Colin's Comment

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Satan called me on Thursday. Fat Joe Satan to be exact… Fat Joe Satan is a rock and roll behemoth. He is rude, crude and very entertaining. He called me at the radio station, I couldn’t speak for long as we were going back on air but he said something about giving me copies of a CD and DVD I’m on with Fat Joe Satan and his band… well, this guy on drums I can’t remember the name. It was at an opening at the New Tiny gallery on the ragged edge of Chinatown, Fat Joe’s band was playing, a Japanese kid from the student hostel next door was accompanying them on bongos. Fat Joe got me up onstage to sing a song or something, I didn’t know what to do. So I started telling the story of The Terrible House of Sickness, an East Van punk rock house I used to hang out in the 1980’s that were into drugs in a big way. They were friends of Stinkey’s. Stinkey and I were the annoying straightedge nerds, he’s since developed a taste for Guinness, and I was the asshole from the rich suburbs slumming it. The rest of them at the House of Sickness created a vomit club, the Meter Heavers Achievers, that made a game of vomiting on the light meter just by the porch. They had grades, awarded points of accuracy. They were the first people I ever heard of to make crystal meth in their kitchen, real pioneers. When one of them died of an overdose it didn’t seem like as much fun. I’d already done a mini-comic, “Tales of the Terrible Teatotaller“, about the Terrible House of Sickness so I knew the story well and I told it as a spoken word piece. Apparently on the video all you can see is my stomach as the camera was fixed in one spot, and me tripping…

So I gets fat Joe Satan’s number from a mutual friend and call him. The phone rings, and rings… and rings… rings… and I’m waiting for the answering machine when I realise with a thrill of rising horror that there is no answering machine! Gaaah! In this day and age how can you not have an answering machine? This means I’m going to have to- choke - CALL BACK! I thought we’d left those dark days behind us, the days before cel phones, E-mail, voice mail and answering machines* when if you wanted to communicate you’d have to call someone on the phone you’d have to call and call and keep calling until you got lucky and they answered the blasted phone themselves! And if you wanted to communicate with someone far away (that was too expensive to phone) you wrote a letter! A LETTER?! How did we ever manage? Of course, my odd brother Leslie doesn’t believe in answering machines. He has one, of course, but he doesn’t always listen to the messages. And he refuses to leave a message on my answering machine. He just calls back. If he doesn’t reach me, well, that’s okay with him. I try to convince him to talk to my machine but he outright refuses. I hint it might be impolite not to leave a message (one thing Leslies hates is rudeness) and he tells me, no, it isn’t. It’s hard to argue with such logic.

Anyway, I called back, I’m going to get together with Satan over tea sometime when he gets a break from his job… picking up corpses from their homes and delivering them to the morgue… I’m looking forward to it…

*I should point out I have neither a cel phone or voice mail… who’s got that kinda money?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

We interviewed Victoria’s Gareth Gaudin of Magic Teeth fame on Thursday, the man who has pledged to draw a cartoon a day for the rest of his life, no exceptions! He’s entering his third year soon! One thing that impressed me about Gareth is not only is he a cartoonist he is a comics retailer who runs the best comic shop in Victoria, draws a comic a day (not to mention a stack of previous small press comics) and yet he retains an genuine enthusiasm for comics! So many comics pros I’ve known have become so jaded they never go to a comic shop and they seem to take little interest in what’s going on outside they’re own circle of comic book buddies. It’s kinda sad but understandable, when you make your living with comics you get tired of being around them and thinking about comics. The last thing you want to see is more comics. I’ve known comics pros who at the end of a convention simply toss out comics and mini-comics given to them by enthusiastic admirers as just excess baggage, too much weight to carry. I know much of it wasn’t very good but it broke my heart in a way, that‘s what I used to do at cons, hand out mini-comics. Comics becomes a job.

Of course, my failed comics career has shielded me somewhat from that unfortunate fate. There was a time after Big Thing and Buddha were cancelled, the comics business was sinking fast and I couldn’t find a publisher enthusiastic about losing money publishing my comics (miserable, selfish bastards!) that I found myself going to the comic shop every week, buying comics, taking them home, putting them on the to-read pile and never looking at them again until it was time to bag and shelve them. I was buying comics out of habit but not reading them. I was pretty depressed about it for awhile, then I figured “who gives a shit about the comics business?” I shook my tiny fist and started drawing mini-comics again. This helped revive my interest in the medium.

