CAKE 2013

Printing reports seem far simpler to relate than convention reports. But, this one is both - so first, to printing.

I decided to print a new book, Godhead #1, for CAKE. And I will begin by saying, yes, of course, I managed to screw it up. Which is more funny than painful to me now. You'd think I'd have learned to stay clear of simple, obvious mistakes, such as laying the book out incorrectly in the first place, but, hell no. I haven't. And each time at press there was a new issue I'd never encountered before rearing it's nasty little head. "Everyday a new problem," I'd say, before the frustration came boiling up my neck and I'd look for the nearest thing to kick as hard as I could. The only lesson I'd seemed to have learned from printing Sea Change was not to go wailing into failure, but square up and suck down my overreactive emotions, and stop. Still not easy for me.

Printing plates, while also burning my retinas on a loaner computer. 

Laid out the book for 8 1/2 by 14 sheets of paper, which I'd mistakenly picked up for make-ready for Sea Change, and just so happened to have 10 reams for 9 plates. One for each plate, and one left over for make-ready. Made for a square book, but not ugly. Seemingly perfect. Got some good-looking plates out of the HP, and found myself with two days off (in a fucking row, no less!). Two weeks from CAKE at that point. Seemingly smooth sailing. How could I possibly fuck that up? Oh, you...

I printed the plates incorrectly, and without noticing my mistake, went ahead and printed them on my stock. I printed half of the book on Thursday, the 6th. Had I done the odd-numbered plates first, things would have progressed more quickly, but ha! I didn't! I printed the incorrect ones that day (and even put the press out of commission for a hot minute, again, by simply not locking something down tightly enough) and they looked great. Came to press Friday and quickly realized my mistake. Hung my head and slunk out like a kicked dog. Spent the rest of Friday afternoon drawing away the awful feeling in my gut, and then continued into my five-day workweek slinging coffee and food at well-rested yups with all the gusto of a freshly-kicked dog.

But, picked myself up, and went at it again. After working straight through until Wednesday - now the 12th of June, and 3 days before CAKE, mind you - I spent the night trimming down cover stock. By hand, of course, because I'm apparently encoded with stupid that way.

I essentially started over with this book from scratch on Thursday morning, only two days from CAKE and only a day before I had to hit the road. Got out of bed nursing that same, low and persistent dread that I'd greeted so many times in April, looking out into the snow and down at the crumpled paper strewn everywhere. Picked up a new 10-ream box of paper from the old OfficeMax at 9AM, turned up the Replacements on the radio, and picked up caffeine at the co-op. Found another unopened Hi-Ball awaiting me, like angel scat, at the press. Armed with a new mock-up guide and fresh paper, off I went.

Again - a new problem, though mild. Vacuum for the powder on the delivery end was jammed, and didn't fix itself by blowing out the excess powder built up in the tube. Disassembled it, cussing through out, and cleaned it out as best I could before reattaching it and tightening the rig. Still didn't work, so I let the vacuum run and called my "press consultants." As soon as I hung up, having recieved no answer, the damn thing started working. Plowed onward.

Printed 15 plates that day from 9 to 5, like a real goddamn job, and put my cover stock on for the color - with a full bleed black on the back - and couldn't get it to feed consistently. Sheets were getting pulled in erratically, probably either because the 100# cover stock I'd picked up was too heavy? or I'd misdialed the settings? Still figuring that one. In any case wrestled with that issue until the machine had eaten up 10 sheets or so, and threw her into night latch and called for help.

That was lesson number two of Sea Change: ask for fucking help. Leigh again came through at 6PM and threw down a whoppingly prohibitive $0.66 to photocopy me 30 or so covers on the same stock, leaving me with viable copies for the show, and still not wasting the pretty penny I'd spent on French Paper, either.

I ate? I think I ate. Sometime between that and the night, I must have eaten? Jesus. Anyway.

(I remember now probably jamming my craw with some caffeine and caffeinated Clif bars. Probably that.)

Then came the folding and the collating, starting at roughly 7:30, 8PM? Took 30 pages of each sheet, my long-arm stapler, the cover stock and hauled them in my new suitcase du jour, a beat-up French Paper box, and settled at the light table of MCAD's fourth floor, intending fully to fold, collate, staple-bind, and face-trim 30 copies in that same area. Left the overhead lights off, hit the lightbox on, plugged in some Ink Panthers and Inkstuds, and listened to the rain pour down against the overhead glass as I worked.

Got through all those smoothly before going to face-trim on the public cutters. Did a copy on the cutter that'd been fine for trimming down Tits!, but didn't quite make the cut cleanly enough to be passable. Kind of ragged. Whether it was the combination of more pages and heavier stock that did it, or my relative strength or sharpness of that blade, it wasn't going to work. And the public guillotine cutter has never worked for me, so, as I stood staring at the damn thing and pawing the ragged edge of my book, calculating, Zak called for an update on how the trip to Chicago was unfolding and asked how it was going. At t-minus one day, all I had to do was trim the goddamn things and it'd be good. He, with more clarity of wit than me at that point, said, "Use my gulliotine cutter, dummy." That was at midnight. 

Trotted down to the studio to use said cutter and piled out of my car and across the lot just as, one, a guy seemingly jogged down Central wearing big winter gloves in the middle of the goddamn night, and Zak emerged from the side entrance on the phone with Grace, one of the CAKE organizers. He'd just had to call off the performance of Pretty Ladies (probably the only real let down of the show, in retrospect) due to a very sick drummer. I went to folding the covers, stapling the books together, and chopping them down on the guillotine cutter as he climbed through a metaphor-mountain of boxes to pack for the show. Managed to finish the books (and even salvage the one's I'd trimmed horribly at first) and get home to pack up myself and lower into sleep by 3 that morning.

Hauled out of bed at 7:30AM and before my alarm exhausted but awake, and met Alicia for coffee at the Seward Co-op. Then got on the road with Zak by noon and east down 94 we went.

