Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Asshole of the Week, Halloween edition.

A Fargo woman will be passing out "fat letters" to trick-or-treaters she deems "moderately" obese. Because that wouldn't upset a child, or lead to merciless mockery from schoolmates or anything like that. Full story HERE

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed: The King of the Slag Heap.

It was (who else?) Lester Bangs who turned me on to Lou. As a teenage fanboy who didn't come to great music naturally like the hipper kids did, Bangs was my musical mentor. If you've read Punk Rock & Trailer Parks (and if you haven't, what the fuck?) you know that. Living in my small Ohio hometown,long before the internet, there were very few glimpses of the world outside my sleepy hamlet. One of those windows was Creem magazine and the writings of the great Bangs. And no one was a greater fan of Reed's music than Lester.

I was intrigued. It was the mid-Seventies and the music pouring from the radio was either disco or stoner rock. At 15, I was just emerging from, like all 15-year-old boys of that era, a shameful prog rock period that still makes me cringe in embarrasment. I had finally tired of 20-minute-long Emerson Lake & Palmer instrumental tracks and was looking around for music, something fresh, something that fit my nascent hipster persona, or at least that's what I fancied myself, alone in my room, something that spoke to me. I had no idea where to start. Punk was still years away. I loathed disco, and wasn't much more fond of stoner rock. Screw Aerosmith. Heart was a yawn. And the Dude was right about the fucking Eagles, man. I liked glam, even though I wasn't entirely sure what it was. Bowie, T Rex.and Mott the Hoople were all on my radar. But the whole bisexual thing gave this Midwestern kid the willies. Besides, rock gods were just so high above us all. I couldn't relate to guys that had groupies draped all over them and were living in fucking castles. So I turned to Lester for guidance.  And found Lou. "King of the slag heap," he called Reed. Now that sounded interesting!

When asked, the clerk at Disc Records in the mall handed me Rock 'n' Roll Animal and I forked over $6, scraped together from my paltry allowance and secret raids on my mother's laundry change jar. I was lucky he wasn't a prick and handed me the newly released fuck-you-all follow-up, Metal Machine Music! You never knew about record store clerks then. Many delighted in pawning off impenetrable albums on unsuspecting pimply kids. I guess tricking an 8th grader into wasting his lawn-mowing money gave them a rush, a few seconds of power to help them forget they were working in a goddam mall and wearing a clip-on tie.

Rock 'n' Roll Animal is an album like no other. Most of it is re-interpreted Velvet Underground standards, recorded live. And it became a monster hit LP, outselling any Velvets album by a couple million. How did that happen? Now, the Velvets weren't really known then, except to the hippest of the hip. They weren't on FM playlists, that's for sure, with the constant rotation of Zeppelin, Heart, Steve Miller and Bad Company. I'm certain I had never heard them at that point. So for most listeners, it was the first time they heard Sweet Jane. What did this song mean? I wasn't sure. Cross-dressing? Drugs? Fucking? All three? Something else entirely? Didn't really matter. I loved the way those lyrics unfolded. And, man, that guitar riff! It's one of those songs you want to be 10 minutes longer! I moved the needle back to the beginning of the track over and over.

Rock 'n' Roll Animal blew me away. I played it constantly. Who was this glam badass? Lester made him sound like the biggest dick in the world. From there, I worked backwards to Transformer and the dark, disturbing Berlin and finally to the Velvets' Loaded. When I heard their rendition of Sweet Jane, I began to understand.

I first saw Lou live in 1975, at the crumbling Allen Theater in downtown Cleveland. A fittingly skanky venue for the King of the Slag Heap. A friend's cool older sister (a giant lesbian jock) drove us. Packed house, thick cloud of pot smoke, cool cats galore. Lou stalked onstage and looked like he detested us all. The crowd returned the love. During White Light, White Heat spotlights behind him blazed out into the crowd, unrelenting through the whole song, searing eyeballs. 

