And On The Seventh Day God Enjoyed A Comic Book…

The year was 1995…  I was working at Comics Route in Manchester, Vermont when I first met Chris Kulig.  Little did I know at the time, that this interesting man who road into town on a bicycle, asking to be photographed next to my display for Teri Wood’s self-published Wandering Star, would remain a constant in my life for the next 16 years.  Chris made his purchase that day, and inquired about mail order options before continuing his travels across the green mountains of Vermont.  You see Chris was enjoying his first summer off from the Seminary, and his travels had landed him in my comics shop, and every month since that day in ’95, I’ve been selling Chris his comics.  Although he’s not just Chris anymore, now he’s Fr. Christopher Kulig, O.Carm. of the St. Joseph/Immaculate Conception Rectory.  That’s right folks, a comic book reading Roman Catholic Priest!  And not only does he read comics, but at my request, he wrote a little something about them too.  Here’s an excerpt…

Cerebus © Dave Sim

Meet Joe Priest

It was 15 years ago or so that I found myself in a comic book store in north Jersey, browsing through the various titles.  I came upon a most intriguing graphic novella: Meet Joe Priest.  If I recall correctly, it had both a priest in roman collar and a Hell’s Angel character on the cover, replete with motorcycle, of course.  Hmmm, I thought, I did have a few extra dollars in my allowance, so what the hell–I bought it.  The story was fairly kitschy: in a future time of dictatorship, when human birth had been usurped by genetic engineering done in the laboratory, a renegade priest runs rampant with his motorcycle bodyguard, “confessing” every nubile young lady in town (“confessing” being code word for impregnating, if you hadn’t inferred) as a way of subverting the evil regime of his time.  Oh, brother, was it worth the five bucks?

I had to laugh, though, since this was nothing like priesthood or sacramental confession.  How might I know?  Well, I have a confession to make: I am a Roman Catholic priest, going on ten years, now. It was in the seminary that I picked up the aforementioned title (really, how many grown men have an “allowance,” save “priests-in-training for poverty, chastity and obedience—or very henpecked husbands!).  But my interest in the art form of comics went back just a little bit earlier, to the late 80s.  My college roommate at West Virginia was somewhat of an avid collector, back in the day when the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series was a hot seller.  However, my potential interest in comic books was quickly squelched when my roomie wouldn’t let me read that four-part series, lest I ruin its re-sale value (NB: Another dorm-rat college buddy wouldn’t even let me read the ensuing compilation book, since its bluebook value was increasing, too!).

Suffice to say, my interest was put off for a few years.  If these books had become like ancient manuscripts, “sacred texts,” forbidden from my purview, then why bother?

Then I took a road-trip with Tony, the sole representative of the WVU fencing club, for the NCAA fencing tournament in Orlando in 1989.  For the journey, Tony had brought his Cerebus Phone Books, both High Society and Church and State I & II.  I can still recall, with great glee, the hilarity I found in the opening pages of High Society, where this new hero for our ages—Cerebus the Aardvark—was itching to pick a fight with anyone, and was foiled at every turn.  I was enthralled.

I would soon begin collecting Cerebus and eventually go on a quest to find first printings of each issue.  It probably did not help my relationship with my last girlfriend at the time (“You just had to make me drive you to every comic store in the area in search of ‘another Cerebus comic book’!” echoes her perturbed voice in old section of my romantic memory); but I grew to appreciate the different stores I visited in my travels.  Why call ahead and ask, “Do you have any old Cerebus?” when you can go into the store and see what treasures were waiting to be found?  Like Meet Joe Priest?  Well, some stores had more hidden treasures than others (but, as kitschy as it was, I did like Joe Priest).

[Meet Joe Priest can be read in its entirety in Panel to Panel: Exploring Words & Pictures, which can be purchased at this website.]

Get Your Panel On!!

So if there was one thing that disappointed me the most about not reaching our financial goal on Kickstarter last month, it was that the Panel to Panel T-Shirt might never be produced. Panel to Panel’s good friend Mort Todd had done such a fabulous job designing the image, it would be a shame if it never got used. So I’ve decided to do a little experiment… Panel to Panel has teamed up with Unknown Arts of Burlington, VT in an effort to get these shirts made, and on your backs!! In order to be financially able to swing getting these shirts made, I’ve got to sell 14 shirts. Sounds easy, right? Let’s hope so…
So help a struggling publisher out, and look good doing it… Order a shirt, and then encourage thirteen of your friends to do the same!!

