Arizona: The Land Of Meth Heads and Unopened Star Trek Toys

Mouths Within Mouths

I’m currently in Arizona. Not by choice, mind you. I’m here out of familial obligation. The simultaneous happenings of my sister’s birthday and my partner’s mother’s birthday was enough to lure us back into the rattlesnake infested, drug addled wasteland that is Tucson.

Arizona, where I was born and raised, is not my favorite place. Partially due to the massive amount of time I’ve spent here, and partially due to the unsavory individuals I’ve encountered within the boarders of the Union’s Most Bigoted state.

There are two things that constantly shock me about Arizona. 1) People here don’t change. Every time I return to this state I inevitably encounter people I know and they’re always doing the same thing. They’re always working some dead end job. It’s like the entire state has convinced itself that it needs to be doing whatever it is that they’re doing. Even if what they’re doing is working at a gas station. 2) There are Star Trek figures at every store in Tucson. Not the cool Art Asylum ones either. The crappy big-headed Playmates ones. They’re everywhere. I don’t know if a batch of collectors died and their relatives have been dumping their TNG and DS9 toys and local used book stores or if people are finally getting older and realizing that these toys aren’t “going to put their kids through college”.

Arizona’s a weird place. It’s flat, dry, and, obviously, fucking hot. There’s nothing to do here. The positive side of the fact that life here is so uneventful is that it necessitates self reflection. The topography of the social terrain requires the inhabitant to administer self-diagnostics. When you’re born and raised in Arizona, you’re forced to evaluate yourself and what you want out of your existence because there’s literally nothing else to do.

Due to the harsh social terrain of Arizona, individuals who spend any significant amount of time here develop social adaptations. They become predators. They grow psychic barbs and talons. People who live and survive in the desert do so because they’re conditioned for it. They’re psychic vultures.

The desert is an inhospitable place to attempt to subsist. Everything is constantly attempting to kill you. Literally and metaphorically.

All that being said, this trip has been really nice. Ever since cutting a few people out of my social circle my level of happiness has skyrocketed.

Honesty is key. Vulnerability is a commodity. It’s these exchanges of dark secrets that cements a friendship. I’ve developed deep rooted connections with people in this place. There’s something about existing in a pack of wolves that helps you to appreciate the other sheep, if that makes any sense.

Tucson, and Arizona in general, is a mixed bag of awful and joy. Obviously, my family lives here. Some of my closest friends have chosen to remain here. However, the overwhelming stillness of life here is debilitating. Possibly, it’s my inability to let go of the traumas that I’ve endured while living here, but sadness echoes in the place. In Los Angeles, life is full and vibrant. It’s almost overloaded with color. I have an amazing partner who I go on swashbuckling adventures with. I have friends and adopted family who are intelligent and creative. In Tucson everything is brown, slow, and slightly decayed.

Arizona feels like another lifetime. It feels like when I moved away from this place I died and was reborn. And every time I come back here I’m forced to confront the ghost of who I was.

The first question I get asked at parties and social functions in Hollywood is inevitably “where are you from?” because no one in L.A. is actually from there. I’m always forced to spit out ‘Arizona’. It never feels right. I don’t consider this place my home. I don’t consider myself from here. It’s the place I was born and then left.

——————

Dave Baker

Tucson, Az 2013

Yes…But Take Warning

 

 

Live Long and Party

creating is a very lonely thing. You spend all your time sitting in a room ‘working’. Sure, some people listen to podcasts or music but it’s an undeniably solitary life. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love not having to go into an office. I love being able to push my schedule around as I please. However, there are times when even I, the most hobbity of hermits, want to interact with people.

In Trek terms, ‘away missions’ are required from time to time. They help maintain my sanity, which is constantly on the verge of snapping.
photo-2

Night before last I, and my small cadre of nerds, ventured down onto Hollywood Blvd. To say that it’s a hive of scum and villainy wouldn’t be incorrect. The place is bonkers. Twenty-four-seven. Part of me loves it and part of me hates it. I love the fact that a few blocks from my house there’s a massive orgy of excess and drunken indulgence. I also can’t help but be disgusted by the artifice of it all. On Hollywood Blvd there’s nothing honest. There’s nothing real. It’s like Vegas. It’s all genetically engineered to be consumed by individuals who have no cultural awareness. Hollywood Blvd is the porn version of life in California. Everything is heightened, all the vulnerabilities are shoved under a rug, and there’s a shit ton of noise.  There’s a large facet of my person that devours this presentation of life here. I love the fact that people come here to escape from their everyday lives. Even individuals who still live in Los Angeles attend parties and go to clubs on Hollywood Blvd because a small part of themselves buys into what the club owners and party throwers are selling.

