Saturday, February 17, 2007

What About Laughing Gravy?

* Quick, get Phil Baruth and Dan Barlow together!


Well, Dan is moving.


In the world.

Trees & Hills comic group co-founder
  • Dan Barlow (here's the man's blog)
  • just informed me and the world he's moving -- to Montpelier. "After four years of working as a reporter in southern Vermont - covering great things like a 34-year-old nuclear reactor, nude teenagers and pirate radio stations - I'm hitting the big time," Dan sez. "Well, big time for Vermont. Starting Feb. 19th I will be one of the Rutland Herald's two reporters covering the Vermont government. Yeah, the government that Howard Dean used to run before he started doing whatever he's doing now. This means I'll be in charge of writing about things like the Vermont House and Senate, our swell old Republican governor and ... nude teenagers (if they decide to follow me to Montpelier). I may even write things about our wide-eyed freshman Congressman or our socialist Senator. We'll see."

    We shall indeed. Congrats, Dan!

    But in the meantime -- whither Trees & Hills? What will happen to this adventurous band of New England cartoonists once Dan moves (choke) North?

    Will this move mean the group is growing, spreading its roots further over the Green Mountain and Granite State landscapes?

    Will the roots be deep and sound, or shallow and spread, like those damned conifers that blow over in wind storms?

    Or will Dan still nurture and support the collective, or will he cast it adrift, leaving it shy of one activist co-founder?

    Can Colin keep it afloat with his compatriots sans Dan?

    And -- What about Laughing Gravy?

    Only time -- and Dan -- will tell. Stay tuned.

    [Trees & Hills group photos by Mark Martin, from his glorious Jabberous blog, circa May 2006: -- see that link for ID of those pictured, save ---- Bjork -- who is he, anyway? And is he still drawing? Does he have a site? Did DC Comics approve of one of you wearing a Batman t-shirt? Did you have to pay royalty fees, or was that included in the price of the shirt, and First Sale Doctrine rules uber alle? Colin?]

    * Speaking of which -- Damn, I let the Trees & Hills group down yesterday.

    Amid all my catch-up posts, I neglected to mention that
  • the monthly Trees & Hills drawing party is happening, like, today, and I forgot to post the info & link about it yesterday!
  • Colin writes, "drawing party (always the 3rd Sat. of each month except under extenuating circumstances) will be happening this Saturday 2/17 at Tim Hulsizer's house in Keene, NH; email Tim (escapevelocity at for directions and other info." BTW, here's the link to
  • Tim Hulsizer's site,

  • ________________

    * Don't know if you read the comments posted to this blog, but my short review of the documentary Jesus Camp prompted a strangely familiar hit-and-run swipe from an outraged Christian fundamentalist, in this case the right Rev. Don Spitz of Hampton Roads, Virginia. The link from his comment yielded this
  • little one-post blog,
  • a rant in the wilderness.

    In his comment on my review, Rev. Don Spitz said:

    "Sounds like you have some real serious hatred issues directed towards Christians. Suffice it to say, most, if not all problems on the planet earth are from people like you who reject Jesus Christ. Our prisons are filled with people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. Most if not all rapes, murders, robberies and thefts are committed by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. AIDS is mainly spread by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ and have sex outside of marriage or else like children with AIDS get it from people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. I hope you will turn from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and escape the fires of eternal hell. Turning from your sins and giving your life to Jesus Christ is the only way you can escape the fires of hell and receive everlasting life. If you persist in your sins and continue to turn your back on Jesus Christ, you will be lost forever."

    Now, I love this shit. Of course, as we all saw during the election season of 2000, we sinners embracing the Lord as our Savior doesn't necessary win the respect of fellow Christians, as then-not-yet-President Bush amply demonstrated by jeering and openly mocking a Born-Again woman on death row the very week of her execution. We're all to take his conversion on faith, but -- well, you get the idea. "By their works ye shall know them."

