Friday, September 07, 2012

FAT, FREEZE, AND SMASH.

My cat Adrien is, well... fat. And gluttonous, and clumsy. I love him, dearly, probably more than I've ever loved any pet I've ever had (please forgive me, Lyric and Judas, may they rest in kitty peace). However... sometimes he goes too far. Last week, two days before Dragon*Con, he was sitting on my desk, a usual occurrence which I encourage (so much so that I've built two shelf areas around my "space" so that he can sit with me, and he uses them often).

So the particular night in question, I get up from my desk, after just putting down my slick, leather and metal case with built-in USB connector strap 640GB portable hard drive-- the one I have been storing all my SPACE:1999 work on for the past 5 months (ever since I moved to Brooklyn). You know, the one with all the data that I HAVE NEVER BACKED UP ON ANY OTHER DRIVE OR COMPUTER? THE ONE that was so full there were ONLY 29MB of space left in it? THE ONE with the ONLY COPIES OF THE FILES FOR ISSUE 3 and 4 OF SPACE:1999 CLASSICS?

Yeah, that one.

I get up, go to the fridge, open the fridge door. Adrien thinks that means he's getting some turkey, he scrambles to mewl at my feet and in the process... sends my sexy portable drive flying across the room.

I panic, I scramble, I plug it in. Visions of disaster dance frantically in my head. THE NEXT 2 ISSUES OF SPACE:1999 CLASSICS. ONLY COPIES.  ONLY LOCATION OF SCRIPT.

Click, click. Click, click.
 Nothing but clicks.

Nothing worked.

I bring it to the computer lab at the School of Visual Arts, where I work as a manager on weekends. My very talented friend and computer guru, Alex, did her best to get me up and running. Nothing. Data Rescue software.

Click, click. Click, click. Nothing.

Nothing, nothing.

Nothing.

I read some crackpot theories about freezing a hard drive (click here to learn what I learned...sorta) and decide to give it a shot. I double ziplock bag it, throw it in the freezer, and wait 6 hours instead of the at least 12 suggested (impatient). I plug it in again, using Alex's SATADOCK connector via firewire 800.

Click, click. Click, click.


Nothing, nothing.

Nothing.

Dragon*con looms, I throw it back in the freezer. I'll be back in a week, the damn thing ought to be cold by then!

One.

Week.

Later.

Back at the school, pull the drive out of the freezer, reconnect it, click, click. click, click.

Click, click. Click, click.


Nothing, nothing.

Nothing.


Not someone who undertands when its time to give up, I bang it on the counter top.

SMASH! SMASH! SMASH!

Whirl.

WHIRL?

Something.

The hardrive was running!

I plug it in, it mounts on the desktop! I run Dara rescue, and start pulling files! It will take 4,242 HOURS to ge them all! Impatient, I go into the folders with CLASSICS 3 and 4, and...

... I transfer them immediately to my desktop. FILES SAVED!

The fridge was my tormentor and the fridge was my savior.

Moral? If at first you don't succeed,

FREEZE and SMASH some SHIT.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON

So, it's here: the release of my Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes novel. Back in 2007 I pitched the idea of this to FOX, have labored for the past 4 years through many trials and tribulations, and have finally gotten to this point.

This project has been about love from the beginning, love for Planet of the Apes, love of "making things fit" (continuity), and a love of storytelling.

Over the past year, in the final stretch of getting this done, I found romantic love in the form of fellow comics creator, Chandra Free.

She has supported me through a very strange time in my life, and never stopped believing in my ability to tell a good story.

Come by the Archaia booth #2635 at comic con and see us this week, signing our various projects- Apes, Critical Millennium, and The God Machine.

Be among the first to read Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes - three weeks before it arrives in stores. Enjoy the two paintings Chandra created for the book. Meet some of the other artists in the book, including Critical Millennium artist Dan Dussault, and comics legends Jim Steranko and Dave Dorman.

Pick up Critical Millennium #4, also debuting at this show!

Chandra will be signing her epic The God Machine Hardcover for the first time on the west coast!

Come get your free Apes promo cards, enter our Apes raffle, and get your books signed.

And please, ask us questions!

We want you to be part of the magic.

Please join us...

Drew G.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Diego, CA

Friday, July 30, 2010

WHAT HAS BEEN SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN!

It's true, really. And what has been read cannot be unread.

It's an important fact.

Sure, you can trash a .jpg, close a website, delete a facebook post, remove a tweet, burn a book, or toss a comic, but once looked at that thing has irrevocably changed your life. It is forever seared into your brain (unless you are an alcoholic or amnesia/memory disease victim, or stupid).