photo-1

And then there’s shit like this. A fucking dude in a Mario suit. Why? Because it’s friday night and why not. It’s like comic con, but with more crappy hip-hop. And almost every night.

photo

The sheer volume of ‘holyfuckwedon’thavetoworktomorrowlet’sgetfuckedup’ is astonishing. People really hate their jobs, their partners, their (insert aspect of their life here) and they are constantly attempting to escape it. Every time I’m in a situation where I witness this It gives me an immense amount of perspective. Oh course there are elements of my life I’m not happy with. Everyone has something. But it’s the fact that people need these venues to escape from themselves for two or three hours that I find endlessly fascinating. I find the whole cycle really beautiful and really sad simultaneously.

—————————————

 

The Curse of the Carpal Tunnel Creatures From Beyond The Grave

And now on to the the things you care about. COMICS. Or rather the drawing of the comics and such. Or maybe you don’t care about comics. I don’t know.

I’m almost done penciling Action Hospital #3. I’ve got about two more pages left to lay the graphite down on and the WE MOVE TO THE INKS!

photo

Working on the art side of comics again is interesting. It’s been a while since I’ve actually put any serious effort into drawing. I’ve been concentrating on writing for so long. I’m really enjoying drawing again. I forgot how rewording it is to see a blank page birthed into something so much more.

photo-1

One of the challenges about writing/drawing is being able to keep one hat on for an extended period of time. Whenever I start drawing I instantly start thinking of ideas for the next script and vis versa. I suppose that’s a good problem to have.

photo-2

Drawing drawing and them more drawing, man. That’s really all their is to say, at this point. I’m just really deep into the production of this thing. I’m going to be overjoyed when it’s finished.

photo-3—————————————————

Form Of A Bucket of Awesome Comics!

Last night I got together with Robert Negrete, my creative partner in crime on Action Hospital.

photo

Robert has finished all the layouts for Action Hospital 2 is just starting on the pages. Even his thumbnails are fucking dope. Look at this:

photo-1

photo-5

Great, right? Yeah, great. Robert is ten times the illustrator that I am. Here’s hoping I can finagle him into doing Action Hospital for a little while.

 

photo-3

Bonus Chun Li?

I mean, look at these sketchbook pages, man! Look at his control of from and his line weights. It’s super duper good. photo-2

So, since I’m nearing the end of Action Hospital #3 Robert and I have some super cool things planned. We’re going to be both drawing on the pages. As such, here’s a sneak peak:

photo-6

photo-7

photo-8

photo-9

Team up drawing, yo!

 

So, there you have it. Drawings, comics, me in a Science Officer’s shirt out in public, and Robert Negrete owning me at the drawing game.

——————————–

Special Announcement: We’re shooting to launch the Action Hospital page #1 this Wednesday. See you then!

———————————

The title for this post comes from Detective Comics #300. Five Points?

———————————

Until Next Time,

Dave Baker

Hollywood, Ca 2013

If You Need To Use Guitars, Use Guitars.

Comics take forever.

I feel like I’ve aged ten years since the last time I put out a comic that I was truly proud of. It would seem that those are the two constants in my life, recently. Age and comics. Seemingly the older I get the quicker I age. Yes, I realize that I’m still young and virile and have my whole life ahead of me and blah blah blah but, I’m not going to lie. I feel like 9,000 years old.

Man, this is a depressing intro.

Let’s start again. And this time with a thin veneer of jubilation

Hello, dear reader!

You’re about to start reading the first issue-ish of Action Hospital featuring our beloved plant wielding pre-teen Younger The Vine Walker!

Younger face sketches

Robert’s first sketches of Younger

Action Hospital and Younger have been rolling around in my head for quite some time. I suppose to give you an accurate depiction of where this creative journey has gone and just how long it has taken I should start at the beginning.

Sibling

Robert’s sketches of Younger’s plant-sister/brother Sibling

The first time the words Action and Hospital entered my head were in my ratty little apartment on Park Ave in San Diego, California. I was listening to an interview with comics writer extraordinaire Matt Fraction when the host asked him a question that sounded like, “Have you ever visited the Action Hospital?” Undoubtedly, the actual question was nothing of the sort but the misheard phrase ‘Action Hospital ‘ stuck in by brain. A few days after this my partner left our humble abode for a weekend trip to see friends. I was left at our house, with a stack of comics and no real responsibilities. So, what did I do? I read comics in my underwear until 2 am.

Plant armor first pass

Robert pretty much nailed the ‘cabbage armor’ on his first try.

