Category Archives: Interviews

Jerome Charyn on Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles and Hollywood Heartbreak

There’s that moment in Citizen Kane, after Kane has lost it all and he turns to Bernstein, his right-hand man, and Kane says, “If I hadn’t grown up wealthy, I could have been a great man.” It’s a wonderfully odd thing to realize that, if only you hadn’t been given everything in the world, you just might have amounted to something. That’s one way of reading it. In this case, the ultimate answer may, like so much in this film, remain a mystery.

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Director Interview: Animated Short THE CLEARING

A marriage on the rocks about to implode.

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Anna Haifisch Interview: Comix and the Art World

It’s not easy being an artist. We discuss this and much more during our chat.

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Filed under Comics, Comix, Interviews, Museums

SILVER creator Stephan Franck interview – A Meta Pulp Universe!

Silver: Of Treasures and Thieves, Book I is out as of October 25, 2022, published by Abrams. It is a deluxe hardcover edition and quite the immersive treat for anyone who loves a good yarn, especially one that takes much of the good stuff from pulp fiction and gives it a good tweak, a veritable mashup of adventure lore and vampire gore.

The meta pulp universe of Silver.

There’s no doubt that Stephan Franck has created something very special with Silver, a graphic novel set in a pulp noir universe of misfits, criminals and, of course, vampires. During our interview, I drive home the theme that much of the charm of this story is the journey and in the telling. This is absolutely an adrenaline-fueled adventure tale while also simply being a dazzling and mesmerizing play of words and images. The beauty of it all is that Franck has created a set of characters that you can really root for while, at the same time, is playing with tropes and just having fun. You can care about the characters or you can just curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the style.

Stephan Franck at the drawing board.

Part of the pitch to this book is a comparison to the vibe you get from Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the original Ocean’s Eleven. These are two very different animals but, at the end of the day, we’re talking about a high level of entertainment, be it high or low art or a mashup of the two. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never gone out of print since it was first published in April 1897. It was a bestseller in its day and is regarded as high art literature. Ocean’s Eleven was a big hit when it first appeared in movie theaters in 1960. It is an American heist film directed by Lewis Milestone and made the stars of the movie famous as the Rat Pack. It is one of those movies with a high level of irony that seemed to want it both ways: not to be taken seriously and yet leave you guessing. In a word, it was all about atmosphere. Take these two entertainments and roll them up into a fine paste and you’ve got yourself a gooey and frothy mix of the sinister and the ambiguous. Just the sort of clay to play with when looking to create the next pop culture mashup.

Think about pop culture in the last few decades, starting with, say, the treatment of Batman by Frank Miller, in The Dark Knight trilogy. There’s one of your finest examples of what has come to be accepted as working in an “elevated genre.” That’s the whole point. As Franck states, the idea is to “tell the most universal stories in the weirdest way possible.” And that’s what Silver is all about. You’ve got soldier of fortune types at odds with vampires. What could go wrong, right? Except for a roller coaster of a story for your delight.

Be sure to keep up with Stephan Franck here and here. And seek out SILVER, published by Abrams.

I hope you enjoy this video podcast. And, as always, a LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and/or COMMENT is always appreciated.

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Cartoonist Brian Fies Interview: THE LAST MECHANICAL MONSTER

Brian Fies in conversation with Henry Chamberlain

The Last Mechanical Monster, published by Abrams (available as of October 18, 2022), is a wonderful book for the whole family and we’ve got Brian Fies, the creator, here to chat about it. Just go over to the link and enjoy the video. First, you should know that Brian Fies is an amazing cartoonist and he has quite a gem here, a full-length story that uses a classic animated short as its jumping off point. It’s a genius move, I can tell you. The basis for this graphic novel goes back to a 1941 Fleischer Studios Superman cartoon entitled, The Mechanical Monsters. Fies builds a story around this with the premise being that the bad guy gets out of prison many years later–and the first thing he does is plot a scheme to get his revenge. Here’s where I should share an exclusive with you. The villain goes unnamed in the original animation and Fies follows suit, however, he did have a name in one version and that was Stanis Smith. Yes, you’re reading that here and Brian says he’s never mentioned it in an interview before. The joke was that the evil mad genius inventor was basically a “tinsmith.”

