Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cross X-amine: Neil Fitzpatrick, Author of the Comic Neil Jam Gives Us a Look!

Welcome to the Cross X-amine on CrossTopix. For those new to the site, the Cross X-amine is a feature where I interview various talented artists about their works be it musicians, movie makers, or for today, comic artists. With me today is Neil Fitzpatrick, artist and author of his comic, Neil Jam. I met Neil at Anime Central last year and communicated with him again this year. I even picked up a copy of Neil Jam Harvest, a humorous read with a very unique style. Neil agreed to do an interview with my site in regards to what his works are about and more of what makes him passionate about doing them.

STVO: For those who haven’t read Neil Jam, can you explain to everyone what it is about?

Neil: Neil Jam is, quite simply, the brand of cartoony comics that I make. The Neil Jam universe consists of a regular cast of characters, and I’ve been drawing their antics in various forms throughout the years. I’m currently producing a twice weekly web comic at, and I’ve self published a number of comic books as well. It’s a healthy mix of the surreal with the mundane.

STVO: Where did you get the ideas for your characters? Also everyone has big black pupils or perhaps missing eye sockets… what’s the deal with that?

Neil: Well, from the start, I suppose most of the characters were simply comprised of different pieces of me. I’ve added characters through the years, each of them ideally giving the comic an element it lacked.

And yes, they do all have that specific look with the big black eyes. I suppose that is the Neil Jam style. Every now and again someone will ask me "why don't they have eyes?" and I always respond with "they do have eyes, they just happen to be big and black." That's just how they roll in the world of Neil Jam. As to how or why I decided to draw that way, all I can remember in formulating the initial designs way back when was that I wanted it to be unique. That's how you know it's Neil Jam!

STVO: My personal favorite character from Neil Jam was the little bird named Jerry, I felt poor for the little guy who couldn’t make friends. What character is your favorite and why?

Neil: Well of course they all have a special place in my heart. The Neil Jam universe is somewhat vast, but I've pared that down for the web strip that has been running on For that strip I've returned to what I consider the core Neil Jam group, with the characters that have been with me the longest and have helped shape what the comic has become more than anyone else.

I don't think that I could call Jerry (the little bird) my favorite, as that wouldn't be fair to everyone else, but I do find myself coming back to him more and more. Aside from his personality, which I do enjoy, I actually think a big part of the reason he's around so much is because he is such a little guy (literally), and is very easy to fit inside any given panel or strip. His daintiness is quite advantageous!

STVO: At the convention and on your website, I find you often doing homage art towards one of the most famous gaming icons, Mario! Would you say Mario is one of your favorite characters to draw and what other characters besides your own do you enjoy to draw from other cartoons, comics, or even video games?

Neil: One of the staples I tend to have on hand at conventions is a variety of original art pieces featuring a cornucopia of pop culture figures, which I dub "Neil Jam Icons." This includes video game icons such as Mario, who is probably the most popular character in my display from convention to convention. I actually think the most fun group of characters that I draw for these "Neil Jam Icons" would be the advertising mascots. There is something about characters like Kool Aid Man, Franken Berry, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and so forth, that hold a special and unique place in everyone's hearts, whether they know it or not. I don't think there's any way not to have a nostalgic love for those kinds of characters. As for other characters that I love, I'd say that Charlie Brown and Nancy, both of classic comic strips, are two of my biggest favorites.

STVO: What type of comics do you prefer creating: shorts similar to those in the newspaper’s “funnies” section or full-length comics such as Neil Jam Harvest?

Neil: I enjoy infusing Neil Jam into all facets of comics, whether it be short lil’ strips or full length adventures. I have found that the longer I go drawing one type of the aforementioned options, the more I get a hankering to create the other type. One thing I actually find myself doing is merging the two. With the longer comic book adventures, for example, I’ve been known to draw several separate chunks of pages and then ultimately piece them together to form a greater whole. As for the shorter newspaper style strips, like those I’m posting on, they can easily be manipulated into longer story arcs in addition to the short lil’ gags that those kinds of strips are more predominantly known for.

STVO: What are some of the future goals you have with the Neil Jam series? Perhaps a web cartoon?

Neil: My general goal is to simply keep at the comics. I want more and more people to know about and read and enjoy Neil Jam comics! I’d like to build the website with more updates eventually. I’d also like to make more all new and older out of print comic book material more readily available. As for an actual cartoon, I have no experience working with animation. Comics are my main passion, so if animation were to happen, the bulk of the work would have to be done by someone else. If that sounds good to anybody out there in internet land, holla at me!

STVO: Do you remember at Anime Central 2008 when my friend and I saw your ALF drawing and suggested you drew an Ed McMahon to accompany it? Yes, I know that’s a random question, but just thought I’d throw it out. Also, where is your favorite convention that you attend?

