Oct 222017

Late 1996, I resigned from Colossal Pictures, the only full time staff position I’d ever had. By then I’d been working in animation for 15 years, but recent job disasters had soured me to the industry, and I was unsure what to do next. After traveling for a few months, I’d decided to focus on the enjoyable aspects of being a cartoonist by creating some projects of my own, and by February 1997 I came back to San Francisco to draw. Although my plan was to save money by working at my kitchen table, Robert Valley suggested that I sublet some space at an animation studio he’d founded in 1995. I did, and it represented a turning point in my creative life.

For several months I didn’t think about paid work, but came up with silly characters and goofy situations for them to be in. I’d recently created some characters for a company and loved the creating part, but the process of getting it made wasn’t a fun experience at all. To rekindle the joy I once felt at being a cartoonist, I resolved to make something primarily for fun. My own thing, not tied to schedules, budgets and the whims of others. I started doodling in the solo medium of comics, and gradually, I began enjoying drawing cartoons again. ROCKET RABBIT, SEPHILINA, and many other personal projects, were all born out of this period of play.

Rocket Rabbit Rocket Rabbit Rocket Rabbit

At around the same time, more freelancers moved in to Robert’s studio; Bosco Ng, and Steward Lee, two more colleagues from our Colossal Pictures days. Maverix slowly became a shared workspace for a loose collective of freelance artists, each working on their own professional or personal projects, while sharing resources and sometimes collaborating on certain jobs, and my American freelance career had begun. More artists joined; Sho Murase, Derek Thompson, Vaughn Ross, and Robert’s brother, John. I’d been on staff continually since arriving in the USA, but once Maverix became my base of operations I could try my hand at a variety of different projects at many different studios, both in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Following various leads (from ex-Colossal Pictures colleagues) I worked for ILM (‘Frankenstein’) Pixar (‘Finding Nemo‘) PDI (‘Tusker‘) and on various commercials and shorts projects at Wild Brain.

The balance between my career, private life, and personal projects had always been hard to manage. When working in a professional studio, I’d get wound up in the cogs of production and think of nothing else but my job, but working at home as a freelancer didn’t give enough structure and I’d waste my downtime. At Maverix Studios however, I had the freedom of a freelancer with the routine and inspiring camaraderie of a studio, allowing me to do my personal projects for the first time. The studio changed its spelling from MaveriCKS  (initially named for the NorCal surf spot) to MAVERIX, to mark the transition from the commercial studio it once was to the collective it had become (besides, that domain name was available). Around 2000 we bought a shared G4 computer (the first time I’d ever used Photoshop) and soon after got a shared website:

Maverix at times became a hive of industry, that expanded from the core membership to include friends helping with various animation projects (commercials and the like) and this meant that it was often a raucous place to work, with loud music, people playing video games, a barking dog running around, and friends of friends dropping by with beers. It could be a difficult place to concentrate in, and ironically I sometimes had to work on my kitchen table at home simply to get away from the noise in my paid workplace, but it was always an energetic and inspiring place to brainstorm, despite those distractions. When we were buzzing with activity, we’d take breaks by playing video games. I remember those competitions fondly, even though I was the loser every time, and the brunt of good-natured smack talking that was a fun feature of these bouts of digital fisticuffs.

During a slow spell at the studio in early 2001, Bosco Ng, Derek Thompson, and I were sitting with nothing to do, and somebody suggested that we should each make a comic for that year’s Comic-Con and actually exhibit. We’d all been attending and submitting portfolios for years, but actually making something to sell had never occurred to us before. We were perhaps inspired by the recent example of a colleague from ILM, Steve Purcell, who had a Comic-Con table the year prior to sell his own artwork. We decided to do something similar ourselves and just make something for a change, instead of getting raked over the coals by snotty art-directors at portfolio reviews. Many times throughout my career, in eager beaver conversation in pubs or coffeeshops, such notions had been mentioned before (“let’s make an animated short!” etc) but this was the first time we followed through, and made the things we said we’d make: three separate comic books.

We knew nothing about printing or exhibiting, but it was remarkably easy to exhibit at Comic-Con in 2001; there was no waiting list, and in February 2001 we booked a table for July that same year, which would be unthinkable now. We’d committed to exhibiting and the ensuing period of making stuff remains one of the most pleasant stretches of several months in my entire career. Each day, the three of us would come in to the studio, jazzed to draw our comics, excited about what we were each doing, and what the other two guys were doing too. My effort was NERVE BOMB (my first Rocket Rabbit book) Derek made BINDU (a collaboration with Brian McDonald) and Bosco made METALUSION. We got them printed just in time. It is quite common for a group of artists to self publish these days, but it wasn’t as common back then, and we got a good reaction simply because of the novelty of a booth containing three artists selling their own stuff. A high point was when Mike Mignola visited our table and bought our books.

