AtlantaCon 2003 Report

AtlantaCon was this past weekend and my son [Mike] and I had a blast! It was my goal to try and get sketches from Adam Hughes, Cully Hamner, Dan Brereton, Phil Noto and whoever else the budget would allow.

The con was scheduled to open at 1PM on Friday and we wanted to be there by 11:30 so that we wouldn’t be rushed. We got to our hotel before 9AM and I was surprised to find out that we could go ahead and check in. As we were checking in, Dan Brereton walked up and began to check in as well. He looked a bit tired so we decided to wait until the con to say, “hello.” As the elevator doors were closing to take us up to our room, Mike Kaluta came on board. He is always so friendly.

We decided to eat some breakfast before heading o ver to the convention center. Dan Brereton had the same idea, but since he was with a couple of friends we didn’t want to bother him. After breakfast, Mike and I headed over to the convention center. There were already other people there and the con wasn’t scheduled to open for another hour and a half!

I was talking to a couple of guys also hoping to get a sketch from Adam Hughes when I heard someone yelling, “Craig Zablo, you lied!” I looked up to see John Higashi coming down the escalator. “You said, you wouldn’t be here until Saturday!” John continued yelling. John is such a fun guy to be around. He collects Star Wars art and his collection is one of the best I’ve ever seen. He has art by almost everyone. Who else do you know that has several pieces from Drew Struzan? John came down and showed us all where the line would start so we could pick up our con passes, and then entertained us with pieces from his collection until it was time for him to go in. John had a lifetime membership to the show, which meant that he would be allowed in to the dealer’s room an hour before everyone else.

Once the lifetime members were allowed to enter, the regular paid attendees lined up at the door. Mike and I were fourth and fifth in line and so I felt my odds of an Adam Hughes sketch were pretty good. Cully Hamner had already put me on his list [thanks to an e-mail from Big Beatty — thanks, bro!] so Adam would be my first stop when the gates opened. From where we were standing, we could see the line for Adam was already nine deep and growing… The crowd was allowed to enter and I ended up 13th in line for an Adam Hughes sketch. When I spoke to Adam about what I wanted [a drawing of Sylvester Stallone], he seemed to like the idea. I left him a book for reference and hustled over to see Cully.

Cully remembered me and we discussed what I wanted. I thought that Cully would do a very cool Jack Carter. Cully hadn’t seen the movie but I had reference. I explained that Carter was a Vegas enforcer, a low level mobster. Cully looked at the pictures and said, “nice suits, right?” Yep. Cully said to check back later in the day.

Mike was already walking around checking things out. I caught up with him and we walked the convention center. Dan Brereton was setting up and I spoke to him about a commission. He said that he would definitely be interested. We agreed to hook up later in the show to work out the details. The first day wasn’t even half over and I had basically set up three commissions. I was loving life.

We walked around and spoke with Mike Kaluta, Andy Lee, Phil Hester, Jacen Burrows, Jason Alexander, Brian Stelfreeze, Karl Story, Shane Glines, Dean Motter, Bo Hampton, Alex Saviuk, and many others.

Jason Alexander‘s art is really cool. I spoke to him about a commission and he agreed to do a Rambo for my sketchbook. It turned out awesome. Watching Andy Lee paint was amazing. I spoke to him about a commission. We agreed on a Rambo. It also turned out great. i decided to check on the progress of Adam and Cully. Cully asked if it would be ok if he gave me the Jack Carter drawing in the morning which, of course, was no problem. Adam was still working on his first drawing. Gulp!

Saturday was the busiest day of the show. Kent Williams showed up [he shares a studio with Jason Alexander]. I told John Higashi that Kent was there [he wasn’t listed on the guest list] and John commissioned a really cool Star Wars piece! Mike spent the afternoon in a HeroClick‘s tournament. I walked around talking to more artist’s. Cully finished my Jack Carter piece. Whoa! I couldn’t be more thrilled with it! Adam said that he would have my piece for me on Sunday. Yes!

Believe it or not, the day was going to get even better…

[I’ll post the rest of my con report soon. Scans of my commissions and pictures from the con will also be posted soon.]

