Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with Terri Garofalo, creator of "Entities-R-Us"

I came across "Entities-R-Us" via the wonders of Twitter one day. At first I have to admit a little bit of jealousy that someone beat me to the bunch about creating a comic about ghost hunters (I know, I know, Scooby Doo came first really, but let's not count that!). However, after given the time to calm down I found that "Entities-R-Us" is a fun daily stripe that deserves center stage when it comes to light-hearted, good-humored paranormality. Thus, this brings us to the stripes creator, Terri J. Garofalo.

Terri has been in cartoons since the later-cretaceous period ( i.e. high school). Writing many different strips over the years, she has come close to syndication, but not quite there. Entities-R-Us, Ghost Hunter Comic was the last straw. While it got positive reviews, the syndicates wouldn’t take it on. Nothing gets done unless you buck up and do it yourself. Enter, the web comic.

Entities-R-Us was launched on September 18, 2008. It’s a cartoon about a group of ghost hunters and their insane experiences. Since Terri is an investigator herself, she often includes “case studies” of actual hunts. The ghosts in ERU have a say and are very much a part of the character list. Some of the more interesting cartoons evolve from the spiritual perspective.

ERU originated within a previous comic strip endeavor called “In Spirit”. The story of a skeptic poet named Woodsworth who moves into a haunted trailer in the woods. Entities-R-Us is called to come in and “hunt” the ghost. That aspect was more amusing than the rest of the comic, except Fred, the ghost.

Woodsworth’s experiences parallel Terri’s own first paranormal experience. That one event sparked the beginning of a spiritual journey that she has been on ever since and Entities is a part of.

Terri is also a fine artist (of multiple media), graphic designer/illustrator, and equestrian.

ARF: So Terri, of all the things to draw comics about...ghosts? Why?

TJG: Ah... long arduous answer and when I'm done you'll commit me to the insanity ward. In the 90's I had one of those clear, vivid dreams. Jim Morrison of the Doors knocked on my door. I answered and he proceeded to show me how I was supposed to draw him if he was still alive and living as a recluse in the woods.
That was too weird for me - not being a huge Doors fan and merely an appreciator of the music. So, I drew the character, teamed him up with the recluse of Elvis and created a comic strip that went absolutely nowhere... except into my own slush pile.
Flash forward to 2006. I begin hearing Doors songs EVERWHERE I go - in the car, in malls, everytime the radio is on. I've learned to listen to signs. So, I drag out the character AGAIN... This time I make him a recluse poet named Woodsworth who retreats from society. Instead of Elvis, it dawns on me to give him a more elusive roommate, a ghost named Fred. Thus, the comic strip "In Spirit" was born. To that, I added a communicator for Woodsy in the form of the psychic Erna. I needed a group of ghost hunters, so in 30 minutes I had Arno, Merv and the Entities-R-Us Microbus.
I submitted this cartoon for syndication. I had a lot of good response on it, but no takers. It was nagging me that the Entities-R-Us guys over-ran the strip. Also, the ghost was awesome. Another sign cropped up... "" was not available, but was! That did it. I began a new comic based on the ghost hunters I drew in minutes...
ARF: Is the team from Entities-R-Us based off friends specifically or have you changed them a bit?

TJG: I'm not sure where these characters evolved from, they just showed up for me. Arno has a lot of my interests - a zealous interest in the unknowns like ghosts, yeti, lockness monster, UFOs for instance. The original drawings ripped off Ghost Hunter Dustin Pari's hair... The now version evolved into the weird buffant just through repetitive drawing. The ironic thing is it looks exactly like one of the first comic characters I drew, a rabbit named Radar.
Merv is just a goofball... He is what I would envision as a technician for a rock band. He's really loose, burnt and mellow. I don't think he cares about the paranormal as much as he's into the equipment. Again, he's no one I know personally. Ironically, he's beginning to show some signs of intelligence! Perhaps he's not as fried as I thought?
Erna looks pretty much like I did in my "hippie" days. One day I'll post a picture that will freak everyone out! Erna is at a spiritual point in her life where she's completely patient, unconditionally loving etc... something I strive for, but have yet to even come close to!
Vlad is Vlad... what a demonologist should be. A little goth don't ya think?
Carl & Thor are the ghosts who show up for Ouija Nite. These guys are sort of based on the old Asterix Comics that my Latin teacher brought in for all us High Schoolers to check out. Thor is pretty much a Visgoth and Carl a Roman soldier. They are just like any regulars you might meet in your local bar for Ouija Nite.

