Thursday, June 21, 2007

CCS/MoCCA Interviews with JP Coovert and Sean Morgan
JP Coovert art, "A drawing that sort of relates to my video game story" -- read on, below!

Morning, all, and welcome to the next batch of interviews in the ongoing Center for Cartoon Studies and MoCCA rev-up for this weekend's MoCCA Festival in NYC.

But first, a little catch-up info on the home front:

* My parents are visiting us this weekend, and we're looking forward to some laid-back fun, food and conversation through Monday night. I'm lucky my folks are still with us -- Mom and Dad are in their 80s, and Marge and I can only hope we're in as good shape as they are when we hit (if we hit) those autumn years. We'll be dining with Danny (and hopefully Maia) and with Mike and Mary (Bleier), too, making this a family reunion of sorts. It's also the first in a procession of summer visits from other family members (including our grandchildren) and friends (including Henrik from Denmark) in June and July; yep, it's summer!

* My stepson Mike spent a few hours here last night, setting up the speakers and helming the installation -- at last! -- of my home viewing theater. 150 feet of Monster Cable and a concerted consolidation of all my A/V equipment later, it's mostly in -- enough that I can now use this space as it was meant to be enjoyed. Until the room over our garage is finished (fall/winter project), this is also my writing space, too, but it's far more comfortable, organized and efficient than my old Marlboro basement room(s) would have ever, ever been. Whew -- another hurdle in the unpacking/nesting effort, nearly done. Bless you, Mike, and see you again this weekend.

* I'm writing an intro for one of the upcoming Marvel Masterworks hardcover collection of the pre-Marvel-era-monster comics; more info once this gig is done, accepted and reality.

* Sean Morgan (read on, below) dropped by yesterday around noon and picked up my final page contribution to his alien abduction story "Area Stoned." As I said to Sean when he first asked me to pitch in on the story, it was pretty ballsy of him to ask, but Sean's a ballsy fellow, and I was happy to jump in and play a bit by drawing the alien and spaceship portions of the story (and no, this doesn't mean I'll jump in and work on just anyone's comic -- Sean's a CCSer, among the first graduates, and a fellow native Vermonter. He rates a Bissette jam freebie, folks). Revisiting techniques I'd evolved with my old pal Rick Veitch back in the late 1970s, with a nod to my favorite Jack Kirby cosmic collages from the '60s and early '70s (e.g., Fantastic Four, Spirit World, etc.), my sequence built to a full-page color collage, so I carefully incorporated collage elements into the graphics of the prior panels and pages to ensure a more organic integration of collage with the more traditional pen, brush, sponge (yes, sponge) and ink renditions of the aliens and their vehicle. Sean was slinging the ink on his lion's share of the story, and we're both pretty happy with the fusion of our styles. It was fun, and I'm as eager to see the final result as anyone. But I'll have to wait, maybe until after MoCCA, to see it myself -- as mentioned yesterday, Sean broke his left hand Monday night; he's going into surgery this morning in a little over two hours, so send some good vibes his way. It's pretty extensive hand surgery he's enduring, and we're all hoping he comes through fine. But he's still heading for MoCCA this weekend, and hopefully the printer will come through in spades with the printing on Capsule. Anyhoot, keep an eye out for that -- and I will be posting graphics from the story here, once Sean has time and computer access to send those jpgs this way.

* A cool artist exhibition still up in Brattleboro, VT I highly recommend is
  • Through the Music Gallery & Studio's current showcase of Ellen Graham and Josh Steele's creations.
  • Ellen's work is compellingly organic fusions of animal bone, string, cloth and other organics, and it rings bells for me. In a brief conversation with Ellen (over breakfast with my son Dan a couple of weeks ago), I asked if she was familiar with Robert Burns's innovative, influential art direction from the '70s and early '80s (for films like Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Joe Dante's The Howling); she grinned ear to ear, and we chatted about the bone art of Burns, which is an obvious wellspring for Ellen's own work. Dig it, while it's up (through the end of this month)!

    * "Destroying human life in the hope of saving human life is not ethical..." -- President Bush, yesterday, after vetoing the Stem Cell research bill.

    He typically sees no hypocrisy between this and his death-dealing foreign policies, valuing the unborn over those already alive and suffering, dying at our hands. Hence, the utter insanity of our country, writ large, for all the world to see.