CAKE 2: Electric Bugaloo was a great sequel to a great convention last year. Too many good things happened to recount individually, and too many good road trip stories on the way down (and on the way back in the dead of Sunday night with a tired pair of Zak Sally and Tom K. firing off constant conversation until Minneapolis came into view) but the show itself was a wonderful experience. My personal sales were way up from the year previous in Chicago, and better overall for me than TCAF, even. Godhead, which was originally the only debut for the show, got a little write-up on the CAKE site along with Sea Change, and I'd either sold out or traded or consigned all but three of my stock, and each copy of Godhead was off of my hands. At the busy points of Saturday and Sunday both I was backlogged on signing and drawing in books by a couple people for some time. Something I was not really ready for, as I thought I could spent more time putting meticulous drawings in each book. 

The venue was spacious, especially in the space within the rows for exhibitors. So roomy, in fact, both sides of exhibitors could comfortably store their bags, extra chairs, etc., without bumping into each other. Which meant the aisles for visitors sometimes got clogged past the point of comfort, but it was relatively manageable to move about without disturbing people trying to browse through books at a table. The Center on Halsted was beautiful, and apparently also a host to a gay cowboy line dance on the roof patio, which I sadly missed. The Whole Foods downstairs was like a revelation to have, as I was often reaching for an empty coffee cup that weekend. All the satellite events happening that weekend (the Deitch signing, comic battle at Quimby's, music at the Observatory, listening to Blackhawk fans squawk) were fun to attend, but meant I was crawling back to the couch cushions on Grace's floor as a barely-put together bag of bones in the night. Generally, there was a pretty happy and productive atmosphere each day of the show, though the definite trend among exhibitors was that those who'd gone to TCAF a month previous felt so-so on sales, and those who hadn't were pretty happy with them. Sitting in Minneapolis row, with Evan Palmer, Tim Sievert, Anna Bongiovanni, Hannah Blumenrich, 2d Cloud and Will Dinksi at the back of the auditorium didn't seem to pose any logistical problems, either, as traffic was pretty steady. Some of those along the walls of the auditorium itself mentioned a little lackluster attendance for their tables, but not all of them.

The organizers did a fantastic job. Having dipped my toes into that realm now, I see it is no simple, easy, or quickly-done feat. I owe all of them for the wonderful show and overwhelmingly positive experience I had, and especially to Grace Tran, who kindly let me crash on her floor and called me a "wood nymph," which I take as a high honor. 

CAKE 2013, as it grows increasingly small in the rearview, seems to me an up-note ending to the cycle of a year. At the 2012 show, I'd just recieved word I'd gotten the Xeric, and I'd sent in my expense report a week before the 2013, with a huge stack of printed paper and a whole lot of experience and support in the time between. I'd gone from putting out a small amount of work while living at my parents' house in rural Wisconsin post-graduation, to living in Minneapolis again, making as much work as I ever had and becoming competent with the printing press. And in the few days since CAKE, I've only felt buoyed by the experience and the new-found connections with other cartoonists resulting from the show. A lot of good news for my friends has also followed in its wake.

For me, it was good. It was great. It was one not to have been missed.

My tablemate, good friend and hardworking gal Leigh Luna, with none other than -- 

 -- Evan Palmer's back.

The view from the Observatory roof, which was obscenely cinematic.

Time for TCAF!

Time to pile into the mini-van (you read that correctly, mini-van) of nautically-themed cartoonists and get ourselves to Toronto for TCAF!

I am very pleased to say that I will have copies of "Sea Change: A Choose-Your-Own-Way Story," debuting at the show and available for purchase at my table on the 2nd floor, 234! It's been a hard-fought publication, and I'm leaving a very messy studio space, a daunting pile of printed detritus, and a few hundred unassembled books behind me that I will deal with after this wonderful comics-shindig. "TITS! The Spiny Northern Maid," the mermaid-copulation mini-comic companion to Sea Change, will be at my table as well! (If, should Customs not like the, ahem, feeling-laded penetration of that one,  it'll still be available to read online and purchase at my store.)

If you want to connect with me, I'm trying to do this whole "Twitter" thing again... with all the trepidation and confusion of a person born in 1914, but trying! My handle is @caitlin_rude - plus I maintain rosebudskud talkweirdpress on tumblr, if that's more your thing.

Speaking of which, I'm also delighted to say I'll be in the excellent company of Cathy G. Johnson (tumblr) and Kevin Czapiewski of Czap Books at 233! Hell yeah! If you're not familiar, you should darn well get familiar - you won't regret it. Both are wonderfully talented artists and forces to be reckoned with, and two of my absolute favorites.

Plus, my partner in crime and fellow lover of Spanglish grammar jokes, Leigh Luna, will be selling her comics, "Clementine Fox," and "Banjo Girl," with me at my table (and generally keeping me in line and in one piece). 

I'm sure, scattershot as I am in the post-Maisie Madness of printing this Xeric book, that I've forgotten something, but it's time to go. I'm so excited to see Toronto and meet a bunch of wonderful people there, united in enthusiasm for comics. Uff da.

Howl, who will be slutting it up for pets and love to all my roommates, I'm sure, in my absence. 

 I am so happy to be going - and to hopefully to return to a very green and very gay Minneapolis in a few days! Don't disappoint me, Moony City!

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, DAY 16 + 17 + 18



At the moment, there are about 30-some good copies finished and ready for the border crossing and the comics-shindig in Toronto happening the 11th and 12th. Which would not have happened without the support and schedule-wrangling and generosity of Amaya and Ian, Nicki, Chrissy, Leigh, Zak, Clint, or Claude. I would have been a pile of wet, blubbering rubble without the help of each of them.

I will do my best to put down these days with coherency and accuracy, but the caffeine high of the last 30 hours or so has finally begun to wane and real exhaustion is setting in.

Day 16, Saturday, May 4th

Or, the first of the three days of furious collaboration.

Worked a busy morning at the cafe - but then again, what weekend morning isn't busy? Collated copies of the book in Amaya and Ian's garage before sitting down inside and playing the first few turns of Tokaido, a game about sight-seeing Edo, Japan designed by a Frenchman. Just about eating things, collecting souvenirs and, as was my favorite, sitting in hot springs with monkeys. Had to jet over to Zak's studio to get the covers printed on the larger press, so, when the clock hit quarter-to and the turn in the game became mine, I promptly knocked the old man character I was playing into the water, announced I'd been eaten by kappas, and scooted out the back door.

