Thursday, December 24, 2015

Day 603

Day 603  December 23rd

2015…a year in review

So I was asked to give my top 5 of 2015 by a fellow geek for his Nerd blog/website and I figured it would be pretty easy.  I grabbed my newest best friend – my idea journal which has become a constant companion for when ideas hit me and I don’t want to lose them, and started jotting down, well, ideas!

Before long I had way more ideas than the 5 for his list so I decided I would do this post up to go along side that one.  It would appear that I had a lot to share about this past year!

2015 was another year of ups and downs good times and not so great times…but that is how life works and as the year is tailing away here to be able to look back happily on it all is the greatest feeling ever!  So I am going to ramble away some of the things that come to my mind about this past year…if you make it through the list I would love to hear some of your highlights for you of this past year!  And for those of you that want to bail…I don’t blame you…it’s going to be a weird ride down the rabbit hole and I do get a bit wanderlost in writing this!  Without further ado…

@  2015 started off on a very strange and down note…not a way I could have ever imagined it being but that is part of how life can work sometimes.  Starting off more at the bottom meant that the only way to go was up…which is exactly how the rest of the year went!  Through all it we have grown stronger as a family as well as individuals and while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone the changes and perspectives we have from it all have really made us better people over all.
@  Something that this year has shown me is how much I truly enjoy being a teacher and even more so how much I love teaching in a small school.  Of course there are challenges to teaching in a smaller school…certain things are not possible but really on a whole I don’t find our school lacking for anything at all and the upsides far outweigh the downsides.  In this setting and environment it is much easier to really get to know not only your co-workers but also your students.  Being able to know your students well is a big part of being a teacher and in a small school setting that is far more possible than not.  To be able to grow that understanding is truly something awesome and helps me feel that I can succeed at my career!  The same can be said for getting along with your coworkers…in our school that is easy because we can really work together as a team much easier.  Another huge aspect of the small school setting is that the parents and community are very involved and helpful as well.  These are all very important aspects to the health and well-being of not only the students but everyone on a whole and I can’t imagine a better place to work!
@  This past year also brought about a real change in my collecting mindset and habits.  Regular followers of this blog will know that for 10 plus years my geek life revolved around Minimates and collecting them.  This was a passion but one that I found was taking over too much of my spare time and money…to the point that it was really limiting my ability to do much else…I was so focused on them it left little room for anything else.  2015 really brought about a change in how I viewed what I was collecting, what I really wanted to do with my collection and collecting habits and some very truthful moments to myself.  The biggest truthful moment came when I could admit to myself that I wasn’t enjoying the Minimates to level I used to and it was time to dial back…and dial back I did!  I still enjoy them for what they are and still pick up the odd one, but no more buying them all, having to have them all, stalking the release dates so that I can plan my hauls and no more cluttering up my space with tons of them, and tons of props for ‘ideas’ that I didn’t have the time or skills to make happen and this would leave me frustrated all the more.  Once I could see that and draw myself out of it things really shifted and I am now getting to the point where I can enjoy seeing the pictures of them but also enjoy the fact that I am not chasing them down all the time.  I am slowly thinning out what I have here and that will continue into 2016 as I reclaim my office space from being just a Minimates pit.
@  Part of my change in collecting ways was a bit of focus on my collection of art based on Starman.  Anyone who knows me knows my love for the Jack Knight character and comic book run…I maintain it is still my favourite comic even after all these years!  This year I added some amazing pieces of art to the collection and am proud of what I have put together so far.  While the sinking Canadian dollar value has brought this to a much slower pace as the year went on I will still enjoy adding to the collection as time goes!