    JP Coovert offered this as the only example of his work "I've got to appeal to your fans." Hmmm, what do you folks think?

    OK, interview time; this morning, it's CCS pioneer class graduate Sean Morgan on the docket, followed immediately by CCS senior JP Coovert, who has already made quite a memorable mark with his minicomics creations, building on that impressive foundation with his first CCS year and growing new body of work.

    Understand, up front, these two cartoonists are complete opposites in many ways. Diversity of interests, orientations and art is the life blood of CCS, and of these cartoonists, too.

    has already courted publisher outrage and a certain amount of infamy, having completed a zombie story ("He Is Risen") which -- due to content, not execution -- was declined for publication in the Accent UK Zombies anthology; it was 'too much' for Zombies! Sean's 'banned' tale is at last seeing print in his MoCCA debut comic Capsules, which you'll read about here.

    Right: JP's self portrait

    's work is from another planet than Sean's, a kinder, gentler planet attuned to the secret and nurturing rhythms of life, love and day-to-day rituals; his key ongoing mini-comic Simple Routines is aptly titled. These are both cartoonists with heart to spare, and I hope the following conversations prompts some of you to pick up their work.

    Sadly, I haven't many graphics to run with Sean's interview this morning -- I'll be revising this post with illos once Sean survives today's ordeal and has time to get me stuff. Living as he does in one of Vermont's many areas lacking any broadband internet (a situation I know well, from the life we left behind in Marlboro), Sean has not maintained either a website or posted any photos or art in the CCS online venues, so it'll take some time to pull visuals together. But hopefully the ample JP Coovert showcase with his interview, below, will make up in eye candy what Sean's is short on in that department this AM. [Note: June 22: I've added art from Sean's latest comic at last -- so, eye candy remedied!]

    Ladies and gentlemen, Sean Morgan and JP Coovert!

    Sean Morgan:
    Capsule: The First Dose

    SB: You’re a local fella, Sean. How did you get into comics while growing up in the backwoods of Vermont?

    SEAN MORGAN: Welp... I was in advanced placement art in high school and just have always sorta been an artist. During my first few years at college my art fell by the wayside, and was really only used during sketch sessions in class. While I was in college for web design I had a revelation, I liked drawing tits and gore way more than creating a PERL database.

    As far as getting into comics... My mom has bought me comics since I was just a squirt. It's funny. My very first comic was Action Comics #1. I thought it was legit for years till one day I found out it was a reprint sold as a prize with Quick Chocolate Milk mix! I used to think I was so cool for having that first Superman, dork. Man, I coulda been rich!

    SB: What got you into drawing your own comics in the first place, and what were they?

    SEAN: When I was in first grade, I got this WWI book that had pictures so cool, that I just had to make them myself. I still have some of my old comics. If I find'em I'll dig'em out and scan 'em! But anything I could get my hands on made me want to tell my own stories. When I was in third grade I would bike down to the K&B drugstore and five-finger discount Punishers. I would do the same thing with Heavy Metal while I was in seventh grade; I was too young to buy them legally. I had an addiction to that shit. The images so powerful and cool that I would gladly break the law just for more!

    My first comic I can remember was in third grade. It was a strip about a hapless nuclear power plant operator (pre-Simpsons) who has a bad day at work and gets attacked by gangsters with Uzis. I actually submitted it to Highlights with my teacher's help. I got denied. I wonder why? As far as life changing clicks... for me it was [James] O'Barr's Crow, Heavy Metal, [Art] Spiegelman's Maus, and of course... [Scott] McCloud. I would actually order those free Kitchen Sink Press catalogs that were available and pour over them for hours. The glorious tits!

    Halloween 2006: That's then-CCS-freshman Sean Ford and then-CCS-senior Sean Morgan, both dressed as V from V for Vendetta! Also in the pic, left to right: Denis St. John, Lauren O'Connell, Emily Wieja (Photo: Joe Lambert)

    SB: What led you to sign on at CCS?

