Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 30, 2008
My dogs get out of the slammer today. Got some treats for them.

Finished two more illustrations last night and this morning:

This is Mickey Free, at left, saying to the Apache Kid, "Be careful Cousin, we are living in a time when even right is wrong." To which the Kid replies, "We aren't cousins."

Ouch! In Apache culture, someone is called Cousin as a sign of affection. Unfortunately, the Kid is under the influence of Curly and Tulapai. And by the way, the Mickey Free line is a direct quote from the mixto himself.

And, here, finally, is an image I have been wanting to do for some time and finally made the time this morning before I went into the office. It's of Remington with his editor at Harper's Weekly. I think I nailed The Man Who Knew The Horse:

I was trying for that old style illustration that was popular in 1890-1920 magazines. Kind of groovy, no?

"Bravo. The only thing missing is the soundtrack."
—Tom Augherton's review of Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel

Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29, 2008
Had a successful weekend. Did a half dozen illustrations:

And a very angry Apache:

"Stop being the White Man's dog!" is what he's saying. I got this bit of Apache slang from Dale Miles, the official historian of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. He told me this was a common expression in the old days.

Whipped out a sweet little establishing shot of Mickey Free riding back into San Carlos, with the boom in construction by Major Bullis in full swing:

Had a meeting this morning with Meghan and Robert Ray to go over The Top Secret Writer's massive rewrite. Based on the critiques we got back, more than one commented on the lack of consistency in Remington's voice in the narrative. I think it was Will Shetterly, or Emma Bull, who commented that it reads half the time like Remington and half the time like a history teacher reciting the facts. Ironically, I'm the one who recited the facts and Hutton, the actual history professor, was doing his best Remington. Paul is rewriting the entire narrative and we are scrambling to input his text as soon as it comes in.

One of the other observations is that there are too many voices and too many fonts. Charlie Waters and Tom Carpenter said they were confused about which element on the page to read first. We played with reducing the fonts from three to two, but ultimately it looked like a picture book and we found ourselves right back at the place we came in.

Meghan wondered if we shouldn't kill the footnotes at the bottom of the page. Going to have to live with some of this, regardless, because we're going to press on Friday.

Everyone surprisingly calm, showing their true veteran abilities. Me, I'm going to cardio rehab.

On the dog front, I didn't go visit Peaches and Buddy in the dog slammer this weekend because I think it made things worse. They would get all excited and try to get out and then I'd leave. They get out tomorrow. I think we're giving Buddy away. Kathy is talking to two potential dog lovers.

"The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue."
—Dorothy Parker

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 28, 2008
Four days to go on Mickey Free. Hanging out. Ha. What else is new? We got good feedback on the PDF rough prototype we sent out. Good suggestions and opinions from virtually everyone. It's really going to improve the final product.

I've isolated ten art holes that should be filled for the story to track. Five are actually sequences, three are mandatory. Started work on three today. Slow going. Need to stay calm.

History Quote Thieves Like Me
"BBB, I was reading about your 'friend from Wickenburg, and kept quoting John Ford's movie 'When the legend becomes fact print the legend.' Last night we saw Robert Wuhl in Mesa. He uses that line quite a bit in his 'history' act. In part II he added that 'History is based on a true story,' which made a fair amount of sense when you think about it. I'm a bigger fan of Tombstone than Wyatt himself but I THINK while he was basically a 'good guy' he walked a fine line and stepped on both sides. I thought it was a different view he presented on history."
—Kip Corea

Oh, that's a great quote. I'm going to use that one!

"History is based on a true story."
—Robert Bell, I mean Wuhl

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September 27, 2008
Had kind of a poignant morning. Drove down to Mike Melrose's apartment with Kathy to meet Mike's brother Tim who flew out from Iowa to clear out his brother's apartment. Tim asked me if I wanted any of Minnesota Mike's Western collection so we went down and had a look see.

Mike had some good art and some of mine (ha), lots of True West back issues and even a Buck Taylor print. Took those, and also took the Steve McQueen "Tom Horn" movie poster and a Lon Megargee "Cowboy's Dream" poster.

I was going through some of my Mickey Free reference files last night and I found a bunch of photos of my staff at the magazine, stuck in amongst some Fort Apache shots (on the same roll evidently). Here's a candid photo of Mike, taken maybe two years ago. He seems to be thinking, "This could all end very quickly." Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the guy was sitting on my couch helping me to recover last April and now he's gone. Yikes!

