Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ask Us About Our Awesome

Hey folks! It's been a wild few days. We headed from Atlanta up to Marietta so John could check out Dr. No comics -- which reportedly had lots of back issues. Could there be monster comics, we thought? Well, not so much, but it turns out Marietta is ALSO the home of Top Shelf Productions -- the great folks who put out Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Edie Campbell, Alan Moore, Matt Kindt, etc. etc.

We hung around with the very gracious Chris Staros, and chatted about all things comics, Hollywood, Elvis, and hair metal until about 2am. Got up the next day and trucked it on down the line -- Gainesville line, that is.

Gainesville is great. John had an event at the library last night (about 40+ people showed) and afterwards we went out to dinner with Travis -- the awesome librarian/skater/zinester who set the show up. Today's John's speaking at a couple schools -- were I didn't think I could film -- and tomorrow is the conference at the U of F.

Things are good --- I've shot an additional five or six hours of John P. stuff, have worked through a lot of the kinks of interviewing in the car, chatting, etc. & thankfully we're not sick of each other.

Ok, I need to get going -- got my day job to do, private travel journal to keep, postcards to send (hey crystal!) and such and such and such. My 'day off' from shooting is turning into the busiest day this week!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pre-Tour Round Up

Odds are, as you read this, ole John P. is hurtling off through the Illinois wild on his way to Memphis. I'm hitting the road tomorrow with Crystal, headed to Nashville, where we'll meet up on Monday to officially launch the filmed part of the tour.

We're making stops all over the place, and this got me to thinking about one of the things I just love about John Porcellino. I grew up in a town of 900, and the closest city was Syracuse, NY (a teeming metropolis at 140,000). As a kid, my friends and I would drive up there for basically any show we could get our grubby little hands on, and I always loved the bands who'd play Syracuse (or Utica/Albany/Binghamton) because you knew they were really out there workin' it for the fans, which I appreciated.

And I still feel that way. It drives me crazy when bands play NY-Boston-DC-Chicago-Seattle-SF-LA. Or authors. As a comic shop owner in an admittedly tier two city (Denver), it drives me nuts that the 'big names' don't come out to our neck of the woods (or Albuquerque/Salt Lake/St. Louis/KC). Frankly, the kids in Brooklyn (God love 'em) don't need YET ANOTHER COOL THING TO DO. But the kids in Broomfield do.

And that's why I'm super excited to go to Norman OK, Houston TX, Gainesville FL, and Savannah GA on this tour with John 'keepin it real' Porcellino.

Couple other neat things before we hit the road --

Good write up on Chicago Zine Fest in the Chicago Huffington Post.

Another short write up on the documentary project in Monsters and Rockets (still referring to me as Daniel, which is bizarre and funny at the same time).

NY-based artist/musician/writer Summer Pierre has an interview coming out on Monday with John P., with a little teaser bit here. And, there's a contest!

Lastly, it turns out our Houston event is the same night as the first game of the NCAA Final Four. How funny is that?

Ok team -- interviewing Anne Elizabeth Moore this am, and then getting some work/sleep.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The hidden buddhas

So many updates! First off, John's in Chicago, which is really great. It's lovely to see him, and getting to spend loads of time with him is giving me a lot of much needed insight into his brain, character, and life.

We did the Chicago Comics Symposium, and then the Chicago Zinefest -- where a super sweet guy mistook me for John, told me he was a huge fan and totally made my day. We sold a crap load of comics, and I got some GREAT footage of John P. in action - wheelin' & dealin', stealin' hearts and crackin' skulls. Well, sort of.

Took the day off on Sunday to run 10 kilometers (a first) in honor of my birthday which is today (bizarrely the same as John's dad). Yesterday was a FEST of interviews and talking to really neat people, and hearing great stories. I drove out to Dekalb, where John went to college, and met up with him. He took me on a tour of the city/town, including the old house where he and his buddies would host keggers and play music.

Then the fun began. We drove to Fred H.'s house for an interview. Fred grew up with John, turned him on to R.E.M., shared a love of comics and mischief making. I haven't transferred the tape, but the funniest story was them submitting a copy of The Replacements 'Hootenanny' as their 'demo tape' to the battle of the homecoming bands committee, and won a slot on the bill.

Fred's a really great guy who teaches high school, focusing on media and literature. He's that really cool teacher you had who helped, probably without knowing it, and it was great to meet him and his family.

Then we trucked it over to Al Stark's house. Al does drop dead beautiful block printing, and makes kites that are both beautiful AND functional. Al was the nicest, most unassuming guy, and after years of reading his letter to King Cat, I was nervous to chat with him. But he was gracious and friendly, and offered up stories and memories for the project. I highly recommend you truck it over to his site to check out his work.

