Though I haven’t actually been to McBone Outpost #1211, I frequently find myself imagining an evening spent at that ancient, deathly estate. What would it be like to visit the current headquarters of Palin-hating, Denzel-Washington-loving, Stabbone and McGraw?
Let’s try to paint a picture, shall we?
My wife Isis and I arrive at the gates by horse-drawn carriage at dusk. A mist hangs over the estate. I stroke my beard thoughtfully. Isis, prone to cases of the chills, says she feels chilled. It’s true, this time there is a definite feel of mortality in the air. As if our lives may very well be snuffed out at the stroke of midnight. Undaunted, we tell our driver to carry on.
A movement between the trees. Isis thinks it’s a werewolf. I say, pshaw, it’s only a trick of her over-active imagination. Either that or it’s a regular wolf. Isis begins to withdraw from reality.
As our carriage pulls up to the entrance, the door creaks open. Though we are ten feet away, the eerie air from inside the manor gives us both goosepimples. No doorman is there to greet us as we enter, and yet the door swings shut behind us. The lock closes on its own accord. There is no coat rack, yet it matters not. Isis and I are colder than when we were outside.
A shadow against the stone wall is our first sight of our host, Lord McGraw. He glides toward us as if propelled by an uncanny pulley. No wheels or rope are in sight.
“Please, let us retire to the dining hall,” McGraw coos. “My wife and I have long been expecting you.” He begins to laugh, gently at first and then gaining in intensity until he coughs violently. Isis and I glance at each other; we were not aware the Lord said anything resembling a joke.
As Lord McGraw leads us to the dining hall, we notice the pictures, of which there are many, are not hung from the walls but set on the ground as if to be hung later. They are all covered in thick black cloth. The sound of dripping water can be heard deep in the distance.
“Ah, you remember my lovely wife, Lady McGraw,” says Lord McGraw, gesturing at a woman seated at the dining room table. Isis starts. I cannot blame her. Lady McGraw is as pale as death, with dark brown eyes and hair that tumbles almost to the floor. She is wearing a tattered wedding gown, and though it looks old, it is as white as the day she was married in it. I ask Lord McGraw how long ago they were married, for, though we have been friends since boarding school, events in his life have become hazy to me. It is as if the mist outside has clouded my mind.
“Oh, ages ago,” responds McGraw, and laughs again. He finds so many things amusing, and yet no one else is allowed to share in his merriment. Isis gasps, for no apparent reason.
We all sit to have dinner. The servants are obedient and silent as they place our plates in front of us. As one slips around the corner I think I see a tail protruding from his waistcoat. It can’t be true, I think to myself. I just need to eat.
Eat we do! An eight-course feast suitable for kings. Almost every food is represented, and yet McGraw cannot go more than a few seconds without remarking how much worse it would be if it was slathered in a white glop he calls “mayonnaise.” Lady McGraw seems to have a healthy appetite, but Isis cannot seem to nibble here and there. I gently scold her. Lord McGraw notices this and tells her to wait for desert.
“It will be a delight below the heavens!” he exclaims.
“You mean, above the heavens,” I say.
Lord McGraw gently laughs.
When desert is presented to us, Lady McGraw finally speaks. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a high-pitched wail. It is so alarming, so unsettling, that even Lord McGraw cannot muster a giggle. “She sometimes has nightmares,” he says.
“But she’s not asleep,” I protest.
“But it is night time, is it not?” McGraw opens a curtain to present us the moonless sky.
After dinner, the ladies retire to their sitting room while Lord McGraw shows me the manor.
“Here is the game room,” he says, gesturing to a room full of sharp implements and a cabinet full of skull-and-crossbones canisters.
“This is our sun room,” McGraw points toward a windowless crypt deep in the bowels of McBone manor. There are no chairs, only two empty coffins. “Lovely,” I manage to say.
Lord McGraw takes me upstairs. He has told me he likes to keep pigeons. “They are calming,” he says, as we climb the rickety wooden stairs higher and higher. I swear to myself that the house was not this tall looking at it from the outside. Finally we reach the roof.
When he shows me the coops, I am aghast. “Those aren’t pigeons!” I exclaim, for staring back at me are dozens and dozens of beady-eyed bats.
