Tuesday, March 28, 2006

On Rick Veitch, Joe Schenkman, and the CCS Day Ahead; and, a Promised Link

Full day ahead at the Center for Cartoon Studies ahead, with two speaker guests today -- following up on yesterday's CCS session with vet undergrounder and Zippy the Pinhead comix & comic strip creator Bill Griffith.

Today, my ol' amigo Rick Veitch is spending the entire day with the CCS students, and we're being joined for the day by fellow underground comix vet and fellow Vermont resident Joe Schenkman (who's going to audit the class, engaging as a guest speaker later in the afternoon). Between Bill Griffith yesterday and Joe and Rick today, the students have a super-rare opportunity to engage with three living links with the historic underground comix movement of the '60s and '70s who have remained vital and productive into the 21st Century.

In scouring my comix collection and prepping for today, I was reminded of how Joe's career touchstoned surprising key highlights of the underground years. His first published comix work appeared in NY City in the seminal The East Village Other comix paper offshoot Gothic Blimp Works (#4-6, 1969). After his move to San Francisco, Schenkman drew two eight-pagers for the San Francisco Comic Book Company (Half-Ton Pickup and Schenkman's Country Hits Jamboree, 1972), popped up at the famed Berkeley Con of '73 and in Insect Fear, San Francisco Comic Book (both 1973), and the beloved raunchfest mini Felch Cumics #1 (1975). As the underground movement succumbed in the mid-70s, Joe was part of two series that effectively and definitively capstoned the comix era, both edited by the great Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman: Short Order Comix #1 and 2 (1973) and the glorious Arcade (1975).

Joe has remained active to the present, natch, but I can't resist picking up the chronology with Rick Veitch's expansive and ongoing body of work. After drawing a continuing comix strip scripted by his famous poet/underground comix writer Tom Veitch for the University of Vermont's student paper The Vermont Cynic in the early '70s, Rick jammed with bro' Tom on the apocalyptic Two-Fisted Zombies (1973) before returning to the East Coast -- first to Vermont to engage with the birth and raising of his first son Ezra (now one hell of an artist, musician, and Vermonter himself), then to The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art, Inc. to become part of its first class ever. That's where Rick and I met and bonded, friends for life; in fact, Rick led me to my first comix venue, Cliff Neal's Dr. Wirtham's Comix & Stories (1977-80), where we both had solo and collaborative stories published. We also jammed on our mainstream debut via a backup story in Sgt. Rock ("A Song for Saigon Sally"), though Rick did far, far more solo art for backup stories and "Battle Albums" than any other Kubert School student (1977-79).

Rick's first graphic novel was our collaboration (with writer Alan Asherman, though Rick ended up scripting much of the book) on the Heavy Metal adaptation of Steven Spielberg's 1941 (The Illustrated Story, 1979), but that just whet his appetite for the expansive and then still-new form (remember, Will Eisner's A Contract with God and Don McGregor & Paul Gulacy's Sabre had only come out about two years before). Bonding with vet comic legend writer/editor Archie Goodwin, Rick turned out an impressive procession of full-color sf comics stories for Archie's tenure on Marvel's zine Epic Illustrated, which became the venue for Rick's first serialized solo graphic novel extravaganza, "Abraxas and the Earthman" (1982-83), and Archie also guided Rick through his second and third graphic novel projects: the Marvel Graphic Novel Heartburst (1983) and Epic Comics mini-series The One (1984-86).

Since that time, Rick's prolific output never flagged. Most comics fans associate him primarily with his ongoing 1980s work on DC Comics's Saga of the Swamp Thing (1983-89), first working with writer Alan Moore and then writing & pencilling the series (#65-87) until the historic Swamp Thing #88 debacle prematurely terminated his run. Since then, Rick has continued a fruitful collaborative relationship with Alan Moore into the 1990s to the present, yielding many self-standing stories along with series like Miracleman (#9, 10, 1986-87), 1963, Supreme, Grey Shirt (for the Wildstorm/DC ABC line, 1999-present), etc.

But this short-shrifts Rick's expansive body of work, as his career's continuity from the '80s to present was actually punctuated by affiliations with cutting-edge publishers experimenting with every imaginable variation of publishing modes: Epic, Mirage, Tundra, Vertigo, and the ever-present touchstone of Rick's own self-publishing imprint King Hell. After completing "The River" for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989), Rick defined his 1990s with a mind-boggling run: graphic novels Bratpack, The Maximortal, the ongoing self-published 'dream diary' comix series (and graphic novels) Rare Bit Fiends, the bizarre sf series Technophage and scripting tenures on The Question, Aquaman, etc.

Rick's latest creation is the upcoming Vertigo graphic novel Can't Get No (2006), which stands in my mind as a potent meditation on our post 9/11 culture as well as an astoundingly succinct culmination of Rick's obsessions, themes, and accomplishments to date.

Rick is also bringing in pages of pencils from his brand-new Vertigo mini-series, which is presently on his drawing board -- more on that later, after I see it for myself.

Should be a lively afternoon -- speaking of which, I best be getting ready for my day ahead...

I had promised to post the link to cartoonist/satirist extraordinaire Pete Von Sholly's own website, and I'm finally able to do that -- So what are you waiting for? Hop on over to
  • Pete Von Sholly's Website site!
  • It's a link I'll add to my permanent link list, in the blog menu at your right.

    But that ain't all! The publisher page for Pete's latest project awaits you at
  • Pete Von Sholly's Extremely Weird Stories...
  • ...more on that (and Pete's previous Morbid, Morbid Volume 2, and Sergeantstein) in future posts.

    More tomorrow... including, at last, the promised CineFest Part 2 posting.