    Rev. Spitz's post is a pip. I'm not mocking the man, whom I don't know any more than he knows me, but I am assessing his words. The wording resonates oddly with past brushes with other angry zealots.

    Keeping the context of mere movie reviews and/or articles, I recall how, way back in 1989, I interviewed Alejandro Jodorowsky about his then-new movie Sante Sangre and placed that interview, in different forms, in a number of zines and papers, including our local 'activist' newspaper The Valley Advocate (out of Northampton, MA). My interview/article prompted a short published letter from two area feminists who attacked me for writing about the film -- which was Alejandro's delirious fictionalized account of a serial killer's career and eventual redemption, as only Alejandro could tell it -- who accused me of being a misogynist and of hating women, concluding, "We know who you are and we know what you are doing to women."

    My first wife Marlene, to whom I was married still at the time, was absolutely outraged by the letter. She wrote a response, as did I. But the Advocate refused to allow either her and me to respond. The screed stood, and thereafter I made it a point to instantly respond to any such bile when it was directed my way.

    Fact: In 99 cases out of 100, the accusers never, ever respond or reply.

    Thus was established a pattern that became familiar to me over time, during the Taboo years and especially the Tyrant years. Foolish me -- I thought after the endless customs battles, censorship rows and difficulties finding printers, binders or venues for the calculated confrontational agenda of Taboo, doing a nice little all-ages dinosaur comic would be a piece of cake by comparison. Oh contraire!

    No sooner had Tyrant #1 arrived in comic shops than a steady flow of angry letters from Creationists began to trickle into the ol' SpiderBaby Comix mailbox. By comparison with the Taboo era, the Tyrant letters were far more angry and contemptuous: I was judged a sinner for my dinosaur comic, and was a greater threat to humanity than I had been publishing horror comics. I find it hard to believe the publishers or creators of Turok, Son of Stone, Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle, Gorgo or Star-Spangled War Stories (with "The War That Time Forgot!") ever received this kind of hate mail, but those halycon days of the '50s and '60s many evangelicals cling to as "the good old days" of Christian America rule were perhaps more tolerant of that most malignant of all comics genres, the dinosaur comic book.

    Of all those who wrote, sometimes vehemently judging me and my family in rhetoric fully of a piece with the good Rev. Spitz's comment, only one -- one! -- responded to my reply letters, striking up an exchange of letters (and comics) that was fun and lively and at the very least a conversation of sorts.

    What I found, in all but that one case, was the letter-writers weren't interested in conversation, they were interested only in venting, in blasting me (and my family): an odd, vindictive form of 'witnessing,' to my world view.

    I engage, they refuse. A sure path to communication and possible conversion, my friends!

    In any case, I replied directly to Rev. Spitz's post on 2/14, which follows in the spirit of possible conversation:

    "Wow, Rev. Spitz, you sure pretend to know a lot about me you don't know. Having not caused most of the problems on planet earth (though I think I can honestly say a few of those can now be chalked up to our President, who claims to be a true believer in Christ), having not been in prison, raped, murdered, robbed, or have/had/or spread AIDs, and as I do indeed believe in Jesus Christ (though not as you do), I reckon you just struck out on every single count in your rant against me and my modest post -- which is, after all, a movie review (in that it's the comments on Jesus Camp that seems to have brought you here), nothing more. What sins, precisely, am I persisting in? Not practicing my Christian beliefs in perfect accord with your own? Using the good brain God gave me at birth? Practicing my own faith as I see fit, rather than as you or others demand I do? Isn't this America? I thank God it isn't your fiefdom, yet. Making vile accusations and posting personalized bile and fear isn't in accord with the New Testament Christ I was raised with, or believe in -- nor, for that matter, is much else I can divine from your accusatory screed."

    Any word from the Rev, I'll let you know.

    I'm not feeling the love, though, as yet.

    We used to have this old 45 RPM record in my family's modest collection, and I'll go out with that tune:

    "Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition, Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition, Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition And We'll Allllll Beeeeeee Freeeeeeeeeeee!"

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