What really got me back into it was becoming a “comics journalist” on the radio, first with Onomanaphia and then with Inkstuds. For the shows I had to read more comics to be able to talk about them and interview the cartoonists themselves half-assed intelligently . I was also around people who’s knowledge and passion for comics was contagious, if not a little scary! I admit I sometimes have to read something I wouldn’t have looked at normally. I usually don’t read superhero comics, in the past because of my alternative comics elitism and now mostly because after reading foreign, alternative, political cartoons, underground, classic comic books and strips who has the time and money to start buying superhero comics that are completely alien to me know? Fortunately on Inkstuds we have a cadre of comics experts to draw from in an emergency, for example, Don King’s knowledge of old comic books boggles the mind and he’s not afraid of research! So I am thankful to Robin & Robin, Don and the gang at R/X comics for helping to keep my love of comics alive. But sometimes I wish I was a real pro, losing all interest in comics, at least then I’d be get paid!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ahhh… woke up to cool and cloudy skies. Lovely… caught up on some of the sleep I lost during the record breaking heat wave during the last week or so…

So, sometimes I’m hanging out with the gang at the Mount Pleasant Comics Community Centre (also known as R/X Comics) looking at the new comics and telling myself I can’t buy more than one graphic novel a week and I really shouldn’t be spending the money anyway and damn you Aaron (esteemed proprietor of said R/X Comics) when next to me I will hear the following conversation from people who should know better, intelligent people who read alternative comics:

Customer #1: (Referring to a new graphic novel on the rack) What’s this one about?

Customer #2: Don’t know, I think it’s autobiographical.

Customer #1: (Reacting like he just picked up dogshit) Eeeuuh, all autobiographical comics SUCK!

Customer #2: Yeah, who wants to read a comic from some whining cry-baby?

Uh, guys… I’m right here, eh? What are you thinking? Do you mind not slogging a major part of my life’s work, at least in front of me? Do you go up to people with strollers and tell them their baby is ugly and it smells? Actually, knowing them they just might. It’s not that I’ve only ever done autobiographical comics, I’ve drawn humour, fiction, how-to, adventure with blasphemy, satire, political, historical, fantasy, parody, surreal, science fiction but autobiographical comics have been a major part of my work and I’m not ashamed of it. Of course, it is annoying that “autobiographical cartoonist” is the label that has stuck to me and most people can’t see beyond the label. I know at one point there was a lot of bad autobiographical comics published (along with a lot of bad comics of all kinds) but it seems like the creators of crappiest superhero comic gets more respect from so-called hipsters than autobiographical cartoonists. Maybe if those readers realised how close so many so-called fictional comics are to autobiography (how many times have I asked a cartoonist about an incident in his or her comic and they say: “Dude, that happened to me!”) they’d realise that most fiction has an element of autobiography. Peter Bagge, who for years insisted that he was not Buddy Bradley, realised that Buddy Bradley’s worldview was identical to his own. So, if I tell the same story but change the character’s name from “Colin” to “Fred” or give my main character a cats head I transform some shitty autobiographical comic into and intelligent and insightful “fictional” comic? So, thanks for telling me how much you hate my comics, again, and I’ll try not to take it personally while I struggle to write and draw a autobiographical graphic novel whining about watching my sister die for 21/2 years… should suck…

I remember once reading in the Comics Journal years ago somebody said the only good autobiographical comics were by junkies... as a tea totaller I guess I just don't count... made me want to shoot up a carton of China white, or whatever it is...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Aaaaahhh… sweet relief! The heat wave we’ve been suffering through has abated somewhat, I can feel my brain emerging from the morass it was sunk into… it’s warm enough to please the chirpy fuck-wits who love the heat, presumably because their brains are sluggish to begin with. Yesterday, when the heat was still on, I found the perfect spot for beating the heat. In Vancouver there’s a place by the water called Granville Island , decades ago this was all heavy industry , the sky black with the exhaust of steam engines producing barrels and all manner of things for the maritime trades. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the area was converted to arts and tourism, full of studios, galleries, theatres, shops and a farmers market. My art school was moved there in 1980 and I remember going to class past a chain factory with sparks flying out of the windows. There’s still some ship refitting going on and a brave and stubborn cement factory that refuses to be moved but most of the island is now arts-oriented. It’s one of my favourite places in the city and I splurged on a bus ticket to get there. In a quiet corner, in the shade of the Granville Street bridge is a little coffee/ice cream place, I never learned it’s name. The owner I think is Japanese and he’s put a great deal of time and effort fixing up the place over the years. They serve fresh, loose tea in a pot, unfortunately the scones were cheese but you can’t have everything. I sat outside with my first tea in days, vanilla, enjoying the cool breeze, gazing fondly at the good ship “Relief” dry docked under the bridge … it was heavenly!