@  Something that came back to me this year was writing, although not in a manner I would have expected.  I have been lamenting the fact that I haven’t written much new poetry for a while now and it kind of bugs me.  A co-worker and fellow poet mentioned that writing, and poetry in particular, can viewed as a voice when you don’t have one.  I love that analogy but it also tells me that maybe I have found some confidence and a ‘voice’ outside of my head so the poems are appearing in other, new ways now.  I did write a few this year and it felt great but I have started dabbling in writing in other ways which will hopefully find itself an avenue to share with everyone in 2016!
@  Star Wars Episode VII.  No way around this one, I was a Star Wars kid growing up, know the original trilogy like the back of my hand and even my kids love it!  To me this movie was a fantastic piece of the saga, fitting in nicely with the originals.  The nay-sayers can nay all they want and try to poke holes in it all day long…to me this was an amazing movie!  Top it off with our small city theatre busting their butts to convince Disney to let them have it for opening weekend, which also allowed me to arrange a field trip for the grades 7-12 students at my school and then going again the next day with my son and this really will be a huge highlight of the year for me!  There is so much I could say about this movie but really unless you have experienced it there is not much more I want to give away beforehand.  Huge props to the film makers for using old school ways of props, sets and costumes instead of modern crutches of CGI and such…really enhanced my enjoyment of it all!
@  Canadian Comics.  I have been a comic book fan for as long as I have been a Star Wars fan and everyone who knows me can see this…I wear it proudly!  Growing up I had the major super heroes from the big two publishers which was all fine and well but I also had a few random issues of a comic called Captain Canuck…totally random but kinda neat.  Then in the 90’s Canada Post put out a stamp series about Canadian superheroes with Superman and Captain Canuck as well as some characters I didn’t know namely Nelvana, Johnny Canuck and Fleur de Lys.  I bought a big collectors pack that had stamps, postcards, a mousepad and an information sheet.  I devoured the info but given where I lived and the fact that the internet was not really what it is now I never had much choice to learn anymore.  Last year a surge started in revitalizing the general knowledge of the history of Canadian comic books and superheroes.  It may have started sooner but last year it really took off and I dug out my Canada Post stuff and decided I was really going to embrace this more.  Reprints of Nelvana, Johnny Canuck, and Brok Windsor from the Canadian ‘Whites’ (the 1940’s) were happening as well as a relaunch of the Captain Canuck character and new takes on classic heroes and new creations as well were all there to greet me in this mission.  I am still learning all the various histories behind the Canadian comic books and I am loving every step of it!
@  Canadian Corps.  Speaking of Canadian comic books this is one that hit me last year.  An independent title coming from Winnipeg’s Andrew Lorenz and his September 17 (S17) independent publishing company, this is a comic about a Canadian team of superheroes from all parts of the country.  Another great part is that it is set in various parts of Canada as well!  I really was looking forward to this books for several reasons – obviously the fact that it is Canadian had a huge appeal, next the artist was Justin Shauf, a Saskatchewan based artist who was fast becoming a good friend and one of my favourite comic book artists.  Finally I had picked up Andrews other releases to date and rather enjoyed his writing so Canadian Corps was a high entry on anticipated releases for this year.  There was a very successful Kickstarter for the book which I happily contributed to and spread the word far and wide for and the first issue launched at this Septembers Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo, which is basically my home away from home con!  I got to meet Andrew and the colourist Donovan Yaciuk and hang out with them as well as Justin at the show.  Having the book physically in hand was so cool I ended up buying a bunch of extra copies and handing them out to other guests at the show…so people like Gail Simone went home with a copy to check out.  I am eagerly awaiting issue #2 as well as the other parts of the Kickstarter rewards for this amazing series! 
@  Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo.  Seems this would be the best time to bring this show into the list.  As previously mentioned this is my home away from home con and this year it was fantastic!  Being a relatively new show and a smaller city compared to others I love seeming how it grows every year.  The media guests this year were great again including William Shatner and Billy Boyd and on the comic creator end they had the likes of Gail Simone, Ed Brisson, Cary Nord and Francis Manupaul.  There were tons of amazing sights and people there, it was fantastic!  I spent day one dressed as Gandalf and people loved the costume….many pictures were taken and I was even interviewed and ended up on tv!  After day one back at the hotel my con crew were in full relax mode which also included some time hanging with Andrew and Justin from Canadian Corps!  I added to my Starman art collection and a few other things as well as buying some gifts for others…all in all another great weekend at this show!