    SEAN: I am a Vermont native from Brownsville, VT... just a few minutes away from the school. When I came back from my debacle of a college attempt, my Mom told me about this new comic school they were opening in White River Junction. "Yer fucking kiddin' me, right, Ma?!" And so one day I called up, asked if they were still accepting, whipped out my submission in a night and a morning, and applied. I was on the wait list and got accepted about three weeks before class. During the application process, and the interviews, I just felt this sort of bloom of direction. I could actually physically feel that this school was calling me, would consume me. Besides... who wouldn't want to a comic book school?!?! So I am now a graduate of the first class of CCS. Go Pioneers!

    SB: You've been influenced by the European comics, clearly, beyond just Heavy Metal. What artists have you been particularly drawn to -- and so, drawn from?

    SEAN: Artists, hhhrrrmmmm.... Manara, Bilal, Baldazinni, Moebius, Corben, Frazetta, Frazetto, Julie Strain. I'm a geek for that kinda hairy bush and tits kinda thing. They are the guys and gals I would worship in the free Kitchen Sink Press catalogs I would smuggle into my room as a kid. I like visual artists, the ones with the ability to transcend vocal boundaries and still have you on the edge of your seat hoping the story keeps on going. I'm very interested in using that with comics. I was in Minsk, Belarus with my wife this last winter and I'm not shitting you... the whole country had one comic strip, 3-5 panels, that only ran on Sunday. This travesty happens around the world. And we can put an end to it. With pantomimes we can bring comics to the world. Anyway... I like those guys.

    Into the Mothership: art by Sean Morgan & SR Bissette, "Area Stoned" from Capsule: The First Dose (2007)

    SB: Your major project, since the spring of 2006, has been the provocatively titled The Petal Files -- what’s that about?

    SEAN: The Petal Files has been a story that has filled every waking moment of my life since its conception. It is a story of twin girls, Petal and Pistil, and how, through horrifying circumstances and events, they manage to remain close, despite their situation. It is a story of passion, of intrigue, of living nightmares, and of family.

    The story was born after I made a poster in my first year at The Center for Cartoon Studies. The poster was a portrait of a young girl and the title was something that I found intriguing and daring, yet completely innocent. And so the poster was put away for the summer and time came to choose a thesis project. After plodding through a few failed attempts I remembered the poster, the title, and the girl’s smile. I new right then that this girl Petal had a story in her, a story that needed to be told.

    It's still in it's baby stages (yes even after a year in). I hope to really start with the new design sometime during the summer.

    SB: How does your approach to your solo creations differ from your collaborative works (e.g., your stories with Ross Studlar, including “Paper Slave,” the alien story we're working on, etc.)?

    SEAN: With collaborative work I like the feeling of having to step it up. To see if I can go toe-to-toe with the other writer or artist. It's sort of an unspoken agreement that you'll try and kick as much ass as you can. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do "Area Stoned" with you, Steve. I wanted to see if I could hold my own against a monolith of an artist (* ass kiss).

    Trippy highlight from "Area Stoned" created for Capsule: The First Dose (2007)

    SB: Brown-noser --

    SEAN: But really. There is an undeniable need/drive to get it out. An urgency. With "Paper Slave" and all my other collaboratives, there has always been a desire to take challenges creatively.

    With my solo stuff... especially with Petal Files, I sometimes become too mentally/emotionally involved in the final product. Like an over-bearing parent, nothing is ever good enough. I don't think I've quite worked out why I can't just produce insane page-counts with solo stuff compared to drop-of-the-hat-last-minute-projects.

    Regardless of who the pages are made for, I always try and learn something new. If it's a new inking technique, a twist on panel layout, or a trick with isometric perspective, I always put furthering my craft first, with the story strapped firmly to it's back. Craft is the enemy.... pfffttt, laziness is the enemy. I always try to be better. No one else is gonna do it for ya. Draw faster, better, sharper, tighter.

    SB: OK, so, what’s the latest project on your drawing board?

    SEAN: My new project (ours, Steve!) is called “Area Stoned.” It's about a hippie who, while tripping on acid in the desert is abducted by aliens, and showed the secrets to humanity, only to meet a numbing end; a pantomime comic with two merging stories that twist in weird interpretive ways.

    It began when I approached you, Steve, with an idea. I wanted to do a project with two distinct visual sides. You do everything alien and I'll do everything human and we'll see what happens. So far I think it's looking pretty good!