After an hour I had to tear myself away as I was going to see cartoonist Julian Lawrence (Crucial Fiction, Drippytown) doing a two hour power point multi-media presentation on his life in comics, experimental film, publishing and music. Most interesting, turns out we have a lot in common (although I always assumed he was younger then me, I didn’t know it was by only three years), growing up with European and British comics and being inspired by underground comics. He does bear deep scars from a religious upbringing I didn’t suffer through, but he’s managed to become a pretty nice guy even so. He did some live scratch animation, which is interesting but always makes me ill, dizzy so I have to close my eyes. He also played several songs with his band with a surprise appearance by Drippy the newsboy! Afterwards there was juice and pretzels! Hoo-ray!

Today I spent house cleaning and laundry, during the heat wave I was letting things go. I’ve been too long away from the drawing table and I find that a nice neat work space is a lot easier to return too than some mess you have to wade through. I’ve been spending time painting figures, some for money, others for me. I don’t need an active brain to paint figures, I’ve been doing it for thirty years. I’m repainting and rebasing my French and Indian Wars figures for the Age Of Reason rules set, one of my favourites! I’m also working on a few mini-comics for the Word Under the Street book festival late September, it always pays to have new “product”. Nichol kindly came by to drop off my painting from the Pirate show (it was only on for 3 nights).
For some reason a pair of crows were chasing a squirrel, then they started fighting amongst themselves… can’t get along with anyone…

There’s a new soap opera on CBC! I must confess I do watch British soaps, like many of my friends I watch Coronation Str (oddly, many of the people I knew in the punk rock days are now Corries fans, anglophiles I suspect) and I also watch Corrie’s poor cousin Emmerdale, which gets me sneered at by Corrie fans. American soaps are just too surreal. Now there’s a new CBC soap, 49th and Main, my old stomping grounds, started out last week. Actually, with it’s mix of ethnic types and business’s it more resembles 49th and Fraser, where I used to live. For instance, I don’t know of an autobody shop on Main but there is one just off Fraser, also the bakery run by the only major white (Scottish) character resembles the German bakery on Fraser than anything on Main, although I admit it’s been awhile since I lived around there so things might’ve changed. It’s much more in the style of British soaps, real people and it looks promising. It’s about a widowed English doctor who’s South Asian (his family’s orginially from Goa, to be exact) who moved to Canada with his son to start a new life. One of the interesting things about the soap is that most of the characters are Asian, with South Asian’s predominate, with conflicts between generations of immigrants and their Canadian raised children, the role of women and racial tensions. Depending on how it’s handled, if the show can avoid the obvious cliches, it could work and I think it’s brave of the show to tackle some pretty touchy areas like that. There’s even a little politics involved, something never mentioned in Corrie Str!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I handed the painting in in time! I delivered it to Nicole with a half hour to spare, gripping onto the painting to make sure it didn’t slip off the piece of wood I’d glued it too, again! Just as well, the heat hit us hard on Saturday and I was good for nothing, spent the afternoon having a siesta. I’m switching to living at night!