Worked most of the day on an image of Major Bullis, who replaced Captain Pierce at San Carlos and is kind of a villain in our Mickey Free story. He made radical changes on the res using mostly Buffalo Soldiers to do the grunt work. I wanted to portray him as the new army so I borrowed one of those WWI caps officers started wearing I believe around the turn of the century. I also wanted to give him a twentieth century look, sort of the anti-Remington idea of a cavalry officer. Here he is pontificating to Mickey Free, whose on horseback, or should that be mule back, (you can see his reflection in the window):

I spent part of the morning trying to find the right photo reference to portray him as a bad guy. I found a couple old illustrations from Century Magazine (1904) but they were too civil. Then I found the right reference:

"If you're going to steal, steal from the best."
—Steven Spielberg

Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26, 2008
Went home for lunch and whipped out a pretty decent likeness of Alchesay, the White Mountain Apache leader who is one of the true heroes of our story. Here he is in all his thunderstruck glory:

Came back to the office, scanned the image and placed it in the document. Robert Ray and Abby have been working hard to get all the little details into the huge 20-page-document. It's taking Quark Xpress literally minutes to load because of all the images and detail on each page. Much Photoshopping in the background. Very, very ambitious. I just hope it tracks. Going to send it out via PDF to a couple people who have offered to take an objective look at it. Going out in five minutes (2:21 PM).

"Next to doing a good job yourself, the greatest joy is in having someone else do a first-class job under your direction."
—William Feather
September 26, 2008
Woke up early. Kathy had to go to a Red Cross nuclear explosion simulation so she left at six. I went out and finished the Remington knock-off "Sibi's Crew." Finished at 9:30 (got about eight hours in this puppy), and I might add, this is as close to Remington as I can come:

Left to right: The Apache Kid, Al Sieber, Tom Horn and Mickey Free. Notice I signed it "Freddy Remington" to insure that no one tries to sell it fifty years from now as the real deal. Not that they would, but some people get such crazy ideas.

Case in point:

"Hello Mr. Bell. I watched a program about Wyatt Earp on the History Channel last night (September 23, 2008.) I was so disgusted with the liberal spin put on the historical content that I am writing to you now. The way that story was twisted to make Wyatt Earp look like an outlaw is shameful. It is a complete distortion of the truth. The description of the program said, "...Wyatt Earp, outlaw and sometimes lawman..." The content of the program was full of truth distortion. I saw you interviewed on the program, and I have to say I was very disgusted with your left-wing spin as well. Members of the American viewing public have had to get used to a certain degree of left-wing spin in just about all media today, but I would hope that changing history would not be something you or the History Channel would attempt to do. I have e-mailed the History Channel about this as well. Just to let you know, I have traveled all over the United States to do my own research about Wyatt Earp's life. I have read every book and magazine article I can get my hands on, so I am well aware of the left-wing spin that is out there about his life. The corrupt Democrat machine that tried to destroy Wyatt Earp in the 1880's is still alive and well. I just did not realize that you were one who participated in that kind of thing. I have a couple of books that were autographed by you in Tombstone back in the 1990's. I think I would like to return them to you. I will have to figure out how to do that. I do not want them on my bookshelf here in Wickenburg, Arizona, anymore. Becoming involved with the magazine industry has obviously turned you into a devoted left-winger... that is truly unfortunate. I guess people who really love history and love the Old West will have to go somewhere other than your magazine and books to indulge in stories from the past... that is, if we want the truth. We also cannot depend on the History Channel to tell the truth... it is too bad. The one thing both you and I can count on though is that THE TRUTH ALWAYS SURVIVES, AND THE TRUTH ALWAYS WINS IN THE END. That is what Wyatt Earp and his family had to keep reminding themselves of, and it is something I have to remind myself of every day in a world that is so hell-bent on twisting it."
—A woman from Wickenburg

Here's the reply I'd like to send:

Dear Madam,
Please return my books. I will gladly pay the postage because I don't want such an idiot having my books in her house.

Meanwhile, more Lone Ranger speculation:

"Electric Dreams has been an AICN source for some time, and has provided some substantive/impressive material in the past.

"He dropped us a line to follow-up on his report from yesterday's Disney pep rally at the Kodak theater in L.A..

"Following the reveal that Johnny Depp would play Tonto (THE LONE RANGER's faithful Native American cohort), it was natural to ask who might portray the titular masked rider against injustice in the Old West.

