Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stress goalies

I'm a nervous guy. There's always been a healthy level of anxiety in my daily existence. It's just part of who I am. Nervous. Cautious. More nervous.

When you're an anxious person you find different ways of coping with stress.  You go through life trying and discarding many methods until you find the ones that work best. You create constants that you go to. Comfort food for your mind.

My comfort food has always been hockey. Goalies, specifically.

From an early age I was obsessed, like many other Canadian kids, with hockey. I collected cards. I checked the standings in the paper every day. I watched HNIC on Saturday nights. And I of course played in a house league hockey league. I also drew. A lot. I was a much better drawer than I was a hockey player. That balance in my life still hasn't shifted much to this day. Naturally these two worlds came together for me in a steady stream of goalie drawings. I gravitated to goalies for obvious reasons. With all the pads and mask they just looked the coolest. They were like modern knights in leather armour. The blocker was a shield, the goal stick a lance, the mask as a medieval helmet. Too cool. There was no way to resist drawing that when you're a hockey fan who likes to doodle. As a kid it became part of my daily routine.

As I grew older and life increased in complexity and responsibilities, the 'goalie' habit became a welcome refuge away from the swirl of challenges I was surrounded by. The familiarity of sketching out the pads, blocker, and glove had an instant calming effect on my racing thoughts. The way the equipment looked was very specific. I always remember getting absurdly irritated when I'd read a story in my Archie digests or some other comic about hockey and the equipment was drawn all wrong. The artist obviously didn't give two shits and figured just drawing a bunch of dudes with skates and wooly sweaters with pads randomly attached would suffice. It drove me crazy! All they needed to do was just a few minutes of research to figure out how the pants and socks worked and where to draw the tape on the stick! Gah! Simple!

The goalie pads (if they even realized there was a different position called goalie involved) were always the most horrendously effed up. Lumpy pillow-y pads and a ribbed back catcher's chest protector were standard misinterpretations of what actual goalie gear should look like. I knew that THIS was what goalie pads were supposed to look like:

Of course, all my preferences were based on the pads of the 70's and early 80's at the time. So, with the exception of Billy Smith and Grant Fuhr, pads were always brown leather. And goalies wore masks! I'm all for better protection and visibility for players but I do miss those days of the full face goalie mask. It's no mystery why Jason donned a hockey mask in the Friday the 13ths. Old school goalie masks were wicked. And honestly a lot easier to draw than the present day cage/mask combos out there. All those lines for the cage part are just tedious and confusing to render. Back in the day you had all these greats to draw:

As a young adult, and well into my thirties, I'd be the victim of seemingly random panic attacks. They were paralyzing experiences. Largely attributed to my naturally nervous demeanor, I'd try all sorts of things to swing me out of them. Drawing goalies or something familiar always helped. Whenever a panic attack began and there was paper and pen available I'd start drawing a goalie. Stacking the pads, making a glove save, or diving for a loose puck in traffic, it all helped steer me away from the madness. Working out the jersey to render and coming up with a design for the mask took me away from whatever freakout I'd been about to embark on. They weren't always the greatest drawings (a lot of shaky lines) but they almost always helped.

Thankfully I'm no longer the angst-ridden person of yesteryear that I was. Age, experience, a wonderful wife, and a general downgrade of energy, I'm sure have all contributed to the mellowing of my soul. Which is great and I'm thankful for it.

But some old habits do persist.

Even in a chilled state of mind I still enjoy doodling a good goalie every now and then. But only brown pads. I can't totally let go of the past.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A rock of an idea.

Good day!

First off I'd like to let everyone know that a brand new cartoon is up exclusively on the Grickle Channel today! Please watch "Soup Leprechaun" if you haven't already! And spread the word and links and stuff to any and all who you think might be entertained by such depravity! I thank you in advance.

Whenever I publish a new cartoon I get to enjoy that short lived rush of internet gush! That brief moment of satisfaction where you feel like it's "me"! It's "me" time! Everyone's looking at "me"! And inside you're giggling like a school girl. And then after about 5 minutes, amidst a flurry of comments and reactions, the internet moves on and you're left alone again. Left to begin trying to conjure up another idea that might garner you some "me" time.

You need more ideas.


I love them. I love when they show up.

Ideas are rocks. When you first conceive of them it's like picking up a rough stone. You hold it in your hand. You own it. You have it. But it's rough. The rock is right but the texture is too course. It needs to get smoothed out. So you begin to turn that little piece of stone over in your hand. You worry it. You think about the idea and you turn the rock over. And over. And over. Until all your holding and worrying begin to smooth out the surface. Sometimes you need a break from holding the rock so you put it in your pocket. Or you put it on a shelf. Maybe the next day you pull the rock out of your pocket again. Or maybe a year from now you take it back off the shelf. And begin turning it over in your hand again. Eventually it gets smooth enough that you decide to make the idea.