(for a larger image of Mort Todd’s artwork, click HERE.)


Sizes




Don’t Make Me Repeat Myself!!!

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s a great interview I did back in May 2011. This took place during the Kickstarter campaign, and appeared on a podcast over at the Cammy’s Comic Corner website. Cameron Hatheway and I discuss the Panel to Panel book at length; its content, its goals, its history, and a whole lot more. From my mouth, to your ears…

http://cammyscomiccorner.com/2011/05/25/cammys-comic-corner-geeky-talky-episode-70/

Remembering Gene Colan

Part of my morning routine, while my pot of coffee is brewing, is to check in with Facebook and Twitter and see what’s happening in the world of social media.  This morning brought sad news.  My friend, and comics legend, Gene Colan had passed away.

I first became aware of Gene Colan at a very young age, when one of the very first comic books I ever owned was THE TOMB OF DRACULA #55 (1977).  At this young age, I wasn’t aware of who he was, let alone what a “penciler” was or did.  Hell, I probably didn’t know what a “vampire” was either, but I knew this comic was special.  It scared the crap out of me!  The imagery, the pacing, the lighting all gave me the creeps, but I couldn’t look away!  As a kid, I used to keep my comics in a pile on the floor of my closet, a completely random pile of mostly STAR WARS comics, but I remember having to always keep this issue on the bottom of the stack.  I felt safer that way.  I had convinced myself that  the weight of all the other comics would hold Gene’s art and Dracula down, and I could then get a good nights sleep.  If that’s not a testament to the power of Gene’s artwork, I don’t know what is?  It seemed so real, so alive, that I was convinced the characters could jump right off the page and attack me!  No other comic, that I’d seen at that point, had the same effect.

Over the years, as my comic collection grew, I encountered more and more of Gene’s artwork.  Through the pages of BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, THE SPECTRE, SILVERBLADE, HOWARD THE DUCK, and so many more, I became well aware that there was no other comic artist, in the history of comics, who could draw the way Gene did.  So many of the great comic artists have been mimicked; that is the nature of commercial art.  Some mimicked well, others poorly, few advancing the style to another level.  But Gene’s art stood on it’s own.  No one ever successfully pulled off his style, and from my point of view, no one ever even tried.

I grew up in the small southern Vermont town of Manchester, and it was in the early 1990s that I had noticed an older gentlemen driving around in a blue car with the license plate that read “COMICS”.  I soon found out that the car belonged to the one and only Gene Colan.  It turned out that the artist who I’d grown up admiring all my life was living right here in the same small Vermont town (well actually one town over in Arlington)!  How cool was that?!?!  What were the chances?!?!  Well at the time, I was running a comic book store called COMICS ROUTE in Manchester, and I thought it would be really cool to contact Gene and invite him to visit the store and maybe schedule a signing or something.  After I’d tracked down his phone number, and spoken to his wife Adrienne, it was agreed that Gene would stop in and sign some books; I was thrilled, it was a fanboy’s dream come true!!  That first meeting was in 1992.  He arrived at the store with a large marker sketch of Dracula, as a gift for me.  I was stunned!  A year or two later, he was working on a PREDATOR mini series for Dark Horse, which he did another in-store signing for.  In between those two events I was lucky enough to have had a hand full of lunches with Gene, attended a few gallery receptions with him, and always enjoyed a yearly visit from him in the store around Christmas time, just to say “Hi” and “Happy Holidays”.  Gene was a true class act.  As the years moved on, I’d closed COMICS ROUTE and moved out of Manchester, but still managed to keep in touch with Gene.  It was usually a short email, just checking in, but it always meant a lot.  When I had decided to launch Panel to Panel as an online comics shop, Gene was kind enough to endorse it and give me this quote, “I think Panel To Panel is a sensational venture. One that I’m eager to lend my name and hand to!”  He had even agreed to create a new piece of artwork to help promote the DOCTOR STRANGE VERSUS DRACULA: THE MONTESI FORMULA trade paperback collection.  An image (see above) which I’d turned into an exclusive signed bookplate to be included with purchased copies from Panel to Panel.  More recently, Gene had agreed to an interview, but unfortunately we never got a chance to talk again.  This was a little over a year ago, and shortly after we had scheduled a time to talk, his health had taken a turn for the worse.  We tried to reschedule, but then his wife Adrienne’s health had taken a turn for the worse.  She had passed away shortly after.  I’d sent emails with my condolences, but never got a response in return.

