Tag Archives: Hattiesburg Mississippi

What is a Silverline?

In the coming days I’ll be announcing a website and such for my comic imprint Silverline. Those of you who’ve been around for a long time will remember what Silverline is, but for those who haven’t and for those who are just popping by, let me ‘splain.

In 1987 I was at USM trying to finish up a degree and figure out how to earn a living as a writer. I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to work in comics, but I didn’t want to move to New York. A freak chance meeting with my now long-time friend Steven Butler (long story that involves my now-wife/then-girlfriend running for homecoming court) put the pieces into play. I’d been “working” on comics since my junior high days with my good pal Barry Gregory, but neither of us really had chops to draw—we were always looking for artists with whom we could collaborate. Steven and his suitemate Mitch Byrd fit that bill. Steven was just a driven as I was and had been trying to “break in” to comics, too. The black and white boom had just started with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…so we decided to follow suit and do it ourselves.

Initially, we went with the name Top Comics. Mitch designed a nice imprint logo and off we went! We sent the solicitations around to all the distributors (there was more than just Diamond in those days) and ultimately got orders for about 4,400 copies.

It was there that we got jammed. We didn’t have the money to actually print and ship the comics. We were still in college, after all. None of the banks in Hattiesburg would give us a loan to print the comics, even with purchase orders for the 4,400 copies in our hands.

Sooooo, we had to cancel the orders and try plan B. As fate would have it, we knew someone who knew someone who had just started a small press company and was looking for content. That company was EF Graphics run by John Drury. We signed with EFG; Cat & Mouse was just the first title. It was to be followed by SilverStorm (written by Thomas Fortenberry); followed by an anthology title with stories by Barry…which would lead into a team book: The Hero Task Force.

But we’d become such a close group that we wanted an identity and we couldn’t really be Top Comics. This was before the idea of all the “studios” popped up later, but that’s kind of what we were. After some time, we settled on the name Silverline. Truthfully, I don’t know who in that group first proposed the name—if I were to guess, probably Steven. Maybe one of them remembers, but I don’t. But the idea was that since we loved the SILVER AGE of comics, we wanted to do comics that had a modern sensibility with a silver age spirit. We’d be a “line” of comics from EFG…we’d be the Silver Line. We shortened it to one word…and that, in a nutshell, is how it came to be.

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What a bummer

Well, I had a blog all ready to go, but two events the last couple of days caused me to write this instead. The two events are unrelated, but combined just make for one bummer of a few days.

The first, and lesser, event is that my apartment was burglarized (or burgled—because I like that form of the word). They didn’t get much because I don’t really have much IN my apartment—it’s very barebones while we still wait to sell the house (prayers on that end are MUCH appreciated). Still, they broke the window and took our PlayStation (with a game in the drive) and they handpicked ONE singled DVD—left the others there (about a dozen)! I’m thankful, but I can’t figure out why they didn’t just take them all or why they picked the old 1940s Batman serials over Green Lantern.

Wait…yes, I do understand.

It isn’t so much the missing items as it is the feeling that someone waltzed into my home and took stuff that I worked (or BJ did) hard to earn money so I could pay for it. Quite simply, it makes me angry and I just want to smack them in the face!

The other downer is that I learned of the death of a friend. Terry Wagers owned Hub City Comics in Hattiesburg, MS., in the late 80s and early 90s and was incredibly supportive of me in my early writing career. In fact, it was Terry who sponsored the very first autograph session for me, Mitch Byrd and Steven Butler when Cat & Mouse was released TWagersin 1989 (see attached picture with the three of us and Terry). I don’t know exactly how many copies he ordered, but it was a BUNCH! He wasn’t only a vocal supporter mine, but of all the local comic talent in the Hattiesburg area, and he was a financial supporter, too, ordering plenty of our work to stock his shelves and make it available to anyone who happened by–and I always tried to direct people to his shop to buy my work.