    Rock Paper Scissors cover design © 2006 Sam Gaskin

    SB: It's been fun to work on. You're debuting an anthology comic at MoCCA. What is it, and what'll be in it along with "Area Stoned"?

    SEAN: Well the anthology will be called Capsule. It will have “Area Stoned,” “Paper Slave” (written by Ross Wood Studlar, edited and illustrated by myself) and “Vaya” (written by myself and illustrated by John Mikel-Gates), both from the Rock Paper Scissors anthology [a first-year CCS project]. It will also feature “He Is Risen,” a story about the "resurrection" of Christ, which was consequently "banned" in Britain. They seem skittish when it comes to pushing buttons over there.

    SB: Tell David Britton and Lord Horror that! But go on --

    SEAN: Both “Paper Slave” (a story of enslaved genetic creations) and “Vaya” (a story of a pregnant whore defending herself from marauders) were collaborative efforts with my stellar classmates/teammates. Like I said before... pushing each other around creatively is more productive than locking yourself in a closet and drawing for three months.

    SB: Now, you're a CCS graduate. What are your plans for the next year, Sean?

    SEAN: The next year... make comics. Whenever someone asks me what's next... I say "make comics." My immediate goals are to get a story into Heavy Metal and illustrate for Playboy, Hustler, and Penthouse. Modest goals, I know, but I know that is where I want to go. Action, tits, gore, intricacies, and weaving stories/visuals, that's where I'm headed.

    Also, I plan on getting started on The Petal Files. I want to take a more direct and solid attack on the book. With “Area Stoned” I wore costumes for reference. With Petal Files, it's a little more difficult to put on a school-girl outfit and not look like a cross-dresser (not that there is anything wrong with that). I want a more true to life look rather than just outta-my-head kinda illustrations... Shit, I don't know... everyone knows I've been eternally mounted on the fence as to how I want that fucking book to look. RRRAAAA!

    SB: Well, your CCS classmates know -- now a lot of other folks know, too! OK, if money, time and venue were no object, what's the be-all dream project you'd love to tackle?

    SEAN: Funds and time... hrrrmmm. I would love to do a graphic novel adaptation of Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. I think it's journal enteries are very visual and the text is so real. I'm also looking forward to doing a war story. Tom Clancy meets Kevin Smith meets Heavy Metal. Also a story about a sex offender who is brutally murdered by police in his cell for a crime he had not yet committed... things like that. My head is just spilling with crazy-outta-my-brain-illegal-not-publishable-ideas. But that's the fun of it. If there's a button out there, I wanna push it.

    SB: Go for it, Sean, and thanks for your time. It’s been a blast working with you, too -- at CCS, and on “Area Stoned.”

    "Top of the World, Ma!" Here's the best pic I could find with Sean, our guide (with trip instigator and fellow Brownsville VT homey Peter Money) atop the fire tower on Mount Ascutney in May: l to r, Chuck Forsman, Ross Studlar, Dane Martin, Alex Joon Kim, our main man this morning Sean Morgan, Peter Money, Steve Bissette
    Bryan Stone, who was on the hike, too, natch!)


    JP Coovert:
    Simple Routines

    SB: You arrived at CCS with considerable comics skills evolved and applied and a sizable body of work in print. What's your story, JP?

    JP COOVERT: My background is mostly just making mini comics. I started in high school and soon after starting my comics studies at SCAD [Savannah College of Art and Design], my buddy Stephen Floyd and I started a record/mini comic label called
  • One Percent Press (
  • It was basically just a way to get our stuff out there as well as friends who's comics and music we liked. Still going strong. We will be celebrating our three-year anniversary this July.

    One Percent Press: Stephen and JP, thanking you.

    SB: Congrats to you and Steve! Let's get into that after we lay a little more groundwork. What got you into comics at an early age?

    JP: I was an X-Men kid... and in 6th grade I remember Dragon Ball coming on TV and I sought out the Japanese comic version (there used to be a great import bookstore in Atlanta I'd go to). Of course my interests expanded as the internet became so huge. I discovered mini comics in my senior year of high school and haven't looked back ever since.

    JP, with attitude. (Photo: Joe Lambert)

    SB: What was the catalyst in making the leap from reading comics to making your own?

