Good News!!!!!!!!

So, this afternoon, I dropped the file off at the publishers! If all goes as planned, we will have a finished book Tuesday the 13th of September. Many of you have emailed me at , asking to be notified of when they are available. I am tentatively planning an open house/book signing for that weekend, but I will let you know for sure. I also need to get things set up on Amazon for those of you who are out of town.

I am really excited about this. My buddy, Bert Compton, and I were up till 1:30 this morning, finishing the final design elements. It looks awesome, but the story is even more fun. Bert asked me last night how it felt to have three books with my name on it in 18 months. It's a strange feeling. I am tired, but overall, the feeling is one of relief and humility. My name is on the books, but I really don't feel like I own them. I feel like I have been given the responsibility to be a steward of this story, but the best, most meaningful and amazing parts of the book were a complete and total gift that I can only thank God for the opportunity to share something so meaningful with all of you.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing the books with your friends and family. Thanks for writing reviews on Amazon. I just read two of the most recent reviews on Amazon and I'll admit, I cried. To hear people say that they feel the love of God as they read the books has been amazing. It was because of that love that I wrote, and it because of the writing and the experience of putting these books together that I have come to understand the love that God has for all His children. Again, I am humbled and touched by how the books are reaching you and your hearts.

I have been working on writing my query letter to begin looking for an agent. This is a difficult letter to write. A query letter, as I understand it, should be no more than one page long. How do you wrap three books together in a short, one page synopsis? How do you talk about the books' successes and responses? How do you convince a busy, overworked agent to take a chance on you. I am convinced that if we can just get these books into the hands of the right person, we can spread the good news of Niederbipp around the country, maybe even to exotic places like...Canada! For some reason books cost more up there! :)

This has been a successful summer with pottery sales, which is a really good thing, because this final book is going to cost nearly 20K. Book two will need to be reprinted in the next month or so, and book one will need a reprint before Christmas. I broke even at 11,000 books, which is nice, because now I don't have to dip deeper into savings to bankroll the next run of books. Self-publishing is tough, but I am hoping with the track record we've established, a big publishing house will be interested in taking national.

I got a big surprise last Thursday when I opened my mailbox and received a postcard for an opening at the Gallery at Union Station in Ogden. There on the front of the postcard was a picture of one of my teapots, my name, and the announcement that I would be part of the show that opens Friday, September 3. I vaguely remember agreeing to do this show back in January, but I never heard anything more and figured they had made other arrangements. I guess they didn't. So, with the teapots on the postcard, I knew people would be expecting to see teapots, so I whipped up a bunch as quick as I could in two days. I loaded my small electric kiln on Saturday night and candled the pots overnight to dry them out. Then Sunday night, I started the kiln, hoping I could glaze the pots the next day and get the glaze firing going. This usually takes two weeks minimum to turn these around, but I had a deadline. I went out on Monday morning to check on the temperature in the kiln, and the kiln's power light was off. I tried the breaker. Nothing. Then I smelled it--the distinct odor of burnt electrical stuff. Long story short, the male part of the 220 plug had fried and sealed itself to the wall and the female part of the plug. The kiln had not fired. The teapots were still greenware and couldn't be glazed. After freaking out, I got to work and within a few hours, I had the plugs repaired and replaced and could start the firing.

So, the glaze firing got started way later than I planned--today at 1pm. It is now 11:30 and I am just about ready to turn the kiln off. I'll have to use gloves to unload the kiln on Thursday morning in order to get the pots to Ogden in time. A potter's life is never dull. I am very grateful the melted plug didn't lead to a fire in the studio. I feel very fortunate and blessed. So, there will be teapots on Friday. Come one, Come all. I think the hours are from 6-9 at the Union Station in Ogden. If you need a cheap date, stop by. Food and drink are served and the company will be better if you come. Lynnette and I will be there with two other artists--my neighbor, Dave Malone and a great landscape artist whose name has escaped me. If you miss Friday, the show will be up for a few weeks. I will also have signed books available there. Life is good. Never a dull moment. Sometimes it's really good to have ADD.

