Tuesday, September 5, 2023

REJECTION! The "Burls & Gnarls" Tale


Page one - Would you read more?
I am making stuff again, specifically comix stories and have been trying to get them published, but that is easier said than done.  My first story of this new era is an eight page tale  called "Burls & Gnarls" I created in January of this year and it's about a guy haunted by weird trees he sees along the icy winter streets of Riga, Latvia. It's an old school black and white, ink on bristol board effort built on top of a beat-like poem of existentialist angst with a touch of defiance. Here's the first page as a taste. (I'm not going to put the whole thing online as I have other plans for it)

After reading this first bit, would you feel compelled to turn the page and read more? Well, I submitted it to three different comix anthology publications and it was rejected each time, so I guess for some people, the answer is "No thank". It never feels great to not have your work included, but this isn't my first time in the barrel, so I cried in exactly one beer and shared the bad news with my inner circle who did what good friends do and they jumped in outrage and shock, shaking their heads in disbelief that my offering was turned away. It is not a fair or just world generally, so it's necessary to have thick skin and supportive allies to manage such times. Having been on the other end of the stick, I understand that not everything can be included and some things have to hit the floor. It is part of the process. It's never easy putting together a creative project made from many contributions. The important thing for me is putting the work out there. Once the piece is submitted, I have won because I'm participating in the creative community. I take solace knowing that Frank Herbert's "DUNE" was rejected by twenty publishers before it found a home. (side note - I am not comparing my work to that masterpiece). The lesson learned is you do your best, work to your own highest standard and then keep submitting it until it lands in front of the right eyeballs. Don't give up. 
Another taste - page four

So, what will become of "Burls & Gnarls"? I've decided to use it as motivation to publish issue #8 of RELUCTANT SADIST, picking up where I left in 1989, a mere thirty-four years later. My goal is to lash together a 16 or 24 page digest-size comix by the end of 2023. Watch this space!

So that is final rejection lesson to be learn and that is, if you no else will publish your work, DIY baby.

Keep smiling,


Thursday, March 23, 2023

I Was a DJ for a Day...

 Kuš! Radio

"I am a D.J., I am what I play..." 
(With respects to David Bowie)
I was a radio D.J. for one afternoon in February, in fact on Valentine's Day no less. How does one go from underworked and obscure comix art/writer/actor/whatever to rocking a live broadcast over the interwebs to an audience of dozen(s) with no training or experience? As it is so often in this world, you got to know somebody, and in this case, that somebody was Kuš! Komikss honcho David Schilter. He messaged with a question, "Hal, have you ever done Radio?" and the details were hashed out from there. Seems that one of the resident artists visiting in January, Anu Ambasna has a radio show on NTS Radio in Britain and needed access to a recording studio to produce her show while in Riga. This led to the idea of creating a pop-up studio, so why not get more comix artists to do some shows while all the equipment was set-up? And that is how Kuš! Radio was born!
Michael holding the tech together while I run my mouth
All of this was only possible because of the technical expertise of Michael Holland, who is also a radio DJ on a NTS show called "Onotelsa", also the name of his indie record label. Michael is one of those laid-back cats that just made everything so simple and easy, that even a completely clueless radio newbie like myself was able to produce something that sounded coherent even on a live broadcast. Michael's constant encouragement and steady streams of "yeah, yeah"s' put me in the right flow to chat in between blocks of music and my hour time slot flew by too quickly!

All of the Kuš! Radio shows have been archived on Sound Cloud and there is not a dud in the lot, so check them all out.
Here is my show and I'll put the playlist underneath with a few notes about my choices.

"On a Coconut Island" - Louis Armstrong

I named my show after this tune as it paints a lovely picture of a tranquil dream world of spiced winds and bottomless Tiki drinks. Plus it's Louis Armstrong which is always the correct choice.

"I Want You To Be My Baby" - The Royals
This was a Valentine's Day pick that I first heard on an overnight show off WWOZ the New Orleans public jazz station. I love the lyric, "If you're gonna be my baby, then act like my baby and do it now! UH!"

"Basic Hip" - Del Close & John Brent - The Beat Generation, Volume 1
Just a fun rap. I think the world is forgetting about being "hip" and this needs to be corrected.

"True Love Will Find In The End" - Daniel Johnston
I'm late to knowing about Daniel Johnston, but it only took one listen to this song for it to become an instant classic in my heart. This section always brings a tear to my eye when I think about all the lonely people who won't or can't step into the light.

