Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 12

Here's this week's page. This is the first one exclusively posted on the blog and our facebook page.

Thanks for following.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009


We are officially funded by Kickstarter through your generous donations! Again we can't express how grateful we are. With the fundraising period over, information and updates on The Wonder City will occur on this blog which also feeds directly to the our Facebook page.

Thanks Again!

Friday, December 4, 2009


2 days of Kickstarter fundraising to go! Consider donating a dollar to The Wonder City...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 9

I have some serious catching up to do. Kickstarter is already up to page 11.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapter 1, Pages 8

We have less than 20 days left for the fundraising on Kickstarter!!! Since we skipped last week I am including pages 8 and will immediately follow with 9. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Peg-Leg Pete, Issue 4

4. “I am sustained by the tranquility of an upright and loyal heart.”—Peter Stuyvesant

I guess the whole Peter Stuyvesant thing started on a humid September afternoon in 2006. I was walking up Second Avenue after work to go to Urban Outfitters. My bath mat had become a certain kind of awful being stepped on fresh from the shower (sometimes twice daily). Of course, if you were to insert my mother here, she would say, “Why don’t you just wash the thing?” I would say, “I don’t have a washer and dryer in my apartment.” She would then say, “It’s because you live in that hellhole (she would mean New York) where you can’t afford a house with a washer and dryer.” I would then say nothing because you just don’t fight with Kathy. Anyway, I really needed a new bathmat and for some reason I thought Urban Outfitters was the place to find one.

On my walk up the avenue, I saw the garden variety East Villagers doing their thing: being pierced, drinking coffee, and straddling the line of fashionable / certifiable. The beautiful irony of this sight was the back drop: 6-story tenements standing stiff like soldiers up the entirety of the avenue. They droned on and on serving as a static compliment to an overly-eclectic street scene. When I reached 10th street something broke the monotony and caught my attention. It was a church, completely out of place, plopped diagonally on the alphabet city grid facing southwest. It had a stone fa├žade with a lone steeple shooting straight into the air. It was obviously a relic of an older city that didn’t make its way much passed Canal Street. I would soon come to find out that this place was called St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery and that it was on the U.S. Register of Historical Places. There was an old cemetery adjacent to it closed in by a high rod-iron fence. If I was holding something in my hand, I would’ve dropped it in amazement. That was the end of the bathmat and the beginning of Peg-Leg Pete.

I crept over to the structure like I was about to trespass. Surely a rare historical find in New York like this must have been a mirage or at least closed off to the casual passers-by. Seeing that there was a poetry reading going on inside the church and 5 or 6 homeless folks camped out on the steps, I guessed I had every right to be there as anyone else. When I turned right toward the cemetery I was stopped by a huge bust of Peter Stuyvesant. I thought, this couldn’t be, could it? Could it actually be the resting place of the man who sealed the deal on New York’s (and America’s) destiny?

I moved closer and saw a black stone plaque built into the side of the church. It read: “Here in this vault lies buried PETRUS STUYVESANT… late Captain General and Governor in Chief of Amsterdam in New Netherland now called New York and the Dutch West India Islands. Died Feb A.D. 1672 aged 80 years.” I yelped audibly. I couldn’t believe it. Here he was, the legend, the peg-legged Dutch Director General eternally resting under this chapel. In a city where almost every physical trace of its Dutch roots was erased by fire or progress, here was the dust of the lead dog.

Why didn’t anyone care? Why weren’t tourists lined up for blocks to see this? This is when I made my connections with Shorto’s stance on New York’s revisionist history. No one cared because Stuyvesant wasn’t glorified for anything in history. Actually it was quite the opposite; he was a historical loser whose only enduring legacy was his last name. It peppered this region almost anonymously because very few had a clue what it actually signified.

Upon closer examination of the plaque, I was hit with a memory from Island in the Center of the World. Shorto wrote about this very spot and this very plaque as a footnote in the book: “As a nice metaphor for the way history has muddled Manhattan’s Dutch period, Stuyvesant’s tombstone, embedded in the foundation of the Church of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery, manages to get both his age and his title wrong.” Of course, how could I have been so dumb? Why hadn’t I come here sooner? Well I left that evening, only to return the next day to get the bathmat and make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Pete was still there and the bathmat was green.