Send me an email if you want to be notified of activities associated with Becoming Isaac, and if you feel so inclined, I'd love for you to fill out a review on Amazon. Cheers, and thanks for keeping me excited about all of this stuff. Maybe I'll see you in Ogden on Friday. Ben

The One-Panel Critics: How Much Does Kryptonite Cost?

The first assignment I'm giving my students in this year's iteration of the graphic novel course is to read A Contract With God alongside a comic book that could have been on the stands when Eisner's book was first published. And this time, because I have seventy students in two section of the class, I can't rely on the Joe Stinson Collection, so I'm having everyone read a single issue of Superman published late in 1978.

In Superman #331, we visit a jail that has been specially designed to house super-villains (the Atomic Skull, the Parasite, and Metallo, possibly with Terra-Man on his way). Each of them dwells in a small box (with a cot and a few vaguely delineated furniture-like objects). Each cell is specially engineered to prevent the escape of that specific villain. (Also, the boxes are draining the villains' powers into special devices that another super-villain will use, but that's neither here nor there.)

Here's Metallo, chillin' in his crib, as it were. Aren't cyborgs cute in slacks?

And why does he still have a chunk of Kryptonite powering his robot body?

... Well, since Kryptonite is harmless to humans, I'm sure that it won't pose any sort of problem in the future.


(Radium, by the way, currently costs something like $25,000 per gram. That's expensive, sure, but it seems to imply that you could incapacitate Superman for about the same price as a year's tuition at some snooty colleges.)

The radioactive fragments of an exploded planet light-years away from us cost less than $25,000 per gram.

This is the sort of thing you would only write if (a.) you didn't think your audience was paying very close attention, and (b.) you didn't care what kind of mess you were leaving for other writers who might arrive after you. Thank you, Martin Pasko.

Actually, I suppose it's also possible that Kryptonite is just more efficient, as a power source, than radium — or that Kryptonite lasts longer and therefore needs to be replaced less frequently. But that's not quite what our jail warden seems to be saying.

I don't have much else to say about this. But let's just mark it as another entry in the "comics are dumb" file.

Tom Kaczynski and I Talk Comics Education

This is sort of appropriate material for my first day back in the classroom after the summer "vacation":

Over on his Transatlantis blog, my friend Tom Kaczynski has been posting an interesting series of short essays about the history and condition of comics education in America.

In today's entry in this series, I join Tom for a conversation about comics instruction in English departments. I guess I get to be an authority on this because I've been teaching comics in English departments since 2001, though really I don't know much beyond my own experience.

Still, I think the "interview" will be interesting to some of our regular readers. If nothing else, I've tried to raise a few questions of my own while answering Tom's. Click on over and check it out. Drop a comment onto Tom's blog if I've managed to get anything wrong.

(I should also mention that there are plenty of resources for comics education over at the website of NACAE, the National Association of Comics Art Educators. Why, some of those resources were even contributed by yours truly.)

Summer Photos

John preparing to wave the green flag at Lee Speedway in New hampshire

Mary and I in Maine

Fishing on Burden Lake with Dewey

Kaylyn's Graduation

At Indianapolis Speedway Museum

Here I am kayaking on the Yellow River in Iowa

Daniel Clowes: Conversations Is Here!

I think I've only hinted about it on the blog so far, but this week I am excited to say that I have in my hands a copy of the University Press of Mississippi's new book Daniel Clowes: Conversations.

It's great to see this in print. It collects a number of extensive and obscure interviews with Dan Clowes, reaching back to his first interview ever to see print (conducted back in 1988). A couple of these pieces have never been published in the United States before, and a couple of others appeared in small-press zines that not many people have seen.

The collection isn't copiously illustrated, but this is the sort of rare comics-related artifact where the text is really the selling point. Clowes is an articulate and interesting person, with a sharp wit and broad interests in pop (and high) culture. Looking through this book's index gives you a sense of how broadly the conversations in the collection can range: Thor, thought balloons, Howlin' Thurston, Adrian Tomine, John Travolta...