I got a rude shock when I finally got my bill from the printer. I’d cut the print deadline very close, and asked the printer to ship a few hundred of my comics expedited direct to San Diego, so they’d make the convention deadline, and ship the remaining 1800 books to San Francisco, at regular rates. They instead sent ALL the boxes to San Diego. The bill for expedited international shipping (from Canada) for 2,000 books was brutal. As that last minute transaction had been all arranged on the phone, I had no paper trail as to who said exactly what & when, so when the printer sicced a collection agency onto me I had to pay up. This was my first lesson that getting things printed was often the sour note in self publishing..

The next few years saw all Maverix members exhibiting their own projects at Comic-Con. There was the annual drama of getting various personal projects drawn and printed in time for the show, shenanigans with printing companies, Kinkos, or ink-jet printers. Hare-brained money-saving schemes to drive to the Con, all Maverix members crammed into a rented van, like the Scooby Doo gang or some lame rock band. Several years of fumbled bookings in shitty San Diego hotels, and assorted shenanigans; Robert accidentally drinking Sho’s contact lenses (twice) or getting stranded in Tijuana without his passport. Oh, such tales could be told (and might be one day.)

Maverix was a chaotic band of loons that nevertheless helped me break the cycle of my own creative lameness. I am not sure why it took me so long to actually make something of my own, except that when younger, I had no idea how to get things printed or made. Researching the means of production wasn’t easy in the 80s and 90s, and it’s only relatively recently that those technologies have been accessible to your average Joe & Jane. Even so, I deeply regret not getting off my arse many years earlier and making something. Anything. I always thought about it, but somehow had the feeling that I needed permission or validation from someone else to move forward. The younger generation of artists today do not make that mistake, and self publish books and make short films right out of school. This is definitely the way to go. When you’re young and before you have a family, you should make stuff of your own as much as you can, as personal projects are the gymnasium where professional artists get to train their creative muscles and stretch themselves.

Maverix became known as a fun place to hang out. The studio was not far from San Francisco’s South of Market club scene, and would often serve as a staging area for night club away teams, and after-parties. There were themed movie nights (“Ape Night” or “Monster Night”) or we’d simply gather to watch the latest anime blockbuster or foreign hit film on Bosco’s groovy projector. Maverix knew how to throw a very fun party on any pretext at all, and members of other bigger studios would all mingle on our common ground.

On the fateful day of September 11, 2001, I was the only person working at Maverix. This was before the era of carrying the internet in your pocket, and I was unaware of the world-changing attacks on The World Trade Center. I walked into work early that morning, and assumed that the police vehicles surrounding City Hall were there for another episode of ’Nash Bridges’, and continued to the studio, where I was working on paper and therefore not connected to the internet. By mid-afternoon, no one else had come to work but I didn’t think much of it, because Maverix was the kind of place where people kept odd hours. Later in the day, I went out to get something to eat at a nearby deli, where the the radio broadcasted something hectic in Korean. The guy making my sandwich was agitated about something in New York, but didn’t speak clear English, and I assumed it was a sporting event. After I walked all the way back home at about 11PM that night and turned on my TV, I finally saw the nightmarish images of airplanes dissolving into the Twin Towers. It still took 20 minutes for it to sink in that this was NOT a movie. That this was real. For the next 24 hours I stayed glued to the TV trying to make sense of it all. Al Qaeda who? Osama Bin What? Why?

My girlfriend at the time was in Europe traveling with her family, stranded by the USA flight ban imposed in the wake of the attacks (for everyone other than the fleeing Bin Laden family). It was a stressful and gruesome time. At the national level there was great distress, but many things in my own life started to fall apart after 9/11. Freelance work started to dry up almost immediately, and most of my friends were out of work for a long time. As the disasters stacked up – political, personal, professional, financial, psychological – it was almost comedic, like a sequence from a movie where a shlub (a Jerry Lewis or a Jim Carrey) is subjected to one humiliating pitfall one after the other, to teach him ‘a lesson’. The difference being that everyone was experiencing this spiral of disaster at the exact same time. For me this grim period culminated in a bitter break up with my girlfriend in September 2002, leaving me dejected about life in America, about relationships, about work, and human beings in general. It took several years to find my optimism again.