Later that weekend I emailed a friend from Massachusetts. We had been exchanging niceties about our respective weeks and I mentioned, “I found Peter Stuyvesant’s grave this week at St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery and almost flipped my shit. I went back twice. Well the second time I went to Urban Outfitters across the street to get a bathmat, and it just so happens to be right across the street.”

His response: “Am I stupid because I don’t know who Peter Stuyvesant is? At least he led you to a new bathmat.” Shorto’s theory in practice.

About three hours later came the aforementioned survey and my resolve to incorporate Peter Stuyvesant into the graphic novel. Where others in history had failed, I would be loyal to Peg-Leg Pete and give him the recognition he deserved. Even if it was only to exist in my own head.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

If we ever need a book jacket photo...

A Couple New Pages

Pages 6 and 7, plus some photos of the early inking process.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 4

For some reason, I skipped over page 4 last week. Sorry. I'll do page 5 tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peg Leg Pete, Issue 3

“The attack did not succeed as well as I had hoped, no small impediment having been the loss of my right leg.”—Peter Stuyvesant

In 2004 my mother gave me a book called The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto. It was a gorgeous hardcover with a seventeenth century sketch of New Amsterdam on the cover. When I read the description on the jacket sleeve, I smiled. The book was interested solely in the Dutch founding of New Netherland. “It just looked like something you would obsess over,” my mother said. “You don’t have it, do you?” I didn’t. I knew nothing about it, and for that my mother grinned, “I found one you didn’t know about. HA!” I asked her if she had read it. She gave me one of those “are you crazy” looks and said, “Who the hell wants to read a book about New York?”

It became my bible.

It was every historical morsel about New Amsterdam Shorto could find and distill into 325 pages of sheer reading pleasure. The next summer when I was down and dirty in my research, I bought a soft cover copy so I could mark it up and take notes in the margins. From it came so much of what I needed to make the history of New York an active and interesting character in the graphic novel. Shorto portrayed the Dutch not only as the pioneers of a diversified New York City, but of the democratic system in America. His intended hero was Adrien van der Donck, a free-thinking Dutch lawyer who persistently petitioned for representative government in New Amsterdam. But in it I found my aforementioned historical lynch pin: Peter Stuyvesant.

One of Shorto’s most astute observations came from his theory on the revisionist history of the Dutch impact on early colonial America. When New Amsterdam was turned over to the British in 1644, the powers that were went out of their way to erase the Dutch from the collective memory banks of history. Thinking back on it, in high school history courses, all I remember from that time period were all those drab Puritans. It was all Plymouth Rock and cities on hills and of course John Winthrop, that bore with the pointy goatee who seemed to have no sense of humor. These passages were usually punctuated with, “And to the south from the Hudson to the Delaware Rivers, the Dutch East India Company started this cute little colony called New Amsterdam which quickly fell into the prayerful and industrious hands of the British.”

So in September after a wonderful summer of losing myself in Dutch history (and an unexpected historical find in the East Village), I decided to send out an email survey to the 76 people in my contacts.

My idea was to put Shorto’s theory to test. I figured if I asked people who Peter Stuyvesant was and who John Wintrop was, for sure everyone would remember the latter and have no clue of the former. The email read as follows (I don’t use caps): hey all,
i need your help. i'm writing this essay and i need to ask you two quick questions. a survey if you will. answer honestly and don't google. just tell me the first thing that pops up in your pretty little heads. i thank you in advance. oh and since i'm sending this to everyone in my mailbox, if we don't speak for whatever reason or you haven't heard from me in awhile, i apologize, but your help is still greatly appreciated. explanation will come later if so desired (remember, don't google!) QUESTION #1: who is peter stuyvesant? QUESTION#2: who is john winthrop? hope all is well even if i don't really know you, justin

