Friday, April 09, 2010

Zander's Fleming Hazmat/Tommy Chicago/Uptown Girl pinup is online at Staplegenius!

Some time ago, Danno Klonowski asked me to do a pinup for his massive crossover adventure that brought three of the best minicomics characters ever together for a romp through space and time and whatever, and so I said sure. I love drawing these characters, and in particular you may notice how similar Fleming Hazmat looks to a certain lieutenant who now graces the deltoids of a certain cartoonist.

And you should definitely go about reading the entire book here at Staplegenius!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Klonowski on Klonowski

Danno Klonowski, local comics raconteur, has paid me a significant compliment. When told his name and his/his character's likeness would be used in a Transformers comic that I was scripting, he boldly declared that he would get a tattoo of the panel in which the character appeared. Well, I made darn sure that that character got a panel in which he was prominent, and brandished a large weapon. Yes, my storytelling choices are influenced by only the highest muses.

As for what happened then, Danno tells the whole story in some detail at his blog, StapleGenius. But here's a hint:

Holy crap.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Bioshock 3 Game Infarcer cover!

[click on images to see a larger size]
It's that hilarious time of year again, at least as far as magazines are concerned. The April issue of Game Informer magazine, out this week, has a small section inside called Game Infarcer, which mercilessly mocks all the games that they stare at all year. This year: Bioshock 3. HA! Take that, 2K games! We love your game enough to mock it!

This issue marks our fifth year drawing the cover to the section (Thanks, GI!), and to celebrate, we'd like to go through the process of creating the cover, from concept to delivery.


At the beginning of every February, I start wondering when someone from Game Informer is going to call for the Game Infarcer cover, and sure enough, Bryan Vore calls up and sets up a meeting, and asks if this cover can be "in a more realistic style". Naturally, I say sure thing, then end up drawing it the way I draw everything. Professional secrets revealed!

When I get to Game Informer World Headquarters (about 3 miles from here), the guys all sit down with me and give me the pitch: Bioshock 3, with Big Grandpas. But the best part is: they give me a sketch.

[notation added by me]
I love it when people do sketches. Sometimes people think I'm going to laugh at them or are embarrassed to show what they've done, but I love seeing what people have in mind visually even if they "can't draw a straight line", because it saves me from trying out all the composition pyrotechnics at my disposal. Any artist knows there are millions of ways to lay out the same picture, but the simplest ones are frequently the best, and if that's what the client has firmly in mind, it's usually a good idea to go for it. In the process of making the sketch, the client can also see some potential for ideas and put them down, instead of just making a list or having to remember them. It also lets them see if they can even envision a visual way to communicate the joke, which is a good indicator as to whether I can, as well.

During the meeting, since everyone could see the sketch, we could jump off into ideas a lot faster, and we quickly came up with things like the daily pill container, the Fiber valve (that was Joe Juba), Android Ryan (also Joe), the idea of being at a Denny's-like breakfast place, the Rapture background, and the Prune Juice syringe. These sorts of "list" drawings--ones that contain subtle in-jokes around a given topic--are always my favorite because they're very information-heavy, and are less concerned with rendering, which I enjoy, but is not my particular forte.

Also, Joe lent me a Big Daddy doll--er, action figure at the meeting, which was very helpful in drawing details.


What I like to do when I start a job is to try to ride the wave of enthusiasm as much as I can, and frequently this means I can really make some headway. When I come back from a meeting with the guys at Game Informer, we've been brainstorming and joking about the image, and the game, and other funny obscurities that could make it in there, and so I'm bursting at the seams with ideas. So even though it was late in the day and I needed to get home, I quickly sat down and sketched out what was in my head for the Big Grandpa and the Little Sister Nurse.

This gave me the chance to distill down some ideas, cement some gags in there, and think of some new ones when a corner of the drawing is looking kind of lonely. As you can tell, it also allowed me to basically lock in the general "camera angle" of the drawing. This was a pretty lucky break--it doesn't always happen that way--but just dashing stuff down without overthinking it often gets the simplest (and best) results.

