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Towards the Stage VII

Posted in Uncategorized on 12 April, 18 by cantocomics

I’ll try to keep this relatively brief, dear reader, as I am quite worn out and you seem to be in much the same state.

Tonight was the final dress rehearsal of our Project, the comics/performance hybrid Büer’s Kiss. And I must tell you, o second-best beloved, that this show feels pretty good. Even though I’ve not seen what most of it looks like from the audience’s perspective, I think this is going to be a unique experience for all attending. Positive? Probably not. Those familiar with the Antonowicz oeuvre will likely recognise that I don’t tell stories to make you feel good.

The cover of the print companion to the show has a rotting face on it, fer Satan’s sake

But the process of making this work, the collaboration and back-and-forth between your humble narrator and the team– Joanna Becker, Ryan Haggerty, Antonio Colaruotolo, Heidi Nagle, and Zach Brown, to name the principles– has been exhilarating. I really couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of these very talented and beautiful kids.

Exempla gratia: we have four Foley stations, as seen below:


In which Ryan models one of his signature poses

These would likely have been arranged in a straight line along the front of the screen, lit from above without fanfare, had I been muddling through this on my own. Then Ryan (above) suggested that he and Joanna physically act out a particular sequence, which a.) Took me aback for a moment (“But…you still have your legs…”) and b.) Completely restructured the nature of the piece. Now there are multiple scenes that have a physical component, combined with the projections on the screen behind us and the voice acting and live Foley and the intricate dance of switching between stations, the smashing of assorted fruits and vegetables, dumping of water all over the damn place, etc, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.

Gallagher for president

The aftermath of a successful rehearsal.

All of which is to say that you should probably get your tickets, dear reader, and join us tomorrow night at 8pm.

That’s all for now. More soon.


Towards the Stage VI: I Forgot to Mention…

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 March, 18 by cantocomics

…In Towards the Stage V that I was, by some truly wacked alignment of celestial bodies, selected to receive an additional grant for Büer’s Kiss by none other than the Heinz Endowments! A Small Arts Initiative grant, in particular. I had announced this on Twitter already, but it deserves discussion here.

This is obviously a huge deal, not in the least because the additional monies more than triple my initial budget, but also because of the tremendous esteem afforded by the awarding of said.

Apropos of nothing.

The largest part of this money is going to paying the actors and technicians who are helping me realize this project, a bit more to paying my recently hired assistant Mathew New (you’ll click that link and buy his comics if you know what’s good for you, dear reader), a decent print run of the first half which will be given away with ticket purchase to attendees of the New Hazlett performances , etc., etc.

I feel I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating here: if you’re a comics creator with a modicum of social skills and the wherewithall to write an application, APPLY FOR A DAMN GRANT. YOU PROBABLY DESERVE IT.

I’m dead serious, dear reader, and I want you to put down your pen and get to the home page of your local arts organization. Grants are actually *free money* to do your work, and if you live in a decent sized city, they can probably help not only your career but also your process.


One of the grosser panels. I felt a third picture was necessary.

Because of the inestimable assistance I’ve received even at this far remove from my funders, I’ve been able to get a respectable 76 out 110 pages of Büer’s Kiss done in less than 6 months, largely due to the fact that I wrote money to pay myself and so “buy time” away from my day job, a practice I also encourage you to apply and adapt to your own dealings.

You can email me or tweet at me, and I will be happy to look over your application or help you to do one (for a modest fee).

The show is now less than a month away and let me tell you, my friend, I am HERE FOR IT.

Next time, I’ll talk about our second rehearsal and how that reinvigorated me.

Toward the Stage V: Progress Update

Posted in Uncategorized on 21 February, 18 by cantocomics

Hello again, hypothermic reader. You look a little chilly. Where’s that very fetching shawl you were sporting those many months ago?

Since last we spoke, my darling, I have been hard at work doing “the business,” as it were. The script has expanded, contracted, and expanded again to come to rest at a comfortable 110 pages, all of which are pencilled, 59 of which are inked. Which leaves me with 51 more pages to finish. My deadline is now 5 March, which looms very threateningly in the future.

The Author, panicking.

Mercifully, I’m not going anywhere for a while and have no obligations aside from the day job and marriage stuff for a bit. November was spent in a large part on the road visiting friends in Baltimore and Soph’s family out in LA (see below), which cut severely into drawing time. December was spent in a medium to large state of panic, January much the same. I’m taking the last week of this month (February) off from my day job so as to finish what I can.

When the Author attempts to calm himself, he imagines this vista with a slack-key Hawaiian guitar soundtrack. (Note: this is the Santa Monica Pier, which the Author visited with his Beloved around Thanksgiving).

Disheartening though the experience of trying to do 110 12-panel pages of comics while holding down a full-time job, tabling at conventions, and doing Human Family Stuff may have been, I’ve learned much about my process and become considerably faster on the proverbial draw. Imagine your favorite cartoonist whipping through pages of pencils at around 2.5h each and pages of inks at ~3h. When I return to Turmring after this production debuts in April I should be able to rock the motherfucker out with uncanny speed.

Speaking of the production, things are progressing more or less smoothly. We’re set to begin rehearsals on 11 March. I won’t have the entirety of the book inked by opening night, but considering that the audience will each receive a handsome perfect-bound copy of the first 55 pages of the book with the price of admission, I think I may just be able to forgive myself.

From a scene in the latter part of the first half. The lettering reading “snuggles” may or may not make it into the final product.

We’re looking at probably around 80m total run time, with a 15-20m Q+A after the curtains fall. I am grappling with the idea of simply doing the first half of the book–up to the point that the free print edition stops–rather than showing unfinished work. My main concern here is that the first half may not be quite long enough to fill the amount of time that I’m required to fill. What do you think, dear reader?

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

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!

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