Thursday, April 28, 2016

All Good Things.



Deep Freeze.



I suppose the easiest way to say this, and cutting immediately to the chase, is that 'Youth' is no more.

Not necessarily dead, but definitely gone.  I never would rule going back to the well, but as of now, we're done.

Evan and I went out to eat in December and had a very frank discussion:  Youth #3, while a really fun issue, was not going the way we wanted it to.  It was taking a while to get past page 3 in terms of art, and the daunting task of finding someone to ink, color and letter the book seemed a little too much for us.

Keep in mind, Evan and I had just finished delivering the Act 1 Graphic Novel, which had taken up the last 18 months of our lives, creatively.  Not to mention, easily one of the most tumultuous 18 months of our lives, with family, friend and general issues abound.  It's too much to go into, but needless to say, we've been through a lot since we started this book.

We're sad we can't finish it for you guys.  We had some cool stuff in store for you, but sometimes you just have to give up the ghost, and kill your darlings.

We'll miss Jim, Stacy and Louis.  Maybe we'll find a way to see them again down the road.  But for now, we leave Aurora High and the small town the way we left it: shrouded in mystery.


As for us, Evan and I are still friends.  We'd still like to create stuff together.  It just isn't the right time.

At some point, our other hideous love child, 'Stalkings'...I've let the webpage lapse, because quite frankly, we don't have anything to update.  Evan and I mutually agreed that we'd finish the story and actually print it.  So, at some point in the future, we'll have a limited print run of our once-weekly web comic.

And what of this place?  Well, I think i'll convert it to a personal blog, charting my general movements through the world, mainly focused on comics and where that takes me.

I have a few books in the works, and you'll be hearing from me soon in terms of things I wrote that you can see.  In the meantime, if you'd like any of the remaining issues of Youth #1 or #2, we have them available and I will gladly mail them to you until we run out.

Thanks for sticking with us for the time.  Look forward to great stuff from both Evan and I.

Until next time, friends...We'll always have Aurora.

-Alex (&Evan)

Monday, September 28, 2015

So, you wanna publish a comic book, eh?

            It’s sort of a surreal moment, seeing your name on a title page.  I’ve never quite gotten over it.  But then one day, Casey sent it over for approval.  And there it was.  And this all became very real.
What I'm getting at is that ACT I Book is DONE…and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this team.  Casey, Evan, Joel and Manny gave this book so much love and life that it’s unfathomable to me that this book is something I’m a part of, let alone finished.  We put out a page last week, and your guy’s support and love was overwhelming.  It’s amazing to see that with any kind of art, but if that’s how you feel about a page…I can’t wait to show you the entire book.  And that brings us to the point of today’s “Hello, Dear Hunter Fans…” post…the really tough part…getting it out to you.

That was pretty leading, wasn’t it?  Let me explain:

            It seems pretty simple.  We print the book, you get it.  But the thing that’s important to remember about what we’re trying to do with the Act books, is give you way more than you expected.  When Casey handed me the reigns for this, we both agreed what we did not want to do was make a ‘when you hear this…turn the page’ kind of book.  These books need to live and breathe on their own. 
Comics are for everyone.  Even ones about pimps, priests, hookers, forests and beaches.  You guys are the key demo for this book, you’re our litmus test, because if you guys are into it, then it’s a good Dear Hunter book.  But the book needs to live elsewhere besides at the merch table. 
It shouldn’t just be supplementary material for the first record.  Our hope is you guys read it and say, ‘I love this part…but this is new!  That’s so cool!’ because there’s stuff we added that’s pretty between the lines, and then there's some stuff we added to flesh out the story.  There’s a new character you guys will see, entire sequences not covered in the record…and that’s what we wanted to give you guys, was something fresh that accompanies the source, celebrates it…and then enriches it.
But you guys know the story.  It’s the rest of the masses we want to see this and take a look at what we’re doing.  Because if we’re not growing our fan base, then what are we doing?  It’s just like sharing a Dear Hunter record with a friend:  You want them to share in this experience with you.  Because what Casey has done is really kind of magical.  So, in terms of publishing, we’re at a crossroads:  Do we go it alone and put it out ourselves?  Or do we find a publisher to get it to everyone else?
It’s not a matter of what’s right to do, it’s a matter of what’s right for us.  It’s not just a matter of doing the profitable thing, because anyone who gets into comics can tell you…we don’t do it for the money.  We want everyone to see this work we’ve done, and we want to see how everyone reacts to it, you guys and newcomers to the story.
The bottom line is you guys have been super patient…and we’re going to get this book to you soon.  We just need to figure out what’s right for us in terms of getting it to you.  In the meantime though, here’s something cool to look at with words:

Page 3...this should be familiar to some of you...

Talk to you guys soon, hopefully at a convention or something sometime.  You never know…

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Wifiest Wife in the Whole Wide World

2008.  Still cooler than me...

Believe it or not, there are fights.  Knock-down-drag-outs that can really cause a stir.  Because a good relationship (from my decade or so of experience with the fairer sex) requires some rough times.  If you aren’t prepared for that, steer clear of the marriages and the long-term commitments, and all that.
            However, the importance of such relationships, the kind that stand the test of said rough time, should be noted as easily the most incredible thing you’ll ever experience.
            My wife has repeatedly asked me to write something about her.  Not for her…but about her.  I consider everything I write/think/do as being about her, and will continually credit her as an important paradigm shift in my creative life.  So, for you…on your birthday…here’s something about you.
            I don’t think telling anyone how I met my wife really sums up how I feel about her.  Really, nothing does.  The concept lacks a synapse firing properly from my brain to my language center.  I am hard-pressed often to describe how I feel about her because processing all of that into a single sentiment seems so trite to me.  So I pass off, with a shrug of my shoulder, ”She is…very cool.”

            It’s all I can really muster, unfortunately.

            While I’m a reasonably gifted writer, a decent enough conversationalist, and not-too-shabby dancer (all subjective), all of these items become unreasonably convoluted when the subject of my wife comes up.
            Why?  She’s a lovely woman.  She is curved in all the right ways.  Her eyes angle perfectly off her face.  Her actual pupils change color, something I noted when we started dating, and have never quite understood the phenomenon.  Whatever color her eyes are depends on the refraction of light exposed.  It is…quite breath-taking.
I had strep throat.  She was just pretty.

            And her personality:  She’s passionate, fiercely loyal, wonderfully sympathetic…these are all qualities that I’ve admired, held as personal goals, stood in terror of (Passion can be a temper on occasion, it's cool!), even lusted after only to be let down most times.
            But not with her.  Not by a long shot.

            My father and I discussed this when I was 21.  I was (and for those of you who know me best, you will know what I refer to) not proud of what prefaced this conversation, but it had to be said from my end.  I was facing a very lonely existence, and I was coming to accept that...but I wasn't sure if I was ready to dive in, so I went to someone who knew better than most the pros and cons of diving into anything:  My father.  I asked him why he married my mother, on the most basic level, and how he knew he’d be married to her still.  It made sense to me because I grew up in it, but I suppose it might seem a bizarre thing to see my mother, this vivacious, charismatic, singing-for-no-real-reason force of nature to be married to my cerebral, down to earth, quietly strong father.  He looked at me while we sat outside, drinking scotch.  He smiled, kind of slyly, like it was this secret he was keeping from me for 20 years.

            ‘Alex…’, he said, giving an ‘ah’ after a sip from his tumbler, ‘…it’s very simple.  She’s just, deep down, a very good person.  And that’s all you’ll ever need.’

            It was a moment I carried for some time during Andrea and I’s first months together.  As RA’s at San Diego State, we had no shortage of annoyances.  But even when Andrea and I both bitched about how little we cared for our jobs…at the end of the day, she’d still be back at her apartment, helping prepare the next big program or helping some young teen govern their sense of self-worth.