The next day, I took another sheet of paper and drew around all the other elements of the drawing: the environment, the signs, the greeter, etc. I married these two images in Photoshop and dropped in a Game Informer logo and Bioshock 3 graphic for placement so that I could send it off to the guys for feedback.

This part also allowed me to add more jokes--the Denny's-like Ryan logo, the sign advertising the specials that looks like the Plasmid upgrade graphic, the Little Sister ornate escape hatch, the detailing on the seats and host stand that are similar to the doors in the game, and the gold-glowing rose in the tonic container way in the background. If you look closely, there's even a cash register on the far right, just like in the game. But then I realized host stands don't have cash registers. This drawing will be nothing if not accurate!


The sketch is relatively tight, as you can see from how similar it is to the final drawing, so the next step is to blow it up in Photoshop and print it out in 10% cyan on a big sheet of paper. From there I can go in with pencil and brush and create the final linework.

Now, normally, people pencil the whole image before inking, but I'm kind of impatient, and sometimes if you're sure about a section of the drawing (that is, you're sure it's going to be in shadow or something), it can be useful to go ahead and ink it. It can frequently give you better ideas on how to pencil the rest of the page, and it sets a certain style.

When I was finished with the foreground inks, I sent the image to Game Informer again, just to show them some progress, and it yielded a valuable addition. While I had added jokes to the sign and the menu, I had entirely neglected the "Please wait to be seated" placard. If you've played Bioshock, you know that there is a perfect addition to make to this sign, and Jeff Cork pointed it out. "Please..." was changed to "Would you kindly..." and our drawing was now officially stuffed as full of jokes as we could make it.


Coloring is difficult for me, particularly things that have to be relatively atmospheric. I tend to like to color with flat colors rather than with a layered, textured look, but I tried to blend the two for this illustration.

For the background, I drew outlines of the buildings with dots for windows, then made several layers, each with a layer of blue to indicate distance. Here was the final opportunity to make jokes, so I threw in a few Ayn Rand references (the signs saying "Roark" and "Galt", two Randian heroes, and the Atlas-shaped building (pre-shrug). In case you don't know, Ayn Rand's works, particularly Atlas Shrugged, were a major influence on the philosophy of Bioshock and Rapture, its underground city.

Gloomy blue and glowing gold were the basic colors for the game of Bioshock, so I created a warm gold light spot in the lower right to focus attention, then colored all of the figures with gold highlights coming from that direction to unify the scene. The background could stay a largely uniform neutral blue that would pop out the figures. As a final consideration, I did something I rarely do--I added a glow to certain things: the Big Grandpa's eyes, his lightning bolts on his hands, and the Little Sister's eyes. When put into an image that is mostly flat colors, effects like that can be quite striking.


When the image makes it into the magazine, I always hold my breath a little, hoping that it will look okay. These days you can be pretty sure that what's on your screen will print out okay, but you never REALLY know. I was thrilled when I got this one in the mail. As you can see, they moved the image up and zoomed in a tiny bit, overlapping the top of Big Grandpa's fiber tank with the logo (I provided another layer of just the top half of that figure in case they wanted to do that), and they extended the shadow in the lower left to get in the copy for the joke, which I'm glad they did. I feel like the image is solid, and a good joke, but it does need a little explaining.

So go out and find the April issue of Game Informer! It's the one with the Portal 2 cover. Ah, not only a drawing in an issue of Game Informer, but one about the sequel to my favorite game. It's the icing on the cake.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Steinlicht Book Signing This Saturday!

This Saturday at Big Brain Comics, David Steinlicht will be signing copies of his new book Cornered!, which is a collection of his strips from the Pioneer Press. David writes:

Now available: “Cornered!” A collection of comics from the Pioneer Press newspaper by David Steinlicht — published by Nodin Press.

This Saturday, from 4 to 6 p.m., you can buy the book and get it signed by the author, at Big Brain Comics in downtown Minneapolis.