You might think you have pushed it out of your memories, but its around.

Its always there...lurking in the dark, waiting for you to close your eyes, burned into your retinas like an after image from a photo flash.


Pushing it out is a joke. Covering it up can even be worse. What exactly does censorship accomplish? When I listen to the Nine Inch Nails song "CLOSER" on the radio (the few times I actually have listened to terrestrial radio by happenstance over the past decade), and they remove the
"F" word, I know he's saying FUCK by the context. What the fuck else would be be saying? I want to FLOAT you like an animal? I'm not an idiot, and I'm going to bet that even the lowest common denominator American that most shit that's pumped out there caters to knows what the fuck the song is talking about.

So what's the answer, when we have seen or read or heard something we don't like?

Examine it. Why don't you like it? How does it talk to you, personally? Understand it. An old associate of mine used to always turn the phrase "embrace the horror."

I think we need to do just that.

Problems don't just go away if you ignore them.
At the very least, you should understand what you don't like at least as much as you understand what you do.

As a society we call that knowledge, and that leads to power. Don't be ignorant and hide from what's out there.

So the next time you see something that affects you so much that you wish it was gone - even if it was something that you created, take a long look at yourself, and understand why. Once you do that, don't try to make it go away, just take yourself out of the equation. Don't try to destroy it so no one else can make their own opinions on it, what are you, Hitler? Just dust yourself off, untangle your limbs from the porcelain embrace, wipe off your chin and chalk it up to a learning experience.


That's the most important thing we can take away from anything in our lives, because once we stop learning, we might as well be dead.

Stepping down from the podium now.

-Drew G.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

No beach to walk on

WARNING: THIS IS A PERSONAL POST
This entry may seem a little dark and/or pessimistic - I've had a hell of a week and have just found out some info that really hit me like a slab of concrete.

I have worked hard for the past fifteen years, on a quest, as it were, to live the dream: to see my creations bear fruit and to dabble in the universes that I have been fond of since childhood. Between Critical Millennium, Planet of the Apes, and SPACE: 1999, it looks like I'm there. As success draws near, however, I find that perhaps I have lost much in the process.

Having had my relationship with my fiancee end last January - I have had time to reflect on several things in my life, and have come to a few conclusions -not about my time with her specifically, but my relationships in general.

Relationships have always come pretty easy for me - its keeping them that I find pretty hard. I usually start out extremely over tolerant of things that the woman in my life does that do not really agree with me, giving them the chance to straighten it out and meet me half way on things as time goes by. The problem is that as that time wears on, and they don't meet me in the middle, I die a little inside, and become less and less able to deal with it - until I guess I become desensitized. Suddenly I am uncaring and unforgiving, and the woman in my life finds me heartless.

From my perspective, the proverbial "she" was responsible for it - she caused this.

What about from her perspective?

What did I do or NOT do that led to her doing the things that desensitized me? What part of the then current grand fiasco was I responsible for?

I have seen this situation repeat itself numerous times in my life - really I must be lucky in cards and just not know it, because I am apparently to date unlucky in love.

The thing that gets me really angry about it all when I see my exes "passing me by" - most of the women I have been seriously romantically involved with over the past two decades have now gone on to be married and/or have children - and I am still by myself - making me question if I am the one with the problem - after all, I'm the one common thread in it all.

And its not just my exes in the hammer lane. My former writing partner, and best friend for many years, never so much as kissed a woman until a few short years ago. In high school, I was the one dating, the same in college, and ever since. Him? Nothing. Not until he was in his mid 30s.

Last month he got married.

Is BLAM! responsible? Is my devotion to following my dreams, my creations, my universes - that which has kept me from finding "true love" as it were? Have I mucked up my relationships in favor of my creativity? I can't surrender BLAM!, it is what I have worked for since I first started playing with action figures at the tender age of five.

Being a total geek, the classic Star Trek episode "The Naked Time" comes to mind- Kirk's true loneliness in the captain's seat - and how the Enterprise consumes him:

"Love... you're better off without it, and I'm better off without mine. This vessel...I give... she takes. She won't permit me my life. I've got to live hers." - J.T. Kirk

Yours,
Drew G.

Friday, February 05, 2010

FAMILY

Hello All -

Drew Gaska here. Some of you know me very well, others will know much more after this post. I am the creator of Archaia's upcoming sci-fi comic series "Critical Millennium", lead author of the impending "Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes" illustrated novel, and writer/director of the "SPACE:1999" relaunch coming in fall 2010. I created BLAM! in 2004 to do the creative things I love - developing new characters and concepts as well as work on the licensed properties that helped shape me into the person I am - and to share all that with others.