Let me back up a bit. Fies created a webcomic of his story, The Last Mechanical Monster, long before the release of a print version. In fact, Brian Fies is a webcomic trailblazer. He led the way in webcomics as the winner of the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic in 2005 for Mom’s Cancer, the year that category was introduced. During our chat, he shares how the narrative for The Last Mechanical Monster took shape–and it wasn’t easy. He freely admits that the first hundred pages of completed comics pages ended up being a false start and had to be scrapped.  “When I was asked about the story I was working on, I’d tell people what the story was about, only to realize that this really wasn’t the story I was creating.” That’s a lot of completed pages but, in the long run, a necessary part of the creative process.

I’m just going to go ahead and include here a panel excerpt that features the Ballistic Arc equation. It will make total sense if you click onto the video interview podcast. That said, I’ll tell you here that this is a fine example of the Brian Fies secret sauce. It’s basically just a way to add some fun weird science kind of stuff.

As you’ll appreciate during our conversation, The Last Mechanical Monster is very much a character driven story featuring a misguided old guy who is tough, sometimes a little scary, but perhaps a Grinch just waiting for a reason for redemption.

The Last Mechanical Monster is a delight that, dare I say, would make a great animated feature in its own right. Who knows, there’s really no reason that it couldn’t be. Brian confided in me that he was more than content to have had his creation remain a webcomic. Of couse, he is overjoyed that it is now a book. And I believe you will get a kick out of it too. I’ll just emphasize here that this is one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it. We really had fun doing this interview and that sense of fun, I’m confident, will pass on to you.

Be sure to visit Abrams for a world of amazing graphic novels. That is where you can find The Last Mechanical Monster.

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Matthew Richter: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Creating Art Space

Matthew Richter is one of the great champions of the arts in Seattle. When I first moved to Seattle, back in 1993, I quickly went about getting a foothold, any kind of foothold, into the art scene. Over time, I ran a gallery space in the coveted arts district of Capitol Hill. It was, in fact, nothing more than a diner–but it had walls to showcase art upon. I did this for a number of years. Some of the artists, who I provided with their very first art show, went on to bigger and better things. I did a number of other things too, including my ongoing freelance journalism and getting picked up by a publisher. I have a book out next year which you’ll hear more about soon enough. There were plenty of ups and downs over the years. I never ever stopped creating art of one kind or another. I never expected anyone to step in and advance my efforts. In fact, I preferred to develop on my own, as I saw fit. But I did crave community. And I did value walls upon which to present one’s work.

Consolidated Works ( 500 Boren Avenue North location, 2002 – 2006)

I kept up with various art people and Matthew was one of them. I’d read his work in our local alt-weekly, The Stranger. Later, I’d attend shows at his outrageously wonderful multi-disciplinary art center, Consolidated Works, where it seemed that anything could happen. Con Works was a veritable convention space/circus arena collecting various spaces that focused on one art form or another. It began as a brash semi-temporary entity, one of the original pop-ups but on a grand scale; established itself in the South Lake Union area, home to a bubbling stew of creative activity; and then, one day, it was gone, it was no more. Fast forward to the present, Matthew has been developing this concept of art spaces into “cultural spaces,” a means of supporting emerging artists, particularly BIPOC individuals who may not find an opportunity to gather and show art in a real estate market that has priced out the traditional art spaces of yesteryear.

Cultural Space Agency

The Cultural Space Agency is born. Matthew Richter developed his concept of cultural spaces during his time working for the City of Seattle’s arts department. This activity led to the city chartering Cultural Space Agency as a real estate development company, its goal being to seek out, purchase, and establish “cultural spaces.” Will cultural spaces help Seattle to flourish and withstand the headwinds of out-of-control growth? Ah, now all this seemed to me to add up to an interesting conversation. That is my goal with this interview: to explore the urban landscape. That requires looking at things from as many angles as possible, the good and the bad; asking tough questions, and allowing room for fumbling about for answers.