The original 9th Street address of Maverix Studios was in a seedy part of town. My memories of Maverix itself are overwhelmingly positive, but any negative memories come from that low-rent tawdry neighbourhood, rife with petty crime and scuzzy ne’er do wells prowling about. I had two different bikes stolen from inside the studio itself within three months, and I wasn’t the only Maverix member to have issues with theft. There was a strange ecosystem of Fury Road shantytowns in the alley behind the studio near our dumpsters, ruled over by a semi psychotic Hobo Warlord in camouflage combat pants, stripped to the waist. This methed-up alpha hobo was known to us as ’Hatchet Man,’ because we’d often see him out our back window flexing his muscles and practicing tossing his tomahawk into a telephone pole; wzzzz THUD! We’d have to thread our way gingerly past Immortan Joe and his underlings to put stuff in our own dumpster.

The back alley shanty town would grow, and periodically the city would swoop in to roust the squatters, and steam clean their paste off the alley. Then another shanty would slowly re-assemble, only to be purged when it too became a festering sore. The City wanted to offset costs for these frequent cleanups, and clearly the hobos had no money, so The City would attempt to send US the bill for these cleanings. One time I was at home in the shower in my own apartment when there was furious rapping on the door, with an officious voice demanding; “Open up! City Trash Police!” (or some such). I opened the door in my bath towel to be confronted by a guy we came to call ‘The Garbage Nazi‘, an enforcer with the city who’d found a scrap of rubbish in the alley bearing my name and address, and this was to be the justification for a BILL from City Hall; if any of our trash was strewn about by the human racoons that lived in the alley (as it often was) we’d get hammered by The City for alley cleanup. There were already stiff penalties for not having a padlock on our garbage can. However the entire system broke down when the guys driving the garbage trucks and emptying our dumpsters wouldn’t put the locks back on after emptying our trash. Then our garbage cans became prime scavenging sites, and even impromptu porta-potties for Hatchet Man and his homies (yes, not kidding).

The initial draw to the area was cheap rent, when most businesses around us were fabric sewing sweat shops, likewise taking advantage of low costs. The first wave of internet start ups happened around that time, and when the tech boom hit the neighbourhood, suddenly those crappy sweatshops were turned into tech lofts and the area was awash with hipsters on scooters. But the .com boom of San Francisco wasn’t all glamour. Sometimes, when working late, we’d overhear tawdry transactions taking place in the medieval monkey cage in the back alley below the studio. It’s a strange disconnect to be working on a child’s cartoon at 2 in the morning, when you hear some drunk tech-nerd stumble out of a nearby bar to haggle a drugs-for-sex swap with a hobo-junkie. This sleazy Blowjob Bartertown was an aspect of the SF tech boom not covered by WIRED magazine.

Maverix soon lost its lease due to the escalating crazy rents brought on by this .com boom, when our landlord suddenly wanted us to pay something like $10,000 a month for a space that cost less than $2000 a month previously, which was very indicative of the greed of that time. The combo of tawdry sleaze & crummy infrastructure and high prices was brutal (and became the problem with San Francisco in general). When it was time to renew our lease in 2003, we couldn’t afford to be in the area any more, so the studio moved to 17th street and the new space was infinitely better than the original place. By that time, some of the members chose to become a proper LLC company, and the loose collective dissolved, and I left Maverix (thinking that we could barely manage the studio trash cans, let alone file paperwork for an actual company). This separation was 100% amicable, it was simply that our different goals for the studio had changed. Although I was no longer officially a member, I still participated in many Maverix events, and often dropped in on my old studio mates. We are all still good friends to this day.

One of the things I was most happy to collaborate in were the Maverix charity art auctions. The first was held out of a desperate need to express our love and support for our friend Mike Murnane, who’d been brought low by a tragic accident. He required surgery but had no insurance, and thus no funds to cover his ballooning medical expenses. The broader Maverix community came together to generate money in the only way we knew how; by making and selling artwork. Organised in a matter of weeks, this first auction raised a significant amount of money, even though many of us were out of work ourselves at the time. It became the first charity fundraiser of many, and such auctions became regular events at the studio. People from Pixar, PDI, ILM, Wild Brain, Ghostbot, and other studios in the Bay Area all assembled for good times and good causes.

This was my first experience of artists doing what they do to raise money for charities without any goal of self-promotion. I have seen similar things since, but for me the Maverix auctions were always the best. They may not have raised the cash of bigger art auctions that came later, but they were always all-inclusive and immensely rewarding to be part of. Lately, I’ve had a visceral sense of what such fundraising activities can do for a person who’s been medically devastated, when I was a beneficiary myself (in 2013). Though the money is very welcome, I found the support from the community to be the real force for good.