    JP: One of my best buds Chris and I used to draw our own (one of a kind!) comics based on ourselves in a super hero or video game universe. I did this little 8-page story in high school that sprang from junk I was drawing in my notebook margins and just decided that everyone I knew needed to not only read it, but have their own personal copy. The Vice Principal of the school had this weird two section office... the one section had two computers we were allowed to use and a copy machine that we weren't suppose to even touch. He always went out to lunch so I just snuck in one day and printed 50 copies of that 8-page story and handed them out to everyone. Most people just threw them out, but I was proud either way.

    SB: Your first mini-comic!

    JP: At the time I had no idea what mini comics were... but I knew what I had just done was special.

    SB: What brought you to the Green Mountain State and The Center for Cartoon Studies?

    JP: I was at San Diego Comic Con a few years ago and went to a panel where James [Sturm] was talking about the school. I had just read Golem [The Golem's Mighty Swing] and knew that he was a former teacher at SCAD (where I was going to college at the time). His ideas about teaching comics really struck a chord with me. It felt like what he was trying to do was what I was missing from my education at SCAD. So some time passed and I knew that I wanted to teach comics. So grad school was the logical next step. Yeah... CCS was the obvious choice.

  • Don't strain your eyes, Bunky! Click here for a closer look at these pages from Simple Routines #7, and quick!

  • SB: Robyn Chapman was at SCAD, too; you're in good company at CCS! Let's jump ahead, then. Tell me about what folks can pick up at MoCCA; your new comic --

    JP: I will have two new books at MoCCA: Simple Routines #7 as well as a story called Adrift. It's about being lost at sea.

    I also have a short 7 page comic in the newest Ballyhoo Stories magazine that will debut at MoCCA, as well as a one pager in the Sundays anthology some of the students are putting together. That one is called, "The Perilous Adventures of Zogger Slimebelly." Should be cool.

    Here's a page from JP's Ballyhoo story, debuting at MoCCA this weekend! (2007)

    SB: Cool, indeed. Now, let's back up a little. JP, you've already got a body of work that's available online -- comics and music. What's in
  • the One Percent Press catalogue and bibliography that you'd like to steer folks to?

  • JP: I guess I'd say the latest Simple Routines (number 7)... I think it's something anyone could pick up and get into. I don't know, maybe I should think about that a little bit more for future issues.

    Right now my favorite of my own stuff is a book called Unattached. It's a short story about moving away. It's kinda like a letter to all my friends in a mini comic form. I think if you've ever had to leave friends behind you might be able to relate to it.

    Also there is a split I did with Hope Larson called Double Yellow Lines. She's so incredible... we were just happy to have her do something for us.

    Ah, Myrant is always in need of some good roadkill;
    Hope Larson
    , "2 Rabbits", page one, from Double Yellow Lines (2007)

    There's also Joe [Lambert]'s book called I Will Bite You. It was a big hit at last year's SPX. He's really someone to look out for. For MoCCA he will have another book called Turtle Keep it Steady. It's a great take on the tortoise and hare story. People always say that everything we put out is "cute," but I think this is really the first thing that has been cute and kid friendly... actually wait... the rabbit gets drunk at one point. Never mind.

    [Note: Joe Lambert's CCS/MoCCA interview will be here tomorrow!]

    One the music side we are about to release our third CD. Our good friends
  • Tin Armor have put together their first full length and it'll be available in July.
  • It's a lot different than the other stuff we've put out (not that we've released that much) but I love it. We'll also be releasing three more (at least) albums this year (if everything goes according to plan).

    So yeah... I guess I'd say check it all out. Haha! We're proud of everything! It's also good to mention that if anyone ever orders from us, I'll always throw in extra stuff and maybe even a little original drawing or something.

    SB: OK, heads up, Myrant readers; take JP up on that offer! What periods of your life did the first six issues of Simple Routines cover?

    JP: Well... the first four issues of Simple Routines were daily journal comics. So that ran from August until the end of 2005. I enjoyed doing them (posting comics almost every day on the internet is probably the best way I've found to keep people interested in your work... even if the comics aren't that good!) but it was very difficult to get other stuff done as well. I had other stories I wanted to tell, but couldn't find the time to sit down and figure them out because I was always thinking about what I should draw that day.

    So with #5 I decided to just keep it to real short autobiographical stuff. Just trying to sort of capture the mindset I was in during that time. I wanted it to be a quarterly thing, so four issues a year, but it's been more like two a year instead. So #7 is the fall/winter of 2006-2007 issue.