The responses will follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Peg-Leg Pete, Issue #2

“It is my intention to proceed slowly with our trenches.”—Peter Stuyvesant

One night as I was re-watching the Ken Burn’s New York documentary (Disc 2), like I did when I sat down to dinner, I heard the esteemed Peter Hamill say that no one had ever written the perfect New York City book. There were books about New York but never one that encapsulated the whole city. So, like any other cocky red-blooded 25 year old male, I thought I would set out to write one. Ha!
For two years I read as many books about New York history that I could find. One Christmas morning I received my coveted edition of Gotham, a mere 1236 pages of pre-twentieth century New York fun. My mother just looked up at me with my wide-eyes, like I was opening my Knight Rider Hot Wheels all over again, “Books shouldn’t be that long. Do you know what a pain in the ass it was to carry that thing out of Barnes and Nobles?” She glanced over at me flipping through the pages as I said excitedly, “You know, Peter Minuet didn’t really buy Manhattan for $24?” My father still thinking it’s important to encourage his little boy’s interests said, “Oh no?” Mom rolled her eyes and  grunted, “Someday you’ll tell me what this is all about, ok? So then maybe I can sleep through the night.”

 Regardless, over that next year I was reading and researching. I was on a mission from God (Peter Hamill) to write the Great New York City novel. Ideas cropped up here and there. Characters started over developing. Plot arcs where drawn up and down and over again. I quickly became overwhelmed. One book became three. Three books became seven and soon I was writing character sketches that went on for thirty pages. A few pages of a prelude to a prequel were written but they were left to rot in a blue Ralph Lauran shirt box under my bed.  I was symbolically burying my primer to this mammoth project in a catacomb that was once occupied by a great blue and red-stripped rugby shirt. It was too lofty and arrogant a dream. I simply settled on my historical New York fixation to be a decorative choice and immediately heaved a sigh of ho hum. 

Enter Courtney Zell: Good friend, talented artist, and companion on many crazy adventures, one of which included making a trust-fund baby cry at Mars Bar. One night, over one too many glasses of wine, I started telling her about this New York novel. It involved secret societies, vengeful whales and nerdy librarian linguists. I think I went on for about an hour. I figured she would immediately ask me to leave and seek help. She didn’t. She smiled and said she loved it. On a lark I blurted out, “How about making it a graphic novel?” She agreed although neither one of us knew anything about comics. But like two cracked-up pieces making a whole, we found our calling. At first, the book was called The Tulips, but something very Tiny Tim (may he rest) resonated. Next we tried, Owen Tulip in the Empire City. That stuck for about a month but it was like a mouthful of marbles to say. Then looking over some vintage art one afternoon we spied a poster from a 1925 film, New York, The Wonder City. That was it! Drop the “New York” and we were sold. We had a title, we had a story (that needed some tailoring), and we had a medium. Three years later, although not anywhere near the finish, we are steadily building our trenches.

What in the world does all that have to do with Peter Stuyvesant? Since so much of the story was rooted in history I needed to find that New York historical character who could be my lynchpin; the rug who tied the room together, as it were.  The staunch peg-legged governor of New Amsterdam seemed to be the fit.

Only one problem: no one had a clue this guy ever existed.

In our next issue of Peg-Leg Pete. Justin sends out a survey about Peter Stuyvesant and the proverbial good times roll.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 3 & THANKS!!!

WE HIT OUR GOAL!!! WOOOOHOOOO! And with 60 days to spare.
Thanks to all the backers who generously made that possible, no matter what crazy journey THE WONDER CITY takes you guys helped to bring us there. You truly are all citizens of THE WONDER CITY.
Courtney and I are still forging ahead with the fundraising, now with the publication funded we can go ahead and put any additional earnings toward tables at comic shows and shipping costs.
Many thanks again and enjoy page 3!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Velma's Journal--Velma At the Helm!

Velma Here,

So I've been practicing on this thing and I think I got it down. You type. You read it over. Then you hit "Publish Post." I think I'm going to be real good at this. Nicky or Justin, if you can see this, tell me if it looks alright. Also, I like this font. It looks like a typewriter. 