FM radio was our soundtrack in the Seventies. It was everywhere, wafting out of every car, playing at every party. You listened to it as you drove aimlessly over country roads, or in your bedroom as you drifted off to sleep. It played constantly in the high school art room where I toiled away the day. The big FM station in Cleveland was WMMS. It was mostly crap, of course. Lots of Aerosmith and Bad Company, Steve Miller and Fleetwood Mac. Especially during the afternoon slots. Stairway to Heaven again? And, oh great, followed by Magic Man. But they always played Lou. Every day. Usually Sweet Jane, occasionally Walk On the Wild Side. That's as deep as the playlist went. I never tired of them.

Above: the full CoffeeBreak Concert, sponsored by WMMS. A mid-afternoons set, broadcast live, back when FM radio did such things;

The godfather of punk they called him, because rock aficionados have to categorize and file every artist. But the unbroken thread from Lou Reed to Richard Hell is certainly there. Even after punk took hold on me, it was ok to hang onto Lou. I even eventually bought a copy of Metal Machine Music! On 8-track tape! Still have it. The greatest "the party is over it's time for everyone to clear out" album ever made. Bowie sold out his thin white duke ass, but Lou remained Lou, whoever that was. No one could figure him out. Not even Lester. 

He made a few great albums after Rock 'n' Roll Animal– The Blue Mask and New York– but that was definitely his peak. A spent force? Maybe. But for ten years there, from the Velvets to Animal, he was a force, maybe the creative force in rock. He changed popular music. He changed lives. So he made lots of crappy albums since. So he was an unrepentant prick. Who cares?

Here's part of Bang's interview with Reed from 1973:

Everything is jokes to this bibulous bozo; he really makes a point of havin' some fun! Although it does disturb his friends and fans to see him in such failing health. But he can find a joke even there. At one point I asked him when he intended to die.
"I would like to live to a ripe old age and raise watermelons in Wyoming." Then he takes another glug and machos: "I'm outdrinking you two to one, you know."
"Are you proud of yourself?"
"Yeah. No, not actually; it's just that a single shot of Scotch is so small that you've gotta nurse it like it's a child or something. I drink constantly."
"How does it treat your nervous system?" I probed.
"It destroys it," he beamed.
"Then how do you intend to raise your watermelons?"
I suppose it's no surprise that Lou died of liver disease. But he out-lived Lester by 30 years! Lester would have laughed his ass off over that. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ayn Rand Comics & Stories

I've been reading a lot of comix history lately, especially after watching PBS' disappointing SUPERHEROES documentary. This is comix history for people who don't read comix, and it's painfully obvious that the folks who made it don't know shit about the art form.

But no more about that. There's far more fascinating comix history for those inclined to find it. Such as Ayn Rand and the Superheroes! Here's the tale:

Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby are two of the greatest creators in comix history. Virtually every great Marvel character, and quite a few DC ones, can be traced to these two giants. But they couldn't have been more different, in personality, in approach, and politically. 

Kirby was a Jew from the immigrant tenements of the Lower East Side. He was an old-school, cigar-smoking Roosevelt Democrat and surprisingly sympathetic of the hippie kids who were reading his comix in the late Sixties. Most of the grown-ups from the WW2 era were the squares, whose morals and mores the Hippies rejected wholesale. But these kids were eating up Kirby's cosmic tales. Young adults had read comix en masse before, specifically soldiers afield during WW2 and the Korean War, but now, in the Marvel Age, comic books were starting to achieve a pop culture respectability they had never enjoyed before. Whether Kirby picked up on this or not, his stories featured hippie kids in starring roles, culminating in The Forever People, basically a super-powered collective of peaceniks. 

Ditko, on the other hand loathed hippies and everything they stood for. As you comix fans know, Ditko was a rabid Ayn Rand devotee. He totally bought into her crackpot Objectivist philosophy in the early Sixties and as the decade wore on, her dogma seeped more and more into his stories and characters. The result is some the strangest and inadvertently hilarious comic books ever made! Who knows where he would have taken Spider-man, had he stayed on the book beyond 1966. Certainly, the Green Goblin, whose identity wasn't revealed until Ditko left, in a storyline that Steve would never have written, was shaping up to be a Randian character. Ditko's subsequent characters for DC, the Creeper and Hawk & Dove, espoused Objectivism like none had before. But he really couldn't go whole hog at timid, buttoned-down DC. He saved his best rants for the low-end Charlton line, where no one really cared what he wrote and drew (reportedly for $5 a page!),  and it was here where he dreamed up the Randian supermensch, and one my all-time favorite characters: The Question.

