Thursday, December 31, 2015

Recap: Curls Studio's Year of 2015

2015 has been an excellent year for Curls Studio creators Joe Carabeo and Carolyn Belefski, so we decided to celebrate with a year-in-review recap blog post!

One of the major events that happened to Carolyn this year is that she had the opportunity to draw cartoons for The White House. The White House Office of Digital Strategy approached Carolyn with the concept of creating health care comics for the Affordable Care Act. First Lady Michelle Obama posted one of the comics on her Instagram and Twitter accounts and it received over 16,000 likes on Instagram in less than a day. Carolyn’s #GetCovered comic series was covered by several news outlets including The Washington Post, CBR, The Blaze, The Patriot Post, ComicsDC, and more.

Carolyn also launched her first Kickstarter campaign and it was a success! We were able to publish a book of every Curls comic strip ever created. Thanks to our awesome backers for pledging to make this project come to life. If you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can still purchase the Curls book from the store at

RISE: Comics Against Bullying (Northwest Press) published a story Carolyn illustrated, written by Amber Love. "Left Behind" and is a bittersweet tale about what happened after a young woman had unclothed pictures of herself circulated through school. It’s about her mother, former friend, and dog trying to move on living life without her.

We made a total of 13 live event appearances this year. Early in the year we did a presentation to kids at Stone Branch School of Art. Then we exhibited at Smudge in Arlington, Virginia. We traveled to Pittsburgh for Indy Comic Expo and the New Jersey Meadowlands for East Coast Comicon. We also exhibited at Creator Con in Maryland. We celebrated Free Comic Book Day at our local store and hit up major conventions including Awesome Con in DC, Small Press Expo, Baltimore Comic-Con, and  New York Comic Con.

Because of media attention from The White House comics and my Curls Kickstarter campaign, several outlets wanted to do profiles on me. VCUarts Newsletter and Northern Virginia Magazine (Best of NOVA issue) both did print articles on the news and featured my artwork.

Carolyn was also a runner-up for the third year in a row for Best Visual Artist in Washington City Paper's 2015 Best of D.C. Reader Poll.

Curls Studio exhibited our Black Magic Tales comics at the cARToons exhibit at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. Carolyn sold a Curls print from that art show to someone visiting from Beijing! Even with the Curls Kickstarter rewards -- Iceland, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Luxembourg... Curls has gone further than we've physically gone for sure!

Black Magic Tales was published in Magic Bullet, Washington, DC's comics anthology. Issues #10 and #11 were released this year.

During New York Comic Con, we recorded a Carolyn and Joe Show podcast from the Wyndham New Yorker hotel room we stayed at. We had an electrifying conversation about Nikola Tesla while staying in the actual room that Tesla lived in for ten years until his death in that very room!

Carolyn and Joe Show participated at the inaugural DC PodFest and did a live show with a special guest -- you may remember him from WrestleMania 30 -- Shocked Undertaker Guy, Ellis Mbeh!

On Halloween, Carolyn organized the third annual Cartoonists Draw Blood drive with Troy-Jeffrey Allen. Donors gave blood to the American Red Cross and then the Washington, DC chapter of National Cartoonists Society and other local cartoonists drew for the donors as a "thank you." The event was a success and we saved many lives. We already have a date confirmed for next year -- it's Saturday, October 29, 2016.

So much has happened this year and we've been busy. We hope to create more for you in 2016 and all the years to come!

Happy New Year from Curls Studio!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Brand Identity for Stable Hands

Before the year ends, I wanted to display a project I completed earlier this year – identity design for Stable Hands Pet Care and Services. This project included designing and arranging printing for business cards and letterhead, as well as their services chart.

Stable Hands provides mid-day dog walks, pet sitting, and overnight stay services. Lara is an expert on the farm and specializes in horses and horse show grooming (she even has a Bachelors of Animal Science to prove it).

The logo design incorporates hands in an uplift horseshoe for luck and protection with the profiles of a cat and dog inside. The colors are friendly, approachable, and professional.