Lord McGraw tuts me. “Tut tut, my friend. These are pigeons. The night is so thick you have imagined bats. Why, I’ll bet your wife told you she saw a werewolf running the grounds earlier.”
“She did!” I say.
“The night plays tricks on even the most intelligent of us. Specters and goblins appear when only leaves and hedges are to blame. Lady McGraw once told me she saw the demon Argosphospheles standing at the foot of her bed late one night! Of course that was incorrect.” Lord McGraw turns swiftly around and heads back downstairs. Gratefully I follow.
We find Isis and Lady McGraw staring at a quilt upon our return.
“This is a quilt made by the entire McGraw line. My great-great-great-grandmother began it, and every generation has added to it,” says Lord McGraw.
Each panel seems to depict a massacre, a witch-burning, a pagan ritual, or a beast of horrific proportions. “Lovely,” Isis remarks. To me, she whispers, “we have to go.” I concur.
Our hosts, though peculiar, have shown us every hospitality. We thank them profusely, perhaps over-zealously, as we back out the door.
As our carriage takes us away from McBone Manor, Isis clings to my arm. Her hands are ice cold. I find that I, too, am shivering. The further we retreat from those weird grounds, the more like ourselves we feel. When we arrive safely home, Isis makes me promise to wait a “good long time” before accepting another invitation to Lord and Lady McGraw’s. I find myself hedging. It possibly has to do with the peculiar bite marks on my neck, but I see myself returning to McBone Manor very, very soon.
This week marks the third anniversary of Friday Robots. Three years ago, I began drawing robots to usher in the weekend. At the time I had no idea whether I’d continue drawing robots weekly. Since I am, by nature, deadline driven, posting robots every Friday became part of my life. I haven’t missed a single week since Friday Robots began.
Friday Robots began in my sketchbook before I even had a blog. I drew these blocky shapes whenever I didn’t know what I wanted to draw. They all seemed to belong together. I started calling them robots, even though it was apparent that they had no obvious purpose. I was like an inventor of completely useless inventions. I found this hilarious.
Over the course of 155 posts and one YouTube video, Friday Robots have taken on many forms. It is a fun challenge every week to post something new, different, weird, and frequently baffling. Sometimes I spend only a few minutes drawing the robots. Sometimes, like this week, I spend a few hours.
My two partner bloggers, Stabbone and McGraw and West Lawn Park, have generously agreed to post something about the Third Robotiversary, so please check them out. Together, we form a blogging triumvirate that future internet historians will discuss endlessly. Today we all celebrate Friday Robots.
Here is the special edition Third Anniversary Friday Robots. They are based upon my very first Friday Robots. Celebrate Friday with Robots, and celebrate Robots because it’s Friday.
After years of research, cubic tons of wine consumed, and countless revisions, the official book of partner blogger McBone has arrived:
Wine Appreciation is not just a textbook on the best use of grapes. It is a way of life. A better life than the one you’re leading right now, dear readers.
It turns out that a better life can be had through knowledge. Knowledge and heavy drinking. Sorry: knowledge about heavy drinking. It’s like the Buddhists say: do anything with full consciousness and you’re on the road to enlightenment. Even if the thing you’re doing will soon lead to unconsciousness.
Taking a boring Calculus class? Tell your professor to spice it up by switching text books! Think about how much funner Calculus would be if Calculus was all about drinking wine.
Behind every great man, there is a McBoner.
Cheers to my friend, colleague, fellow blogospherian, and wine lover. A toast!
[Blogger’s Note: Although there were many superstars at Comic Con, one actor was notably missing. Alan Rickman did not, to my knowledge, attend Comic Con. Sadly, my meeting with Sir Rickman has yet to occur.]
I can hardly believe it’s been more than a week since Comic Con. The yearly festival of comics and media geekdom was, my second time around, still just as vital as ever. Comic Con excels at two things, mainly: facilitating fans’ meeting hundreds (possibly thousands) of famous and yet-to-be famous cartoonists, and providing a ground for the exchange of ideas and products related (sometimes tenuously) to sequential art. Uh, and recently it’s become a place where Hollywood previews movies based on comics. If you want to meet the cartoonist who created your favorite strip or book, or if you want to see the starlet who will be starring in the movie based upon your favorite strip or book, Comic Con is the place to be.