"Here's what Electric Dreams had to say:

"Word as of now is that George Clooney has shown a lot of interest in the role of the Lone Ranger, and the studio's been talking to him about it. Previously it was rumored that Nic Cage was up for the role, but that rumor died a long time ago. Clooney's name has come up quite a number of times since."
—Electric Dreams

"Keep in mind this means the matter's only in the talking stages at the moment & far from a "done deal". But a Clooney/Depp LONE RANGER movie...produced with Bruckheimer flair...could be pretty cool if you ask me (and no one has)."
—Ain't It Cool

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
— Newt Gingrich

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Johnny Depp as Tonto? Maybe-so. We know that Disney is mounting a big Lone Ranger movie with the producer who did Pirates of the Caribean trilogy. Just got this from Alan Huffines, who copied me off the Ain't It Cool website:

"So just got back from attending the Walt Disney Showcase that the company throws for partnering agencies and media and had some big news to reveal.

"1st a recap.

"Dick Cook the President of the Motion Picture Division spent the day teasing upcoming films for 2009 thru 2011, and with it came a barrage of celebs who he welcomed to the stage to further make the announcement sweeter, here are some examples;

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN - Dwayne Johnson appeared, talked about the film.

WILD HOGS 2: Bachelor Ride - Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H Macy all reunited as they pulled on stage on Harleys. . .

[And then. . .]

"And in the end as Dick Cook was wrapping up, the USC Marching Band comes out and starts playing the Lone Ranger theme and a graphic for the film comes on screen.

"Suddenly the curtain raises and a White horse w/ a Lone Ranger character is galloping on stage during the music. When it's over, Dick says he hasnt cast a Lone Ranger yet, but he had an idea for a Tonto.

"Just then Johnny Depp comes from off stage dressed to the nines as Jack Sparrow with a Lone Ranger mask on a stick over his eyes, banters w/ Dick Cook and makes Dick wear the mask and hold the gun he was carrying.

And then Dick Cook says, "Well what do you think? Johnny Depp as Tonto???"

The crowd goes mad-wild and he says "OK, done."

Then goes onto ask if he thinks we should have Johnny back for another Pirates film? T he crowd goes mad, Dick Cook says "OK, done. "The theatre erupts. Johnny mumbles some things in character and then darts off. Maybe was on stage a total of a minute and barely said anything. It was such a fun day!

Johnny came out as Sparrow had a big white indian feather stuck in his head sticking up..."
—Ain't It Cool News

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
— Newt Gingrich
September 25, 2008
Volatile day with Mickey Free. Two steps backwards, one and a half-forward. Ran into—again!—whether to use boxes on the cartoon narrative. Meghan believes the excerpt absolutely has to have them, instead of captions. I loathe cartoons boxes! They seem so lame and 1950s to me, but she is right. There are too many competing fonts and it's hard to follow.

When we get this all roughed in I need to send the whole damn thing to someone who can give us an objective opinion on whether it works, or not. Does it track? Is it a mess? Should I go join my dogs in jail and fah-get-about-it?

Speaking of which, I went and visited the two jailbirds again this afternoon. Brought Peaches her "baby" a squeaky toy she loves. I also brought them both leftover chicken strips and a handful of almonds. Sat on the floor of their tiny cells and got slobbered on pretty good.

Worked at lunchtime on a painting called "Sibi's Crew" and it's of the Apache Kid, Al Sieber, Tom Horn and Mickey Free. All four are riding hell-bent right at us and it's the best Remington knock-off I can do (well, at least it is at about half done). I'll post it tomorrow for your consideration.

Came back into the office and just finished a design review with Robert Ray and Meghan and we salvaged the day (it looked way bleak this morning). I think we can see our way out of the woods, we just need to keep moving towards the light (of the proverbial oncoming train).

I feel fortunate to have this extra time to finally get this damn project out and I daily thank the doctors, the medicine, the rehab, my bandmates who knew CPR and my friends and family for giving me that chance. Gee, I wonder what ol' Franklin P. Adams has to say about that?

"And of all glad words of prose or rhyme,
The grandest are, 'Act while there yet is time.'"
—Franklin P. Adams

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 24, 2008
Kept waking up during the night thinking of angles and layout ideas and word balloon leaps of imagination for the Top Secret Project. Almost too excited. Need to calm down a bit, but I get rather manic when I'm finishing a project like Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel.

Note to self: "And you wonder why you had two heart attacks?"

Meanwhile, The Not So Secret Top Secret Writer sent me an old issue of Saga magazine (1950) featuring a cover story on the Apache Kid. Very cool:

Actually, a very good likeness of the Kid. And the story inside, by Charles Hewes, is on the whole accurate, although the writer, and I imagine the editors, kept spicing up the narrative with lines like these:

"The Kid gave his squaw a short skirt of tropical bird feathers and often she wore nothing else as they basked in the warm sun."

As I mentioned yesterday, both my dogs are in jail. Quarantined actually.