The collection concludes with a 24-page interview conducted by Ken Parille, one of the editors, that Clowes gave specifically for the book. This is the place where Clowes basically says that Eightball is finished, and that complete works like Wilson are going to be his main format henceforth. He also has the chance to reflect on (and amend) points raised in the earlier interviews.

If you're interested in Clowes's work, or if you're a student of the "alternative" comics scene, this is a good book to have on your shelf, and a nice collection to read gradually over a span of a couple of weeks.

And I should know, because I'm the other editor of the book.

Why don't you pop on over to Amazon and order up a copy of Daniel Clowes: Conversations?

Happy King Kirby Day

Today would have been Jack Kirby's ninety-third birthday.

In the past, I've posted brief essays on Kirby's kinetic page composition, and on his design sense, both for characters and for machines, and I've frequently posted doodles and swipes of Kirby's drawings, from Etrigan to Kro and Ikaris, from Ulysses Klaw to Scott Free.

Today, I thought I'd celebrate the King's visual legacy by "covering" a panel from an issue of Kamandi that got lodged in my imagination (and my memory) when I was something like six or seven years old.

It still gives me the shivers. Morticoccus, the Living Germ, released from his prison of decades by the misbegotten Misfit, ready to destroy every living thing he encounters, until the world itself is dead.

I don't intend this as a memorial to Kirby. Other people (and little stuffed bulls) will do a better job with that. I just wanted to spend a little time this morning reworking an image that I'll never forget. It's personal, I guess. But it was good to get that into my notebook.


My apologies for the lack of posting, more to come in the near future, my birthday is this sunday and i have been distracted by family visits and surprise parties. But back in the saddle again shortly...

Gnat Balls

You know gnat balls?
You know those big balls of gnats that gnats make when they all want to hang out?

Tons of gnats. Awesome!

How do you think they decide where to hold those events? I mean they're usually just in some random location, floating in some arbitrary point in mid-air, and yet somehow, all those hundreds of gnats had to agree on that spot, right? Otherwise they'd all be in different spots like, "I'm at the spot I thought we said. Where's all the other gnats?" And there wouldn't be any gnat balls, there'd just be gnats.

One gnat. Boring.

Do you think it's the same as with human parties, and one motivated gnat has to pick a location and then go around calling all his gnat friends and inviting them to come be in the ball? He's like, "Let's meet five feet above the sidewalk at Harvard Ave and Roy Street. Listen guys. This is going to be so fun." And some of them say they're totally going to come, but then they totally don't come?

Do you think gnats always choose to have their balls at human-face height because watching humans choke and gag on a mouthful of gnats is funny to them?

What about the gnats that get choked and gagged on? Those gnats can't possibly find it funny.

It seems like it'd be a lot of work to put together a party as big as gnat balls are. There are probably at least two hundred gnats in those balls. The original gnat that first decided he or she needed to have a gnat ball that night--I'm assuming he or she wouldn't schedule it in advance since gnats only live one day--must be not only really popular but also really energetic and committed to making social stuff happen.

Why do we say social butterfly? We should say social gnat. Gnats are the ones that know how to throw a party, and you'll notice they never invite any butterflies.

I bet butterflies are assholes.

Thinks he's so cool but he's not.

Almost There!

If it weren't for work getting in th way for Bert and me, the book would have been done and in bookstores weeks ago. But darn it, we have to work to feed our families. We were up until 12:30 last night, running through some of the last things, making minor tweeks and fixes. I would have worked later, but Bert had to be to work at 7. I tried to explain that I have people calling every day, wanting to know where Becoming Isaac is or when it will be available. I am tired of putting people off, but it truly is beyond my control. So, the best I can figure, if we finish tonight or tomorrow night, I will take the book to the printer on Thursday or Friday. They will run some proofs, Bert will finish the cover, and with any luck, the book will be out by November! Just kidding. I am not going to give a date, because I keep missing them, but we are working hard and hope to have it done asap. If you are not on my mailing list and would like to receive a card in the mail or email announcing the release of the book, please send me an email to and you can be the first to know. Cheers and thanks for your patience. Ben

Will No One Rid Me of This Abominable Pun?

