I love comics, the whole sequential storytelling aspect. I prefer reading the action/adventure/weird fiction genre but that's the genre I like for my entertainment in all media, be it film, television or prose. Still, I'm more likely to read an out-of-genre comic than I am to read an out-of-genre novel. I doubt if I'd have gotten past the first page of Berlin or Stuck Rubber Baby or Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself if they had been prose works. When I think of telling stories I think of telling comic style stories. Even if I first envision a story as prose or as a movie sooner or later I'll think, "Hell, this would work better as a comic!" and I'll start revising my mental construction.
The first comic book I ever read was Spider-Man #103. I don't remember if I bought it or it was given to me. It was the first half of a two part story in which Spider-Man went to the Savage Land (a "Lost World" hidden in the mists of Antartica; populated with remnant dinosaurs and surviving megafauna) and had to rescue his girl friend from an alien King Kong sort of critter. The story fit perfectly my obsession with all things monstrous. That hooked me. I read my way through hundreds of Spider-man stories over the years.
When I started earning spending money most of it went to comics. Comics of all varieties. My mom told Brian Christ (rhymes with twist), owner of Perelandra, a hole in the wall comics shop where my brother and I got our weekly fixes, that he could sell us anything. Brian took her at her word. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Star*Reach. Heavy Metal. Creepy. Eerie. Vampirella. Brian sold me the first few Elfquests on a money back guarantee. Thousands of comics. Perelandra changed hands and disappeared. I discovered drugs and girls. I drew a lot. I was accepted to the Joe Kubert school. I didn't go. And I kept reading comics. Grendel. Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. Black Kiss. Post Bros.Cerebus the Aardvark. Comics boomed and busted. I stopped buying comics regularly and then finally stopped buying the periodicals completely a few years ago. With a tighter budget I buy the occasional graphic novel and do a lot a reading at the library. And, on the rare times I have access to a computer and lots of time I troll the web looking for to salve my comics jones. It's an addiction I've only managed and never tried to kick.
I drew my first minicomic back in '89 and printed up 50 copies of it at the local Kinkos. This was back when Kinkos' specialty was 24 hour copies and faxes. I got inspired to do minicomics after an artist sent me an envelope full of his own photocopied publications in response to a flyer I'd put up advertising myself as an illustrator. Seeing his minicomics was an Oprah "Aha!" moment. I'd never thought of creating minicomics, I'd never heard of them but they were obviously something I could do.
My mini (Cheap Thrills #1) was twelve pages (an eight page story and a cover). The art was crude, the story a cliché but it was finished product. It was also my second finished comic.
The first one I had drawn on the kitchen wall of a friend's apartment (with their permission and encouragement) the previous year. Previously I'd filled a lot of sketchbooks but I'd never really tried to tell a story. But my friends set aside a wall for me. I couldn't pass that up. I drew the strip over the course of of seven or eight months. I'd drop by the house, have a beer and start drawing a panel. I'd usually finish the panel by the second or third beer and then I'd be more interested in hanging out than in drawing. That one (Moe and Detritus Go To Hell) was a little hard to share. (Mojo Nixon later autographed their ceiling.) The minicomic I could sell or trade or give away. And I did.
Over the next couple of years I did almost twenty minis in three series - Cheap Thrills, The Highly Unlikely Adventures of Moe and Detritus and The Davey Thunder / Jack Lightning Show (written by my brother, Glenn). They all followed the same pattern - eight page stories inside a card stock cover. I also contributed to minis put together by like minded folks across the country. We found each other by mail and by reviews in Factsheet Five.
This led me eventually to Brave New Words publishing and in 1991 they published five issues of Misspent Youths. Moe and Detritus and friends carried over easily from their minicomics. Each issue was thirty-two pages in black and white with a color cover. The art was still crude and stories were rude and bizarre. I'm proud to say that Misspent Youths was BNW's longest running series. Matt Howarth (who provided the cover for #5) did draw more comics for the company but those were one shots and miniseries and, dammit, Howarth draws faster than Jack Kirby on speed.
The sales never really matched the printing costs and after the fifth issue we mutually cancelled the series. I didn't mind the lack of pay for the work I was putting in but after the fourth issue I'd really started to notice (and be uncomfortable with) my short comings as an artist. I took some figure drawing classes and continued working with BNW's publisher on other projects, most of which didn't see print (or completion). I inked Oz Squad #4 and drew a version of #5 that didn't see print. I wrote and inked a couple of stories for Millenium Comics that eventually saw print in Asylum #1. Pia Guerra did the pencils for those. I drew Dangerman #1 (written by Mark Ahlquist) for Patchwork Press.
In '94 Nizzibet (Sarah Byam) and I hooked up to work on a series. That lead to a partnership and the partnership led to the first version of the Labor of Love Cooperative. I'd been getting ready to self-publish a new version of Misspent Youths. She had burned through a few years in comic book industry and was looking to create something more stable and more fair. We pooled our talents, found some other similarly minded folks and Glyph, version one, was the result.
Glyph was an 80 page black and white anthology magazine with a color cover. I had sixteen pages of Bonecage Graffiti (the new version of Misspent Youths) in each issue. The story was weird but the art was pretty good. I'd draw it differently if I did it today but it's nothing I wouldn't show around. The rest of the magazine ran from really good and professional to crude but interesting. And sales never justified printing costs. The comic book industry was collapsing. Anthologies don't sell. Whatever. We put out three issues in '96 and '97 then turned our attention to trying to make some money as a design studio. Bonecage Graffiti was intended to run to around 300 pages. Sixty four pages were drawn and forty-eight pages saw print.
The trouble is, that version of Labor of Love was composed of comic geeks. Eventually we had to do comics again. That happened in 1998 with a reinvented GLYPH. This version was a free comics newsprint tabloid. Since our distribution was local - Seattle coffee shops, music and books stores - I did a strip called Zazkwatch about a sasquatch.This time the stories were short (four pages) and self contained. We were, to keep the story short, overenthusiastic and underfund. After four issues we gave it up and shortly thereafter the studio came apart. Much trauma and wackiness ensued.
Labor of Love eventually revived, streamlined down to Jaydogg and the Nizz, and they're making a go at designing sans the distraction of trying to put out a publication every few months. Nizzibet and I have taken stabs at telling stories in other mediums - internet cartoons, novels, film scripts - and while we've had limited success in these endeavors we'll keep working at it. We've revisited the comic series that originally brought us together and, working around everything else, are bringing it back to life as a graphic novel.
Comics are woven into my brain. I think in panels and freeze frames and foreshortened action shots. I break down moments into page compositions. I'm not as prolific as I'd like to be. I've got way too many other things to do. Once the big dreams and tall tales are set aside, whether or not the audience is there, I'll draw comics.
Back on the road again.
Sentient 39 is copyright 2003 by David Lee Ingersoll
Notes on progress to this site (as well as general ranting and rambling) can be found in my web journal.
For samples of my art visit my gallery at Epilogue.net