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:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/224129525/become-a-citizen-of-the-wonder-city

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:  www.velmagraydon.blogspot.com