"True love will find you in the end

This is a promise with a catch

Only if you're looking can it find you

'Cause true love is searching too

But how can it recognize you

If you don't step out into the light, the light"

"Garter Belt" - John Lurie - Down By Law Soundtrack
Love this soundtrack and movie and the world it portrays. Another V-day pick for the darker side of romance.

"1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" - Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
The centerpiece of my show. An epic psychedelic masterpiece that is like listening to a Heavy Metal (the French SF comics magazine) story of a dystopian future where humankind has to flee into the sea because the surface is destroyed from pollution and war. But that would never happen, right!? The song runs 13 minutes, 25 seconds and Michael encouraged me to talk over it or cut it short, but I think it's a song that doesn't get enough attention because it's too long, so I rolled it out in its entirety. Weirdly romantic enough to also fit the V-day vibe.

"We Want You To Click Play" - Uglyography
Uglyography is a Norfolk, Virginia based two-man band and one of my dear friends, Sam McDonald is one of those two guys. I picked this because of the "Surf's Up!" lyric which connected to Coconut Island in my mind and that it's a bouncy, poppy tune. Full disclosure, I created a music video for another cut off this album, "Evil Rays" and you can check that out on my Vimeo page.

"16:53 This World" - Neil Bruce (Light B4 Sound) - 11:53 Album
A bit of electronica to balance out the pop of the last tune and this one is also created by my pal Neil Bruce. Yes, I am dedicated to shamelessly promoting my friends creative projects and it's all the easier when they make such beautiful stuff as Neil does here. Check out the whole album on his Bandcamp page and buy it if you really dig it! Neil's website.

Deep in the heart of Kuš! Radio

"Yip Roc Heresy" - Slim Galliard
My old (as in, we have been friends for 40 years) amigo Michael "WingDing" Wingfield first hipped me to Slim Galliard and this tune when he put it on a mixtape, like physical cassette tape (you young folk will just have to google it) he made while DJ-ing at a Berlin radio station back in the 90s. I love this tune because it's so silly and DADA, which is where WingDing and I like to meet.

"Uncool" - Del Close & John Brent - The Beat Generation, Volume 1
For those folks who needed the "Basic Hip" lesson, more helpful advice to be less square...

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" - Cannonball Adderley Quintet
A song that warms my heart and is a hug for this old, tired, beat-up world and all the suffering people clinging to it. Put on repeat until the bad thoughts quiet down.

"All the World is Green" - Tom Waits
"I fell into the ocean and you became my wife." Is the opening line to this sleepy love ballad by my favorite singer-songwriter and man of mystery and old hats, Tom Waits. I dedicated this song to my wife Ieva during the show and explained that first lyric also can serve as a super mini-autobio for how I wound up living in Latvia. Good tune for a slow dance.

"California Dreaming" - Lee Moses
Best fucking version of this song that has ever or will ever be recorded. Period.

"Here at the End of the World" - Alex McMurray
Alex McMurray is a New Orleans fixture who first came to my attention when he was part of a band called Royal Fingerbowl about twenty odd years ago. It is easy to draw a direct line from the Beats, through Tom Waits to Alex McMurray and this is a very good thing. McMurray has IT whatever that special sauce is to stand in the light of the crack in the universe and share what he finds there with the rest of us and we are all better for his words and music. This song is a comfort on the bad news days and now it feels like they are all bad news days or maybe, "bad news" or "worse news" days. For my ear, he perfectly captures the mood of our time as we collectively "listen for the terror through the wall" as Allen Ginsberg presciently wrote decades ago in "HOWL". So let's...

take our shoes off and dance real slow
while we wait for the fireworks show

"People" - Lord Buckley
Lord Buckley because he is still cool, always will be cool and it is because of his eloquent and compassionate spirit for sharing his gift with us people. Blow Daddy, blow... 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Kuš! It! Kuš! It Real Good...

Greetings from Riga, Latvia. As of last November, this has become my new home. This is my second time living an ex-pat life. The first time was in Ireland back in 2003-2005. The Latvian language and culture are less familiar for me then Irish culture, which is embedded into the American identity. I'm slowly learning Latvian and gain more of an appreciation of the deep and ancient cultural ways here. It is always good to keep your mind and heart open to new ways of living and looking at the world.