@  The support of local organizations/community members.  While Humboldt may not be a giant metropolis with tons of avenues for geeks to explore their passions there are aspects of that culture here and like anywhere else, like-minded people that enjoy it.  There is a growing trend globally in the acceptance of geek culture and this opened many doors for me in Humboldt this year.  My summer job with the City of Humboldt’s Kids Summer Fun Camp has given me the chance to bring a tiny taste of what comic cons or maybe more appropriately fan fests are like to the people here.  Having kids able to get comics to check out and to meet and talk with artists is a fantastic experience that has produced a lot of positive reviews for it, both from parents and community members as well as from the artists that take part.  This allowed for my shoulder to be tapped to add a similar styled event to the second annual Streetfest in downtown Humboldt at the end of the summer.  Again this was something new and different to the people organizing the larger event and they thought it had potential to add something to their event.  Another area I enjoy working in is the cosplaying for good causes aspect and while it hasn’t really caught on in Humboldt yet there is a growing awareness.  My team – the Justice Society of Humboldt, did get to partner up with our local chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters during their mentor sign up drive which was a lot of fun!  All of these piece tie together to work in giving something that I am good at back to the community so that kids here can have access and opportunities that were not around when I was a kid.  I have been tapped for another event for Humboldt in 2016 and I am currently working on several projects alongside of it to really make it something big for the city as a whole next year!
@  Social Media.  This might seem like an odd choice for this list but buckle up as I will do my best to explain it in a way for it to make sense…maybe.  Modern society is an increasingly global community thanks to technology and social media.  As I am typing this on my laptop I have my headphones plugged into my iPad listening to music and my iPhone is running Facebook and Twitter nearby…yes I am a bit of a techno junkie in that way, always have been, and the upside is that it really allows me to enjoy where I live a lot more.  I love being able to pick up any of these devices – all of which are so far more advanced than my first computer and when I bought that I thought it was something amazing!  So yeah… I am an oddity in that I love living in a smaller community in the middle of the prairies…it has some drawbacks for the geek side of me like a lack of comic shops, not a whole lot of geek related events happening and the distance to said events can be restrictive.  This is where social media kicks in and takes away a lot of those walls.  With social media not only am I able to keep up with news and other things that relate to my passions but I am able to talk to friends from all around the world that share these passions!  I can carry on meaningful conversations about all topics and even get the inside scoop on stuff that is happening with my favourite creators – both independent as well as people that have made their mark in the industry.  There is nothing quite like being able to talk to your favourite comic book artist on a first name basis, have his wife message you personally to share stories, be able to get one of the creators of your favourite toy line send you artwork he did of your favourite comic book character done in the style of that toy line, being able to collaborate with like-minded teachers from various parts of the world to better enhance lessons I am using in the classroom…these are just some very minor examples of some of the things that social media has brought into my life.  So while there are drawbacks to social media, as with anything really, I am all for the use of it as it allows me to find that balance between my enjoyment of small community living and being connected to the larger communities of the world outside!
@  Auroraman.  Yes I do realize this is a long list and if your reading this thanks for sticking it out! I couldn’t leave this list without mentioning this name…it is a name that was brought to me by one friend and then as the year progressed another friend latched onto the idea and now in 2016 it is really going to become something so much more and is taking me on a new adventure that I could have never imagined before!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 602