Then, with precious little battery power, we headed to the woods to look up Frank Kurtz, the guy who owned the first shop to sell King Cat, and who John credits for getting him to actually think about doing KC as more than a hobby.

Frank was great. He won an Eisner award, fer crissakes, and the three of us just had a blast shooting the bull about all things comics for a good hour or more. The thing that kicked ass about Frank was his attitude towards making things -- he said that people would come into his shop and say, 'I've got this great idea for a Superman story', and he'd tell them, 'don't just talk about your idea, go do it, make it someone beside Superman so you can use the character, and then come see me'.

It was great to see John just enjoying sitting back to gab about dinosaur comics or whatever else came up. We left late and tired, but happy to have made the trip.

For the film, one of the best aspects of the day though, was just getting comfortable with John in the car. On this tour, we're going to be doing a lot of driving together, so good if we're able to feel really comfortable and open around each other.

On the tech side, I realize I've got about three hours of battery life, which means I need to either get more batteries, or find a car adapter.

We'll see!

I'll try to keep posting, but I've got a crazy busy week, and then it's off to Tennessee this weekend, so.......who knows. Cheers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not a high falutin' art form

I was chatting with Noah yesterday, and he was bugging me to put up a clip from the Jeffrey Brown interview from a week or so ago, so here it is. One of the interesting things to me is the sheer volume of great cartooning happening in Chicago -- which I'm sure will bowl me over more thoroughly when I go to zinefest this weekend.

So I've started asking Chicago folks, 'what the hell IS it about Chicago'. This is Jeff's answer. I want to add that I have a really funny clip from this interview, but I'm saving it for the 'outtakes' reel.

In other news, I've been working to set up the interview with Anne Elizabeth Moore. In anticipation of the interview I went out and picked up her book 'Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity' which I'm working through, and enjoying. You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore.

John -- I believe -- is in Chicago today. Tonight is the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) comics symposium, and afterwards we're interviewing a couple of his old friends. Should be good! By the way, I'm going to suggest that in future, when doing a symposium, it be marketed as 'putting the simp back in symposium'. Funny, no?

I won't lie, the last couple days have been really tough, anxiety wise, as I get ready for this trip with John, everything seems to be sort of backing up behind me. Despite working for fifteen years as a community organizer for progressive and lefty causes, I truly fear change, and the bottom line is, I really hate the idea of being away from Crystal for two weeks. But it'll be fun. I swear.

I took my camera in to get a good once over, and realized he needs a name. I'm going with 'Buddy' for a few reasons.

A) Buddy Glass was the fictional chronicler of the Glass family. He documented the scene, as it were. Also, his older brother was Seymour, who our car is named after.

B) Buddy Holly. Just, well, Buddy Holly.

C) When I don't know someone's name, but I know the person (that is, I've forgotten their name, awkwardly), I call them 'Buddy', as in 'Hey Budddy, great to see you!' etc. etc.

D) Ole Jerry David passed away this year, and I was saddened by the number of people who said, 'he was alive?!?'

Ok, that's it. Enjoy the clip. I'm going to try to get a good Laura Mars clip up before I go, but I'm not promisin' anything!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm talking too much, perhaps

Just sat watching a bunch of the Jeffrey Brown interview, and god DAMN I talk a lot. I need to get better at shutting the f' up, and letting people talk. I think I'm getting better at it, but still.... it gets tiring hearing my own damn voice yammering along.

I had a great time with Laura Mars, who played with John in a bunch of early bands, and got loads and loads of sweet memorabilia -- posters, flyers, demo tapes etc. etc. The most exciting piece is the video her dad made of T.A.C. playing at 'A Taste of Hoffman Estates' during July 4th weekend, 1989.

Weirdly, July 3rd was the day I saw The Sugarcubes, P.I.L. and New Order in upstate NY at the Darien Lake amusement park. Also, July 5th, Seinfeld premiered. Such big events......

I'm not posting clips of that show as Laura was interested in putting some of it up on YouTube, and frankly, I want to save the better stuff for the film.

In other news, John P. is on the road, headed for Chicago, and we've set up a busy busy busy filming schedule here in Chicago, and then once on the road will just sort of film non stop. Likely the updates will get further and fewer between -- unlike John I'm not posting a month's worth of updates in advance.

I think that's it for now. If you're in Chicago, come on out for Zine Fest at Quimby's this weekend!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When I said 'no', I meant it

It's a gorgeous day here in Chicago Illinois, or so it would seem. Yesterday I was able to re-log a bunch of tapes, and log in tapes of the Jeffrey Brown and Joe Chiappetta interviews. Got 'em looking really good.

We went to the Art Institute on Sunday, as it was the last free day (they had the whole month of February free, and I discovered that fact on the 26th). As I walked around, doing my best Cameron in front of that Seurat painting used in Ferris Bueller, I naturally started thinking about the artists in the museum and the ones I've been chatting with, and obviously, John Porcellino.