I’d recommend any freelance artists who work at home to find like-minded friends to share a workspace with, at least once in your career. In my opinion, an essential ingredient to make the whole thing work is a sort of rulebook (or ‘manifesto’ if you prefer) to ensure that the day to day nitty-gritty of bill paying and trash removal happens smoothly, and it it’s clear in everybody’s mind’s to what extent the studio is a workspace, and to what extent it is a fun space. If you can get those things mutually understood, this is one the most satisfying ways to work as a commercial artist.

When I first fell in love with San Francisco in the early 1990s, the Bay Area had a healthy cross-section of big studios, medium-sized studios, and small studios. Over 25 years later, the middle of that ecosystem has died. There are still a few big places (impenetrable fortresses like Pixar, and ILM) and a few tiny studios too, but the mid-size studios are gone (perhaps because animated commercials are neither so common nor lucrative as they once were). Mid-sized studios were my favourite places to work, providing the bulk of the freelance jobs for people doing what I do, while taking more chances on younger talent than bigger studios. I miss these mid-sized studios a great deal. A lot of innovation is happening in the South Bay in GAMES, but my focus has always been on animation for broadcast or film, and in that respect San Francisco is not the vital town that it once was, sadly.

In 2011, MAVERIX STUDIOS finally closed its doors, marking the end for this fantastic collective of independent, Bay Area animation artists, though ex-members have gone on to work on many high-profile projects in a wide variety of media, from comics & games to film & TV. All members look back on the studio with fondness, despite some setbacks here and there. It was quite an achievement that such an unwieldy group of screwballs could operate so well for so long, during some very difficult years in the Bay Area media community, when many studios with ‘business plans’ and MBAs all went kaput. For many years I’d toyed with the idea of making some projects of my own, but it wasn’t until Maverix that I actually did it, and interestingly, it made me a more professional worker for others, when I had an outlet to do my own thing. Becoming a self publisher led to exhibiting at comics conventions, which I did for about 10 years and got a lot of satisfaction from. Being a member of Maverix Studios remains one of the most fruitful periods of my career.

Founders of the Maverick commercial animation studio: Robert Valley Jeanne Reynolds.

Initial members of the Maverix Studios collective: Robert Valley, John Valley, James Baker, Steward Lee, Bosco Ng, Sho Murase, Vaughn Ross, Derek Thompson.

The 3rd wave: Tom Rubalcava, Osamu Tsuruyama, Tony Stacchi, Sergio Paez, Ted Mathot, Chris Petrocchi, Garett Sheldrew, Ed Bell.

Other friends who collaborated, or hung out: Patrick Awa, Mike Murnane, Gennie Rim, Granger Davis, Lyla Warren, Charlie Canfield, Dan McHale, Chris Carter, Charlene Kelley, Victor Gascon, Sam Hood, Dedan Anderson, Joel Hornsby, Jamal Narcisse, Lance Hughes, Ken Kaiser (and many more!)

Dec 252014

AngelKitty_gifts_250Happy Christmas to you all (please insert whatever holiday you prefer, religious, or secular) and I hope you gather with your loved ones today. Speaking of good company; two years ago, before I got sick, I was surrounded by dear friends as we worked together on a TV Christmas special; “The Toy Story that Time forgot.” It’s most definitely a fun secular romp, heavy on comedy and action, and yet one character is focused on the more spiritual aspects of this time of year, ever so subtly. The TV show screened earlier this month, and is available to view online. ENJOY!

Apr 242011

Here’s a BIRTHDAY (21st of April!) CARD for Mr Derek Thompson, honoring the fellow who introduced us many years ago; good old FRANKENSTEIN’s monster.

It seems appropriate that my friendship with DEREKMONSTER should have begun on a MONSTER MOVIE. Though that project was never finished, I made many great friends on that crew, Derek being one of them.


Feb 272011

For the EMERALD CITY convention in Seattle this week, I have a “new” book to sell; a 56 page collection of all the Rocket Rabbit stories that I’ve published so far.

Rocket Rabbit

KENESS has really come through with yet another fantastic print job. At 8.25×10.5 inches, this format is much bigger than any of the earlier Rocket Rabbit books and the print quality is much better too. Some of the earliest stories were out of print so this was a way of bringing them back to light and they have never looked better.

Rocket Rabbit

I still plan on getting NEW Rocket Rabbit stories done by the end of 2011 but frankly it has been hard to find the time in what has been a busy work year so far, so this collection is a good place-holder till I generate some new pages.

Rocket Rabbit

Starting this Friday 4th of March and through Sunday the 6th, I will be sharing booth Space #606 with the same two gentlemen who gave me a spot last time around; DEREK THOMPSON & TED MATHOT. Emerald City is a wonderful show and I hope to see some of you there!