Thank you Lara and David for the opportunity to work with you to create your brand and congratulations on becoming a new independent business. If you are looking for pet care in the Virginia Beach area, please consider

Available for Freelance Work
If you are interested in my illustration and/or design skills, please email Carolyn Belefski at View my portfolio:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Black Magic Tales published in Magic Bullet #11

The latest issue of Washington, DC's Magic Bullet comics newspaper hit the streets earlier this year. Look for your free copy at many bookstores, restaurants, shops, and other establishments in and around the Washington, DC area.

In this issue, Joe Carabeo and I tell the tale of world famous criminals Roxy Monroe and Dean Casanova in "Black Magic Tales: Cashing Out." 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

RISE #2: Comics Against Bullying

Earlier this year Northwest Press published RISE: Comics Against Bullying anthology. Issue #2 included a story I illustrated, written by Elizabeth Amber Love. 

"Left Behind" and is a bittersweet tale about what happened after a young woman had unclothed pictures of herself circulated through school. It’s about her mother, former friend, and dog trying to move on living life without her. 

Proceeds from the book benefit organizations including GLAAD, Prism Comics, and Stand For The Silent. I hope you'll be able to pick the book up or find it at my table next year touring the comic conventions -- all the copies I have are already signed by Amber and I.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Carolyn and Joe Show - LIVE at DC PodFest 2015

This coming Saturday, November 7, 2015 from 10PM to 11PM you can join the live studio audience to experience a recording of the Carolyn and Joe Show taking place at the inaugural DC PodFest.

Ellis Mbeh "Shocked Undertaker Guy" will be joining us live as especial guest, so be there to catch a glimpse of his famous face. At WrestleMania 30 after Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker, his expressive face was plastered all over the WWE Network and spread all over the internet, living on in memes and beyond.

I'm interested in learning more about Ellis, as he is one of WWE's biggest fans, a powerlifter, a husband, and more. He seems to be an interesting person beyond having an ultimate WrestleMania moment!

The event is taking place at The Wonderbread Factory, 641 S Street, NW, Washington, DC. You can purchase tickets to the full weekend to have full access. Tickets to attend the Carolyn and Joe Show are $10 (plus $1.34 service fee): 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Recap and Photos: Cartoonists Draw Blood - American Red Cross Blood Drive 2015

Last Saturday, October 31, 2015, we had our third annual "Cartoonists Draw Blood" blood drive event with the American Red Cross. I came up with the concept in 2013 and tracked down the appropriate Red Cross people to put the event in motion, in addition to finding the venue that could handle the blood drive, be cost efficient, willing to work with us, and near a Metro station. So many prerequisites, so little time...

Each year we've been improving how the drive is produced and Troy-Jeffery Allen has stepped up to co-organize the event with me. It does help tremendously to have two people handle logistics, communicate with the American Red Cross, be in touch with the venue, wrangle artists, make sure we recruit blood donors, promote the event, set-up and handle what issues arise the day of, and more. Thank you, Troy!

Since it was Halloween on the day of the event this year, we encouraged blood donors to dress up in costume, although it was not required to give blood. Quite a few people did dress up. We had zombies, fun Halloween socks, ninjas, Mickey Mouse, Daredevil, vikings, and more.

The Takoma Voice provided online coverage before the event. Here is the link:

Capitol Communicator also broadcasted us on their Events page:

We had many artists who wanted to join us, so we split into two shifts. Thanks to all the cartoonists who donated their time and talents: Steve Artley, Carolyn Belefski, Bill Brown, Chris Flick, Eric Gordon, Art Hondros, Mal Jones, Teresa Roberts Logan, Joe Sutliff

Thanks to Joe Carabeo, who documented the event with his film and photography skills.

Thanks to our sponsors: Cartoonists Draw Blood, American Red Cross, National Cartoonists Society, Seekers Church

Thanks to Joe Carabeo for taking photos in the morning before heading to another photoshoot. More photos are here:

We exceeded expectations by going over our target goal provided by the Red Cross -- it's only Monday morning and they've proclaimed our event "a big success" and already proposed a date for 2016! Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for another event next fall.

Thanks to everyone for being a part of this and saving so many lives with art -- in addition to having fun with us.

