Towards the Stage IV: Büer’s Kiss Preview

Posted in büer's kiss, Comics Pages with tags , , , on 25 October, 17 by cantocomics

Here are the first seven pages of comics that will be adapted into the live performance of Büer’s Kiss. As of this writing, I am 13 pages into inks and forty-four pages into pencils: progress is being made!!

I produced around 100 copies of a minicomic version of these pages that I gave away at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus and, afterwards, hand-to-hand to people at the Ace Hotel where I work. So if you got one of those physical copies in your mitts, count yourself lucky!

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I will be posting a video version of these pages in the not-too-distant future, a future in which a man can combine still images with an audio file without paying through the nose for it on a PC, but that’s then.

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Rejected Vows, pt 1: Voltron

Posted in As if you cared, Diary, not comics, romance with tags , , , on 8 September, 17 by cantocomics

My younger brother Eric did me the great honor last month of not only choosing me as his best man, but having me officiate his wedding ceremony. I’m proud of the kid.

That’s him on the left there, next to his patient and lovely bride.

The hardest part about this was writing an Officiant’s speech that gave the occasion its proper respect. Not that I don’t respect my brother, but yo, it’s hard to be serious when you and the groom have been laughing at each other’s farts for 25 years.

I went through two drafts before I got to one that we we’re both happy with.

Here’s one of them: 

Dearly beloved, affectionately acquainted, and total strangers with whom I hope to exchange names in the near future, I bid you welcome.


We are gathered here today, sheltered from blinding Texan sun, to celebrate the union of my little brother Eric and my soon to be little sister Shannon.

How came we here, friends? What wild-ass string of unforeseeable events brought us to this pass, where these two unthinkably attractive young people, one with eyes of winter crystal, the other with the cascading locks of Ceres framing her comely visage are about to forge themselves into one mighty weapon of matrimony?


I’ve had the great privilege of knowing Eric his whole life, from tiny baby to Young Bobby Hill to the strong, willful, intelligent and often hilarious young man you see before you today. I am honored to have had the opportunity to see him grow, to share in his joys and sorrows, to see him metamorphose from lowly caterpillar to razor-winged murder moth.


A large factor in Eric’s maturation over the past few years has been, in fact, the bride herself. I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know this beauty as well as I have my brother, but seeing the effect of her patience, good humor, generosity, and kindness have had on him I have no doubt she must love him deeply and passionately. I anticipate getting to better know this goddess of compassion, whose smile is the light in my brother’s eyes, and watching the two of them grow together over the decades to come.


The bond of marriage is one of great power, my dear friends. These two will in a short while possess a strength far greater than that which either of them have separately. Like Voltron or the Megazord, they will combine into a force to be reckoned with.


But with great power, as Uncle Ben once said, comes great responsibility. The road ahead will not be without bumps or windings. In order to maintain the bond we assist in forging today, these two must work together–moving as one through thick metaphorical jungle, soaring through storm-tossed metaphorical skies, blasting through the metaphorical voids of metaphorical deep space. They must shore each other up against the unceasing onslaughts of the enemy–who must surely also be a metaphor, because how could anyone have ire against these two beauties?


My dear and patient bride and groom, please now profess your devotion and make your vows to one another, so that we will know the strength with which you cleave together.


(They would have said their vows here)


Eric, do you take Shannon as your copilot, in sickness and in health, to wind the starship of your love through asteroid fields, to have and to hold, to share in the plunder of successful campaigns, until the heat death at the end of the universe?


Shannon, do you take Eric as your sidekick, for richer or poorer, to stare down evil, to clench the mighty fist of Justice and plunge it through the gankity-ass grill of crime, forever and ever, until death do you part?


By the power of Grayskull, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. You may kiss the bride.

I was okay with this one, but the bride and groom were not. Understandably, I think. Weddings are, like, important or whatever.

I have another draft of the same speech as an extended nautical metaphor if you’re interested in reading it. But that’s a matter for another post.

Towards the Stage III: “Why?”