Day 602 October 19th  

Creator Spotlight: Justin Shauf

Hard at work!  There is something about this picture that I love!

Another new feature here is the creator spotlight.  It seems only fitting that the first creator spotlight I do is on my friend and an artist that is easily on my short list of favourite artists in comics today – Justin Shauf!

Justin is a Saskatchewan artist based out of Langenburg.  He and his wife, Lisa, raise 4 children, ages 9, 8, 5 and 22 months.  He works at a grain elevator during the day while Lisa works casual as a care aid while also running a small photography business.  Justin has mastered the ability of making the most out of his days as he works during the day, spends time with his family and then works on art after that too!  He is a great guy to talk to and has a strong passion for comic books.  Having had the chance to talk to him many times and we share a lot of similar tastes.  One of the biggest things I admire is the fact that he prefers to work on all-ages appropriate books, as a father he wants to be able to share as much of his work with his family as he can.  As a father myself I appreciate this greatly as it can be tough to find comics that are all ages but not ‘little kid’ focused comics for kids that are older than that!

I find his style quite refreshing.  It is a bit more ‘cartoony’ and has an angular texture to it.  I see a lot of similarities in his work and other favourite artists such as fellow Canadian Chris Bachalo and Mexicos Humberto Ramos.  I also seem glimpses of my all time favourite artist, Tony Harris, in his work.
His website is It is currently being revamped to include an online store and should be up and running by December.

Now it is one thing to read a comic and find an artist that you really enjoy and meet them down the road at a convention, but my finding of Justins work and our subsequent friendship has a bit different of a timeline so here is a rundown of that!
Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2012
This was my first comic con ever and was a bit of a celebration of my completing my Bachelor of Education degree and my birthday which was soon after that weekend.  I really didn’t know what to expect from the event, and knew that there would be a lot to see and do.  One of the things I knew I wanted to do was get some artwork in artist alley.  I had a pretty strict budget for that weekend but really wanted to get as many sketch of Starman in my book as possible.  I came across an idea online for seeing how many artists were willing to do reduced price sketches at shows and decided I would pitch $2 sketches and see what I could get.  A few people I know scoffed at the idea and I braced myself to get laughed out of artist alley.  I had 2 artists that completely dismissed me at the request, but came home with 30 two dollar sketches in my book!  As you may have guessed Justin was one of those artists that contributed to that first outing.  I passed by his booth several times over the course of the 3 days and pitched him the idea which he hesitantly accepted, once he wasn’t working on other pieces.  On the Sunday he added a piece to the collection and, unbeknownst to either of us, a connection was made!

Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo 2013
The following year a couple of forward thinking Saskatoon fans ventured out and put together the first Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo (S.E.E.), in a similar style to the bigger Calgary type show.  Since this is practically a local venue for me there was no doubt that I would be there.  The guest list for artist alley had several names that I wanted to add to my sketchbook, which I had now upped from $2 to $5 as I felt it was a better pitch.  On my first pass into artist alley out of the vendor area I see Justin sitting there, and recognized the name immediately from Calgary.  In the time since Calgary I had added some more sketches to the book and gone over it many times just checking out all the different styles of my favourite character.  Justin’s had struck a chord with me so I went to his table first, told him the story about Calgary, showed him the sketch and got him to do another one!  In Calgary I had no idea he was from Saskatchewan so I had no idea I would run into him again.  This time I looked at more of his work at his table and chatted a bit more.

Fan Expo Regina 2014
Following the success of S.E.E. in Saskatoon the company responsible for the Calgary and Edmonton Expos partnered with the organizers of Saskatoon to bring their brand of shows there and the Fan Expo family brought one of their shows into the province, more specifically Regina and in the spring.  Timing worked out very well for me and I made it to the show on the Saturday of it.  Pitching my sketchbook in artist alley I once again came across Justin.  While one of his neighbours was sketching in my book, I visited a bit more with Justin.  I told him that since he had been so awesome about sketching in my book twice already that this time I would buy something from his table instead.  He also helped convince his neighbor who was on the fence about doing the sketch.  I ended up buying The Purple Bean and I LOVE it!  First off, it is written by his daughter Abigail which is very cool since my oldest daughter is named Abigail.  As a father who loves to spend time and give my attention to my kids this book really hit a homerun with me.  The story is very cool and this was my first taste of Justins art in a sequential format and I loved how it flowed!  I talked to him about the possibility of him being interested in making appearances in classrooms or other venues, and was happy to hear he would be interested!  He and Abby both signed and sketched my book and I had plans brewing in my head.  Shortly after this I even used The Purple Bean in a grade 1 health class I was teaching and had the students draw their own pictures from it.