ARF:What has been the general response from your readers? What do they take from your strips?

TJG: Response has been great. Many readers are paranormal investigators themselves, so they relate to the 'goings-ons'. The investigators from my team run out the strips and wallpaper their offices. Some regulars are just fans of ghost hunter TV shows. Some have spiritual leanings.

ARF: During paranormal investigations, what do you find to be the most necessary piece of equipment?

TJG: A clear mind. If your mind is really busy, you will miss much. I also rely mostly on my digital voice recorder and my trusty camera. You're more apt to hear a voice, than get pictures or video.

ARF: What materials and tools do you use to make Entities-R-Us. In other words, take us through the process of making one of your strips.

TJG: Again, it's the mind. I keep a pad handy since ideas tend to just show up. Often I come home from an investigation with a huge need to write stuff down. I have cartoon entire investigations - which is really fun!
Drawing: I begin sketching with pencil. I use a template for exterior and divide them up into boxes as I draw. I tend to be quite loose in my format. (I've always hated boxes and restrictions.) My drawing works best in a gestural sense, so I like to keep the entire feel of the comic like that. I use the old fashioned bottle of ink and quill pens for the drawing. I hand-letter with a worn out quill that gives me the letter thickness I prefer. The boxes are hand done with a brush. I make every attempt to follow my straight pencil line, but if I veer off course a tad, I don't lose any sleep. Just like in my watercolors, my comics have little "happy accidents" some of which I leave - Whiteout is my friend!

ARF: Anything else on the horizon?

TJG: Yes, I'm working on a book. It's not going to be a standard collection of comics, it will be a little historical about the evolution of Entities. I also want to include various paranormal experiences.

ARF: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me Terri.

TJG: You're welcome! Honored to be here! I want to thank you and everyone who has helped bolster this adventure of mine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flagler's Few's First Gallery Show!

In downtown Savannah sits a quaint little smoothie cafe called "Smooth" (simply put huh?). It's refreshing smoothies and well prepared lunches are a perfect compliment to the beautiful historic district of Savannah, Georgia.

Smooth has everything needed for a leisure luncheon, drinks, food, desert, books, a cozy place to sit and of course artwork. Infact, the owners of Smooth like to showcase local art on a weekly to monthly basis and they get everything from professional paintings to student made concentrations.

And this month, they showcase the first ever "Flagler's Few" full-scale artwork.

The first pages of Chapter 3 (inked and lettered) are displayed nicely in the back half of the shop. It's an honest little display, but from humble beginnings comes great things right? So if you're in the local area, stop by Smooth, check out the artwork and grab a smoothie.

(I suggest the "Awesome Acai")

Monday, June 15, 2009

Professor Jeremy Mullins (1977-2009)

On a fall evening in 2006 I attended the Comic Arts Forum Introductory Gallery Opening (or whatever they call it). It was a pretty important time in my life. It was my second year at SCAD, I was coming into my own at Norris Hall, and I was eying a cute girl and Tracy Yardley (artist for Sonic the Hedgehog comics) all at the same time. :-P

But, besides all that it was also the day I met Jeremy Mullins, future Sequential Art Professor. In all honesty I smirked to myself when I first saw him. The guy didn't look much older then a graduate student, and he wore this ridiculously polished suit. Still, the guy had a good sense about him and was a real pleasure to talk to out on the street in front of the gallery.

It would only be a matter of months before I stumbled into a little known class called "Self-promotion" which was taught by Mr. Mullins, and any sense of him being a push-over, green-behind-the-ears teacher was immediately kicked out the door. This guy was looking to bust some heads with his strict class agendas and no-nonsense teachings. I went in looking for an easy "A" and came out with more street smarts in the business then I knew what to do with.

The guy had dedication! Especially to his students! I remember he would come in on weekends to help me with projects. He even helped redesign the "ARFstudios" paw-print into something a bit trendier and more stylish (look all over blog for the paw, you'll see Jeremy Mullen's handi-work).