            I had kind of known since I met her...but it only took me about 3 days to know this was the woman I was going to spend my life with.  I’m very much like my father in that respect.
            Andrea’s heart is filled with wonder and light.  It’s something I haven’t fully understood or been able to wrap my head around yet.  I race behind her constantly, trying to catch up.  For all the brilliant things she’s written about food, her mother, me…I’ve barely been able to muster a sentence about the meaning of her to me.  I’ve always thought my strength as a writer lied in being miserable.
Our first moving day.  Remember???
            When I was 21 years old, I met a girl who showed me there are better things to write about.

I could say all the cliché things there are about love and the feelings you have for someone so important to your way of life, you’d die every day if it meant she’d live forever.
But in truth, for the rest of my life, in moments where we fight over things large and small, and try to find our way back to neutral…I will always be able to remember how good she is.  Good for me.  Good for the world.  Good on toast.  Good on a burger.  Good for my writing.  Good for my reasons.

So Andrea…love of mine…from me to you…I finally was able to write something about you!  I think?  It’s not great…but it’s close.  We just had a bad fight and it’s odd how you and I write passionate things to each other when we’re either mad or have just finished being mad.  Perhaps that’s where our strength as a couple lies?

In so many ways, for the rest of my life, I will be chasing you around, praying you don’t figure out what a chump I am.

My Favourite Book...
Great Night.  Just a couple o' kids trying to make it honest.


Monday, June 23, 2014

How to Write a Dear Hunter Graphic Novel

The thing about adapting one medium to another's very hard.

Adapting a comic into a film seems like an easy task, but it's not.  There are things that work on the page that don't work in a film.  Whether that be thematic or an actual visual...there's just stuff that works and stuff that doesn't.  For instance...if 'Watchmen' had used the actual ending, most of you non-comic types would have said, 'What the fuck was that?  That was the stupidest plot twist ever!" (Not that one, the first twist) and walked out, maybe some of you even demanding your money back.
Sometimes it works...
...and sometimes it doesn't.
 The common misconception is that comics act as storyboards...but in my opinion, that's almost never the case.  It takes a great director, someone with a real vision, to decide what's going to play and what isn't...and I've brought some visual aids.

Why did one work and not the other?  Well, mostly content.  These are both pretty far out of context.  Haha.

'Scott Pilgrim' is a great
example of a writer/director knowing he has no business improving on the source, and simply making it work for a different medium.  'Daredevil' is an example of some great ideas executed very poorly, in my opinion.  Knowing your content and what you're providing for the story is probably the most important thing I've found so far in adaptation.  But the examples I gave are comics-to-film.

Things change when you're adapting a 6-act conceptual record story into graphic novels.  Which is why this entry is about how I'm writing these books and why I'm making the choices I'm making.

The first thing that needed to happen was to have an overall view of the story, which I described in the last post.  With a 6-act scope to work with, Act 1 changes a great deal.  The focus becomes clearer when you know who you're writing for.

Act I is about the boy.  The Mother and the Pimp and the Priest are obviously relevant...but Act 1 is about the boy.  It needs to be about the boy, because if I put together this great story about characters we don't focus on in the other books, I'm failing as a storyteller and leading readers to a place I don't want to take them, and they'll find it's a place they wouldn't want to go.

Learning to adapt these records into books has been a process.  Like anything else, it takes time to figure out what's going to be part of that process.  Sitting down and working isn't difficult for me, but it can border on tedious sometimes.  I get easily sidetracked by things and lose focus a lot.  Phone, internet, neighbors, etc...these are things I'm good at tuning out.  It's the creatively stimulating things that can get me caught up.  Very often what I do when I'm working though is use those distractions to my advantage.

TV is one of them.  I'm a writer.  I went to film school, so my natural inclination is visual stimulation.  I found the best way to use this was to put something on I know I can ignore because I've either seen it 1,939,506 times or it's so bizarre or monotone I'll only be interested in turning my head for a moment.

My secret for Act I: Terrence Malick's 'To The Wonder'...

A little haunting, right?  Lubezki knows how to set the mood.

Closer to the visual vibe of Act I in terms of land...but it'll probably be greener.