As an ex-pat, I'm also always searching for anything (books, movies, music) to cling to and give me some comfort when my brain has reached maximum saturation of the unfamiliar. Comics definitely fall into that category, especially of the small press variety.  I was fortunate to learn about kuš! komiks (kuš! (pronounced - koosh!), a Riga-based comics publisher, organizer of exhibitions, artist residency host and generally promoter of all things comics related. John Porcellino of King Kat fame had mentioned kuš! to me in an email and another local artist friend also had encouraged me to check them out.  On the publishing end, kuš! have two on-going projects; the Š! anthology collections put out a few times a year and mini-comics that are single artist, one-offs. I recently emailed kuš! asking where I could find their comics here in Riga and received a quick and friendly reply from David Schilter the founder of kuš!, letting me know about the one comic book shop in Riga that stocks their pubs and inviting me to visit kuš! HQ sometime! Wanting to sample some kuš! as quickly as possible, I made a visit to COMICS LV (in Latvian or Russian - use the Chrome browser to translate easily into English), a jolly, small shop packed with comics, graphic novels, figures and anything else a fan-human might want to buy. I inquired about kuš! and was guided to a box with a few dozen copies of Š! and mini-comics. I choose one mini-comic; (mini kuš! # 11 'All You Need Is Love', Emmi Valve, January 2013) and one Š! anthology; (#42 'Scientific Facts', August 2021). The story theme of friendship of "All You Need Is Love" grabbed my attention, as well as Emmi Valve's loose, personal drawing style and moody watercolor palette. The longer "Scientific Facts", is an international collection of a few dozen artists (as are all issues of Š!) featuring a wide range of art and writing styles, from the traditional to experimental, so there is something for everyone. I love the size and feel of both pubs, well-designed and printed on quality paper. I'm looking forward to visiting the kuš! HQ sometime soon and adding a few more pubs to my collection! I am actively seeking inspiration to get my creative life back on track. (book project update - don't ask)

kuš! ships internationally, but has distribution partners all over the world and lists all this towards the bottom of their shop page. I'm not surprised to see that John Porcellino's Spit and a Half is one of the many USA distributors, so my American friends, get over there and check out some kuš!


PS - here's the title background. -  "Kuš! It! Kuš! It Real Good... "(sing as... https://youtu.be/vCadcBR95oU)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Padded Cell Blues

Illustration from Reluctant Sadist #7, Padded Cell Blues No. 2
Ever have one of those days, weeks, months, years when you just want to escape? Oddly enough, I've been feeling that way more and more these days, and I'm sure there are a few people who can relate. This one page bit I did for the back cover of RELUCTANT SADIST #7 struck a chord with me during these endless COVID-19 lockdown days. I don't know if this guy went to a better place, probably not, I can't think of anyone who lives in their head that is happy, but at least he escaped. I like the technique of a series of "photos" laid out to a tell a story; evidence of something that might actually have happened, though these days photos and video are evidence of nothing anymore as everything is so easy to fake. This idea also was ripe for animation and it's lived for too long in the back of my mind (a vast warehouse space not unlike the one where the Ark of the Covenant was stored) with hundreds, maybe thousands of other ideas gathering dust and classic Hollywood cobwebs, patiently still hoping that I might bring them to life. I've always loved getting ideas; that "a-ha moment" when the light comes on and I feel in touch with some new and different that the world may never have seen before. I'm good at recording my ideas, but not so good on the follow-thru of bringing them to the world. Some people see ideas as spirits, muses that choose a host, a portal to reach into this world, so those ideas should be nurtured and every effort made to give them expression. Unfortunately, my critic (working overtime right now to persuade me to delete this post and go on sleepwalking through another day) often sabotages any enthusiasm for the idea before I can even make a note or thumbnail sketch. Why is that? No matter, best to just put that critic in the corner, humor it, "Yes, yes, you are right. It is all shit and what is the point?" and carry-on anyway. Which is what I did when I decided the time was well past taking a run at making an animation from "Padded Cell Blues No. 2" (Yes, there is a number one, but that's a tale for another time.) As a first step in the process, I decided to digitally cut-out the individual "photos" and animate them as a previsualization for planning the final animation. I'm not sure which animation method (hand drawn cartoon, claymation, etc) that I will render the final piece in, but this was a good start to think about what the final piece might look like. I used the open source photo editor GIMP to create the animation (I am not a fan of Adobe's move to a subscription-based service), so if you are looking for a "free" (they do accept donations, and yes, I did) image creation and photo manipulation tool, check it out. I exported this as an animated GIF and then converted that into an MP4. Here is the final result. Note: this is a silent film, but the final will indeed have sound.

Never give-up on your ideas or dreams. Keep fighting!



Friday, July 3, 2020

I'm Not Dead Yet...