More photos can be found in the gallery at the Curls Studio Facebook page:


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cartoonists Draw Blood is next Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Washington, DC chapter of the National Cartoonists Society is organizing a blood drive in Washington, DC featuring several local cartoonists drawing for American Red Cross blood donors this Halloween -- "Cartoonists Draw Blood" on Saturday, October 31, 2015 from 10AM to 3:30PM at Seekers Church near Takoma Metro at 276 Carroll Street, NW.

Blood donors are encouraged sign up for appointments scheduled in 15-minute intervals between 10AM to 3:30PM and walk-ins are also welcome. To make an appointment, email

On the day of donation, donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids, include iron-rich foods in their diet, and bring a list of medications they are taking and a photo ID. All donors will be able to meet the cartoonists and receive a complimentary cartoon sketch.

It is a great opportunity for cartoonists to perform community service, showcase our talents, and save lives. We've done two previous blood drives, which have already saved the lives of up to 120 people. 

This year event will feature cartoonists Steve Artley, Carolyn Belefski, Bill Brown, Chris Flick, Eric Gordon, Art Hondros, Kerry G. Johnson, Mal Jones, T.R. Logan, Liz Reed, and Joe Sutliff.

In past years, the cartoonists have drawn original spooky illustrations, family pets, caricatures, and more. Since this year's blood drive is on Halloween, we encourage attendees to come in costume, however it's not required to give blood. Wear clothing with sleeves that can easily be rolled up above the elbow.

Let your friends know about this event by sharing the Facebook event page:

Organizers: Carolyn Belefski, Troy-Jeffrey Allen

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Recap: New York Comic Con 2015

Curls Studio closed out our convention tour in 2015 with New York Comic Con -- as they say, we went out with a bang! I don't have official information about attendance numbers, but people were telling me the weekend passes sold out in ten minutes! So many people wanted to go that Thursday and Friday crowds were just as packed as the weekend -- if not even more crowded. Did I mention the whole show was sold-out?

Looking back on my previous blog recaps from NYCC (I've exhibited in Artist Alley and Small Press sections) I realize how much this convention has dramatically grown. For example, there was a time when I could take a break from the table and walk right into a panel, grab a great seat, and enjoy the show as a fan. Gone are those days. Last year I tried to see the Bee and Puppycat panel and arrived an hour early only to find a mass of people in holding room, sitting on the floor, and the panel already sold-out. This year I did not even attempt to do anything besides stay inside the safe spot of the booth and meet the parade of people -- that's where I should be anyway, but sometimes it is nice to see the show for a bit.

I think NYCC has been handling the crowds well, but there are certain times where the crowds can be overwhelming and bottlenecking occurs, much like the Washington, DC traffic I'm used to. My main suggestion to NYCC would be to have exhibitor bathrooms so we can get back to our tables quickly. I mean, think of how many exhibitors there are -- just exhibitors alone is a large number of people.

NYCC is definitely a "thing" now -- it always has been, now just much bigger. I actually think Thursday had the largest crowd on the show floor!

Now that NYCC opens at 10AM on Thursday, we ended up leaving the DC area around 3:30AM to drive right in and set-up.

Traditionally, we record a podcast the night before NYCC with Teresa Roberts Logan from Laughing Redhead Studio who exhibits with us at booth #1162. This year, we recorded at the hotel on Saturday night. Something amazing happened in the Wyndham New Yorker hotel room we stayed at. We had an electrifying conversation about Nikola Tesla while staying in the actual room that Tesla lived in for ten years until his death in that very room! You can listen to the podcast here (which also includes talk about NYCC):

At the show I got to showcase the new Curls book and draw commissions. Amber Love stopped by the booth to say hi and I asked her to sign the copies of RISE: Comics Against Bullying I had with me. We have a story published in there that we worked on together.

I enjoyed arriving to the convention early to view some of the vendor booths before the show started without crowds. Since we were very close to the Marvel section, we were able to step away for moments to glimpse at their actors including Krysten Ritter, Clark Gregg, and Charlie Cox.

I did get to see one panel -- Con Man on Friday evening after the show floor closed. The panel featured Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, Seth Green, and others. I missed the beginning because we were shutting down our booth, so I don't know who the other panelists were. I think they showed a clip in the beginning, but we completely missed whatever they showed. I did enjoy catching what I saw and the actors were having a lot of fun. This year, NYCC installed gates in front of the main panel room. It's a good cautionary procedure to protect the talent.

