Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Best Excuse Ever

There’s an old saying in mainstream comics publishing about needing to be two out of three things to get steady work: very good, very fast, very nice. I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise that many of the creators I worked with were very good and very nice. As with anything, there are exceptions; Garth Ennis, for instance, makes the grade on all three.

Being late on an assignment often comes with a story. I’ve heard a lot of excuses, even the comics equivalent of the dog ate my homework. Most are simple matters of life getting in the way. Sometimes they are odd; an editorial acquaintance once told me about a very well known artist who apologized for being late because when he woke up that morning he could not remember how to draw. This prompted the editor to ask said pencil pusher if he would be reacquiring his talent any time soon.

But my favorite “late” story comes from Canada. Kaare Andrews is one of those guys who fall in the very good and very nice category. I love him, can’t say enough about him as an artist and a person. But it’s probably a good idea to have some lead-time built in if you give him an assignment. I don’t want to scare off any prospective editors looking to work with Kaare; he will come through, but quite possibly a little later than one would hope.

So, sometime last year, Kaare had been promising me pages on a project we’d been working on for a while. Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Andrews, Renaissance man that he is, had received some monies from a Canadian broadcaster to write and direct a short film called Dream Princess. It stars the lovely Kristin Kreuk, no doubt familiar to many of you as TV’s Lana Lang. Eventually Kaare fessed up and told me about his conflicting assignments. I was genuinely happy for Kaare; this was Wonderful news for him, but a bit unfortunate for my erstwhile book.

As the weeks rolled by, Kaare became harder and harder to reach, and I became more and more stressed. Finally I got a call from my Canuck pal telling me an e-mail was on its way with an attachment that would make me happy. Fully expecting to see jpegs of finished pages, I opened the missive. I was a bit surprised by what popped up in front of me, but not entirely unhappy. And while this isn’t technically an excuse, more of a stall tactic, I think it still qualifies somewhat. It certainly got me off Kaare’s back for another week or two.

Monday, October 29, 2007


I just wanted to post a quick thanks to everyone who e-mailed and called to check on our family last week. We're all fine, we were lucky; the fire never got close enough to be a real danger to us. And Sam is doing better too.

While many of the fires are nearly contained there are numerous families in dire need. Click here if you’d like to make a donation to the Salvation Army’s California wildfire relief fund.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Holding Pattern

Our youngest son, Sam, had some respiratory problems earlier this year. He came through it fine but doctors at Children’s Hospital (Which, by the way, is by far the finest hospital I have ever been too) warned us it could recur. The smoky air has been rough on him so we decided to not take any chances and have him checked out. Just as we were in our driveway strapping the poor kid into his car seat, a neighbor came rushing across the street asking if we got a reverse 911 call.

We had not, and neither did she; but she told us that 211 (the fire information hotline) had our zip code, 92069, listed as mandatory evacuation as of 6:00 tonight. So I called 211 myself and they confirmed that we were to evacuate right now. The odd thing is, we live on a hill and there is no fire or even a faint glow visible in any direction. Plus, this was at 7:30, an hour and a half after the order went into effect—and neither of us got the automated call that so many others have in the last two days.

So I sent Amanda and the kids, with some of our bags in the trunk, down to Children’s Hospital and I drove a half-mile to the fire station. I knocked on the door and two fire men answered. I asked if San Marcos was under order to evacuate. Both looked at me and said no, that if there were danger they would be at the fire site. I told them the 211 hotline listed our area as a danger zone. They went in and phoned their dispatcher, who confirmed there was no mandatory evacuation order in place for us.

I called Amanda to ease her fears and went home. I told our neighbor what the firemen told me. And I called the hotline to tell them of the conflicting information. The woman I spoke to (and I’m amazed they have enough operators on duty to answer a call within 3 rings) checked with her supervisor for a minute and then came back to me on the line; there is a mandatory evacuation order for San Marcos.

Now I sit here writing this blog. Near me are the rest of our packed belongings. Looking through the window I see nothing on the horizon. Hope it stays that way.

