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Mom 09-11-2015

posted Sep 11, 2015, 12:14 PM by Michael Conrad

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I was in a room watching my mother die. There was a television mounted in the corner of the room showing the towers collapse on repeat, masses running in terror from the debris that flooded the streets in their wake. Talking heads waxed poetic about the attack, while my mother laid in bed, one leg missing, slowly letting go.

I was conscious of the television, but it didn’t occur to me to ask for it to be turned off. All of my focus was on apologizing and controlling the spasm of grief ripping through my chest. I had been a terrible son, the last time I had seen my mother those building still decorated the New York skyline.

My mother played a lot of Farmville. On Facebook I had given her some shit for constantly asking that I water her crops, or lend her a chicken. This was the bulk of our communication over the last year of her life, until something happened to her foot. She said she had stubbed her toe, but now it had turned serious and she might need to have her leg amputated. This seemed absurd to me, so when I spoke to her I even made jokes about how she would be the hottest peg-leg in Florida. About a week after that phone call I spoke to her and she had in fact lost the leg.

On the phone she seemed doped up, out of it, like a drunk. I asked her about the medication she was on, and reminded her that painkillers can be dangerous. She responded lazily that she was being careful and not to worry. I raised my voice to her a bit and commanded that she take it seriously, dressing up the end with “I love you, ok?” She told me she loved me too in a very lucid manner, something about it sounding more sincere than anything she had ever said to me in my life. A week later I was contacted by my grandmother. She said mom wasn’t eating and was depressed. She wasn’t leaving her room, and that they believed she was going to kill herself. They had my mother taken in for a 72 hour commitment to a facility, a week later she was dead.

I got the call at work, Barry, her long time friend had found my number. He told me I needed to get to Florida because it was unlikely my mother would last through the next few days. I ran home and before I knew it my fiance had booked us our flight to my least favorite place in the United States.

On the way to the airport I found myself scouring my mother’s social media with an attention to detail I had never given it before. I even opened up a gallery of Farmville pics. There were three, there was a note saying “People have asked me who lives in the homes on my game...” Each picture was of a house, each house was labeled with the name of one of her sons and their respective partners. The houses were adorned with decorations indicating a deep knowledge of who we were at the time, no doubt gleaned from paying attention to what we shared with the world at large via the internet. I wept.

When we landed I was greeted by my older brother, who up until that point had been kind of a mystery. After years away at school in Europe, and the Peace Corps in Africa we knew little of the men we had become. He greeted me with a strong embrace, both of us rolling uncommon tears, he said “This is gonna be hard bro.”

When we got to my mother for all intents and purposes she was already gone. She was on a powerful morphine drip and seemingly unaware of what was going on around her. They had found “dark spots” on an X-Ray of her stomach, I never asked what was killing her, but the obvious culprit was cancer.

I told her stories, fond memories, uncomfortable in the silence. I tried to explain why I had been so distant, and expressed how regretful I was about being such a deadbeat son. I didn’t bring up any of the “real good reasons” I had for not speaking to her, knowing that they were no longer valid. I would never get a chance to make up for it, and she would never have a chance to explain.

At some point the others left the room, I took the opportunity to invite mom to visit me after she passed. I whispered frantically that I wouldn’t be afraid, that she could come to me in dreams. I don’t think she has taken me up on the offer yet, which is consistent with her character. She was not the kind of person who would burden her child with such a thing.

My father called, he didn’t have a clear idea of what was happening. I broke the news to him that his wife of 25+ years and the mother of his children was dying. The phone went dead for a moment, his voice crying, asking for answers I didn’t have. He seemed to want me to know that he had regret too, he seemed to wish for me to know that he somehow felt responsible for this. A part of him was dying too.

That night we got drunk. We hung out with my uncle who I hadn’t seen since my early childhood. Earlier that day I had found a piece of writing my mother did about him, and how in many ways he was her first child. She wrote professionally, but this piece had a different color to it. It read like the memoir of someone very old who knew there was little time left to capture these thoughts. Mom was in her early 50’s.

We laughed a few times as the alcohol settled in, but tears flavored ever sip until we finally called it a night. I was flying back to California the following day, and I had intentions of getting up early for a final goodbye. As I laid down I prayed that she would pass before I left. It seemed gross to go home before the story ended. My brother woke us up very early, mom was gone, he was crying, I was relieved.