Overall, NYCC is a tremendous show and we hope to be back next year in our same booth #1162! Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth to say hi or who purchased our comics and merchandise. We really appreciate you all.

Although our convention tour might be over for the year, I've organized the Cartoonists Draw Blood drive with the American Red Cross on October 31, 2015. I plan to post more details about that event soon and we hope to see you there!

Monday, October 5, 2015

New York Comic Con 2015 - Booth 1162 on the Show Floor

You can find Curls Studio ALL FOUR DAYS of New York Comic Con 2015 at Small Press, Booth 1162. Like last year, we will be joined with Teresa Roberts Logan of Laughing Redhead Studio in the same booth location. We both represent the Washington, DC chapter of National Cartoonists Society.

New York Comic Con is held at the Javits Center (655 West 34th Street) in Midtown Manhattan. 


Thursday 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Friday 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

New York Comic Con is the East Coast's biggest and most exciting popular culture convention. We hope you can join us there and stop by to say hello! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Recap: Baltimore Comic-Con 2015

This past weekend Curls Studio exhibited at Baltimore Comic-Con. This was our first time exhibiting in the Kids Love Comics section and we loved being a part of their stable of fantastic creators.

On Saturday I led a "Create Your Own Superhero Symbol" workshop and many kids and their parents showed up to design. The place was packed and there were no empty seats!

The Curls book was delivered to many Kickstarter backers who made the book become a reality and I also had fun doing many custom sketches and commissions as well. Order your very own Curls book here.

Our next tour appearance is a big one -- New York Comic Con on October 8-11, 2015 at Booth 1162 in Small Press area. I will be there with Teresa Roberts Logan and Joe Carabeo.

After that, we'll have a spooky Halloween on October 31, 2015 with our "Cartoonists Draw Blood" event with the American Red Cross in Washington, DC.

You can view more photos from Baltimore Comic-Con 2015 on the Curls Studio Facebook page here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Baltimore Comic-Con is September 25-27, 2015

Baltimore Comic-Con 2015
Visit Curls Studio at Table 3011 in Kids Love Comics 
Friday, September 25 -- 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Saturday, September 26 -- 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 27 -- 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
The Baltimore Convention Center
One West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Stop by to see Curls Studio at Baltimore Comic-Con. We will be located in the Kids Love Comics pavilion at Table 3011. Click on the map image above (with Curls) to see a large map of where to find us. We will have the new Curls book collection available for purchase. I will be doing sketch commissions and we'll have some other surprises up our sleeves!

On Friday evening there is a Drink & Draw from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. I won't be able to make it, but you can bid on the three coasters I've already drawn in the image above. All proceeds go to Parkinson's research in honor of Team Cul de Sac.

On Saturday at 1:00 PM I'll be leading a live demo "Create Your Own Superhero Symbol" merging design skills with comics to make personal visual branding.

Here are some "Curls Studio Visits..." Convention Films, produced by Astray Productions, to get you in the mood!

2008 -

2007 -

There are great guests appearing this year including: Neal Adams, Brooke A. Allen, Jeremy Bastian, Marty Baumann, Dave Bullock, Cliff Chiang, Frank Cho, Amy Chu, Steve Conley, Amanda Conner, Katie Cook, Darwyn Cooke, Jules Feiffer, John Gallagher, Bryan J.L. Glass, Dean Haspiel, Jamal Igle, Mark Mariano, Carla Speed McNeil, Terry Moore, Jimmy Palmiotti, Andrew Pepoy, David Petersen, Andy Runton, Mark Wheatley, Thom Zahler, and many more!

We hope to see you in a few days at Baltimore Comic-Con!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Recap: SPX 2015

Small Press Expo 2015 was the best SPX we've had in recent memory -- not just in terms of sales, but overall show vibe. We had a great time! Like last year I hopped across the street before the show started to quickly grab food at a Farmer's Market in the adjacent parking lot. I purchased apples, carrots, and cucumbers. I'm at a point in life where I'd rather eat fruits and vegetables than fast food.