BLAM! is a small multimedia company that is built around the concept of family -- people working together who love what they are doing and love working with each other. While many people believe that business and family should not coalesce (Mafia excluded), I have always felt that if your work and coworkers are the same as your pursuits and friends, it really isn't work at all - its living life to the fullest. While BLAM! has strayed from that mission statement at times over the past few years, and recently had to part ways with former members who did not see eye to eye on this concept, we have at our core remained a family (one rife with dysfunction at times, but a family none the less).

I am known to wear my intentions, emotions, and views on my sleeve - I have always felt that full disclosure was the best policy - be it in personal situations or business. Due to developments this fall, I have been somewhat negligent in answering emails, updating our blogs, speaking on the message boards, and completing requested interviews - and for this I severely apologize. BLAM! has a responsibility to our fans and friends to keep you in the loop. I felt it was time to bring all of you up to speed - and its family matters I need to share with you.

Last September, my father had to have emergency surgery due to an aneurysm of his aorta in his abdomen (something the medical profession calls a triple 'A').

We were told that he only had a 50% chance of survival - and even then he could become paralyzed due to the closeness of the operation to his spine, need a colostomy bag for the rest of his life due to the closeness to his kidneys, and due to his chain smoking for the past 48 years, need a tracheotomy. If we hadn't rushed him to the hospital when we did, he would have been dead by morning. He was in surgery for almost eight hours, and finally we were told that he survived the operation -they successfully replaced a portion of his Aorta.

The next night Dad had to go back into surgery - part of his colon was showing up as dead due to the blood loss when his blood collecting in the aneurysm before it burst. They thought they were going to have to remove parts of the colon and give him a bag.

Luckily, when they went in they discovered that it was a thin layer of dead flesh that will likely regenerate, so no surgery was needed. They closed him up in a way that was not final - they had an "easy access" closing on him so that they can reopen him quick if there was a problem (think of it as surgical Velcro).

My mother was a wreck and we didn't find out that his colon tissue wasn't permanently dead until around the next morning. We really got lucky here - apparently usually in these cases blood loss leads to colon death.

The worst part about all of this is that because they had to reopen him up, there was a chance that his aorta graft could become infected, and we could have had to go through this over and over again. Luckily that was not the case.

Next he was swollen to three times his size due to fluid retention, on a ventilator to make him breathe and unconscious for two weeks. When finally he did wake up, he was not himself - one minute he thought he was meeting someone at the helipad in New York City, the next he was going to a party he went to in the 1960s. When asked where he was, he was sure he was at the airport - not the hospital - but he could identify every one of us who came to visit him. I began to fear that he had suffered blood loss to the brain when his blood was pooling in his abdomen, and that he was going to be like that permanently. Again we got lucky - it turned out to be the effect the knock out drugs and pain killers had on him due to the long amount of time he was kept under. He has since regained his wits and is 100% himself.

After being in ICU for almost a month, they moved him out of the hospital and into a physical rehabilitation center, where he had to learn to walk and sit up again - not all his muscles wanted to work. The physical therapist gave him a rag and told him to wipe down a table 10 times, to get his muscles working again (although there is a suspicion on my part that the trainer just wanted the table clean - but I digress). By the end of the eighth time he was exhausted - his body was extremely weak. He had lost over 50 pounds from going three weeks without any solid food - and looked more than somewhat frail.

Shortly thereafter, the attendees (nurse assistants? janitors?) put my father in a chair and wheeled him out to the hall while they cleaned his room - and promptly left him there for two and a half hours! He was not supposed to be sitting upright for anywhere near that long a time. When they finally got him, they whirled the chair around and his blood pressure had become so low, he passed out! He was taken back to the hospital - and was kept in emergency for eight hours - his blood pressure stabilized, and he was kept at the hospital under observation for the next few days. Just when you think you have gotten through the trials, something has to swim up and bite you on the ass.

Now, Dad is home and doing much better, he is walking with the aid of a four legged cane and is (for better or worse) mostly his old self again - his prognosis is more than good.

Right before this all happened I moved into the upstairs apartment in my parents' house - something that was intended to be a temporary situation but one that seems to have become more permanent: I will be taking care of my parents from now on. The stress of this situation on my fiancee, myself and our relationship has been overwhelming - so much so that as of this past January we are no longer together.

About my father's health, the doctors tell me that this issue is genetic and that I likely have the same problem growing in me - it is a byproduct of the blood issues I already have and my father's father died from this. They told me I needed to go get an ultrasound ASAP to check it out - I did and as of right now I'm in the clear. The only good thing about this part is that I am young enough that it can be stopped before it happens if it is caught now (my Dad is one of those people who hadn't been to the doctor in literally 30 years - they could have stopped this in him as well).