A back-up feature in another Ditko book, The Blue Beetle, the faceless Question dished out blows and objectivist bon mots. The above page is an unthinkable end to a superhero tale in 1968. A hero letting crooks drown.... while gloating at their demise as they cry for help! Could you picture Spider-man doing this? Maybe now, when every hero has been turned into a dark, morally-amibiguous psycho, but back in the Sixties? It's completely awesome!

His Objectivist masterpiece is a story in Blue Beetle #6, starring Ditko's modernized (and short-lived, since this was the final issue) version of Charlton's C-list superhero from the Golden Age. It's titled The Destroyer of Heroes and is an indecipherable, dense screed against Warhol's pop art revolution, modern art in general and New York intellectuals. It's the prime example of Charlton's hands-off approach to its comix line. There wasn't an 8-year-old on the planet who understood this story. Which, of course, makes it one of the greatest of the era!

Turns out Kirby was also thinking about Rand. And he found her blatherings to be anti-social nonsense.  So much so, he penned an anti-Rand storyline in Fantastic Four. Unfortunately, it didn't make it into print. But we can re-construct it.

We all know about the revolutionary Marvel Method. Instead of writing out a detailed script, editor Stan Lee would give his artists a suggestion about the next issue, they would plot out the story and Lee would then fill in the dialogue when he received the pages. With Ditko and Kirby, Marvel's star artists, the stories were dreamed up entirely by them. Lee would dialogue the books based on notes Ditko and Kirby gave him. In Kirby's case, these notes were written in the outer margins of the original art, and still exist as proof of who was the real creator here. Lee, of course, claimed this method made him the creator, the sole creator, as his gloryhogging bombast grew and grew over the years. He trusted Ditko and Kirby implicitly, as he should have. Occasionally, however, Stan meddled, to disastrous result. His tinkering with Spider-man, as that character became Marvel's top seller, caused the uncompromising Ditko to first stop speaking to Lee, and then to quit without warning. It's the most famous artistic tantrum in comix history. But a similar incident also at least partially led Kirby to leave Marvel, and Lee.

The storyline in question was FF #66 and #67. Kirby had delivered, over the past year, the most incredible creative run of his career, a year and a half of classics that saw Kirby set a standard for super-hero comics that has never been matched, and likely never will be. He dreamed up iconic characters, such as Galactus and the Silver Surfer, experimented with layout and form, even worked pop-art collage into his books. As a writer, his stories became more complex, often containing two separate storylines, with a secondary plot slowly gestating until it culminated into a major plot. Lee, however, was loath to give Kirby the  credit he was due. He had reluctantly given Ditko a "plotted by" tag, in a half-assed attempt to placate his unhappy star, but the best the lower-keyed Kirby got was a dual "Stan Lee & Jack Kirby" credit that, like the Lennon & McCartney one, didn't state who was responsible for what. Lee, of course, always got first billing. Kirby was beginning to chaff at Lee's non-stop self-promotion, especially as comic books began to emerge from the lowbrow ghetto. Stan was either unaware of this, or didn't care, or both.

FF #66 introduced a mysterious character named Him (who would later morph into Adam Warlock, one of the great hippie-trippy characters of the Seventies). Here's the fun part: Kirby wrote it as a rebuttal to Ditko's beloved Objectivism. In this story scientists create a perfect man, who, in turn, is unable to tolerate the imperfect and destroys them all. Kirby illustrates the biggest of many holes in Randian thought. Man is imperfect by nature. The Jack Kirby Collector, the bible for all things Kirby, explains it all in detail HERE. When Lee got the pages, however, he didn't like the story at all. Perhaps he had genuine concerns that it would be misinterpreted. Perhaps he was worried his autocratic publisher (and uncle-in-law) Martin Goodman would object. Lee was plenty timid about adding political messages to Marvel books during this time, even as the college kids who were elevating Lee to guru status, hailed him for being "relevant" and "hip with the kids." Lee, in reality, was anything but. He was a 50-something square with a toupee who are few years earlier had filled his books with anti-commie rants. He sometimes made references to the social revolt that was unfolding on the streets and campuses, but he was always careful to not take sides. The heroes always urged everyone to work things out peaceably. So Lee changed Kirby's tale, and dialogued it as a boilerplate one: power-hungry scientists create a creature that turns on them, leading to their deserved deaths.  The tired Frankenstein plot.