At the time I was reading a lot of titles. Probably more than my internet startup writers paycheck could reasonably afford. But, nevertheless, I was reading a bunch of books. As I always do, I saved my favorite book for last. Casanova. If you haven’t read Casanova, do yourself a favor and go buy it. Today. It’s astoundingly good.

Let’s digress for a second. I feel that to properly digest the story which I’m currently in the midst relaying to you it is of paramount importance that you understand my relationship with Casanova. Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon’s Casanova is my all time favorite comic book. But it’s more than that. It’s a strangely lovable recurring character in the painfully banal sitcom that is my life. It’s helped me through extremely trying times. It’s assisted me in more ways than I’d like to admit. The book intersects with my life in very, very strange ways. The first volume served as the background noise to my creative break up.  It functioned in the same way a record does when you’re deciding to leave someone. You always think of that person when you hear the record.

That is to say, I used to make comics with someone that I hold very near and dear to my heart. Casanova inspired us to create a five issue mini series about a time traveling spy. Over the course of those five issues my relationship with my collaborator deteriorated into a husk of what it once was. Currently, we are not on speaking terms. This is a fact that I have very mixed feelings about.

Ok, let’s get back on course. I’m sitting on my bed in my 0.5 bedroom apartment and I’m reading Casanova: Aviritia #4. It’s the final issue of the third arc. It’s the book that has been delayed for months. It’s the comic I’ve been dying to read since who knows when. And It’s here. In my hands. I open it up and it’s an injection of pure cocaine straight into my brain meat. I’m on cloud nine for the entire issue. And then I reach the last page. And Casanova Quinn, inter-dimensional superspy, is standing in front of the Hollywood sign.

And it hits me. This is where I have to move. I have to go to Hollywood. I have to escape the bizarre, crack head filled life that I’m living and I have to go to Hollywood. Casanova is starring off the page at me. Practically daring me to do it. To go to Hollywood.

I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train. I wander around the apartment stunned into silence.  After a few minutes of pacing in circles I flip to the end of the issue and start perusing the letters column. There it is. My letter. The letter that I sent to Fraction almost four months previous. I’m in Casanova.

I dropped the book and started writing. I started writing a screenplay called The Action Hospital.

Plant armor again

Younger The Vine Walker, ladies and gents.

That was almost an entire year ago. Action Hospital has changed shapes multiple times since then. It started as a screenplay, then morphed into a four issue mini, then was completely retooled and reconstructed into what you see before you. The story of Younger the Vine Walker and her many compatriots in the Action Hospital.

There you have it. That’s how we got here. From San Diego to Hollywood to your computer screen.

Comics, man. They take forever.

———

At this juncture I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge my collaborator on this project, my co-pilot, and Younger’s co-creator Robert Negrete.

I met Robert at the weekly Drink and Draw at Casey’s Bar and Grill in Downtown Los Angeles. His illustrative capabilities are on display for all to see in this issue. He’s the real reason that this comic was birthed. His skill is on display on every page of this issue.

Robert took my billion little ideas and synthesized them into a real thing. Into a breathing, living thing. He synthesized them into Younger. No one could draw this book but Robert. Look at Younger’s costume design. Even Mark Silvestri with all his assistants would be crazy to design something that intricate.

I’ll never know why or how Robert puts up with my crazy hair brained ideas but he does. And he ushers them into reality with a diligent hand and a critical eye.

————

Finally, in the tradition of Casanova, let’s talk for a moment about the influences behind Younger and Action Hospital.

The Cosby Show

The Cosby Show is the greatest sitcom of all time. It was not only pan culturally comedic but it was poignant. Yes, it was ground breaking due to its all African American cast but it was also ground breaking in that it treated its characters as real people and not inflatable plot points.

Kamen Rider Amazon


Japan’s long running super hero television show Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) is one of my favorite pieces of pop culture. Especially, Kamen Rider Amazon, in which a child who was raised in the Amazon Jungle travels to Japan in order to protect it from the evil Ten Headed Demon. Yes, the show is as crazy as it sounds.

Tarzan

Growing up I loved Tarzan. Then I hit 15 and discovered that it was a white power allegory and lost my mind. Younger is my vain attempt at spitting on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ grave by subverting the Tarzan archetype by creating a character that is not white, nor male and yet is just as powerful and awesome.

Haunt

Haunt-Volume-1

Never in a million years did I expect to love Kirkman and McFarlane’s Haunt half as much as I do. The concept of two people being trapped in one super powered body is delightful.

  ———————

Extra tidbit: the title to this post is a Depeche Mode reference. Five points to anyone who can figure it out.

———————

Until next time,

Dave Baker

Hollywood, Ca 2013