Both Abby and Justin signed my copy!

City of Humboldt’s Kids Summer Fun Camp – Kids Camp Comic Con 2014
My summer job with the City of Humboldt’s Kids Summer Fun Camp allows me to try some really fun things and one of them was bringing a very small scale form of a comic con.  This was the second year I did this type of an event and I wanted to increase the number of artists doing free sketches for the people that came and I knew that I really hoped Justin would be one of the artists to come.  Not only did he come and draw his hand off for the afternoon for many happy kids but he also gifted me not one but two fully inked Starman pieces for my ever growing Starman art collection!  These pieces are some of my  favourite pieces in my collection!

Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo 2014
This show was brought on by the partnership of the Calgary Expo and the local guys in Saskatoon who ran S.E.E. the previous year.  This was a bigger show with a lot more to see and do but I still made time to visit with Justin at his table.  Yet again he helped pitch my sketchbook to the artist that was at the next table and while that was happening I looked through his new work on display.  While this was going on he excitedly told me and showed me some work he was doing for an upcoming independent book of Canadian superheroes which by this point was an area of increasing interest to me.  This of course would be Canadian Corps.

City of Humboldt’s Kids Summer Fun Camp 2015
Yet again Justin gracefully came out to the Kids Summer Fun Camps Kids Camp Comic Con and did some fantastic sketches with a neat twist by doing them on coloured paper instead of plain white.  By this point the Kickstarter for Canadian Corps had been very successful and Justin was excitedly wrapping the last of his artwork on the first issue.  We talked briefly about the buzz around the book and about its potential launch in the fall at S.C.E.E. 2015.  I commissioned Justin to do a Canadian heroes jam piece on a blank cover of the Captain Canuck Summer Special at this time.
Justin hard at work doing a sketch for a new fan on coloured paper - such a fun idea!

A sketched out shot of the Canadian heroes jam cover commission!

Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo 2015
I was over the moon excited for the Sask Expo this year as there was literally a ton of stuff that appealed to me.  I added 6 Starman sketches to my book which was fantastic, but more importantly I got to hang out with some amazing people.  Part of this was meeting 3 of the 4 people responsible for Canadian Corps.  Obviously I had already knew Justin but I got to finally meet Donovan and Andrew.  The team was awesome to visit with at the show and the finished product of the first issue looked fantastic.  I have never really been huge on wanting the original art pages from a comic book before but seeing the finished pages for Canadian Corps up close and having read the issue and loving it I jumped at the chance to buy the double page spread of the team assembled.  I am fairly certain these won’t be the only pages I own from Canadian Corps!  This weekend also gave me the opportunity to socialize with Justin, amongst others, after the first day wrapped up and he is a really great and humble guy to hang out with.  On the Sunday the crew was a part of a Canadian creators panel at the expo and I got to watch the commissioned cover piece get some awesome work done on it.

The Canadian creators panel with (Lto R) - Donovan Yaciuk, Andrew Lorenz, Kurtis Weibe, Ed Brisson and Justin Shauf

This brings us to now, and I am quite happy to count one of my favourite artists as a personal friend!  Not only that but we have a project together on the go…nothing major on my part other than organizing it but I went after it with the idea of Justin being the artist I wanted to see do it.  More to come of that next year!  Barring me winning the lottery and getting out to C4 in Winnipeg in a couple weeks it’ll likely be summer before Justin and my paths cross again but in todays global community we talk frequently as he is working on issue 2 of Canadian Corps, our project and of course that commission cover!

Posted by Justin just this weekend - hard at work on Canadian Corps issue 2!