Printed covers on the 9810, which went better than I think either Zak and I thought they would. A huge favor paid to me by Mr. Sally, by the way, for coming down to the studio and basically printing the run for me with finishing the next book of Sammy heavy on his mind. While I stumbled about beside him, half-way in the way and tripping on stuff. I had no real familiarity with the 9810, even though the same principals apply, and the time spent this month screaming at Maisie still hadn't worn off. Trimmed down the oversized French 80# cover to 12.5x17.5 and got them going on my make-shift too-small left-over already-printed plates.

And that went pretty damn well. Debated whether or not to do the second color, which, at the press, was very light. I'd changed the covers because full bleed = pain, and the ever-fluid set of circumstances and setbacks around this book meant I needed to make due with the capabilities I had and things I had access too within the time frame I needed to operate within. Setbacks, mind you, that might have been solved in the designing process months ago, so the lesson is - again! - a stitch in time saves nine. So, we scratched the second layer of light blue for toning the front and back, as Zak had to get back home and we'd been at the press for these covers for four hours.

But my Animal-Farm-draft-horse tendencies to just work harder, just endure more menial labor in the face of hardships (remember everyone, that horse dies well before the end of the book) were not disappointed. Decided to hand-color them instead! All of them.

Woop woop. Neigh.

Day 17, Monday, May 6th

After a 8 to 5:30 shift of insanity at the cafe on Sunday, rose, bones full of ache and energy, and got my ass to MCAD. Where upon I, save for a few instances of having to run an errand and grab the paper out of Amaya's garage so desperately needed, I sat for the last 30 hours. Seeing as it is also the thick of MCADian finals, I was in good company and there was cheap food and good coffee at my disposal. Just like old times. Went to figuring out just how the hell I was going to color these covers A) cheaply enough as not to weep, B) quickly enough to go in to be bound and trimmed by midnight and ready for TCAF on Saturday, and C) to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of that goddamn voice in my head always bugging me about covers, and markers and that crap. Settled for an acrylic turquoise ink in a water-color brush pen, half-diluted, and colored, colored, colored. Took the majority of the day, all the way up to Leigh calling me up to bat with my books in the Service Bureau, and all the strength in my knotted up hand. Watched a little Adam West Batman in the middle as I did so, thanks to Bob's Intro Class.

Every single person who came close enough to peer at me, with my sprawl of French Paper, French Paper boxes, and ink bottles, I wrangled in to ask them about the covers and weighed all opinions as evenly as I could. Worked on the big tables of the 2nd floor studio and soon found myself swamped with a MCAD finals homework drum circle. Furiously colored 25 covers or so in the 3 hours leading up to midnight.

Then, at midnight, with two energy drinks (totaling 280 mg of caffeine), a large cup of coffee from Dave's, and an Iced Blackout from Le Spyhouse at 11:30 (totaling 400? mg of caffeine? More? enough, in any case, to keep me going until noon today and beyond) in me, Leigh and I went to work.

Or, Leigh did. Again found myself either too damn incompentent (or too damn sleep-deprived to become competent) at any of the tasks required to finish this mini-run for TCAF, except for creasing. Which, still, I managed to screw up on occasion. But Leigh Luna was a star. She was a wunderkin. I pushed her in the river and ella swim-ó. Bound and trimmed my inherently deeply flawed book-shaped things into real, god-damned books. She had also printed, assembled, and bound a run of her own good-looking books, Clementine Fox, before tackling the lumpy disaster box that was my run of books.

Leigh used Bind! It's super-effective! (Yeah, that's just for you, kiddo.)

A night in which we also seriously discussed getting ourselves something like this. This very, very, very nice binder.

Finished at 2:45AM, dropped Luna off at home at 3AM, and finally got my little head under the dark water of sleep at 4AM.

Day 18, Tuesday, May 7th

STILL COLORING. Nope, didn't finish all of it - just the big parts. Went back to color the back to try and balance the annoying color composition I'd saddled myself with. All in all, I'm happy, and they're so damn corporeal it overtakes my perfectionist-streak.

In any case, there's still more to do. Of the 500-750 possibly viable copies of these books, there are forty-some assembled and 30-some ready to go into the mitts of venerable strangers. That's a lot of work. So it is with a noted, obnoxious little asterisk next to my statement I declare this book "done," but I'll take that.

Howl, in the window, on what feels like the first real day of summer. My stomach is eating itself as loudly as a lawn-mower at the time of this picture.


SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 15

As of 10:28AM this morning, the guts of this book are DONE.

Had to get up around 6:30 to avoid a parking ticket from the strange, arbitrarily-sanctioned "No Parking by Police Order" signs that seem to be systematically sweeping Whittier for no reason I can see. Probably looking for revenue from ticket fees? However it came about - the only parking to be found last night when I got home was on Grand, a verboten spot. Rose grumpily and got dressed and got out early because of it, though. Got an unhealthy breakfast in and went down to Amaya and Ian's in Seward.

Chatted with Amaya a bit before both of us had to get to work, if in slightly different rgards. Found out shortly after someone had set fire to my elementary school, where my Mom still works. She called me back after I sent her a worried phone call and text message - she was fine, but we were both deeply saddened by the apparent arson/vandalism. Tried to put it out of mind for printing and got rolling about 9:15.

I knew I could knock out the last two plates and a small run of plate 33, which I had accidentally run with too little paper, in what would feel like no time - and it did sort of breeze through. Even with a clear finish line ahead, with Maisie dialed in from 7 hours of printing the day previous, and with a lot of time to accomplish it today, I was sick with nerves. Stomach in knots, as if I had already run into horrible setbacks. Even as the last plate and run of a hundred-some replenishing sheets went through easily and the last sheet fed through to the ending chords of "Eating Paper" by Dave Bazan, I still felt horrible knots in my gut. They had a semi-happy tinge to them, but I can feel them still, reminding that the BOOK is not done YET.