In effort to not seem like a heartless prick I faked some tears, the real ones coming only when I was left alone for a moment to dress. We went back to the hospice and we were invited to view her body, I declined. My fiance briefly encouraged me to do so, for closure, but I explained that she was no longer there. Her body was a car abandoned on the side of the road, she had left on foot. This didn’t stop me from asking my atheist brother to pray over her body.

They returned shortly, my brother explained that he had covered the bases with prayers of the three Abrahamic faiths. He said she looked peaceful, which brought me little comfort.

Barry had been there when she passed, I think he preferred to spend that time with her alone, maybe to ask her to visit him as well. His face was worn from the experience. Barry was a much shorter man than myself, and he looked so tiny walking away, alone. He had loved her, and I don’t know that my mother had ever truly acknowledged this.

Back at my mother’s house we quickly packed and grabbed a few things. I took a rosary from her rearview mirror. I placed it around my neck and vowed to wear it until it fell off. Among her other things we found a small pistol, loaded, with a bullet chambered. My grandmother told us that mom had planned on taking her life with that gun. When I went to unload it I found that the slide was jammed and it was unlikely that it would discharge without some work from a gunsmith.

Later my brother told me he believed that my mother knew she was dying all along. She had made some cryptic allusion to her own mortality and let him know about a small amount of money she had squirrelled away. He has done as I would have and told her to blow it on something fun, or to put it toward her dreams, he had no way of knowing that she had moved beyond dreaming and was on to the grim planning. That’s the kind of woman she was, stoic and more willing to face fear and suffering in private. Since her death I have made real effort to rediscover my emotional side knowing that quietly suffering can cause those you leave behind even more pain.

I would have loved to have spoken with my mother about her terminal condition. I would have filled her with hope, I would have been able to know that in spite of my absence from her life for all that time that I still loved her. I would have been there with her before it was too late. I would have noticed her tribute on that bullshit farm game. I would have read more of her writing, and let her know that her work has inspired me to write as well. I would have given back to her as much as I could in those final days in hopes of letting her know how much her sacrifice has meant to me. I would have let her know she was forgiven.

When September 11 rolls around I look at the memorial display with a cold dispassion. It’s not that my sympathies are not with those who suffered loss on that loathsome day, but I can’t help but think of the replay on the television in the room where I said my goodbyes to the woman who gave birth to me.


I love you mom.


Michael W Conrad

Wayfarer etc.

posted Jul 11, 2015, 10:04 AM by Michael Conrad

Wayfarer hit week two seemingly over night on eatgeekplay.com and the reaction has been unbelievable. I'm really excited about the positive response to what Justin and I are doing with that story, what's more we are both dying to get more of the story to you guys. 

Justin and I are hard at work on another longer project that we are hoping to find a home for in the coming months, and I have a ton of other stuff I am working on with some old and new faces. As always finding the time to get it all done is a real challenge, but I live for this kind of thing.

That said, thank you all for the support, I'll be working on some comics all damn weekend!

Hello World.

posted Jul 1, 2015, 5:03 PM by Michael Conrad

A Minor Spell is done, we have already sold out of the first printing... But what is A Minor Spell?

A Minor Spell is an anthology comic put together by the Mystery School Comics Group, a collective of comics creators based primarily out of Northern California. Really the Mystery School is a group of friends who have come together to tell stories and make art. We were lucky enough to get support from a shop in Santa Rosa California (where I live) and we had a killer release party for it. The support was overwhelming, and as a result there will be a bit of a delay before it's available online. Once we have another run printed up I will add it to the shop.

This Friday, July 3rd Wayfarer debuts on www.eatgeekplay.com and will be my first real go at a web comic. Justin McElroy provides incredible art on this one, that really make the story shine. I hope you all make your way over there and check it out, we will be putting up a page a week. We are both really proud of what we have done thus far, and I am excited about some of the stuff that we will be showing off in the coming weeks over there.

I have a ton of other projects in the works, most are too early in production to even talk about here, but know that I am always working on something, and if I am doing my job right, getting better with every offering.

That's it for now, it's brutally hot and I have a lot of writing to do. Cheers!

With or Wachowski or Watching outski for the Wachowskis

posted Feb 26, 2015, 3:36 PM by Michael Conrad

I haven’t gone to see Jupiter Ascending. It’s one of those things that I’ve been planning to do, but I just can’t get it done. I was excited to see the trailer all those months ago, saying aloud “I wanna see that!”