It's a typical hack effort by Lee, although, as usual, Kirby's wondrous art saves the day. It also proved to be the last straw for Kirby. His growing dissatisfaction with Lee and Marvel had peaked. Kirby wouldn't create another character of note during his remaining three years at Marvel, pointedly telling Lee that he was the self-proclaimed "writer" so he could dream up his own characters. He didn't. Not one.

And we're left to wonder what could have been, had Lee not been such a selfish gasbag. How many issues of Ditko's Spider-man and Dr. Strange, and Kirby's Fantastic Four and Thor were sacrificed to one man's glory grab?

That's the tale of this strange footnote. A not-quite-realized Randian debate between two comix greats. It should be noted that Kirby and Ditko had a lot of respect for each other. Ditko, in fact, reportedly urged Kirby to leave Marvel when he did. It took nearly four years of ever-shoddier treatment before Kirby walked.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Punk Rock & Trailer Parks Item-of-the-month

Very young members of the Dead Boys, straight off the Greyhound from Akron, interviewed on the CBGBs stage.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Best American Comics & Ohio State Days

Speaking of my time at Ohio State (and bear with me here), the latest edition of Best American Comics is out, and an excerpt from My Friend Dahmer was selected by guest editor Jeff Smith, of Bone fame. This marks the third time in the past five years I've been selected for BAC. Lynda Barry picked a selection of The City in 2008 and Neil Gaiman tabbed Punk Rock & Trailer Parks in 2010. It's always an honor, even if its impact on my career is probably negligible. 

If you're a fan of MFD, you'll find nothing new here. The excerpt is straight out of the book. But you'll find some other marvelous work that may not be on your radar yet. It's well worth checking out.

The Ohio State connection? Jeff Smith was also a cartoonist for the school paper, The Lantern. In fact, our work appeared in those pages together! His first year in the paper was my last year. I was doing (bad) political cartoons and Smith started his Bone franchise in comic strip form, in a daily feature named Thorn. This is the first one (I think):

I wasn't a prodigy, as I mentioned in my last post, but Smith sure was. Right from the beginning, his stuff was beautifully drawn. He had all the characters that would eventually form the Bone tale, but the writing was, as I recall, pretty spotty. It started out as a narrative, then he tried to delve into political satire, ala Pogo or Bloom County. That blew up on him when a storyline about racism was misinterpreted by a firebrand African Studies prof, who stormed the Lantern newsroom with a dozen or so students he had whipped into a frenzy and, of course, with a local tv news crew in their wake. I was in the newsroom during this incident. It was a Friday afternoon and since we only published Monday through Friday, there were only dozen or so staffers hanging about since the Friday paper was already out and the Monday deadlines were a couple days away. I pretty much lived in the newsroom, since in addition to being a cartoonist, I also served as a reporter and photog. Smith, who wasn't a journalism student, very seldom visited the newsroom. In fact, I only met him a couple times that entire year. I think he was a pretty shy guy back then.

But back to the scuffle. I remember when the protestors burst in I was on the other side of the large office, back near the darkroom, looking over some negatives. I heard the commotion, lots of yelling. One of the more clueless editors then pointed to me. "Jeff Smith isn't here, but Derf is a cartoonist!" she said. "Why don't you talk to HIM?" The next thing I knew, three enraged students were charging toward me, practically climbing over desks!! I did some fast talking and explained I had nothing to do with any of this, and they eventually stomped off to yell at the editor in chief. I drilled that idiot editor a new asshole later. To his credit Smith rushed to the newsroom and met with the protestors, who eventually said their piece and left. I believe Smith apologized in print and dropped the storyline mid-stream. It was all bullshit, of course. Smith's intentions were clear with those strips, but this particular prof had a burr up his saddle about how The Lantern covered minorities on campus, particularly black issues. Those were valid criticisms, but this guy was a major douchebag, and why he decided to zero in on a comic strip is anyone's guess. One of his demands was that all cartoons be run by him and a minority review committee before publication. Surprisingly, something very simlar to that eventually occurred! But I'll get to that later.