The world of comics will never see another like Gene Colan.  His mark on the industry and the medium will live through his timeless work.

Thank you for your friendship.  You’ll be missed, Gene.

 

France’s Greatest American Hero?!?!?

French comics publisher, Organic Comix, will be releasing a truly fine graphic novel in the coming months entitled, ShieldMaster.  Co-written by Jim Simon and Jean Depelley, and beautifully illustrated by artist extraordinaire Reed Man.  Now if the name Jim Simon sounds a bit familiar, that’s because his father is non other than, Captain America co-creator, Joe Simon.  Now am I the only one who finds it a bit funny and ironic that a French publisher would be the one to be releasing a comic about a red, white and blue costumed hero created by a member of the Simon family?  Crazy, huh?  Well hopefully we here in the States won’t have to wait too long before a business savvy comics publisher releases this beauty in English.  But until then, you can preview the first five pages, in English, in the upcoming Panel to Panel: Exploring Words & Pictures book.  That’s right, P2P has got ShieldMaster!!  And to further enhance the comic, it’ll run alongside a great interview with Jim Simon.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Copies of the ShieldMaster 44-page hardcover graphic novel can be ordered by clicking HERE!  And tell them Panel to Panel sent you…

Since beginning work on the ShieldMaster portion of the book, I’ve quickly become a HUGE fan of artist Reed Man’s work!  I’ve been lucky enough to preview quite a bit of his work from his native France, and can’t wait to see more.  I see big things in his future, and I look forward to the day when more American comic readers get to see his work.  Reed was kind enough, a couple of months back, to create an all-new image on a blank variant cover of Marvel Comics’ Avengers #1.  I’ve since eBayed that issue off in an early P2P fund raising campaign, but I was sure to keep a scan of his amazing image.  Enjoy!

Please don’t forget to support Panel to Panel on Kickstarter!  This book needs your support to become a reality.

Simmer Down, Dave…

During the late Spring/Early Summer of 2010, Jon Mathewson (whose recent book of poetry can be purchased HERE) corresponded with, Cerebus creator, Dave Sim via fax.  That interview, which Jon has titled The General in His Labyrinth, is previewed here for your enjoyment.  If you’d like to read more, and there is a whole lot more, please support Panel to Panel over at Kickstarter.com and pre-order your copy today.  As I write this, there are less than 20 days left in our fundraiser, and we still have a lot of ground to cover.  Please take a look at the excellent rewards we are offering, and find the pledge level which best suits your budget.  We here at Panel to Panel are eternally grateful for your support.

Jon Mathewson: You are a patient guy.  One thing that has always impressed me about you is your ability to see the sweep of time, and your place in it.  A the age of, what, twenty-three?, you saw how to turn Cerebus from a series of monthly satires to an epic encompassing politics, religion, and “dangerous philosophy.”  You saw Cerebus life ahead of you, and spent the next couple of decades telling it.

So: I read Glamourpuss in 2010, and enjoy your examinations of photo-realism and comics’ internecine fights of yore, but I wonder, where do you see Glamourpuss, and where you are now, in the greater sweep of your career?

Do you see any similarities between your pariah status and the way Ezra Pound was treated by the literary establishment of his day?

Dave Sim: Ha Ha.

Oh, sorry, you’re serious.  Or pretending to be, anyway.  No. Ezra Pound was a Nazi sympathizer and dupe.  In the context of our present age, I’m the only one who ISN’T advocating the Marxist-Feminist totalitarian dictatorship, the only one who DOESN’T think that capitulation to the “one right way to think” is the correct course for a civilization.  I’m being treated the way I’m being treated because I’m enunciating common sense – the impossible things to believe before breakfast are as impossible now as they were when I came up with them.

In the same way that the good Germans persevered through the 1930s and 1940s, I have persevered through the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century basically living the way they lived: waiting to be arrested for not thinking the right way, hauled before a human rights commission or, basically, waiting for the other shoe to drop on a daily basis.