We have lived out in the boonies for almost 22 years and part of the charm was the ability to have our dogs roam unrestricted. We leave our gates open in the daytime and often get reports from the neighbors, "Peaches and Buddy came down to visit last Saturday."

All of that ended last Saturday when I was returning from a bike ride at around six in the morning and Peaches attacked an older dog out for a walk with a new resident who lives up the hill from us. Of course, being a pack animal, Buddy jumped in on the attack and the dog owner got bit trying to break them up.

As I waded into the fray, I got nipped in the shorts by the woman's dog, missing my family jewels by a micro-meter. All three dogs rolled in the rocks in a tangle of fur and teeth. I finally got my dogs off and hauled them off to a safe distance. The woman was bleeding and had to be taken to ER. One of my neighbors, who actually picked up the woman and her dog, called that night and demanded I put my dogs down and that he, and another neighbor, are tired of my vicious dogs and he expressed concern for the safety of his grandchildren.

Needless to say, this was not a happy day for any of us. Of course, both my dogs were oblivious to any of this. In their feeble minds they were just doing their job, protecting their territory, but I am the responsible one.

Animal Rabies Control showed up at the True West offices yesterday. Sheri came into my office and said, "Your dogs bit someone and a gentleman is here to take them to dog jail." The officer was very polite and wrote me up two tickets and gave me a court date. He said I had an option: he could take the dogs to the pound in Mesa (about 40 miles from here) or I could voluntarily impound them at a local vet. He also said he had been out at the house and he was surprised how nice the dogs were (both licked his hand and wagged their tails).


Buddy jumped right in the truck, but Peaches knew better and cowered on the seat, trembling all the way to the slammer. Both dogs whimpered in the lobby and as they were led away for a 10-day-sentence, I promised to visit every day and then they were gone.

Last night I talked to the husband of the bite victim and he was understandably upset but wanted to know that I was going to muzzle my dogs. I told him, the days of my dogs roaming the neighborhood are over and that anytime I am even in the front yard, my dogs will be on a leash (which is the law by the way even though nobody in my neighborhood abides by it).

But as of last Saturday, I am abiding by that law.

We may give Buddy away. Peaches is about 13 years old and will live out her days inside the yard and on a leash.

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
—Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 23, 2008
I can see the finish line on Mickey Free and it's a beautiful sight. Fifteen pages in the can with five to go. Narration in, just went to Meghan and Hutton for editing.

Finding lots of images I had forgotten about (I'm at 7,151 sketches so it's understandable), like this one of pine cone runners in a deep canyon.

Can't really use it in the 20-page excerpt in True West, but it will definitely be in the book.

Both my dogs are in jail. More on that later.

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours."
—Richard Bach

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Dan The Man has nailed the cover of True West and here's a sneek peek:

Yes, that is a real photo of the notorious Mickey Free. Ain't he the coolest looking one-eyed multi-breed bad boy you have ever seen? He is to me.

"The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture."
—Benjamin Franklin
September 22, 2008
Worked all weekend on Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel. Very ambitious work, some successful, some deeply disappointing. And sometimes they were both, on the same page:

Other scene designs I poached from old pulp detective stories, like this one:

This is Pastor Guenther Senior confronting Al Sieber and Lt. Powhatan Clarke about Mickey Free's penchant for bringing in the heads of newly converted Lutherans.

Or, something like that.

Also, still taking a stab at atmospheric effects, like this cloud piece inspired by the thunderheads I witnessed in San Salvador:

"The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows."
—Michelangelo Buonarroti

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 18, 2008
Dan The Man tweaked the Robert Ray inspired red and black cover and I think we're getting closer to a final:

A couple of word tweaks: it should be "Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel" and the byline needs a correction to "By Bob Boze Bell and Paul Andrew Hutton" (Paul and I have an agreement that my name comes first on the GN and his will be first on the movie) and I have suggested to Dan the distressed patina in the red area should also be applicated to the word Free as well.

Time for lunch.
September 18, 2008
I am officially in the Zone. Woke up at 2:30 this morning brimming with REM sleep ideas on Mickey Free. Had to go out to the kitchen and write them all down. Meanwhile, where I'm really in the Zone is with my art. It's just oozing out of me. Case in point:

A Hint of Assimilation Scandal
This is an image of Beauty and one of her professors at the Carlisle Indian School who took an avid interest in her cultural assimilation. She was beautiful and he was smitten and there was a scandal (his wife didn't appreciate her husband's extra-curricular efforts with his Apache student) and she was quietly sent home to Arizona. Her father, horrified at what the "White Fathers" had done to his daughter, quickly married her off to Curly.

