Saturday, August 7, 2021

Visitations Characters: The Piper Boy

 


Visitations is a complicated story about the history of a city and a century disguised as a ghost and superhero tale. But before the idea of Visitations came to me, I stumbled across a monument in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery that became one of the stories most intriguing characters.

In 2014 while touring Graceland cemetery, I came across 2 monuments that were more then a little bit different. One was a little girl encased in a glass case. The other was a little boy playing the flute. The girl, who has a legendary ghost story behind her, has been there since the late 19th century. The boy, is far more recent. His monument was erected in 2007 and has a quote from the 1934 song "For All We Know" written by J. Fred Coots and  Sam M. Lewis.










When the idea for Visitations came to me, the flute player was one of the first characters conceived. I decided that if his story was to be told, the character needed to have the little girl as a protagonist. Writer Len Strazewski came up with the idea of him dying in the Great Chicago Fire while playing the flute. 



The book Gem Of The Prairie ( later retitled "Gangs of Chicago) covered the origins of vice and crime in Chicago going back to the early 1800's. In it is an account of a little girl dying in the fire as a result of criminals fighting over the spoils of looting State Street stores during  the confusion of the disaster. The account of her death is exactly as it is portrayed in Visitations issue 3.




I decided to make the girl and boy part of a musical vaudeville family in the style of the 19th century famous American family act " The Four Cohans"





Lastly, the setting of the Levee District as the place the boy haunts came from the idea that no child ever should have been in a den of sin like that. It seemed like the perfect place to tell his story.




The Piper Boy and his sister were seen in the afterlife during Visitations 5. The boy and his mother return in Visitations issue. 




Whether or not he survives the first series of Visitations remains to be seen. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

1893 CHICAGO WORLDS FAIR

 In 1871, the city of Chicago was destroyed by a raging fire. Twenty years later, the city showed the world  that even a disaster of apocalyptic proportions could not keep it down for long. 




The Columbian Exposition, of the World's Fair of 1893 was a spectacular event that showcased the best of the industrialized modern Gilded Age. Located in the South Side's Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance (near the University Of Chicago), the Fair encompassed 690 acres, had 200 new buildings designed in the style of Neoclassical Architecture, and had multiple bodies of water in the form of canals and lagoons. Attractions included anthropology, rail, country & state exhibition buildings, guns & artillery, religions, a moving walkway, and horticulture. There was also fine artists, music, invention, and manufacturing exhibitions. Forty Six countries around the world participated and the event had 27,300,000 visitors. Opening to the public on May 1, 1893 the fair remained open until October 30, 1893.


The Columbian Exposition is the setting for events in both Visitations 5 and 6. There was a great amount of research done in order to get the issues done Below are some of the great photos and art that helped bring those stories to life. 

Visitations 5 is available for purchase HERE. Visitations 6 will be available in October and can be pre-ordered HERE













Friday, March 5, 2021

Will Eisner Week

 


It's Will Eisner Week.

Will Eisner is known as the father of the graphic novel. A true master of design and layout, Eisner looked at comics not as what they were, but what they could be. I first discovered his work when the book Comics & Sequential Art was recommended to me:



Among other things, the book taught me the importance of page layout and panel borders:




Comics & Sequential Art was great, but the book I found that really inspired me was The Dreamer.


The dreamer tells the story of Eisner's early days as a comic book artist, which also happened to be at the dawn of the comic book industry. Through sacrifices and a strong belief in himself, the main character "Billy" ( who was a thinly disguised Will Eisner) followed his heart and his instincts in order to carve out a career for himself.


Eisner's best known work is the Spirit. In it, Eisner experimented with the comics medium, stretching the accepted boundaries of layout and design:



His first "Graphic Novel" was A Contract With God. After he did semi - autobiographic works Droopsie Avenue,  A Life Force,  and To The Heart Of The Storm. He also did the visually stunning Life On Another Planet:


When I was an undergrad at Loyola, I did a weekly comic strip. I tried to make it very Eisner-like, changing  the title every week ( which drove my editor crazy) and incorporating the title into the strip.














In 2001, Eisner shared a stage with Neil Gaiman at the Chicago Public Library. After their talk, they had a book signing. Gaiman had a huge line, Eisner didn't, which was fine with me. I walked over to Eisner, introduced myself and shook his hand. He signed my favorite page in The Dreamer, which I took out of the book and framed afterwards.