New Years Day

Looks like we’re out of harms way, the news is saying San Marcos is currently in no danger. I’ve spoken to several friends today and all seems well with them. Scott Williams and family are okay and back in their house, thank goodness. One of the major pieces of news, at least to me, is that the winds have died down to near normal levels.

I went out this morning to pick up a few things from the local supermarket and Costco. Both were open but nearly every other business I passed was closed. It was like New Years day on the street, just a few cars and no one walking. When I got home my throat hurt. There’s a shroud of smoke in our valley, and a soft rain of ash. But it’s not nearly as bad as other parts of San Diego County. One can only wonder what it must be like at the main evacuation center, at Qualcom Stadium. If I was complaining about being out there for all of 10 minutes what must they be going through? The scope of this thing is nearly incomprehensible; it’s unreal.

But then something hits a little close to home.

Yesterday I had a dentist’s appointment, twice yearly cleaning time. My dentist is in Rancho Bernardo, one of the real hot spots of this thing. I called in the morning to cancel, left a message. Figured they wouldn’t be open—nobody is—but wanted to be polite. An hour ago I got a call from Dr. Marcus’s office to reschedule my appointment. After we handled that I asked how they were, if everyone was okay. The receptionist’s voice cracked a little as she told me everyone in the office was fine but Dr. Marcus lost his home to the fire.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Amanda woke me up this morning at 3:00. The fire that has been ravaging San Diego County for the past 26 hours has grown, and new ones have started up. On the news, Jerry Sanders, the Mayor of San Diego, is saying this looks like it will be the worst fire in the county's history, surpassing the 2003 Cedar fire that destroyed over 2000 homes.

The 15 highway, a major artery that goes to LA and then on to Vegas, is closed for (what I’m guessing from the reports) at least a 10-mile stretch. Wind gusts are being clocked regularly in the 50s, and as high as 69 MPH. Fixed wing aircraft that could combat the fire are grounded because of the winds. One of San Diego’s most famous tourist destinations, the Wild Animal Park, is being evacuated.

The mayor has announced a mandatory evacuation for the area north of highway 56 and between the 5 and 15. That area has enjoyed a huge housing boom over the last decade, thousands of homes have been built there, and many now lie in the path of the fire. My good friend claudia, one of a half dozen people who called to offer us shelter this morning, just told me she is heading home from work because the fire is now moving in her direction. No panic, just preparing in case they have to leave.

So far we've been lucky. 4000 homes in San Marcos, our town, have been evacuated, including a couple occupied by friends. I don’t believe any have burned. As of right now the fire is not coming closer to us; we've gotten no reverse 911 call that instructs residents to get out fast. The smoke is getting closer but the news says the fire in our area has "calmed down.” We've packed up important papers, photo albums, artwork, external hard-drive, trying to figure out what are the most important to us. It's a very slow Sophie's Choice, picking out what we love and need the most. One I hope we don’t have to make.

The view from our front yard

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kyle Baker

Kyle Baker is selling art—go look!

I once infuriated (okay, maybe "made mildly grumpy" would be closer to the truth, heh) my two good pals Mark Badger and Stephen DeStefano by saying Kyle Baker is the closest thing our generation has to Harvey Kurtzman, which may have been worth it even if it wasn't true. But, of course, it is.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Only Real Drawback

About 10 years ago WildStorm and Dark Horse Comics agreed to do a WildC.A.T.s/Aliens X-Over, it was to be the first of several such events featuring various properties (the others never happened, can’t remember why). One of my goals was that this should be a book with lasting effects, unlike the usual cross-company epics that come and go and mean nothing. Since Warren Ellis was wrapping up his run on Stormwatch, before diving into The Authority, I thought it would be an interesting idea to kill off a large portion of the remaining Stormwatch characters, the ones that wouldn’t be moving on to the new book (For those unfamiliar with either series, The Authority sprang from Stormwatch, or what was left of it).

Chris Sprouse and Kevin Nowlan handled the art duties on the book, and they did a splendid job. But it’s not generally known that before Chris was attached, the story was to be penciled by comic’s veteran Gil Kane, who unfortunately had to bow out at the last minute for health reasons.

