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November 18th, 2014

Vortex Book Mini-Tour Diary

Filed under: Recaps — Tags: , , , , — William Cardini @ 12:32 pm

I started the Vortex Book Mini-Tour with a release party at Floating World Comics in Portland on Friday and Short Run in Seattle on Saturday. The tour ends with an Austin signing at Farewell Books tomorrow, Wednesday 11/9, from 7 to 9pm.

Vortex stack

On Friday, 11/14, I got into Portland after lunch, took the light rail and bus to meet Virginia Paine (who runs my publisher Sparkplug Books). It was my first glimpse of the Vortex book – I was overwhelmed! I didn’t even want to flip through it at first. The metallic silver ink on the cover turned out just as I had visualized.

Vortex on the shelf at Floating World
Vortex in good company on the shelves at Floating World Comics.

We took the bus downtown to drop a box of Vortex and Reich #12 at Floating World Comics and then went to Powell’s. I’ve been in Bookpeople here in Austin and Tattered Cover’s old downtown location in Denver but Powell’s beats them all! I could live in their sf section. We only had about a half hour but fortunately I have a list for whenever I’m in a used book store. I grabbed The Dark World by Henry Kuttner (and an uncredited CL Moore) and Sorcerer’s Legacy by Janny Wurts (I want to try a solo book by her before I dive into her unfinished epic fantasy series). I also saw Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped by Sheri Tepper but it was $15 and I wanted to get more than one book.

The Dark World by Henry Kuttner
I read this on the plane ride back (it’s only 126 pages). An inspiration for Zelazny’s Amber. I noticed some additional parallels to Lord of the Rings (evil beings who invest their energy in physical objects) and Wheel of Time (a glass sword of great power).

The signing was fun, I could spend all night at Floating World Comics. I’d gotten the impression it was small, like a big closet, but their current space is enormous and Jason Leivian has packed it to the gills with fantastic comics. It was good to meet Elijah Brubaker and hang out with him, Zack Soto, Virginia, and everyone who came by. I had an interesting conversation with Mike Getsiv about the boundaries of the abstract comics genre. Then after the signing Sera Stanton (who drew the awesome Sparkplug Books cat t-shirt for the Kickstarter) gave me and Virginia a ride to Seattle so I got to sleep most of the way.

Sparkplug Books table at Short Run photo by Virginia Paine
Sparkplug Books table at Short Run. Photo by Virginia.

Saturday was Short Run. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a free one-day show like CAB or LA Zine Fest. It’s in this old, beautiful brick building in downtown Seattle. Every glimpse I got of Seattle was beautiful. If I lived there, I couldn’t get over driving down a freeway, ice-crowned mountains on my left and a shining lake lapping at house-covered hills on my right.

Fry bread tacos at Short Run
Delicious fry bread tacos from a food truck at Short Run.

Short Run itself was great! Good energy; vegan treats and coffee by the clean, spacious bathroom; food trucks in the parking lot; and steady crowds all day. Vortex seemed to be selling well but I was still able to sneak away from the table to be a good consumer. It was my first time sitting at a publisher’s table at a con and it was exactly what I hoped for – All the interaction and none of the stress about sales. My #1 goal for the day was to meet Simon Hanselmann and get a personalized copy of Megahex so I did that within the first hour.

Megahex signed by Simon Hanselmann

I did some drawings in Vortex as well. Jen Vaughn, Virginia and I’s gracious host, bought Vortex so of course, in thanks, I hexed her copy.

Cursed book photo by Jen Vaughn
The inscription reads: “William Cardini curses anyone other than Jen Vaughn who owns this book.” Not sure what face I’m making – I guess it’s my witch grin? Photo by Jen.

Finally put faces to some names I know from the internet, such as Michael Litven of Ebbits, Rob Kirby, Brandon Lehmann AKA Bobby Mono, Shanna Matuszak, and Jack Hayden of Snakebomb. Austin was represented well – both the Rough House Comics crew and Monofonus Press were there. It was great to reconnect with other comics folk since I haven’t been to a show since TCAF 2013. At dinner I was missing my family so I showed Virginia and Yumi Sakugawa photos and videos of Ruby.

Short Run trip haul
My haul from Short Run, Floating World, and Powell’s.

We came back for the after party at Washington Hall, but it was too loud to talk with the bands, so Virginia and I met back up with Jen and she gave us an after-hours tour of the Fantagraphics office. We saw an old Love and Rockets cover divided into Rubylith layers to prepare it for printing!

Fantagraphics basement photo by Jen Vaughn
The Fantagraphics basement is filled with comics. Photo by Jen.

Now I’m back in Austin with my wife and daughter and pumped about comics. There won’t be a new Skew page this week because we’re going to divide it into multiple parts so it doesn’t take too long to load and I need to decide where the split should be and draw a cover for Part 2. If you’re in Austin and I didn’t see you at Short Run, I hope to see you tomorrow at Farewell, so you can say hello to Vortex!


  1. What a great haul. Wish I was still up there right now.

    Comment by Brendan — November 18th, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

  2. So, I just received Vortex in the mail. My first impression is: WOW! It looks better than I had hoped. The colours of the cover look amazing, and the black and white art inside is printed in really high quality. The dizzying patterns are extremely attractive and emphasize the alienness of that world to me. I couldn’t stop thinking of how amazing it might be to see it in animation, with slowly moving borders (that’s kind of how I imagine in my mind some of these scenes playing out – in a kind of hazy, surreal yet extreme sharp slow motion). I could totally see an animation style like Kol Belov’s early work working for you, with its deliberate, slow movements and constant morphing of one thing into another (see his films “Bankomat” or “Objectionable Apparatus” to get a sense for what I mean: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/289848 http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/257593 )
    Also… the book SMELLS really nice.
    I’ve only read the first 20 pages or so, but I felt inspired to write something quickly.