The main thing here is to support the goodwill out there to make any community a better place. That is what Cultural Space Agency is all about and it appears to be off to a good start with Matthew Richter having laid out the foundation. As he has made clear, he is only interim Executive Director for a little bit longer and then he will pass on the baton. There are also other positions to fill and numerous opportunities within this new organization. If you would like to help in any way or get involved, be sure to visit them.

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Filed under Culture, Interviews, Matthew Richter, Seattle

☀️ NOAH VAN SCIVER | Cartoonist Interview 💬

Noah Van Sciver is one of our great cartoonists. He’s been at his drawing table for as long as he can remember–and that has resulted in some very impressive work. It takes a lot to gain any traction in the world of comics and illustration. Van Sciver is one of the brave and persistent souls.

It is my pleasure to share this interview with Noah Van Sciver. We chat about his two new books, Joseph Smith and the Mormons (see Comics Grinder review here) and As a Cartoonist (see Comics Grinder review here). I think some applause and cheers are in order every chance we can get. Along the way, we end up talking about a great deal of Van Sciver’s career as a cartoonist. A lot of dots get connected. So, I hope you’ll tune in and feel free to leave a comment or like over at ye ole YouTubes.

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Interview: Comics Artist Brandon Lehmann

Comics artist Brandon Lehmann

First off, I invite you to read the review I wrote for The Comics Journal to the book in question, G-G-G Ghost Stories. That will add to the enjoyment of the following interview with the creator.

There are details in Brandon Lehmann‘s comics that will come back and reveal themselves upon another reading. Look closely and you’ll see, tucked away amid the backdrop of a mega-bookstore, copies of Brandon Lehmann’s new book, the recently released, G-G-G Ghost Storiesin the panels to his story, “The Werewolf Expert.” Another reading will reveal a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capicorn, in the hand of a child, a secondary player in this finely-crafted farce. The key idea here is the subject of creating such a thing as a “finely-crafted farce,” and why quality will win out in the end. Lehmann’s sense of humor is an absurdist and existential sensibility. Lehmann has been making comics for about fifteen years featuring observational and satirical work. In this new book, he focuses in on playful use of horror tropes. For this interview, we met at Seattle’s Smith Tower, a favorite haunt of erudite cartoonists and, of course, ghosts. We begin this conversation just as I sit down to join Brandon. I notice pot stickers have already been ordered. (We staged a bit of a humorous intro. You’ll see what I mean if you view the video.)

Hey, Brandon, well, I see you’ve started without me, as usual. Nice to run into you this way.

I just hang out up here in Smith Tower and read my own comics.

G-G-G Ghost Stories by Brandon Lehmann

So, what have we here (picking up a copy of Brandon’s book). Is the proper pronunciation just as it reads, G-G-G Ghost Stories?

When I named it, I was hoping for some awkward interactions at the sales counter. “I’ll take, G-G-G Ghost Stories, please.”

That would be a Scooby-Doo influence, right?

Yeah.

Interesting that we’d find ourselves in Smith Tower since, as everyone knows, this place is haunted.

Yeah, we saw a couple of ghosts on the way in. I was like, “Ahhh, it’s a g-g-g ghost.”

Page excerpt from “The Lfyt”

I think of a lot of your work, like the “The Lfyt,” as being mini-masterpieces. Do you sometimes think in those terms, “I’m going to create something that’s so spot on that everything works perfectly.” Does that make sense to say that?

Yeah, I always feel that when you’re working on a book, especially, you can get into this mode where everything you do just works. And then, when you finish a book, I have this period where I just struggle and I can’t seem to draw anything. But when I’m making a book, I can set a schedule, everything works on the first try for some reason. If that makes sense.

Page excerpt from “The Werewolf Expert” story from G-G-G Ghost Stories

It does make sense. I’m a certified cartoonist myself, as you know. Now, tell us about “The Werewolf Expert,” the longest work in the book.

There’s a trope in horror movies and TV shows where someone needs to seek an expert on the occult and it’s always someone who it doesn’t make sense would be an expert. Like, you’ll have this guy who works at the bowling alley as a mechanic and, for some reason, he’s a vampire expert. In “The Werewolf Expert,” someone consults a Barnes & Noble bookstore employee, and it’s the employee’s first day. And they shouldn’t know anything about werewolf lore but part of the B&N orientation training is that they teach all about werewolf lore. That employee knows a lot but eventually he consults his supervisor and she knows even more about werewolves to a ridiculous degree. So, it just keeps building on that premise.

