Xemnas (A Sketch)

Yes, I finally got a copy of Kingdom Hearts 3 and started playing it recently. (Don’t spoil anything! I’m still only one world into the game).

Kingdom Hearts is a game series I have a lot of fondness for in my heart, despite all of its issues. It was the series that convinced my teenage self that video games could be an art form because it prompted SO MANY FEELINGS (instead of just rage and frustration at the mechanics of whatever game I was playing).

This was the series that helped me get through high school. Not just because of its cool game-play or its silly character moments, but also because of the fandom.

Yes, I was one of those fans who giggled at the idea of rearranging Xemnas’ name into “Mansex.” Who loved all the crack comics comparing Saix to a puppy and having Demyx and Roxas use a laser pointer to torture him. I even devoured so many hours of a video series called “The Stupid Files” where a fan with a LOT of time on their hands spliced comedic audio samples over Kingdom Hearts cutscene footage. It was like a precursor to all the abridged anime series’ out now.

But.

Kingdom Hearts as a game series has a LOT of issues. I am not a fan of the fact that the spin-off titles, or “interquels,” change the core mechanics of the gameplay. I did not like the card system of Chain of Memories, but I ESPECIALLY hated the Tetris-inventory mechanics of 358/2 Days. I could not finish either of those games because of those gameplay mechanics.

As a fan of the series, I feel like a lot of those in-between games could have just been made into movies and be JUST as effective. Most fans of Kingdom Hearts I know only ever watch the cutscenes of the side games and play just the anchor games (the anchors being games 1, 2, and now 3).

That’s the thing that being a fan of Kingdom Hearts has taught me: that you don’t have to consume EVERY FACET of a property to be a big dork for the thing.

I will never play the interquel games. At most, I will watch the cutscenes. Heck, you can watch videos on YouTube summarizing the lore of Kingdom Hearts so far and – ta-da – you’re now caught up to the series without having to touch any of the crap side games.

(358/2 Days, why did you have to SUCK?)

That said, I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts 3 so far – on Proud mode! I haven’t touched a new video game in 13 years and I can play Kingdom Hearts 3 on Proud Mode without dying. That…actually might be more a statement on the game’s difficulty than on my expertise. But that aside…

Playing Kingdom Hearts 3 reminded me why I love this game series in the first place. It’s fun to play (at least the anchor games are). The characters are stilted but they’re still fun. The dialogue is cheesy but it works. And GOOD GOLLY JEEZ, the fact that you can play as a character interacting in Disney worlds is great. I’m looking forward to the Toy Story world the most because those were some of my favorite movies as a kid.

It’s a game series made for people who are young at heart, who need a little light to combat all the cynicism and self-awareness that the video game industry is saturated in. And thank goodness for that.

That’s all I’m going to write for now. I could talk for days about this series.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

How I Learned to Face My Fear and Make Fantasyville Productions A Thing

Fantasyville Productions, LLC is my business that I filed into existence back in February.

It will now be my label for the books I make and publish. In the near future I intend for Fantasyville Productions to be the publisher of fantasy-themed stories made by other creators, as well as me.

There’s also a podcast in the works, and when it’s ready to go, Fantasyville Productions will be its home.

I have realized that freelancing and having day jobs just isn’t for me. They have helped me get a financial cushion for sure! But I’m at the stage in my life where I’m ready to jump full-time into making Fantasyville Productions (meaning my comics and art) actually pay my bills and get me sandwiches.

It took me a while to realize this, but here’s the thing…

Kia (my little sister and co-creator of Seeing Him) and I are not only back to speaking with each other, but she made me realize a truth I was denying myself:

The truth is I don’t really want to freelance.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to collaborate with folks to make comics. I want to make art in collaboration with folks that resonates with an audience, and get paid for my skill.

kf comics

The life of a freelancer, though, is based a LOT on multiple gigs – and not just finding multiple illustration gigs.

Freelancing is a lot of skill juggling. For example:

“Ok, Monday and Tuesday I’m cleaning these folks’ homes, Wednesday I’m drawing caricatures at this business party, Thursday and Friday I’m working behind the desk at this store, and Saturday I’m playing ukulele solos at this bar.”

I’ve never really been good at this freelancing thing. It stresses me the f@$k out.

What I AM good at, though, is making stories.

I make my own, I collaborate with folks on theirs, and I find folks to help me with mine.

I’m also very good at going to conventions and selling these stories.