Collated a copy of the guts to show Zak and Leigh at a stop down at the 'CAD (Leigh, who at first did not me notice whistling at her, then throwing the book on her desk, and then knocking on the damn desk, dutifully reminded me she had not seen me since before the beginning of April) and then went back to the task of collating. From that point on in the day, felt exhausted, hungry, sleepy and vaguely pre-illness. Which sometimes happens after a giant stress disappears - my body suddenly releases the illness I'd been too damn busy to have before.

Collated for a couple hours. Ate pizza and chatted with Ian, both worked on stuff in the garage 'till sundown.

So tired. Hard to feel accomplished yet, but let's see how I feel when I know I don't have to get up and print like a madwoman tomorrow.

The total from Monday.


The last three.

This mock-cover is as accurate about the content of the book as it was about my emotional state while making the book.

Leaning tower of French paper.

Total of Monday and Tuesday combined - now the counter is being put to use as I collate copies of the book together, but that process is going much, much, much slower.

Plus, Katara the weirdo.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 12 + 13

Day 12, Thursday April 25th

Otherwise known as, "getting in the car and driving to Richfield"-day.

It was the first real beautiful day in Minneapolis - filthily sunny as evidenced by that picture and actually becoming warm. A real goddamn relief. A day that never dips below forty degrees means my window for working is expanded to whenever - which, at the beginning of April was about five hours long from noon to five in the afternoon, when the garage was warm enough not to freeze ink to the rollers. Not that I managed to avoid disaster or rookie screw-ups to print for more than four hours at that point (or still).

I'd just started shoveling some breakfast into my mouth at the Seward Co-op when I'd gotten a call from Claude, a pressman I'd heard lauded as a pretty darn good guy and a reliable source for parts. The day previous Zak (and sometimes-Krakken Floss) had come by to help me fix up the idiot mistake I'd made on the press and made a call to Claude about a new part.

That part? A latch pawl. Sonorous name, I know. An inch or so long, but yet another crucial linchpin to my sanity.

What did I do, you ask? My problem this time was not that I'd misaligned my feed, or needed some WD-40, or had flipped some lever I was unaware of its mechanism, but made a real idiot mistake. I'd started running the press on a really, really, really simple plate. Two words, mostly white plate. Very little ink needed. Should have been a snap. I inked up on low, left the fountain wide open, and got the feed lined up. Fed beautifully on the make-ready and switched to the good stock - and almost immediately it started scumming up bad in the middle. I was perplexed and, as I turned down the ink and wiped off the plate and the blanket before going again, increasingly enraged as the problem kept returning again and again.

Well, what I did was forget to engage the top fountain roller, which distributes fountain solution on the top oscillating ink roller and the back of the plate cylinder before it hits the rubber blanket. So absolutely nothing was washing the ink off the blank parts of the plate, and ink was accumulating and transferring to my stock. Simple. Had I simply looked up half an inch to where the fountain sat, just slightly above my nose, I'd have knocked it left into place with the heel of my palm, as I've done hundreds of times before, and I'd be done with this book at this very moment (possibly). Definitely wouldn't be out another couple hundred bucks.

As it happened, I instead assumed it was my ink fountain, which I'd loosened on plates past, which were full of lots of dark gray and black, to make sure enough could pass through. I took my screwdriver and tightened that inkwell as hard as I could against the ink roller. AS HARD AS I COULD.

Told you. Stupid.

The machine kept chugging away. Maisie didn't know any better to stop, but then I also cranked the ink up off of zero - at this point I STILL might have saved myself pain and sorrow - but nope. At which point the mechanism which automatically turns the ink roller in the well reached down, settled into the teeth of a gear, and tried to CRANK it back up. That moving part hit an unmovable object, and that energy had to go somewhere. The latch pawl caught, the solid-metal lever assembly it sat within warped to the right and up to try and relieve the pressure, but not enough. The latch pawl bent, fractured, and part of it flew, one assumes, right over my oblivious head and to the floor in what was probably a few seconds. And I missed all of it. I was soon bent over in tears and fury, bereft of another day of work. Three days of work, as it turned out to be.

Hard to see, I know, but the straight bar between those two gears holds the latch pawl. The latch pawl reaches back and rests on the smaller, left gear and uses downward pressure from a spring to catch the teeth - which is turned by the gear on the right to move the ink roller to the left. You can see it's not flush.

The new lever assembly - I really don't know that's the proper term, but that's sort of what Claude referred to it as - is the one on the left. The one I warped is on the right.

The story of Thursday is that I received a call from Claude at 9am, offering me a new latch pawl he'd found in his menagerie of AB Dick parts. I'd ordered one from Illinois on rush (in the desperate hope to get  printing in the next few days. As Amaya can tell you, I do weird things when I really need to work but I can't, like look for Japanese dinosaur dating sims for the iPad). The price on that one, minus the exorbitant shipping, was $99.90. Claude offered me one for $10, with the addendum, "I've got nine more of them!"

I ended up driving to Richfield, the first time, that morning to pick up that latch pawl. I got back to the garage and installed it, but still the ink roller and the mechanisms wouldn't run normally. It did, for a minute! Ian had been home early on lunch break and he'd come out to help me remove the old latch pawl, and for a second, she rotated, but soon lost tension and started sliding uselessly over the teeth again. I then thought it was the spring (I still hadn't figured out what the fuck had happened on Tuesday at this point). So I tried to wrestle it back into fighting shape - with absolutely no idea what that was, mind you - with two pliers and just my plucky, angry resolve.

The one I attempted to "fix" is the left. What that spring should look is the one on the right.

Had another crisis of faith in Amaya's living room, in the middle of which she pointed out, "Well, do you wish you didn't have the press?" And I immediately said, small but true, "No." She continued to say that, and with extreme accuracy, that had I not elected to print this book myself and shipped it off to a publisher, I would be in the same damn pits about how I should be trying to print it myself.

I then figured out my lever assembly was bent and surmised the real events of Tuesday. Called Claude back and described my problem - a second later he hummed and said, "Yeah, I've got that. Another $10 bucks." I told him, "I'm willing to pay anything at this point to get this machine back in running order." And again, into the car I clamored and rushed out into 35W in the thick of the rush-hour clog. I got to Claude's and he showed me around the garage a bit and explained he had an enormous stockpile of AB Dick parts that were too numerous to ever sell, so he felt no need to rake me over the coals for a latch pawl at a nine-time mark up. I wrote him a check for ten bucks and he graciously offered me a new spring for it and an old catalog of parts, which I was so happy to accept.

