Behind the Scenes of a Dinosaur Obsession

I fell in love with Dinosaurs when I was six years old. It’s the perfect age to discover something that is going to take root in your soul and stay forever.

This year was 1993, and Jurassic Park was everywhere. That certainly helped. Convincing my mom to buy me dinosaur books and toys, and take me to museums was really really easy. My mom liked dinosaurs too, although really she just enjoyed encouraging whatever we were enthusiastic about. This is one of the reasons my sister and I are so awesome.
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I grew taller. Obsessions came and went, particularly Star Wars, Monty Python, and Doctor Who (which is kind of like Star Wars and Monty Python mixed together), but Dinosaurs always remained. There were always dinosaur toys on the floor of whatever house I was living in. Dinosaur stickers on my bag. Dinosaur doodles on nearly ever piece of paper I owned. The research about dinosaurs changed, things I thought I knew updated. Pterodactyls lost the dactyl. Velociraptors shrunk and grew feathers. Triceratops becomes a juvenile Torosaur. Brontosaurus is made defunct, (a Brachiosaur skull on an Apatosaurus body, or some such) and then gets reinstated! Mind blown. I keep up with it as best I can, while still treasuring my 1990’s Smithsonian Field Guide, whose illustrations are becoming increasingly inaccurate. I own Jurassic Park on VHS, DVD, and BluRay.

During our first year of dating, my then girlfriend (now wife) takes me to see the ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ stage show extravaganza, with the most ridiculously giant and accurate puppets you’ve ever seen, and I feel exactly what it feels like to encounter a walking breathing 60 foot tall creature. As do all the other 6 year olds in the audience, as we are the  only unaccompanied non-minors in the house. Thus begins the dinosaur birthday tradition, Michelle has found dinosaurs for every birthday since we met.

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My son, Wellington, is now two years old. A little young, I think, to truly grasp what dinosaurs are all about. He’s got a plush Triceratops, and a electronic biting T-Rex in his toy bucket. Recently, he picked up the trike, and made it growl. I didn’t teach him that, he just knew. I can’t wait for him to get a little bigger. We’ve got movies to watch, museums to visit, and all the paper  in the universe to doodle on.

It’s gonna be awesome.

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This personal recollection was brought to you by: A-to-Z-asaurus! A Dino Guide with Teeth! I wrote the book, and my pal Mike Spiers did the illustrations, and we’re using Kickstarter to raise funds to get it printed. If you’re all interested in a book of silly dinosaur facts and outrageous opinions, with lavish illustrations, please check it out! We have until November 4th to get enough pledges to make the book a reality, so now is the time!

 

A-to-Z-asaurus!

I wrote a very silly guide to the 26 best dinosaurs, cunningly arranged in alphabetical order. It was lavishly illustrated by my pal Mike Spiers, who is simply awesome at drawing dinosaurs. It’s a great book for any dinosaur enthusiast you know, ages 6 to 65 million.

This volume is a limited edition, only available through our Kickstarter campaign, not available in stores later. So if you want to get your hands on a copy, pledge today!

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Small Gods Graphic Novel

 

In September of 2009, I had the good fortune to meet one of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett. Through a quirk of emails, I even got a chance to do some work for him, designing t-shirts, pins and plush toys for the merchandise cottage industry that has sprung up around his novels (Hi PJSM prints! I mean Discworld.com!). I became a part of Terry’s unofficial North American Posse, and a couple times when he and his assistant Rob visited the US, I got the chance to eat near them and chat. Cartoonist that I am, I felt it my duty to talk them into doing some more graphic novel adaptations of the Discworld novels, the last one being nearly 20 years ago. The polite pestering began.

Eventually, I pitched an angle that Terry liked. This was in 2012, at the New York Comic Con. Excitement. I work on a script, and character designs. With some minor tweaks, Terry approves both. Rob talks to the publishers on my behalf, and wrangles a deal. This only takes a few more years, during which I don’t say anything, because who wants to jinx a deal that isn’t finalized? Inbetween the ‘we like this idea let’s do it’ and the ‘getting paid enough to get started’ timeframes, I get married and produce a small child.

The contract comes through. The drawing begins. Sir Terry dies. I still haven’t said anything publicly about the project, as it isn’t the time for that sort of thing. Numerous peoples, aware of my fandom and ambitions to adapt, console me that now I never will get the chance. I grit my teeth, wipe my tears, drink some whiskey, and draw draw draw. 2015 was the year of the most amount of drawing I’ve ever done, at least 10 hours a day, 10 days a week. The book comes together. Rob likes it, especially considering I drew him into the background, as jokingly requested.

I finish drawing the book in November of 2015. The last month in a mad panic of deadline. A few things I wanted to go back and touch up don’t happen, and several last minute ideas get implemented through a haze of caffein. Done. Off to the printers.small-gods_gn_ppc_fc-647x1024

The book is to come out end of July, and the UK Discworld Convention is in August. No one on the publicity side of things has determined whether or not they need my involvement in promoting the book, but the wife and I, with invaluable input from the baby, decide to spend the summer in the UK, in case they need me. It’s really hot in California, and we don’t have anything else important we need to be working on really.

