Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Art by Rob Rogers
FOR THE SECOND year in a row, I was on the committee which put together the ToonSeum’s annual fundraiser, KA-BLAM! It’s a really fun event that allows us to get together with friends and comrades to celebrate and support our local bastion of the cartoon arts. Everyone who I’ve ever talked to who has attended one enjoyed the experience immensely, so it’s a pleasure to be one of the people who help put this together.

It’s also a lot of individual and collective work. Fundraisers don’t throw themselves, and there are tons of organizational details involved in making it to the big night. Fortunately, KA-BLAM! isn’t the first event of this type I’ve participated in, so a lot of the challenges were anticipated. Like last year, my primary role involved networking with local artists and coordinating their art donations for auction and sale. As before, the pieces we received were beautiful -- in some cases so beautiful I wanted to outright steal them. (I didn’t, but the temptation was real and I have some regrets over being ethically responsible.) I ended up handling some organizational aspects of the project this year too, and it definitely took time and attention and more than a little bit of support to pull it off.

This year’s theme was “CAUSE-PLAY” and guests were invited to show up dressed in costume. It’s a theme that was previously used for another event, and it seemed like a natural fit for KA-BLAM! this year. Most of the thematic elements were then designed around popular media characters, especially comics and cartoon characters. Our event poster had some fun riffing on this, but once the big day arrived, a lot of the folks who dressed up put flair and creativity into their costumes. It was a great call to include this, and I hope we revisit the costume-party theme again.

There was set-up on Friday and Saturday afternoon at the Teamsters Temple in Lawrenceville, the same venue we used in 2015, and things really sailed along. Lights were strung up, and auction items were displayed, and decorations were hung from the balcony, and it all happened faster than last year. I almost felt superfluous, as everyone present seemed to figure out their roles quickly. I did my part, answered a few organizational questions, then left to grab my costume and art supplies. Unlike the year before, this time I would be live drawing at the event, so I would have a fixed perspective on how the night unfolded.

Our committee, volunteers, helpers, and friends all worked hard to make KA-BLAM! a success, and I want to take a moment to say thanks to some of these folks for their respective roles, and to thank some of the great attendees for bringing their enthusiasm to the party.

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TOONSEUM BOARD OF directors President Rob Rogers and Vice President Harold Behar both served on the committee, being as hands-on as their very busy schedules would allow, getting things done, and attending the majority of committee meetings. Rob’s artwork has graced KA-BLAM! posters and fliers these past couple of years, as well as decorations at the event site, and it doesn’t draw itself. Harold juggles promotional aspects including the website, designing and distributing print media, and even the final event program. Without them, most ToonSeum things wouldn’t happen, so thanks for shoehorning this into your already busy days, gentlemen.
l-r: ToonSeum board members
Harold Behar, Rick Sebak, Rob Rogers

Fellow board member and regional documentarian Rick Sebak again served as our event host, and if there’s a more beloved living Pittsburgh figure, I don’t know who they could possibly be. Everyone who knows Rick or knows of him loves him. EVERYONE! (People tell me I’m well-known and beloved, but I’m a piker by comparison.) The best part is he’s as gracious behind the scenes as you might imagine, and genuinely enjoys the good will he receives and returns it in full. He’s a large part of the festive nature of the event every year, and it’s appreciated.

Stu Neft, yet another board member, worked tirelessly to arrange for all of the wonderful food from local restaurants we had this year. The spread was impressive, and he handled it with aplomb. In addition, he coordinated everything for our drinks and beverages which, let’s face it, one needs in order to get through a night of cosplayers and cartoons. (I’m telling you, it makes a fun night even more fun.) He did triple-duty by also procuring and managing the auction items, so thank you for being in it from beginning to the very end, Stu!

l-r: Olga, me, Mary
Thank you as well to our lovely bartenders, Olga Borisovna and Mary Bielich for having business handled. As I mentioned to them beforehand, when I knew they were both on board for the night, a lot of my anxieties went away instantly. There’s nothing like knowing you’ve got the right people in place to make things happen. Olga (an incredibly talented artist in her own right) set the tone for the night when I first saw her across the hall by declaring to me, “Marcel, why are you over there and not over here hugging me?” I had to oblige, right? And the Metal Mary (if you have to ask about the name, you haven't seen her shred onstage) stepped in and stepped up like the pro she is and instantly became a fixture to our group. Take a bow, ladies --  your support was greatly appreciated!

Misty Morrison was our event coordinator, and she and I worked closely on some of the minutia of planning, including keeping up-to-date (or close to it) notes from our meetings, and tracking members' action items. Misty is the ToonSeum’s gallery manager, and she was able to navigate a lot of the matters that one needed to physically be at the ToonSeum to do. (For instance, those gift bags VIPs and volunteers got? That was all Misty and the staff!) And on the day of the event, she was right there with everyone else on the front lines. Thank you for providing such a great ear to bend for bouncing ideas off of. You’re the best!

