 Big Planet Comics
Big Planet Comics et al.

101_5530 Steve Conley
Steve Conley drawing Bloop in a Tardis.

101_5529 Jason Axtell
Jason Axtell.

Monday, April 08, 2013

PR: Awesome Con DC Newsletter - Programming Schedule is Complete!

I'll be moderating the District Comics panel on Saturday. Stop by and get a book and get it signed. 4 other creators will be speaking with me and Curls Studio and Big Planet Comics will both have copies for sale. This book sold out at SPX.

Room 102B – EXCLUSIVE TO AWESOME CON: DISTRICT COMICS!
Chronicling the unconventional history of our nation’s capital, District Comics has won numerous awards and has received critical acclaim across the U.S. Join the writers and artist who came together to honor our favorite city during this Q and A panel moderated by ComicsDC’s Mike Rhode.

Awesome Con DC is April 20-21, 2013!
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Important Info:

April 20-21, 2013
Saturday 10-7
Sunday 10-5

BUY TICKETS HERE
Single Day Ticket - $15
Two Day Ticket - $25
VIP Pass - $75
Kids <11 - FREE

Washington Convention Center

Washington, DC 20001
Mt. Vernon Square Metro station (Green/Yellow lines)
Text/call (240)346-0399 for more info

We encourage you to buy tickets early. Lines are expected. If you've already bought your tickets, you'll get in a lot faster. 

We've got the whole schedule right here!  

Awesome Con DC is less than two weeks away, so you better start planning! Besides having a fantastic guest list (Nicholas Brendon, Ernie Hudson, Phil LaMarr, Billy West, Theo Crane, Larry Hama, Herb Trimpe, Ben Templesmith, Justin Jordan, and dozens more!), Awesome Con has a whole slew of activities, panels, presentations, screenings, and more. There should be something for everyone.

Here's the full schedule. Check out our website for more details on each event.


SATURDAY SCHEDULE
Room 102A
12PM Identity Comics
1PM Star Trek vs. Star Wars Debate
2PM Dr. Sketchy's DC: Anti-Art School, Life Drawing with a Twist!
3PM Sci-Fi Speed Dating

Room 102B
11AM Welcome to the Asylum
12PM Billy West Q&A
1PM Gearing Up. Presented by Steampunk Family!
2PM Phil LaMarr Q&A
3PM District Comics!
4PM Proper Pitching and Promoting Yourself
5PM Hip Hop/Comics
6PM Pro Wrestling Today: How We'd Book It
7PM Harry Potter and the Ten Years Later

Room 103A
11AM 5 Things I'd Do Differently If I Started My Webcomic NOW...
12PM Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse 101
1PM Nicholas Brendon Q&A
2PM Blood/CLAN: Prelude to Vengeance
3PM Costume Contest
5PM Super Art Fight
7PM Awesome Con-cert
(3 music acts followed by 7 comedians!)

SUNDAY SCHEDULE
Room 102A
11AM The Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter
12PM Writing Fantasy: Novels and Comics
1PM Talking with a Scurvy Dog
2PM The Carolyn and Joe Show Live Podcast Recording
3PM Art with Greg LaRocque

Room 102B
11AM Futurama with Billy West and Phil LaMarr            
12PM GI Joe Comics with Larry Hama & S.L. Gallant
1PM Ernie Hudson Q&A

2PM Broken Continent  Film Screening
3PM Ninjas vs. Monsters Film Screening

Room 103A
11AM Flying V Theatre Presents "Incurable"
12PM Nerdpocalypse Podcast Recording!
1PM TREKOFF Podcast Recording
2PM Comic Book Digital Colors Workshop
3PM Group Costume Contest 

KIDS ARE AWESOME!

ALL DAY ART STATIONS – Coloring books, crayons, paper, pencils, etc., available all day Saturday and Sunday for kids to work on their art skills! 
 

SATURDAY

1pm – Children's Book Reading
2pm – Kids' Costume Contest
3pm – Creating a Superhero
4pm – Art Show

SUNDAY

12pm – Doodle! Scribble! Draw

1pm – Kids' Costume Contest
2pm – Art Show

Mind Of The Geek Game Room

Two days. Ten tables. All-­out mayhem.
Awesome Con DC has partnered with MindOfTheGeek.com to bring you The Mind Of The Geek™ Game Room! Check out the GAME ROOM website to get all the details and the full schedule. There's just too much going on to post it all. This is a taste of what you can expect:
Warhammer & Warhammer 40K demos, X-­‐Wing Miniatures tournament, The Geeks of ComedyHeroClix tournament, plus you can reserve tables to play your own games! 


Friday, February 15, 2013

Cartoons to see in the L.o.C.

The Library of Congress has several cartoon and comics exhibits up now.  Here's a quick overview.

101_5203 District Comics at LOC

You can buy District Comics in their gift shop in the Jefferson Building. My story on the Army Medical Museum is around page 90, wink, wink.

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Also in the Jefferson Building for another month is  "Down to Earth: Herblock and Photographers Observe the Environment" curated by Carol Johnson and Sara Duke. Carol's the photograph curator, Sara the Herblock one. I thought this was an excellent exhibit. The photographs and the cartoons really complemented each other, and the unlikely pairing made for a stronger exhibit than either alone would have.

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There's a small brochure for the exhibit, although you have to get it at the Madison Building's Prints & Photographs department.


At the same location is "Herblock Looks at 1962: Fifty Years Ago in Editorial Cartoons," an exhibit curated by Sara Duke. This smaller exhibit focuses on President Kennedy.

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Obviously Sara made curatorial choices to influence this in both exhibits, but it's still depressing how relevant 50-year-old cartoons are:

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The third exhibit is a small one on comic books featuring Presidents that Megan Halsband did in the Serials Department (in the Madison Building) for President's Day. The majority of these comics are from Bluewater's current biographical series, but she did find an issue of Action Comics that I don't remember seeing.

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The Prints & Photographs division showed off its new acquisitions this week. Sara Duke showed some original comic book and strip artwork:

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A piece by Keith Knight, and two pages from Jim Rugg's anthology. They collected the entire book except for the centerfold. Not shown is...

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Above are voting rights prints by Lalo Alcaraz, possibly selected by Helena Zinkham.

Martha Kennedy had some great acquistions this year, including works by James Flora, editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson, Garry "Doonesbury" Trudeau, and Charles Vess' entire book of Ballads and Sagas:

101_5171 Flora
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101_5166 Vess
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This artwork isn't on exhibit, but you can make an appointment to view it.