Opening weekend has come and gone, leaving Jupiter Ascending in second place earning a whopping 92.7 million bucks. To a guy who makes a little less than that in a fiscal year it sounds good, but with just over 83 million to go to meet the initial nut, Jupiter Ascending has a lot of ascending left to do. Yes, Channing Tatum looks stupid with the eyeliner and stuff, but I can’t help but feel like I have let my community down.

The Wachowskis are responsible for some of my favorite movies, you know, The Matrix, V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas (yeah, I said it). The Wachowskis are also responsible for Speed Racer (a swing and a miss) and the other Matrix movies which were a mix of very good and very bad.

What I’m getting at is I feel like I owe it to them and I owe it to others like myself who like movies that take big chances and push the envelope. No one could have imagined Cloud Atlas making it’s money back (it barely did) and the fact that V for Vendetta made a few bucks is still a real shocker. Unfortunately for the Wachowskis Hollywood has a short memory and with every dud I fear we get closer to a world where these creators can’t get the kind of funding they need to put together these films that really challenge the movie going public.

Why didn’t I get out? Well, money is always a factor, but I think the bigger threat is the ease with which killer entertainment is already available in my home through Netflix, Hulu and a battery of other VOD sources available to me through my dusty old PS3. Why go drop change on Jupiter Ascending when I can wait for it to show up on my home system? In the meantime I have mad episodes of Colombo to catch up on and feel pretty good about.

This kind of thinking is poisonous for the Wachowskis who like to spend a ton of money to sweep us away to fantastical places. I don’t want to have my passport revoked, but I am really struggling to motivate myself to get out to the theatre, and I’m not alone. The target audience for movies like this happens to be my demo… 30 somethings with a passion for nerdly goodness, the problem here is we are also the biggest consumers of the aforementioned in home entertainment providers.

50 Shades of Grey killed it, like really killed it. 50 Shades was done up for a paltry 40 million and cashed out this past weekend with over 260 million. Like I say, I’ve failed my people, the sci fi geek dollar was just not there over the weekend, but the suburban lightweight S&M dollar was. There are going to be a lot more of these flicks coming, meanwhile the Wachowski Starship might not be able to drum up the kind of cash they need to keep making their special brand of cinema.

What’s a geek to do? I don’t need, or even want a ton of big budget CGI laden films in my life, but I do want that option to continue to be there for me. Sure, they’re gonna keep making Marvel films, Star Wars, yadda yadda, but what of the original IP? Is there room for studios to continue to gamble on new material when the only geek properties that seem to turn a profit are the tried and tested offerings that I am already getting in other places? Guardians of the Galaxy destroyed last year, as did Transformers, Captain America, etc. but they were all based off of comics and pop culture standbys. Even Snowpiercer, Big Hero 6 and Edge of Tomorrow (or Live, Die, Repeat… I still don’t understand that name change) are based on preexisting media. Jupiter Ascending meanwhile is apparently something new, from the minds of some of our favorite creators… but we wouldn’t know because we were busy not putting our money where our mouths are.

There’s a chance I will get out to Jupiter Ascending this week, I just gotta free up an evening and make sure I don’t blow all my walking around money on comics… oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to rewatch all of Twin Peaks real quick though… I also keep telling myself I need to catch up on Doctor Who… Maybe I’ll get it the following week…  


Sharks Never Stop Swimming...

posted Feb 16, 2015, 2:05 PM by Michael Conrad

Been working on a bunch of long term projects, as such I have had little to offer lately. I promise I will at least put up a short story before long, in the meantime I have been really enjoying the positive feedback on Frown! Thank you to all who have picked it up, the reaction to it has been overwhelmingly positive.

Anyway, just popping in to say hi, hope you all have had a positive start to the new year. 2015 is going to continue to rule, and I am excited to see what the year brings. Keep smiling.

M

WOW, IT'S BEEN A BIT!

posted Jan 15, 2015, 8:19 PM by Michael Conrad

I hope you don't think that I haven't been hard at work, as a matter of fact I have been working so hard that I have neglected this blog... anyway...

