Michael Alan Fischer Interview Published on: 24, Apr 2024

Can you share a bit about your earliest memories of creativity and how they have influenced your artistic journey?

For me, the earliest moments of my creativity were growing up as a rugrat parked in front of the TV every Saturday Morning watching Bugs Bunny from dawn until high noon when American Bandstand came on, then we’d go out and ride our bikes until dark. Wherever there was boredom there were always fun things to get into as a kid in our house. There were always drums, guitars or a piano. Age five I can remember coloring my coloring book with Crayons thinking this is too easy, I want to draw my own pictures. Creative atmosphere just surrounded me as a child. Radio, movies, television, Sid and Marty Krofft. These were inspiring times to be a young child prodigy. For me, it’s a natural thing being funny and entertaining like my childhood heroes. Living in a creative musical environment is the best place to grow your wings and have a great time during the experience. As they say in Japan: You only live twice, once for your life and once for your dreams.

What drew you to combine music and visual art in your creative expressions?

I could play drums at age five before I could draw. My Uncle Phil was a drummer, so my Grandma’s basement always had a drum kit, stereo and amazing 60’s 70’s rock album collection. My Grandpa had all the comedy records like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. I’m a lifelong musician who plays guitar now. I feel like I’m more of a musician than a visual artist. It’s easy to pick up a guitar and start playing. The beauty and sound all comes out right then like magic. Guitar comes naturally. Art has a lot of tedious skills and effort. If I don’t draw for a while, it shows. I like to be a true artist, never satisfied! Just like The Energizer Bunny I just keep going and going. Art is very time consuming, when I’m done working on something, it's like next! Funny, when I’m drawing I feel like I should be playing my guitar, and when I’m playing my guitar, I feel like I should be drawing. Each side of the brain feeds the other acting like a pace car for the other. I grew up with cartoons, music and sports. They all go hand in hand. The Beatles animated movie Yellow Submarine is a perfect example of music and art. Pop art was the ultimate in creative expression. Whether it’s music or visual art, I enjoy taking my audience to another level, time and place.

How do you approach the process of creating art that resonates with ice hockey fans worldwide?

Enter the Arena! I approach the process as I do any creative project. Cartoons are a great way to get your point across quickly. The art I create is inspired from my own passion for the game of ice hockey I’ve loved since childhood. Ice hockey is truly the coolest team sport. Hockey has spirit and is the most fun sport to watch. It has speed, excitement, character and flair. Hockey has a loyal band of super fans, fanatics and followers. Once you are hooked on hockey, you’re hooked! Hockey is addictive whether you play or simply watch the game. In the beginning when I began working with my original sports properties such as TOONS ON ICE Hockey. My Comic Strip PUCK TALES appeared in national and international magazines worldwide. Since ice hockey is a family sport and religion in certain countries such as Canada and Europe. It’s satisfying dreaming up material to promote the lighter side of hockey. Ice hockey moves in the same way as classic slapstick animation such as The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. People in other countries learn English by watching Bugs Bunny and Walt Disney animations. It’s highly creative to bring the best of both worlds together such as hockey and animation. When I began coloring my new book The Puckford 7. I chose the Batman and Joker colors such as Purple, Neon Yellows and Greens because those colors really resonate. Kid’s love the colors that hurt your eyes. Few years ago I was contacted by the Hungarian Hockey Federation. They invited me to design the December page in their yearly ice hockey calendar. When HIT THE ICE comic strip ran on ESPN I actually received a Christmas Card Order from The North Pole. “Dear Virginia, Yes there really is ice hockey at the North Pole.”

Could you discuss a particular project or collaboration that has been especially meaningful to you in your career?

There have been so many flurries of meaningful moments in my art adventures. It’s so hard to pinpoint moments. The fast lane is not a lane you get into and you’re going really fast. The fast lane is a lane you get into and hang on for everything you got. Like a Six Flags amusement park ride. A famous stand up comedian once told me: Ride the wave! If you can’t ride the wave, ride the fine line. TOONS ON ICE Hockey opened many doors and unique opportunities for me. I was able to bring special projects to the table for NHL teams such as The Los Angeles Kings and my hometown St. Louis Blues. It enabled me to showcase my work in association with the NHL and my real life hockey heroes like Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull. Players were larger than life Superstars in those days. One meaningful highlight in my art adventures was when television producers for the Los Angeles Kings Prime Ticket Network came to my apartment studio and filmed a short feature on my hockey comic book. It aired prime time Saturday Night in-between periods of a Los Angeles Kings Hockey Game against The Calgary Flames. My phone rang off the hook minutes after that friends called me saying Dude! It was like a comedian doing the Johnny Carson Show, a few minutes of glory then the sun comes up the next day like OK what are you going to do now? The constant climb up the ladder to higher learning and success. I don’t spend time basking in glory, I only bask in the power. If I reach a cool achievement I take it all in for a minute, then move on to the next thing. There's so much time, yet so little time to dream.