Back Story (A Spenser Novel) by Robert B. Parker

Every year I go up to Indiana to visit family and friends. Once a year is all I see many of these people, but because they’re old friends, it’s always a welcome visit. We quickly catch up with where we left off and share tales of things that have happened since we last were together. It’s always fun and I end up looking forward to the next visit as the current one ends.

That’s exactly how it is each time I read a new Spencer novel by Robert B. Parker. Back Story is the latest entry in the Spencer series. [It’s the 30th book, so if you’ve never read any of them, you’re in for a lot of fun!] The Spencer books come out once a year and like my visits to Indiana are always fun.

Spencer is a wise-cracking PI who has guts, intelligence and a strict moral code. His best friend, Hawk, hovers on the edge of the criminal element and although gutsy and intelligent has no qualms with doing what needs to be done. Although Hawk and Spencer are different they are also the same. Their interactions are half the fun.

Back Story finds Spencer investigating a 28 year old murder. Soon he discovers that the FBI, and mobsters want him to drop the case. Things heat up when he doesn’t. Throw in a stone cold killer named Harvey and you have yourself a story!

If you haven’t read any of the Spencer books, you should. You might find that you like them. And then you, too, can look forward to his annual visit!

Who’s “Lucky”?

There’s a new show premiering on Tuesday at 10PM on FX. It’s called “Lucky” and looks like it might be a winner.

Michael “Lucky” Linkletter is a professional poker gambler. He’s cool, supremely smart, but tragically flawed. He’s a compulsive gambler with a conscience. He’s been on top and also bottomed out. He wants to quit gambling but living in Vegas and with a debt to the mob…

I’ll be watching on Tuesday… and if I’m “Lucky” the show will be a winner.

McCartney-Lennon vs Lennon-McCartney

I’m a Beatles fan. I also enjoyed the work of each of the boys after they broke up, but if pressed to pick a favorite, it’d be Paul McCartney .

That’s why I’m disappointed that Paul has decided to reverse the traditional “Lennon-McCartney” songwriting credit on many songs that he and John Lennon co-wrote. When they were just starting out, they agreed that all of their songs would be credited to “Lennon-McCartney.”

And that’s the way things have been for forty years. It’s rumored that Paul wanted to reverse the credits on some of their songs before this, but that never happened. Until now. On Paul‘s most recent album certain songs contain the credit “McCartney-Lennon.”

Naturally this has angered many fans who feel it is a slap in the face to Lennon. Paul, of course feels otherwise, “I personally don’t see any harm in John‘s songs such as ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Help’ being labeled ‘Lennon-McCartney’ and my songs such as ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ being labeled ‘McCartney and Lennon.’

Paul may not see the harm, but fans certainly do

Osbourne & Garner Are Free and Diesel is Apart

I didn’t post anything up yesterday. I could use April Fool’s Day as an excuse. But I won’t. I’m not much for April Fool’s jokes… especially people and websites that post up something which seems like exciting news and then ends with APRIL FOOLS!

Sharon Osbourne is cancer-free. That’s great news. I don’t think that Ozzy could get along without her. Jennifer Garner [Alias] is also free, but this news isn’t happy. She and her husband, Scott Foley [“Below”] have separated.

Vin Diesels “A Man Apart” had its world premiere in Hollywood yesterday and opens everywhere on Friday. Although it’s getting mixed reviews, I’ll probably see it before it leaves theaters. I’m not overly excited about this one. I say bring on “The Riddick Chronicles!”

See you tomorrow. No fooling.

Lord is Crowned King! Peter Jackson to Helm “King Kong”

Peter Jackson, the creative genius behind the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy has signed on to helm Universal’s remake of “King Kong!”

Jackson had this to say, “No film has captivated my imagination more than ‘King Kong.’ I’m making movies today because I saw this film when I was 9 years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story.”

What Peter Jackson was able to do with “The Lord of the Rings” was amazing. You can tell by his quote that his true passion is for Kong. Can you even begin to imagine how cool this is going to be?

Gulacy is Back, Baby!

Paul Gulacy is one of my all-time favorite comic artists.

