Monday, July 11, 2011


The year is 1993. I'm sitting in 5th grade math class and my mind is wandering a mile a minute. Next to me is my good friend, Chris. We've been buddies since the first grade and both shared an equal lack of interest in mathematics. On the other side of the desk arrangements is a boy named Kevin, who looks almost as though he's paying attention to the garble of numbers getting slapped on the projector's transparencies by Ms. Remmick. I think that's how you spelled her name. You'd think I'd remember the name of the teacher who gave me my first "D" on a report card… But then, I never cared much for useless details like spelling… Probably why I got the "D" in the first place. But what does spelling have to do with Math anyway? Can anyone really spell arithmetic of the top of their head? I'm distracted again… Just like I was that day in class. Which is why I didn't pay attention to the problems on the board, which is why I was utterly screwed in t-minus 5 minutes when she would assign a pop quiz which would ultimately begin my downward spiral into academic mediocrity.

Chris and I are more interested in the cartoons I'm doodling in my notebook than we are anything else in the classroom. I imagine that's what caught Kevin's interest that day… But really, it was 18 years ago and like I said earlier, details bore me. Kevin has glasses. I do to, so I guess that means we share an equal bond. Thing is, I assume that his glasses combined with the fact he's supposedly paying attention in class equals a smart kid. Chris and I have the same thought process obviously because we both immediately form a friendly status with Kevin as the quizzes are being passed out. Do we care what kind of kid Kevin is? Not really, he's smart and he's nice, so odds are we'll be able to sneak some answers off of the sucker. The quizzes come around and we begin to furiously copy every number he jots down on his paper. We are so getting "A's" today. As it turns out, Kevin wasn't paying attention to Ms. Whatshername, he's daydreaming like a fiend. His eyes were as much following the numbers on the wall as they were experiencing Rapid Eye Movement. We all fail the quiz and I begin my journey to UMass-Lowell.

Thing is, that day I wasn't mad at Kevin for screwing us over… I was happy to discover that this nerdy kid in class was on the same wavelength as me… While my buddy Chris was a good guy, when it came to recess, he was all about football, and all I really wanted to do was pretend I was a werewolf. Wouldn't you know Kevin wanted to be a werewolf too and looked to me as a tutor in the ways of wolf-dom. That brotherhood of the wolf evolved into a wonderful friendship. See, when I cheated off of Kevin in class, I was aiming to get a couple of correct answers on a subject I was destined to fail at my entire life, and in turn I got something far more valuable than a one-time good grade… I gained a very important friendship which would last a lifetime. Time progressed from 5th grade and before you knew it, we were going on adventures in the woods, having sleepovers with scary movies and diet caffeine-free coca-cola, and most important of all, we were drawing pictures together in the backyard listening to KISS 108 FM (Mr. Boombastic was our song of choice when it came on).

Why was this most important? I'll tell you why. As we drew our silly pictures and went on our silly adventures in the woods, we evolved a rapidly budding creativity in our brains. A creativity which would mold our careers… Mold our lives. Being creative is hard when you're on your own. It helps to have a friend who allows you to expand on your own thoughts, who shares similar interests and lets you explore that part of your brain.

Middle School soon came… And boy were we the epitome of dorkiness. Unpopular, unfashionable, uncool. Which I'm grateful for to this day. While most kids were off ruining their lives in the name of popularity, we were just being ourselves. Joking around, drawing pictures and being kids. We soon met a whole group of people who were similarly outcasted from popularity. Funny thing is, at lunch time, we had the largest table in the cafeteria. We lived as kings at lunch time. Now this might seem unimportant, but it served a purpose. We had to stick together in Middle School, it was a jungle. There is nothing more cruel than a Middle Schooler. Kids are bullies, troublemakers… Douche-bags to put it lightly. Popularity is everything. If you don't have the right haircut, you get picked on. If you have braces, you get picked on. If you don't wear the right cloths, you get picked on. Girls laugh at you, guys throw things at you and teachers ignore it all. The more you get hassled, the more you sink into your own mind and become even more outcasted, more quiet. Kids go into Middle School with hope and good nature… They leave defeated and damaged. This is why our close-knit group of outcasts was so important. We were a reminder to each other that we were okay… That we were normal. Despite the fact that we were odd to the rest of the world (i.e. Middle School).

It was this situation which led Kevin and I to create our first creative venture… "Oddballs". It was our feeble attempt at a comic book. Kevin was the main artist in this endeavor. The comic starred our Middle School posse as a bunch of outcast kids with very exaggerated personalities who would find themselves in stupid little adventures… Oddballs: In Space, Oddballs: Stranded, etc… It was a stupid little comic, but it was our escape from normal life… And we had a blast working on it.