Oct 142010

I just bought some portable lightweight stands to hang my CONVENTION BANNERS from. It was a bit of an intelligence test trying to figure out how they work but I prevailed and will use them for the first time at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) this weekend. Mostly these book-shows and conventions provide a backboard behind the exhibitor spaces to hang stuff from, but not always. So I thought these would be a good investment. I also bought a velcro banner to display my PRINTS, of which I will have a couple of new designs. The SEPHILINA book I launched at COMIC CON will also be on sale. This year my booth Number is #108 and looking at the exhibitor map, I am surrounded by some pretty awesome neighbours: Julia Lundman at #102, Derek Thompson & Ted Mathot at #106, John Hoffman (Anthology 451) at #107, and Steam Crow (Daniel & Dawna) at #100. And there are many other friends exhibiting as well in OTHER parts of the hall (Jennifer Chang, Ghostbot, Charlene Kelley, Michael Aushenker, Rafael Navarro, Ben Walker and many more!!). I hope to see the REST of you there too!

Mar 102010

I have exhibited at a few Comic Conventions in the past decade but most have been in San Francisco, where I live, and all have been in California. When exhibiting out of town (so far, only at COMIC CON) there has always been a VAN to load my stuff into (driven by Rhode). But this weekend, for the first time, I will be exhibiting out of state, at EMERALD CITY CON in Seattle, so I had to pack my books for a FLIGHT, which I have never done before. My thinking was that making the kit as portable as possible would be the way to go, as the easier it is to take the show on the road, the more likely I will be to do it again in future… and I like that idea.

I recently bought a rolling trunk for away-teams to long shows out of town (such as Comic Con) but I don’t really sell much in two-day shows so, while I was tempted to use my new trunk for this trip, I opted for a roll-aboard carry-on bag stuffed full of my wares. This thing is designed to carry about 8 pounds of socks and undies but at the moment it is jammed with about 55 pounds of books and is definitely the heaviest carry-on bag of all time.

Other than the rolling brick, I have a small duffel bag and a folio-case containing my new vinyl BANNERS. It is strange that I have never made these before. Rhode and I usually hand-make the booth-decorations for each show, but having a more portable and durable display will be key from now on.. To make my kit complete, I still need to buy some lightweight banner-STANDS for those shows that do not provide a backboard. In the past, I have used an EASEL for this purpose but they are bulky and have a huge footprint that is inconvenient in cramped booth spaces.

If you are in Seattle this weekend (March 13/14) come by the EMERALD CITY con where I will be sharing a booth with TED MATHOT and DEREK THOMPSON. It would be nice to find out that I needed to pack more stuff to sell. Selling out would be a GOOD problem to have.

Apr 082009

Last weekend I flew from Portland to Seattle for the Emerald City Comic Con. It was the first time since around 2002 that I have gone to a comic Convention as an attendee rather than an exhibitor and I had a lovely time. The inspiration for the trip was to see my pals Ted and Derek, (exhibiting at this particular show for the first time) but I was also keen to meet up with my old pal Brian who lives in Seattle and whom I had not seen in many years.


Everyone agreed that this was wonderful show. Bay Area exhibitors claimed that their sales were much more than they were expecting and that they all preferred this con over recent experiences at Wondercon… Apart from that, it was just pleasant to attend; lots of great costumes (Hellboy Jr, and Kid Abe Sapien were highlights) and a fun, cheerful atmosphere.


Cons are a great chance to catch up with people, even those whom I see often. I regret not being able to spend more time with everyone but you can only fit so much socialising into a weekend… In fact, we were already talking abut the logistics of socialising at COMIC CON which is only a few months away… Chris Turnham (a co-worker at LAIKA) was also exhibiting with his friend Kevin Dart and their booth was right next door to Ted & Derek’s. It was great to see their work. There were some also some OTHER familiar faces on deck:


Like all my exhibitor pals, Ted & Derek were pretty much chair-bound at the con. I saw them for Breakfast and dinner each day but in between times I wandered about the city, SOLO. The weather was so unbelievably pretty that I simply HAD to get outside (working in Portland has taught me to make the most of sunshine when it comes my way). A highlight of these explorations was the Science Fiction Museum, which houses the impressive memorabilia stash of Paul Allen (of Microsoft). The collection includes Captain Kirk’s chair, A full size Spinner (from Blade Runner) and blasters, phasers, and laser pistols from every Sci-Fi movie and TV show you could name. Luckily for me, Every nerd for a 500 mile radius was at the Emerald City Comic Con, so I more or less had the museum to myself and was able to take my time perusing a Billionaire’s geek-stash at my leisure..