That's how I always perceive ideas when I get them.

Sometimes, of course, a perfectly smooth rock comes crashing through your window and hits you on the side of the temple. That's essentially the "Soup Leprechaun." It was pretty much as smooth as it was going to get the minute I saw that rock. Rarely that happens. But sometimes it just does. I have no idea who threw that rock. But I'm glad they did.

Next month's Halloween short "The Webb" is a rock I've been worrying in my hand for nearly 4 years.

Get ready.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Non laboring aka non labouring.

Labor day weekend just finished. Or as I used to say when I lived in Canada, "Labour Day is over."

And as a result I did very little laboring.

Including prepping a new blog post for this week. My apologies on that.

In lieu of a fresh new topic, I will instead ramble out a few words and post Grickle vines you may or may not have already seen. Stuff like this:

Or even things like this:

And for the few rambling words, this is what I've got.

Next week, September 15th on Tuesday morning at about 8am (PST) "Soup Leprechaun" will officially debut on the Grickle Channel!

Be ready. Tell your friends. Spread the word.

That is all.

Enjoy your post Labor Day weekend week doing all your laboring, everyone.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Master of Horror

I'm not a fast reader. I'm pretty sure I'm not even a good reader. My snail pace doesn't actually allow me to retain more deeply the words I'm reading. I'm just slow.

But I like to read.

When I try to think back to why I like to read it's no surprise that comics were the start. I've always loved comics. At an early age I was specifically hooked on Peanuts. And not so much the daily strip in the paper, although I certainly paid attention to that, I was addicted to the paperback collections. I hoarded as many of those books as I could. Charles Schulz cemented the type of humor and pacing I appreciate nowadays. I also gathered as many Archie digests as I could get my hands on. My childhood bookshelf basically consisted of mangled Peanuts paperbacks, Archie digests, a bunch of Savage Sword of Conan magazines, and an entire run of the Funk & Wagnell's encyclopedia set above it.  I'd dip into the encyclopedias on rare occasions but not often. And we were missing the "N" book for some reason.

But I digress.

It took me awhile to warm up to full on novels. Pictures were important to me. Balloon-filled bits of dialog seemed much less intimidating than walls of text with no end in sight. The first no picture books I really read on my own were a series of dog stories written by Jim Kjelgaard. They mostly focused on hunting dogs and how they get separated from their owners and had a crazy adventure in the wilderness. The titles were simple. "Big Red", "Snow Dog", and "Stormy"to name a few. Conan comics moved me into the world of Robert E. Howard and the Conan novels. The Frazetta covers that housed the paperback reprints of the day totally suckered me into reading them. Anything that had images that cool on the front just had to be amazing reading inside! They mostly held up in retrospect.

But what truly launched me into a lifetime of reading was Stephen King. I grew up in his hey day. King of the paperbacks. Master of Horror. It seemed like every week he had a new book that debuted at #1 on the bestsellers list.

Up until that time I don't know if I even liked horror particularly. I appreciated the Twilight Zone and stuff like that but I didn't  actively seek out tales of terror.  The first Stephen King novel I read was "Salem's Lot". A friend had read it and kept pushing it on the rest of our gang of buddies. Sort of a dare. He'd read an adult scary story, could any of us 'man up' and handle it? There was some stressed looks exchanged but after a few days some of the guys started reading it. After internalizing on it for awhile I finally bought my own used copy at a local bookstore. I didn't read it right away. I kept studying the cover trying to decide it if it was worth my time.

That drop of blood. The all-black cover. I was intimidated. It seemed really scary! And it took me so long just to read short stories by Robert E. Howard. This book was huge. It was going to take forever!

I finally dove in.

Once I started I couldn't stop. I'd never read something that was so legitimately a 'pager-turner' like Salem's Lot. It still took me a long time to read it but I never noticed. I was so immersed in the world that Mr. King had laid out that time was irrelevant.

Salem's Lot began a routine of the next 5 or so years of my life where I sat curled up in our living room, listening to cassettes and reading until my eyes were crossed. I pored through Carrie, The Shining, Christine, Night Shift, Different Seasons, Firestarter, Cujo, and the ultimate victory for me, The Stand.

The size of The Stand was truly monumental in my slow reading world. When I finished that book I felt like I'd truly done something with my life. Anyone who could read a story that physically thick and over a thousand pages was truly a worthy human being. It gave me the courage to pull the tattered copy of Shogun off our cottage shelf the next summer and complete it. Nothing could stop me now.

At a certain point, whether it was just my age, or King's writing hitting a plateau of sorts, or both, I got off the Master of Horror's train. I remember clearly that it was after finishing "It" that I'd decided it was time to move on.

I never lost my appreciation for horror stories or my love of reading and for that Stephen King will always hold a special place in my literary heart.

I think he may have even slightly increased my reading speed. Just a smidge.