What role does storytelling play in your artwork, particularly in projects like HBO's Tales From The Crypt or Shelly Duvall's Fairy Tale Theater?

The fun craft of storytelling is a lost art. I grew up on Alfred Hitchcock! You need a good beginning, middle and end to your story. I love when art tells the story without reading a lot of words. It's pure animation like silent films and cartoons. You can turn the sound down on a Bugs Bunny Cartoon and still tell what’s going on. That is pure animation. Dialog and script can sometimes dull material similar to a musician reading sheet music. It takes away from your feel. My creative work on Tales From The Crypt and Shelley Duvall’s Fairy Tale Theater was all set design and visual arts painting and prop making. I created the illusion you’re in the Crypt Keepers Dungeon. When I worked with Joe Pesci on a Tales From The Crypt episode he directed and was featured in, Joe said Fish was also his nickname like me when he was a street kid growing up in NYC. His friends called him Joey The Fish. Pesci in Italian means Fish. It was an honor to work with Shelly Duvall on Fairy Tale Theater. She's a very caring person. We were fed very well! It was the last TV show that I worked on before I began creating my own cartoon empire. Working on high levels with major actors and HBO gave me the inspiration I needed to do my own thing. Once you get a taste, that’s all it takes.

How do you navigate the intersection of commercial art and personal expression in your work?

I avoid going down the wrong way street after I go through the intersection. I graduated from Commercial Art and Commercial Printing Vocational Classes in high school. Commercial art is just work for hire. My teacher Mr. Bob Carney was a brilliant watercolor painter who specialized in animals like hunting dogs and horses. I wished I had taken the time to learn more from him. Much of the 6 week projects in class were cool but kinda boring. It was all fundamental mediums like advertising, animals, sketching. Kids then wanted to draw Star Wars and Spiderman. I was always working on my own drawings in class like a big Eddie Van Halen piece of art. My art teacher would walk by and say Michael Fischer why aren’t you working on your six week project? I said because I’m drawing Eddie Van Halen dude! My classmates who followed rules just laughed as my teacher shuffled away back to his desk shaking his head. You can take two routes as an artist, work for someone else or work for yourself. I avoided big animation companies early on because I want to draw my cartoon legs, I don’t want to draw someone else’s cartoon legs. In life as an Artist, you can take the beaten path or you can take the less traveled darker path. I chose to do my own thing and take the less traveled path. There’s not a lot of escape in the world, everything is in your face. Passion and fantasy for freehand drawing are the things that attracted my desire to become an artist. I’ll take a simple issue of Mad Magazine over photoshop graphic ads any day. I focus out of the box, my artistic expression enables my imagination to navigate through busy creative intersections to my next project.

Can you describe your creative process when working on your book, “The Puckford 7: Ice Hockey Adventure”?