Finding dinner without walking all over the place is hard at cons, and Saturday was no exception to that rule. I take some of the blame for it his time, as the first place we entered was wall-to-wall punch-able faces and I decreed that we would have to eat elsewhere… Thanks to Brian & Heather’s local knowledge, we were taken to a very cosy pub with great food. We all agreed that the long walk to SMITH was well worth it. The quality of the appetisers (Deep fried pork shoulder with chimichurri and a serving of Sweet potato fries) hinted that we’d be in for a treat when the main courses showed up… and indeed we were.


Seattle reminds me of other Bayside cities that I love; San Francisco, Vancouver, Sydney, Hong Kong, Macau… there is just something about Harbour Cities… Perhaps the rhythms of the tidal water gives these places a special vitality… When on the ferry to Bainbridge Island I had a visceral memory-flash of riding the Manly Ferry across Sydney Harbour… a journey I often made when I first moved to Sydney from my home town. But while the journey from Sydney’s Circlular Quay to the Northern suburb of Manly takes the passenger towards sandy white beaches, the Bainbridge Ferry is headed for snow capped mountains…


It also occurred to me, while wandering around Pioneer Square on Sunday, that it is EXACTLY 20 years since I was last in Seattle. March/April 1989… when I first came to the USA as a back-packing traveler. I hadn’t thought of the time-line until seeing some buildings brought some memories back to me. After tracking down one or two familiar places, I headed back to the CON to reconnoiter with my cronies. Selling out of their stock allowed Ted & Derek the luxury of an early departure from the CON and made it possible for us to have a leisurely FEAST OF CON-OVER with Brian and Heather at The Alibi Room down by the Pike Place market, before our respective flights left that evening. The delicious pizzas (Grape & Blue Cheese, and Chicken Sausage & Basil) were a very tasty end to a satisfying weekend.


May 292008

Derek Thompson’s website is called DerekMonster because of his love of drawing monsters but the moniker also fits the man himself, because he is an ART MONSTER. Derek will share his hyperactive and hyper-talented style of magic in his forthcoming lecture in the Gnomon Workshop series of DVDs, where artists from the film, comics and illustration industries each show their working processes. (I wish something like these DVDs had been available when I was a teenager- all I had was mail-in, learn-to-draw classes). Derek’s instructional DVD will be ready in time for Comic Con but a fore-taste of the Derek flava can be had by reading DEREK’s GNOMON INTERVIEW.

Oct 022007

One of my favourite things to do over the past few years has been to participate in the MAVERIX STUDIOS ART AUCTIONS. They have all been held to raise money for worthy causes, and the satisfaction in being part of one is many-fold. First of all, they are a fantastic prompt to make some original artwork that has nothing to do whatsoever with working for “the man”. Secondly, they are great social gatherings and gallery shows where I can see artwork made by my friends. Thirdly, If I get my check-book out and wield it wisely and boldy, I get to take home some of that inspiring artwork at bargain prices. Fourthly, they are wonderful ways to raise money for charity and the knowledge that I am part of that process creates a rosy glow that lasts for weeks. Lastly, because of all of the points raised above and more factors besides, they are one hell of a lot of fun to attend.

Initially, the choice of beneficiary charities for each auction, and the ensuing preparations, were made by Maverix Studios members themselves, but recently Maverix has been approached by friends to host auctions for charities that they have some connection to. Enrico Casarosa instigated the EMERGENCY auction held earlier this year and this most recent auction was initiated by Esther Pearl and Nate Stanton, and then organised by them and Maverix to raise money for the Alzheimers Association. Amazingly, the preparations for this show were done in a mere 4 weeks and yet the auction raised a staggering $13,842.

You just got walked on by Maverix Studios
Maybe as much as $6,000 of that total was raised in the live-auction. A Maverix Studios auction is silent for most of the 3 hours, whereby bidders write down their bids beneath each art piece. However, Maverix reserves the right to pull a few of the most contested pieces off the wall and use them in the live auction BIG BID BATTLE at the end of the night. So, even though you’ve secured the winning bid on paper, you may be obliged to battle it out even further LIVE. As auctioneer MIKE MURNANE hilariously explained to the first such thwarted paper-bidder, “You thought you’d already won this piece but you just got WALKED ON by Maverix Studios.” Thereafter followed a series of cut-throat bid battles.

The drama and hilarity of the BIG BID BATTLES has become one of my favourite parts of these auctions, and a large part of the reason for that fact is the MIGHTY MIKE MURNANE. Mikey is a natural born button pusher and his skills at goading are nowhere put to better use than at these events. He surely gouged another several thou out of the crowd last Saturday. It is also fitting that Mike be the auctioneer at these shows, seeing as how he was the beneficiary of the very first Maverix Auction held in 2004, to raise money for his eye surgery.