Desperately seeking werewolf advice.

How would you describe your humor?

It’s absurdist and existentialist. There’s a lot of gags in the book that you can repeat with a similar premise. For the story we’re discussing, there’s a gag that I use a lot. The story is progressing from one point to another and then I’ll throw a wrench into it. And it will spin off in an insane degree. For instance, the bookstore customer seeking advice has a daughter named, Shawnda. He begins yelling at her, she’s off camera. Later, we see her and there’s more of this yelling. That sort of silly exchange is something I like to do in my work.

Panel excerpt from Brandon Lehmann’s Instagram.

There’s a beauty to your work. The humor is consistent. The art is consistent. You must go through a slew of experimentation before you hit upon what works, what’s on point.

The whole concept of the book is classic ghost stories. So, that’s the anchor. We’re dealing here with stories everyone is familiar with in one form or another. The story, “The Lfyt,” we were just talking about, is based upon a popular ghost story about picking up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a ghost. Another good example is “The Viper,” another popular children’s ghost story. The tension builds as he keeps calling and announcing when he’ll arrive. In my story, it turns out that “The Viper” is a guy with a thick German accent, who is just an innocent window wiper.

I didn’t know about that children’s ghost story. The actual one, not your satire!

Yeah, it’s real. There’s also one entitled, “Okiku,” based on a popular Japanese ghost story about a woman who was murdered because she refused to become a samurai’s mistress. She had been thrown down a well and, each night, she appears to seek her revenge. That was actually the basis for the Ringu movies. There’s the books. It was also on stage, as kabuki theater. So, yeah, I gather up all these ghost stories and given them my own spin.

Well, I’m sure this will intrigue readers. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Where is a good place to find your work?

One good place is my own site for Bad Publisher Books. You can also find me on my Instagram: @brandon.lehmann. And you can find it at various bookstores. In Seattle, there’s Fantagraphics Bookstore, Elliot Bay Bookstore and Push/Pull. Lots of places on the net, like Birdcage Bottom Books.

Thanks, Brandon!

Thank you, Henry!

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J. Webster Sharp Comics Artist Interview

Portrait of the artist. Panel excerpt from Sea Widow.

J. Webster Sharp is a comics artist who pursues her vision with a singular dedication. In fact, Sharp opened an art gallery in Wales, to sell her own work, as none of the galleries in Wales were ready to take her. She opened the gallery in 2018, only months before the death of her husband. This last year or so has seen a tremendous output by Sharp, including a tribute to her husband, the book entitled, Sea Widow. Sharp was born in a town called Ripley, in Derbyshire. Since 2005, she has lived in Yorkshire, England. She now makes her living from the sales of her comics. If you read my review of Sharp’s work, then you’ll have a sense that this is the stuff of strange wonders. Sharp’s work can be deeply personal and utterly surreal, often at the same time. In this interview, Sharp shares about her process and provides a tour of her comics work.

Page excerpt from Fondant #1.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: I would say that your work explores the psyche and takes various detours, often dark and intriguing. Is that a fair description? What would you say to that?

J. WEBSTER SHARP: That is a very fair description. A silent, noise-free world. How it feels to live inside your head all day. My head, anyway!

Please share with us how you got into art. How did you develop as an artist–and how did that evolve into comics? Do you consider yourself an artist first, or do you like to be called a comics artist?

I am a comics artist now. I’m actually content and happy and where I feel I should have been the whole time. But I have always been a maker, of paintings, sculpture, drawings. I made the mistake of going to university to do art. Which did not work out for me the way it has for others. I didn’t find myself amongst others like me; it just isolated me even more than I already was! I got an interview for the Slade School of Fine Art in London. I wanted to go there. I remember the interview panel laughing at my drawings.

Sea Widow page excerpt.

When did you begin to take your work seriously? I mean, when did you first publish your work? And how do you feel about your early efforts?