He also kept assuring me that part was often broken off, but I still have a hard time seeing how I didn't make a really dumb mistake that Tuesday afternoon. Now you all have to read this horribly long blog post instead of looking at a picture of me holding a printed book up. Bleh.

Claude was great. Gracious and patient and really willing to help me out. Because I also left my folder, holding my replacement-computer iPad and the comic I'd been working on since March, sitting in a patch of sun on his garage desk. I of course didn't realize this until safely navigating rush hour back to Seward. And for the third time, called Claude and clamored into that damn car and back into rush hour.

Also lost the ring clamps on that bar that connects the gear to the lever assembly as well, and mechanically-clever Ian improvised some for me. And figured out that damn spring and how to enact tension on the thing, which I'm sure I would still be wrangling with stupidly. 

"Same day service" is the damn truth. I'd still be grounded without Claude, which is good, because the back up plan I'd had for the book - Zak, also having graciously offered me to use his press to finish my plates if need be, called to let me know that his press had also gotten fucked up. He wished me luck with Maisie, now that I'd fixed it back up, and hoped everything would go well. I said, "Well, it kind of has to now..."

Day 13, Friday April 26th

The Day of No Fucking Crying

Got into the garage, after breakfasting in the Co-op again, around 9:30. Jogged and sorted paper to the new Ink Panthers episode, put them into the boxes from whence they came and labeled them. Finished around 11:30 - ran to shove some pasta into my mouth, having planned to print for as long as physically possible. Maisie was feeding without problems and the ink fountain was back in running order. Cranked some Arcade Fire and went to it.

The paper for the remaining odd plates - five of them, needing varying amounts of paper run through.

Ran the odds and was finished with half the book at roughly 1:30, 2. Plowed through onto the evens, or the back sides of these sheets, and did 4, 6, and 8 before I did something screwy to the feed side and started getting dog-earred sheets and interrupted feeding of sheets. Something was wrong with how I'd set the vaccuum settings, the buckle - something. Because it stopped feeding. And, in my attempt to fix it, around 4 or so, I'd thrown a sheet up into the ink rollers and it was pulped-up to shit. Quit for the minute, went to eat dinner, and came back at 5:15, ready to go again.

Still ran into the same feeding problem, but I was not going to stop. I'd already screwed up one perfectly good plate - and, considering I only have three extra blank ones left at this point, I wasn't going to quit in the middle of another one. Printed through the feeding problem, lost a couple sheets, dog-earred a bunch, but the ink/fountain balance was pretty goddamn beautiful. Also got image-quality loss from the accumulation of anti-offset powder on the rubber blanket from the previously printed sheets going through. But, at this point, I want books that are imperfect but exist, rather than the dream of a better-looking book. A really tough pill for my overwhelming perfectionist-streak to swallow, but...

You can't build a couch out of a blanket draped over a stack of dreams. And you don't have to check a dream with Canadian customs.

Printed 12, 14, 16, 18, before it hit 9:00 PM and a nine-hour run of printing. I seriously debated putting on plate 20, but I knew if I did I would have to commit to finishing it, no matter how badly things went. Or how long.

But my favorite Yo La Tengo record (and one of my favorites, period) Painful came on, and, taking the cue from the drowsy echo of "Big Day Coming," decided to put everything to bed.

I'm keeping that crumpled old Kinko's sleeve just for this, Sally.

A really gorgeous Minneapolis night. Nothing quite like it, especially with the products of a solid day's work covering all the flat surfaces.

A sheet that, having gotten stuck to the rubber blanket while I was crap-shooting the feed problem, that instead of flying up into the rollers or going flat-footed into the pile of good sheets, flew cleanly out back between the rubber blanket and plate cylinder like a paper airplane and straight into my open hand.

Tried to write this post last night around 11:30, but couldn't focus. Howl and I equally ready to conk out.

Until Monday.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 10

Bad night - couldn't get/remain asleep so overslept my goal of getting up early and cramming in two more hours of printing in the day. Another snowstorm on its way (and currently pouring down) and the abject terror that had my stomach in my shoes again didn't help either. Spent most of last night after work printing new plates. Met Alicia and her date for a minute at the studio while I did, too, and was definitely not prepared to have company. I.E., a stinking, bleary, scruffy mess.

First five plates of five-hundred were great this morning; ran into the same thing I had before. Troubleshot with Clint and figured out another stupid mistake I'd made. Fixed that and went fine again.

It is a fucking relief to know that I am wrong some days. This is definitely one of them.

Ran 11 plates in 5 hours. One to redo. Odd sides nearly finished.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 9

So. It snowed. This is the coldest, snowiest April in the past 10 years here in Minnesota, and it's making sure we all pay attention to that fact. It's yet to hit 60 degrees, when in March of last year parts of America were 20 to 30 degrees above average. Thinking I could bank on Winter following some sort of reliable pattern was a mistake. Thinking the small repairs and replacements needed wouldn't knock me flat until I'd finished this print run was also a mistake.

I've made a lot of them in the pursuit of this project - but giving up hasn't been one of those mistakes.

Terrified, worried, freezing, I trudged back out into that tundra and turned on some space heaters and went for it again.

And it went fine.

I KNOW! When have I come onto this goddamn log of events and said things went WELL? OR BETTER THAN EXPECTED?

Today, for starters. I think I've figured out the root problem of my issues - and yes, Clint was/is right. It wasn't the press. It was me.

Ran copy through the machine as make-ready, to test the feeding. Machine sounded good, greased up, the vacuum on the feed was good and consistent-sounding, the base underneath the paper goddamn robust, and nothing bad happened. Maisie ran like a fucking saint - that is, to say, ran like she always does when I pull my head out of my ass and pay better attention. Ran 500 more of the 'Thank You' plate, which didn't need strict registration since it had no flip-side to print and stayed pretty far from the left margin. THERE WAS NO GODDAMN INCIDENT. The ink went on like butter and the new rubber blanket was great. It was beautiful. I nearly cried from joy, but I'm not a camel - I have no water left in me from all that damn crying I've done.