That was the big controversy that year, until I dropped the nuclear bomb later that Spring with the Schlichter cartoon below. Then everyone on campus forgot about the Thorn controversy right quick!

Smith stuck at The Lantern for another year after I graduated and then wandered off. I was down in South Florida by that time, drawing yet more bad political cartoons, and before the internet it was damn near impossible to follow things at my alma mater from afar. I lost track of him until I saw a copy of Bone in a comics shop in the early Nineties. We haven't stayed in touch. As I wrote, I barely knew the guy, although I couldn't have been more pleased at his success. We talked a little bit at a Columbus comix fest earlier this year.

This year was the pinnacle of The Lantern's amazing comix run. It started with political cartoonist Brian Bassett in the mid-Seventies, who was followed by Scott Willis, who was a pro political cartoonist for many years until moving into animation, then me. After my tenure came Smith, Jim Kammerud, another successful animator, and Steve Spencer, a longtime staff cartoonist at the Columbus Dispatch. Those three did various cartoons during my last year. How's that for a talent pool? And, finally, came Nick Anderson, a Pultizer-winning political cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle. There were a couple other cartoonists in that 15-year period who could have been pros, but gave it up or never tried or whatever. When Anderson left in the late Eighties, that was it for both the School of Journalism, which the university unforgivably dismantled, and the run of cartoonists. The university did nothing to encourage or support student cartoonists btw, outside of the mentorship of Lucy Caswell, head curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum. It all happened purely by chance. Indeed, the administration of both the university and the School of Journalism viewed us as more a pain in the ass than a benefit. At one point, just after I graduated, and as a direct response to my cartoons, there was a move by the J-school faculty, under pressure from above I've no doubt, to heavily censor the comix. A review policy was put in place, very similar to what the African Studies prof demanded. All cartoons were reviewed before being accepted for publication. If any staffer objected to anything in said cartoon, it was rejected. Cartoons were the only content in the paper subjected to this. Kammerud, to his credit, quit the paper rather than operate under those conditions. As would have I.

OSU also produced other comix notables, even if they didn't draw for The Lantern. Paul Pope is an A-list comix creator. he graduated in the early Nineties. Dan Collins was a hilariously tasteless cartoonist for Hustler. He preceded me by a couple years. 

Now, of course, as the Cartoon Museum has grown to the world's largest, Ohio State is falling all over itself to embrace it's long-gone pedigree, as it should. Re-writing history? Maybe. I have nothing but fond memories of that period in my life and career. Indeed, I may not have had a career at all if not for The Lantern. What the paper offered was an opportunity, a chance to be published, a foot in the door. To see my stuff in print, to have people read it and respond, whether good or bad, it was such a rush. I'd re-live it again in a heartbeat. But only if I took my present abilities back in  time with me. Hoohah, I'd blow the fuckers away! And everybody read The Lantern. The circulation of the paper was 35,000! It was free, and there were piles of every edition all over campus. You'd walk into the cafeteria in the morning and every kid was reading it while downing the breakfast gruel. There was no internet, remember. The Lantern was the internet, at least content wise. I still own a complete set from my three years there. I'll never part with them. And for someone like me, who wasn't that good in the beginning, it was a launching pad. I'm sure Smith would agree. 

If you'd like to take a look, the entire Lantern archive is available fro online viewing HERE. Just type in the year and you can browse day by day. My cartoons ran from Spring 1980 to the end of 1983. Smith's ran from Fall 1982 to Spring 1984 at least. Not sure of the exact end dates.

But I digress. This is also apparently the last year Best American Comics will be overseen by the husband-wife team of Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. It's been a stellar annual, under their stewardship. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meanwhile, over at

Fans of My Friend Dahmer will want to check out my blog about that project. You'll find over a year's worth of posts about the making of the book, as well as deep trivia about the events depicted within. There's some posts detailing events and factoids that didn't make the book at all, as well as tons of never-before-published artwork and photos. I don't update much anymore, but there's tons to read.