I miss a typewriter. So much more substantial than this machine. So now if I can only make this site start from the beginning instead of starting at the end. That makes no sense to me! Am I the only one who thinks that? 

Ok, if this works, I'll get to posting the journals.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Velma's Journal--A Chat With Velma

After all this Kickstarter excitement settled down, I was finally able to sit down with Velma and get the whole blogging process back on track. After asking her to be kind enough to write a letter a week to our supporters she launched right into it.

VELMA: So I think I’m going to start doing the lobbing?

JUSTIN: The blogging?

VELMA: Sure. Whatever.

JUSTIN: How’re you going to do that? You hate the computer.

VELMA: I’m getting used to it and you seem to be too busy.

JUSTIN: What about Nick?

VELMA: Who my assistant? The one who’s supposed to assist me in anything I ask him to assist me in?

JUSTIN: Yeah him. He loved taking over my blogging duties when I came up short.

VELMA: He’s being a priss. He says he’s too busy.

JUSTIN: Well then—

VELMA: Which, in all fairness, he is. I’m workin’ him to the bone.

JUSTIN: Poor thing.

VELMA: He reminds me of it every morning. I told him to start drinking coffee and he’d be a helluva lot happier.

JUSTIN: Amen to that.

VELMA: Yeah. So I’m going to give it a go. Just furnish me with the address and by the end of the week I’ll be up and runnin’ sweetheart.

JUSTIN: Are you sure about this?

VELMA: What? This got you nervous? Come on, how many 94 year old lobbers can there be out there?

JUSTIN: You might be the only one.  

VELMA: Then God bless me.

JUSTIN: Perhaps God should bless all of us.

VELMA: You’re such a smartass sometimes.

JUSTIN: Just to you, Velma.

VELMA: That’s why I like you so much.

So Velma’s going to try it out. I think she intends to pick up where I left off, but who knows. Maybe she’ll shake things up a bit. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our Kickstarter Video!!!

Check it out. My tag line is: It's very Ken Burns but without the budget or celebrity narrators.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Peg Leg Pete, Issue 1

“The people have grown very wild and loose in their morals.”—Peter Stuyvesant

Opinion: the average person finds history boring. There are no hard or fast statistics to back this statement up, I only mention it because of experiences I’ve had with friends, family members and unenthused seventh graders. As a teacher of American History on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I battled this historical apathy on a daily basis. “Social Studies,” as it’s called on the elementary level, was the most dreaded subject of the day. When the announcement, “Take out your social studies books,” left my mouth, students would audibly moan, suck their teeth, and sink their bodies so far under their desks that only a vast sea of foreheads remained. In my lectures I tried to find a way to trick my students into believing that history could be something as entertaining as their Sidekicks, last night’s America’s Got Talent, or the newest scary movie. I tried to turn history into a series of anecdotes as if Alexander Hamilton was just another kid from the projects who, in the course of forging our national economy, woke up, threw on his Catholic school uniform, went to the corner bodega, had a breakfast of Nestea and Doritos, and found himself sitting in a classroom being lectured about it.
They didn’t buy it.
I, on the other hand, am a history fiend. I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. Opinion: there cannot be a full appreciation of anyone or anything unless you know where they or it came from. I’m not happy unless I’m sitting in front of a mountain of books discovering why something is the way it is. For this I’ve spent most of my life being mocked with names like “loser” or “nerd” or “mad whack.” And you’re damn straight I want to know the history of the phrase “mad whack.” I just can’t seem to find one. On the other hand I’m a sucker for the present and spend many a day relishing what the future holds. Essentially, I’m a Buddhist’s nightmare.
But what about history? Long boring history.  What really makes it so fascinating? Besides that fact that history is the ultimate form of storytelling, deep in the annals of it are legions of figures yet to be recognized. This person was undoubtedly a trailblazing outcast.  Someone who, in the course of his or her life, made such an impression that he or she changed history without even knowing it. Someone who carried around a barrage of great stories or lofty quotations that no one ever got to hear because he or she royally pissed someone off. Thus he or she was practically written out of those social studies books that seventh graders dread?
That’s right Peter Stuyvesant; I’m looking at you.