Growing up, I spent hours enjoying the work he did with Doug Moench on the classic series “Master of Kung Fu.” I know, terrible title, but believe me, it was [and is] one of the best runs on any comic book series.

I got to know Paul back in the late 70’s when I was dealing original art. I commissioned him to do several pieces for me over the years. This cool Bruce Lee was my first commission form Paul. Sadly it was stolen back in the early 80’s.

Although Paul has worked on many cool projects over the years, none of them [not even Sabre, the James Bond mini-series, or the MOKF “reunion” this year] have been as popular as the original run of “Master of Kung Fu.” That may change with his latest work, “Reload.” The first issue is out and is excellent. The series is written by Warren Ellis and inked by Jimmy Palmiotti.

Give it a look. Gulacy is back, baby!

Sly Sends His Best

How cool is that?!? I came home this week to find this personalized, autographed picture from SlySimon, who runs both Sly and Frank‘s Official Sites and I exchange e-mails from time to time. Simon thanked me for something that I had done for him and asked if there was ever anything that he could do for me… I told him [half jokingly] that a personalized autographed picture from Sly would be cool…


Please don’t bombard Simon for autographs. He called in a marker for this one!

Craig Zablo

AtlantaCon 2003 Bound!

On April 11- 13, I heading up to Georgia for the AtlantaCon Convention. The Guest of Honor is Mike Kaluta who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time over twenty years ago at an Atlanta convention! Mike is best known for his work on “The Shadow,” and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Dan Bereton is going to be a guest. I’ve loved his work since I saw the first preliminary piece for “The Black Terror” years ago. Dan has gone on to draw [and write] many other projects and I’ve followed them all. One of my favorites has been his work on The Nocturnals. It’d be cool to get a Stallone drawing by Dan.

I’m also excited because the guys from Gaijin Studios [Adam Hughes, Cully Hamner, Georges Jeanty, Brian Stelfreeze, and Karl Story] will be there sketching as well. As Stuttering John would say, “I’m a big fan, big fan.” I was hoping to get some Stallone sketches from them at MegaCon but I was only there for one day,and they were allready booked up. Thanks to Big Beatty, I’m on Cully‘s list for AtlantaCon and hope to get on Adam‘s and Brian‘s as well. At least that’s the plan.

Phil Noto is going to be there. His popularity has soared in recent years. Take a look at his art and you’ll know why. There’s going to be dozens of other artists on hand as well. Part of the fun of going to a convention is meet established pros, but also to meet the new people who haven’t broke through yet but have the talent to take you by surprise. There’ll also be tons of panels, screenings of movies, videos, and animation… not to mention gaming, but since I already did, well, nevermind.

It’s going to be a fun time. If you’re able to make it to the show, it’d be cool to talk to you. I’ll be easy to find. I’ll be the guy wearing the StalloneZone t-shirt getting the Stallone drawings.

Following Dan Simmons to Different Genres

Dan Simmons writes in a lot of different genres. That could be the sign of an artist looking for his voice. In Simmons’ case, it’s a talent who refuses to be constrained.

Simmons‘ first published story, “The River Styx Runs Upstream,” won the Rod Serling Memorial Award. His first novel, Song of Kali, won the World Fantasy Award. His first horror novel, Carrion Comfort, won the Bram Stoker Award. His first science fiction novel, Hyperion, won the Hugo Award. The man can do no wrong. He’s also gone the dark streets of the tough guy genre with two very well received Joe Kurtz novels.

I’ve just finished reading Darwin’s Blade which is described as a suspense thriller. Ok, an intelligent suspense thriller. Or better yet, an intelligent action-packed suspense thriller. I loved every page, but who wouldn’t when you have Russian Hit Men, car chases, glider vs helicopter gun fights, death by elephant dung, and more! Actually all of these things are in the book, but it also contains two of the best written leads, a realistic backstory and romance that doesn’t seemed forced or out of place.

Dan Simmons writes in a lot of different genres. So far I’ve loved every book that I’ve read of his. Looks like I’ll be expanding my reading to a lot of different genres

Themed Sketch Collections

People will collect almost anything.