Neil: Now that you mention it, I actually do remember having a conversation like that about Ed McMahon! I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where or when I had that conversation, but an Ed McMahon request is something one does not soon forget!

As for conventions, I attend a good mix of both mainstream and indie shows, and I’d say my two favorites come from those two different fields. For the indie shows, the MoCCA Art Festival in New York is quite a happening show. And for the more mainstream shows, I’ve warmed considerably to Wizard World Chicago Comic Con over the years. The funny thing is that considering how very different the audiences are for those two shows, I actually sell almost the same amount of the exact same stuff
at each one. Just goes to show that both fanboys and hipsters can’t get enough of Neil Jam!

STVO: Final Question: What can we expect to see from you at Wizard World and what words would you like to share with fans, potential fans, and the people who read CrossTopix?

Neil: At Chicago Comic Con this August I plan to have a healthy selection of Neil Jam comic books, including a new issue (exact contents cannot yet be confirmed.) And of course, as anyone who has seen me at a convention knows, I will have what will probably be an insane plethora of Neil Jam Icons original art pieces. And there’ll be some other shenanigans to look for as well. So please, come on out and say hi!

As for “final words,” I would simply like to thank CrossTopix for giving me this outlet. I am very relieved to get this all off my chest. Comics are supposed to be fun. I’m a fun guy, and if you’re like me, I think
you’ll dig Neil Jam too. Thanks y’all!


Special thanks to Neil for taking the time out of his day to spend time and conduct an interview with the site. Please visit to catch his weekly strips as well as finding out information pertaining to his upcoming comic book releases. If you’re planning on going to Wizard World Chicago next month, Neil will be on-hand along with “CrossTopix representative/founder” STVO Kage once again dressed as Disco Stu!

As always, follow the Facebook/Twitter/MySpace fan pages for CrossTopix to find out more info about site updates, conversation bits, and more! Not to mention, Neil is also on Twitter, so if you are a fan of his work and are a Twitter-aholic, don’t just sit there, follow his page!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

CrossTopix #14: Top 5 Most Memorable Gaming Icons, Channel Identity Changes, Toy Story 3, Summer Time

Welcome to the 14th edition of CrossTopix! I’m glad to be here this week with a friend and an up-and-coming movie director. Before we get to the discussion, I want to discuss a little of the special announcement posted previously and some other important news. Starting with this edition of CrossTopix, for the time being, I will not be updating on a regular weekly basis due to outside priorities and the admitted lack of demand. The site does take some time out of my week, while I love CrossTopix, at this time other personal priorities/projects need some attending to a little more. I have full intentions of continuing with this site and providing content on a weekly or at the very least bi-weekly basis be it a CrossTopix discussion, a rant, an interview, or another feature. In the meantime, I am looking to recruit people to be a part of a regular staff of the site! Please check the requirements on my Facebook Note (!/note.php?note_id=397221142881&id=30400667&ref=mf), I’m really looking to expand this site on a fuller scale! As always, for further updates and fun news, please add CrossTopix on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace!

Without further ado, let me introduce this week’s guest. He’s one of the founders of Pigboat Productions ( the director of Life at Grandpa’s ( and the upcoming film, Sun for Sorrow. Introducing, Joe Harris!

Joe: My name is Joe Harris. I am a filmmaker out of Omaha, Nebraska. I am a self proclaimed nerd of all things, from video games, movies, wrestling, computers, music, and all sorts of other random subjects. I am proud of this, and think it makes me a more interesting person although some would argue that it just makes me obnoxious. I call those people my friends. It's an honor to be a part of CrossTopix, as I've been reading, just wishing I could interject my own opinions into this, and now I can! I hope my introduction into the series is enjoyable and interesting. So, uh...enjoy!

1. Top 5 Favorite Video Game Characters

STVO: I based this question on a recent Top 50 list from ( My friends and I had many disagreements, I didn’t quite want to do a Top 50 on Crosstopix, but take 10% of it and you have a perfect Top 5 list! Mine will be personal favorites, not necessarily my favorite video games though:

5. Albert Wesker: On a list full of good guys (and all family-friendly characters) I needed one mature villain! While this choice is debatable, I felt this was a great choice. A former member of the S.T.A.R.S. team he proves to be associated with the evil Umbrella Corporation in the first Resident Evil title. He makes appearances in other titles but SPOILER ALERT you have your final battle with him in Resident Evil 5. While I’m fine with them choosing 5 to be his final title, I wish they would have had the rest of S.T.A.R.S. and the main good guys such as Claire Redfield, Leon Kennedy, Rebecca Chambers, and perhaps even Billy involved in this title to take him out. Oh well I enjoyed killing him like I enjoyed witnessing his menacing actions throughout the series.