Posted in Uncategorized on 21 August, 17 by cantocomics

Yeah, but how? And more importantly, why? Why this story as opposed to any of the others you’ve written?”

Ah, hello again, hypothetical reader. I missed you. How have you been?

I’ve been wanting to write this story for a while now.  I had the idea for it after reading The Sick Rose, a collection of Victorian medical paintings accompanied by some rather over-designed essays, put out by the Wellcome Collection. There’s some seriously grotesque images in there which inspired your morbid  narrator to investigate further into the history of leprosy and the treatment of lepers by society (short version: not good).

Above: leprous hands, referenced from a medical text that I seem to have misplaced.

Because Hansen’s Disease/leprosy is a very visual disease (lesions, bone deformations, weakened immune systems resulting in the loss of one’s extremeties, costumes issued by the church in the middle ages, etc.), is only partially curable even today (intense antibiotic regimens are usually the prescribed treatment, but sometimes these don’t take and they won’t fix the attending nerve damage) and the historical stigma surrounding the disease, I feel like it was the right choice.

Above: Henriette, one of our principles.

The leper colony is a society of outcasts, essentially a waiting room for the hereafter. Those condemned to live their lives behind its walls are, again, historically, condemned to what St. John Chrysostom called “a living death.”  There’s evidence to suggest that many of these colonies were self-governed through a primitive democratic process, overseen by committees of monks, and largely independent of their surroundings. 

What with our government’s traitorous actions regarding healthcare (and basically everything else over the course of the last eight months), the rise of superstition over actual science (viz., antivaxxers; Gwenyth Paltrow’s GOOP;  preference given to the use of “alternative medicines;” rampant, unchecked corruption on the part of pharmaceutical companies; Martin Shkreli; and crystal enemas*), and the now apparently publicly government approved persection of minorities and women, if there was ever a time for a historically inspired graphic novel performance about leprosy, exclusion, community, and judgement, it is now.

Above: character sketches for Felicia, the protagonist of Büer’s Kiss.

(If I have been not academically rigorous in the preceding paragraphs, or anywhere else on this blog, please keep in mind that a.) I’m writing this on my phone and b.) I’m not a real historian.)
*Pick which one of these you think is made up
P.S.: I recorded a video with the New Hazlett folks that you can view here

Towards the Stage II: Live Nude Cartoonist

Posted in Uncategorized on 10 August, 17 by cantocomics

“Live Comics Readings? What are you talking about? How does that even work?”

Well, hypothetical reader, I’m glad you asked. And might I add, you look lovely today. That shawl is positively ravishing on you.

A live comics performance can be pretty much anything you want it to be, as far as I’m concerned. But the version that I practice and am most familiar with is one that involves 

  1. Projected images from the comics page (usually a slide show built from single panels)
  2. Live voice acting (usually by the author)
  3. Occasionally sound effects, either live or prerecorded.

If you draw comics–and if you’re reading this, you probably do–you should try doing a live reading sometime. They’re a fun and largely painless way of experiencing the work from a different perspective, and they’re great for boosting sales at conventions–as well as reaching new readers.

I’ve been quite fortunate to have been invited to perform my own and Sophie’s work at a variety of conventions up and down the East Coast. I’ve seen people perform everything from autobio strips about teaching to retellings of Greek mythology to bonkers superhero books to historical retellings of snake smuggling. There’ve been a couple that have really stood out to me though.

The Intergalactic Nemesis is an Austin-based (represent) live comics reading project that has gained considerable traction in the past 5-10 years, having toured These United States and beyond. The format is similar to what I want for Büer’s Kiss: A trio of voice actors in front of a screen, acting out the parts of the comic’s characters in a configuration vaguely reminiscent of  Olde Tyme Radio Serials. I’ve not experienced the comic as an object separate from the performance, but the art was solidly mainstream and competently done. 