Friday was the annual Pirate Show #3 opening at the World Famous Marine Club, a bar oddly enough normally patronised mostly by postal workers and aging punks. It was sweltering, I drank water all night long from a keg thoughtfully provided by the bar and I never had to pee, I just sweated it out. It was a fun time, my painting didn’t sell but I never sell anything so I didn’t mind. Many a jolly seadog was there, Forg, Janice & Ken (who’s Pirate costume, a t-shirt byghod, was so pathetic he got 2nd prize in the costume contest as a joke), James & Susan (who won the 2nd prize for her pirate flag design), Owen & Terry, Steve Richards, Jason Ainsworth, Rot (dressed as a policeman, I guess he read the invite wrong) & Heather, Jim, Holly, 12, David Boswell sweating it out in a wool suit and many others including some very, umm, attractive pirate wenches! (It does astound me somewhat as someone who grew up in the seventies when the old school feminists branded every heterosexual man as a pig and a rapist to see these young ladies not afraid to tart things up a little. I still feel pangs of guilt and shame leftover from that bra-burning era that I am indeed, a straight male and singular the cause of all evil on the planet. The confidence of these young women speaks not to a step backwards but to a sense of ease with themselves. Some of the women involved in the organising of the Pirate show seemed to be part of the burlesque revival, which may look like the old fashion bump and grind but now the women are firmly in charge.) The Creaking Planks, a band that I was a posed-member of (although they never actually called me to attend a single practice I was twice enticed to join them onstage) played some rousing sea shanties on accordion and ukulele. Very piratical!

And the tattoos! Dear Lord, I nearly felt naked without one! People there were covered in tattoos, their arms so heavily tatted I think some of them may be running out of room! I’ve never been able to get a tattoo, I have hyper-allergic skin so virtually anything that’s not cotton or leather against my skin will give me raw, bleeding rashes. I’ve had rashes from band-aids, shirts, wristbands, and the one time I got my ear pierced at Lollapalooza (Theresa Henry forced me into it) I had to take out the stud before my earlobe exploded. So I’ve missed out on two of the great cultural signifiers of my generation, tattoos and piercings, but who knows, that might be a good thing!

Oh yes, there was art on the walls, some of it quite good, but nobody goes to a art opening to look at art! Pshaw! I stayed until midnight, I got a ride home with David Boswell in his cab. The party is on again tonight and Sunday but I’m too fried to attend, I stayed home tonight to watch “Ghidra the three headed monster” on CBC - joy!

PS My pirate name is Joshia Bunnybottoms.

PS My painting is titled “Pirate tea lady with cat and carronade”
Hmmmm… “Cat and carronade”, a good name for a pub, or a title for a sea shanty…

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I hate it when Don King is happy… it’s not that I’m a jerk, it’s just about the only time that my good buddy and fellow cartoonist Don King is happy is when it’s really really hot out. It’s hot and it’s going to get worse this weekend, so if this blog degenerates into random, incoherent babbling don’t be surprised…

Lovejoy, winterbottom the last of the toothpaste sailed down the toilet to the green pastures of Broccoli Hills in the Gaspe to meet the King of Pain… King of Pain… I’ll always be King of Pain…

Something like that…

On the radio show today we sat down (over the phone to Toronto) with Jeet Heer, a comics scholar (doing his PHD on Little Lulu or some such thing) to talk about George Herriman, the creator of Krazy Kat. Now, I’ve always tried really hard to like Krazy Kat because I know that is considered a comics classic but I never quite got it myself. Cat loves mouse, mouse hates cat, dog loves cat who is not interested in dog. Same damn joke for 30 years! Well, Jeet Heer tries to explain it to me carefully, fortunately he kept the academic speak down to a minimum (my dad was a history prof so I know of which I speak) and we had a good discussion. Something that amused me about those early cartoonists in the twenties, they seem like a rough bunch, going to the fights, fighting, smoking and drinking. The sort of in your face he men you might see in the old movies, quick with their fists. "Sporting types" as Jeet would say. Not like most cartoonists today. I think that’s a good thing. Ran around looking for cheap ink cartridge refills, had to go to a lumber yard to buy a piece of mylite to glue my “pirate tea lady with cat and carronade” painting that’s going into the 3rd annual pirate show this weekend. If the bloody thing ever dries that is, I’m still waiting and I need to deliver it to Nicole tonight. Damn, it’s eight already…

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

As I sit here before the computer I can hear them. In the summer with the windows open I can hear them most of the time. I live in a condo (a wholey undeserved luxury but I’m not saying no) in a lovely building with a southern facing over a verdant back patio… that means lots of green leafy trees and whatnot. I also face an apartment building , unfortunately I am not entirely shielded by the fence and barrier of trees. This rental building (note the inference of class prejudice) in one year had more police calls than any other building in Vancouver. Before I moved here a prostitute was beaten to death on the front lawn of this building by her pimp. Supposedly the landlords cleaned up the place after a disgruntled evicted tenant left a firebomb on a timer after he moved out, taking out a handful of peoples homes. That I witnessed. It should come as no surprise that the people living there tend to be transient, a no matter how loud or rude there are they move on frequently enough not to be a problem. Like the family of Quebecois who partied virtually nightly or the woman who wailed constantly at a boyfriend night after night, about what exactly never seemed to be determined. I well remember an exchange:

She: You don’t understand me!

