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Day 1 – The Limits of Planning

Planning.

You try your best and God/Nature/Life does the rest. For example: When an ‘historic’ storm blows into the NW United States on your travel trailer rig’s departure date. Right now that storm’s battering Pacific City, Oregon, my hometown and first planned stop, with wind and rain. They even had two tornadoes up the coast in Manzanita, and tornadoes are not Oregonian. They are just not done. All this to say, we may have to revise the plan before we even really begin.

Manzanita Tornadoes

That’s adventure for you.

Last night I spent several soggy hours doing trailer prep, much of it for the first time and without the proper tools (favorite scenario). I figured that since I didn’t know the water tank’s recent history I should give it a good cleaning pre-launch. If everything else in the Pacific Northwest was getting flushed out, why make exceptions?

Humorous scenario #1: Rolling in the dark of night on a half-working creeper under your trailer in a record-setting rainstorm to find the low point drain locations, failing to do so, then exiting slowly and awkwardly from under the trailer as rain pummels your face. At least I had my trusty waterproof+rechargeable headlamp. I endorse it here with no expected compensation from its manufacturer: It’s this one.

Humorous scenario #2: A trip to Home Depot and its flooding parking lot to get the right socket to open the hot water tank, then a second trip to get the required 1/2″ driver. Exiting the store a second time, you note the white sedan halfway underwater in the parking lot. You drive a white sedan…

BUT NO! It’s not your car, it’s some other poor schmo’s. You win one.

I did eventually succeed in my mid-storm mission to flush the tanks. After I came in at 10, Sarah and I made a last few feeble efforts to pack, then collapsed. Whether to the Oregon Coast or not, we were determined to go somewhere on Saturday. Final packing would just have to wait for the morning of.

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The essentials.

 


 

Waking on launch day to the sound of rain and the sight of our upended house, I thought of my son, Otis. I had a plan for him too. It involved hiking through the Oregon woods together, teaching him archery, video games – the boy stuff. We bought our current home with the intention of having more room for a family of four. Our family car, too. So many decisions based on our best plan – all upended in January of this year, when Otis died of seizure complications. He was 20 months old.

I want to share a little about my boy and who he was (and continues to be) to me.

Otis in adventure gearOtis was full of love and enthusiasm for people in a way that strangers readily noticed. His big sister, Dorothy (now four) is very bright and focused on the mysterious world and how it works (plus making art and stories out of it – good girl). This is contrast to Otis, who was chiefly concerned with the world’s people. He was generous with smiles, greetings, toys, and kisses.

He didn’t have nearly as many words as Dorothy commanded at his age, but he had a startling sense for relationships. One of my favorite memories is of sitting and talking with him in the dark on our big bean bag in the early morning, waiting together for the world to wake up. We ‘hid’ under a blanket and he ran through lists of names this way: “Mimi, Papa (my mom and dad), Daddy son. Mama, Daddy, Otis son.” To be snuggled with him there, knowing from his simple words that he had a clear picture of his family – that was a universe-expanding pleasure.

In his general health and development, Otis was an ordinary boy. He had a total of three seizures in his life, two of them a month apart, but those two occurred almost a year before his last. After the first two events we put him on an anti-seizure med, Keppra. After putting him on Keppra, we saw no further signs of seizure activity. His neurologist was optimistic, and we hoped he was in the clear.

Five percent of young children experience seizures, many of them fever-related. Most of them grow up to lead ordinary, healthy lives. Even those with seizure disorders (which we could never prove Otis had) can see great, normalizing effects from a drug like Keppra. The night of Otis’s last seizure, Sarah, Dorothy, Otis, and I were at the dinner table together when it hit. We’d been through the shock twice, so we knew our action plan and followed it to the letter. The difference this time was that he aspirated some food, and in spite of my attempts at CPR, his heart stopped before the paramedics could arrive. They restarted his heart, but after a night in the hospital, the doctors determined that Otis had been without oxygen for too long. That morning someone showed us a little glass vial with the piece of macerated apple they took from near his collapsed lung. It was such a small thing to make such a difference.

We said goodbye to him in that hospital as they wheeled him away, strong little heart still beating, toward surgery. He chose to donate his organs to whomever could benefit. Hard as it was, we’re grateful we chose that path, as his body gave new life to two people. A fitting legacy for a boy who loved others so well.
Christmastime

 


 

It’s now nine months since that goodbye in the hospital. The difficult images are still with me, but they’ve dimmed some and are now in better balance with the joys I shared with Otis when he lived. We did hike the Oregon woods, even in his first week of life. We did play video games – or rather I did in the middle of the night while he slept next to me on the couch. And this week, I gave Dorothy her first archery lesson.