This film is pretty meta.  Or not.  I'm not entirely sure.  I still don't know the plot.  I just know Batfleck is in it...Rachel McAdams is in it...and it looks beautiful.

But I do know that I can put it on in the background and crank out 10 pages easy.  The style of storytelling in Malick's later work helps me too.  A little courage is always needed when you're telling a story that is a lot of internal monologue (If you've seen 'Adaptation.', you'll understand my deep-seeded fear of voice-over.)  I'm less afraid seeing how he makes it work (or how it doesn't work, depending on your feelings on the matter) ...and when I was working out Act I in my head, I realized that'd be the only way we'd see any kind of dialogue in the latter half of the book.  And while there isn't much dialogue...the dialogue in there means something...each word.  It's what you get from a dose of Malick work.

The other major distraction for me is music.  As I've said before in one of the blogs...I do not listen to music when I work, and No...the irony doesn't escape me.

The Dear Hunter live.
I realized fairly early on though in this process that my 'no music' thing was going to have to change because I was having ideas while 'researching' (aka listening to the available Acts on repeat) that I needed to 'feel' in order to write.  What's worse is knowing how things are performed live, and knowing that energy.  I wanted that on the page.

So what I decided to do, to amend this...was to listen to the records before I started working each time.  Each time, I'd prepare my work station while I plowed through Act I.  But I realized pretty quickly that Act I wasn't enough...and then Act II became a huge part of me working on Act I's structure.  It's amazing to me the world Casey built, how co-dependent each act is on the next, building to something greater every time, but at the same time, creating parts of a story that could absolutely stand on their own.  I found visual motifs and little pieces of dialogue I wanted to use.  I captured this energy in myself, let it fester while I listened closely to every word and inflection, trying to find more little pieces to keep in my head...

...and then I'd turn it off and get to work.  I can tell you right now, there is very little lyric-to-dialogue adaptation in Act I.  If there is, there's almost no literal translation, either.

Doing an adaptation like this requires a lot of research into the lyrics and music, and how that encompasses a theme.  Acts II and III have a pretty decent plot structure while Act I requires a looser and very ethereal take, much like a Terrence Malick film.  Thematically, all the stories require a different approach because they're all stories relating to different experiences of the human condition.  Love, Lust, Hate, Survival, Happiness, Revenge,'s all in there.

This isn't just a boy-meets-girl kind of story.

This Friday, I deliver my Illustrator's draft of 'Act I: The Lake South, The River North' and then immediately start prepping Act II.  Evan has some pages worked up already from what I've been sending him, and I hope in the next few days we can show you guys a glimmer of what we've been working on...maybe a character design or two?

Act I...about to turn into pictures.  Wow.  Hope you guys are as excited as we are.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Along Came a Hunter...

So...Evan and I have been working on a secret project for the last few months, and a couple days ago...well, we got to tell everyone what it was.

The tree is a recurring motif in the records.
This is the Act III cover.
Evan and I are working with Casey Crescenzo, the mastermind behind 'The Dear Hunter', to adapt his 'Act' records into graphic novels.  Yes, that's novels, covering all 6 presumed acts of the Dear Hunter saga.  Casey has asked Evan and I to do what we do best for him, so I'll scripting while Evan illustrates.  And from what we've got started, I already can't wait for you guys to see this.  We're both stretching ourselves as creative people on this one, and yes...totally challenging.  but so goddamn rewarding, I can't even begin to really describe it.

But we'll keep you updated as that goes further.  Promise.  It's gonna be real cool.  In the mean time...

Would you like to hear a story?  Sure you do...

It starts back in October 2013.  I was driving home from work when I got a text from a random number...and because I obey the law, I waited until I was home to read it.

"Is this alex?"
"yes.  whose this?"
"alex dandino?"
"Yes...who is this?"
"this is Casey, Rob's friend..."

Halcyon Days...or Salad Days or whatever the phrase is
...Rob is playing guitar, though.
Probably my oldest friends in the world is Rob Parr.  I met Rob when I was a sophomore in high school.  I had just been kicked out of a punk band I was in (we were not good) and was not looking for another band to get kicked out of, but my friend Liz was dating this guy who played guitar.  I came in and auditioned and I got along with all the guys in the band...but I just couldn't see it happening.  And then I blew my knee out for the 2nd time.