-FROWN is selling really really well. I am very please about how it is being received and I feel really lucky to have the book moving n the numbers it has. Unexpected glory is the best glory, no?
-My brother and collaborator started a site, and I have really enjoyed having access to several of his cool (and FREE) stuff there... please go check out www.winstonconrad.com and follow along with me!
-I have been smashing through a lot of new projects, not the least of which, SLEIGHT, the follow up to FROWN. At last check Winston is 10 pages deep into the pencils, so it is coming along briskly.
-Winston and I have a couple co-written projects in the works including a straight horror tale with FROWN teammate Jef Overn... it is looking tasty as all hell... bring a barf bag.
-Win and I also have a super secret big deal thing, trust me, it is a big deal.
-I have been drawing a lot, recognizing my limitations, thankfully as a writer I need not worry too much about that.
-I have a couple short films in the works, we will see if they actually manifest.
-With Valentine's Day coming, I plan to throw another short story on here, so look for that.
-Did a bunch of podcasts over the past few months, EARTH TWO w/Becky Cloonan and Winston, Make Dad Read Comics, and Forever Midnight. So check your podcatchers for those ones, just look for the ones featuring your boy MC.

Gonna call it good at that. Happy 2015, I promise to touch base here again very soon. 

M.

BUY FROWN NOW IN THE SHOP/FROWN INTRO

posted Oct 28, 2014, 10:21 PM by Michael Conrad

Yes, yes, yes, Frown is done and we are slowly spilling our guts out to the reader... with any luck it is worth the 500 pennies we are asking for it. We will make negative dollars on this venture, but we have no regrets, Frown is a fine "hello" to the comics world. Anyway, head over to the shop on this very site and buy it... please.

In the meantime, here is an intro that I wrote for the comic, but decided not to include. 

My brother Winston moved out to California almost overnight in the middle of 2013. I had made California my home years prior, while Winston travelled the world living all over Europe, West Africa, and almost every major city on the Atlantic seaboard of the United States. Some of the places Winston lived meant very limited contact, periodically I would receive a letter along with magickal charms and protective baubles collected from these areas and their respective shamen/religious leaders/elders/what have you. I knew very little about what adventures my brother was undertaking, and what he would be like upon his return, I wondered if he would even be someone I could connect with after a decade of limited contact.

In September of 2011 my mother passed unexpectedly, my future wife and I flew to the small island just off the coast of Florida where she had been living. Winston met us at the gate and we embraced and shed tears together for the first time since we were children. As we sat by my mother’s bedside the television silently played in the corner of the room. The World Trade Center fell again and again on repeat marking the 10th anniversary of that loathsome day.

I was especially wounded by the passing of my mother due to our uneasy relationship. I had done a poor job keeping in touch with her ever since the ending of my parents marriage. I loved my mother dearly, and her life informs my choices, and helps shape my world view to this day, but I had to learn the lesson that there is not always another tomorrow.

That night we stayed up late, drinking too much and sharing stories. We cried and laughed, and I realized that while Winston had been doing very exciting things, and it had indeed changed him, the change was in that his light had gone ultraviolet. Everything was turned up, his interest in the world was stronger, and more clear, but he was still living in the same mysterious realm of uncertainty and doubt that I live in.

I didn’t see Winston much over the next two years, then suddenly he was essentially at my doorstep, just under three hours away. I would make the drive out to the wilderness he and his lovely wife chose to live in after becoming tired of the cramped nature of Brooklyn, we would drink beer and chat around the fire. Each time I went to his home I would be sure to grab a stack of comic books to leave behind.

We cut our teeth on horror comics, dabbled in superheroics, and eventually graduated to more adult material. Winston returned right around the time I had finished reading Grant Morrison’s “Supergods” and I was excited to pass him the book. This book reignited childhood dreams in us both to create comics.

I have never been a good member of an audience, I struggle to follow sports because I would rather play. I cannot simply listen to music, I must perform, so I thrust a brush into Winston’s hand and asked him to join me in creating a small story about a clown who can’t get a laugh. The process turned out to be so much more than expected. It has taken us a full year to create a very simple story to share with you.We have tried not to cut any corners in the process, which meant learning every part of comics production of the as we worked on it. We stumbled several times, and there are elements of this story that we wish we could have done better, but in the end we are brimming with pride to share this very raw and honest book with you the reader.

We plan on many more stories to follow this one, and we are both excited about the future and the comics we will make together. This comic brought us together in a way that little else has. We have travelled to cons to pick the brains of some of the finest creators in the business. We have had woeful moments of self doubt and insecurity. We have laughed and bonded, and once again we have become brothers.

Thank you for picking this book up, I hope you find something in it that speaks to you.