Bidding for FULL QUENCH
I had it in mind to finally secure myself a Rhode Montijo original. Even though I had won a Rhode painting at the very first Maverix auction, I soon after gave that painting to Mike as a gift and have been in dire need of replacement Rhode pic ever since. However, this time around, there a was a giddy frenzy of bidding the likes of which I’d not seen before. I bid on a SWEET Rhode piece in the live auction, battling one-on-one with Bosco, each of us topping each other’s bid by $25, until the price was almost $200 more than the paper bid, which had been held by Bosco. Then Ronnie del Carmen blind-sided BOTH of us; he jacked the bidding up by $75 to $500 (which was my secret top price) and secured the pic for himself!

Ronnie’s bold bidding strategy got a huge round of applause, from Bosco and I no less than anyone else, and I think his boldness set the tone for bids to come, because thereafter bidders really pulled out all the stops. Luis battled Vaughn neck and neck for Patrick Awa’s GUITAR WOLF piece and, with the bidding at around the $750 mark, Luis blew the opposition away by bidding $1000, to a HUGE cheer from the assembled crowd.

Brenda Chapman made the room gasp as she bid against a woman called JUDY, taking the bids from $400 all the way up to the dizzy heights of $3,500, for a beautiful painting by Steve Purcell, who sadly wasn’t there in person and therefore missed out on the massive ego-stoke of seeing two women fighting over him so passionately. The crowd loved the theatre of this battle, and Brenda had a huge smile on her face as the victor, even though she wound up paying a few thousand more for a picture she’d already won on paper.

I have to point out here that even these “high” prices are actually bargains for the quality of the work on auction. A mere fraction of what you would pay at a gallery.

Thwarted for a good cause
Last time I walked home with a huge swag of goodies, whereas this time I was beat out on most of the stuff I bid on. I was tipped to be one of the people to pull the bid-sheets off the wall, and in doing so I wasn’t as able to defend my bids on a few pieces elsewhere in the room, and the last 5 minutes are everything in the silent bidding. However, I was able to win a great print by Sho Murase, and I was very happy with the fact that my donated pieces raised a lot more money than any of my submissions to prior auctions.

Plus, even though I was denied in gaining many of the things that I had wanted, I was happy in the knowledge that I was thwarted for a good cause and my bids had at least forced someone else to pay some extra money to charity in order to be the winner. There are no sad faces at the end of a Maverix Studios auction. And if there was any sense of having to lick my wounds, I took that vibe with me to Mitchell’s Ice Cream and instead licked a chocolate dipped Mexican Chocolate Ice cream, served in a chocolate waffle cone.

(thanks to Carlos, Rhode and Ronnie for the photos seen here).

If you like the idea of this kind of auction but don’t live in the Bay Area, then why not organise an art-auction charity fundraiser for the holiday season this year? Scoop up some of the holiday purchasing budget in your community for a good cause, and walk away with some great artwork that you can give to friends and family over the gift giving season!


A chronology of the Maverix Studios Auctions:
#1. AUGUST 19TH, 2004: For the Love of MIKE: $6000 raised for Mike Murnane’s eye surgery.

#2. FEBRUARY 4TH 2005: TSUNAMI RELIEF: $22,955.60 raised for the victims of the Asian Tsunami, with donations given to UNICEF, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY and SAVE THE CHILDREN. Participation by 80 artists who donated 220 pieces sold at the auction night and on a follow-up Ebay auction.


#4. DECEMBER 15TH, 2005. EARTHQUAKE RELIEF: $12,000 raised for the victims of the Earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir, with donations given to the PAKISTAN RED CRESCENT SOCIETY and DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS.

Over $40,000 was raised in 2005 at 3 auctions, and perhaps due to exhaustion there was an auction hiatus in 2006.


#6. SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2007. $13,842 raised for the ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY.

Jul 102006

Normally at this time of year, leading up to Comic Con, I would be powering up my personal Hype Machine and trying to whet your appetites for one of my own books. This time however I haven’t cooked anything new (or rather, it is still baking) but you don’t need to go hungry as I have some recommendations of other tasty treats that will be on sale this year…

MelvinMELVIN BEEDERMAN books 1 & 2, Illustrated by my booth-buddy mr Rhode Montijo. These are the first in a series (lots more on the way!) of chapter books, which are lavishly illustrated novels designed for young readers not yet ready for “Harry Potter” but already growing self-conscious about reading “picture books”. The MELVIN books are full of Rhode’s charming black and white illustrations for the stories (written by Greg Trine) about a boy who is trying to be a Super Hero in Los Angeles (because LA hasn’t had a hero since Kareem retired).