KA-BLAM! committee and ToonSeum
board members Wayne Wise (as Dr. Who) &
Marcel L. Walker (that's me, as Shakespeare!)
Alexa Astarte has been a key staff member at the ToonSeum for several years, and she's typically my go-to person for all things on the ground. Dani Grew also worked there until fairly recently and her absence has been keenly felt, so it was nice having her on the committee. Alexa wrangled volunteers, helped work on finding promotional partners, and managed KA-BLAM!'s social media presence, while Dani was responsible for organizing the cosplay contest and related elements. Their input kept things balanced and on point, and they were always willing to do more when requested. Thank you for the hard work, stalwart friends!

John Kelly has long been closely involved with the ToonSeum in a volunteer capacity, including helping with promoting PIX every year. This year marked his transition to formally joining the KA-BLAM! committee, as well as the ToonSeum's board of directors (like me!). John brought strong enthusiasm coupled with practical ideas to the table every week, and created our guide to contributing artists and auction items. Good lookin' out, John!

Wayne Wise brought his connections across the comics community to the table and facilitated sponsorship and in-kind donations. In addition, he was one of many artists who provided artwork for the auctions. There are people who legitimize an enterprise and foster creative thinking by being present, and Wayne is definitely one of them. Thank you, friend!

Chris "Chance" Brown and board member Nicholas Cafardi were willing and able to do whatever was requested of them throughout all the stages of planning, right up until the day of the event; you need people willing to do just that, so thank you for running around and helping us get it all done gentlemen!

There's one key member of the committee who hasn't been mentioned yet. More on him in a bit. He knows who he is...!

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Kristin Ward a.k.a. Morgiana a.k.a.
Wonder Woman a.k.a. Diana Prince!
EVEN WITH THE full resources of the committee available, we couldn't do everything by ourselves. Fortunately, we had amazing volunteers who all came through in a big way.

Dave Rogers, Anton Vesci, Michelle "Midnight Mame", Declan Hoffman, Kristin Ward (our vivacious Wonder Woman!), Tiffany Wilhelm, and DJ Zombo (who kept the music going and ensured an upbeat atmosphere!) all provided the back-up we needed by showing up and bringing their A-game with no complaints and lots of energy, even when the night grew long. Kudos to you all for helping us to do more than we could have hoped. Your spirits are invaluable!

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OUR LIST OF contributing artists who provided their time and talent to create beautiful sketch cards and comic-book board-sized artwork for sale at the event was stellar. From Archie Andrews to Zippy the Pinhead, the characters rendered ran the gamut from silly to superheroic, and provided a vibrant illustration of the art form the ToonSeum celebrates.

Thanks to Shawn Atkins, Nils Balls, Jason R. Bender, George Broderick, Jr., D.J. Coffman (who also provided live drawing of sketch cards at the event and, along with his wrangler Aleasha Monroe, was as friendly and professional as they come!), Derf, Vince Dorse, Bill Griffith, Danny Hellman, Kaz, Jim & Ruth Keegan, Leda Miller, Marjorie Rishel, Rob Rogers, Marcel L. Walker (yes, I'm thanking myself!), Wayno, Wayne Wise, Fred Wheaton, and one more artist who I'll mention in a bit. He also knows who he is...!

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l-r: Olga Borisovna, Sally Wiggin, Stu Neft
WITHOUT OUR SPONSORS and donors, it goes without saying that KA-BLAM! wouldn't have happened, simple as that.

Our event sponsors SCHELL GAMES and STARKIST.

Our cosplay sponsors, COSTUME WORLD in the Strip District, SPOTLIGHT COSTUMES on the South Side, and BRICOLAGE.

Our in-kind donors Harold Behar, John Kelly, Jim Mesloh, Sean Miller (who crafted the bombastic balloon art that adorned the walls!), Stuart Neft, PHANTOM OF THE ATTIC COMICS in Oakland, Rob Rogers, and Rick Sebak.

For your charity and contributions, we thank you one and all!

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l-r: Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and
Republican Committee Chair Jim Roddey
WITHOUT OUR ATTENDEES, KA-BLAM! wouldn't be worth having, and watching such a friendly
group of supporters mingle and have a good time is a spectator sport where everyone wins. Thanks to our special guests John & Gisele Fetterman, Jim Roddey, and Sally Wiggin for participating in everything from selfies to Celebrity Pictionary.

I'd like to point out Gisele Fetterman is lovely, incredibly sweet, and she won me over as a fan within less than twenty seconds. She stopped by the table where D.J. Coffman and I were drawing commissions for the event, introduced herself, and when I went to shake her hand she instead quickly shook her head and beckoned me to come around to her side of the table. "I'm a hugger," she said matter-of-factly, and pinned me in a bear hug that would have been impressive even coming from her husband. Without a doubt, Gisele gets my vote every time, and I hope she chooses to campaign on the KA-BLAM! party!