When They Were Buckeyes: Derf

My alma mater, Ohio State, just posted a sampling of the political cartoons I drew for the student newspaper, The Lantern. I gave all those things to the Ohio State Cartoon Museum mainly so I'd never be tempted to look at them again. Guess I should have thought that through. Who knew Ohio State would one day be proud of me!

Cracks me up that the page leads off with a cartoon that nearly got me thrown off the paper.... and tar and feathered, for that matter.

Art Schlichter was a football god at Ohio State in the early Eighties, the team's most accomplished quarterback ever. He was a freshman when Woody Hayes punched an opposing player in the Gator Bowl (in fact, Schlichter threw the interception that caused Woody to finally lose his sanity). 

He was the archetype pampered football star. A booster set him up with a nice off-campus apartment. He tooled around in a new sports car, provided by an unknown benefactor. He never attended class, but somehow magically kept academically eligible. We were in a math class together. He never showed up. Not once. When I inquired about this, the graduate assistant told me wearily "Mr. Schlichter will be getting a B in this class." It was the last era when football schools could so blatantly flaunt the rules, and Schlichter reveled in it. 

He finished up at OSU in 1982 and headed off to the NFL. The Baltimore Colts made him the third pick in the draft. And then his life fell apart. He had a big time gambling addiction. It started with betting the horses, on trips to the track with Ohio State boosters and head coach Earle Bruce! By 1982, he was betting on NFL games, including games in which he played. When this was discovered, he was banished from the NFL for life. He escaped felony charges by ratting out his bookies.

So I drew the above cartoon. Pretty nasty, to be sure, but I'd had it at that point with the whole  college athletics thing. At The Lantern, we were privy to all the athletic scandals that the university successfully covered up. Ohio State, you see, is in Columbus, but it is its own municipality, with its own police force. Columbus cops have no jurisdiction on campus. And the university used the shield of "student privacy" to cover up everything and seal all arrest records and criminal complaints. If I student was involved in any way, the records were sealed. Without documentation, the paper couldn't write stories. But we knew of the scandals, and after four years I was revolted with the whole culture. There was a gang rape the previous year, involving several football players and a basketball star. It started as a drunken orgy, but then the girl wanted to stop but there was a line out the door of the dorm room at that point, and the boys didn't stop. Sleazy incident all around. The victim was paid off and set up at another school. Top football stars all had new sports cars, courtesy of a big local car dealer. There was even a sex scandal involving the band! Freshman were forced to fellate a giant rubber dick on the band bus. One girl balked, then complained, and was then hounded and threatened. 

In truth, when I turned that cartoon in, I didn't think it would be controversial! Ah, the innocence of youth. I woke up the next morning and went to class. I noticed some people were glaring at me, and thought it strange, but didn't make the connection. When I wandered into The Lantern newsroom around lunchtime, I was greeted with a loud chorus of boos and pelted with wads of paper! The phones had been ringing off the hook. Hundreds of angry calls. The J-school president was under fire, too. University bigshots were demanding my head. The athletic director wanted me thrown out of school! The J-prez wasn't my favorite guy, but to his credit, he stood firm. Press freedom was the issue, and it was sacred to him, as it should have been. Other J-school faculty were, sadly, not as supportive. Some were, but others called me an embarrassment and thought I should be censored. It was a sorry example for us students, even if it was an accurate glimpse of what awaited us in the weak-kneed corporate newspaper world.

It got worse as the day wore on. In afternoon classes, fellow students chewed me out. As I skulked back to my apartment, people yelled at me on the Oval (still don't know how they knew who I was!). My phone number was in the student directory, so I finally just had to unplug the phone for a couple days. Local sportscasters, Buckeye sychophants all, led with the story that evening. Sportsradio yakkers went bonkers on me. After a few days of this, I split town until tempers cooled. I hid out at my girlfriend's house in (fittingly) Michigan. 