Probably since I was 13 was when I decided to be an artist. I wanted to be a portrait painter. But everything I do I think “this isn’t good enough, I must do better,” this isn’t good enough, across all mediums. Art was all I had, all I can do. I get a new idea before I even finish the current idea which makes me instantly think the current idea has failed. All my early work/uni work is about the problems I have with my identity. Trapped in situations, under pressure, under threat from my body. About 12 years ago I printed something, and I had great feedback, except from this one place. And I had so little confidence I stopped comics and went back to painting. And I kept that email for years and read it when I felt bad, because it was proof I was nothing and had no idea what I was doing. Which was just who I was back then, I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, never spoke, I was pretty useless as a functioning person! I’m a completely different person now. I changed very fast and quite a bit, and that has had its problems.

Jade cover, 2021.

What can you tell us about Jade, and Her Schizophrenia, the book focusing on your sister?

I should have made it clearer on the inside cover, my sister wrote this story, and I drew it. It is true and about her psychosis back in February 2013. To draw her story I did so much research, too much I think, it made me so sad and guilty to think of what she went through. Goes through. How to draw what it’s like to have paranoid schizophrenia. That was hard, it was virtually impossible and this was as close as I could get it. My sister is fiercely intelligent. I hope she writes more about what has happened since so I can draw it.

Page excerpt from Jade.

Would you share something about your process? Do you first think of an image, per page, per panel? Or are you thinking of what will add up to a whole book?

Panel to panel. I love the not knowing, because whatever I think I might draw might change because of a news item I might see, or a new eccentric person I might find out about. Or if I see a moth! If I plan thumbnails and things, I am bored of it as soon as I start it because my brain says I have already done it. The mystery is gone, the puzzle solved already. I like working from collage too, collecting clippings to use in the future. I love collecting imagery, I always have, I have always remembered visuals since I was little. My comics work is sort of a continuation of my painting work, I love collage thanks to William Burroughs, cut-ups, I think it’s great. A process that mimics my thinking exactly. All I do is tell myself a page limit.

Sea Widow cover, 2021.

What can you tell us about Sea Widow?

Sea Widow is about when my husband died. I started drawing this in May 2021. I hadn’t done any drawing or anything since it happened in 2018 and I was going through all my boxes and photos and notebooks, and I put all these things together and went from there. I had to get it out, as much as I could, I had no outlet for anything. I thought in a funny way it might help someone maybe. It did help me to do this. So I quit my job and started to draw. He loved the way I drew.

Pretty cover, 2021.

What can you tell us about Pretty?

I didn’t dare stop once I started in case the drive and desire went away. I just started immediately on the next thing. The stand-alone stories are about enclosed worlds and dysfunctional families I feel.

Fondant #1 cover, 2021.

It looks like you’ve hit your stride with the ongoing series, Fondant? Would you care to share any thoughts?

Fondant, the name of an icing used in baking, something horribly sweet and if you have too much it makes you feel sick. Its automatic drawing. And it scares me sometimes. Invasion. Its all about fear, events and people and objects which can’t be controlled in silent environments. The fear of feeling, not knowing, unwanted thoughts and memories. Like wrapping your hand around a white hot object and you can’t let go. Bad sensations you sort of like.

Fondant #1 page excerpt.

There are so many subjects and themes that you work with. How would you describe your universe of interests?

Extensive and tiring. Never ending. I could research all day. I love it, adding to my creative inventory. I have old magazines from antique shows, old comics, new comics, old pornography, photo job lots, medical books, vet books, sewing books. Books on the paranormal. Film. Always so important to me, always. John Waters, Ingmar Bergman, Lynch. French new wave, Kenneth Anger. I watched Betty Blue recently, love Beatrice Dalle in that. And Cinema Paradiso. I love the films of Ari Aster and Robert Eggers right now.

I can not help but comment on your working with the theme of the foot. It is a subject that I believe will always harbor a sense of mystery. For some, it becomes a sort of taboo topic. For others, it takes on a keen focus. What can you tell us about your interest in this subject, given your wonderfully strange depictions of the human foot? It seems to me a gateway to better understanding you and your art.