It’s really hot in the UK too, but we muddle through. Wander up and down the country, to places we’ve been before, and places we haven’t. The baby has a ball, chasing chickens, hugging sheep, jumping in mud, and eating rocks. We don’t lose him or drop him or set him on fire hardly at all.

A book signing is set up for me at Forbidden Planet in London. I arrive slightly late and frazzled due to some of the tube stations being closed, but there is a queue of people waiting for me, and bottles of water, and a very large pile of books to be signed. Usually my book signings at this point consist of convincing people in the bookstore to come and talk to me, so having a throng of people waiting for me to draw turtles on their copies is a welcome change. This sponging off other people’s fan base sure makes things easier. Every single person I talk to in person is unfailingly supportive and wonderful.

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The convention  agrees to have me on as a last minute guest, and finds stuff for me to do to earn my keep. I give a talk on graphic novels in general, and the graphic novel I just did in specific. I sign more books. I help children paint rocks, which means giving them paint and telling jokes while hiding behind a chair. I draw for everyone who asks me, delighted to get attention. I buy people drinks, and get drinks bought for me. I judge a hedgehog race, possibly for charity. I chase a small child through a hotel at 2 o clock in the morning several nights in a row. I dress up all fancy, but not as fancy as the fanciest fanciers.

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And then in the blink of a Gatwick, I am home again, wondering what will happen next.

Getting to adapt and illustrate Small Gods as a graphic novel, to condense the brilliant book into 120 pages was a thrill, a pleasure, an honor, and an awful lot of work. If that’s all I ever get to do, playing with the toys in the sandbox that Terry built, I was a lucky man.

And if I am very very lucky, and it ‘does well’, they may even let me do another one! Which novel would you like to see adapted next?

 

Stuff What It Is I’m Doing Already!

Happy New Year!

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Notice the date stamp, it’s Jan 29th. Happy Newyearsing in January is fine. If I had waited a few days until February, however, the consequences could have been disastrous!!

So what have I been up to lately, I hear you ask? In my imagination, you’re very interested. Well, the answer is a resounding shrug. my 2015 was not overly eventful. I played with my one year old as much as possible, watching him gain new powers and talents has been really interesting. I Paid all my bills somehow, that was nice. I did two events, and they were both fairly impromptu. As I told several people during the day I wandered around the San Diego Comic Con “I’ll be ambitious next year, I’m too tired right now!”

Sleepiness is the enemy of accomplishment. I have lots of great ideas, but not all that much follow through.

I actually did complete two projects entirely last year, but I couldn’t talk about them at at the time, which made my social media presence all the emptier.

Pirate Penguin vs Ninja Chicken book 2 is coming out in March! Finally! I’ll talk more about it when the time for UltraPublicizing is nigh. I’ve actually had it finished since before my wedding in 2013! I just had to take it out and give it a bit of a polish.

Also, I had the very great fortune to adapt and illustrate the graphic novel version of one of my favorite author’s novels, Sir Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. I’ve been angling to play in the Discworld universe Terry created, and getting to do so officially was a thrill. Not speaking about it for the entirety of 2015 was not easy. I still can’t say too much about it, as I am not in charge of the book’s publicity. But it’s public knowledge that the book is release in July of this year, so I look forward to sharing the cover, and more information as I am in able. I may even have to give the San Diego Comic Con a miss this year, as I’ll most likely be in the UK at the time, doing book release type thingies.

In the meantime, I have several projects in the works, that I’m excited to share when the time is right.

I’m finishing up a Dinosaur ABC book with my friend Mike, who draws fantastic dinosaurs. You’ll recognize his artwork from the ‘Hansel and Gretel and Zorbax’ chapter of Fairy Tales I Just Made Up.

I would like to release a collection of the thousands of tiny story ideas I’ve been accumulating, but will never realize fully. So some sort of big pile of 2-5 page comics, chock full of my usual weirdness.

Does anybody remember Divine Whiners? I serialized that as a webcomic for the better part of a year a few years ago. Never finished the story. I’d like to complete that, and release it as a book. Is anybody interested in seeing that happen? Hands up please, I’m very interested to know.

My novel is as half finished as it ever was. I have a four issue comic miniseries of my own devising I’d like to get around to drawing sometime. It’s pretty cool. I might start another webcomic. I might release an ebook of some sort.

Again, lots of stuff I’d like to do. Not sure how well I’ll follow through, at this quadrant of my life. When my son is done teething, and everybody is getting a full night’s sleep regularly, I’ll probably explode back into the public consciousness and be so productive you can’t even stand it.

Thanks for listening to the mixture of boasting and whining. I apologize in advance, retroactively.

 

 

Ventrine O’Jackson

A notion I’m having towards drawing some adventure strips…

Ventrine O'Jackson

At the moment, I’m drawing every day, but it’s work I won’t really be able to show off until next year. I’d like to start drawing a webcomic again, but most of the ideas I currently have much more epic in scope. Since my free time is quite limited, executing longform ideas seems impossible. So! I’m thinking of creating something new and simple, where I really make it up as I go along, and just trying to have as much exciting weirdness as possible. Whatcha think?