I'm going to skip forward a few years to High School. I'm still a big dork with dorky friends. I'm in Youth Group at my church and my good friend Edgell and I are sitting up front during a service. It's break time, time to mingle! Our Youth Leader, Dave, encourages us to meet visitors to the group and make them feel welcomed. See, while I was the lowest of the lows in High School, I was the most average of the averages in Youth Group. So Edgell and I take it upon ourselves to greet the new guy in the back… A chubby little guy wearing flannel named Dan. I've seen him around church, I know he's a normal guy… But I had never taken the time to get to know him. We start to talk to Dan, who turns out to not be as shy as we think he is… He's actually very easy to talk to… And he's freaking HILARIOUS. Dan and I began to hang out more… See, I was drawn to his deadpan sense of humor, I'd never known anyone to keep such a straight face while saying some of the most absurd things I'd ever heard… I began to learn more about Dan. When we first met, I thought that we couldn't be any more different… In the end, I discovered that we couldn't be any more alike. Maybe that's an insult to Dan, but I'm honestly quite flattered.

I soon discovered, that like me, Dan had a passion for drawing… And he was GOOD. I quickly discovered that I was actually… quite bad. I mean horridly bad… So bad that I was on the verge of going home and slapping my parents for encouraging my efforts at art. HE WAS SO GOOD! To this day, my own art style is the bastard child of his talent and stylization. He actually taught me a very valuable lesson in art… Less is more. Daniel, you are legend to me. I hope you know that.

But I digress… Dan and I shared a similar friendship to that of me and Kevin… Sleepovers, movies, sporadic goofiness that only he and myself found amusing at the time… But we differed artistically. He was on a whole different level, and quite frankly, I didn't want to draw around him out of embarrassment. So we exercised our creativity together in different ways… Typically it was through conversation, role-playing stupid scenarios, joking around, etc… But we discovered a far more amusing way to have fun… My dad's video camera. I'll never forget that fateful Saturday morning when we busted out that old camera, grabbed a few plastic swords and filmed the most embarrassing film ever created… It was titled: "Dan vs. Queenie"… Oh sweet Buddha it was bad. Another way I differed from Dan was that he was an improvisational master. I, on the other hand, did not fair too well in front of the camera… But that video, horrid as it was, turned out to be the cornerstone of our friendship. Almost every weekend he'd come over and we'd bust out the camera and film ourselves doing stupid things… We'd film First Person Shooters, movies about toys coming to life and attacking us, people with vacuums for heads, you name it, we embarrassed ourselves with it. We soon got to a point where we couldn't  satisfy our scripting needs with just a cameraman and an actor… We needed a cameraman and TWO actors! This of course led to that unholy merger of friendships…

I brought Kevin over to meet Dan.

It was glorious. They clicked instantly. It was movie magic as they played off of each other, improved some of the most bizarre scenarios and weaved their two very distinct styles of humor into GOLD.

What was golden, though, wasn't the films we were making… They were crap; Inside jokes that only we will ever really find amusing. What was golden was our chemistry. We were an unstoppable triad of creativity. But I need to be honest… I've always felt myself a third wheel in the group. Having little humor to contribute, I usually resorted to fake fist-fights when I was put on the spot… Or poop jokes. I typically go back and watch those videos and forward through my parts, cringing the whole time. I've always wondered why they didn't just hang out without me and film their own videos. Though that's probably because they didn't have a camera. What I'm getting at is that my friendship with those two has always been a great honor, a privilege. I wasn't as creative, or as talented as either of them, but they kept me around, included me, laughed at my stupid jokes and let me throw my fake punches on camera and never rubbed my nose in the bad humor… But I'm getting sidetracked.

The year is now 199… 9? 2000 maybe? And it's a defining moment in our lives (or maybe just my life?). The camera is out, we're striving for ideas, we don't know what to film. I do what I always do when I'm low on creativity: I point the camera at Dan and yell, "Action!". Dan's brain kicks into gear and these words come out of his mouth: "Today we'll be interviewing a man who lives in a fridge and hates cats"… And he proceeds to open the basement refrigerator and walk in. We run outside to the pool, which was the location of another refrigerator. I turn the camera on. Dan walks out of that fridge and walks over to Kevin, who is now sitting in a poolside recliner with a long black wig on and a pair of thick woman's sunglasses, complete with a white Hawaiian shirt. Dan walks over and begins to interview Kevin, who beings to act out an eccentric, awkward yet lovable character who allows Dan to interview him in his "Refrigerator Abode". They talk about a Barbara Walters interview which went sour and ruined the Refrigerator Man's life… It becomes a 10 minute long improvisational masterpiece climaxing with a chase scene between the reporter and the Fridge-Man traveling through common household appliances and ending with the fugitive popping out of an occupied toilet and being chased out of the house by the occupier. I couldn't pull this kind of stuff out of my butt if I tried!