The J-school held fast, though. They weren't happy with me, but I was attending on a journalism scholarship and had already won a collegiate award for my cartoons, so they couldn't very well banish me, even if their commitment to free expression hadn't been as strong as it was. But when I graduated at the end of that year, the Journalism faculty instituted draconian rules on cartoons so, as one of my prof critics put it, "We'll never have another goddam Backderf." One of my successors quit in protest over this. It was unprecedented. for one staffer to cause such a philosophical change. If I'd been a writer, of course, not a cartoonist, this never would have happened. Another lesson to what awaited in the corporate media world. Generate too much controversy, stomp on the wrong toes, cause an executive to spend time on the phone, and you'll pay the price. In fact, in the real world, there would be no hesitation on bringing the ax down. And down it came.

As for Schlichter, he has spent much of his adult life in prison. His addiction took him over completely. He stole and he swindled. He hocked his wife's wedding ring. He became a coke head. His despondent Dad killed himself. Schlichter is currently serving an 11-year sentence for swindling fans out of millions. He's a pathetic parasite, paunchy and bald, his on-field glories long forgotten, completely disowned by his alma mater and anyone who knew him. He could have made a comfortable living just being Art Schlichter, even if an NFL career had never panned out. But he was consumed by his own demons. In 1983, I thought him the prime example of the jock aristocracy, an arrogant, coddled creep. Now I pity him. His life is shit. 

And here, 30 years later, Ohio State publishes that cartoon again! Never thought that would happen! Most, if not all, of the bigshots who wanted my skin are long dead, of course. Hell, the J-school is gone, dismantled by the curriculum star chamber who decides such things. You can't even major in Journalism at Ohio State anymore, not that anyone would want to given the sorry state of that industry. The Lantern still exists, but it's a thin ghost of what it once was...  and it doesn't have student cartoons anymore, at least not the amazing back-to-back number of future pros that it once boasted.. 

I can't look at these cartoons without cringing. Man, they're horrible. I wasn't a prodigy, I was a slow learner and I started from scratch, learning completely on my own every step of the way. And it would be another five years after I left Ohio State before I found myself stylistically. But, man, I had fun making these. For three full years I drew political cartoons for The Lantern, the longest tenure of any of the school's storied cartooning alum. Why political cartoons instead of a comic strip like The City?  To be perfectly honest, it was because the political cartoons were run much bigger than the comic strips! I wasn't even that politically committed, and certainly not very astute. I wish the cartoons were better, but, even wincing as I do, I have nothing but fondness for them. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Baron of Prospect Ave.

My latest webcomic, The Baron of Prospect Ave., is up and running. Follow the further adventures of Otto "The Baron" Pizcok.

I posted a deleted scene from Punk Rock & Trailer Parks to get things started, and now the first new page is up. I'll update every two weeks with another page. Yeah, yeah, it'll move pretty slow at first until the story gets rolling. It's a freebie, so what are you bitching about? 

The plan is to make 24-page episodes, which, eventually, I'll collect as a book. I love this character and these stories, but it is, quite frankly a labor of love and little else. Doesn't seem to have much commercial appeal, judging from the sales of Punk Rock & Trailer Parks. Lots of critical acclaim, and a devoted cult following, but that's just not enough to raise it from "side project"status. 

Still, hope you all enjoy it. Feels good to be drawing comix stories again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Template me!

Self portrait, 1990

Yep. Moved the Derfcity blog to a Blogger template. It's SO much easier than stumbling around with Dreamweaver. Why fight it? I'd like to post more, so this is the easiest way to do so.

As for the blog archive, I'll just trash that. It was all lies and gibberish anyways. From here on, these things will be saved in the Blogger archive.

New Punk Rock & Trailer Park shirt!

I've always been reluctant to get into the swag biz. I know some cartoonists make bread doing it. Some make all their income peddling shirts and print-on-demand books. To be blunt, blech. I have zero interest in running a mail-order operation.

But, having said that, here's a new PUNK ROCK & TRAILER PARKS tee! The publisher of the book has started a t-shirt operation and wanted to give one of my designs a test run. This panel with Lester Bangs is a natural, sure to be a conversation starter even with those who haven't read the book (the swine).
You can grab one at SLG's eBay store HERE.