Best Friends & Why We Need ‘Em

Those of you who know me know I love stories about friendship.  My favorite movie of all time is Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, not just because it has the best dialogue in the history of film outside the Coen Brothers, but because the whole focus of the movie is on the relationship between these two guys who love each other, hate each other, and ultimately would die for each other.


Die for each other?”  “You first.”

There’s another story going on right now about two guys whose friendship is funny and awesome and touching, and no doubt you’ve seen the pictures online.  I’m talking about the most unlikely of friends: Professor X & Magneto.


Seen here with New Mutant Elmo.

These two brilliant idiots (who have a combined age of nearly 150) have been running around all over New York acting like teenagers and pulling faces for the camera in the oddest of spots since 2013.  And keep in mind, these guys are knights.  Actual knights.

 Patrick Stewart Ian McKellan

I mean, seriously, look at SirPatStew’s face.  He’s hysterical.

It all started with their show on Broadway, Waiting for Godot, and some could argue, as a publicity stunt for the play.

article-1259655367183-04D2F500000005DC-117798_636x300This corn dog is all the profit we made the first week.

But recently they’ve started appearing without their signature bowler hats and doofing around while taking a poke at American football during the Super Bowl.

BfUXOhNIUAAdJq0La SúperBowl de Fútbol!  Viva los Broncos!

Their relationship has grown so close that Sir Ian McKellen was even the officiant at Sir Patrick Stewart’s wedding to his human embodiment of Viagra, Sunny Ozell, in September.


Credit: Jon Von Pamer

There’s nothing quite like having a best friend.  Doing stupid stuff, pulling pranks, getting in trouble, running from the cops, fighting Peter Dinklage…these are the moments that make real friendships priceless.


I’ll get you next time, Gandalf and Jean-Luc!

Outside of spouses & children, the deepest relationships we will ever have is with our besties.  We’re more fun, more energetic, and more…well, more ourselves when we’re going an an adventure with the guy or gal we love best.  So give your best buddy a call today…and go do something stupid together.

And grab some matching hats so everyone knows you’re a couple.


~A.R. Witham

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A Peek Behind the Curtain


Writers get asked a lot of questions about their process, with questions like “How do you come up with the names of your characters?”  (Answer:  We look at names all the time from the perspective of what strikes an emotional chord) or “How many words do you write a day?” (Answer: Lots more when I’m under deadline) and “How do you come up with your ideas?” (Answer: Sweat and fervent prayer) but today I got a question about our artistic process for Black Jack, and I thought that was a much more interesting question, since I could answer with pictures.

At one point in the story, Jack Swift comes across the kekubi for the first time.  One of them rips off its own head and hammers it into a crossroads post.  Nice and grisly.   We thought it would make a good piece of motion art for the book.  It started (as all these things do) with my awesome drawing.

9-AEat your heart out Michelangelo.  I’m pretty sure there are 4th graders who could do better. (By the way, if you want to send in your art of favorite moments in Black Jack, please send them to us; they can’t possibly be worse than mine.)   If you look closely, you can see my little notes about the art, the scene, the symbols on the sign, and the animation.  So I send my stick figure off to Turner Mohan.  He comes back with this:

head on stick 2This is a quickie sketch to make sure he’s got it right.  (He actually delivered a completely different alt. sketch for this one, and you can find it in the SWAG section of the Black Jack menu.)  He’s made good decisions like getting closer to the subject, eliminating the feet of the corpse, and focusing on the eyes, which will be the primary animation.  I say “way better than mine, dude,” and he delivers his final pencil:

Head on a Stick 001Awesome.  So then Ryan Wing and I go to work.  We layer the pencils over the Black Jack parchment texture, tatter the edges, give it some aging, pepper in a little vignetting and set the eyesockets on fire.  And zoom in a little more to focus on the green fire.

c-itunes-banner-cleanAfter this, we separate the foreground from the background, spin the circular hash-lines to provide a sense of queasiness, animate the green fire and let the hair start blowing in the wind.  Pepper in some creepy sound effects, and we’re ready for drama.  And that’s how we built all 24 pieces of major motion art for the app.

If you want to see the whole thing in action (it’s much better when it happens while you’re reading; a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing) you can see it in Chapter 9: Madrigal Verde of Black Jack: A Moving Novel on your iPad.


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Passion Counts

Once upon a time, in the thrilling days of yesteryear, there was a thing called the Big Wheel.  It wasn’t like other tricycles.  Oh no.  It had…wait for it…a BIG WHEEL.


The definition of awesome.

It was different from other tricycles.  It was better.  It had all three  primary colors (ALL of them!)  It weighed about an eighth of a pound so you could drag it anywhere.  The wheels made cool sounds like a grown-up car.  It had the finest braking system in the world: your feet.


Check out that seating.  O, yeah.

But most importantly of all, the Big Wheel was built to take whatever punishment an eight-year-old kid could think to inflict on it.

 “Tell Mom I want Spaghetti-Os for dinneeeeeerrr!”

The point is that once Danny-Down-The-Street got one, it was Game Over for any other trike.  Three-wheeled Schwinns and Huffys littered the streets of our neighborhood as kids abandoned them in the gutters.  We loved our Big Wheels, we absolutely loved them.  Nothing else would do.  It gave us a sense of adventure and wonder at what could happen next.

85 Sweet Big Wheel JumpFly, kid.  Fly.

That’s the kind of passion and enthusiasm I am hearing from you guys about Black Jack.  The readers that have read all 20 chapters are wildly enthusiastic.   One reader commented that she read the entire novel in a single sitting.  Some of you have read it twice already, despite the fact that is hasn’t been out a month.  You are saying very, very nice things to me (and thank you!), but more importantly, those of you who love the app really love it.  You’ve found something that makes you wonder what could happen next.


It’s hard to find something that you love as much as a Big Wheel (or whatever your Big Wheel was) and it’s a rare thing to find something that makes us genuinely passionate.  That kind of wild-eyed enthusiasm and excitement is something we all carry happily in our hearts.


Sometimes for the rest of our lives.


Thanks for sharing Black Jack: A Moving Novel with your friends.  Research has shown that people who share the app are more likely to win a Monkey Island (yes, an island made of monkeys), and are 97% more attractive to the opposite sex.  Get on it.

BJ Logo

Click here to get Black Jack FREE for your iPad.