The especially great thing about Jeremy would be the words he'd throw out in conversations. My favorite Jeremy lingo being "Janky". If there was something not looking right in your art, it wasn't "wrong" it was "I don't know about that ghost in the corner...he's looking a little janky." But, whatever the words he used it was never in a manner of talking down to you. Jeremy made you feel like you were one of his pals.

I ran into Jeremy only minutes after I graduated this past May. I shook his hand and thanked him for what he had done for me. He smiled the same warm smile and gave a reassuring approval that I, like so many other students he taught and mentored, were ready for the world...even if the world wasn't ready for us.

That was the last time I spoke with Jeremy Mullins, the last time I'd see him would be on Broughton Street, two blocks ahead of me. I knew it was him because my attention was focused on a glimmering object which was of course his very well polished bald-head, attached to a perfectly groomed, taillored suit. Looking back, it's sort of surreal having only seen Jeremy from he walked away...and then turned a corner.

Life is always precious, and we often take it for granted. While we usually expect to lose people in all manners of ways, we never expect really the abruptness of it. It's usually long and agonizing or justified and stupid. You can say "He had it coming." or "He was suffering for so long." but neither come into play with Jeremy Mullins, an outstanding gentleman with a great sense of honor and inspiration.

To the whole situation Jeremy, I call it "pretty janked up", but it goes without saying you will continue to inspire and teach no matter where you are.

Take care!

(Check out Mullins's website , but be warned, it's graphic!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Which Witch?

Centuries ago we were persecuting women who used herbal remedies or kept to themselves, claiming them to be witches and either burning them at the stake or throwing them in rivers. The witch hunts that went on were a devastating and cruel part of our history that even reached the shores of the future United States of America.

But today, all over the world, the "witch" gets a very different wrap. Part of it is thanks to the better understandings science and modern medicines (no longer considered the potions and spells of the dark arts), part of it is thanks to the rising interest in the religions of Wicca (not to be mistaken as some sort of magical cult) and of course part of it is thanks to the writings of one middle-aged british woman who writes about a little bispeckled boy who discovered he was a wizard.

Soon, come this Halloween (if all goes as planned) the arrival of another fictional spell-caster will make her mark on the literary world. I speak of course of Miss Alison Stewart or as she prefers to be called, Raven.

I came up with Raven as the answer to the "female equation". I felt Flagler's Few needed a strong female character. While Claire plays the damsel in distress, I didn't want my feminist friends to ridicule me for not having a woman who can stand up for herself. Not only that, but I wanted a bit of magic and mystery in the original group and so Raven solves the problem on both counts.

When I was preparing to film "Flagler's Few" I had a hell of a time finding a female to portray Raven, but the answer arrived via AOL Profile Search. Yes, sad to say I got my actress via stocking the web-verse. Her name was Yvonne Droese and she was a theatre major at U.F.

When my assistant director (my sister) and I sat down with Yvonne at a Chipotle diner on University Ave. I was immediately impressed with Yvonne's professionalism and so I agreed to give her a copy of the script. She read it and eagerly agreed to lend her talents. While her character appeared in fewer scenes then any of the other cast her scenes were definitely far and beyond excellence and she gave most of her male co-stars a run for their money when it came to expressing the character.

Today, as I scribble the pages of "Flagler's Few" and come upon the chance to draw Raven, I find that it was Miss Droese, like Jujuan Burton, Jon Lane and Talon May, who made the character something original. She changed Raven from simply a practicing witch, into a smart, classy and intelligent character. After the film was shown at Gator Cinema, her character was praised by the audience, and much later she herself thanked me for the chance to play the role.

All I can say today to Yvonne Droese is, thank you for introducing me to Raven.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Napoleon Haunting?

Our first stop on our haunted tour of downtown St. Augustine takes us to a little pink house on a lonely corner of the residential area. At one time, this home supposedly belonged to a family member of Napoleon Bonaparte. Today while it still stands, it seems the Bonaparte's no longer inhabit it...or do they?

More pages to come soon, and keep a look out for updates on "Flagler's Few" appearing in paranormal magazines. I'm working out the kinks to the pages, but you might be able to pick up something sooner then you think. ;-)

Til next time me matey's!