I collect movies, books, comics and Sylvester Stallone memorabilia such as books [biographies, novelizations of his movies], magazine articles and pictures, and now original drawings of Sly or characters that he’s played. Recently I began to have artists draw in a sketchbook instead of on loose sheets of paper.

This may sound like a unique idea but it’s really not. There are a lot of people out there collecting drawings for their themed sketch books. Some of the more interesting themes include cliffs,” “time,” “silverfish,” and… well, you get the idea. Phillip Anderson has several themed sketchbooks going. You can get a look at all of them by clicking [HERE].

Who knows? After seeing the cool stuff that Phillip has, maybe you’ll be inspired to start your own themed sketchbook collection!

“The Shield”

I was ready to write a ZONE piece about Andrew Vachss, or a cool series of sketchbooks that I found on the web, but then I read this article.

If you’re a ZONE regular then you know that I’m a huge fan of The Shield. I was intrigued by the ads for the premiere and it’s ending hooked me. The writing and acting is first rate. ALL of the characters come off as real people. The Shield racked up numerous positive reviews and awards during it’s first season. The question was could they do it again?

As the second season comes to a close, I find myself enjoying The Shield more than ever. In case you haven’t checked it out, FX is going to run a Shield marathon of all of this season’s episodes. If you’re already a fan, then I’d love to hear your thoughts on the SZ Messageboard.

That’s it until tomorrow, when I’ll probably tell you about Andrew Vachss or this cool series of sketchbooks.

Eric Powell Takes the Goon Through Rough Stuff

Eric Powell writes, pencils and inks The Goon, which is one of the few comics that I buy EVERY time it comes out. Dark Horse just picked up The Goon so if you wanna beat the crowd, get on board now! You’ll also find Eric’s work on the covers to DC‘s Arkham Asylum: Living Hell six issue mini-series starting in May.

Eric did his version of Sly when I caught up with him at MegaCon. I was so tempted to get a Goon sketch but just had to have Eric in the SZ Gallery. Eric‘s take reminds me of a sports drawing from the ’30’s.

Rough Stuff, a trade paperback which collects The Goon‘s first three issues is now available.

I’ll bet it’s the first graphic novel to come with a “director’s commentary!” Yep, a trade paperback book with a director’s commentary.

Isn’t that just goony?

Steve Niles is Quite a Writer

Steve Niles is quite a writer.

I guess he should be though since he’s been making a living at it for about fifteen years. What? You haven’t heard of him? Sure you have! I wrote a ZONE piece on Steve way back on January 4th, after I read his novel, Guns, Drugs and Monsters.

I was so impressed with Guns, Drugs and Monsters that I immediately bought Savage Membrane, the first Cal McDonald novel. It was just as good! There are more Cal McDonald novels in the works, as well as a series from Dark Horse Comics.

Steve is also the author of 30 Days of Night, a vampire graphic novel that Ben Templesmith illustrated. It has just gone into it’s third printing, and was optioned [for a cool million bucks] by Sam Raimi‘s production company! Plus Steve get’s to write the screenplay!

You might think that all of this has gone to Steve‘s head. You’d be wrong. I got to meet Steve at MegaCon and he was very kind, gracious, and appreciative of his fans. Read this interview with Steve, check out his website [tell him I sent ya!] and then order his books. You’ll be glad you did because…

Steve Niles is quite a writer.

Deadline for War

The deadline for war has almost arrived. Who knows what the next few days [weeks?] will bring us.

The nation has gone to a higher state of alert. Cities are tightening their security. Turn on the tv and all you can find on news channels are reports from the front and speculation about what will happen next.

The NCAA basketball tourney will continue as planned. And that’s a good thing. I have three of the four number one teams in our annual family contest.

The Academy Awards are scheduled to be held on Sunday as planned [although there will be less red carpet and after party coverage]. I’m glad that both of these major events will go on as scheduled. We’re going to need something to divert our attention from the media overkill covering the war. I also think that we can’t let the possibility of terrorist attacks on the homefront cause us to change our lifestyle.

Well… it’s 8:00 straight-up. May God bless our troops and may this war end quickly.