Great Christmas gift. Excellent Chanukah gift. Perfect Kwanzaa gift. Super solstice gift. Nice stocking stuffer. Use ‘em for holiday party favors. Just the thing for grads. Mom will love it — Dad, Sis and Junior will, too.

And at $19.95 per copy, it’s budget friendly. Color cover, 274-page B&W interior.

(Note to those of you who purchased the self-published edition of “Cornered!”: Don’t get all worked up. It’s the same book, mostly. There are 11 additional comics, one more intro page, another index page, a Library of Congress number, a ISBN number, a bar code, an author picture and a snappy new cover design.)

The signing is from 4-6 pm, but if you can't get enough Steinlicht in just those two hours, swing by the MCBA next door from 12-4 for Saturday Open Studio.

Details on the BOOK SIGNING.

Details on the OPEN STUDIO.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fallcon Fotos 2009

Convention neighbor and collaborator Gene Ha

The convention floor

Verily, only the worthiest may lift yon mighty hammer!

The closest safe distance from Lord Vader and his entourage

The drawing I later bought from...

...Brittney Sabo.

Jin "Little Jin" Cannon meets Gene "Big Jin" Ha.

Peter Gross wearing his new adjustable reading glasses. And holding a Gene Ha drawing of Phantom Girl (for his Legion of Superheroes fangirl daughter).

Ryan Kelly

Paul Fricke

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Kevin and Zander Cannon at FALLCON 2009!

Surely everyone in the Twin Cities knows about the MCBA's FallCon, the best local comic convention ever.

This year, both of us will be in attendance, though not on the same day. Zander will be there on Saturday (coming in at 11 due to a previous engagement) and Kevin will be manning the booth on Sunday. We will have comics, minicomics, ultra-secret previews of upcoming comics, and originals, and Zander will be doing sketches. We will be accepting credit cards on Saturday.

Come for the guy dressed as 1960s Batman, stay for the 25 cent bins! Oh, and don't forget to bring your copies of HATE and ATARI FORCE; Pete Bagge and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez are gonna be there!

Watch this space, there will be moblogging of the event, you can be sure.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009


Top Shelf's FIRST MOVIE is coming out tomorrow! Do yourself a favor and go see Bruce Willis do a bunch of cool stuff.

... or is it his SURROGATE doing a bunch of cool stuff?

You probably know that The Surrogates is based on a graphic novel penned by Top Shelf mail room guy Robert Venditti and illustrated by Brett Weldele. What you may not know is that I was roommates with these guys at this year's San Diego Comic-Con and Chicago Wizard World. They had a lot of cool things to say about the film, and about visiting the set in Boston. Little known fact: the film is co-produced by Elizabeth Banks, a WHAS alum. WHASome!

Anyway, let's give SURROGATES a successful box office run so that movie investors start knocking down Top Shelf's door looking for more graphic novels to produce.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We R Super Heroes Video

Zander and I (plus a boatload of other folks) are in a music video! We contributed original superhero designs for a Robbert Bobbert video, which is the brainchild of Apples in Stereo frontman Robert Schneider.

Puny directed and animated, and throughout the video you can see the visual stamps of King Mini and the rest of the Puny gang.

Here's Zander's guy, "The Bunny":

... and my guy, "Prosthetic Paddy":

Click on the stills to see all the other great superheroes created by these fine cartoonists:


Monday, September 14, 2009

Manly Tales of Cowardice: The Guest Strip

I'm very excited to be a guest artist in Danno Klonowski's epic 14-page "Guest Artist Spectacular" ... and as luck would have it, my page premieres today!

So head on over to and see what ol' Fleming Hazmat is up to now.

As an added treat, see if you can figure out what kind of lunch box Mr. Hazmat has taken with him to the logging site.


Friday, August 14, 2009

T-Minus reviewed by Todd Klein!