I did notice it was a little far to the left since I hadn't adjusted either the plate or the paper to align. Clint's warning rang in my head to keep that feed side centered to avoid trouble. I moved the paper over on the second plate to where I'd been printing all month, off-center to the left.

And the damn problem came straight back. Paper flying down into the machine again.

I stopped, moved the paper back into the center, and it went away.

Lesson to be learned, kids: register, register, register good.

I'm going to reprint the plates yet to do. A time-sucking task, but if the plates run as smoothly as this just because I nudge them over a quarter of an inch, then it's well worth it. Did 1500 sheets without almost any loss. Only got stopped by needing to reprint plates. Otherwise, Maisie was good and I was good to keep going. GOOD DAY.

Larry from Printing Equipment and Supply also called back with info on the missing part of the feed table - when he relayed to me the price for one of the missing pieces, 140 hot buckaroos, I responded that was well more than half of what I paid for the whole damn press in the first place. He joked I could add it and drastically increase the value of my press. You know, if I wanted to resell or something. HA!

April skies, February blankets.

Space heaters doing their best - once the room hit 40ish degrees, though, the temperature was a non-issue.

Back to the drawing board for a minute.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 8

"It's never the press."

So, basically, "it's you." Pretty darn true. And even when it is only mostly true - a rare exception - that's not so bad. That failure I can handle. I'm a little bit closer to separating my feelings of self-worth sunk into running Maisie from the snowballing, fuck-all chaos of screwing up a print run. Not all the way there, but much closer.

Tuesday I attempted to print and ran into the same problem I had last week. I had not solved it. The problem with believing in luck and fate and emotions and the stars is they are as nebulous as they are capricious (and how actual they are is also debatable, but...). I thought my luck had turned about face. Thought whatever cosmic scales had weighed my pain and effort and seen fit to balance them in my favor. I'd answered Maisie's vicious one-two with my own scrappy can-do-ness. I felt better, re-energized, renewed. Until I ran it, got the ink/fountain going, make-ready sheets doing fine, switched to the good, expensive stock and all of the sudden ran into the exact same problem.

To say I crumpled beneath self-doubt would be generous - that implies I had a backbone for more than a few seconds. No. I was flattened by it like Wiley E. Coyote under a goddamn anvil within the span of  minutes of problems reappearing. I screamed, per usual, and found myself crying in defeat as I pulled rollers back out only half an hour into starting. Winter was back, and it was never leaving. Failure was the fluffy, inextricable lei around my neck and Maisie had more fucking flowers where that came from.

I called Sally in heaving tears and left a message I was at the end of my rope - and emotionally and mentally I was (The floor of that crisis of faith would later that day fall out beneath me again and I'd still manage my way up). God bless him, he passed the distress call onto pressman Clint, who proceeded to troubleshoot with me and eventually texted me off that ledge of just calling it a fuck-all-quit.

Point being, with coaching and another press-doctor garage-call and new supplies, I think I have it. Running back at normal, managable, and the regular amount of difficulty. I'll take it.

And the second point being as soon as I saw the logical, mechanical reasons I was running into problems - a dozen or so small factors that start small and snowball and just turn into pure, baffling pain - and a way to go at them, to adjust, fix, and eliminate them until the smallest amount of variables remained, the haze was gone. Some mushy, ill-defined cloud of worry that I'd ascribed to the bad alignment of stars or luck or fate, immediately gone from sight. I know it's not her out to get me. Maisie is metal; she doesn't care. She can't care in the least. Explains why she was so silent through my screaming, "I need you to do this! Why do you hate me?" Or, in a real pity-party moment, "Peaked at 23! I can't have peaked at 23!"

It wasn't me; it wasn't divine punishment, or some shit like that. It was me, ignoring or simply missing the signs of problems, all of which were not living, planning devils but just a rubber blanket too old to run, a crank turned too far, an un-level surface. And I can really handle that. An issue of un-level paper versus the universe deeming me too worthless or too vain to deserve success? Earthly mistakes versus an invisible hand of misfortune? Come on. Easy choice.

Got more light installed. Two space heaters at the ready. Bought and put in a new rubber blanket. Greased/WD'd a bunch of parts. Went looking for a replacement part for the feed table; got a few pieces of plywood to make-do. Adjusted my vacuum on the suckers a little. Nearly got my goddamn finger in that gear again, but I was paying attention.

I feel good. Afraid, of course, but a hell of a lot more ready this time.

Maisie looking, as Floss would say, "Famous."

The cylinder without the rubber blanket. Not so famous-looking.

The inky-blue part is the rubber blanket. Comes out, is pretty thin, one-sided rubber coating. The two sets of bars are what clamp around it to attach to the cylinder, and a crap ton of little rusty screws.

When I brought the old blanket into the printing supply place in Bloomington, I said, "Yeah, this one's a little past her prime," and Larry laughed, "A lot more than a little."

Flipside of the new blanket.

A slightly different rubber blanket. But a "workhorse" one, for a little workhorse press.

It took all the strength in my little hands with all the leverage I could muster to put that damn thing back in, but it's back in. And that is really blue. Like Duluth Pack blue. Like TARDIS blue.

As a roomful of old pressmen and still none of them know what the hell those feed table "thingy-ma-jigs" are called, of which I currently only have one. Replaced it with some plywood and it acts more stable now.

Picked some of this mess of a studio up / put the thus printed pages not on top of each other in plastic tubs. Less than halfway done.

Holes punched out of poly-plates. Reminds me of tears. Maybe not surprisingly... but that's definitely not even close to how many I've paid to this project.


SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 6

Bad, bad, bad day. And not just for me.

Got not a single good sheet out of that machine today. Screamed and sobbed for a couple hours in the attempt, but zilch. And as I was stomping about and crying, the damn screwed up sheets kept sticking to the bottom of my shoes. As if I didn't remember why I was wailing.

