Friday, December 31, 2010

Poor Lisa

Another chapter from Afterschool Special. This one was written in Florida and drawn in Arizona.

These sequences where a character walks around alone at night are closest to my heart. King Kullen is an actual Long Island supermarket chain and I worked as a supermarket check-out boy when I was 18. The people who work at supermarkets always seem sad to me. I used to love to frequent supermarkets late at night though. On Long Island, most of them were open 24 hours and there was something romantic about the muzak and the neon lightning. I'd often fill up carts only to leave them abandoned, a delinquent trick I picked up after reading Robert Cormier's famous YA novel I Am The Cheese.

The magazine covers are based on news items I remember vividly from when I was in High School. I loved Punky Brewster but then hearing about Soleil Moon Frye's surgery in People magazine was kind of an inappropriate surprise. Sometimes I wish celebrities lives could be kept more private. I also recall watching OJ's Bronco chase live on TV more vividly than tv images of the Gulf War. We live in a world of bizarre media influences. They're unavoidable.

I've always had a thing for roller rinks, drive-ins and arcades because I had fond memories of visiting them as a kid and they all quickly seemed to disappear as I grew up. I've often thought of writing a story that takes place in a roller rink and have attempted it several times. But then I got the CD of The Rink with Liza Minnelli (probably Kander & Ebb's greatest flop) and thought that that said it better than I could. I love that musical and hope to create something equally powerful within my lifetime.

Rollerskating rinks play another important part in my personal history. Once on a date at one in New Jersey, I slipped and broke my leg. The break was so bad, that I couldn't stand up. The DJ had to announce to everyone to clear the floor. For five minutes kids yelled "PUSSY" at me while I waited for an ambulance to arrive.

And for the record, YES, I do love the Golden Girls. I think it's one of the funniest tv series ever made and it always cheers me up no matter how down and out I'm feeling.

Some other notes:

The Skate Rink logo that I have used here and in several of my other books is based on the logo from the Roger Corman produced B-movie about a Roller Derby team called Unholy Rollers. Not a great film by any means, but worth checking out because of an appearance by one of my favorite character actors Dick Miller. And I think it was also one of the first things Martin Scorsese ever worked on (as an editor?).

The color illusrtation at top is based on this photograph I took (below) at a roller rink in Tucson, Arizona that still looks like something out of the 1980's.

Picture above of a teenage Soleil Moon Frye is an example of a magazine that Lisa would be reading at the supermarket in this story.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Amusements: This is another chapter from my book Afterschool Special.


I used to live near an amusement park called Adventureland on Long Island. This was the place that inspired the writer and director of the recent film of the same tile. Like the characters in that movie, I was still frequenting Adventureland when I was way too old to be there. I also once snuck into The Westbury Drive-In theater, the last one of its kind on Long Island which has long since closed. I believe the last movie I saw there was Bride of Chucky back in 1998.

My character Jed performing here was inspired by an act I saw in Canobie Lake Amusement Park a couple of years back. There was a kid doing some really entertaining Elvis impersonations and no one seemed to be watching or caring at all except for a couple of old ladies (and me!).

SE Hinton's The Outsiders is of course probably the greatest book about teenagers that was actually written by a teenager. I used it in my first job as a literacy teacher when I was 21 and working with 8th grade students and it was the only way I was able to connect with them.

Last, but not least, I was very sad to learn about the death of Corey Haim in 2010. I am being sincere when I say that he was an actor I always related to. It was unfortunate that he seemed stuck in the past and could never outgrow his childstar persona. He leaves behind an amazing legacy though with films such as Lucas and Dream a Little Dream and License To Drive. I consider these amongst the most essential classic teen flicks from the 80's.

Friday, December 10, 2010

from Afterschool Special

This concludes Afterschool Special. The title of this book stems from both the CBS Schoolbreak Specials and ABC Afterschool Special series I watched as a kid that aired from the late 70's through the 90's. Many of these teenage dilemma programs were based on children's or young adult novels. In the 80's, The Degrassi Series adapted this issue-oriented storytelling into an ongoing show with repetitive characters. Many other teen shows would follow in it's path such as My So Called Life and Beverly Hills 90210. For example, this scene provided indirect inspiration.
Growing Pains was another important "teenage issues" show that worked as a sitcom comedy rather than a drama and I loved it because it supposedly took place on Long Island. I had a crush on Tracey Gold and always thought of her as a neighbor. Kirk Cameron, from that same show, is pictures here as Lisa's fantasy. My older sister had a fold out poster of him from TeenBeat magazine hanging in her closet for a long time. Kirk's photo used in the comic is from this book: Also, for those counting, this is my second reference to Soleil Moon-Frye in this book.

I am not claiming that this comic resembles an actual Afterschool Special. Instead, I wanted to make a fictional story that reflected upon my own experiences as a teenager in order to put into words and pictures some of these emotions. My comics work tends to be emotional driven, rather than story driven. I hope there is something that you, the reader, can relate to here. This work has been the culmination of years of experimentation, trying to get it just right. For example, here is a similar sequence that I did more than ten years prior when I was still a teenager.

Another popular TV show I grew up watching was The Wonder Years. The writers of the show originally intended to have it set in Huntington, NY although it was actually filmed in Burbank, CA. And even though mountains and palm trees could be seen in the distance, the show is imbued with the sentiments and nostalgia of a Long Island that I imagine existed before I was born. I attribute this show's setting in the early 1970's to my ongoing love of material (YA novels and films) from this decade. There is just something about both the fashion and style that is an endless source of love and fascination for me. I love you Winnie Cooper!

Afterschool Special, Dirtbags and Neverland all take place in a fictionalized version of "Plainview", the actual town on Long Island where I grew up. But through the years, this town has evolved in my mind and become a deeper place attributed to my imagination. Like with The Wonder Years, there are mountains there now too and possibly even some palm trees. Plainview will be explored in more depth in my forthcoming book.

My next project will be titled House Party Massacre and it will be my most complex work to date. It will also be a novel, rather than a comic. This is something I've been wanting to work on for years. Unlike this graphic novella, I will not be posting House Party Massacre online. At least not until it's complete, which shouldn't be until the summer of 2012. I suppose the eventual goal would be to find a publisher for that. But right now, I'm just concerned with the challenge of writing.

Until then, thanks for reading!

My other books are:

Dirtbags, Mallchicks and Motorbikes (sample)
A Last Cry For Help

*Afterschool Special was intended to be a printed publication, but I have yet to find anyone interested in helping me put it to print. HELP! (ha, ha)

You may also download a free digital copy of the book from MagCloud.

Also, be sure to check out my TEEN PULP page on facebook.

and for more Afterschool Special nostalgia check out my MUSEUM