This film led to two sequels, transforming the Refrigerator Man into a murderer (Scream was all the rage during this time period) and the reporter into a determined cop. We put MAJOR effort into this film. We even got our hands on some primitive video-editing software and made this thing pure HOLLYWOOD. Our process was to start on a Friday afternoon, load ourselves up on sugar, and edit that sucker through the wee hours of the morning… Finishing when our bodies could no longer sustain themselves and we'd collapse in a pile of "Tasty-Cakes" wrappers and empty soda cans. The time of completion? Six AM. This time would become a legendary hour… We named our little production team "Six AM Productions". We produced one complete "Refrigerator Man" film just before we parted ways and went off to college. The summer of our college freshman years, we reunited and fine-tuned that film, adding a new intro and filming a trailer/music video and a blooper reel. It was our last hurrah before a long hiatus as we went our separate ways in college. During these college years, we all began to fine-tune our skills and find new passions… Kevin discovered, while at Keen State in NH, that he was an excellent writer and had a real talent for marketing. Dan, while at Flagler College in Florida, dabbled in music as he became a member of a Folk-Hop band named "DJ WHY and The Image… Featuring Dr. G". I attended the University of Massachusetts in Lowell and came to realize the wonders of Macromedia Flash. During my time at school I also developed an actual art style and fine-tuned the HECK out of it over the next 5 years. The three of us rarely talked during these years, not out of spite or a lack of interest, but we were living new lives, making new friends, discovering ourselves and becoming our own individual selves.

Of the three of us, Kevin and I stayed in touch the most. Talking on Instant Messenger, emailing, and occasionally meeting up. One time stuck out more than the others, however. We met up in our hometown of Derry, NH at Kevin's parents' house. That night we reverted to our middle school selves as we turned on the radio, busted out some pencils and paper and began doodling what we could. We began to discuss the next chapter in the Oddballs saga… Only this time we dropped the Middle School Posse and focused on our experiences with each other in High School. No more wacky adventures, just real life humorous situations. As we continued to bounce ideas off each other we created a comic named "Scholars". The premise was our High School experiences portrayed in a college setting, featuring ourselves as the respective characters of Stan (Kevin) and Jason (myself… Mark). As we evolved the scripts and sketched out the look and feel, we decided the best outlet for this comic would be the web, which was evolving at a RAPID pace. Before the night was over, we named our website… Six AM Comics. Named after our High School video productions. These comics didn't reach the online world until 2003/2004ish… When I finally purchased the domain name "" and created a website with the help of a good friend in College.

Towards the end of our College experience, we got back in touch with Dan. It was as though nothing had changed since High School. We instantly began joking around again and being stupid. Even made a couple of videos… An abstract horror trilogy named "Lavament: A Tale of Darkness", "Roped In", and "Drain". The production value had obviously gotten much better since the primitive days of Refrigerator Man. Realizing we had that old spark still, Kevin and I asked Dan to be a part of Six AM Comics, and he was very quick to jump on board, contributing his own web comic named "Honestly". We began meeting up at a Starbucks in Beverly, Massachusetts to discuss the direction of the site… Which is when I first discovered the joys of the Mint Mocha-Chip Frapaccino… A rare delicacy which can no longer be served at Starbucks… This was also the beginning of my caffeine addiction (Oh the sacrifices I've made for the site).

I suppose the specifics from then to now aren't terribly necessary. We've gone through about 4 to 5 different variations of the site design, everything from Flash to HTML to content management systems, we've canceled comics, we've rebooted comics, we've re-imagined the purpose of the site, we've dabbled in video games, movies, film review, literati, blogs and gone through about seven hiatuses. I guess what I'm getting at is that Six AM isn't about comics. Really, it's not even about a website. Six AM is about a very unique and important friendship between three very different artists with a similar vision. To create, to entertain, and to have fun. Our goal isn't to be the best, it's not to be famous, or rich (although that wouldn't be so bad)… It's not even a stupid dream. It's an outlet for creativity and expression. For me, it's a passion, and although I go through times where I don't keep up with the site, or stay in touch with the fellas, I always end up coming back to it… To go deeper, I feel like it's always been a calling for us. We have a chemistry which you can't just recreate… Kevin and Dan are my family, we're brothers (whether they like it or not). Someday, I hope to bring others into our family, I hope we can be more than just a family… I hope we can be a community of artists and friends with similar chemistries, similar passions and visions with unique and different artistic talents working together to create something awesome. It's the only inevitable step left in the evolution of Six AM Comics.

But until then… I'm just happy to make art that someone out there can enjoy.
~ Mark

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