I originally wrote The Puckford 7 as a 17 page short treatment as a movie script to pitch to Warner Brothers. Fast forward 25 years to now. Recently I was without a home during the pandemic sleeping in my car. They were telling people to go home, I didn’t have a home. My dog Lucy passed. It was the darkest time in my life. Christmas Eve Night I curled up in my car going to sleep thinking, as soon as I find a home, I’m going to begin working on The Puckford 7. I’m going to rewrite it into a children’s fantasy book and illustrate it. I don’t know how. But I know I will somehow. Originally, I was only going to write seven chapters along with a few illustrations. Once I began writing and drawing, it quickly became ten chapters and 80 illustrated pages. Overtime I did a read through, I felt it needed more illustrated pages to help tell the story. The Puckford 7 took nearly 2 years to rewrite, polish and tighten. That’s just the story text. I spent a total of 2 years illustrating this book. All design, layouts, front and back covers, interiors, airbrushing and coloring to output. I did everything myself including financial funding and process time. After I illustrated the entire book with pen and ink, I hated it! So I started over and illustrated the entire book over again front to back. That took another year. Instead of free handing the art this time pencil and paper. I used my digital wireless apple mouse to freehand draw this book. Not a digital tablet and pen. I freehanded in photoshop on my computer with my wireless mouse. After a little time, I got good at it like a classic Etch a Sketch board. My lines are much more razor sharp and consistent. By the time I had my cool technique down using my mouse, I didn’t want to get a digital pen and tablet. I didn’t want to change it up, I had a production flow going. I was already behind one year of illustrating. I was ready to nail this! I’d draw 16 hours a day. Go to sleep, wake up and go right back to my spot and start drawing again. Once all the black and white line art was finished. I took a short break and pondered, should I color all this? It’s going to take another year to color. I only have one shot at this, so I decided to color my book. No holds barred, just go for it. I’m glad I did because this is my best work to date. I always wanted to write this story, it’s been in my head for almost 35 years. I wanted to write The Puckford 7 as it was meant to be written. Most rewarding part is I dedicated The Puckford 7 to my dog Lucy. I made her one of the characters during the rewrite. I’ve lost a few friends and loved ones along the way, I also made them characters in my story. Dearly departed loved ones and their spirits can live on through my art.

What challenges have you faced in your creative journey, and how have you overcome them?

I’ve had people yelling at me to get a haircut and a real job my whole life. Eventually parents give up when you move across the country to Hollywood. My folks were like well, I guess he really wanted to rock because he’s not coming home. Life challenges as an artist are never-ending. The older you get it’s finding the time in-between trying to survive each day, be a simple person not pushing too hard against the flow just allowing things to be and fall into place. My music creative journey was a big learning lesson and a lot of fun and adventure for those times when everyday was a Friday and every night was a Saturday. Being in a band is like camping out. It makes life so much easier to endure when things don't always go as planned. I learned to hustle while I wait. I learned to carve my own path. I’ve learned that everyone wants to hop in the fast moving car but no one wants to put gas in it. When you create something from the heart you spent a lot of time on, it's like waving a cheeseburger over a pool of sharks putting yourself and you work out there hoping it won’t get ripped off. Film, art and music can still be a magical experience if you can navigate your journey spiritually and financially. If something doesn’t work, try it a different way. These days artists and authors have the luxury of the internet, social media and websites such as All Author now. Anyone can be a star. One thing I quickly discovered in Hollywood is, the industry weeds through the people who don’t have any nerve. If you have a nerve, you’ll get frustrated standing in line with thousands of other wanna-be’s and walk. When I was a kid, you had to have talent to be on radio or television. If you want to survive any creative challenges, don’t quit! Never play second fiddle to anyone and just keep on swinging. Prayers help. Your spirit guide cannot do anything for you if you fritter away your time and talent on FaceBook posting photos of what you’re eating. Focus on your creativity and gift’s God (The Gods) gave you. Seek and destroy!

How do you stay inspired and motivated to create, especially during periods of creative block?

I don’t own a couch! If you own a couch, you have to sit on it, then you become a couch potato. I have an art studio room that’s set up like a little fort around my art desk my parents bought for me in California when I first began my cartoon empire. I have everything I need here like StarFleet Command. I can steer and drive my star ship with my computer. My studio walls are plastered with posters and art that inspires me. A few toys, hot wheels and precious photos trigger creativity. If I don’t feel like drawing, I can play my guitar and still hone new creative ideas. I surround myself with myself. If I can get a timeless atmosphere going, it helps motivate me. First creative rule 101 is to take yourself on a date. Get in your zone. I have so many things I can be drawing and so little time. I never get writer's block. All these cool ideas and creative things just flow through me like a great receiver. The voice! Some people are just tuned to different radio stations. I go where I feel led. That’s my starting point. I like to scribble out ideas in a notepad and use that for my material guide. When I began The Puckford 7, I spent a lot of nights just watching horror movies on TV with my note pad out writing character dialog for my book and coming up with storyboards. I always keep a notebook nearby. Ideas just come and go in a flash. I will forget them if I don’t write them down. Whenever I’m writing, I like to pop in the 70’s DVD movie Car Wash because I neuro-associate that movie during hot timeless summers in Nashville. There was just school, Grandma’s and Little League Baseball. My first job at age 15 was working at Exxon Car Wash. Good feelings produce fond memories like going to Grandma’s on a weekend racing downstairs to play my Uncles Drums. Life’s uplifts from the past are pure gold for those who love to reflect for inspiration. Find your favorite reflections from the past and ride them like little waves sent from beyond the stars. There's truth to the song Row row row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily, merrily life is but a dream. Live the dream! You’re in control! You can row wherever you want and go and do anything you want. Do what you dream you want to do, it’s the gift of being an artist. It’s not a gift if you don’t give it away.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to establish themselves in the industry?