This year, as I mentioned before, I was joined by my wife Isis and my good friends Nate McGraw and Alex. It was their first ever trip to California, which was totally crazy to me, but some people just grew up on the wrong side of the country (or continent). The ladies took off almost immediately to stand in line for movie panels. Nate was gracious enough to let me lead the way though pop culture wilderness.
I’m dividing this post up thematically, as giving a blow-by-blow chronological account would bore all of us. As it is, only three readers have gotten this far in the post. Thank you! Read on for the exciting part.
If the convention floor is the meat of Comic Con, the panels are the vegetables. It is the panels where you can hear cartoonists blather on for an hour about their favorite pen nib. True bliss.
Nate and I kicked off Comic Con with the Spotlight panel on Jeff Smith. Jeff created Bone and Rasl, and is a genuinely nice and funny guy. His slide show covered new projects he’s been working on, and in the question and answer section he mentioned the upcoming Bone movie(!).
We also sat in on the Keith Knight Spotlight panel, in which Keith spoke about his weekly comic strip and his new (-ish) daily strip. Keith is a great speaker, a natural entrepreneur, and above all a very funny cartoonist. He brought something up that I found intriguing; his weekly comic, The K Chronicles, was essentially a blog before blogs even existed. When I read it that way, it makes complete sense.
Nicholas Gurewitch, the mad scientist who created Perry Bible Fellowship, is someone either destined to be a Hall of Famer or a delirious bum who dies in a gutter. I’m not sure which. His question and answer section sounded eerily like a Bob Dylan press conference from the 1960’s, in which he would answer the question with a riddle, or he’d answer the question he wanted to be asked. My favorite answer was to the question, “Do you get your ideas directly from life?” He responded, “If we can only write from what we experience, then yes, 100% of my ideas come directly from life.”
We saw about half of a Krazy Kat panel. They showed some home movies of George Herriman with his (then) baby granddaughter. It was pretty cool to see one of my cartoonist heroes come to life, since we are separated by almost a century.
Berkeley Breathed put on a freewheelin’ panel, documented by this post and photographed in this post. I may be the only one, but based on the test footage he showed I’m glad Opus never got made into a movie.
Ray Bradbury is almost 90, but he spoke to hundreds of us and seems entirely lucid, if nearly deaf. Honestly, if it was a choice between ears and brain to go first, I’d choose ears every time. It was a real joy hearing the very first Comic Con guest speak at Comic Con 41. His responses to to questions were in depth and often funny. Not sure why he hates the internet and Obama.
On a panel called Writing Animated Feature Films, four screenwriters discussed the projects they’ve worked on and how they managed to get through them. I say that because apparently, in Hollywood, the writer is almost as low on the totem pole as the caterer (actually, they probably receive less respect than the food dude). Between them, I found both Dean DeBlois and the writer who worked in TV (whose name I could not find in the Programming book, sorry!) to be the most straightforward about their work and what it takes to be creative while working with a group. In all, it was a very informative panel and something that you wouldn’t normally see outside of a writing seminar.
Nate and I found the Nerdiest Guy At Comic Con at the Avatar Press panel. We were there to hear Max Brooks, author of World War Z, talk about how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse. The NGACC asked a dozen questions, and even filmed himself asking one question, as well as Max’s response. Max cut him off after that. We were thrilled to find the NGACC and wanted to ask him out for a drink afterward, to hear him monologue, but thought he might misconstrue our affection as ironic, so we didn’t.
The zombie panel leads me to the next segment of this overly-long post:
Zombies and Vampires
Last year, Twilight brought the vampire lovers to Comic Con en masse. Seriously, there were like 80,000 teenage girls there for one reason (hint: it wasn’t sex). This year, despite the popularity of True Blood – which Isis described to me as softcore porn with vampires – zombies ruled the convention. There was a zombie walk, zombie panels, and two (count ‘em) booths devoted to the comic series Walking Dead. This made me feel good about my book-in-progress, as it is about zombies. I can’t wait to be a millionaire.