On the other end of the production spectrum is a live reading I saw the uncanny Tom Hart give at SPACE in the after hours readings at Kafe Keroac a year or two ago. Those unfamiliar with Hart’s work are heartily recommended to remedy that deficiency post haste. Hart read from his memoir Rosalie Lightning when I saw him at SPACE last year. I’ve never been a huge fan of autobio comics–it’s often too difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in that genre (and, as with most things, it is primarily chaff)–but Rosalie Lightning is masterful. The book concerns Hart’s loss of his daughter, which is some heavy shit, articulated masterfully and impactfully by Hart’s expert hand. The drawing is simple, at times almost naive, instantly relatable. The storytelling functions similarly: Hart relates the facts and says how he and his wife feel about them (not great). The book is powerful stuff, an unpretentious, unassuming meditation on grief. Hart’s performance is what sold me, though. There were no bells, no whistles, just Hart, a screen, a microphone, and his pain. I felt raw afterwards–I’m not ashamed to say that I cried quite a bit despite the comparatively staid emotional response I’d had to the preceding readings.

I want Büer’s Kiss to fall somewhere between those two performances. I’m not a brave enough creator to share my personal life as honestly as Hart does, but I’m not terribly interested in producing something as poppy or nostalgicas Intergalactic Nemesis. I want polish, but some dings here and there. I want to leave my audience entertained, but with limgering questions and unease. 

Can I pull that off? I’ll let you know in April.

Till next time.

Towards the Stage: a belated Announcement

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 25 July, 17 by cantocomics

Hello, my dearests. I’m going to try to #makeblogginggreatagain by reactivating this site as a kind of production diary of a piece that I’ll tell you all about below.

This March I became the honored recipient of a grant from the incredible and generous New Hazlett Theater here in Pittsburgh. I’m using this opportunity to expand the world I first began exploring in my pieces for Maple Key Comics way back when. If you follow me on other, slightly easier to update social media sites (Twitter, for example, or Instagram), you’ll have found that almost all my work since the first pages of The Pestle have been devoted to telling stories in this setting. 

The New Hazlett in Deutschetown. A swell place run by swell people.

The project is called Büer’s Kiss (😘😘) and, as with the PestleUntil the Blood Runs Black, and Turmring, is inspired by particular and somewhat obscure historical events. I have been reading an awful lot into the history of disease and epidemiology (the black plague and leprosy/Hansen’s Disease in particular) and that research feeds the fires below the boiler in my brainpan. This is not to say that any of those projects are relations of real historical events or faithful representations of anything aside from my own fevered imaginings (to say nothing of my imaginings about fever). 

Büer’s Kiss is going to be a mulimedia live comics reading performed by myself, my good friend and Dr. Sketchy’s partner Ms. Joanna Becker, and esteemed voice actor and all-round cool dude Ryan Haggerty.  We’ll be doing some live Foley effects as well as voice acting, and it promises to be a pretty interesting experience. I am both trepidatious and excited.

The script is finished, and it’s LONG. The longest I’ve ever written. I managed to get the first draft done in a little over a month, and I’m proud of it.

I’ve started drawing the pages as well, which feels good after having ground on the script for that long. Each one is at 14×17″, which is larger I think than I’ve ever worked. So in short: Bigger, Longer, More Important to my Career than anything I’ve ever done. No pressure.

This project comes after several years of performing live comics (usually Sophie’s) at conventions up and down the East coast and in the Midwest. 

I hope to be able to take this project on tour, either as a separate piece from my normal cartooning practice or as an extension. What you can expect to see in this space over the coming months of frantic preparation are:

  1. Pro(c/gr)ess posts
  2. Thoughts about Live Comics Readings 
  3. Brief asides about history and research
  4. Jokes
  5. Florid prose

All hopefully in a relatively regular schedule of updates. I’m drawing whenever I have time at the moment, but as winter approaches I’ll likely be at the drawing board more frequently.

I’m also in the midst of a very busy time in my other creative pursuits–those being hosting burlesque events and Dr. Sketchy’s Drink & Draw nights–both of which are just a hoot and a holler, but take a bit of time away from the other work.