I like to explore subjects that interest me, many of those subjects are sexual, fetishes and things, I think it’s the question why feet? that I am interested in. The psychology behind things. They are very vulnerable. Shoes are so strange. I have ballet pointe shoes. But I have never done ballet. They’re just great to look at and they’re heavy and shiny. I love heels, high heels. How they make a leg change shape. I’m very short.

Pretty page excerpt.

Any final thoughts? Do you have plans beyond the next year or so? More books? Any possible gallery shows? Please feel free to add anything that I may have missed.

To keep working and saying yes to as many opportunities that come my way. I would like to approach some people regarding publishing something, but that needs to be underway before I do, so I shall begin that in the next couple of weeks.

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Interview: Greg Cipes and NFTV – the Blockchain and People Power

Greg Cipes, a winning smile and good heart.

Greg Cipes snagged the role of Beast Boy on the Teen Titans franchise on Cartoon Network on his first-ever audition. That was twenty years ago. It’s one of the highlights to a wonderful career which also includes playing Michelangelo on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It could not have happened to a nicer guy. Cipes is a mellow and spiritual person with a deep respect for animals. He also happens to know a lot about blockchain technology. This led to him becoming a founder of Bright Moments DAO, an arts organization focusing on NFTs. And that has led to him founding NFTV, a new form of entertainment showcasing the work of NFT creators.

NFTV, boldly heading to Web3!

Imagine a mellow day on Venice Beach. That’s where you’ll find Greg Cipes taking it easy with his dog, Wingman G. Greg is just the right person to be leading a venture that taps into the people power spirit of blockchain technology. His connection to the public and entertainment has led him on this journey. As someone with a keen interest in pop culture, spiritual matters, and the next big thing, I couldn’t help but be interested in the opportunity to chat with Greg. My impression is that he’s very sincere about his efforts to create a space where people can go to get educated about NFTs, build a community and support NFT creators.

NFT art on NFTV!

Greg is in a very good place to be part of the early adapter phase to Web3. He is a co-founder of Bright Moments DAO, an NFT arts organization. And now he is leading the way with NFTV. His advice is to learn all you can before buying anything. Greg believes that NFTV can be an oasis during this time of change when most people, of all ages, are still very new to anything having to do with Web3 innovations.

In the not so distant future, NFTs will become more and more common and the path to becoming involved will be smoother. Of course, there is plenty of buzz on the net about the metaverse, avatars, tokens, and the blockchain. If you’re patient and willing to take the time to focus on the details, in no time, you too could have a digital wallet and participate in the brave new world of disruption and decentralized autonomous organizations. The biggest stumbling block of all is lack of money. You need money to make money. Greg says his main reason for starting NFTV is to help level the playing field and make the price of admission affordable to all. He stresses the need for NFT education and community. And he says that NFTs featured on NFTV will be within reach for everyone at an average starting price equivalent to a hundred dollars.

Much like NFTs are new, Greg Cipes is riding a new wave with NFTV. I can see that progress is steady and the network will continue to grow and develop. It will be very interesting to see where it’s at in the coming years. The NFTV segment below is just a taste. Keep in mind that this is all blowing up and expanding before our eyes. These are early field notes from the pop culture frontlines.

Greg Cipes is very much a guy on a mission. Before we ended our talk, he wanted to bring out one last very important fact and it demonstrated where his head is at. Greg wants to share with you a special NFT connected to Dog Blessed, a charitable group that helps connect people with dogs. The idea is to provide the means to connect people with dogs and that includes paying for dog adoption, dog food, and paying the “Dogblessed” certified and trained human to take care of the dog. This is a project that is under development and will be featured on NFTV. You can keep up with the progress of NFTV here, here and here.

Dogblessed #50

Go to OpenSea to find the DogBlessed NFTs!

Helping those in need that love dogs! The first series of “Dogblessed” pays for dog adoption fees, dog food and pays the “Dogblessed” certified and trained human to take care of the dog. A Greg Cipes social impact project around meaningful intellectual property and an extraordinary community of Dog lovers.

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Filed under animation, Comics, Interviews, NFTs, Web3