I do good work.  I do the best work that I can, just as if it would be given a fair hearing – which it isn’t since it doesn’t conform to the only way we are allowed to think in the 21st century – that the Marxist-Feminist dictatorship is the only way to think: if you aren’t a Marxist-Feminist you’re a misogynist.  I like to think that fifty or a hundred years after I’m dead there might be a restoration of common sense, in which case my hard work will be appreciated.  I think it unlikely that it will happen in my lifetime.

I work from the moment I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night.  I pray five times a day.  I observe a Sabbath.  I fast nine days out of ten.  I do Glamourpuss, Cerebus Archive and Cerebus TV.

I have preserved a daily record of the ongoing campaign by Marxist-Feminists to destroy me.  On the other side of things, it documents my perseverance in the name of freedom of expression and the wide spectrum of viewpoints which exist in our society in spite of the dictatorship we all labour under.

My best guess is that all traces of my passing will be eliminated at the point of my death, or at least the attempt will be made.  It’s all totalitarians are capable of doing, whether you’re talking about Nazis, communists, Marxist-Feminists, al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Where am I now?  I haven’t been destroyed yet, but not for want of trying on the part of those trying to destroy me.  That’s the situation I’m in, which is the same situation I’ve been in for sixteen years.

Strange Bedfellows

 

Artwork © Jim Woodring

It was nearly a year ago now that Daniel Barlow sat down and chatted with Jim Woodring, via email, for the upcoming inaugural volume of Panel to Panel.  Here’s a look at a portion of that conversation.

Daniel Barlow: You recently completed an artist-in-residence for the Rasmuson Foundation in Alaska. During that time you worked in a little town called Homer and stayed at a place called the Mermaid B&B, both of which sound like they could be right out of a Frank comic. What was this experience like?

Jim Woodring: Well, it was heavenly. Homer is a strange little shangri-la of a town. It has a cosmic charm. I can’t begin to describe it. Everyone I’ve met who has been to Homer has felt that strange magic. The scenery, the people, the small-town atmosphere… it was just great, a memorable experience.

Barlow: Were you working on your comics while in Homer? Did that environment affect your comics at all?

Woodring: Yeah, I think so. I drew ten pages of Congress of the Animals there and they came out pretty good.

Barlow: I’ve never been to Alaska. Did anyone say, “Sorry for Sarah Palin?”

Woodring: Yes. Everyone I talked to thought she was a disgrace. I never brought her up myself, out of courtesy, but she was much on their minds. Alaska is very conservative overall, but the people who live there are relatively tough and no-nonsense, and the ones I talked to, at least, didn’t approve of her flightiness and empty rhetoric.

Teenage Wildlife

© Archie Comic Publications, Inc.

One of my favorite features in Panel to Panel is an article entitled, “Deft Mastery: The Genius of Early 1960’s Archie Comics” by Philip Charles Crawford.  Now I’ve never been a huge Archie Comics fan, but these 10 pages by Philip have forever changed my opinion of Archie Andrews and his fun loving gang of friends.  After initially reading “Deft Mastery”, I’d decided to send a copy out to cartoonist, designer and author Craig Yoe.  Who better than Craig to view this article and give us a little feedback as we wrapped up the editing process?  Well that feedback turned into an interview, which will now run along side “Deft Mastery”.  It was a great opportunity to pick Craig’s brain and discuss, in detail, his feelings about Archie Comics.  You see back in November 2010 when we spoke, Craig was also wrapping up a project, his recently released book,  Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers.

I hope you enjoy this preview, as much as I enjoyed chatting with Craig.

John Rovnak: In the past, you’ve written about fetish art (Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster) and good girl art (Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta) in comics, would you also include Betty and Veronica on the continuum of good-girl art?

Craig Yoe: Oh absolutely. I think nobody had sexier girls than the Archie Company.  They’re just drawn in such a beautiful way.  They’re buoyant and wholesome, yet a little sexy.  They’re teenage girls that anybody with blood flowing through their veins would want to date. [Laughs] Well maybe there are a few exceptions and some people that don’t swing that way; but if you like the female species, then Betty and Veronica are at the top of my list of hot looking girls.  As an elderly gentleman I can say I appreciate them, but they are after all teenagers, so I‘ll be sure to appreciate them from afar. [Laughs]

Rovnak: Who do you prefer, Betty or Veronica?

Yoe: Definitely, there’s no doubt about it, I’m a Veronica guy!  I’ve always gone for girls like Bettie Page, Morticia Addams, and Annette Funicello; and maybe topping that list would be Veronica Lodge.  Definitely.