Or, at least that is the rumors on the res.

Meanwhile, here are a couple more critiques of the Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel covers, two by art directors and one by a professional writer:

Art Director's Directions
“I hope it's not too late for a guy with a Graphic Design degree to weigh in on your cover designs. I got it down to 2.....the red cover with the scratch board image of Mickey, and my favorite: the russet cover with the same stark black & white image of Mickey and the red,white, & blue flag design. It is very nice!!!!!!! This will sell your book!!!!! The others look like comic books, not ‘Illustrated Novels’....and the type face on the one was cribbed from ‘There Will Be Blood’, wasn't it?”

[No, not consciously anyway. We were looking for something authentic but out of fashion, which come to think of it, is probably how Anderson got to the Old English for “There Will Be Blood.”]

“I just thought I'd give ya my 2¢ worth as far as cover design preference for your graphic novel... I love em all.... they all have design aspects that I like, but the one that
REALLY jumps out and grabs my attention is the one with the red/orange & black cover, with the flag draped over Mickey's shoulder.

“OUTSTANDING! the simple graphic of that piece is eye popping, and visually grabbed me instantly.

“I think that's the one.

“I think the black bar at the top needs to go, put ‘Mickey’ in black,
then I think that will work....I'm thinking the black bar at the top
throws the balance of the piece off. Love the black at the bottom,
it anchors the piece nicely, and the red, white & blue of the flag,
contrasts nicely with the black & red/orange of the cover.

“Whoever designed this cover piece....WELL DONE!!”
—Jeff Prechtel

“I like Harshberger's take a lot. I can't decide about the banner effect on ‘Mickey’ but it might be right. Make the writer and artist credits larger! This is not a time for modesty!”
—Will Shetterly

"Tis sweet to hear of heroes dead,
To know them still alive;
But sweeter if we earn their bread,
And in us they survive."
—Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September 17, 2008
As always, interesting comments from everyone and as is typical, no clear consensus:

“FREE may be a wee bit too big (or MICKEY too small). Upon seeing that large red FREE, people might just think it's a giveaway and walk out of the store without paying. Otherwise - it's quite stunning!”
—Steve Lodge

“Of the two simplest designs, I prefer the one that is primarily brown. Too much red in the other. Has it really been four years? I thought it only felt that long.”
—Tom Carpenter

"That last one with the red, white, and black is pretty striking. I look forward to the finished product."
—Seth Wilson

"Bob, . . I like the top one. Excellent."

"I like Dan Harshberger's cover the best.

"I don't like the second, graphic one so much because Mickey looks older, and he's just standing there. In the first cover he looks younger, with a defiant and cocky attitude. It gives the promise of a more exciting book. I like him straddling the rocks, and the tension it creates. I think the blend of old and new is apparent from his old style clothing with your modern artwork. On the second cover, everything looks old. It doesn't compel me to open the book.

"I would make a few changes, however. Remove the eagle, the lightning, and the blue and white patch of clouds on the right. I think the other readers are right that there is too much going on. You want the focus on Mickey.

"I also don't love the color of the banner on the left - that red isn't quite right (on my monitor, anyway). Maybe more of an orangy red would go better with the rest of the colors.

"Can you tell I went to art school? he he."

—Lauren, Maniac #19

Worked late last night on a new ending image (spurred on by the sniping comment from yesterday about the bad writing). If you have been following along, you can probably guess who it is and what it means:

Hint: The name of the painting is "Sierra Madre Bonita"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 16, 2008 Bonus, Bonus Blog Post
Feedback on covers:

"That last one with the red, white, and black is pretty striking. I look forward to the finished product."
—Seth Wilson

"You know that I am artistically and graphically impaired, but I liked the simplicity of the second cover and I think it pops. First one has way too much going on for my eye."
—Charlie Waters

And here's Dan Harshberger's take:

September 16, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Here's another take:

Feedback is appreciated.
September 16, 2008
Struggling with the cover for the graphic novel excerpt which will run in the next issue of True West. We need to thread the needle between historically accurate and cutting edge. Not easy. I spent wayyyyy too long on a painting of Mickey straddling two worlds and it just doesn't quite pop the way I wanted it to. I'm afraid I overworked it, and tried too hard. Here are two cover roughs Robert Ray and I worked up yesterday:

Not bad. Not great. The painting still bugs me. I wish I could reattack it, but I spent way too long on it and I have to finish the guts. Here's another take utilizing a different image of Mickey:

I have two concerns. One is that neither seems punchy enough, but my other concern is that I've been working on this so long (four years) that I can't see the forest for the trees.