4. PaRappa the Rapper: No stranger to PS1-core gamers but perhaps some of today’s casuals have forgotten him. He’s a silly rapping dog from PaRappa Town who is trying to win the heart of a flower named “Sunny Funny.” Does this game sound like somebody was getting high? You should see what happens when you play his games! PaRappa does his best to please his friends, his dad, and the love of his life. Plus he could beat any of today’s rappers in a freestyle battle!

3. Mario: An obvious choice on almost anyone’s top 5, but hey why not? He made appearances in so many video games be it his famous platformers, his racing games, sports titles, or even his all out battles with fellow Nintendo brethren. On top of that, he’s always cheery, he is about as mighty and fast as his competition, and he is more recognized by children than Mickey Mouse (according to old statistics at least.)

2. Link: A teenage medieval heart-throb to girls, a bad@$$ with an awesome sword fighting the craziest monsters. While Sonic and Sega took the place of Mario and Nintendo when I turned eight years old, Link on the Gameboy had me tune away from Sonic and others on my Game Gear. The Ocarina of Time perfectly represents the Link character and the Legend of Zelda series as well: timeless!

1. Sonic the Hedgehog: Has that 90s attitude and was a great portion of my childhood! When he arrived, he turned Mario from one of my favorite characters to “that old plumber” similar to Stone Cold Steve Austin with Hulk Hogan. While his games may not be that excellent today, at the time of his release, I loved his games, his ABC show, and his comics from Archie!

Runners-Up: Cammy (my video game crush), Solid Snake, the members of S.T.A.R.S., Willy Beamish, and way too many more to list.

Joe: Top Five Video Game Characters, huh? Ok, here goes. Prepare yourself for this, cause it's going to be ridiculous.

5. Harry from Pitfall
4. Miles "Tails" Prower from Sonic the Hedgehog
3. Pacman from...well...Pacman.
2. Mega Man
1. Hands down, Sonic the Hedgehog.

That's right, mostly retro. I roll like that.

2. Since 2005, Cartoon Network has explored airing live action television shows and movies on their

channel. MTV for a long time has not aired any music videos on a regular basis on their channel and has

recently claimed they no longer stand for "Music Television." What do you think of TV channels such as

those two changing their stance on what they air? Should it strictly be their original message or could they

air other stuff as long as it is good?

STVO: I’ve discussed MTV before and while I don’t like the channel, I’m over and been over it not being a music channel anymore. I really do miss the day of music videos regularly on TV (Fuse has been doing a very good job with it) because that’s how I would find new music and continue enjoying music from the artists I enjoyed. Something I loved from music videos were when they would add creative storylines, animation, or if you only had heard the artist on the radio and haven’t seen what they look like in a magazine (or for modern cases, see them online) you would get to see them on TV. Fortunately there’s Youtube today for videos, but sadly for Millenial Television (or whatever MTV means, they officially came out and said it’s no longer “Music Television” earlier this year), it’s just a bunch of garbage! Be it spoiled rich kids crying if there is an orange tiger at their birthday instead of a white one, a bunch of selfish/snobbish nobodies living in a beach house together, or whatever other boring reality show they have on, NOT INTERESTED!

Okay, sorry for my MTV dislike vent. While I don’t like these channels going too far away from their original message, I don’t mind if a couple programs are out of the norm. G4 (commonly known as the video game channel) is a decent channel. I love their video game coverage, I like that they air mostly good movies, and some decent popcorn shows like Attack of the Show, Ninja Warrior, etc. With movies like King of Kong, programming such as Cheat, Arena, the Major League of Gaming, etc. a channel 100% about video games could get tiring (they could add some Tech TV programming that they purchased, but even then I’d get bored.) As for Cartoon Network, I wish they would mostly stick to animated programming. I was entertained when they picked up GooseBumps and Pee-Wee’s PlayHouse for nostalgia reasons, but their reality programs for children and shows like Out of Jimmy’s Head make me want to see less. I’m not in the channel’s demographic, but it appears children don’t care much for those shows either from the cancellations of many of those programs and on the Adult Swim front, live action shows usually get cancelled quickly aside from Tim and Eric (see: Fat Guy Stuck in Internet and Saul of the Mole Men.) I have a whole rant on why Adult Swim/CN should focus more on animation, but I’ll save it for another day. Bottom line, networks should stick to what they’re good at (even if it isn’t making them the number one channel) and don’t try to be like every other channel but they can experiment every now and then.

Joe: My opinion on the CN and MTV debacle is that it is just that: A debacle. I think if your channel name is specific enough to describe the sort of thing that you want to be known for, then you should stick to it. Cartoon Network ceases to be the cartoon network when they stop being a network filled with cartoons.