Winter needs to get the fuck out of here. I'm running on fumes and running out of time here.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 5

A few days have passed since the last time; got laid up with intense yips. The problem I'd been experiencing occasionally ramped up to frequently, until, disgusted with being ignored, became constant. Squeaky wheel gets the grease - and in this case, grease was indeed part of the problem - but you know. The bitchy printing press gets the fixing-up.

My attempt on Monday wrung me out and hung me out to dry, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Stress from work compounded that. I couldn't sit up for more than an hour or two before my back was tingling numb and too painful to stand. My eyes and hands were shaking too much to draw. I felt like throwing up into the press every time I came near it. Then came a mid-April snowstorm.

Thank god for real pressmen, though - having called Mr. Sally many times in real distress as Maisie ate my hand and my sanity, he and press-wrangler extraordinaire Clint stopped by the garage last night before the storm hit. It was like having a goddamn angel come to visit. As I thought might happen, it took little more than just pointing Clint towards the machine and he'd not only pinpointed and fixed the problem of the paper delivery that'd had me flat on the ground, sobbing, for days, but proceeded to diagnose six other problems I'd been having and the simple ways to fix them. If it has to indeed be December in April, then that was fucking Christmas Day.


As soon as the problem had been fixed, I felt that crippling stress disappear. My back wasn't screaming with pain, my eyes could suddenly focus again.

Picked up some grease, WD-40, caffeine and an oiling can (and if you can ever find a use or a reason to buy an oiling can as an adult person, please do, it's strangely exhilarating). Cleaned, greased, and adjusted every gear, spring, bolt and moving part that I could find and reach. The screeching noise of the dry gears grinding on each other like inexperienced teenagers is gone, and my terror, too.

Gonna re-draw the plan and come at it again, informed and calm(er).

Yes, just like that Prince song, sometimes it does snow in April.

Cleaning day supplies.

California Wash (press wash), for the oil can. Like I'm Dorothy and Maisie is the Tin Man.

No lube, no love.

The feed gears I caught my left ring finger in, but mid-run.

Just waiting for a goddamn hint of spring.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 3

(In which I think I'm pretty clever, and Maisie proves her right hook can knock that cleverness clean outta me)

Woke up tired, aching. Hands scuffed, black, knuckles chewed up by rivets and metal. My mistake of printing too few sheets the last two days weighed - and still weighs - heavy on me. Fucks up my schedule. Went into today with the plan of printing 6 plates (pages 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25) and at least making up for the fact I can't print Friday.

Shuffled early to Amaya and Ian's, down in Seward. Caffeinated, fed myself and the cats. Told one of them in passing as I went for the back door, "I'm going out into the wilderness, and I may not come back." He didn't care.

Again short of breath before I put the plate on and hit the switch to go, but the weight of the task before me shoved me hard over the edge. First plate always seems to take the longest to black up (generally the case; later plates come out consistently darker, when the rollers are saturated) but today took longer than the last. General theme of the day. First plate okay, middling-gray, but no great disaster. I spend less time these runs printing on copy paper, which is my cheap test paper. As soon as that print comes through on the copy, I switch as fast as possible. Second plate even better. Pretty darn good, actually. Switched to the third plate with relatively few issues and got some goddamn beautiful ink down and switched to the good paper.

I no more than thought to myself, "Hey, I'm pretty good at this-" and all hell broke loose on that press and didn't really stop for the next two hours. She'd been throwing sheets into the rollers and back out the feed side more than usual today, and, hearing my quiet thought of hubris, punished me for it. She threw a sheet up into the ink rollers, which is normally an instant KO. Paper pulp proliferates through the rollers, destroys all hope within three hot seconds. Leaves me sadder and more defeated than anything I think I've ever encountered.

Fought through that. Stopped the machine immediately and furiously cleaned that pulp off the rollers. Scrubbed and peeled off inked up paper off eight rollers for 10 full minutes. Got the thing rolling again and finished that plate. Good, but troublesome. Throwing sheets every other minute, it felt like. Got through plate three and four and five through all that trouble (even refilled anti-offset powder mid- run!) and nervously started six. Low on ink and scrap paper but wanted desperately to hit quota.

No more had gotten sixth plate running and good paper flying through when, my pride be damned, I thought to think to myself, "I got through so much today. I am pretty good at this-"

She threw a traffic jam of sheets up into herself, I missed one, and looked up one second later and the ink rollers were frothy white with paper pulp. Instant KO. Hung my head, told her she'd won, and quit for the day.

Not phenomenal but could have been worse. Still sore I was so bad at math, but happy I didn't shy from that mean, mean machine. Printed well over 4500 sheets altogether.

Anti-offset spray powder.

Actually just food-grade starch. Looked like the surface of the moon.

After printing.

After cleaning after printing.

I reset the counter sometime in the middle of the first or second plate, but that's still a lot.

And at the end of the night I couldn't fit all of the printed pages in the same container together. Weighed a goddamn ton to pick up by myself.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 2

(or, in which Maisie is a sweetheart to me and I'm a math-whiz with really dry hands.)
Phenomenal printing. As perfectly in sync me and that machine have ever been. Did five plates in under three hours. One problem. Ran the last fucking EIGHT plates with 400 sheets instead of 884. HOW DO I EVEN DO THAT. THAT'S TWICE AS MUCH. I WAS IN ADVANCE MATH IN 7TH GRADE. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Beautiful day. Inked comics, even, for a few hours in the morning to boo. Printing was fast, good, mostly easy, and even though I only did 400, almost all of that 400 is usable. I'm behind, rather than on schedule, but I didn't screw myself completely with that one. Oh, and Amaya and I laid out my three states while printing. Shrieking, Singing, and Silence. Shrieking being what it sounds like - screaming, kicking, making that through-the-teeth shriek of pure frustration and three-year-old rage, which is when things are BAD, singing along with the radio (or copious amounts of Ha Ha Tonka, Pickwick, and Lissie) when things are GOOD, and furiously-busy silence of figuring out what the fuck is happening in-between those two polar states.

Singing and quiet, now. Exhausted. Turned 40 this morning, might be forty-seven when I wake up tomorrow. Another 11-hour day.