I'll post Dan's cover takes in the next post.

Meanwhile, as I'm fretting over the images, I got this missive about the words this morning:

"Isn't there anyone at TW who cares enough about BBB to tell him how hilariously bad the text featured on his Mickey Free website is?"
—An Avid Blog Reader

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 15, 2008
Had an excellent weekend working on art for the Top Secret Project. Did about seven scenes yesterday and came into the office early this morning to work on the layout. Robert Ray took out the old illustration and put Saturday's efforts into the Harper's template. Much better:

Lost a bit of Powhattan's boot in the process (plus Freddy's signature), but it looks much more historically accurate.

While I had my scratchboard knives warmed up, I whipped out a portrait of the scout Curly who figures prominently in our story. He's going to look mighty fine on page nine:

All in all, an excellent weekend of work. Got more to do, need to keep going.

"Artists who see perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything."
—Eugene Delacroix

Saturday, September 13, 2008

September 13, 2008
Really buckled down this morning and attacked my priority art list for The Top Secret Project. With approximately two weeks to go, one of my main goals is to salvage art that wasn't up to snuff the first time around.

Case in point: if you visited MickeyFreeOnline.com you saw a pretty lame attempt at simulating a Harper's Weekly cover in Remington's style, circa 1888. It sucks so bad, I can't stand it. Done before my heart attack, I have no excuses, but I haven't had the time or the energy to re-attack the sucker.

Until this morning.

I knew what I wanted. Frederic Remington is visiting the troops in Arizona during the Apache Wars. He is with Captain Pearce, Lt. Powhattan Clark, Al Sieber and the Apache Kid, and they are all in the crumbling, adobe headquarters at San Carlos, when Mickey Free strides in and plops two severed heads on the table.

Remington is so struck by the event that he asks the captain if he can leave the heads out for a moment so he can sketch them.

Later, in New York, while Freddy is visiting his editor at Harper's and showing him his latest sketches, the editor lands on the severed heads sketch. Although Remington is not pleased (he wanted his Powhattan sketches to be published), he wants the cover and so, he capitulates.

In the final edition, the editors decide to delete the female head (for taste reasons!) and run the cover. They know it will sell issues and they know it will be controversial, and, yes, of course, when it hits the streets, everything hits the fan.

Heads Will Roll

Now this is more like it. I tried to simulate that old-time etching look utilizing my Esdee scratchboard and the excellent art reference I have. That's Powhattan Clark on the left, poached from an actual painting by Remington called "The Arrival of A Courier" (1890). Jim Hatzell actually posed volunteer models for the rest of the scene at his annual Artist's Ride (I sent him sketches), so I have to give a big shout out to Jim. Please give my thanks to all the models. I couldn't have achieved this overall effect without your valuable contributions.

Now it's on to a dozen other scenes I want to do.

"Middle age is the point in life when you realize patience is a weapon."
—Chris Erskine

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 12, 2008
Working hard on hammering out the 20-page Top Secret Project for the next issue of True West. Robert Ray is a huge help, finding all of the several thousand images I have created in the last four years for this opus.

The Top Secret Writer disagrees with me, but I feel like we need to get the complete story out and published, or we'll never finish it. It's an epic tale, with many, many great scenes, but I've had to prune it all down to just the main plot points and then illustrate it so that our readers will get it.

When we were discussing whether to use all caps on the balloons, or U&L (upper and lower case), I said, "whatever serves the graphic novel look the best." To which, Robert laughed and said, "I don't think most of your readers even know what a graphic novel is, much less what it looks like."

Ha. He's probably right, but if we're going to have any mainstream traction I want it to adhere to the form, at least in that respect.

We'll see. The hardest part was culling Paul's elegant writing down to bite size bits and still get the story arc and main plot points in. Still not finished, but we anchored about five pages with the right mix between art and narrative and we'll see where it takes us.

I feel good. At least it will finally be out there. And besides, I imagine a few of you are tired of hearing me talk about it.

"Expedience is the Mother-in-law of Invention."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2008
One of the funnier aspects of Peruvian culture is their penchant for poaching American names for their "colleges." Case in point: Here is the Bill Gates College on a side street in Arequipa. Tommy tells me he has seen the Henry Ford School of Driving College and the Thomas Jefferson School of something.