He: Fuckin' right I don’t understand you!

Which I thought was at least an honest response. Next a very gay voice from our building:

“Oh, why don’t you just shut up!?”

All this from just one corner of the apartment building, the one directly facing me!

Then the Monkey Tribe moved in… they’ve been there a couple of years now, surprisingly long time… I’m not sure who they are, there seems to be a young woman who’s been since the start but is that the same boyfriend I’ve been hearing all this time? There always seems to be a crowd hanging out there. Hard to tell. All I know is that these kids (I think of them as kids although they’re in their twenties as near as I can figure, they act like 8 year olds) never seem to communicate at anything under a bellow, the word of choice is “fuck” in all it’s glorious permutations and women of all kinds, even women they like, are invariably referred too as “bitches”. Almost anything can and does lead to an shrieking argument, it’s hard to decide if they are noisier when they are happy or angry. Once while “partying” (a nearly everyday occurrence in the summer) they once broke the glass patio door and just kept on going. You may accuse me of invading their privacy but how the Hell can I avoid hearing them when she come out onto the balcony and yells into her cel phone for all to hear about “that asshole”, “that cunt” and inevitably, “that bitch”? If it’s not them shouting, it’s their dog barking at anything that moves or shitty rap music. I’ll admit I’ve had far worse neighbours but I’ve never had neighbours with such a long range of annoyance! I accept these things, all part of living in the city and putting up with each other…

...mind you, I had to leave my last two homes because of people, the kids who decided the park outside my window on Chester Street would make an excellent dope hang out and vandalised our lawn ornaments when we dared call the cops, starting fires, threatening violence. And the junkie lesbian who lived next door and stole my books for collage material. Then the place on 15th I moved too was broken into and my CD’s and camera ripped off, the police of course did nothing. That’s why I’m here, relieved too know that although my neighbours might annoy me, they can’t get to me… except for the guy downstairs who wants to stuff things up my ass and is trying to get me to die of a heart attack, but that’s another story I won’t get into right now…

"C'mon bitch, I'll kick yer fuckin' ass! Go for it bitch!"

"Shut the fuck up!"

Ah, the sounds of the city...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Interviewing Peter Bagge…
Today Robin and I interviewed Peter Bagge, who I used too know back when Seattle (Hell, he sold me rare copies of Comical Funnies 1-3 when he first moved to Seattle, cover price!) was the centre of the alternative comics world but I haven‘t him seen in years, on Inkstuds. I am one of the few who can say I’ve seen his band, The Action Suits, play live! Peter was good, intelligent guy, sometimes when you do interviews getting words out of a subject can be like pulling teeth but there were no awkward pauses of the “my-mind-has-gone-blank-I-can’t-think-of-anything-to-ask-this-guy-kind” but not this time.* (Little did we know that he was warmed up, this being his second interview of the day! Apparently there’s a radio show about comics in Portland Oregon, I never knew existed! I‘m hoping to meet one of the people from the show tomorrow as he’s in town for the Folk fest.) We talked about music, the Hate Annual and Apocalypse Nerd (his new must read comic) and what it was like being the “grunge” cartoonist… better than cancer, he said. We ran out of time before we could get into Libertarian politics, which is something I always wondered about. Libertarians I’ve met seem to be the “shoot the meter maid” kind. I look at a couple of the strips Peter had done for Reason magazine online and they reminded me of the politics I learned from Mad Magazine, that is, attack everybody! To be a cartoonist/social critic I think you have to be able to step back and satirize anyone who deserves it, truly committed ideologues make for bad comics. Does that make every cartoonist a natural Libertarian, or just a malcontent crank? Depends once again how it’s defined but I imagine thinking for yourself is a good place to start! Oh, Robin and I love the “Founding Fathers” strips in the back of Apocalypse Nerd, once again proving my theory that autobiographical cartoonists (Peter admitted on the show that Buddy Bradley was at the very least semi-autobiographical) are frustrated historians! There was one strip he did about going to a rally against the invasion of Iraq I could certainly relate too, I’ve done a story about a failed demo myself (that was in one of the Drippys). The interview should be up as a pod cast at the Crown Commission web site in about a week.