Will Eisner passed away in January 2005. Learn  more of Will Eisner Week  HERE

Thursday, December 3, 2020

DESIGNING VISITATIONS ISSUE 3

Each issue of Visitations is designed to push the boundaries of how to tell a comic book story. In Issue 2, for example, the book requires the reader to physically move the book around and around. The third issue of the book was designed to be more intriguing.



Visitations 3 puts the reader into an area of Chicago that is now extinct: the Levee District. The Levee,  at and surrounding the location of the  Cermack/Chinatown Red Line El stop, was literally the birth place of organized crime in the city. Not just the birthplace, but the area in which the syndicate known as the Chicago Outfit operated in through to the 21st Century. Chicago crime was founded on gambling and prostitution. When I was growing up in the Lincoln Square area, I witnessed a little bit of what the Levee may have been like.  Lincoln Avenue north of Foster Avenue is known as Motel Row. The motels were originally  built in the 1950's for traveling salesmen but became instead hourly stopovers for streetwalkers and their customers.  It was not a pretty sight to behold. When I read Karen Abbott's book, Sin In The Second City, I realized that the Levee was about a hundred times worse then Motel Row, which is saying something. I knew I wanted write a story and get on my soapbox about it.


Lincoln Avenue's Motel Row, which is still is still
operational,  just a lot quieter than it used to be.

I wasn't sure exactly how to tell the story, then a movie was brought to my attention. Lady In The Lake, directed and starring Robert Montgomery, was a 1947 Philip Marlow film in which the camera is the protagonist. The entire movie is point of view and the only time you see the star is when the camera looks into a mirror. I decided that was the way to tell the Levee story. The reader is the main character - an out of town salesman who ventures into the Levee looking for debaucherous fun and instead finds murder. 


One of the only scenes in Lady In The Lake where 
the audience sees the film's star.

In addition to this I decided to change the art style to something reminiscent of the era. Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator in the late 19th century. He created the image of a modern woman known as the "Gibson Girl". He used a multiple line style that was perfect for the grittiness of the environment while keeping with the look of the times.


"The Gibson Girl" illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson

As the salesman goes deeper into the story, the art changes from grey to full color to straight black and white with aggressive red to add to the mood. 




Visitations 3 is now available. Print copies are $10. Digital copies are $5. Please email visitationscomicbook@gmail.com for more information.


Order a free PDF of Visitations 1 by emailing us here: visitationscomicbook@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

PRESIDENTAL CONNECTIONS




Election Day is upon us. 

In the past 244 years, the United States has had 58 Presidential Elections. Illinois became a state in 1818: 42 years after the birth of the U.S. and Chicago was founded 15 years later. Although it missed out on the early elections, the state has been an integral part of the nation's history.



In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President Of The United States. Although he was born in Kentucky, Illinois became his home in 1832. Lincoln lived in Springfield, and he was nominated as the  Presidential candidate at the 1860 Republican Convention in Chicago. After his assassination in 1865, Lincoln's funeral procession moved through Chicago and what would later be known as Grant Park was used as a staging area for the event.



Ulysses S. Grant was elected President in 1868. Born in Ohio, Grant lived in Galena, Illinois at the time of his election. A national hero, Grant has many monuments in the state and the downtown Grant Park, "Chicago's front yard", was named for him.



Ronald Reagan, the United States 4oth president, wa elected to the office in 1980. He was born in Tampico, Illinois, grew up in Dixon, and attended Eureka College in Eureka Illinois. He left the state in 1932.


The 44th President was Barack Obama. Born in Hawaii, Obama moved to Chicago in the 1980's and was elected in 2008.  His victory rally took place in Grant Park.  



The Obama family still owns their home in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park.


The current office holder, Donald Trump, was elected as the 45th President in 2016. He  has no real connections to the state of Illinois. However, he does have a building in the middle of downtown Chicago. The site of the former Sun-Times newspaper building, The Trump Tower is now a recognizable feature of the Windy City's skyline and will be for the foreseeable future.


Order a free PDF of Visitations 1 by emailing us here: visitationscomicbook@gmail.com




Visitations Characters: The Piper Boy

  Visitations is a complicated story about the history of a city and a century disguised as a ghost and superhero tale. But before the idea ...