We premiered three new mini comics this year: Little Red Monster, Funny Farm, and Cyber Nate. You can read more about Little Red Monster here. Funny Farm is a coloring book where I drew comedians as farm animals. Cyber Nate is an action adventure series concept I came up with about a humble flying squirrel named Nate who becomes responsible for protecting the world's last remaining hibernating animal society from mysterious creatures during the futuristic ice age. I asked Joe to help me flesh out the story and we've been collaborating and enjoying the process of creating this new property.

It feels amazing to be able to show these concepts to the SPX audience.

Here is my Vine from SPX: (please listen without sound, as I had my Square plugged in the headphones of my phone and apparently it creates a disturbing sound -- good to know).

More photos can be viewed on the Curls Studio Facebook page.

Thanks to everyone who visited our table! The next time you can catch us will be this coming weekend during Baltimore Comic-Con at Table 3011 in the Kids Love Comics pavilion. We'll be bringing the mini comics mentioned above and more -- I'll post a blog with the floor plan map tomorrow.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Small Press Expo is September 19-20, 2015

Small Press Expo
Visit Curls Studio at Table F14
Saturday, September 19 -- 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Sunday, September 20 -- Noon - 6:00 PM
Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road
North Bethesda, Maryland 20852

Admission (collected at the door the day of the show):
Saturday $15, Sunday $10, or $20 for both days

I hope to see you as we celebrate the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comic books and the discovery of new creative talent at SPX. Please click the map above to locate Curls Studio sharing Table F14 with Jim Coon. 

See you soon at SPX or Baltimore-Comic Con (the weekend after SPX)!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Little Red Monster by Sammy Savos and Carolyn Belefski

Little Red Monster, a collaborative mini comic by Sammy Savos and myself will be debuting at Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland next month. The story is a week-in-the-life of Little Red Monster.

Sammy was Curls Studio's summer intern and she recently headed off to School of Visual Arts in New York City to begin her studies in cartooning.

I asked Sammy I write a brief paragraph about her internship:

"This summer I interned on Sundays for cartoonist Carolyn Belefski. I made buttons, packaged them up, sorted postcards, and took part in a podcast. I also drew a piece for the Kickstarter book, colored a Curls comic strip, and created a collaborative 7-page zine with Carolyn. It was a really cool learning experience to work with a professional artist to see what it's like to work in the world of comics! It was also really nice to get to know Carolyn and Joe and have them support me in my artistic endeavors."

One of Sammy's first experiences was helping out behind the table at Awesome Con. The Saturday at Awesome Con I asked her to volunteer with the actual show and she stuffed a lot of goodie bags all day long. I wanted her to see a convention from different angles. On that Sunday she spent the day with Curls Studio and got to learn how we interact with potential customers and the perspective of promoting once you finish creating your comics. 

Each week Sammy spent 4-5 hours with Curls Studio. The Curls strip Sammy colored is currently posted here. I'm excited to see the Curls art she did published in the book soon. We also had her on as a guest for the Carolyn and Joe Show podcast to learn the importance of public speaking and interviewing. 

You can view more of Sammy's work here. We really enjoyed having Sammy around and wish her the best at SVA and beyond with her career.

Be sure to pick up Little Red Monster at SPX for $1 on September 19-20, 2015. Curls Studio will be at table F14. We'll be posting a floor map and more details about the show soon!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ohio Trip: Caves, Cartoons, Pierogies, and more!

Last weekend while many comics professionals were in San Diego for Comic-Con, Curls Studio went to new territory and spent a few days in Ohio. The main purpose of this destination was to attend the wedding of a close family member -- and since I mostly take time off from a full-time job to exhibit at comic conventions, we treated this event as a mini vacation. Here is a glimpse of our Ohio trip -- I got to visit Columbus for the first time. I'm not one to post my vacation pictures on Facebook or announce personal events online, but feel I do a great job as an "event planner" and take pride in being able to arrange trips in advance and have spontaneous fun if a discovery is made en route. I'm treating you all to this itinerary because a lot of the destinations involve comics-related journeys and cuisine fascinations that you'll enjoy. Please read on to take this trip with us...