Sometime in the early 90s, me, Terry, Steven and Mitch all trekked over to the Dallas Fantasy Fair. Mitch carried a big touristy camera around his neck taking pictures of all the architecture–he must have taken close to 100 pictures, and this back in the day of film! The four of us crashed in the hotel room and talked non-stop geek-stuff on the 10 hour drive there…and back! We were all packed in to Terry’s little Japanese car (Camry?)…and Terry wasn’t exactly a small guy to begin with. I still have hours of video footage from this trip!

Once I married and moved away, we dropped out of all but irregular contact. Then, he closed the shop and I didn’t hear from him for several years. It wasn’t until recently that I got the friend request from him on Facebook and discovered his battle with cancer. Unfortunately, he lost that battle.

RIP my friend Terry. Hope you’ve got a bunch of cool comics to read. You are missed.

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Residency the first

Even though I’ve returned, I’m not sure that I’m fully recovered from the first “Residency” of my MFA program at Spalding University located in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve been so overwhelmed I haven’t had a chance to yammer on here. But what an incredible time I had and what an incredible program I’ve entered.

Lemme back-track a little: Finding myself in need of a higher degree, I’d been accepted into the PhD program at USM, but the coursework would require that I be on campus for six full semesters; that’s three years. I was close to accepting it and trying to commute to Hattiesburg—about a five and a half hour drive—for the classes during the week. I decided, however, that three years of my kids’ lives are worth far more than a PhD. Being gone Monday-Friday would cause me to miss a lot of volleyball, baseball, cub scouts, singing…you name it—for three years! So, I started looking around for these “low residency” programs I’d heard of. My good friend and writer pal, Sid Williams was in one and he blogged about it now and again. After a search of low residency programs, I finally decided on Spalding…and I’m glad I did.

Low residency means that the majority of my coursework will be done at home, with correspondence with my mentor/instructor all online. At the beginning of each semester, however, an intensive 10 day on-campus residency kicks things off. I’ve just returned from the first one. And let me tell you, it was incredibly intensive: Ten to twelve hour days of lectures, workshops, discussions and readings. Even the “fun” things were related to the program. (We went to see an Opera of Hansel and Gretel one night, but then had to complete a writing assignment based on it.)

The workshops were the highlight for me. In it, nine students (see the picture below; our mentors—Luke Wallin and Joyce McDonald—are front row left. The rest are the students in my workshop group, the Writing for Children and Young Adults group) discuss a body of written work by one of the other students. The tenth student is to sit silently—taking notes—while the discussion occurs. Now, most of the workshops I’ve ever been in go almost immediately for the negative aspects of the work. That’s not The Spalding Way, however. The hour’s time devoted to the work is split almost exactly equal with positive comments and suggestions (there are no “negative” comments). Though it may sound a little goofy here on this site, the result of the workshop is a nurturing and encouraging hour for the writer. While most of the writers left with a list of “things to work on and revise,” most were also creatively jazzed and anxious to get to the work. I know I left with a big list of things that needed to be addressed and I couldn’t wait to get to it…unfortunately, because of the “intense” nature of the residency, those things did have to wait until I returned home.

I’m already out of words…more next time!

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My life’s other career

Music has always been a pretty big part of my life. As a youngster, I wanted to be a rock star along the lines of KISS, Queen, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin…well, you get the idea. I’d had a little piano—just enough to know the notes but not enough to really play them—and that was it. My Jr. High buddies (Wynndel Stanton, Mike Harris, Kendall Jones) and I wanted to put together a band and so we decided which instruments we’d play and set out to learn them. I was to be the drummer.

So, as a seventh grader, I went to the school band director and told him that I wanted to learn to play drums. No, I didn’t have any drumming experience—that’s why I wanted to learn. But, he said no. I got mad and went home and spent the next year self-teaching myself. To this day I still can’t read drum music, but I can play it if I hear it—I play all by ear.

