PANDEMIX: Cartoonists respond to Covid-19

A benefit for The Hero Initiative

PandemixAs the press release says, “At a time when many in the comics industry were told to put their pencils down, a group of diverse cartoonists have raised theirs to tell timely, personal stories in a new benefit anthology, PANDEMIX: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ‘Rona. The 56-page full-color digital anthology will become available July 21 at patreon.com/pandemix for $5. All proceeds go to The Hero Initiative, which aids comics creators in need.”

As one would expect, it’s an eclectic mix of styles and foci by a group of creators, most of whom live in New York. The first story is particularly compelling if you watched the news about New York City in April, or some southern cities right now. Josh Newfield tells about a hospital worker trying to find Personal Protective Equipment for hospital staff and to figure out what to do about the dead. The protagonist, who is Josh’s brother Jake, eschews the label of “Supply Chain Superhero.”

Marguerite Dabaie decides that “It’ll Be Alright” during her lockdown in Brooklyn, even in those moments when it’s not. Peter Rostovsky’s “The Storm” suggests we’ve seen this movie before, and we’ll get through this film as well. Joan Reilly appreciates her “New Normal.” N. Steven Harris’ “‘Rona Routine” is among the most visually pleasing and namechecks the George Floyd protesters.

“Skin Hunger” by Kristen Radtke had been in the New York Times back in March. I surely relate to missing touch. Whitney Matheson spends a page celebrating “My Pandemic Boyfriends”, such as Stuart the Soap. Morgan Pielli’s “Protection” is an effective, wordless paean to the possibility of love.

Curated by Dean Haspiel

Dave Proch’s “Plague Fashion” page segues into “Plague Journal”, six days in April and May that Jen Ferguson creates in somewhat different styles; I found it compelling. Yes, J.J. Colagrande and George O’Connor, it is “Why We Are All Doomed.”

Ellen Lindner had me wondering if I ought to take things “One (COVID) Day at a Time,” as they (sort of) say in Alcoholics Anonymous. I’d hate to think that “Iterations of the Apocalypse” by Jeffrey Burandt and C. Cassano is all there is.

“Currency of the Community” by Dean Haspiel I was genuinely touched by, probably more than any other story aside from the first one. Incidentally, Haspiel, an Emmy- and Ringo Award-winning cartoonist, edited the collection with Whitney Matheson. Finally, Owen Brozman has a wordless “Quarantine Age Dream” we can hope for. The anthology features cover art by Peter Rostovsky and a Star Wars-inspired back cover by Mike Cavallaro.

As noted, all proceeds from PANDEMIX – five bucks! or more if you’d like – go to The Hero Initiative, a not-for-profit organization that helps comic book creators with emergency medical aid and/or essential financial support. “PANDEMIX will be promoted via Twitter (@pandemixcomix), Instagram (@pandemixcomix), and The Hero Initiative.”

Bernie Wrightson; Chuck Berry

“Bernie was such a nice guy that he made me feel totally relaxed, even as he stood holding a butcher’s knife.”

When I was working at FantaCo, owner Tom Skulan had Bernie Wrightson do the covers for the FantaCon comic conventions in 1980 and 1981. (The artist was going as Berni at the time to distinguish himself from another person.) He was a guest at three shows, at least.

FantaCo also published a comic called Deja Vu in 1982, featuring a front cover by Bernie Wrightson and two 1971 stories, The Last Hunters and King of the Mountain, Man, plus works by others in the artistic pantheon, Michael Wm. Kaluta and Jeff Jones. That was edited by Mitch Cohn, so my dealing with Bernie was usually a hello before passing the phone on to Mitch, who felt as though he were in heaven.

But I’ve been even current comic professionals have expressed the same sensation. As my friend, illustrator Fred Hembeck put it:

“I found myself invited to the already annual Wrightson Halloween party in a nearby town. I’ll admit to being a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of rubbing elbows with Bernie and a passel of his highly accomplished peers–after all, I was just a guy who drew squiggles on character’s knees, and he was, well, he was Bernie Wrightson. But my nerves were soon soothed, as Bernie was such a nice guy that he made me feel totally relaxed, even as he stood holding a butcher’s knife while wearing a blood-spattered apron as we pleasantly chatted (it was a Halloween party, remember).

“Over the next decade or so, there were plenty more Wrightson shindigs, holiday-centric or not, as well as a weekly volleyball game attended by Bernie and a host of other local cartooning notables. After awhile, I almost got used to Bernie just being that nice guy I was trying to set up at the front of the net in hopes of scoring on a Wrightson spike. Almost. But I never quite shook the awe I had–and continue to have–for the work he did that so inspired me during key years when I was ramping up my own attempts to get published.”