Rob and I had kept up and hung out while they were still trying to put their band together.  I had blown my knee out playing basketball and was basically done with everything.  I was slipping into that injury depression you get and was writing a lot, which I had always done, but now it seemed...more meaningful.  With purpose.  Rob and I started hanging out...and then we started writing together.  And then we started playing in a band together.  And that lasted 3 years. And then I went to college...

Rob, as it goes with most insanely talented people, kept doing what he was incredibly great at, and it paid off.  Rob has been a touring musician for almost a decade now.  And now he plays with a band called The Dear Hunter.  And that's how I met Casey.

Since his days with As Tall As Lions, Rob had tried to get Casey and I to meet.  He once told me, "It's bizarre being around Casey because it's like hanging out with you...You gotta meet him sometime."  With that notion, I immediately thought meeting Casey would be a disaster.  My wife and most of my friends can attest to the fact that I'm not always the easiest person to be around, so it seemed terrifying to meet someone like me.  I assumed we'd hate each other and become mortal enemies.

But, per usual, I was wrong.  Casey was a completely pleasant human being, and he and I shared a lot of the same interests and goals, tastes in beer and public places.  And now he was texting me.

He was texting me about turning the Act records into comic books, and because Evan and I are in this game on our own...we were the direct link.  Previously, hanging out with Casey had rendered great food and beer, and occasionally talking movies and comics, and so obviously 'Youth' came up.  He wanted to know how Evan and I handled distribution and all the logistical stuff.  And that's pretty much where it started.

The conversation about Evan and I working on the Act books came up very gradually.  At first, Evan and I were basically consulting on the project, helping Casey get the basic concepts down, as well as how to DIY it, as we had been for some time.  Casey, of course, has a pretty decent following given he's a musician in a long-touring band, so we both agreed sales wouldn't necessarily be a huge problem.  The bigger challenge was in the translation.  And that's when things started shifting towards writing.

Having been a long-standing fan of the guy, I was honored to be the recipient of random texts with questions and quips every now and then.  Casey's music had always been something I held in high esteem, and it's easier for me to say this now (Casey, you'll love this...): Working with one of your personal heroes is really exhilarating.  The world of the 'The Dear Hunter' is something I've loved and been excited about for a long time...

...and now I was being invited, along with one of my best friends/partner to dive head first into this world.

Forever our 'Meet the Creators' photo.
So we decided to meet up at my wife's cafe in Mid-City.  It was a beautiful day for us to have a coffee to two while Casey divulged the secrets of his universe to us.

And two hours later, we had heard all 6 acts of the story.  I had scribbled as quickly as I could, and my notebook looked like the one Kevin Spacey's character kept in Seven.  Evan had sketched concept art for Act III, just random stuff.

I can say this not as a fan, but as a writer and a lover of great stories: It's awesome.  A huge sprawling epic that is one of the most personal, pathos-driven thing I have ever heard.

...and we get to play around in that sandbox.

More importantly...Casey is probably one of the best people to collaborate with.  We were both pretty intimidated going in, given the established world.  When I started the treatment for it, I would text Casey occasional clarifying questions like, "My perception of this song is it's ____" and "The Mother is singing this song right?"  And after a few Casey, being the gracious host, told me, "I'm not as hung up on the details.  I just want you to take this and run with it and make it your own."

And I like to think we have so far.  We've fleshed out the story some more, added characters for some color...and I think between the three of us, we're going to give you guys one hell of a start for these books.

About a month ago, over pizza and booze, the three of us took my to the duel whiteboards I have in my kitchen and drew the map for the world of Act 1, and devised the basic plot structure for the story.  It streamlines there whole process with a roadmap, and on top of that...provides me with a visual while I'm working.