I know others have spoken far more eloquently to this point than I could hope to, but it makes me want to pull my hair out when I think of how different forms of art are viewed within society, and in particular how comics/cartoons are viewed as a lesser form of art when compared to basically anything else. I'm not even talking about Caravaggio here!

My 'definition' of art, as it were, is that it is the by-product of how a person grapples with the unanswerable questions in life, primarily, 'what the heck are we doing here?' and 'what happens after we die?'

They ask the question, and the 'answer' they came up with is their 'art product'. It can be pretty, funny, ugly, profound, sad, shallow, deep, or pretty much anything else.

It's how a person relates to the world around them, both physically and emotionally. I confess, I'm sort of one of those people who views a crumpled up straw wrapper on a restaurant table as 'art' in some ways.

(As I write this, I'm vaguely wondering if John P. is going 'Uh-oh, I'm going on the road with this hippie?!?')

I think the benefit art gives to society is in how it helps other people define THEIR place in the world, and ask they questions THEY need to ask.

I do believe that's why......
a) There's a lot of really bad art. If anyone can do it, and it's sort of everywhere, well then the quality is going to -- on regular occasions -- be not so great.

b) Art is subjective. This gets into the positives and negatives of art criticism (which I'd like to avoid here) , but it's hard to deny the old adage, 'one person's trash is another's treasure'.

c) It's important to have some amount of technical skill, and it's ok to judge art. Just because everyone can do it, doesn't mean that it's all speaking to you. Just because it's good for the person to DO it, doesn't mean it's good for everyone to experience it. A little practice makes everything better.

Anyway, my point here is that I think it's FANTASTIC that the 'art world' has embraced certain kinds of outsider art -- graffiti, mural work, guerilla political stuff, and so on. But doesn't it make sense they'd have a little love for comics?

I looked at the comic up top, and then one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings, and the only real difference was the nagging voice in my mind that people would go, "You're comparing John to VAN GOGH!?!? Give me a BREAK!"

But that's only because VVG has a rep. Forget about that. Look at the two pieces -- free of fame/value baggage -- and you'll see (I think) some of the same tensions, some of the same phrasings, and well, maybe agree that they could be in the same room.

I mean, assuming John would color his in.

I have a lot more thoughts on this, but do need to do things today like my day job, pay bills, go for a run, do the dishes, etc. etc. etc. BUT my whole (original) point is that while the AIC doesn't have comic art, they do have a very very respectable comic selection in one of their shops. And --- surprise surprise -- John P. and Noah Van Sciver are in it!

That's right, nestled in among all the other hip indie cartoonists were two copies of our very own John P.'s King Cat Classix. Way to go John!

Then I started thumbing through a copy of 'The Comics Journal' and thought, 'well surely Noah's in this one', and sure enough -- it's the one with the John P. interview, which is kind of amazing.

Not bad for a couple of self publishers! Good work, boys.

Oh, in film news, I've relaxed A BUNCH. I think I was getting super antsy/stressed thinking, 'holy shit, people KNOW I'm doing this, I gotta get it done!' But, if it's going to be good, I've got to take the time to make it good. So, well, there. I'm giving myself a year to get it finished, and if it needs longer, it'll let me know, and I'll let y'all know.

The John P. clip, BTW, comes from a great site called What Things Do, which I strongly recommend.

PS -- Let me add a PS here, because that voice is nagging pretty strongly. I'm not trying to be melodramatic, saying, 'oh he's like van gogh', I'm really not. I'm wanting to point out that Van Gogh's work -- while amazing -- is wildly exaggerated (largely because of the costs of it), and when taken at face value, there are a good number of legitimate comparisons, and that the bottom line is good art speaks to you. These guys both speak to me, and in surprisingly similar ways -- not the least of which being their (accidental) vows of poverty.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some good things coming to a head soonly

First of all, my apologies. I had hoped to have a clip up today of Joe C. plugging his new endeavor -- a science fiction novel he wrote -- which is pretty sweet. It's coming out this summer, it's $10, and from what I can tell it seems pretty good. I'll be reading the whole thing and posting some thoughts up here (along with the previously promised clip of him talking about it.

In the meantime you can jump on over to for more info on that project, and his comic 'Silly Daddy'.

I think I'm going to officially jump down to two posts a week -- primarily because the idea/thought of updating this blog daily, or even semi daily, is both making me antsy, but also because the whole project is just slow going, and will be, until I'm done.

Things I'm working on this week.

-- interview with Laura Mars -- super psyched about this one!
-- logging and capturing Jeffrey Brown and Joe C. interviews (many misfires on technology this weekend, sadly)
-- doing master interview schedule
-- amping up for 2 weeks on the road with John P. to commence in three weeks -- logistics, yadda yadda yadda

Think that's it.