Next week, Krazy Kat with comics scholar Jeet Heer.

PS, those of you who are waiting for the Peter Bagge Hulk comic may have reason to hope!

*A journalist who was interviewing me told me that of all the visual artists he interviewed, cartoonists were the most articulate. Not bad for people who are supposed to be so socially awkward!

If you’re in Vancouver get your West Ender weekly as Julian Lawrence and Drippy the Newsboy are on the cover with an article inside about the current comics and art book art show at the Emily Carr foyer!

New book from Jason, I’ll report on it soon!

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup
Well, it’s over for another four years, the World Cup of football. Or soccer if you prefer. Now, I’m not a sporty guy, when I was a kid I played soccer (awarded for “Most Improved player“, my team was so unstoppable at the end of our first season the other coaches had a meeting and broke up our team), later I curled (as part of my psychological therapy) and I was in the Misspent Youth Underground Bowling League for several seasons. I’ve tried to watch Canadian football but I just go to sleep. When I had cable I watched pro wrestling (but that’s not so much a sport as theatre of the absurd for the masses) soccer and rugby. For a long time I refused to watch any sports. You see, when we were young my brother’s entire state of mental health depended on the success of his sports teams. If they lost he was furious, if they won they hadn’t won by enough and his rage would affect everyone in the house. Turned me off sports for years. He’s better now. So I don’t watch hockey’ (I’m a bad Canadian) the Olympics, tennis, figure skating, show jumping or much of anything. Then there’s the World Cup.

The World Cup is awesome. I mean it’s awesome, huge. There’s more teams competing for a spot in the in the World Cup then in the Olympics, more teams then there are countries on the planet. The only places that soccer isn’t huge is Canada, the United States and Antarctica. And I wonder if things are changing in Canada. All along Broadway in my part of town (not an ethnic enclave like Commercial Drive with it’s Italians and Portuguese) in coffee bars, cafes and pool halls people assembled to watch the games. I waited until the there were eight teams left before I started going to “Our Town” café to watch the games, I knew I could only afford to eat out so much (I felt obliged to spend money for the privilege of watching the games). I soon started to recognise the same people coming in to see the games and quickly acquired a group of “soccer buddies“ to swap opinions with, an Iranian and friends I never knew cared about soccer. The games attracted a diverse crowd of Canadians with roots in Asia, Europe, Africa and the America’s, perhaps even an Australian or two. Women as much as men, everyone was respectful, good natured and cheered on the players no matter what team they were supporting. Except one, by appearance and accent a man of middle-eastern roots who was cheering for Portugal against England. After the game on the sidewalk outside he was threatening to punch out an English fan (Anglo-Canadian, like all the England fans like me I saw) who was holding on to a baby at the time. Apparently Mr. Angry-person-of-middle-eastern-appearance considered England’s defeat to be divine retribution for Tony Blair’s war on Iraq. Sports as war by other means. Fortunately he was confronted and stormed off before I would’ve bravely attacked him from behind if he had carried out his threat to attack a man holding a baby. It’s a baby for Christ sakes!

Today was the final and it was packed, I arrived an hour early to get a good seat. I was supporting France, I have family there, but you can’t say the Italians didn’t deserve the win. But now the Italians will be insufferable for months! It was jut amazing to me to be a part of something that people across the world were enthralled by, a truly global event. A friend of mine once told me that that is why I really follow the world cup, not because of the sport but a fascination with the world culture that surrounds it. Perhaps it’s true, but the games were exciting, (not enough goals and too much diving perhaps) more so watching it with a group of strangers united by a sports event so awesome it holds the world in it’s grip. The beautiful game…
Pity about Zidane losing it at the end…