On top of it all, my long time feline companion Lyric passed away this Christmas, as well - just as his younger brother Judas did the Christmas before.

All in all, this past year was a challenge for BLAM! and myself.

I am asking all of BLAM!s friends and supporters to bond together as a family as we push ahead and through these trying times. Obviously, all this has caused a delay in our projects over here at BLAM! - as I have been struggling to balance personal crisis with business.

BLAM! Ventures is now in the process of restructuring: Assistant Editor Nina Kester and I are organizing it into a well oiled machine with a solid release schedule. Rest assured, all our lines are still moving forward - Planet of the Apes, Space:1999, Critical Millennium and the BLAM! Comics Anthology Graphic Album Volumes - just expect these thing to show up for order three to six months later than originally projected.

The Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes Illustrated Novel is in the process of its final draft revision with most of the art for the book already turned in, I am scheduled to fly to the UK next month to discuss the future of Space: 1999 with ITV/Granada Ventures, and Artist Dan Dussault is just about done with the pages of the first three issues of Critical Millennium: Dark Frontier. I promise to update you all as there is more information to give.

I thank you in advance for your support in these crises and for our upcoming product lines- and look forward to being able to entertain you with psychosocial/political tales of high adventure soon.

Yours,
Drew
Andrew E. C. Gaska
Creative Director/CEO
BLAM! Ventures LLC
FEBRUARY 5th 2010

Thursday, December 24, 2009

GIJOE, BATTLESTAR, and the LOST ART RANT





Hello everyone;

Happy Holidays! As both CEO and Creative Director of BLAM! Ventures, I often find myself in the unique position where I can be as picky about the quality of our releases as I want to be. In our earlier offerings (pre 2008) there were numerous faux pas made by myself and our staff, some of which unfortunately didn't get caught until after the book in question was published. We were growing and learning as a studio, and the purpose of those earlier projects was in fact to attract the attention of larger publishers who could support the full release of a monthly comic series (as was the case with Critical Millennium being picked up by Archaia Studios).

Many of our current projects (on the schedule for release in 2010) involve, to some degree, reprinting classic comic material from the 1940s to the 1970s. For Space: 1999, BLAM! will be releasing for the first time the reprints of the comic series from Charlton and other publishers. For the BLAM! Comics Anthology: Fully Loaded Edition, we will be reprinting several seminal works that haven't seen the light of day since the 1940s - 1950s, the main characters of which will play an important role in BLAM! Ventures future comic lines.

One of the reasons these works haven't seen reprint is that in several cases, the art (or part of it) is missing or in the hands of collectors who simply do not wish to help a studio release the work again. Sometimes the original publisher kept photostat copies of the art, and reprints can be generated from those negatives, but again, in many case, these films have made their way into the hands of collectors.

So how to put these works back in the public's hands again? God bless Photoshop.

In the hands of capable artists, a piece of art can be restored to 99.9% of its former glory by scanning the printed page and painstakingly correcting the scan to make a meticulous approximation of the original. Completing work of this kind is an arduous and time consuming task, and is something that should only be undertaken by a professional with a respect and admiration for the work of the original artist.

As production assistant on several releases by Vanguard Productions, I put my skills on the subject to task. There I worked under Vanguard's publisher David Spurlock to restore several pieces of art by Steve Ditko, St. John, Roy G. Krenkel, and others, wherein the originals have been lost to time. At Vanguard, the quality of the restorations cannot be questioned. Vanguard's books are hailed as important archival works, preserving the life portfolios of comics' and fantasy's founders that otherwise would have disappeared into obscurity. It is nearly impossible to tell which pages in a Vanguard release were reprinted from the original artwork and which were restored by Mr. Spurlock and myself. BLAM!s restoration team, under my guidance, is treating the works we will be reprinting with the same respect and reverence.

So what does this have to do with G.I.Joe or Battlestar, where am I going with all this, and why the long rant?

Yesterday, my copy of Classic G.I. Joe, Volume 6 arrived from Amazon. Published by IDW, Volume 6 showcases Marvel's run of G.I.Joe issues #51-60; comics that until now have not seen print since the mid 1980s. The previous G.I.Joe license holder, Devil's Due, had released the first five volumes a few years ago, giving us reprints of issues #1-50 in the process. I was extremely disappointed when Devil's Due stopped reprinting the Classic Joe Line at #50, especially since as a kid I had stopped collecting the original issues around issue #80 and was hoping to get a chance to read the final arc of Larry Hama's intense saga. Imagine my joy when IDW announced their intention to continue the reprint line!