Where did I get this terrible pun?



It helps if you say the words slowly. And think of the two images as a comic, representing two sequential moments in time.

I know I didn't get it from Mike. I've had this pun in my head since elementary school.

Maybe I got it from The Hodgepodge Book? Somehow, I don't think so.

I think that if I saw the original illustrations, I'd recognize them. But where?


I promise a recap of the 2nd Annual Isaac Timothy Delisle Memorial Golf Tournament in the next week or so. I am still going through photos, and waiting on some from one of our photographers. In short, it was awesome. Great weather, golfers had a blast, and it was just an all around great day.

Some big transitions happening here in the Delisle house. Eliana is doing a great job with solids! She seems to love baby oatmeal the best so far.She seemed so-so about rice cereal, and wasn't too sure about sweet potatoes yesterday or today :) We're going to give avocado a shot this week and see how she does!

Tomorrow is a big day around here: my return to work. I truly appreciate the encouraging words that so many of you sent my way over the last few weeks. While I know that there is no one "right" way as far as the work thing is concerned, my desire is to not work full time so that I can be home more with Eliana... and I feel as though I had that opportunity presented to me but was just to scared to take it. I was plagued by "What if's?" and for whatever reason was just scared. Regardless, this year is what it is now, and I know that God's grace is big enough to work even if the decision that was made wasn't the "right" one. I know that God is big enough to still work, and I pray that he does.

I would appreciate your prayers for our family during this transition. From the practical aspects of Eliana sleeping well, my being able to manage getting us both out the door in the morning (hopefully without forgetting anything!), managing both a job and a home. Please pray for my heart as I am away from Ellie during the day; I have a hunch that it is going to end up a lot harder on me than her. She does great being with just about anyody and is such a sweet, happy girl. Please pray for my energy level, for our marriage, and for God to continue to protect and bless our family during this next chapter.

Tonight I was reading the book "No Matter What" to Eliana before she went to bed. For those of you who have read it to your kids, you can only imagine the amount of tears (mine... not Ellie's) that followed upon finishing it... only a small preview, I am sure, when I drop her off tomorrow.

Lastly, please be praying that God would already be starting to prepare an opportunity for me to work part time or from home next year, that He would begin to show me what He has for us in that regard, and that He would instill in Spencer and I an extra measure of courage, trust, and discernment.

I can't promise to update after tomorrow... but hopefully by the end of the week. Thank you for praying :)


We finally have a cover for the US edition of WARM BODIES!

Oh and also the novel's themes evolved somewhat during the editing process. Now it's about men, women, and the Navy.

That should silence all that silly "Zombie Twilight" snarkery going on out there.

But seriously guys, come on. If Warm Bodies is Twilight, then Eternal Sunshine is Men In Black. They both have machines that erase memories, don't they?

A Big Week

This week is a big one for many reasons. For starters, it is our last official week of summer before school resumes next Monday... for teachers, at least. I am sure it goes without saying that this fact is hitting me incredibly hard. The Kleenex box that I managed to empty last night can serve as concrete evidence for that. :) We would appreciate your continued prayers as we approach this transition.

Secondly, this Friday is the 2nd Annual Isaac Timothy Delisle Memorial Golf Tournament! We are excited for what God is going to do that day, and are grateful for the opportunity to share about the Isaac Delisle Foundation and its mission to serve bereaved families. We would love for you to join us in praying for this event... for good weather, for all of the little details to come together, and for God to touch people's hearts through Isaac's story.

I look forward to being able to share that day with you all next weekend!

Tree Sketch

I've been developing this style of rendering for a little while now..decided to revisit an old sketch I had in this style. Im glad i did, hopefully within the next few days ill render out a full background like this instead of these roughs ive been posting. stay tuned!

Handyman to the Resuce

The Knight of the Dopey Countenance

Recent conversation in the comments section of an old doodly post I made in 2008 has suggested that I ought to post a comic from our file of uncollected materials.

At the ICAF conference in 2005, Mike and I started drawing our first branching (or "choose your own") comic. The second of these, begun a year later at the same conference, was called "The Graveyard of Forking Paths" and eventually appeared in Satisfactory #7.

