and the Veitch Universe,
Back from the Grave!
and My Sunday Bitchfest
While I'm shamelessly huckstering Rick Veitch's upcoming anthology of his (and our) Epic short comics creations, Shiny Beasts, it occurs to me that an explanation for Veitch's book title is in order, especially for those of you who don't know about Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart.
Yep, Rick's latest King Hell book indeed appropriates its title from one of Rick's stories collected therein -- "Shiny Beast," from the Epic magazine procession of tales Rick crafted under the steady helmsmanship of vet writer/editor Archie Goodwin -- but that story itself lifted its moniker from Captain Beefheart's first solo album with the (new) Magic Band after his live album with Frank Zappa, Bongo Fury (1975).
[An aside: Now, dig. When Bongo Fury came out, I was still in Johnson State College in Johnson, VT, dreaming of drawing comics and not knowing Veitch -- whose work I knew only from his underground comix collaboration with his brother Tom, Two-Fisted Zombies -- and it was in my lowly sub-human Governor's dorm sub-floor room, shared with Joe Mangelynx, that I first spun that brand-new Zappa/Beefheart album. I still recall my first listening, looking out of our picture window that overlooked the lower entrance to the dining hall and student post office and lounge, drinking in the new blast of Beefheart. Little did I know then that Rick was still in the belly of Bellow Falls, VT, keeping head above water and likewise dreaming of doing comics, full time and forever.]
By the time Beefheart's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978) hit, Veitch and I were best friends and had just graduated from the Kubert School. Shiny Beast was an omen, a godsend, an adjunct to our new life -- as cartoonists, artists, making our way into the new world. Shiny Beast was also a mind-blowing comeback album for Beefheart after a fallow stretch, and it immediately became a staple spin in our lowly shared Dover, NY digs (shared by yours truly, Veitch, John Totleben, Tom Yeates and Tom's girlfriend Sue Balinski). What a record!
Every tune evokes memories for me to this moment. "Apes-Ma" entered our lexicon (and sketchbooks), as did "The Floppy Boot Stomp" (an uncanny bit of occult Beefheart Americana) and all the other tunes on Shiny Beast: "Candle Mambo," "Tropical Hot Dog Night," the blissful "Harry Irene," and my personal fave, "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy."
It was inevitable that something more refined would emerge from the fusion of Beefheart music and the comic art factory that is Veitch's brainpan.
So, Shiny Beasts owes its name to both Rick's one-shot Epic story (splash page pictured here) and Beefheart's album and legacy -- but there's more. Rick's graphic novel legacy began, of course, with our collaborative effort on the ill-fated Heavy Metal/Simon & Schuster movie adaptation graphic novel 1941, which we completed in a heated couple of months in 1979 for publication at the end of that year (to coincide with the release of Steven Spielberg's feature, which was his first theatrical and critical flop). A lot of Beefheart fueled that work, too, though it isn't self-evident. The rocky relations Creative Burnouts endured throughout that collaboration -- due in large part to my lackadaisical lack of discipline on the project, savoring as I was my return to my Vermont roots, having just fled Dover, New Jersey to live in a brick schoolhouse in Grafton, VT, initially sans electricity or plumbing, driving Rick nuts and making the whole thing even more of an ordeal than it already was, though we came through in the home stretch -- indeed burned us out.
Still, that gig was landed in part due to Heavy Metal art director John Workman's shot at "Monkey See," the story you'll see in its totality in Shiny Beasts; John dug what Rick and I had done with that piece, even if it ended up at Epic, and we were shoed-in-to 1941: The Illustrated Story after John's first choice, Alex Toth, declined the project despite John's best efforts.
Thus, the burnout of Creative Burnouts via 1941: The Illustrated Story led directly into Rick's most fertile creative relationship of the 1980s: his work with editor Archie Goodwin. Archie was already a legend to our generation via his work as a writer in comics, credited (his scripts and editing chops defined the entire Jim Warren horror comics line via the debut issues of Creepy and Eerie, etc.) and uncredited (Secret Agent x-9 scripting for Al Williamson, His Name is Savage script for Gil Kane, etc.), and Rick couldn't have conjured a better editor or mentor in the wake of Rick's tenure working with/under Joe Kubert.
In terms of personality, Archie was quite different from Joe, but he lent as steady (though less paternal) guidance to this phase of Rick's development as Joe had to Rick's years at the Kubert School and just after. Rick's work blossomed under Archie's tutelage, no doubt about it, and one can still see and savor Rick stretching and reaching for new vistas throughout this run of stories. It's Rick's ongoing work with Archie at Epic that really brought Rick's comic work to a whole new level, refining his considerable skills as an artist and storyteller via the procession of tales collected in Shiny Beasts, and
That Abraxas review includes a bit more 'inside info' on the particulars of Rick's relationship with Archie and with Marvel, and the creative theft that unfortunately cast a bit of a shadow over his triumphant run in Epic with this serialized epic (one of the few works in Epic to deserve that word association). Given Rick's recent first-time collection of that serialized work into a single volume, the leap between Rick's first solo graphic novel Abraxas and his latest,
There's also the further fruition of Rick's and Archie's creative dynamic evidenced in Rick's Epic miniseries The One, and his Marvel Graphic Novel Heartburst -- next in line in the King Hell reprint series, I believe -- all of which is also worthy of revisiting, or reading for the first time, if all of this is new to you.
