The photo collage above includes pictures from Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) where Steven (writer) and I (artist) introduced readers to our first printed volume of Ancient Futures and we’re happy to report it was warmly received, including enthusiastic response to the visuals as well as the catchy tagline for the book “Afropunk Assassins at the end of SpaceTime!” Other creative individuals (photographers, sculptors, actors, tarot readers, cosplayers) are getting involved in the project and we’re very excited to witness its development in ways that we couldn’t have imagined when Ancient Futures started about 2 and half years ago.
Absent-mindedly, I don’t think I’ve shown photos of the first printed Volume 1 on this blog, so here are some long overdue images to give you an idea of what the 40 page printed book looks like. For those who missed Volume 1, there is a reward tier that offers both this issue and Vol. 2. and the print edition of the first issue is running low, so get it while you can.
There are still 2 rewards for original art available in the Sketch Cover tier. You can expect those one-of-a-kind originals to look something like this:
Our status for the Kickstarter is currently under water with 8 days remaining. Not sure if we’ll be able to make this, so please consider spreading the word to anyone you can think of who might be interested in this project. The cost of a 40-page graphic novel is rather high these days and since we’re self-publishing this series to retain the rights we need to find people who believe in and are willing to invest in the project to make the printed book a reality. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I was flying back from Chicago last night and the flight had The Whale (2022 movie) available. I didn’t catch many of the “award movies” this year, so I ended up watching it and I liked what it had to offer. I had just spent the weekend promoting my Ancient Futures graphic novel series at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) with my collaborator author Steven White and his circle of creative friends who care about this project enough to be involved in its growth. The Kickstarter we launched for the continuation of the series (Part 2) is far from meeting its goal unfortunately, but oddly I’m not feeling depressed about it. Perhaps it could surprise us and turn around in a week or two, but it seems that we needed to build up the promotion earlier than we did to gain the momentum to make it a success.
The character Charlie in “The Whale” (played by Brendan Fraser in the movie) is an English professor who teaches online courses and keeps his zoom camera off, ashamed of his obesity. At a climactic moment in the story, he feverishly emails his students a desperate plea to write him “something honest.” The image I clipped above is from a stage version of the same story from at least 9 years ago and you can watch it here if you like. It made me realize how hungry I was for some honesty, as well (… I realize that sounds like a terrible pun, but no pun intended.) I made a decision about 8 years ago to work on fiction comics after working in nonfiction for a number of years. I also decided to make an effort to avoid fanart for the most part to avoid siphoning away time and energy that didn’t fuel my priority to world build new stories.
It’s safe to say that this has been a great challenge. In some ways the pandemic ended up presenting opportunities that fell in line with my career goals, but I would say mostly it has made it a challenge to get such endeavors off the ground. I’m fortunate to be working projects with creators and independent publishers who have the fire and resilience to take on such projects. Apart from my Ancient Futures people, I’m also working with the new comic publisher Battle Quest Comics, another driven and positive group of people. Additionally, I’m working on cover illustrations for a good author friend who bravely pursued his own book series years ago and has since found great success; check out Mage Errant by John Bierce.
My blog has fallen by the wayside, but I’m thinking of attempting some honest writing here again. I’ve become fatigued thinking about my work in a comparative way to other comic creators who have had a more traditional path to success when I really should be celebrating the alternative path of my own. I get to start each day with the feeling that I have work to do that I enjoy with people I admire and enjoy working with. That’s a very good feeling and something I want to stay focused on. I’m trusting that I’ll be able to continue my work on current projects one way or another. If you are interested in any of these projects, and have the means, please consider supporting them.
Here are some photos from my weekend at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo @C2E2 with the Ancient Futures Team. The party continued on and off the show floor as you can see. I’m going to be riding the positive energy we generated there for some time.
Just a quick update to announce that the Ancient Futures 01 comic is now available to order online along with some of the merchandise that was generated thanks to Kickstarter supporters. There was enough in the piggy bank for printing beyond the fulfillment of the backers, so we are happy to make it available at sevenstudiollc.com
Thanks for your support and I hope to make a habit of posting on my site more often, but for now the best way to keep up with Ancient Futures is by way of the instagram @ancientfutures.byseven and facebook @TheAncientFuturesExperience Thank you for your interest and support!
