Saturday, August 19, 2006

I Dream of Irons

Last dream of the night/morning:

I’m in a vast hospital/hotel (it changes, from time to time) lobby where friends and family of the late Greg Irons have gathered to commemorate his life and work. I’ve been privileged with an invite, and sit cross-legged behind Greg’s brother Mark [who, in real life, I’ve never met or had word one with]. Something is odd, though, in that I don’t see Tom Veitch at the gathering, and odder still, Mark seems to be only 21 or 22 years old, his long blonde hair tied back into a ponytail. Odder yet, the event seems to be videotaped by an invisible camera crew, and is focused on a large plasma-screen monitor projecting non-existent clips from some fictionalized version of Greg’s life: his cameo in a Katherine Hepburn movie, with voiceover comments by Hepburn, for instance, which simply makes no sense to me. Still, Greg’s family seems to be OK with this, so I button my lip and keep watching/waiting for whatever comes next. For some reason, the arrangements in which we sit keeps being changed, but nothing -- including emergency room entry of accident victims, or a skirmish of some kind in the hotel lobby -- seems to deter the steady stream of filmclips being shown, all of which seem increasingly suspect to me: surely, Greg was never filmed dining with Bogart?

Why dream about Greg after all these years?

The last dreams I had involving Irons -- who was and is, BTW, one of the “big four” of my artistic heroes whose work prompted my own career/life path -- were in 1990. Those were prompted by Tom Veitch offering the possibility of publishing his last collaboration with Greg, ”Flenk’s Last Tattoo,” in Taboo if I could possibly complete the inks from Greg’s pencils/roughs. Though I wrestled with the pages (via vellum overlays, working from oversized photocopies Tom had loaned me), I wasn’t up to the awesome proposition, and was in fact visited in a series of disturbing dreams by Greg -- whom I had never met in life -- which added to my nervousness about even touching something Greg had created. Greg was a benevolent presence in those dreams, but I was and remain in awe of all he had accomplished. I froze as surely as I would have asked to complete a Ray Harryhausen model, or ink a page pencilled by Sam Glanzman or Joe Kubert (there, now you’ve got all four heroes named); in the end, I called Tom and gracefully declined.

Though Greg and I never met, we did correspond, briefly, and brothers Tom and Rick had driven me to Greg’s cabin somewhere near Stimson Beach in November of 1978 in hopes of my meeting him. Alas, Greg wasn’t home -- so I left a note, and a humble sketch, and a few weeks later Greg reciprocated with a color skull sketch and a kind letter in response. This near-meeting was a highlight (along with our visit to Gary Arlington’s legendary comic shop) of a marvelous but strange trip to San Francisco during which I almost smashed my skull like an eggshell leaping onto a cable car with portfolio in one hand; a trip strangely framed one the one hand by the breaking front-page news of Rev. Jim Jones’s Guyana mass suicide/massacre on our first day in the city, and on the other as Tom was driving us to the airport by news of a “high-speed car chase” in downtown San Fran -- which, it turned out, was the police’s pursuit of Dan White after his assassination of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, “The Mayor of Castro Street.” Ah, the ‘70s.

But why am I dreaming of Greg and his family this morning, after all these years?

It’s all thanks to my purchase this week of
  • You Call This Art? via,
  • I’m devouring the first-ever English-language bio/retrospective of Greg Irons seminal underground comix creations and career, from childhood to rock posters, from comix to coloring books, from Medicine Ball Caravan movie cameo to tattoo artist extraordinaire. Though the cover is an embarrassment (fusing one of Greg’s autobiographical Gregor the Purple-ass Baboon portraits with framing elements from Legion of Charlies imagery), the book is fantastic and incredibly comprehensive, and highly recommended. I’ll be writing more about this here this week, but don’t wait on me -- order your copy pronto!

    More good news on The Bissette Collection at HUIE Library on the splendid Henderson State University campus, with more updates (and pix, soon!) to follow.

    As noted many times here, Lea Ann Alexander is the goddess-like supervisor/head honcho/”She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed” of this project, working closely over the past two years with Hope Warner to make sense of the vast array of scripts, manuscripts, books, art, toys, doodads and dollops of weirdness that comprise my papers. They’re getting some help this coming semester:

    Lea Ann
    writes, “We are adding a Special Collections work-study student this fall. His name is Rhys Mounger, a wonderful young man from Plano, Texas who worked with Hope on the collection on a volunteer basis all last spring. We are elated to be able to pay him for it this semester. Rhys is a member of the campus Comics Club. (Actually, our first assignment for him will be to organize, preserve, and file the magazines donated by Jean-Marc [Lofficier])...”

    Good news, that! Welcome aboard, Rhys, and I hope to meet you someday face to face -- maybe over cards at Lea Ann’s or Randy’s digs. Continuing:

    “We have achieved online access to the first little box inventory. It took a couple of days for the Google spider to index it, but it works like a dream. Hope just completed her Ektron training, so additional completed box inventories should start popping up soon.

    Next up on the website: listings of staff and a how-to guide for searching.... Lots of smiles around here with this shiny permission to use university webspace for the you can see progress rather than merely hear about it. Soon we'll have enough on the webpage to start being of use to researchers. It's all good!”

    Indeed, it is, and I’ll announce the online access to the collection once it’s up and running. In the meantime, feel free to click on over to
  • the Bissette Collection site
  • if you haven’t already (the link is forever in the menu of links at right), and see you tomorrow...