Stay tuned for the next issue of PEG LEG PETE when the author's mom says he needs to get a life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 1

Now that you've been introduced to the Tulip family, every Tuesday we'll be posting a page from the graphic novel in chronological order to give you a taste of the story.
So where better to start than on page 1?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Characters & Costumes

This first book of The Wonder City takes place in the early 1940s, which is my if-you-could-live-in-any-other-era era. So buying a huge fashion source book and designing the character's clothing has been one of my favorite parts of the drawing. Here's my costume guide for the four main characters. I'm even considering turning these guys into greeting cards!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mrs. Tulip

You've met Velma...

You've caught a glimpse of Owen and Lizzie and their garden...

There's one more main character to introduce you to, the matron of the Tulip family, distracted seamstress, rambling storyteller, more than slightly off center Edwina, Owen and Lizzie's mother.

Over the course of drawing The Wonder City, these characters are becoming disturbingly real to me. Owen tugs my heartstrings, Lizzie is looking more and more like my sister did at age 5, and Velma...basically I want to get whiskeys with her. For some reason Edwina pushes my buttons. I have walked away from the drafting table annoyed with her on more than one occassion.
She is simultaneously overbearing and absent, but she also reveals the most information about the Tulip family, their Dutch heritage, the father away to war, and their struggle to survive in New York. Basically, she'll drive you nuts, but you can't help but sympathize with her circumstances.

Her constant rambling also provides the motivations that for better or for worse set her children on their Coney Island adventrue and change the Tulip family's lives forever.

So love her or hate her, meet the dandy seamstress.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Justin has a lot to say about the process of creating The Wonder City's story, so I thought I'd balance it by introducing you to two of The Wonder City's pivotal characters, brother and sister, Owen and Lizzie (from page 7 of the book). Owen is curmudgeonly (I'll have to trust my instincts on the spelling of that word) and Lizzie is a typical little sister (I'm looking at you, Kirsten).

Actually, sometimes I feel like this panel embodies Justin and my relationship as we work on the book.

"T-squares are dumb."

"You're the dummy who made me draw these straight lines."

Owen's green thumb is an important ongoing theme throughout the story. Hint: keep an eye on anyone who can grow stuff!

Monday, September 14, 2009


With our recent launch on Kickstarter I’ve been fielding the question: “What’s The Wonder City about?” This one almost always makes me panic. Not a good sign when you’ve been nursing an idea in your head for years. I should have a statement etched onto the underside of my skull. Something I can recite by rote that just blows people away. I don’t though. I turn red, I get nervous and I create a distraction to change the conversation. But now I feel it’s time to pony up.  It’s only fair that I explain what this project really is about and where it came from.

At the moment, there are few visual samples available and some may find that a little strange since it’s a graphic novel. But that’s intentional. Also, I’m not interested in giving too much away plot-wise. That would take all the excitement out of reading the graphic novel when it’s completed. So I thought I would give you some background into how and why this story came to be along with a couple of plot nuggets along the way. I hope this will serve to peak your interest not only in the project and the story, but in the meaning behind it.

Spending the last four years researching and creating this thing, I’ve had my fair share of crazy experiences. In traipsing around New York, I’ve had my ear chewed off by crazy librarians for what seemed like days, shoved down in dark tunnels for hours and been urban whale watching on Coney Island. But these research expeditions alone capture exactly what makes New York City one of the most unique spots on the planet: its history and its people.

So I present to you for the duration of our fundraising period (in digestible digital installments):


Check back on a daily basis for updates (we hope).

Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC 400 and The Wonder City

A large piece of the mystery in The Wonder City centers around New York's Lenape origins and New Amsterdam's founding by the Dutch.  How fortunate that we launched our project during the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of the New York Harbor.

