More on Shiny Beasts
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
'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
'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 Iren
e," 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.Now, ya gotta brush up on the Captain's bio and legacy,
and understand how vital Captain Beefheart
's music was to Veitch
to grok the many links between the man, the music and Veitch
's "Shiny Beast
" story (and, for that matter, much of Rick's comics work). It was Don Van Vleit
's poetry, too, that mattered to Rick
, and evidence of that influence marks not only stories like "Shiny Beast
" (which is textless, but don't let that fool you) but also his "L'il Tiny Comix
" for Heavy Metal
(itself a spin-off from Rick
's homemade, one-of-a-kind L'il Tiny Comix
that were drawn over the years as birthday gifts over the years for many of Rick
's friends and family) and other key works, up to and including his most recent graphic novel Can't Get No
(DC/Vertigo, 2006). Knowing both Rick
's art and writing and Beefheart
's music and lyrics as I do, subterranean primal beats mark my every reading of these Veitch
creations; I hear the music in my head, heart, and it's as much an echo of Van Vliet
as it is Rick
's own iconographic visual tone-poems that coax these secret rhythms and unheard melodies from this humble reader.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.
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
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
'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
, 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
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 culminating in Rick's first (serialized) solo graphic novel, Abraxas and the Earthman, which I reviewed here (and you can purchase via this link, too, via PaneltoPanel.net).
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, Can't Get No (my review awaits you here, if you're interested),
isn't as great as it seems, though literally two decades+ lay between their original publication.
There's also the further fruition of Rick
's and Archie
's creative dynamic evidenced in Rick
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 all of Rick's comics work is currently in print and available (from PaneltoPanel.net, natch),
and what a remarkably consistent and cohesive body of work it is, too.
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
'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??
"Baby Blight" (c) 2007 S.R. BissetteYep, 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
. The rest will be malingering inside, like maggots.
This is all thanks toLeah Moore and John Reppion, whom Marge and I met and spent some great times with in Copenhagen, Denmark back in April of 2006
(thanks again, Arni
, for orchestrating the invite!). It was Leah
who eased Marge
and I over to the Accent UK
booth at the Copenhagen
comics convention, where we met Dave West
and Colin Mathieson
, which inevitably led to talk of the planned 2007 Zombies
in particular is a rabid zombie movie fan, which led to John
extending the subsequent invite, via email, to get involved. So, kudos to John, Leah, Colin
for opening the door so generously and pleasantly.
-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
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 CCS
ers whose work will appear in Accent UK
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 visitthe good folks at Accent UK, and click on the Zombies link on the left-screen menu after scrolling down a bit.
They'll be updating the site soon, as everything from CCS
and yours truly was just
turned in, and Dave
will be making their final decisions of what makes the cut in quick order -- well, as soon as Colin
gets back from Scotland
, I reckon.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!:
Whew! C'mon, admit it, you didn't really read it, did you?
Well, shit howdy, I did. Damn it.
Have a great Sunday...
Labels: Captain Beefheart, Google contract, Rick Veitch, Shiny Beasts, zombies. Zombies