It’s all meant to be really. Guide yourself and pick your spots and go for it, time waits for no one. It’s easier to hustle and put in the long hours when you are young, you have the time to take the risks. Figure out where you want to be down the road. Design your life and don’t get caught up in other things. Write your goals down where you want to be in 3 months, then 6 months, then one year. Use your personal power! You can work for someone else, or work for yourself. If you work for yourself, create and design your own website to showcase your work. Your .com is your glorified business card. I use Bandzoogle made by artists for artists. I design my site using hundreds of templates and pay a monthly fee of $19 premium. You can pay as low as $8 depending on the amount of content. Bands can upload songs similar to Myspace used to be more music friendly for artists. Set up a digital print to order shop such as CafePress if you want to sell your art on merchandise. Link it to your website. Size your images and load them into your image basket and sell. CafePress drop ships so you don’t have to do anything but manage your account and image basket, price margins etc. For me, self book publishing is where it's at these days if you have great content. When I was in my prime, it was easy to pack the car and move to Los Angeles and survive day to day, those were different times and much safer. Tribes survive easier than individuals. In 2024, one person cannot sustain life in Hollywood in a one bedroom apartment unless you’re a doctor. I lived in a house with two bands, you could never get in the bathroom or on the phone. But the rent was cheap! When you get older you can’t put up with all that animal house mayhem. Only if it’s your dog these days. Animators and aspiring artists can relocate to Los Angeles and explore companies such as Sony Animation, Nickelodeon, Disney Animation, Pixar, Universal and DreamWorks. Technology changes so quickly in animation that the learning curves and school resources for new artists is always changing. Who you know opened many doors for me. All my contacts I made in Los Angeles in the entertainment business were not done 9 to 5pm on the phone, it was by all done at night in Sunset Strip Night Clubs and social environments people in the biz hung out at. Simply parked in a pub you’re meeting and making new contacts. FaceBook used to be called walking out your front door into the world to explore. It’s still better to physically meet people in person than on social media. I made major contacts just working in L.A rehearsal studios. It allowed me to work on a few MTV videos with major label artists. In L.A, if I were sitting in a room full of friends, one guy is a comedian, a couple are musicians, one guy is an actor, one a famous photographer. Everyone is just doing their thing huddled together like horses in a storm. If you don’t get out and work the world and meet people at some point early in your career, you’ll have missed out on many random opportunities. One thing always leads to another. Choose your battles and carve your own path. Remember, out of sight out of mind. Surround yourself with other creative souls who make you laugh and inspire you.

Your work spans various mediums, from television to print publications to sports enterprises. How do you adapt your artistic style to fit different contexts and audiences?