    SB: One issue for most autobiographical comics creators is the impact the doing and publishing of such work has on people in your life. How has that impacted your life,
    work and comics?

    JP: Oh yeah. This is a big one. So the way I look at comics, and this is my reason for always doing autobiographical comics (which a lot of people refuse to even read! or at least quickly dismiss)... it's basically my way of figuring stuff out. So for example. I did a story about my grandfather's death. It's basically an account of me driving down to Florida for the funeral and all that. But by doing that comic it helped me really figure how I felt about the whole thing. I guess it's a sort of therapy, which is cool.

    Right: Cover to JP's recent 10-page minicomic Unattached (2006)

    Right now I'm working on a story... well, my fiancee just got this real big job with a salary and all that. She's moved to Minneapolis and started a career and is independent and everything! And I'm here in Vermont (actually I'm in Minneapolis with her at the moment, but I'll be coming back to Vermont to finish school once it starts back up again) just working on comics. No job. Playing way too many video games. I'm totally avoiding that part of life, the responsible part. So with this new story I'm trying to figure all that out. I think it's going to be some kind of video game type adventure story, but still very autobiographical.

    I guess that sort of leads into how my comics effect other people. Jacie, my fiancee, is in a lot of my comics. But I love her and we have a wonderful relationship so there has really never been anything that would upset her. I'm not sure if I'd be able to write about anything that would upset anyway. But... I'm working on this graphic novel sort of about high school and all that mess. And I portray my Mom in not the best light, even though she was the best Mom anyone could ever ask for (seriously!!!), there were issues during that period of my life. So the problem really becomes how do you tell a convincing story? I know that when my Mom reads the story she's going to be hurt, and it's been a big struggle to try and figure out how I should right about this subject matter. But it is something I'm trying to figure out, so yeah... she knows I love her.

    Unattached, page one: the big move

    SB: Summer’s ahead of you, JP. Any projects planned for the post-MoCCA meltdown?

    JP: Post-MoCCA I'll returning to Minneapolis and working on that one video game adventure story as well as trying to figure out my first graphic novel Salad Days, which I've already thumbnailed completely. I also have a really big project going on that I can't talk about (always wanted to say that!). So it'll be a busy summer!!

    SB: OK, dream gig: you’ve got enough to live comfortably for two years and write and draw anything you want. What would it be?

    JP: I'd really like to do a graphic novel about my best friend who's been to Iraq twice.

    SB: That's heavy turf --

    JP: It's a big story, but one I'd love to tackle.

    Other than that, just keep making mini comics. My latest, Adrift, was a really fun escapist (not autobiographical!) adventure. I'd like to do more of that. Fun and crazy stories that you'd have to draw to tell.

    Saying goodbye: Unattached, page two

    Thanks to Sean (hope that surgery is going well) and JP, and please note the links in the interview, per usual, but just to confuse and expand your horizons, here's a few more --

    Jacie and JP -- note, this Jacie is not the same person as JP's CCS freshman year classmate Jaci June, and if you get 'em mixed up, this Jacie will pop you one!

  • Here's the One Percent Press website's comics and mini-comics section -- and I hasten to add, given the question posted on one of this week's earlier interview, JP and Stephen post sample pages from every single comic and minicomic available from One Percent Press, meaning you can take a taste before you take the plunge with your online purchases from their venue. Check it all out!

  • If you'd like to read some of JP's comics right here and now, click this link -- JP has posted a generous quantity of his online Simple Routines strips here, from its initial 2005-2006 run. Check 'em out, it'll only sweeten your day!

  • The Sundays Anthology blog is here, still updating daily (until MoCCA arrives -- but hopefully thereafter, too!).

  • And need I remind you all of the I Know Joe Kimpel site, home of a plethora of CCSers's comics, creations, art and insanity? I thought not. Well, here's the link again, anyway!

  • OK, that's it for today! More interviews tomorrow, the very day the rest of the CCSers head off for NYC and MoCCA -- and more, still, to be posted on Saturday and Sunday, folks.

    See you here with more talk, art and eye-candy tomorrow.
    Have a great Thursday!

    JP Coovert, living the cartooning high life!

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