Appeal To Authority

More rain last night. Up to my eyebrows in Mickey Free. More later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September 10, 2008
Big clouds all day today. Rained pretty good last night. Worked for the last three days on a possible cover for the Top Secret Project, which goes to the printer on October 3. Been getting up at five and really wailing. Executed quite a few studies, including this one:

Cliff Crazy

Blogger Problems
I have more photos to post of our Peruvian adventure, but blogger.com is having problems, so I'll post them tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

September 9, 2008
Just got this:

Funeral arrangements for Michael A. Melrose have been made for Saturday, September 20th, 11:00 am at St John Lutheran Church in Charles City, IA, 50616.

In lieu of flowers, please send memorials in Mike's name to:

YMCA Building Project
800 Hulin Street
Charles City, IA 50616

Mike spent many hours in his youth at our YMCA, playing basketball, swimming, etc.

If anyone is flying in, small regional airports nearby are Rochester, MN (60 miles), Waterloo, IA (45 miles), Mason City, IA (35 miles), or larger hubs at Minneapolis (160 miles) or Des Moines, IA (160 miles).

Hotels in Charles City:
Sleep Inn & Suites 641-257-6700
Sherman House Bed & Breakfast 641-228-3826
Super 8 641-228-2888
Hartwood Inn 641-228-4352

—Mark Melrose

Monday, September 08, 2008

September 8, 2008
I received an excellent suggestion this morning:

Melrose Place
"I was shocked and very sad to learn Mike Melrose passed away. I enjoyed working with Mike very much at True West and always appreciated his easy going, good natured manner, and of course especially his humor.

"Even though I've been back in the Midwest over 4 years now, I always hoped I'd have an opportunity to see him again sometime... Mike was quite a guy. He'll be remembered.

"My best to you and everyone at True West."
—Larry Johns

P.S. Would it be possible to post a picture of Mike on your blog? I think people would appreciate it. He was certainly a big part of the True West family.

I found this photo I took of Melrose and one of his girlfriends, at El Encanto (which he could never pronounce, by the way). He's wearing his "I'm Your Huckleberry" T-shirt, and his look says it all. I can hear him saying, "Hey now," as only he could.

"The soul would have no rainbow, had the eyes no tears."
—John Vance Cheney

Saturday, September 06, 2008

September 6, 2008
I got a call from Mark Melrose at eight this morning that his brother "Minnesota" Mike, passed away at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Sunnyslope. Mike had a close call several weeks ago (the diagnosis is complicated, a heart valve, etc., so I won't attempt to describe it). He had been released from the hospital and was recovering at home but he took a turn for the worse several days ago and was admitted back to the hospital.

Minnesota Mike was a regular contributor to this blog and he served True West magazine proudly as our advertising sales director for over five years. Mike and I made a memorable trip home to Iowa and Minnesota several years ago and I still remember it as one of my favorite road trips. He was loud (some might say bombastic), proud and very funny. I will miss his humor.

When he was brought into the emergency room last month, the attending doctor asked him who his doctor was. Mike, who hated even to go in for a checkup, said brightly, "You are!"

That is so Mike.

His mother and father lost their home in Charles City to flooding and are in the process of closing on a new house. Any cards or condolences should be sent to Mike's brother Mark:

Mark Melrose
PO Box 35
Charles City, Iowa 50616

Friday, September 05, 2008

September 5, 2008
How primitive is Tommy's village in Peru? Well, let's just say when his host mother prepares dinner, she does so on a blanket, on the patio.

Yes, she's butchering a freshly killed alpaca (the head is at bottom, right). And that's her husband's 95-year-old mother, at left. I tell you, these mountain people have the right diet and lifestyle.

Meanwhile, after a week in Tommy's village we took a bus back down to Arequipa (8,000 feet above sea level!), where there was still snow on the mountains, although less than when we flew in. This in spite of the fact that it's winter. Hmmmm. This mountain range and a huge volcano (below) loom over the city of 800,000:

This is where I reported on the buzzing taxi cabs, which seem to be descended from the toy slot cars of my youth. They are tiny (more on that later). A ride in one of these is a terror filled carnival ride of the first order. They all speed through intersections, honking as they go, and at every corner, every car comes within a fraction of a inch of every other car. It is maddening (when we got home to Arizona and were driving up the Squaw Peak Parkway, both Kathy and I marvelled at the massive distance between cars!).

The first Sunday, after we arrived in Arequipa, we took a taxi 25 miles east to attend a bull fight. Man, was that a treat. As I mentioned at the time, in Peru, the bulls mostly fight each other!

The bull ring was way out in the country and as I sauntered up a hill to get a photo of the panorama, I heard some major bellowing.