Friday, July 07, 2006

Hello again.
Well, it’s been a busy week, last Sunday I was at Lucky’s on Main Str. for the launch of the first 3 of 25 Hell Passports being published by Jo Cook, mine being one of them. I was the only one of the three in Vancouver I had the weighty responsibility of representing the project to the public. I haven’t done many public appearances lately, it took me painful years attending many conventions to overcome my natural shyness. It’s a strange thing to be working alone for months on end and then face an indifferent public while trying to sell yourself and your “product’ to them… the atmosphere you create is all important. If you just sit behind a table glowering resentment at the ignorant masses that refuse to recognise your genius, well, nobody gets close to you. Nor can you push people into buying stuff, that’s just annoying and off putting. Violent physical threats, made at the end of a long weary behind a table, don’t work either. I’ve tried. Nobody takes you seriously… the fools. What I try to do is appear distracted enough that people can approach without trepidation, by drawing on backing boards. I draw anything that pops into my head (see above), sometimes I give them away to people who ask for it. Of course, if people are interested I do talk to them, answer any questions politely, warning any parents of snot nosed toddlers who are getting too close to the “material that may cause offence” that my comics aren’t really for children.

I like Lucky’s, they have managed to stay in business while stocking mini-comics, comics and graphic novels of high quality. It just seems that every time I have a show there it’s always THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR, as in 2004 when I had a show featuring high tea on the afternoon of THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR which went surprisingly well I thought. This year I found myself sitting, often alone, behind a table in the main room of the store on THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR while everyone else was in the cooler back room or outside in the shade having a BBQ. Then they took away my fan. People would come by to say “why don’t you come and join us outside?” but I had my duty to do… plus it’s an iron rule at signings that when you leave your table is when people arrive at your table looking like they might buy something. I drank gallons of powdered lemonade, ate BBQ, salads, chips and sat there for 6 hours, selling four books, before I gave up and staggered home in the relative cool of the evening. I wouldn’t have made it that far if it wasn’t for friends willing to brave the heat and hang out with me and I‘d like to thank the various Robin‘s, Rebecca, Laura, Julian, Rob, Owen and those two wandering poets from Calgary and everyone for coming to the launch. SAVE!

Colin the curmugeddon!
It was at Lucky’s I realised I’m becoming a cranky old man. I was talking to a young guy who is another of the artists in the Hell passport project who hadn‘t done his yet. I asked him what his would look like, he said something about drawings of animals in forests. I asked him what I thought was a reasonable question, in essence, what was he trying to say about Hell with his art? This seemed to put him on the defensive, the drawings don’t have to be about something to say something… or something I didn’t quite get. The impression I did get that it’s uncool or rude or unsophisticated to expect that art should be about something. That art is about everything and nothing and it really doesn’t matter what you draw in relation to a topic or theme… well, I don’t get it. I’m a simple guy who likes a story and I’d like people to communicate their thoughts, opinions and ideas with me, assuming they have any. I see so much of this these days, creeping “arty” values in comics, which surprises me when I look around at what’s going on in the culture and the world at the same time I see a whole generation of cartoonists so completely alienated from their culture that they hide themselves in pop culture cuteness, surrealism and infantile nihilism. Cartoonists in the undergrounds of the sixties and the later alternatives where satirists and commentators on the society’s they live in, now I read comics by cartoonists so isolated they have no connection with the world outside of their chat rooms and porn web sites. Is this bad? It’s just the way it is. Amongst these cartoonists there are some of undeniable skill doing good work and in theory I think the more diverse approaches to doing comics the better. But also I fear losing something, a sense that stories, having a point of view, ideas and that having something to say matters! That comics will become as irrelevant to people as modern art is now. Yep, old grandpa Upton needs his nap now…

Oh, before that!

Comics this week!
I bought the new Hate Annual today, always a treat to see new Pete Bagge material (incidentally, we’ll soon be interviewing Peter Bagge on Inkstuds! Whoo-hoo!) even if it‘s mostly stuff that appeared on the web already. Does Bagge use an inker, I think Jim Blanchard inked for him in the past? I can’t find a credit but this stuff looks slicker than “Apocalypse Nerd“, which is a must read!

When I was buying my Hate I was accused of “Living in the 90’s” by a man who’s dress and style comes straight from the seventies and at the time was clutching a superhero comic from the sixties, “when it was good”. I always hated that attitude, “I read that in this cartoonists work in this decade so all the work of that cartoonist will forever be an artefact of that time in my life” bullshit, it’s like an artist should stop creating after the decade closes? Some of underground sixties comics icon Robert Crumbs best work was done, virtually unnoticed, in the eighties. So there!