Todd Klein, comics superstar and letterer of (among many, many other things) Top Ten, has reviewed T-Minus: the Race to the Moon on his blog! Thanks Todd! A quotation:

Ottaviani and the Cannons make excellent use of the comics format to tell this complex story in interesting ways. (...) Parts of the story are told simultaneously through the clever use of large panels and small panels on the same pages, each telling a different narrative.

You can check it out, as well as his other reviews, tips, observations, and dissections of the finer points of comics lettering at

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon will both be at Comic-Con International 2009!

Hi folks, I hope you're all as excited as we are to be going to Comic-Con in sunny San Diego this coming Thursday. Kevin and I will be there to chat you up, tell jokes, draw sketches, and, in a departure from our usual inwardly-focused convention personas, give panels!

First of all, where to find us:

Here are our two locations in the context of the whole place. Zander will be on the left, in Artists Alley, Kevin will (primarily) be on the right, at the Top Shelf booth.

Zander will be at CC-01, which you can remember by thinking "CC=Comic-Con, and 01=Zander is Numero Uno". Easy!

Kevin will be flogging his new hot book Far Arden at the Top Shelf booth, number 1721, which you can remember by thinking "R-rated movies, alcohol".

And for completeness' sake, here is the:

We will also be doing panels. As mentioned in a previous post, Kevin will be contributing to a Top Shelf panel at the same time that I will be giving a talk on how to do comics in the small, medium and big press.

Thursday, July 23

4:00-5:00 How-To Session: Zander Cannon— Zander Cannon has been working in comics since 1993 and has done both writing and art duties on comics about knights, robots, spacemen, cops, superheroes, ghosts, and mythical creatures. His presentation will cover how to produce comics and other books as an independent publisher. With Kevin Cannon (no relation) he runs the studio Big Time Attic, which focuses on educational comics for book publishers. Room 18
Categories: Art and Illustration | Comic Books | Seminars & Workshops

4:00-5:00 Top Shelf in 2009— With League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. III) and the new edition of Lost Girls, plus The Surrogates movie starring Bruce Willis hitting theaters on September 25, and literary titles such as Essex County, Alec, and Far Arden being released, it's going to be an amazing year at Top Shelf. Come talk with publisher Chris Staros and creators Robert Venditti (The Surrogates), Jeff Lemire(Essex County), Kevin Cannon (Far Arden), and Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) to find out all the details. Room 10
Categories: Comic Books | Movies

On Friday, Zander will be part of Douglas Wolk's panel:

Friday, July 24

Sun, Jul 19, 09:49AM
1:30-2:30 After the First 1,000 Pages— It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Art teachers say that you have to make 100,000 bad drawings before you can make a good one. Becky Cloonan (Demo), Zander Cannon (Top 10), Roger Langridge(The Muppet Show Comic Book), and Matt Kindt (Super Spy) will discuss how they've developed as artists since their early work and the creative breakthroughs that took them a while to reach. Moderated by Douglas Wolk(Reading Comics). Room 10
Categories: Art and Illustration | Comic Books | Comic-Con Special Guest Spotlights & Appearances

And on Saturday, I'll be here with Andy Schmidt talking about Art Portfolios:

Saturday, July 25

4:00-5:00 Building Your Art Portfolio— Moderated by Comics Experience founderAndy Schmidt (X-Men, Annihilation) and featuring the expert advice of comic creatorsChris Bachalo (X-Men, Generation X), Todd Nauck (Spider-Man, Young Justice), Robert Atkins (G.I. Joe), C. B. Cebulski (Marvel Talent Coordinator), and Zander Cannon (Top 10), this panel covers everything an aspiring comics artist needs to know about building a portfolio and getting his or her first gig. Join the discussion and ask your questions at the end! Room 30CDE
Categories: Art and Illustration | Cartooning and Comic Strips | Comic Books |Seminars & Workshops | Webcomics

I'll also be signing at the Wildstorm Booth (part of the DC pavilion, you can't miss it) at these times:
Friday 3-4 pm
Saturday 3-4 pm
Sunday 11:30 am-12:30 pm

Looking forward to seeing you all there, amigos!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Game Informer Braid 2 joke makes it to the official Braid blog!