MelvinThese books are SUPER appropriate subject-matter for Comic Con, and perfect for any young kids (I plan to get some for my nephews). For your even younger readers, Rhode will also be selling his colour picture book Cloud Boy which he both wrote and illustrated himself. I already have my copy, (which I have raved about before), but if you don’t have one yet, then I suggest that you come by our booth and pick one up. (Plus, we both have left over comics and sketchbooks from years gone by… or you could just come by to say “hi”).

ROSE AND ISABEL Book 2, by Ted Mathot. The conclusion to an epic story of two sisters who join the American civil war to find their brothers who are missing in action. Ted is a master storyteller, who normally uses his considerable skills in the service of animated feature films (I bet he has even storyboarded some of your favourite sequences). It is a real joy now to see him do his own thing. There is a lesson for me in every drawing I’ve ever seen of Ted’s and this book is like college; it has 160 pages of them.

DEREKMONSTER ANNUAL 2oo6 by veritable art-monster Derek Thompson. Derek is yet another friend who constantly inspires me with his upbeat energy, productivity and his always amazing artwork. He has a broad range of things that he can do artistically, but his passion has always been for designing monsters and I don’t think anyone draws them better. This book, like the first, contains 365 monsters, so you could snack on one for each day of the year, but my bet is that you’ll want to gobble them all down the minute you turn the first page.

MASSIVE SWERVE by Robert Valley. If you enjoy seeing the human form drawn with both an eye for figure drawing and a flair for stylization (which don’t always go together, let alone so well) and aren’t squeamish about unbridled sexual fantasy, then you should get this book, just don’t show it to your kids, your grandma or anyone with Victorian sensibilities. The stories can be raunchy, but are truly hilarious, drawing upon Robert’s real-life booze-addled adventures in club-land, but placed in a more extreme, fun cartoon-fantasy world.

GHOULASH by Sam Hiti. Instead of an epic graphic novel or a charming mini comic, Sam now serves up an art book; a stew of monsters, deities, cowboys (and Rambo!) all rendered in Sam’s fearless brushmanship. An aside; Have you noticed how many sketchbooks have a food-themed title? “Scribbles and Bits”, “Ice Cream”, “Candy”, “Croquettes”, “Gourmet Gruel” and now “Ghoulash”… Surely this proves that art satisfies some kind of hunger? I find artbooks pretty tasty myself, and I can’t wait for a hearty plate-full of Sam’s cooking.

SKETCHCRAWLINGS vol. 2 By Enrico Casarosa. The creator of the worldwide art craze that is SKETCHCRAWL has another of his charming Sketchcrawl books in the pipeline, due to pop out in time for the comic-con feeding frenzy. These books feature a 50/50 blend of Enrico’s superb, “on the spot” pencil and watercolour sketches, and hilarious autobiographical comics co-starring his two tiny alter egos, Nude Angel Enrico, and Nude Enrico Devil and starring full-sized Enrico himself, fully clothed (sorry, ladies) though emotionally naked.

AFTERWORKS 2, by a collection of artists from Pixar Animation studios. I have seen the galleys for this beautifully produced book. there are 360 full colour pages just chock filled with gorgeous artwork by artists whose names you may not have heard of before but whose work you have been seeing for years in all of Pixar’s films. The book has stories by artists from the story, art, and animation departments so it represents a broad cross section of the creative community of that powerhouse studio. And for only $25.00 how can you NOT pick this up?

OUT OF PICTURE by artists from Blue Sky studios, including my buddy David Gordon. I have seen (thanks to super-talented contributor Daniel Lopez Munoz) this beautifully packaged (big format, hard cover) and reasonably priced ($25) book and it is a “must have”. Is this a new trend of anthologies of personal work by animation artists? (How ’bout it Dreamworks artists? Disney artists? Sony? ILM?). It’s a sign of a healthy studio when the artists have surplus creative energy to spare for their personal projects.

And of course, I want a copy of FLIGHT 3 (to keep the first two company on my bookshelf). The Flight collections have probably inspired this recent spate of beautifully produced, bargain priced, colour comics anthologies; a trend I hope will continue for some time. It could be the beginings of a new way to distribute comics and get them to a wider audience… Comics can be cool! Plus, apart from this list, there is bound to be stuff that I don’t know about YET but will crave when I see it…

Anyway, I look forward to seeing all of that and all of you (plus pudgy people in purple spandex) next week at the NERD PROM: Comic-Con!