Steven and I were honored to be on the comic and pop culture podcast Blue Tiger Revenge last night. It was a fun conversation that reveals how Steven and I started working together on Ancient Futures and includes some of Steven’s recitation of the lines from the book. Very entertaining stuff, if I do say so myself. Host Tadd Galusha has been working in comics about as long as I have and we know each other from years back, so he had very specific and relevant questions about the drawing process and working in comics. Check it out here: https://bluetigerrevenge.substack.com/p/18-aaron-mcconnell-and-steven-white
The Ancient Futures Kickstarter is counting down its final hours as I type this, so please hop aboard ASAP if you’d like to support it. We are so grateful to our backers and look forward to fulfilling the rewards in the coming months.
There are still 2 Original Art rewards available to purchase, Ancient Futures artworks drawn by Adam Benet Shaw and Dustin Weaver. This is a unique opportunity and I’m selfishly hoping that someone purchases these so that I can see their artistic interpretations of the characters from the book.
I’m excited to announce the launch of a passion project I’ve been working on for over a year with a writer in Chicago Steven White, aka Seven, on this Valentine’s Day, 2022. What started as weekly zoom meetings to exchange story ideas and concept drawings organically grew into a compelling narrative as characters began to form and ideas bubbled to the surface brought about by the challenging and perplexing times we were experiencing in our collective lives. This story feels very “of the moment” and Seven and I wanted to find a way to bring an audience along with us as it forms rather than keep it hidden away until the entire story has been written and drawn. The hope is to keep it alive and growing in dialogue with reader interaction. Kickstarter seemed like an appropriate choice and so today marks the christening of our ship Ancient Futures as we embark into the great unknown. I hope you’ll check it out and consider joining us on the journey. We have a 40-page Part One that is scheduled to print this spring and ship this summer if the Kickstarter is successful, and we hope it captures your imagination as much as the creation of it has for Seven and myself. Thank you! http://kck.st/3oLKLgi
I haven’t been blogging much over the course of the pandemic, but despite challenging times it has been a productive year for my studio work. I made a conscious choice to step away from illustrating nonfiction graphic novels, the bread and butter of my freelance, in pursuit of fictional storytelling and worldbuilding, a desire I’ve had since I started out as a freelancer about 18 years ago.
One project in particular has taken on an unexpected life of its own. I met a writer online just before the summer of 2020 and we started having weekly zoom meetings. It started as a work-for-hire comic illustration gig, but the organic nature of the collaboration allowed me to invest more heavily into the way the story was being told mainly because I wasn’t working off a script, but rather ideas for scenes and story ideas.
A long story short, the project has evolved into a passion project for me. I’ve put hundreds of hours into bringing it to life and even flew out to Chicago to meet the writer in person. Seven White and I have completed a 40 page Part One of the story we’re telling and the time has come for us to start sharing it with readers. I ask that you consider helping us realize our dream to continue the journey of this project. It’s going to be self-published and creator-owned, so we need the support to make it happen. Pleasesign-up for the email listandfollow the instagram page to stay up to date with our progress. I can’t thank you enough for your support.
Since the passing of Jesse Hamm one week ago, I’ve been mulling over something to say to honor him. I met him around 2007 and many people have known him longer and more in depth than I, but I always felt lucky to consider him a friend. In 2007 I aspired to draw comics and joined Portland’s Helioscope Studio (what was then known as Mercury Studio) and came into the good fortune of working alongside Jesse as a background penciler for comic artist pros like Ron Randall, David Hahn and Matthew Clark who were generous enough to provide the extra work they had to people like me who wanted to work professionally. I quickly began to notice that Jesse was adept at background pencils and was impressed by his underdrawings and perspective grids and realized I should pay attention to his work if I knew what was good for me. When I saw his drawings for Good As Lily (DC Comics, 2007) I became aware of just how skilled he was. Not only at technical drawing, but also his ability to draw expressive characters and dynamic sequentials. I could see influences of Alex Toth, Dan Decarlo and Jaime Hernandez, but his was an entirely unique voice.