Here's a great documentary, Pam clued us in on:

Plus a cool project which recreates an untouched Manhattan Island as Hudson would have seen it:

Check back as we start nerding out with some history-based "funny stories" involving our research trips for the Wonder City.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our New Post Card

Courtney designed our new postcard for the Kickstarter campaign. It's Velma's head. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Wonder City in a Nutshell

To commemorate the successful launching of our Wonder City fund raising efforts on Kickstarter, I've decided to start this blog in order to keep our backers and anyone else interested in what we are working up-to-date on the graphic novel.
Check out the project here:

So here's a brief run-down of the story:
When the Dutch settled their fledgling island outpost of New Amsterdam in 1624, they were approached by an old Lenape man who called himself Kapsee. He entrusted to them a small, deformed pearl that he called the Parelzaad. Contained in it was the spirit of the island and the only defense against the mystifying dark times he prophesized would come. A few Dutch believers formed a secret society called the Light Keepers that swore to protect the charm. Yet through the turbulent early history of the city, the Parelzaad was lost.

Brooklyn, 1942: A young boy by the name of Owen Tulip lives an unremarkable life in a small two-room tenement with his mother and younger sister, Elizabeth. His life changes suddenly when a young woman approached his sister offering to buy a mysterious charm necklace she had inherited from her Dutch grandmother. Velma Graydon, on behalf of the Light Keepers, has traced the Parelzaad to the Tulip family**. Unfortunately,  the Parelzaad was lost again in a tragic accident. Velma believes that Owen is the only one who can help her find it and time is running out. The dark times prophesized by Kapsee will soon be upon them and New York’s fate is tied up in the lost charm.
The Wonder City is a graphic novel that traces the mythological origins of New York City through the adventures of its hero Owen Tulip. The novel, in it's entirety, spans his life and his quest to redeem the Parelzaad during which he also unlocks the history and spirit of the city itself.       
 **Read how Velma finds the charm here:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Velma's Journal--Back from the Void

As some of you may know, last December Mr. Fish was generous enough to assume blogging responsibilities seeing that I was bogged down in lettering the graphic novel. Not soon after both Mr. Fish and Velma disappeared for 8 months. No word from either of them. No one was returning phone calls and Mr. Fish stopped emailing and blogging.

I naturally assumed the worst.

Then this morning my phone rang (at a very early hour mind you).

JUSTIN: Hello.


JUSTIN: Who is this?

VELMA: It's Velma, hon.

JUSTIN: Jesus, Velma, I thought you-

VELMA: Kicked it. Yeah. A couple of people thought so. No, Nicky and I were off for awhile.

JUSTIN: I'm assuming you can't say where?

VELMA: Of course not. It's not that interesting anyway.

JUSTIN: I'm starting to think you work for the government.

VELMA: I'm starting to think you don't work at all.


VELMA: I mean, nothing. Not a single post since December.

JUSTIN: Nick told me he had it covered. Actually he told the readers. I didn't even get a head's-up.

VELMA: Ah, whatever. I know you and Courtney have been busy with the graphics novel.

JUSTIN: Graphic.

VELMA: WHAT? Oh. Right. Graphic.... Well, I've been thinking about some things.

JUSTIN: Oh yeah.

VELMA: I think we need to make some changes.

JUSTIN: To what?

VELMA: To this blog thing. We might've been going at it all wrong.

JUSTIN: I'm not sure there's a right or wrong way to do it, Velma.

VELMA: I do. Let's talk about it.


VELMA: Can you meet up with me tomorrow in my office?

JUSTIN: Actually I'm not in the city right now.

VELMA: Well where the hell are ya?

JUSTIN: Martha's Vineyard.

VELMA: Oh I see. Must be nice.

JUSTIN: It is.

VELMA: Well, when do you get back in?

JUSTIN: Can we meet the beginning of next week. Say Tuesday.

VELMA: GREAT!! Come over my way, noonish. Make ya a tuna sandwich.

JUSTIN: Yummy. See ya then.

VELMA: Right. Bye now.

I guess we're back in business.