It's amazing to contemplate how almost
With the ongoing King Hell reprint series placing all this in easy reach, and Shiny Beasts gathering a previously 'missing link' in Rick's artistic evolution between two covers at last, it's time to access and re-assess Rick's place in comics history and his generation of comics creators. For too long, Rick's work has been seen only in the context of his most visible mainstream comics work -- his tenure on Swamp Thing, initially with the team I was part of (Alan Moore/Bissette/John Totleben/Rick Veitch), then pencilling the series during Alan's final run as writer, then picking up the reins to write and pencil the series until the ill-fated Swamp Thing #88 censorship debacle -- rather than in its true context.
Rick's distinctive chronology is only punctuated, not defined by, his work on Swamp Thing: in fact, impressive as it was and remains, Rick's Swamp Thing work is arguably the least of his accomplishments, given all he did before and has done after.
It's time to tap for many of you to catch up with, and on to, what really makes Rick's comics and comix tick -- and Shiny Beasts provides an ideal entry point.
Reading while spinning the good Captain's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), on vinyl or CD, is likewise heartily recommended.
"Apes-ma? Apes-ma? Your cage is getting too dirty, Apes-Ma..."
Bissette, Back from the Dead??
Yep, I've just turned in my first comic gig of 2007, and it's packed with zombies, amigo.
I mean, lots of zombies. Twenty-nine of them, in fact, one of which will be living on the cover of the upcoming Accent UK anthology Zombies. The rest will be malingering inside, like maggots.
This is all thanks to
This mini-Bissette-zombie-jamboree you now have to look forward to also owes a huge debt to my son Daniel, who co-created the four-page "An Alphabet of Zombies" with yours truly (Dan pencilled half the zombies and really pulled the whole thing together with his writing and sense of humor, which is a bit sharper than mine in these musical matters -- yep, it's a rhyme). Mind you, it was Dan's invite to draw a comic for his fanzine Hot Chicks Take Huge Shits in 2006 that got my appetite up for even doing anything for publication again.
There's also a huge debt due to everyone at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Dave and Colin were also up for the CCS students contributing to the anthology, and a group of them did just that -- I'll post more info, names, and art on this blog in the coming weeks, offering a snapshot of the CCSers whose work will appear in Accent UK's Zombies and a peek at images from their stories.
The conjunction of these various persons and places has led to the first of the comics work you'll be seeing from me in 2007. What are you waiting for? Time to visit
More zombie news, art, and tantalizing tidbits to follow -- keep your eyes on this blog!
As of this morning, it was impossible to post via the usual ("old") blogger dashboard. I was thus forced to sign on to the new blogger service this AM, damn it!
This required reading and agreeing to the following contract, and there's nothing I love less on a very early Sunday morning than being forced to read, and agree to sans negotiation, a contract. I take to Sunday AM contracts like cops to aviators -- hell, I'd even prefer to deal with a ruptured septic tank this early on a Sunday, thank you (and have).
Luddite that I am, though I intellectually grasp all the issues, particularly this new corporate consolidation of the blogger realm (it's been a-comin' since 2005), I resent the transition process, which involved cow-towing to Google's new corporate reality or simply disappearing from this space.
The reading of this contract took some time, given all the active links to additional conditions, terms and definitions one is agreeing to with a click, and it's a brave new world of infuriating contracts that waits for all of us ahead!
Those of you with blogs know the routine first-hand, and likely didn't resist as long as I did, but for you casual readers, here's the new terms. Let this make your Sunday morning, too!:
Blogger Terms of Service
Welcome to Blogger! Before you begin using Blogger, you must read and agree to these Blogger Terms of Service ("Terms of Service") and the following terms and conditions and policies, including any future amendments (collectively, the "Agreement"):
* Google Terms of Service - Google's general terms and conditions (http://www.google.com/terms_of_service.html)
* Blogger Content Policy - How we promote free expression and responsible publishing (http://www.blogger.com/content.g)
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You must be at least thirteen (13) years of age to use the Service. Google reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time without notice for any reason.
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Violation of any of the foregoing, including the Blogger Content Policy (http://www.blogger.com/content.g), may result in immediate termination of this Agreement, and may subject you to state and federal penalties and other legal consequences. Google reserves the right, but shall have no obligation, to investigate your use of the Service in order to (a) determine whether a violation of the Agreement has occurred or (b) comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request.
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Whew! C'mon, admit it, you didn't really read it, did you?
Well, shit howdy, I did. Damn it.
Have a great Sunday...