In short, it is an exciting time to be me, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

The Pestle, Pt.1

Posted in Uncategorized on 6 February, 15 by cantocomics

PESTIL_1_TITLE_COLOR_PASTA
I present to you, dear and patient reader, the first installment of my current project, The Pestle. Behind the cut are the first twenty pages of what will be a seventy some odd page story, which is currently running in Maple Key Comics. Print editions, at the time of this writing, are available for purchase in the shop, and the third chapter is nearing completion–soon to be available in Maple Key Comics Issue 6.

You can get a print edition of this chapter in Maple Key Comics 4, and the second part in Maple Key Comics 5!

Continue reading

Writing Blog Tour: The Plot Congeals

Posted in Comics Pages, tbdathathotw with tags , , , , on 7 July, 14 by cantocomics

The lovely Sophie Goldstein tagged me in this Writing Blog Tour thing that’s been making the rounds among cartoonists I know. Longtime followers of this blog will have noticed I’ve not been using it much in the past couple of years, but it makes sense for me to do this here, I think. So, onwards:

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1. What am I working on?

The last few months have been spent, to a large extent, on projects for Maple Key Comics. For the book’s second issue, I completed a 24-pager called “A Sickness Upon the Land,” which was a refreshing diversion from my work on The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World. I’m also working on the fourth chapter of Black Dog and a three-parter called “The Pestle,” the latter of which will be serialized in Maple Key Comics issues 4-6.
I guess I’m doing some freelance stuff too–book design and branding for a few different people.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a tricky question. Black Dog, I think, has similar elements to an indie comic like Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve (if I may be permitted to make that comparison), but with a generous dose of House of Leaves and some jokes and pop-cultural references thrown in. It’s talky.

TBDATHATHOTW3_WIP_16

“A Sickness,” on the other hand, is a horror/fantasy thing based on a fallacious medical concept that I read about in Roy Porter’s most excellent history Flesh in the Age of Reason. I know there’s a lot of #grimdark fantasy going around right now, what with the outlandish popularity of Game of Thrones and Mormon young adult novels in which vampires have to chew their babies out of their mothers’ wombs, but “A Sickness” is focused a lot on medicine, magic, and their intersection.

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“The Pestle” has a similar focus, but is more of a morality play than the aforementioned. With “the Pestle” I’m trying to focus on some class issues, the omission of which from fantasy novels has long troubled me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Why indeed. I’ve always thought of my writing as being somewhat exploratory–I’m always trying to think my way through a problem or a concept when I’m writing. With The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World, it’s a personal problem–looking back at my romantic history and the periods where I thought I was unlovable due to some unforgivable and unresolvable defect.

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With “A Sickness” it’s this old idea about the soul being something physical, a substance that can be withdrawn from the body. I wanted to do something with monsters and ghosts and things that are more fun to draw than people talking. “The Pestle” deals a lot with the town and surroundings of Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College. Much of the area around Hanover is pretty severely economically depressed, whereas Hanover is very affluent. Through writing this fiction, I’m attempting to explore that while entertaining myself and my eventual readers.

4. How does your writing process work?

It tends to work in stages: First, I’ll read about or encounter an idea–recently, it’s been stuff about premodern medicine–that sticks in my mental craw. The idea rattles around back there, picking up other pieces of intellectual detritus–with “The Pestle,” it’s that thing about Hanover, some stuff about Solomon’s Lesser Key, and the Schola Medica Salernitana–until one day something clicks into place, and a plot begins to coalesce around this skeleton of ideas.
Then I start writing. I work full-script most of the time, so I write the whole thing out by hand before I start doing any real drawing. Then I type it up and make copious adjustments before going on to thumbnails, then thumbnails to page, all the while doing further rewrites and improvising lines here and there. I feel pretty good about myself when I can throw in an extra joke or revealing line while I’m penciling.


I’m  going to pass the torch to C.J. Joughin, Jesse H. Mead, and Kevin Uehlein for the next leg of the tour–Good luck guys! I’m looking forward to WINDOWS OPENING INTO YOUR MINDS.