...but we've got a lot of work ahead of us.  It's a completely different story/style from 'Youth' and our web comic 'Stalkings'.  The way I would describe what we're trying to do with the story, starting with Act 1, is challenging ourselves to think/write/draw in ways we're not comfortable with.  I'm used to writing from a more realistic point of view, so the challenge for me is going to be expanding my horizons as a writer and letting my (for lack of a better word) "fantasy" side kind of take over and guide me through what is in fact a really plaintive tale about love, loss, acceptance...really the entire spectrum of human emotion.

Evan's preliminary sketches are different.  Unlike anything he's done yet.  My first impression is noting his attention to the eyes.  Every character he's shown us so far...their eyes tell their story.  not to say he hasn't done this before...but it's different this time.  And his idea for how we'll present the book to you guys is so great.  I can't wait to show you.

I'll keep updating as we go along.  I can tell you now I'm a quarter of the way done with my first draft of the script for 'Act 1'.  It's taken me a while to really nail down the tone and vibe I'm going for, and even then I'll need to keep refining.  I think what Evan and I have found so far is that in the music, actually, we've found visual motifs we can take and run with and call backs and things that we can work throughout the books.  What we hope is the case with loyal readers is you guys are reading and say, "Whoa...nice" and enjoy the fact that you're in on this with us.

So, to wrap this up:  Stick with us.  We've got crazy cool things coming down the pipeline.  Cave & Canary Comics is up and running.  More stuff on that later.


Check out Cave & Canary Goods at  There's t-shirts, comics and our friends in Naive Thieves new record, which you should all be enjoying here at the store:

You can get an excerpt from Casey's upcoming Symphony here.  The dude writes symphonies...I mean...come on...:

And finally...keep up with our web comics 'Stalkings' here:

Sing us to the Lake,

Alex (& Evan...& Casey to an extent, I guess?)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Issue #2 Up for Ordering!

FRIENDS of the 'Youth'-iverse!!!!  Thank you for sticking with us!  We've got Issue #2 up and ready for pre-order!

We are excited to bring you a new issue of 'Youth', ready for your hot hands.  

You may notice an addition to the front cover.  In a few weeks, we'll let you know what 'Cave and Canary Goods' is all about.  Trust me it's a good thing...and when we tell you we've got another HUGE announcement coming that will excite some of you...and the rest of you will pee your pants with excitement.

So...what are you waiting for?  All these comics can be yours!!!! And we've got a combo pack going that comes with both!

Guys, we're excited to get this to you!

Also...keep reading our web comic 'Stalkings' at  We're really proud of it and it's something to read in between issues of 'Youth'.

We're're excited!  We're all excited and love you!!!

-Alex & Evan.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Real Life Superhero I Know...

Hey guys-

It's been a while, I know.  I say that a lot.  Actually, I'm pretty bad at blogging for 'Youth'.  Sorry for that again.  In truth...not a lot has happened since we last posted, other than us trying to get Issue #2 out the door.  I can tell you we've got the colors back from France, and our colorist Iyane Kane did an INSANE job.  It's beautiful, a little different, but still the same ol' 'Youth'.  I'm excited for you guys to see it.  Manny is finishing up the lettering as we speak, and then we'll have it ready to go.

For those of you who missed out on Issue #1, we are completely sold out.  However, with the first run of Issue #2, we'll print another 30 of #1 so those of you who missed it can pick it up.  Also, we'll bundle the two together for a deal if you want both.  When that's about to happen...we'll let you know.

So, in relation to the title I've got going...I wanna talk about something besides just the comic or myself, or even Evan, who I love talking about.  Granted, this will circle back to 'Youth' but there's reasons for that.  I'm going to tell you guys a story about a girl I knew in high school named Christina Mazzotta.

(Disclaimer:  All these photos are from Facebook.  Sorry Tina...I don't have any others haha.)

Now, some of this might seem bizarre, but having read 'Youth' (if you have), you might be able to surmise that I have an excellent long-term memory.  I can remember very specific details about my past that would usually be glossed over.  So at any point this starts to seem weird (or already has), keep that in mind...