One of the many things Otis left me is a commitment to shared adventure: To pursue awe with Dorothy and Sarah and to love as best I can whoever I meet on my way. That’s a sort of manifesto for this trip of ours. Whether we head out today towards the wind-battered Oregon Coast or along a more serene inland path, we’re ready to step out and encounter God/Nature/Life, however it presents itself to us.

As soon as we finish packing.

Readying to Launch Our Adventure

Let’s adventure together.

Get out on the road, into the woods, under the waterfalls. Hang in hammocks, cook over fires, draw and paint. Try to stay patient even after hours in the car with all time-passing games exhausted. Find many, many weird bugs.

This is my family’s dream for fall. On Saturday, the Cases head out with a little travel trailer for a five week road adventure/book research trip/book promotion extravaganza.
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Characters and Plot

Meet our three-headed team:

  • Jonathan (the dad), driver of rigs, book-maker, eater of plants.
  • Sarah (the mom), master schemer, keeper of peace, dancer of swing.
  • Dorothy (the preschooler), hiker of hills, candy-consumer, absurdist.

…And our three-pronged plan:

  • Meander through fascinating outdoor places and ultimately reach the overwintering sites of the migrating monarch butterflies in California. Make and take pictures, jot coordinates, gather field data for my next graphic novel: The Guidebook — A kid-friendly, outdoorsy-future-earth-adventure which follows the monarch’s migration from the Northwest states down to the bugs’ forested sanctuaries in Monterey, Marin, Santa Cruz, and surrounding counties. I’ll finish my rough draft of The Guidebook while we’re on the road (mostly from my hammock-office, pictured below).
  • Promote the new hardcover release of Dear Creature with bookstore and school stops along the way – do sketches for kids (and grownups, I guess), talk about graphic novels, share of our adventures. See the sidebar for our evolving tour schedule.
  • Blog it all so someone will know where to find us if we get lost in the woods.
Adventure

My Mobile Art Studio

 

We’ll take this wild ride in a 1998 Lexus LX470: also known as the fancy-person’s Land Cruiser. I selected this vehicle for its reputation to not break, pull stuff, and go where others fear to tread. Example:

These things are scarce like Donald Trump at Hip Hop Fest Northwest. Still, I managed to wrest one from a local used car dealership (shudder). It guzzles gas but it’ll probably outlive me. Maybe one day they’ll make a retro-fit Tesla battery pack to shove this truck’s 5,500 lbs across the land. As long as I’m dreaming.

Right now we’re battening down the hatches at home and doing our best to maintain focus as launch day nears. We’re really excited to share more on our adventure. I’ll try to post updates with every place we visit, taking the 2/2/2 approach to the RV life: Never drive more than 2 hours, never stay less than 2 nights, and always arrive by 2 in the afternoon. I haven’t tried such a relaxed pace to travel before, but I hope it avails us plenty of time to explore, create, and make waffles over campfires (you have to try them):

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For now, on to packing! More soon. It’s time to explore the earth.

My San Diego Comic Con Schedule

 

 

 

 


San Diego Comic Con has seen fit to ship me down (crated?) as a special guest. This means I’m paneling and signing and tabling and meeting and schmoozing for many hours, starting Thursday, July 21st.

Special attention to be directed to my Saturday spotlight panel where I tell everything the young me wanted to know when I first embarked upon making books that humans read. Things like, “How can I get people to read my books,” and “Why won’t that editor look at me with affection?”


Here’s the full scoop on where you can find me:

Thursday, 11-12 PM. Room: 5AB
Celebrate the Publishing World of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth with Archaia: To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, publisher Archaia (an imprint of BOOM! Studios) has several books set to come out this year! Join BOOM! Studios Senior Editor Sierra Hahn and artists Eric Powell (The Goon, Big Man Plans), Joëlle Jones (Spider-Woman, Lady Killer), and Jonathan Case (The New Deal, Batman ’66) as they give fans a sneak peek into these titles, which include original comics, a children’s storybook, and an artists’ tribute collection. Moderated by Nerdist Editor-in-Chief Rachel Heine.
Friday, 1-2 PM. Dark Horse Booth Signing
Jonathan Case signs all the books and maybe some other things? We’ll see.
Friday, 3-4 PM. Room: 7AB
Dark Horse Originals: Comics literature has become the voice and visual for our changing generation, and Dark Horse Originals has it all—from underwater mystery in Jonathan Case’s Dear Creature to the surrealist return of Dave McKean in The Dreams of Paul Nash. Join panelists Dave McKean (Cages), Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (Two Brothers), Peter Hogan (Resident Alien) and Jonathan Case (Dear Creature) as they discuss pushing the boundaries of what comics can accomplish in literature.
Saturday, 6-7 PM. Room: 9
Spotlight on Jonathan Case: The Triumphs and Trials of Creating and Publishing a Graphic Novel— Join Comic Con special guest and Eisner award-winning cartoonist Jonathan Case (The New Deal) for an in-depth look at creating and publishing your first graphic novel. Explore one book’s tumultuous journey from conception to delivery as Case offers anecdotes about the creation and promotion of his first book, Dear Creature (returning to print this fall as a deluxe hardcover from Dark Horse Comics). Q&A available— all ages and levels welcome!
Sunday, 2-3 PM. Room: 25ABC
Cover Story: The Art of the Cover: This panel will include Jonathan Case, Howard Chaykin, Paul Gulacy, Scott Shaw and Babs Tarr. Panel will be moderated by Mark Evanier.
Whew! I think that’s everything, minus the breather I always take at the Old Globe (they do such good work!). Sarah and I are going to see Sense and Sensibility to regain our equilibrium after the pop culture barrage! Should be fun.

See you at the thing!

The New Deal Before Tomorrowland

Funny how those two titles run together and still work.

I’m back from the depths. They said it couldn’t be done, but here I am, writing a blog post. I put a number of things on hiatus over the last year — public appearances, my web store, sleep. It all comes, as Christopher Robin says, of (doing) eating too much.

Being busy, for me, is not a life goal anymore. It used to be. Now it’s the old aunt who won’t leave unless you tell her, rudely. By way of catch up, here’s a short version of what I’ve been up to since my last blog post, lo these nine months ago:

  • May: Wife graduated from grad school (Go Sarah!) and had our second child, Otis (Go Sarah!)
  • May: We moved to a new home, two weeks after having the kid. What, past-self? How did that make sense?
  • May (notice a lot in May?) to August: Started and finished art + first draft of crazy, hybrid-enhanced-YA-novel Before Tomorrowland for Disney. Realized a dream of seeing my name next to Brad Bird’s on a thing.
  • July: Did illustrations for Aloof, the latest theo-lit book from Tony Kriz, out at better bookstores now (Just got back from Tony’s reading at Powell’s!)
  • Somewhere in there: Completed 50% of art on my next graphic novel, The New Deal (coming soon from Dark Horse). I ramble about it here, at CBR.
  • Somewhere else in there: Played stay-at-home-dad a couple days a week while Sarah got her counseling business up and running (Go Sarah!)
Before Tomorrowland Case

See? Real.

It doesn’t look like that much to me, seeing it written in a few sentences here, but boy. I’m just now learning to walk and talk again. In the next few weeks, I’ll dive into a bit more detail on these and other fun projects I have under way. For now, Happy Sunday. It was, by and large, a day of rest.

More please!

April 2nd is Batman ’66 Day

You know why it’s Batman ’66 Day tomorrow? Three things.

1. I return to the series with the first of 3 loaded new chapters, enhanced for digital. This one has it all, as Jeff Parker says:

For our latest story, artist Jonathan Case who kicked off the series, is returning for another big three-parter where The Joker and Catwoman bust out of confinement and turn Gotham City upside down.

It’s wild and crazy, and I’m doing the primary cover for this issue (#11) when it’s all collected for print. Here’s the original cover art (for sale, and still in support of trafficking survivors).

Joker and Catwoman

2. Tomorrow’s the release of the first snazzy hardcover collection of Batman ’66. It really turned out beautifully, and includes art from fab people like Colleen Coover, Joe Quinones, and more! Buy a signed copy here.

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3. The incomparable Jeff Parker will sign the above next to yours truly at Cosmic Monkey here in beautiful Portland, OR. 5PM-7PM, Wednesday April 2nd. Head over here for event details. Visiting comics stars Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire will join us too and sign their hit book, Moon Knight.

And we may get burgers at Sassy Burger if I can convince them. Those are good burgers.

I’ll also bring some of these Julie Newmar Catwoman prints:

Catwoman

I rest my case. Batman ’66 Day.