We left the home base of Virginia on Thursday and made a half-way stop in Morgantown, West Virginia to eat and take a small break at Black Bear Burritos. I did a "build your own burrito" with spinach tortilla, kiwi salsa, tofu, and mushrooms. Joe ordered Thai One On with chicken. We also did "build your own nachos" for only $5 which included chips, queso cheese, black beans, and kiwi salsa. The nachos were excellent and I really dug the overall vibe in the restaurant. We didn't spend much time in West Virginia, but this joint is an excellent pit stop, which I suspect we'll be meeting our Ohio relatives in the future at a mid-point gathering.

Our first destination was Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills State Park within Logan, Ohio. If you're a fan of Jeff Smith's Bone, you know what I'm talking about. If you have not read Bone yet, I highly suggest you check it out. Look at a map of Old Man's Cave and you will see some familiar names: Rose Lake, Grandma Gatewood Trail... it's all there.

The area is beautiful -- we walked for miles in a 100% pure organic theme park -- imagine if Disneyland was natural -- seeing waterfalls, ferns, and rocks come to life without any gadgets or custom lighting. It had just rained, so the paths were very wet and muddy, but that did not slow us down. In the Old Man's Cave area, you'll find many trail highlights like Devil's Bathtub and Sphinx Head. It's very obvious that this is the land Jeff Smith was inspired by to create the location for his Bone series.

Reading the plaques on the trail, I learned about the first "Old Man" on our trip. Richard Rowe was a hermit who lived under the rock shelter around 1796. I also learned about a real "Grandma Gatewood" who was an extreme hiker and one of the trails is named after her.

It was starting to get dark, but I was curious to see what Conkle's Hollow was -- it is a quick drive from Old Man's Cave. I kept saying "Conky" like in Pee-Wee's Playhouse! Since we still had a bit of time before sunset, we decided to walk the lower trail because it was shorter. The lower trail leads directly to the hollowed out gorge. It was pretty scary and dark back there. Joe named it "Entrance to the Underworld."

We then drove up to Columbus, Ohio and ate nachos and fancy tacos at Bakersfield. The bar was loud and we ate on a table top placed upon a barrel. Still in the world of Bone in my mind, I was thinking -- could this be Barrelhaven? Yup. Maybe a hipster alternative world version.

On Friday morning we started the day eating breakfast at Katalina's, a small cafe known for their balls -- pancake balls, that is. I ordered Nutella and dulce de leche pancake balls with veggie sausage and Joe ordered breakfast taco that also came with delicious corn on the side side. I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it!

We were in for another treat at our next stop -- visiting the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on the campus of Ohio State University. Unfortunately, the museum was in-between exhibits at the time of our visit. I'd been introduced to curator Jenny Robb by Mike Rhode at the NCS Convention in May and was able to get a tour provided by Caitlin McGurk. Caitlin has an amazing knowledge of comics history and guided us through the vaults and the permanent exhibit upstairs. She then led us to the library where we'd arranged for them to pull selections for us to see up close while wearing white gloves. This is much like having access to the U.S. Library of Congress, where you can request to see certain items in advance. I didn't make direct selections, but gave them a list of creators: Jeff Smith, Chuck Jones, Disney or animation stuff, Lynda Barry, Walt Kelly, Will Eisner...

The stack that they selected for us was amazing. I can not believe some of the material we were able to hold in our hands. We saw original storyboards from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, Chuck Jones's Pogo animation sketches, sketches from Bone before it was the Bone that we know of, Jeff Smith's Thorn comic strip from his college days, original Will Eisner and Lynda Barry art, and so much more! It was truly unbelievable. What stood out the most for me was handling Walt Kelly's Pogo "we have met the enemy and he is us" comic strip from Earth Day 1971. Seeing the art reproduced on the internet or in small book form is nothing compared to seeing the originals in-person -- inches from your face! Walt Kelly's art blows my mind and made me realize how much work I have to do to be a better creator -- such a long way to go.

On Friday evening the wedding took place at Franklin Park Conservatory & Garden. I won't go into too much detail because sometimes you need to keep things to yourself and those memories are meaningfully preserved internally, but the venue had an art installation called David Rogers' Big Bugs. It was like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids with giant ants, spiders, and other insects parading around. I enjoyed seeing the praying mantis because I'm a fan of Zorak.