Her name was Christina in middle school.  By high school it was 'Tina'.  I didn't know if that was to do with Aguilera, hitting that regrettable 'X-Tina' phase, but regardless, she was just 'Tina' all through high school.  She's still Tina, as far as I know.  That's what her Facebook says anyway.

We were never particularly close friends.  Classmates? of course.  Spanish all through high school, I think.  Close, though?  No.  We were on friendly terms, we could hold a conversation on topics we thought were interesting, but...there was never some intimate moment where she confessed to me her deepest hopes and fears in study hall.  Actually, we fought a lot during study hall, but that's later in the story...

Tina, when I moved to Aurora in 5th grade, was one of the popular girls.  Not a 'Mean Girl' or whatever that is, just...popular.

She was pretty, smart, nice to just about anyone...she had two Z's in her last name...I mean, at 12 years old, what else are my instincts going to tell me?  She was a hip chick.  She wore Abercrombie & Fitch.  I also firmly believe she liked country music before it was cool to be a girl and like country music.  My friend from the basketball team, Doug Snider, had a huge crush on her.  Probably one of our earliest interactions was based around this sort of thing.  They might have dated in middle school...that detail is quite fuzzy.  But 5th grade, we were all still in one classroom all day, so chances of interaction were very limited.

Sorry Ladies...Circa 2005?  Tina is at the top, right.
But 6th, 7th and 8th grade was class switching.  My next decent enough memory of Tina (besides, as it goes for every other adolescent boy, occasionally developing and harboring a crush which quickly dissolved when you realized that it just wasn't in the cards, socially) was during our 'Farewell to Harmon' talent show the 8th graders put together.  That night, I was an Emcee for the show, Joey Fatone in an lip-synced version of "It's Gonna Be Me" (complete with red hair and a drawn-on beard) and doing a cover of "Californication" with my first band.  Tina was in a medley with some of the gals in the photo to the left, doing choreographed dances from various genres of music.

This is an odd thing to remember but...Tina and her friend Hillary did a dance to a Shania Twain song (Country), and I will never forget this.  The idea before each song was that the girls came on stage and said to the crowd, "This is how we do it."  I don't remember why, but when Tina said it, it was like a throwaway line.  No one seemed to notice this, and the show continued, the girls danced...everything went as planned.  I don't know why this moment sticks out in my mind, but it always had.  It's a moment that my brain has chosen to file away.  We'll get back to that...

So we all went to high school, as most 8th graders do...and with high school came college scares, learning algebra and reading 'The Great Gatsby'.  Tina was a great student, and of course, blended well.  She was still popular...and she dated older guys.  She was just...real damn cool.

High school went by rather quickly I thought.  While Tina focused on her studies and being the wonderful human being she is, I focused on getting decent enough grades, having the few extra circulars I had, and being in bands.  Tina was at one of the first shows I played in my very brief career in a punk band, actually.  I wonder if you remember any of this, Tina haha.  But despite her stint with the punk crowd, Tina was a very motivated individual...which is why I found it curious that our senior year, Tina and I shared a study hall.  I assume she was there to do extra studying.

I was there because I couldn't pick another class to take.

At 7:50am every morning for an entire school year, we'd have our usual interactions.  Good mornings were exchanged between all the grumbling high schoolers who took a 1st period study hall so they could honestly sleep in.  I was one of the few people in my class who turned 18 early enough where it mattered that year...because in November of 2004, it was a George Bush election...and Fahrenheit 9/11 had just come out.  This turn of events provided my most meaningful and prolonged interaction with Tina.  I'll paraphrase:

Imagine this girl calling you an the time: humiliating.

Tina: Alex, you're 18.
Me:  Yes.
Tina:  Who are you voting for?
Me:  I don't know yet, really.
Tina:  Well, it's got to be John Kerry.  Bush is a liar.
Me:  Well, he's not the best guy, for sure, but Kerry kind of sucks too.
Tina:  But Bush is such a dick.  Why would you even have to choose?

This conversation went on for about three separate days in October, before Super Tuesday.  I site it as the moment I chose to never take an interest in politics again.  So for that, Tina...I thank you.  You saved me from a lot of panic attacks.