Kane was a real character, there are a million stories about him floating around, and this one is mine. I had long been a fan of Kane’s work, especially the groundbreaking HIS NAME IS SAVAGE and BLACKMARK. In his long career he drew practically every major character at DC and Marvel. When I asked Gil if he’d be interested in penciling our X-Over he readily agreed, and was especially pleased when I told him I wanted Kevin to ink it, having enjoyed their previous collaborations together.

This goes back to the pre DC days when we were just WildStorm, quite a bit smaller. Things happen at a much more frenzied pace at a small company, such was the case with this book. Thinking the title had potential to be a good seller, John Nee, formerly President of WildStorm and now Senior VP at DC, decided to spring for an ad in Wizard magazine, not an inexpensive proposition. The catch was that the final color file was due in five days and we didn’t have any art yet, not even a sketch. So I called Gil and told him the situation, and that we needed a piece of art fast for the ad.

My idea was to have the image feature two characters, Zealot from the WildC.A.T.s and, from the Dark Horse side, an Alien. It would be dramatic and, more importantly, save time--a full team shot would take longer to draw. I told him I wanted the two characters prominently displayed; on one side would be the Alien, looming large behind Zealot, who has her sword drawn up. I asked Gil to make her expression defiant, not fearful. To establish the location, on the Stormwatch satellite, I asked that he put a porthole somewhere with the Earth visible through it. I had already sent Gil all the reference for the WildC.A.T.s and Stormwatch characters and he said he didn’t need any for the Aliens. He told me he could turn the piece around by the next day and, since time was a major issue, would Fed-ex it directly to Kevin and fax it to me. In the end Gil didn’t send the fax, that old Fed-Ex deadline was too tight for him to make a copy.

The next day I called Kevin to ask him if the piece had arrived. He said it did and that it was beautiful…but he told me I should take a look at it. I hurried to the front reception area and his fax was waiting for me. Just as Kevin said, it was beautiful. Gil, pro that he was, had kept exactly to the layout we discussed; there was Zealot, defiant and slightly turning, a window with the earth visible, and a beautiful Alien towering over her. The only real drawback was that Gil apparently had never heard of the Aliens franchise.

I called up Kevin in a panic and said “What are we gonna do?” to which my old pal replied “Whattaya mean WE, white man?” I told him we had a serious deadline, that I needed him to fix the alien so we could get it to Wizard for our ad. Kevin responded with a groan saying he didn’t want to, that it was too much work. I then said the magic words “I’ll pay you double rate” to which he cheerfully told me he would be happy to oblige.

In the end we made the Wizard deadline by the skin of our teeth, and I got to work with a true legend in comics. It may not have been the whole book but at least I can say Gil Kane did a cover for me. Or, anyway, half of one.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Thought I'd try doing some regular entries to this thing, the first will be going up tomorrow. After that I'll shoot for a new one every Tuesday. If you're looking for dirt and name calling, look elsewhere, plenty of those around. This will be my simple go at telling some (mostly) amusing anecdotes. Many, but not all, will focus on comics. To verify my memory of events, and as a courtesy, I'm going to run these by any involved parties first. Hopefully some people will find them a little entertaining. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back on the air

As has been reported, I am no longer with WildStorm. Rest assured my family and I are all well and I am optimistic about the future.

I would like to thank Jim Lee and John Nee for their trust, support and friendship over the past 12 years. If there are two finer men in this business I haven't met them. Also, I would like to express my gratitude to all the employees, past and present, who make up the heart of WildStorm, it's been a pleasure to work with each one of you.

Additionally, I've been fortunate enough to be associated with many of the finest creators in comics. The efforts of these very talented folks went a long way in making me look good. I greatly appreciate the loyalty you've shown me over the years and I look forward to working with many of you in the future.

Finally, thanks to all the fans (including all you guys on the WildStorm message boards) for your support, and to all the professionals who have reached out to me. They say you find out who your friends are when something like this happens. You know what? I've got a lot of friends.

Scott Dunbier