It has been too long since I posted here. There are many reasons, but I have come to realize that my "posting energy" these days gets expended on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram, so there's nothing left for blogging. Besides, even when I was writing here on a regular basis, few eyes were hitting these words, so what's the point? There is so much demand for our eyes and attention these chaotic days, for those precious seconds and minutes of our lives, that one more chunk of random writing from an unknown human waxing on about an obscure underground/D.I.Y. comix from so long ago, seems like performance art for one. A random, mad, holy act for a god absent or maybe dead, or maybe never existed at all. But no matter, here I am. Strangely enough, it's the fact that I know that no one is likely to read what I am writing that compels me to drop my pebble in this pond. I'm sick to death (a tricky phrase to use in this pandemic days, but fuck it) of social media. All the vibrating, self-absorbed nonsense and free-flowing hostility and hot culture wars and the ghosts of dead friendships stinking up the cyberspace like a fart in a small elevator. Since I know these words will be unseen, this blog is a tiny cove safe from the jet skis and speed boats racing around and knocking the paddleboarders into the drink. 

So, after two years, I am motivated to write here again. There have been other opportunities that I let pass, for no apparent reason other than pure sloth.  But this is a new time, so get to the point, right?
I am working on the book again and I don't mean just picking at it, I mean actual progress, like ass in the seat, piling the bits and pieces into something that resembles a book. I decided to lash all the elements together to see if it made any sense and to understand how close I am to being finished. There was, as there often is with a creative endeavor, good news and the not so good. First with the positive, if I squint my eyes and cock my head, it looks kinda like a book. The less good news is, I have much more work to do before it is ready for a close up or to have a pin stuck in it or bow put on it. At least now I can see the holes that need filling and can make lists of clear tasks to move forward. The hill sits at one hundred and forty pages and will likely rise a bit higher by the end. This will likely just be a vanity project, but for me, it helps to honor that era of my life when I labored with intensity motivated by pure and innocent energies. It's been a lovely journey to dig through ancient boxes and rediscover the relics of my life from thirty years or more ago. I have to complete this task in order to move on to whatever I will do next.

So, thanks' for not reading this. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Some Corpses are More Exquisite Than Others...

I've known Ralf Schulze a longtime, since the late 1980s. We met in the wild, weird world of underground comix and 'zines. I think Ralf sent me a few of his comix in trade; "Dinky-Doo" and "Zombie Vomit" and that started a friendship that has endured until today.

Ralf lives in Richmond, VA and recently I spent a weekend up there hanging out with friends. Ralf and I met for lunch then settled in for some beers at Steam Bell Beer Works (sidebar - great beer and friendly folks, worth the trip). Ralf brought along a sketchbook and asked me, "Do you want to draw?". I sheepishly admitted that I haven't been drawing much, feel self-conscious drawing in public and have no idea what I would draw and after the bullshit excuses were out-of-the-way, we settled down to work.

I started off with a shapely dragon-salamander creature, falling back on the ten-year old boy mind that is forever doodling during geometry class.
Ralf is more in-touch with his abstract side and went with these two images; one vaguely obscene and the other reminded me of a Simpsons nightmare (I'll leave it to you to figure it out)

After warming up, we got down to business and decided on the theme "MASKS" for some exquisite corpse fun. The rules of EC are simple, gather a group of artists (or those that want to pretend to be artists, essentially the same thing) fold some paper and each person gets to draw a section. The rub is, you don't get to see what the other people drew in their sections until the end.
We set-up two pieces of paper so we could both be drawing and pass the paper back and forth until it was time for the big unveiling. The first two drawings we set-up with horizontal folds and one of us started at the top and the other the bottom. These two drawings turned out surprisedly coherent. I particularly like the one on the left (above photo) with the eyepatch.

For the second group, we decided to mix it up and folded the paper in quarters, working vertically with one and horizontally with the other. These two certainly hit a more zany quality that we were hoping for.

I appreciate Ralf prodding me to get back to drawing, lighten-up and have some fun.

Good times!


Monday, February 29, 2016

A King Cat Card Carrying Member...

I got some "real" mail today, something other than some junk mail or a bill. I got my official "King Cat Comics Fan Club" card and a thank you note for being a "Patreon" of John Porcellino the artist/writer behind the zine. "King Cat Comics" was begun back in 1989, the same time I was doing my own comic "Reluctant Sadist", but instead of folding after a few years like I did, John has persevered and King Cat is still going strong. I admire his tenacity and dedication to his zine, so was happy to contribute to a  Patreon campaign that he launched to establish consistent financial support. He's very close to his goal of $981 a month (the US Federal government's poverty level for a single person), so please take a look his page and consider throwing down a little dough.

The link to John Porcellion's Patreon Page.

If a monthly commitment is more then you can do right now, then check-out an issue of King Cat Comics. You'll be glad you did!

Order King Cat Comics.