Last year I was at Comic Con for two days, while this year I stayed for the whole bloody affair. I got to see more celebrities wandering the convention floor this year, which was pretty cool.
Scott Adsit plays Pete Hornberger on one of my favorite TV shows of all time – OF ALL TIME – 30 Rock. I saw him wandering the convention floor and ran over like a panting doofus. I was smart enough to give him my new Falling Rock collection, but I wasn’t sure how best to convey how awesome I think he is. This was the second time this year I’ve seen Scott – he made an unscheduled appearance at Stumptown. Scott, the next time I see you I promise to be more eloquent.
I saw Seth Green two times: once signing autographs, and once wandering the convention floor with his wife. He would have been swarmed if he got noticed, so I didn’t try to say hello.
Nate and I saw two mega-stars while eating lunch on Thursday. David Hasselhoff was apparently promoting a new reality show. He stood on the roof a double-decker bus, along with a group of dancing girls, shaking his tanned body and singing “Hooked on a Feeling.” His bus was flanked by Knight Rider cars. Kind of the definition of “publicity stunt.” Soon after, our waitress shrieked and ran down the sidewalk. She saw Emilio Estevez. She got her picture taken with him, then came back and told us how bummed she was that she had to work the entire weekend. Despite my description, she was a perfectly good waitress.
Although I didn’t see her personally, Isis and Alex told me that they saw Helen Mirren wearing a Harvey Pekar shirt. Helen Mirren, if you read this blog know this: you are totally awesome. Please visit Falling Rock National Park anytime.
I know. You’re wondering what all this has to do with comics. While Comic Con has become more about pop culture in general, it does manage to retain its comic-centeredness. Most of the convention floor is devoted to booths about comics, either hosted by the creators or the publishers or retailers. I ran into a number of cartoonists either by accident or by visiting their booths. The number of serendipitous meetings leads me to believe there is a great positive energy generated by Comic Con. I won’t try to explain it, but I know it is there.
A partial list, with links to guide you: Greg Means, Stephen Notley, James Sturm, Jeffrey Brown, Nate Powell, Bill Amend, Steve Lieber, Katie Cook, Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett, Raina Telgemeier, Stephen McCranie, Rudy Solis, Dylan Meconis, Dave Kellett.
Although long, this post feels like a snapshot of the full days and nights. A complete write-up would probably feel more like Ulysses and less like a blog. As an event, Comic Con is probably the biggest and best I’ve ever participated in. As a place to meet and spend time with creative and smart people, Comic Con is probably second only to college.
I understand you’re playing a gig in Chicago tonight. That’s great! My friend Nate will be there to see you. I know this sounds like a cliche, but he’s your biggest fan. Seriously.
I’m writing to ask you please not to run off with Nate after your show. I know he’s good looking and he’s totally into you, but you have to restrain yourself. Nate already has a super awesome wife and I really don’t want to see her go.
Feel free to pick some other married guy from the crowd. Maybe there are men who don’t have awesome wives, or maybe their wives are already thinking about leaving them and so wouldn’t mind if they ran off with Cat Power. Just don’t pick Nate.
Thank you, and have a fantastic show.
For those of you who are regulars to my website, today’s comic may look a bit different to you. That’s because my good friend Nate is the artist responsible for the Special Limited April Fool’s Day Edition of Falling Rock National Park.
Nate’s blog, Stabbone and McGraw, has its own brand of anti-mayonnaise, pro-moustache humor. Today he set that aside to give Falling Rock readers something new.
There are three firsts in today’s strip. This marks Nate’s first foray into published cartooning (via MCT Campus, all copyrights held by the artist). This is also Richard Nixon’s first appearance in a Falling Rock comic. We have mentioned him numerous times in the past, but today he appears in all his body-less glory. Finally, this is the first time I’ve ever seen Pam light her cigarette. I never figured out where she’d keep the lighter once she was done using it. I also assumed that she’d just always light the next cigarette from the used one before it. Here Nate has left his indelible mark on the world of Falling Rock. I doubt it will ever be the same.
Happy April 1st, everybody.