Now I really need a nap...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hello. I haven’t been blogging lately, blame the insufferable heat, world cup soccer (England was robbed!) and well, the computer ate my homework… seriously, I had a nice blog entry all written up and the computer decided to shut down my program, nothing saved of course. That reminds me: SAVE! I’ll be saving every few lines from now on…
SAVE! Bloody computers, boxes of demons… SAVE… try again…

Oh, I've been trying to scan images and post them on my blog, so far it hasn't worked... once I figure out what's going wrong this blog will have more images and be an estimated 16% more entertaining!

Global TV is trying to kill me. As I mentioned before I receive six stations on my TV with the aid of electrical rabbit ears (presumably lopped off the heads of electrical rabbits) so my choices are limited. For the past few months I’ve been watching “The Shield“, at 1:30 AM on Global (a neo-con station I normally avoid except for cartoons, the original “Fox Canada”) every week night. “The Shield“ is an intense, testosterone pumping often violent cop drama set in LA, I watch it because I like the characters (really, cop shows are just soap operas for men) and the fact the show is not afraid to deal with the politics of police corruption, violence., racism, gangs, and sexuality in a honest if sometimes brutal way. So, you get I’m really into this show, I sit own at 1:30 AM, click on Global and what do I see? “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy“. Skritch-zam-wham, that is the sound of my neck suffering pop culture whip lash. Could there be two shows less alike? Damn, couldn’t they have eased me into it, some sort of transitional programming like… I dunno, Barney Millar or Will & Grace? Jeez… not that I have anything against “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy“, I mean ,who doesn’t love watching a “reality” show about some poor slob who’s only crime is being himself being ritually humiliated and stripped of his personality by a bunch of nancy-boys at the behest of the women in his life? If they showed up at my door I’d call the cops. Anyway , global, next time give me some warning! Now I gotta think about getting the rugs shampooed before I get a knock on the door from the fashion police… SAVE

Comics I bought on Wednsday
DC Spotlight #11 by Sergio Aragones
Always nice to see some new work from the master, Sergio Aragones. He and his unique drawing style has been with me from as far back as I can remember, first in Mad and later in Groo. This collection features gags, fables, a Batman story (with Mark Evanier) and my favourites, autobiographical stories (including a bit of history-yahoo!). Sergio is a charismatic guy with an interesting past, his parents fled Franco after the Spanish Civil War and moved to Mexico, Sergio later went to New York to try his luck as a cartoonist (a story he tells in the this book, plus “I killed Marty Feldman”… YOU’LL HAVE TO BUY THE COMIC TO FIND OUT HOW!) {My only quibble is I don’t think Marty ever wrote for Python, although he did work with some of the folks who would later create Monty Python} Enough brackets.

Usagi Jojimbo #94 by Stan Sakai
(Coincendentially, Stan Sakai is also Sergio Aragones’s letterer!)
I have a lot of admiration for Stan Sakia, for years he’s been quietly writing an drawing consistently strong issues of Usagi Yojimbo. At first glance you might dismiss the comic as “for kids” or “funny animal dweebs“, but you’d be missing out. Each Usagi is a master class in clear, concise comics storytelling that flows so naturally you don’t even notice how well put together it is. It’s that good.

Heavy Metal Summer 2006
Yeah, I know, Heavy Metal, so sue me. Perhaps it’s sheer force of habit on my part but I’ve been buying Heavy Metal since virtually day one and I remember it’s glory days with Moebuis, Bilal, Tari, Corben , Druillet and a host of others bringing me a whole new world of comics. It’s gone through a lot of changes since then, more T&A and less genius. They sometimes do feature unexpected new artists like Prado, but like most European comics it’s usually gorgeous to look even when the story is totally lightweight… which it usually is…

Oh yeah, I also received in the mail a copy of Dork #4 complete with an autographed piece of cardboard from our recent interview subject, Evan Dorkin. What can I say, comic is twisted cry for help from a man on the edge… it’s also very, very funny… so, I’m putting on my hat and curling up with Evan, the Murder Family and the gang at Eltingville for a little recreational misanthropy… damn, I forgot to ask Evan if there really is an Eltingville.