As everyone who reads this blog surely knows, once a year we draw an illustration for Game Informer's April Fools edition, "Game Infarcer". This year, as luck would have it, the topic was Braid, a game that I absolutely loved, and I was thrilled to draw a parody of it. Better yet, the guys over at GI just let me know that Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, put up the image to joke about a sequel to Braid. Nice! Here it is on the official Braid blog, and here is the image without all that dang copy.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

City Pages Annual Comix Issue: CALL FOR ENTRIES!

It's that time of year again: City Pages is gearing up for its third annual City Pages Comix Issue and is looking for submissions. City Pages has a readership of over 50,000 discerning eyes, and is thus a great showcase for any cartoonist. And even if your cartoon isn't picked for the print edition, it will be published online. Don't forget, last year the Comix Issue won a prestigious AltWeekly Award!

Please read all of following information very carefully (a few things have changed since last year):

From Nick Vlcek, City Pages Art Editor:

This year's theme: "MINNESOTA NICE"

Deadline is Wednesday, August 5th. That's when we'll close the space and figure out what we have to run. If there's any changes that need to be made or if a work is not finished, we have one more week, but we're not any more slots past the 5th.

What we learned from last time:

There is a finite amount of space for the print edition. DO NOT FEEL LIKE YOU WERE PASSED OVER BECAUSE YOUR STUFF DIDN'T MAKE IT IN TO PRINT. We'll put everything we get up online.

Regarding above, everyone should work in a horizontal, quarter page size:

9.75" wide by 2.5" tall

[ Click to download a Photoshop template ]

If you want/need to do something larger, contact me first, otherwise don't necessarily expect it will run in print! (half page is 9.75" wide by 5.4" tall; full page is 9.75" wide by 11.25" tall).

Black and white JPEGS, 300dpi actual size, or larger (fit to scale).

All email should be addressed to:

nvlcek [at]

Subject should read: CP Comics Issue

Every email needs to have the title of the piece and the credit (how you'd like your name to appear in print). We will also need a W-9 (click to download) filled out and attached to the email with your real name and address if you want to be paid. Those who sent in a W-9 last year and got paid will not have to send one if their address hasn't changed.

Payments are $25 to all, another $25 if your panel makes it into print. That is the same rate no matter what size it ends up being.

Thanks for all!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two Great Reviews on The Boogle

Check out Mark McGinty's reviews for T-Minus: The Race to the Moon and Far Arden at

Thanks, Mark!

... and don't forget, Far Arden comes out TOMORROW!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yearbooks Launch Party This Sunday!

Our friends and neighbors at 2D CLOUD are launching their most recent book this Sunday. It's a beautiful volume and you'll want to get yourself a signed copy. Click on the postcard below to be magically whisked away to 2D Cloud's blog for more info:


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hey Michele, What's So Funny?

This is what I like to see in the City Pages: the featured article is a multi-page comic strip.

Pick up your [free] copy today to see the work of local cartoonists and Big Funny contributors Lupi and Bill Prendergast. You can also read it online (and comment!) by clicking here:

Good for local cartoonists, bad for Michele!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jim Ottaviani T-Minus Interview on The Comics Reporter

Our friend, collaborator, and co-author of T-Minus Jim Ottaviani gives a long and insightful interview about his space race tour de force on The Comics Reporter.  Tom Spurgeon always conducts excellent interviews, and this is no exception.  

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Fate of Top Ten, continued...

Hey Top Ten fans, I just want to thank you for the outpouring of support I hear we've gotten about wanting to see the story continue.  It's gratifying to know that people care so much about these characters and this world that they will take the time to write in and make their preferences known.  Now, I should also say that my editor's getting a lot of mail that is less than constructive about the fate of Top Ten and what's to be done about it, so let's take this opportunity to go over a few thoughts, shall we?