On Saturday morning we ate a mushroom quiche (like the Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures would), orange brioche, and macaroons (pistachio, lavender honey, raspberry chambord) at Pistacia Vera.

From there we took a tour of the Ohio Statehouse. Which, surprisingly had very little security. Being from the Washington, DC area we are used to multiple inspections, gates, ID cards, metal detectors, but in Ohio there is none of that. There was a guard at the door and most likely cameras, but certainly not to the level of protection I'm used to. In fact, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum is more highly guarded than their state capitol because the artwork is behind vaults and if the door is opened and not shut within a minute, the cops are alerted. The art is also temperature controlled and some of the more prized possessions are in a vault within the main vault.

I should mention that there was an opportunity to view Warner Brothers cartoons on Saturday morning "Cartoon Capers" at the Ohio Theatre during their CAPA Summer Movie Series. I set my alarm to awake early and get breakfast then go to the show, but from going to bed after the wedding past 2AM, I was too tired to actually get out of bed... looking back I wish I could have made more effort to get up, but I was a bit exhausted. So we missed out on that.

After touring the Ohio Statehouse, we visited Packrat Comics. I was briefly on Twitter early that morning as the Eisner Awards were being announced live from Comic-Con and noticed the store that won the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award was in Hilliard, Ohio and made note of it. We arrived around mid-day and lucky for us they had a community event going on with a moon bounce for kids, food truck serving pizza, a small press comics show with no more than a dozen creators, free books, and a costume contest in the parking lot. It was really cool to stumble upon the activities and enjoy everyone having fun.

From there we went to Schmidt's in Columbus's German Village neighborhood. This was a place I really wanted to fit in because they have authentic German food. There were many people there and after waiting a bit over 30 minutes to be seated, we ordered their Famous Pretzel Nuggets and the tangy mustard sauce was great! I knew not to order too much or have their awesome buffet because we had a wedding after party to go to immediately following, so I ordered a Bratwurst Sandwich with sweet kraut and Joe had a Bahama Mama Sandwich with potato pancakes. Nonetheless, the late lunch left me full as we headed out for another meal.

The wedding festivities continued at Three Legged Mare for a post-wedding evening event with lots of fried bar food. Since I was already full from eating at Schmidt's, I had a lot of water and nibbled on a healthier broccoli option, but also had a beer battered mushroom, and a few other small bites that were available on the provided group platters. We walked a few blocks to attend the Columbus Clippers baseball game as part of the wedding party. Toast was a stowaway in my backpack and had fun at the game. Thus concluded the wedding obligations, but since we were in Ohio I figured we drive a couple hours north to Cleveland since we were close enough.

Once we arrived in Cleveland on Sunday morning, our first stop was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Joe had never been to Ohio before, so I wanted him to see the Rock Hall because he's a musician. I had been to Cleveland before on a summer trip with my family over 15 years ago and already had seen the museum -- and it actually has not changed much in over a decade. It was great to see all the costumes, guitars, and memorabilia... but I felt like the museum needs an update. For example, they have a section called "Video Killed the Radio Star" but the video package being shown was completed in 1995. Twenty years of music videos has been overlooked. I'm also concerned about the loss of rock music in general life. Sure, we'll always have U2, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis -- but besides the heavy hitters, it would be great to see rock music make a come back. It seems like all we have now is the Foo Fighters... and I know there is more out there. Even with females -- they push Joan Jett, which is great, but there are a lot more females that contribute to the music industry.

I enjoyed the Herb Ritts special photo exhibit and seeing Michael Jackson's sparkling glove on rotation. It's also cool to analyze glowing musician inductees signatures on the wall of a large hallway. Other highlights included seeing Bruno Mars's gold jacket and Taylor Swift's first guitar.

After the Rock Hall, we went to the Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum is free and wonderful -- walking in to each room was like time traveling through the world cultures. I highly suggest spending a few hours if you are in the vicinity and was lucky to be able to forfeit lunch and fit it in because they are closed Mondays.