And on Monday, I was talking with Kia about out respective careers, and I was asking for an outside opinion: I needed to know if I should just go full-time on my own pursuits or keep my current “day job.”

I said, “Well, back in April, I managed to make enough money through KickStarter, convention sales, and Patreon to pay off $1000 on my credit card – “

“HOLY SH*T Just do THAT,” said Kia.

Because holy banana pants, she helped me realize that at the rate I’m at now – and the rate I’ve been at for the last year – I’m making more doing my comics than I am working at a “day job.”

(It doesn’t really help much that the only “day jobs” available to me around here are part-time, minimum wage jobs.)

The truth, though, was that I was second-guessing my own ability to make Fantasyville Productions, LLC a feasible full-time endeavor.

I have realized that, especially in the last year, I’m second-guessing myself WAY TOO DAMN MUCH.

I think, too, at a deep level I fear failure. “Yeah we all do,” you might say, but for me it’s different…

I grew up in a family where my mom and dad ran and owned their own business. However, if dad was employed elsewhere, the business would slump. If the business was ok, dad was unemployed. As mom often said, if both dad and the business did well, things would have been a lot better.

When my parents got divorced, mom then got the business. But through a combination of encroaching competitors (coughWalMartcough), the death of one of our suppliers, and just plain old sexism against a single mom running a business and raising 3 kids on her own, the business closed before I was 13 years old.

I saw that failure early, and it left an impression on me that instilled in me the Voice of Professional Doubt.

The Voice of Professional Doubt is the voice in my head that says things like:

“This business will never get off the ground. Keep your day job.”

“You need this day job. Your fantasy business won’t pay all of the bills.”

“You will never have a good day job and a thriving side business if you live here.”

I have realized that by listening to this voice, I was suffocating Fantasyville Productions. I was denying this creation the chance to grow into something that could not only pay for itself, but pay me.

I’m not saying, “Quit your day job and do your own thing!”

Everyone’s situation is different. If you have a side gig, it may not be ready to support you full-time yet.

But Fantasyville Productions is ready to support me. So I need to be ready to support it.

mr dino and friends beach

I took a mini-vacation (or “staycation,” since I didn’t travel) from Sunday to Wednesday. During that time, I meditated on these fears, realized what I was doing to sabotage myself, and made vows to myself to make this thing work.

Today, I’ve been working on comics I’m making for clients, plus I finished a new Mr. Dino print, AND I emailed a handful of zine distributors asking if they would like to carry any of my work.

I also heard back from Genghis Con – I’ll be exhibiting there again this year!

I hope to keep this momentum going! I want Fantasyville Productions to succeed! I want more and more people to have my comics in their hands and my art in their hearts.

Not gonna lie – I’m freaking jazzed right now.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Punks, Comics, and Feminist Zine Fest Pittsburgh

pittsburgh sketches

This was a surprisingly long weekend, even though it was only two days. I had multiple stops over the two-day span, which is why.

The first stop was Copacetic Comics Company, on Dobson Street in Pittsburgh. I was worried that I would have to pay for parking (because city life), but I found a space around the corner.

A while back I had called Copacetic to ask some questions about author appearances and consignments, and somehow I forgot that Bill (the man on the phone) said the store was on the 3rd floor of the building. So I was a bit surprised to see Kaibur Coffee on the ground floor. I had to approach the building to be sure I found the right space.

Turns out – yep, I found it. So I went up the narrow blue staircase, past posters of indie bands, local theater productions, and guest lectures, and found THIS:

Continue reading “Punks, Comics, and Feminist Zine Fest Pittsburgh”

An Unusual Summer Agreement

studio space february 2018

Here’s the truth – while making comics does pay the bills, I’m still living with my mom. This is partially because the oil and gas companies who have moved into the area have also imported pipeline workers from out-of-state, which means most rent-worthy spaces are gone, and what’s left over means rent prices have SKYROCKETED. So lack of places for rent, plus the places for rent being ungodly expensive ($500 a month for a room with no private bathroom is a pretty common listing around here), means living with mom because it’s more affordable.

It’s been ok, as far as living arrangements go. Mom works a full-time job outside of the house, which means I can work in my studio uninterrupted (for the most part. Her boyfriend also works from home but has his own office space set up). In fact, the only times we really see each other are at night.

This spring, that arrangement is actually going to change. Continue reading “An Unusual Summer Agreement”