One thing led to another constantly adjusting and adapting to whatever opportunity was making my phone ring. I try not to second guess my work or the decisions I make. You can think about flying the plane. It’s easier just to fly the plane and see where it takes you. Fly where you feel led. You have to be flexible with incoming and outgoing opportunities. I get tossed curve balls all the time. I like a solid pitch I can hit! You're at the mercy of the forces of things meant to be. I began working in television production when I arrived in Hollywood. My friends I played in a band with worked on television commercials, they opened that window for me to get me onto the crew. During this time, I literally forgot I could draw. I was running like a wolf rocking the Sunset Strip, I had no desire at age 24 to sit down and draw like I did in high school. I’m either an astronaut or an astronomer. During this time period I was enjoying my life as an astronaut. Traveling to strange worlds and new places, meeting new people. Then a miracle happened. Wayne Gretzky the greatest hockey player in the world, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. It was at this moment I created TOONS ON ICE Hockey New Year’s Eve 1989. My goal was to help promote the lighter side of ice hockey in Southern California as its popularity grew. Seeds are best planted in kids at an early age. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was 5 years old. My cartoon art got the attention of Hockey Player Magazine and the Los Angeles Kings, I was soon selling thousands of hockey Christmas Cards through the Kings Hockey Shops and the arena. I designed, printed and packaged everything myself. My cards sold out and were a huge hit with fans. Kings Players wives were buying them off the shelves! That got the attention of Wayne Gretzky’s agent Michael Barnett at IMG Hockey, then CAA Sports, then Disney Sports Enterprises called wanting 1.500 gift boxes for the Anaheim Arena. Success just snowballed. During this time I remained true to my Mad Magazine roots. As time marched on I became much more skilled as an artist and business person. I look back on a lot of things I’ve drawn and a few missed opportunities knowing now I could have done better. It is what it is. For me, my journey has just gone through a new threshold. It’s a satisfying accomplishment to present The Puckford 7 to the world. The happiest times in our lives are when we are young, that's what my The Puckford 7 is all about. You can never be to old to enjoy feeling young again in your heart.

Can you share a memorable experience or encounter from your career that has stayed with you over the years?

I’d have to say in Los Angeles when I auditioned as the guitar player in the band Angel to take the place of Punky Meadows. I admired those guys since I was a kid growing up in St. Louis far from Hollywood California. Mom hated their record covers which made me like them even more. I thought wow if Mom hates them, they must really be cool. Now here I was ten years later in North Hollywood on a hot summer day as their lead singer Frank Dimino is helping me with my amplifier cabinet out of my car before my audition. It was surreal jamming with a guy you first saw at a Target Store on an album cover. When Mom would drag me into stores, I always navigated to the album section because it was the only place in the store I felt normal. There were never long haired rock bands in any other department. No inspiration there, only couches and couch potatoes. Encountering Lemmy from Motorhead my first time at The Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset was a good one. Now there's a bronze Memorial statue of him in the same spot.

How do you see the future of your creative endeavors evolving, especially in the context of emerging technologies and new storytelling platforms?

I Love a good story and I’m always ready to write. I visualize my creative endeavors evolving beyond my wildest dreams. I have a joke. You can tell life is re-evolving when gladiator sports are popular. There is never enough time to do the things you want to do. The key is to do as much as you can in the time you have. In the meantime, I’m working on an audiobook version of The Puckford 7. Famous character Actor Christopher Murney from the hockey comedy classic movie Slap Shot offered to read a version. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing what wondrous tales my crystal ball has for the near future.

With your background in animation and illustration, do you have any plans to adapt "The Puckford 7: Ice Hockey Adventure" into other mediums, such as animation or graphic novels?

Indeed! The Puckford 7 was originally written as an animated movie concept with real life actors who become animated. It’s designed to be a Christmas Ghost Story that will come around once a year like all great holiday tales such as The Grinch and Scrooge. No one has ever written a fantasy hockey story like The Puckford 7. I wrote and illustrated this story to seal the work from beginning to end. The Puckford 7 is the book I never found on the bookmobile shelf when I was a kid. My next stage for the Puckford 7 is to create a large flash card version. NHL community relations departments have excellent school reading programs designed for NHL players to visit local schools and read a fun book to the children in class. The Puckford 7 is the perfect story time book for kids and the NHL. It's rewarding as an artist to inspire kids to read, draw, skate and learn valuable lessons in life. The Puckford 7 is a silly comic adaptation of don’t always judge a book by its cover. I have already written a video game version of the Puckford 7 Ice Hockey Adventure. Who knows what's next? The Puckford 8?

How did you first come across the AllAuthor website? What do you like or dislike about the site?

A friend referred me to All Author. It is such a killer website and service for authors like myself to explore, engage and enhance my opportunities as a self-publisher. Websites such as All Author help level the playing field for authors to guerrilla market their work. All Author has priceless features like daily book tweets. The monthly cover contest is fun for authors to engage fellow authors, writers and artists. My favorite feature on All Author are the seasonal mock up book banners. Your mock up banners are perfect for my book and make my cover art really pop. All Author mock up banner photos are professional, clever and the perfect advertising for my print and digital books, they really take my book to another level. It’s an honor to be among the many writers and creative artists on All Author. I’m looking forward to this Summer's Children’s Book Cover Contest. Mom would have liked that.

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