John & Gisele Fetterman

Too many friends attended from far and wide to name everyone individually, but if comic-books have taught me anything it's that pictures sometimes speak more than words can. With that in mind, here are some of the moments as captured by our event photographer Archie Carpenter.

One of our trio of Supergirls (Kimberly Love), holding the first
commission I did of the night -- of her!

Board member David Atkins is a Man in Black!

l-r: ToonSeum founder Joe Wos, Rick Sebak, "Princess Leia",
and ToonSeum Board President Rob Rogers

Crisis on a trio of Earths! (My money's on the one wearing the cape!)

Our winner -- Leia shot (to the top) first!

I t'awt I t'aw the lovely Alicia Cafardi!
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THE LAST THING I want to mention is, what was for me, the highlight of the evening. We presented two awards during the event, and they were both fully deserved and overdue. The best part is we were able to do so as complete surprises to the recipients, even with a host of collaborators taking part in making it all happen.

l-r: Mark Zingarelli & Chris Bushmen
The GERTIE Award was named after the animated character Gertie the Dinosaur, created by Winsor McCay, and is given in recognition of substantial contributions to the cartoon arts by supportive individuals involved in a non-creative capacity. Rob Rogers presented the award to our chosen recipient, Chris Bushmen, who has helped the ToonSeum in innumerable ways. He's always at events, he's always helpful, he always contributes of his time and money, and speaking on behalf of our creative community, we are incredibly thankful!

The NEMO Award was named after the title character of the comic-strip feature LITTLE NEMO'S ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND, also created by Winsor McCay, and is given in recognition of contributions to the cartoon arts by notable creative practitioners of the profession. Local illustrator and former ToonSeum board member Wayno was gracious enough to present the award, in stirring fashion, to recipient Mark Zingarelli. Mark is an artist and illustrator who's work has graced countless publications (including TIME, ESQUIRE, and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY). He has worked with indy comics creator Harvey Pekar and, more recently, Mark was the artist and co-author who brought writer Joyce Brabner's script for SECOND AVENUE CAPER to life as a graphic novel. Published by Hill & Wang, SECOND AVENUE CAPER won the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Graphic Novel, and was a Village Voice Best Graphic Novel of 2014. Mark has also been a peer beyond measure to local creators, always offering support and advice, and showing us how to get the jobs done with class. Much love to you, Mark!

(And just for the record, I have a personal investment in the NEMO Award: since 2009, my artwork has been engraved on each one, styled after McCay's drawings. Having my artwork on the shelves of some industry greats like Mark is definitely a dream come true.)

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It's hard to be the Bard, baby!
I WAS FAR more stationary this year than in the past, since I was drawing commissions for attendees all night. However that vantage point offered me a unique perspective on how the evening unfolded. I was also humbled by how many people kept coming over to check on me, offer to get me food and drinks, and compliment my artwork. Kristin, and Phoebe, and Rae & David, and Dean & Leigh Anne, and Fred & Renee, and Bud & Serena, and Tiffany, and everyone else: THANK YOU for being so wonderful!

I went as Shakespeare, because it was his birthday (and, coincidentally, also the date he died), but because Prince passed away a few days prior, a number of people kept thinking I was dressed as him. I didn't mind, and ultimately split the difference and decided I was there as His Royal Bardness.

I don't think even Shakespeare himself could have penned a more colorful narrative, and I think our evening's cast of characters should all take a bow. If you were there on Saturday, you played a role in keeping one of our most unique contributions to the arts alive and well, and we are grateful.

Job well done, one and all. Thanks for taking a pause for the CAUSE.

See you next year for the encore!


  1. Wow! Marcel that was an INCREDIBLE recap. Thanks for capturing the spirit of Ka-Blam! 2016.

    1. Thanks, Harold! I just wanted to make sure that everyone was recognized for their very hard work. And speaking of which...

  2. Oh, one volunteer that you missed... Declan Hoffman completed the gift bags, helped get the Ka-Blam message on the front signage and served food all night. Thanks Declan!

    1. ...I'm going to include Declan right now. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Great description! Thanks for reporting. And thanks for the mention! Much appreciated.

    1. Thank you, Leda, and you're more than welcome. Having your artwork there made it all the more memorable!

  4. I miss KaBlam! Sounds like you all did an amazing job and this one was one for the record books <3

    1. Hi, Erin! We had a great time and hopefully we'll get you back for another event soon. It doesn't have to be KA-BLAM! Come on out for the Captain America exhibit opening in May -- we'd love to see you!!

    2. You know I'm totally #TeamCap ;) I've got that one on my calendar!