The first branching comic, "The Knight of the Dopey Countenance," appeared alongside "Graveyard" in an issue of Palimpsest, but we've never put it in one of our own comics. There hasn't really been a place for it, and I liked "Graveyard" better because I thought I'd made a mistake by beginning "Dopey" in the middle of the first row.

Now we have, I hope, fixed that small bit of disorientation. Click, enlarge, and navigate, so you can see all the different endings that our thick-headed knight manages to reach. Follow the green arrows, but don't cross the thick panel borders.

As always, props go to Jason Shiga, whose Nickelodeon strip "April Fooled" was our direct inspiration. (You can find it on his website under "strips" and then "Nickelodeon.")

I have some notebook pages pertaining to this project that I might post later this month, as a sort of "director's commentary" or something, if you're interested.

The Missing

It never gets easier... the missing, that is. While it changes and takes on different forms, it's still always there.

The 2nd Annual Isaac Timothy Delisle Memorial Golf Tournament is about a week away. Last night our UPS man delivered two dozen logoed golf balls for the tournament. As Spencer and I opened them up and looked, we were both once again struck by how awful it is to see your son's name as part of a memorial golf tournament. Please don't misunderstand... I am so grateful for the opportunity to do it; to have a platform from which to share about Isaac, that value of life, and the character of Christ; and to be able to raise funds for organizations that support bereaved parents and provide them with lasting memories of the precious children they've lost.

But I would much rather see my son's name in lights. To read it in the sports page of the newspaper. To have it listed on his school's honor roll page. To hear it over the loudspeaker as the starting lineup is called.

The whole concept of time has become such a paradox to me. How almost two years have seemingly flown by; and yet the last time I saw my sweet Isaac, cuddled him close, and kissed his little face feels like so long ago.

One of my favorite Psalms says this: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

This verse taught me so much during my time with Isaac in the womb... knowing that each of those days I had him safely snuggled in my belly was precious... that it mattered... that it counted.

And so the missing remains... I know it always will. Whether it shows up in a conversation with a stranger when the see Ellie (Is this your first? No, she's our second. Oh! How old is our first? Well, our son, Isaac, would be almost two years old, but he unfortunately passed away shortly after he was born. Oh... I am so sorry.), a visit to the cemetery, a family picture that is incomplete, or catching Eliana taking a peek at her brother's picture on the wall... it's always there. I know to expect it, but it doesn't erase the fact that it lingers. And we do our best to acknowledge it, to manage it, and to allow God to use it to keep our hearts tender towards others and postured towards Him.

Sumo Study

Do Nerds Dream of Nerdy Sheep?

I had a really obvious, heavy-handed dream last night. Usually they're more oblique, but this one didn't bother with subtlety. I went to bed with two things weighing on my mind:

1. Problems with my printer and difficulties designing a cover for Flashlights in the Basement. 
2. My first major interview about Warm Bodies with a British sci-fi magazine called SFX.

What was my dream about? Part 1 involved me struggling to print out a portrait of Lieutenant Worf and mount it inside a picture frame that kept changing size and defying geometry. Part 2 involved an alien race deciding that humanity was unfit to live and threatening to wipe us out unless my friend Erin and I could write an essay convincing them that we are actually pretty cool. So they abducted us to their planet and set us up in a newsroom type office, and for a while I thought it was kind of an honor that they thought I was a good enough guy to speak for humanity, that they must kinda respect me, but the alien they assigned to oversee us--played by Party Down's Adam Scott--was a total dick about it and it became pretty clear pretty quickly that they didn't respect me at all and saw me as some kind of repulsive lab animal. 


So yeah, pretty cliche dreams, subconscious. Way to point a blinking arrow at my two biggest stressors and not-so-subtly underline my insecurities. I have diarrhea today, what am I going to dream about tonight? Having diarrhea?

Stupid subconscious.

Illustration Friday: Caged

Everyone else seems to be posting monsters, so heres mine. This is pretty terrifying

New More Collective T shirt design for more info

A Whole New World!