After the museum closed at 5PM we had our first meal of the day (besides snacks in the car) at Melt in Independence, Ohio. Melt has several grilled cheese masterpieces to choose from on their menu and six locations in Ohio. I'd also seen Melt's Short North location from the outside when we were in Columbus. We started the meal with Attack of the Green Tomato appetizer -- which is fried green tomatoes  I ordered the Parmageddon -- which has potato and onion pierogi, kraut, onions, and sharp cheddar. Joe ordered the Korean War Pig -- with Korean BBQ glazed pork, pork belly, kimchi slaw, relish, and muenster cheese. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and large art displays they have on the wall. I even spotted Harvey Pekar in the mural. Melt defeated me and I was only able to eat half my sandwich. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at had a refrigerator and I was able to finish the full sandwich and fries later.

Monday was the last day of the trip and we started with breakfast at West Side Market. This market is similar to Eastern Market in DC, but without the street craft vendors. There are aisles of food booths with produce, bakeries, meat vendors, chocolates  juices, and more. I'd been advised the Steve's Gyros was the place to be, but unfortunately their booth station was closed. I had also heard that Maha's Falafel was good, so decided to get a Falafel with Hummus from there. Joe got a Shawarma wrap. I really feel like this is probably the best falafel I've ever had and the sauce was on point. Because of Joe's eagle eye, we were able to go up the stairs and eat on the high-rise above while overlooking the whole marketplace. If I lived closer, I would definitely shop there for produce and more. All the fruits and vegetables looked clean and wholesome.

Then we went to visit the second "Old Man" of the trip at A Christmas Story House, where the movie A Christmas Story was filmed. We had a excellent chirpy tour guide and got to go inside the house, the yard, shed, and museum across the street. This is a must see! I have to credit my Dad who introduced me to Jean Shepherd as a storyteller because we have wonderful memories of watching this movie with my family and it was awesome to see so many others enjoy this movie as well. Our tour had about 25 people of all ages and everyone related to this film. The house was interactive -- you could take photos and pose with the Red Ryder BB gun, or dress the the pink bunny suit and walk down the stairs, or hold the telephone a listen to Schwartz being punished by his mother. The way the house has been restored and staged is perfect. On the tour you get to hear about how the house was purchased and preserved, as well as other cool facts and fun tidbits about the production.

It was funny to see the Bumpus house and neighbors next door because they were flagging down and recruiting cars to park in their driveway for $5. If you do plan to go, please be advised that street parking in the neighborhood is available for free. In the museum you can see some of the recovered props and costumes. The gift shop is amazing and it's easy to get carried away with the fun things you can purchase. Who would not want an apron with "Show Me How The Piggies Eat" on it? Of course they also have leg lamps, statues, cups, mugs, ornaments, buttons, spoons, hats, puzzles, shirts, and more!

The last place we ate at during the trip was Sokolowski's University Inn, known as Cleveland's oldest family owned and operated restaurant. If you look past the parking lot, you'll see a great view of the city. Sokolowski's has a cafeteria style set-up where you get a tray, pick what you want, pay at the end of the line, and seat yourself. The walls are like home and covered with memories and famous people who have eaten there. I got four large pierogies, green beans, and a roll. The food was filling and delicious. From there we took off to head back home.

We did a little stop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to visit S&D Polish Deli and picked up frozen mushroom pierogies and cherry pierogies. There was some traffic that held us back in Pittsburgh and we got to go thru the Fort Pitt tunnel, which we had tried to attempt earlier in the year while exhibiting at PIX, however the tunnel was closed for repairs. We wanted to travel it because Emma Watson's character in The Perks of Being a Wallflower had an amazing scene in the tunnel. I'm glad we were able to finally go through both sides then head home.

Thanks to Mike Rhode from ComicsDC, Jenny Robb and Caitlin McGurk from Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and Dawn Griffin for her Ohio knowledge for food suggestions! Thanks also to Jeff Smith for everything he has created and for his Old Man's Cave advice.

If I had more time I would have liked to see Harvey Pekar's statue at Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library, as I pledged to the Kickstarter a few years ago. I would have also liked to check out one of Michael Symon's restaurants because I enjoy watching him on The Chew. I would also like to spend more time in Hocking Hills State Park and seen all of nature's attractions, but in general I saw a ton over the course of four days and had a great time at the wedding!