I got old.

posted Aug 27, 2014, 11:43 AM by Michael Conrad   [ updated Aug 27, 2014, 12:25 PM ]

    Well it happened, I am 35 now. I don't feel like a grown up, but there is no denying it at this point. Almost more importantly I celebrated my second anniversary of wedded bliss, which is real nice, as a matter of fact, aside from a major earthquake nearly leveling my wife's hometown things have been pretty good.

    Winston uploaded a bunch of my artwork, under the webcomix section. While I don't really see myself as an artist, I do see myself as a comics creator and doing my own art has become something I have been working hard at to be able to generate more material. I am proud of what I have learned over the past 2-3 months of working at the board, and I really look forward to sharing some more material moving forward.

    I have a couple more artists who have agreed to work on some of my writing, which is exciting, so with any luck I will be able to share some samples of that work soon, along with wrapping up some more prose work. I want to get the site loaded up with more material, but comics are slow moving beasts and it often times keeps me from writing stuff just for fun to share here.

    If you like what you see in the webcomix section, add me up on Instagram, @papaconrad for regular shots of my drawings. You can also email me if you want to try your hand at one of my stories, as I am always looking for artists who are willing to work.

In closing, why don't you read Black Hole, 100%, and Multiversity... I sure did, and I am better for having done that.

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Changing The Game. My adventures in LA: Costarring Winston Conrad, Becky Cloonan, Gerard Way, Fabio Moon, and Grant Morrison

posted Jul 31, 2014, 7:32 PM by Michael Conrad

    So yeah, I am changing the format of this blog a bit for a couple reasons, the main ones ate because I am busy as a bee. I can't trust myself to update this weekly because frankly, I have a lot of stuff I need to focus on.

FROWN: Man, we are getting down to the wire. Things are still in production, Jef is on the final 20 pages on the digital end, then we need to letter it and format it for print.

LA: Winston and I took a road trip down to LA to visit Becky Cloonan before SDCC. She and her Killjoys partner in crime Gerard Way were doing a signing at Meltdown (GREAT shop btw, incredible staff, great selection). Gerard was a real gentleman, and reconnecting with Becky was a blast. The Killjoys fans were all so nice, and it was a lot of fun to see Gerard and Becky interact with them. 
    Grant Morrison was hiding in the back, and no one knew it... I tracked him down and had a lengthy conversation with him, he was friendly and brilliant. We spoke about our respective writing projects and had a few laughs over a vodka/bubbly water.
    Fabio Moon had managed to slip in like a beautiful Brazilian Ninja, and he joined the crew rooting on the Killjoys team. We had some laughs and all went to dinner. After we went back to Meltdown for some late night comic shopping, then spent the rest of the evening drinking and talking comics at the hotel. Really a great time.

SLEIGHT: Fully scripted, this is the follow up to FROWN in some ways, but it is a stand alone story in its own right. I am really happy with how it feels and I am looking forward to seeing what Winston does with it visually. 

Life: Been super busy with the day job. In my off hours I have been working on various shorter scripts and trying to learn how to draw. If you follow me on any of the other social networks you may have seen some samples, but I will be sure to get some up here soon. Yesterday I came home to a package of quality brushes and paper, courtesy of Winston and I really look forward to working with better materials.

I picked up and read ESCAPO by Paul Pope... it is crazy good, and could actually fit well into the little world we are building with FROWN... pick it up!

Well... that's about the size of things right now. I will check in again in a few days. Be well.

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Weekly Rundown #8

posted Jul 3, 2014, 5:43 PM by Michael Conrad

    So... I am well into drafting the follow up to Frown, which is getting ever closer to being wrapped up. We are pretty committed to getting it done and released in the fall, with any luck we can stay on target.
    The follow up has a much different tone and pacing, but takes place in the same universe, and briefly features some faces that will be familiar from Frown. Obviously I am very excited about it, and I cannot wait to turn it over to Winston so he can begin drawing it.
    I have so many other projects I am working on that I have felt a bit drawn out, but I am excited to have a bunch of stories in the bank for artists to get to... I have been working a bit slower than I would like because I am trying to learn how to draw so that I don't have to rely on artists... I much prefer to have others draw my stories, but thus far people have proven to be a little less than focused. Without boasting at all, I think it is unfair for me to expect others to have my work ethic. I feel insane sometimes, always thinking about my goals and how to achieve them. I have so much work to do to get my writing where I want it to be, but I am at least willing to do the work.
    That's going to cover it for now, I have work to do. 

Oh, this week I am stoked on Wonton Soup by James Stokoe, you can get the omnibus right now from Oni Press for a measly 20$... time and money well spent.

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