Senior Year and the summer before college went as usual.  I never saw her, and we haven't kept in touch, save for Facebook where you politely tell someone 'Happy Birthday!' occasionally.  She went to college, graduated.  I did the same.  And that's why I'm writing this now.

Congrats again, you crazy kids!
About 4 months ago (maybe?), pictures from my friend Louis Kastelic's wedding surfaced on 'the book'.  Louis, in case you guys don't know, is the real life basis, in character at least (sorry ain't that tall), for 'Louis' in our comic.  Louis married his high school sweetheart...oddly enough, the girl who danced with Tina during the country segment of the medley at the 8th grade show, Hillary.  Beautiful photos, lovely couple...but I noticed something.

Tina was wearing a scarf on her head.  Now, at first, I chalked this up to a fashion-forward gal like Tina, who'd always been a little outside the norm when it came to her fashion choices.  I knew she had done some pretty dramatic hair cutting in the past...perhaps another of her choices?

A bit of quick Facebook research revealed that Tina had actually been dealing with a serious medical issue over the last several months:  She had cervical cancer.  A age...who I had known personally was dealing with this.

So Cheery.
I was kind of taken aback.  My mother has dealt with breast cancer in the past, and luckily, with the right amount of treatment, she was able to get it in remission very early, before it became a serious problem.  So, it's not that I'm not accustomed to people close to me being sick.  But Tina age.  She was vibrant, smart, and from what I could tell, had not changed with the passing years.  If anything, she'd gotten smarter, more vibrant, become a much better person than me haha.

I told my wife, who is the most compassionate person I know.  She commiserated and crossed herself as she usually does when things like this come up.  I kept telling her, "She's 26-27...she's our age.  How does this happen?" My wife shrugged, hugging me.  She couldn't answer, even though she wanted to have the answer.  It was an unfortunate rhetorical question, but I still thought about it.

In the following days I read up on what was happening with Tina.  Her sister has kept a blog throughout the ordeal, and while Tina had done some crazy regimen of radiation and hadn't gotten rid of the cancer, and she'd have to go in for another separate treatment.  Another round.

It got me thinking though.  I write characters with powers, dealing with daily life.  They have these incredible things they can do, and the point of the book is that there's nothing to do where they are, so they have to deal with very mundane personal problems.  But...what was the point of that, for me personally?

I often site specific people as inspiration for characters.  Usually, this has to do with how they look in my head when I'm writing their action on the page.  Louis is based on an actual person named 'Louis' because quite honestly that was the face in my head when I wrote it.  Stacy though...Stacy is the only character I've ever totally invented.  She's completely fabricated from the memories I have from high school of every girl I knew.  She's what we call in the writing game, a 'composite' character, a character made up of pieces of several real life sources.  I realize though...after reading Tina's stories and seeing her life in the last year, and really reflecting on my time spent, however limited, with Tina...I realize she informs a great deal of what Stacy ends up being.

Stacy is a tough-as-nails girl dealing with the fact that she doesn't understand what's happening to her.  She doesn't back down, she faces it head-on, without any hesitation.  She's smart...and she's super strong.  There are other aspects to her, yet to be revealed...but it seems that by accident, I've based a good core of the character of Stacy on Christina Mazzotta.  A strong-willed young woman whose not backing down, no matter what the fight.

It's an strange thing to come to such a realization.  I'm excited for Tina (and of course all of you) read these issues of 'Youth' we have in store for the world, so you can grasp these characters the way Evan and I have.  My point is that people are inspiring all the time, in so many different ways.  You never know what or how it's going to effect you.

In her blog, she constantly reminds people, "No pitty please."  And in the spirit of that...To you, Tina:

I know this probably seems weird, but you're someone without a bad bone in their body and to say I'm thankful for this 'accidental' revelation is an understatement.  It's inspiring, and you were always someone people we're watching.  I guess I was one of them, because you've wound up in this comic book, in some way.  In a rule.  Thanks for the stories.  Thanks for being you.

'Til next time Bat-friends,

-Alex (& Evan)