So, here we are, two days before Christmas, and my copy of Volume 6 arrives. Unable to wait, I stopped everything I was doing and sat down for the long read.

Sadly, my glee quickly turned to disappointment.

The restoration of the art in Volume 6 leaves something to be desired. Instead of crisp black line work, the strokes are broken up and fuzzy. In some cases, the original line work is almost destroyed by a thickening of every line combined with an over saturation of blacks which bleed into the rest of the artwork (see page 42 - sample on the right). In some cases, the quality of the line work is so bad it is difficult to read the lettering, and some balloons are even missing parts of dialogue (page 31, panel 2 below)!



Then there is the coloring. In some panels, background characters that were in color in the original releases have inadvertently (I can only hope) been left black and white (page 30, panel 4, below).



On top of that, coloring mistakes from the original issues have NOT been corrected but simply duplicated, as in the case of a Crimson (i.e. RED) Guardsman rendered in blue (page 27, below-left)!

I am not going to complain too much about the coloring in this edition, however, because in fact it is the only thing that saves the artwork: it's vibrant color and intensity helps hide the sloppy restoration of the black and white art.


A related issue crops up in Titan Books' reprint editions of Marvel's Battlestar Galactica comic series from 2005. The first volume, Saga of a Starworld, starts out with beautiful art, either restored or taken from original pages or film, and combines it with restored color that evokes the same emotion as the original did in 1978.

Four issues in, however, all that ends. The reprints of issue #5 and #6 in that volume are simply, well, reprints. The pages were scanned from the original comic releases, and not retouched at all! No new coloring was added, and in fact, the scanners used were most likely NOT on the proper settings, making the art look grainy and well, dirty - and not in a good way. In Titan's defense, the second volume of the series they released, The Memory Machine was fully restored to grandeur just as the first 2/3rds of Starworld were. Another reason (but not an excuse) for Titan's messy job could have been a deadline issue in regards to Starworld having to go to print without full restoration, as the release date for that book was pushed back over and over again.

At least, however, Titan really tried. What's IDW's excuse?

IDW is one of the top comic companies today. They are the holders of some of the biggest grossing licenses ever in comics. And they have had the G.I. Joe license for a few years now. Surely if they had no access to the original films of the art, they do have access to top talent that could restore the pages. Surely.

Don't take this the wrong way, I don't want to come across simply as a basher of IDW. I have in fact enjoyed reading several of their releases over the past few years, including 30 Days of Night, Star Trek: Countdown, Star Trek: Nero, and G.I. Joe Origins. I am ecstatic about their announcement to continue the original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comic line this coming summer with issue #156, and with Larry Hama writing to boot! I even enjoyed reading the aforementioned Classic G.I.Joe Volume 6.

Huh? Didn't I just complain about Volume 6? Yes, yes I did. And the answer that makes all that make sense is in the statement "I have in fact enjoyed reading."

The issue I have with this reprint volume is indicative of what I see as a larger problem. The writing on all the above mentioned releases was top-notch - some of the best I have read in a while. The art on most of them, on the other hand, is another story.

The anatomy problems in Countdown are too numerous to mention, backgrounds in several panels of Nero were simply screengrabs from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and weren't even traced! I didn't know they still made Star Trek fotonovels!), and you know my issues with Volume 6. Of all the above-mentioned titles, Origins and 30 Days of Night were the only ones I can say the art was enjoyable in.

The art in comics in general is slacking, and IDW (along with a few others in the industry) is on the leading edge of it. As comic art of this caliber continues to be published, comics itself is threatening to become a lost art.

As I am sure you know, I'm not the only one with a rant. On message boards everywhere, fans are complaining. While many people would say that that is the nature of fandom, maybe some of these companies should listen to what the fans are complaining about once in a while and do something about it.

Of course, with the G.I. Joe movie (shudder) doing as well as it did, and a public awareness of the license that has never been seen before, IDW stood to make some serious green on releasing older Joe material that hasn't been out in decades. Especially with the success of Hasbro's 25th Anniversary line of G.I. Joe action figures released 2 years ago that proved that fans want their classic Joes back. Those fans, like me, clamored to order this book and continue the line. Was the decision made to spend as little on this project as possible by hiring substandard retouchers in order to make a larger profit margin, or does the art director assigned to this book simply need new glasses?

Either way, shame on you IDW. You should know better.

-Drew G.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Setting up shop once again on the blogosphere

Hey all, the gang from BLAM! Ventures is planning on returning to the web in a big way in 2009. We've promised before, but this time it's true, with multiple projects arriving in the second half of 2009, including two soon to be announced licenses.

More to come in the next few weeks, stay tuned...