At first I didn't spot where it was coming from, but in this photo (below), check out the dust along the closest wall, middle left:

Here's a close-up (below). It's one of the bulls who has merely SMELLED the presence of other bulls and he's going nuts. He's not even in the bull ring and he's kicking up dust, puffing up, bellowing and flipping all over the place—as men are wont to do in bars around the world:

Man, I thought, this is going to be exciting. These bulls are going to be fighting like crazy. So we got in line.

Check out these hats, Man! Great stuff. When we got closer to the gate, a guy cut in front of me (Tommy said it's one cultural aspect of Peru he doesn't enjoy. The natives are so shy, he explained, they don't call these guys out). The line cutter did have a great hat though:

So I leaned around to get a better shot of the dude and his hat. Doesn't he looked thrilled?

Inside, it was stone steps for seats and a sea of hats and beer. Check out the babes (of course one is on her cell):

Looking at the program, the bulls have wrestler names like, "Escorpian Negro" (The Black Scorpion), "Dragoncito" (The Little Dragon"), "Ali" and "Mister T" (I'm not making this up, it's in the program), and "Loco Rebelde" (crazy something). I kind of doubt whether any of these huge animals answer to those names, but just like the aforementioned men in the bars, these big, bad boys sang a different tune when they got in the ring—with other bulls.

Many of them got real docile all of a sudden. They wouldn't even look at each other. Or, if they did, they quickly looked away, as if to say, "Aw, sheesh, I know I was prancing all around like a jackass outside, but I didn't really mean it." And, so then their owners would come out and prod them, pushing them towards the other bull, but many times even that wouldn't work and one of the bulls would turn tail and run for the exit:

But as the day wore on and we moved from the Preliminaries, up through the Semi-Fondo to the Super-Fondo, just like on a fight card, the talent, the testosterone and the tenacity got bigger and better:

Like I said, when two bulls come out and they are the real deal you can almost smell it. Here for your viewing pleasure are two of these bad boys going at it at Cancha De Toros De Umapalca-Sabandia!


Thursday, September 04, 2008

September 4, 2008
Feedback on the turkey sequence:

How about "Takes one to know one."

—Fred Nolan

Been working hard on cliff images, inspired by the canyons of Peru:

This led to a variety of cliffs, including the Inca Cliff, the Sissy-fus Cliff, the Saguaro Cliff and the Male Genital Cliff:

As I have mentioned we had the greatest soups on this trip, starting right off the bat with our first stopover in El Salvador. We flew all night from LAX and landed in San Salvador at seven, and were on the beach by nine, eating at a funky eatery overlooking the Pacific Ocean called San Marcelina Kenny Mar Restaurant. We ordered a variety of dishes, along with cafe con leche and the local beer, Cusqueno:

Here's a close-up on the soup:

After a tour of the countryside, we ended up at the La Posada Resort in Suchitoto, a sleepy, colonial village overlooking a lake. While we waited for our room to be made up, we went into the restaurant and ordered the local soup and it was delicious with a thick sweet and sour broth unlike any soup I have ever seen or eaten:

Now, fast forwarding to Peru, we took a tour of Colca Canyon to see the condors and the spectacular cliffs of the area. We ended up in this small village and our tour driver, a local, led us to this literal hole-in-the-wall, off the plaza. Here is a closeup on their signature soup, and below that is a photo of the outside of the cafe. As you can see, the chalkboard sign is the only hint of the delights within (it says, "Today Menu And Extras"), and we would never have gone in if not for our driver knowing about it. By the way, the crowd in the entire restaurant, which included many kids, was watching a pirated version of "Kung Fu Panda," which was quite surreal. The sound was horrible, and sounded exactly like someone sitting in the third row with a camcorder. To my knowledge I have never seen a pirated movie before so that was a treat along with the great soup.

In Tommy's village, the best soup maker is Jenny (below), seen here with her husband Dante (who loves True West, and all things Western, by the way, oh, and Kathy brought him the belt buckle and belt he is wearing). She made a different soup every day we were there and they were all great.

One of the best soups I had at Jenny's is a dish called Adobo. Here is the recipe:

Cut a pound of pork (or alpaca) into large cubes. Sprinkle on 3 tablespoons of ground chili, 1 tablespoon of garlic, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin seed and one cup of vinegar. Mix it together, and let it marinate in a dish for three hours.

Fry the meat in a pan with a little oil until it turns golden brown. Fry six small onions in the same pan.

Add 1/2 cup of red wine and water to the pan, reduce the heat and allow to cook slowly until the meat is cooked and tender and the sauce is consistent.

Serve with boiled potatoes or with large chunks of bread which are added to the sauce to soak.

Finish with a shot glas of anis to help digestion, in keeping with Peruvian tradition.