The same is true of MTV. MTV stopped being music television a long time ago, but my question to them is this: If MTV doesn't stand for "Music Television" anymore, what DOES it stand for? Mainly Trash Viewing? I'd go with that. At least then the name would be consistent with the content aired on the channel. I just remember when "I want my MTV" was a mantra for an entire generation.

Now, I don't blame them for changing their business plan, but they should also change their name. It's a fairly ironic brand now. Anyone with an internet connection can go online and get music videos for free, so an entire channel devoted to them is financially ludicrous.

I think in summary, I should say that I don't mind the varying content, but I feel that they should change their brand to reflect these changes, instead of relying on what they used to be known for to sell what they are now known for.

3. What was your opinion on Toy Story 3? How did it compare to the other 2 movies?

STVO: I had the pleasure of viewing Pixar’s new money making gem on opening day. It was a very good movie. To prepare myself for that day, I watched both the original Toy Story and Toy Story 2 a few days before I went to see it. The ranking system: Toy Story > Toy Story 3 > Toy Story 2. They are all good movies but the original stands out as one of my favorites because it led to more 3D animated movies being produced and it just has so much charm. Not to say that Toy Story 3 didn’t.

As most of us know, Disney at one point planned to make a third Toy Story without Pixar. I’ve heard positive things about Chicken Little, liked Meet the Robinsons, but didn’t care much for Bolt. While they have some charm, none of them came close to matching up with a Pixar movie. With that said, Andy growing up and going to college was a good story to run with and it was a great way to end this fun series. Sure they could continue it (how? You’ll have to watch the movie yourself) but it would be really pointless if they decided to.

I have to say I preferred Shrek Forever After a little more though. For one, I was more impressed with Dreamworks’ use of 3D in this one as it popped out a little more while Toy Story 3 didn’t seem to use it all that much (I can’t really think of a particular scene standing out in it while I can say the witches in Shrek did stand out.) I found myself laughing a little more during Shrek as well. One thing I did like in Toy Story 3 more were the characters. Ken and Barbie cracked me up, I always enjoy Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead, and if you look closely, you’ll find a “My Neighbor Totoro” doll in the movie. If you’re a Hayao Miyazaki fan, you’ll really appreciate it. :)

Joe: I hate to really say too much about the plot, just because I hate spoilers, but I will say that it was the kind of story that captivated me as an adult, in just the same way as the original 2 captivated me when I was younger. I think they successfully changed with their aging audience, while keeping the integrity of the original films. The humanity that was on display and the themes that were presented really struck a chord with me, because things like change, growing up, and this idea of brotherhood and camaraderie are things that we have to deal with perhaps more as adults than we did when we were children.

I know that you have said that you thought Shrek 4 was better, and I respectfully disagree. If you'd like, we can discuss that further. I am pretty steadfast in this opinion though. Overall, I definitely recommend it. I am going to see it again, I know that. Probably not worth seeing in 3d, as I feel not all movies need to be seen that way to be enjoyed fully, and this doesn't seem like the kind of movie where you'd need that, honestly.

As a side note, I watched the movie, and because I'm a nerd, I literally went..."This scene is going to be in the video game. This scene is going to be in the game. There's going to be a running jumping part on a conveyor belt. Etc."

4. What is your favorite thing about summer? Is there anything you are particularly anticipating?

STVO: This is my 2nd summer living in downtown Chicago. I love it here! Since 2006, I have been going with my friends to the Taste of Chicago at least one day of the year. I went last Saturday and it was a lot of fun! Plenty of great tasting food, but remember, the key is to sample first and if it sounds good, grab it right away because you might not return to that section. Whether it is taking a trip through downtown Chicago, a vacation to another state (which sadly I won’t be this year), finding a theme park or carnival to go to (Six Flags Great America will definitely be visited closer to the end though), etc. My buddies and I always get in great adventures (or misadventures) during the summer.

Joe: Oh man, the last 6 or 7 summers have all revolved around filming movies. I don't think I have ever not filmed something during the summer for most of my adult life. I think that is probably the one thing I look forward to the most. I know that I'll be doing something creative during the summer, and that always excites me.

I think the other thing that I enjoy about summer is the Fourth of July. We always have a great big party, and the family gets together. We have a grill out, drink beer, and have a big bonfire as we watch and light fireworks.

That's about it for my summer experiences. Definitely filming and definitely the fourth parties.

That’s all for this edition of CrossTopix! Special thanks to Joe Harris for contributing to this edition of CrossTopix. There’s going to be some fun articles posted throughout the weeks be it interviews, some of my rants, etc. No official dates set yet but be sure to join the Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace fan pages to find out more about when I make CrossTopix updates! Also, if you are interested in joining a team to build a better website, please read the following note and get in contact right here!

Have a great weekend and a fabulous 4th of July!!!!