    Comment by Esn — December 15th, 2014 @ 9:50 pm

  3. Thanks Esn, I’m really glad you like it so much! I love that new ink smell too. I hadn’t heard of Kol Belov before, but that video is cool, I like how Belov keeps shifting the frame of the action.
    I have done some animation, for example this Flash video: https://vimeo.com/16369506
    And some animated GIFs on my Tumblr like this one: http://hypercastle.tumblr.com/post/64601838438/the-floating-crystal-witch

    Anyway I hope you like the rest of the book as much!

    Comment by William Cardini — December 16th, 2014 @ 9:52 am

  4. The first one has cool colours but needs some sound and smoother morphing action (a bit too rigid). The second one has that really cool black+white shading that I like in “Vortex”. I again feel that it’s not smooth enough; the faster parts are a bit jerky. Maybe you could experiment with moving colours & shapes by using tweens, like Kol Belov does? Actually, here’s an even better animated example, from a different artist (but who is or was in the same artistic collective): http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/414786 “Selva” by Arthur Merkulov
    It also has that constantly shifting frame of reference and nonstop smooth movement, plus I think the actual art style is nicer.

    Mind you, when I tried animation I went for the completely opposite, “transparent PNG textured paint” approach. Here’s a short one of mine (I think it needed more moving parts): http://niffiwan.deviantart.com/art/Continue-the-Animation-no-2-109333597

    Comment by Esn — December 16th, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

  5. Finished reading it! It’s a pretty satisfying book. Some thoughts:

    I quite like the Miizzzard. He’s an adventuresome and inquisitive loner, who’s quite competent, and tries to do the right thing (or does he?). I can relate to that. In a way, he might be like the prototypical “lone ranger”…
    In some of his traits I was somewhat reminded of from C.J.Cherryh’s sci-fi book “Voyager in Night” – they share some important things: internal nested universes, nearly omnipotent power, curiosity, even the ability to split and merge oneself (though takes that further than Miizzard does here).

    I couldn’t help wondering whether the being he defeated at the end was correct – was it a mistake to free sentient weapons? Will it cause greater suffering for the rest of the universe? It wasn’t really answered (it might be a general tendency of American storytelling to be more concerned with the battle for freedom than with what happens after, or what freedom means). The overall theme is not as sci-fi as all that; countries are probably not that far off from developing actual sentient weapons (or maybe have already, if you count proxy wars).

    Anyway, I look forward to reading further chapters!

    Comment by Esn — December 20th, 2014 @ 11:03 am

  6. Interesting, I tried using triangular brackets to name the character in Cherryh’s book (who has no conventional name), and the comment form wouldn’t let me.

    Comment by Esn — December 20th, 2014 @ 11:05 am

  7. Thanks Esn I’m glad you enjoyed the book, I think you really get who the Miizzzard is and what I was trying to say with the story. I had a long internal debate with myself before ultimately deciding on the morally ambiguous ending. I may do a sequel that explores the consequences of the Miizzzard’s decision but I also like leaving it up for readers to decide for themselves. I was definitely thinking of the future of drone warfare when I drew this book.

    I’m going to check out that CJ Cherryh book, it sounds right up my alley!

    Thanks for the link to your animation, I dig that textured style, it looks really unique (and time-consuming). Have you made more videos besides the Christmas one?

    Comment by William Cardini — December 20th, 2014 @ 11:47 am

  8. Nope, haven’t tried anything substantial in animation since the “One Quiet Winter Night” short. I’ve forgotten a lot of what I knew, so it would take me a while to get back into the groove. The first big animation I ever started working on (but never finished… it had background music from “The Neverhood”) was actually in a completely different style.

    This “style” is probably not really more time-consuming than regular cutout animation, it’s just that not many people use painterly cutouts these days for some reason. It’s not really fashionable, I guess. You just need 2 skillsets: working in animation software like Flash (preferably building 2D skeletons/frames, so you can keep the different pieces connected when you move one), and also digital painting (I used mostly ArtRage and MyPaint, and saved the pieces as transparent PDFs). Then you just have to plan ahead, figure out what kind of movements you’ll need to make, so where the edges of your pieces have to be.

    I guess Yuriy Norshteyn was the main inspiration. e.g.
    There are still some disciples of his around in Russia who use a similar technique, but even there, it’s hard to find.

    Yeah, that book is definitely one of those rare “genuinely original” sci-fi books.

    Comment by Esn — December 21st, 2014 @ 3:41 am

  9. Oops, I meant “transparent PNGs”, not “PDFs”!

    Comment by Esn — December 21st, 2014 @ 3:43 am

  10. By the way, considering that they lured him to their planet in order to help free them, it doesn’t say much for their self-control that they greeted him by trying to kill him! Or maybe I’m misinterpreting it. 🙂

    Comment by Esn — December 21st, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  11. Your interpretation is valid! Another way I thought about it is that they didn’t think the Miizzzard would help them unless they had the Miizzz under their power. But I don’t think it needs to be read any one way.

    Comment by William Cardini — December 28th, 2014 @ 10:38 pm

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