As happens in school, folks move, etc…our band would also see our other good friends serve stints (Grey Overstreet, Forrest Welker and Scott Cook—Scott had a really cool synthesizer!) with us and we actually learned out to play. We played for the school when I was in 9th grade, and then won the school talent contest when I was in 11th—we won by doing “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. I also provided lead vocals for that one! Ha

After high school, I bought a new drum set, the band split up and then I recorded with a small Christian artist out of Terry, Mississippi. I had the chance to play with a really great bass player—Tim Heape. It was fun. Regrettably, I can only now locate one of the songs we recorded…and that’s on cassette.

I didn’t play much after that until a guy I worked with at Camelot Music (Jeff Albritton) got the idea to put something together. We tried, but could never really get anything going—seems college was getting in the way of most folks we knew. We did, however, manage to get the opportunity to jam with Stevie Blaze, a guitarist who went on to record several albums with the band Lillian Axe.

The drums went into storage when I moved to Hattiesburg to attend USM…and there they stayed until around 2000. Oh sure, I pulled them out now and again to play them some, but I didn’t really play them much until I was recruited by a local Civil War Reenactment group to be a drummer. Now that was interesting! I’d always played sitting down before… trying to play while marching was like trying to hit a moving target.

I eventually caught on and became the Battalion drummer. It was fun.

When we joined FBC Loretto, TN., my now-good-friend and music minister there wanted to put together a praise band. I volunteered quickly and in no time flat was playing the drums as part of the regular service both morning and night. I know that some in the congregation had mixed feelings about the drums, but it was an incredible worship experience for me.

The drums, alas, are now back on a shelf, waiting for the next opportunity.

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Why so much moving?

It seems sometimes that I talk so much about moving. When I stop to think about it, though, I guess it’s because we’ve moved so much the last few years. I read (or heard) somewhere once that the average American family now moves about every seven years. I think my family ends up on the short end of that average.

BJ and I married in 1990 and we moved to Petal, MS., to make our home. I really liked it there–we were way out in the country, but it only took us 15 to 20 minutes to get into Hattiesburg. I could do my writing (and was fortunate enough to be selling several pieces) in a nice quiet setting. In just over a year, however, BJ decided to go on to grad school and so we moved up to Starkville, MS., in 1991.

In 1992, because of many of the contacts I’d made writing, I was offered the job in California with Malibu and so moved out there a few months ahead of BJ -she was finishing up her Master’s degree.

We were in California until 1996. Even though that looks like 4 years, we actually lived in three different places there; three and a half if you count the few months we stayed with a good friend (thanks, Tom!) right after the Northridge earthquake (January, 1994).

We moved back to Starkville, MS., in August of ’96 when BJ decided again to enroll in grad school (Ph.D). We lived in two different locations there. We were in Starkville for that second tour of duty until 1998, when BJ took a job at the University of North Alabama in Florence, AL. I decided to try the grad school thing out and got my degree at UNA.

We had another move in 2005, but I don’t classify it as a full-blown move. It was a city-to-country kind of move. We were able to keep the same doctors and I was at the same job, but the kids changed schools and we had to find a church that was a little closer than the old one which was now 50+ minutes away–depending on traffic.

In 2006 we moved to Piggott, AR., when I was offered the editor position at the weekly newspaper. Actually, we lived in two locations there. Then, just last month, 2008, we moved to Oxford, MS.

As a kid, I can remember moving very little. I remember being in Memphis as a kindergartener, Horn Lake in second grade, and then Jackson, MS. from there on. Mom and Dad moved to Jackson in 1976…and didn’t move away until 1997, when Dad retired.

Since I got married in 1990 (almost 18 years for those of you keeping score), our stays look something like: (where the .x represents the number of months) 1.3, 1.4, 3.9, 2, 6.4, 1.9, 1.3, .1+

No wonder I talk about moving all the time.

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