From there on out, I became a Hamm-head and followed his work as is unfolded to be more impressively layered than even my first positive impression. I noticed the subtly of the gestures in his figures and how he pushed beyond the way superheroes are typically rendered and posed by emphasizing their humanity and integrity.
Reading his essays on comics and drawing (his “Hamm Tips”) was a jaw-dropping revelation for me. Here was a guy who was not only exceedingly talented at his craft, but made the effort to generously offer up everything he had learned about that craft so freely and eloquently. Jesse’s “Hamm Tips” are still available on his Gumroad . They are absolutely accessible to all skill levels, empowering and inspirational to anyone interested in learning about the craft of comics and the art of drawing.
One of my early memories of Jesse was sometime in the first year of working in the studio. I showed him my quirky freshman effort of a comic book. He turned his attention completely toward it, read it page by page at a desk just a few feet away from me. He didn’t judge it critically despite its flaws and he genuinely seemed entertained by it. His response felt so validating. That may have been Jesse’s greatest superpower, his ability to enable creators to put their work out into the world. He saw great value in the voices of fellow creators. You can hear it in his essays and see it practiced in his own work.
Thinking back on my memories of Jesse, I thought of the times we tabled together at conventions, I always felt like I needed a shirt that read “I’m with Genius.” To me, not enough people fully understood how good he was. Of course there were many who absolutely knew and he always had commissions during those shows, but I felt that his art was underrated. One day in 2015 was different, though. He nonchalantly dropped an image on his Tumblr and wrote, “For those of you who don’t understand archaeology, I have made a diagram.”
And those of us at Helioscope Studio (then Periscope Studio) got to watch it go viral in real time. I love the two hashtags #jesse hamm #archaeology. The simplicity of it, the oddly confident voice of the caption, it was meme perfection. I remember it got rolling and we were placing bets if it would break 50,000 likes by midnight. This viewing party was taking place in an email thread, but I could sense Jesse’s pleasure and it felt to me like all was right in the world for a brief moment as Jesse’s wit and creativity was being celebrated in the best way that 2015 had to offer.
We encouraged him to make a T-shirt and with his wife Anna’s help it was available on a store site (unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available to purchase anymore). I bought a couple and my eldest son was wearing Jesse’s shirt the day we drove by Stonehenge. (Well, the Stonehenge of Washington state, anyway.)
If you mine the work that Jesse posted online (via Instagram, Tumblr, etc.) you will be greatly rewarded. I would look forward to his holiday-themed drawings of which there are many, like these two Christmas gags:
Over the years, as I’ve become an illustrator who often works on a computer in a home studio, and of course with the isolation that has been required of all of us over the past year, I saw very little of Jesse, but I took it for granted that we would continue to cross paths. I would look forward to his posts on Toucan as well as the Hamm Tips that are still available on Gumroad. I took it for granted there would be many more. Now I just hope there will be a collection of his comic art and a book of his Hamm Tips. He left us so much to remember him by and I’m grateful that I can hear his voice in my head as I read those essays, but right now the loss feels like too much. All of us have lost a great ally to our creative expression. Thank you, Jesse, for your generous gifts.
I notice I’m getting traffic on my website for the Star Wars in Ancient Greece illustrations I drew in 2015. If you are new to my website, welcome! Thanks for your interest. If are interested in getting a print or t-shirt or a mug or doormat or shower curtain or various other items with my Star Wars drawings, I can direct you to my Artist Shop. I currently only have two images available. If you would like to see some of the others made available, please leave a comment. Thank you and remember : “The Fourthsurrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.You must feel theFourth around you; here, betweenyou, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.”
Please join us 10th Annual NYCC x MCM Metaverse Charity Art Auction to benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!Have Fun. Get Art. Save Lives. You Can Make A Difference!
I’m contributing this piece to the auction going on now. If you’re a fan of the Mandalorian, Cara Dune, and Baby Yoda (and really who isn’t?), and have the means to donate to this worthy cause, please check it out! The details are listed below including a link to all the impressive art available.