EVERYONE I read online, including Elaine Lee and Wendy Pini, spoke about how nice Bernie Wrightson was. Some DID complain about his limited danceable music collection: “A little Blues Brothers can go a long way,” someone wrote, and made him mixed tapes.But even in my limited contact, I always knew him to be a sweet guy.

And generous, famous for encouraging younger talent, both artists and writers. Steve Bissette revealed that when “DC in its benevolence sent Bernie a bonus check out of the blue, Bernie would split that bonus check up and mail checks to Alan Moore, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, and me, and when asked what for, he laughed, saying ‘I didn’t earn this, I know this bonus was because of what you guys did on the character, but don’t tell anyone about this because you don’t want DC to have a reason not to send another check!'”

Unfortunately, the enormously talented artist Bernie Wrightson died March 19 of a brain tumor at the age of 68. Ugh, I had a friend die from that; not pleasant. Here’s the notification.

His artistry on Swamp Thing and the stuff at Warren Publications was legendary. Tom Skulan referred to him as “the greatest horror comic artist ever.” A fellow artist said, “That might be Wrightson’s greatest gift to us: no matter how terrible the image he portrayed, it was always captivatingly beautiful.” That’s why I was happy to do my part to keep Creepshow selling when its publisher had given up on it.
***

Chuck Berry was 90 when he died, and I was filled with all sorts of contradictory feelings. On one hand, he is, to my mind, THE single person who had the greatest impact on creating rock and roll. He took the blues that wasn’t, in his words, blue enough, added some country chops, and voila. He was a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The legendary duck walk, developed when he fell on stage and was getting up, was amazing. His music is literally in space.

He was an obvious influence on scores of artists, such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, with the former two as subjects of lawsuits by Berry. Here are
20 of his essential songs, and it doesn’t include his only #1 pop hit, 1972’s My Ding-a-Ling.

But he had his demons, which are touched upon in this article. There was the stuff with a 14-year-old girl back in the 1950s, though the use of the Mann Act to prosecute him, usually applied to high profile cases from boxer Jack Johnson to former governor Eliot Spitzer, was troubling. Much later, there were the bathroom cameras.

The article mentions, among other things, the 1987 concert movie about him, Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, which I saw in the cinema at the time, and I found the musician, to my surprise, rather unlikable. He seemed glib in giving honorifics to almost everyone, he botched Robert Cray’s name, he made Julian Lennon look bad, he practically drooled over Linda Ronstadt.

He was to be kind, complicated.
***
I was living in New York City during the summer of the Son of Sam killings, so of course I was reading Jimmy Breslin, from then and for probably a decade or more. But his most famous piece was much earlier: Digging JFK grave was his honor.

August rambling #2: how ridiculous xenophobia is

Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!

Syrian children

It’s not just Freddie Gray. The Justice Department’s new report shows how wide and deep Baltimore’s police problems are

My four months as a private prison guard, which has led to US phasing out private prison use

US: The Real Way the 2016 Election Is Rigged

Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ – she said Continue reading “August rambling #2: how ridiculous xenophobia is”

January Rambling #1: Of Oz The Wizard

This is what happens when you reply to spam email.

lutefisk

Gordon Parks’ Jim Crow photos still resonate, alas.

David Brooks of the NY Times: The Brutalism of Ted Cruz.

The father of a boy killed at Sandy Hook gets death threats from people who say the shooting was a hoax.

Amy Biancolli: Not alone at being alone.

Affluenza and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Continue reading “January Rambling #1: Of Oz The Wizard”

December #2: Famous Monsters Chronicles, & EOY

The Great Songs :”Overlooked tracks from artists you know, obscure tracks from artists you may not know…

toon refugee.santaWeekly Sift explains the US polarized body politic: Small-government Freedom vs. Big-government Rights. Plus the Yearly Sift.

New York Times: For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions.

Deadliest U.S. mass shootings | 1984-2015.

Short video: A Conversation With Police on Race. Also, Ferguson cop says life is ‘ruined’ after pointing AR-15 at journalists.

No Charges in the Murder of Tamir Rice and Why white people see black boys like him as older, bigger and guiltier than they really are.

A girl narrates a letter to her dad as she grows up, and it makes rape culture obvious.

Shooting Parrots is blogging again! Continue reading “December #2: Famous Monsters Chronicles, & EOY”