The weather is a dirty, rotten liar. Winter is a venereal disease, and flare-up season is not over.

Yesterday's scraps.

Notes from Zak. Still can't remember fountain solution without it.

Pre-math flub. Feeling awesome.

The best pages I've ever printed, just half as many as I need.

Remi + halftone

You can't see it, but the anti-offset spray powder glitters. Glittering comics.

Playing catch-up tomorrow. I think I can I think I can I think I can. (Well, I just have to.)

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 1!

April 2nd, 2013

First day of printing for the Xeric. Ran a test the day before, but the temperature barely rose above a measly 33 degrees and I - being a real genius at this point in time - had forgotten to bring the ink inside on Sunday. Frozen ink. Wouldn't ink the rollers, couldn't get the the blacks to ink up past maybe 40 percent black. Rollers stuck together. Practice run was shit. Today, ran another practice plate of nothing important. I waited until 3pm, 40 degrees. Thank you, Weather Channel app. Left ink to warm on space heater for a few hours over lunch at United Noodles with Amaya. Got spicy shuyo ramen and an aloe drink for floss. She helped me count out paper/correct my horrible maths.

Practice run was decent, got better as we went. Ink was hot, actually, and the fountain solution, too, from resting on space heater. Far easier while not frozen. Put the plate and the paper on for the first Xeric plate. Almost panicked again, but went for it. Inked up quick and good, switched from scrap to regular paper almost immediately. Did 'Thank You's page first. Banded in the middle for a spell, but wiped blanket and plate clean with fountain and it cleared up. A good run. Switching between plates was not fun. Machine was dialed in to high ink, low fountain and flooded each new plate hard. Screamed and kicked a little between first and second plate, but second and third plates were damn near perfect. Ran  883 sheets per plate, got definitely 700+ damn good ones. All single-sides sheets. Done; don't need to go through the press again.

Had Maisie dialed in GOOD and I was aligning the fourth plate to the paper when the chain operating the feed came loose, fucked up, and got jammed. Couldn't lower the feed; it was resting crooked. One side had fallen off the gear teeth, like a bike chain coming loose. Had to quit. Started cleaning up regretfully. Called Sally, left a message. He called back and explained how to fix it while I cradled the phone between my neck and cheek and furiously cleaned the press. Everything VERY inky from being dialed in. Got off the phone and finished cleaning. Came back and adjusted the feed chain. Took ten minutes, but figured it out.

Anti-offset powder EVERYWHERE. Wore white gloves while sorting printed stuffs. Ran to Target (2nd time in a day, again). Got large plastic tub, latex gloves, mustard. Covered in ink, scruffy printing clothes, wrong-buttoned shirt. Ate pizza and watched new Doctor Who with Ian. Separated printed pages and counted sheets for tomorrow with Amaya. Wrote this.

Fucking exhausted. Met my quota for the day, though. Didn't manage to get ahead because of feed chain, but fixed it myself with a little advice. On schedule. Happy. Excited.

Beware the Ides of November

I promise I'm not dead. I'm just working.

It's halfway through November, and the first issue of "The Godhead" is halfway inked. And I'm calling that as actually halfway, and not that point where I am halfway ready to burn it and throw that ash down a sewer drain. Which is want to happen when things don't go your way while inking. That stuff's goddamn permanent. If I don't manage to pick up the pace, I'll probably just have the Xeric book and Godhead issue 1 out by TCAF (knock, knock) and CAKE in May and June, respectively.

Because Minnesota gets cold in the winter, my printing season should officially be "over," but if the gods decide we're going to have November weather all season long like last year, printing will start on the Xeric book, Sea Change, in a month or two, as well as for Godhead #1, and the "Tiny Room" mini. I like to call the time between the first snowfall and the first 50 degree day in spring, "Cartooning Season," or "Drawing Season," and all the days warm enough to stand outside "Printing Season."

Hopefully, it'll be warm, and I'll print a lot, and draw a lot. Thank god for global warming, huh?


     --> The Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) book festival is this weekend, the 17! I won't be tabling, but I'll be visiting and probably dicking around with Amaya at the Paper Tapir table, whose wares you should come pick up! Come get earrings that are tiny, viable books. Yeah. THOSE.

     --> Tom K. of the conquering Uncivilized Books is hosting a Defenders movie screening at the Trylon Microcinema in good old Southie (that's south Minneapolis, my heart, my home). Half of the proceeds from the screening go to the Comic Book Legal Defense fund, and the other half goes to you paying to see whatever awful-wonderful movie Mr. K has chosen, in the most wonderful small film theatre in the cities. So, win-win-win. BE THERE.

     --> and SAVE THE 16TH-18th of AUGUST 2013 for something very cool. You can't ask why yet, but you'll wanna do it, TRUST ME.

'Sea Change: A Choose-Your-Own-Way Story' - and now a Xeric winner, what?

I'm proud (and still surprised, honestly) to say that thanks to the Xeric Foundation, I've received a very generous grant from them to self-publish Sea Change. It'll be the first major printing project I tackle on my printing press, under the moniker of my micro-press, and I am just so goddamn excited for it. 

The Xeric Foundation started giving out grants in 1992 (as I like to call it, "Ninja Turtle Money") and this round in 2012, after twenty years, was the last of the grants in its current incarnation. Since print-on-demand and online-publishing has become widely viable, and changed the how print and book industries operate in a big way, they've decided to redirect how they distribute their charity and focus on other things. Which is great. Good for them. I'm incredibly happy to have been chosen to be a part of - which puts me in the company of some extremely wonderful cartoonists - and to have their support put behind this book. It was a year ago now that I started drawing this, in the rudderless feeling that came immediately after graduation. Which sucked. This mostly certainly does not.

I really can't thank them enough. It's wonderful.

I did wait a while before telling most people, but the press release for the May 2012 winners should be coming soon, so it's going to happen, whether or not I feel comfortable with it, or not.

Haha, wait, it is, out. Today. Have at, people. There are a lot of books coming our way.

(true story.)

My plan is to settle myself into Minneapolis this month, put all my printing dominos in a row, and move Maisie from home in Wisconsin back into the moony city in August.

And not drop her. (knock on wood)