Eliana has entered a whole new world this morning: the world of solids! Although, I have to admit, a first feeding of baby oatmeal looks anything but solid :)

I have also been trying my hand at making my own baby food for Ellie as well. So far, we have a stash of pureed sweet potatoes, avocado, butternut squash, and pears in the freezer. I am hoping to give green beans and peaches a shot later this week.

The single food purees don't seem to be too hard; but I would love for those of you who have made your own baby food to share a favorite recipe with me! Or, if you have any favorite websites or books about making baby foods, I would love to know about those as well!

It's coming, I promise.

So, it has been fun getting so many emails and phone calls from folks who are anxious for Becoming Isaac, but I am sorry I can't yet offer you a firm date when the book will be available. I am sorry about that. We are still working through the layout. It is nearly 11pm and I am just getting ready to leave to work on the book with my buddy, Bert. I had to get a few last photos for the book--some bread, a hat and some other small things, that will go into the book at chapter heads. Believe me, I too am looking forward to seeing the finished product.
It was really fun to be in Park City this last weekend for the Arts Festival and have so many people stop by and thank me for writing the books. I am happy it is reaching so many from so many different walks in life. One woman left me with a long note, detailing her journey of faith, stating that my books have helped her to recognize the love of God in her life again. I read the letter with my wife and we both cried as we read this woman's words. I do not know her name, but I know she will probably read this, so I want to say thank you. Your letter made my day. Hearing things like that make the turmoil and sacrifice of time and treasure worthwhile. This has been a journey of faith for me, too. I talk about this in the last chapter of Becoming Isaac. Faith is perhaps the biggest and most important and most potentially troubling journey that we face in this life. We are all spiritual beings having an terrestrial experience and sometimes that experience is tough--okay, maybe it's always tough.
As I read this woman's letter, I was struck with the realization of all that I have learned along this journey. I have mentioned it before many times, but this is not my story. I was simply at the right place at the right time and felt compelled to write the story that came into my heart and mind. The wisdom and love was a gift, as I suppose all true wisdom and love is. I wish I could claim it as my own, but I realize how blessed I have been to be a part of it. It is not my own, but it has become truth that I have learned, and hope to spend the rest of my life implementing. Those who know me best, know there is no way I could possibly have come up with this stuff on my own. I am irreverent and more inclined to potty jokes. This experience has made me grow and stretch and, yes, become something much more than I naturally am.
Thank you for your kind accolades and encouragement. I have loved hearing about your stories and your interactions with Isaac's books. Thank you. The snowball began with a tiny snowflake, but it is gaining momentum and mass and moving forward. Thank you for telling your friends about the books and thank you for your reviews on Amazon. There are nearly 65 reviews combined for the two books on Amazon and they are all positive. This is amazing to me. I am a potter, pretending to be a writer, but somehow the words I was compelled to write are reaching your hearts and touching lives and opening minds to the love of God. That is more than I ever could have asked for.
So, I will let you in on a secret. Many have asked about the name of my press, Abendmahl. Abendmahl is a German word. If you google it, you will probably be sent to a host of sites that have pictures of the last supper. The word literally means, evening meal. I like the idea of people sitting down to break bread together as they share stories and truth. I was very much directed as to what I should call my press.(When you self-publish, you get to make up your own press.) On either side of the name are symbols, wheat and grapes. These are not just nice pictures, but have deep meaning to me and other Christians throughout the world. If you think what they become, the answer is clear. Grapes become wine and wheat becomes bread. The sacrament--symbols of the greatest sacrifice this world will ever know. It was my hope that like the great books of C.S. Lewis, these books might help us understand the love of God in a more simple and understandable way. I believe the third book, Becoming Isaac will do that in a beautiful way. I cant wait to share it with you. Thanks again for sharing your comments. Your encouragement keeps me going when I am tired, stressed, discouraged and wondering why I should spend $20,000 on the next book. A much older and wiser friend of mine recently told me that when you choose to walk in faith, there is really no such thing as sacrifice. It is simply a way of life. Cheers.