1.  You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.  That is to say, you improve the chances of Top Ten continuing by sending positive emails that focus on your deep love of the series and your honor-bound promise to buy every issue that comes out than by insulting DC, Wildstorm, the editors, and the accountants and accusing them of playing bait-and-switch.

2.  Speaking of which, there are many factors that have led to the current situation, and things are not always as black-and-white as they may seem.  It's always tempting to find a villain in a difficult situation, but I can tell you that everyone involved acted with good intentions and everyone wants to put out a comic that people love and will read.

3.  This is a follow-up to this post, in which I posted a summary of events, calling it "the semi-official statement from Wildstorm through me".  While I typed that in good faith, feeling that it was an accurate representation of what I had heard, it was not in any way an official statement, and I retract that label.  I don't speak for Wildstorm, and I am not privy to their decision-making process.  

Top Ten is perhaps the most fun series I've ever worked on; I would love to have it continue and pay off the storylines which have been established.  Stay positive, and send your proclamations of love to:

AskWS [at] dccomics [dot] com

Thanks again!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Interview with Jim Ottaviani at Yet Another Comics Blog

Friend of BTA and collaborator on two projects (Bone Sharps and T-Minus), Jim Ottaviani is the man to talk to about science comics.  Here at Yet Another Comics Blog, he gives an interview about the process of making T-Minus and has some nice things to say about his co-authors.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Top 10 Season 2 continuing?

UPDATE:  I've just written about the situation in another post;  you can find it here.

UPDATE:  I've been given an email address that fans wanting to make themselves heard about Top Ten continuing can use to contact Wildstorm:

AskWS (at) dccomics (dot) com

Let's let them know Top Ten has some fans out there!  But ask nicely, won't you?  For me? 

This week saw the release of Top 10 Season 2 #4, the supposed end of the 4-issue series.  As people read it and wonder why all the plot lines are not resolved, here is a semi-official statement from Wildstorm through me my take on the situation:
The series was originally conceived as an 8-issue story with 2 standalone specials.  The first special, focusing on the courtroom dramas in a superhero city, is coming out next month with art by Da Xiong.  Wildstorm and DC are looking at the sales and response on these 5 comics and using that to determine how to continue the series. 
We're hoping that the responses to the special will be good so that we can continue this series, which seems to be relatively well received, critically.  Here is a new review of #4, from Comic Book Resources:

EDIT:  Wildstorm has not made any official statements on this matter, and to my mind the decisions that they made have been understandable.  I apologize if I portrayed them to be unreasonable or unresponsive.

EDIT:  Rich Johnston has put out a call to save Top 10 on his Lying in the Gutters column on Comic Book Resources.  Thanks, Rich!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

BTA & Friends News Round-Up

SUNDAY, APRIL 26 is MicroCon. Zander and I will be there with our standard array of bric-a-brac. MN State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. Details here.

Steve Stwalley has a cool t-shirt design on Threadless. Go vote!

And Puny is up for a webby for their animation work on Yo Gabba Gabba! They need your vote, too!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Perfect Art Storm Hits Next Weekend

Two don't-miss
gallery events are headed
our way in a little
over a week:

First up, Altered Esthetics is celebrating their fifth birthday (which makes AE just slightly older than BTA). Look for live music, food, and even a wooden puzzle-like AE logo that Zander, Steve, Danno, and others and I have contributed to.

And for those who like collectibles, an original FAR ARDEN book will be raffled off. There were only 100 of these made, so if your bookshelf feels a little light and you're feeling a little lucky, why not drop a handful of raffle tickets in the Far Arden bag?

where: 1224 Quincy St NE
day: Friday, April 17
time: 5pm - late (Raffle ends at 9pm, so buy those tickets early!)

more info:
facebook & twitter

The following night make sure to check out Puny's PINK HOBO gallery for their paper show. The list and caliber of artists is unbelievable -- check out their website below to see what I mean. Go and enjoy, but please, no open flames near the art.

where: 507 East Hennepin Ave
day: Saturday, April 18
time: 7pm - late

More Info:
facebook & twitter