Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You know who's incredible?

Poster for Blammo #8 Release Party
Noah Van Sciver. That's who.

Luke and I were roommates for a year or so, and realized we were both book nerds/collectors. He got me a little more into collecting books of value, and I got him a little more into comics. We bought and saved up books for a year or more, boxes filling every corner of our rented house.

On May 1, we finally convinced the folks at Wax Trax records to rent us the 'in-between' space. That is, the 1000 sf shopfront in- between their vinyl and cd shops. It was left in disarray after a failed attempt to use it as a bike-repair/third hand record shop by one of the owner's wife's family members.

We had no time to waste, so we set a June 1, 2008 opening date, Luke quit his job, I took vacation from mine, and we spent each of the next thirty days cleaning & pricing books, deciding on the layout of the shop, buying and placing shelves, and yes, cleaning out the refuse of thousands of records and hundreds upon hundreds of scattered bike parts. We worked from seven am til midnight most days, seven days  week. We enlisted the help of friends, and generally had a blast. I'd rank May of 2008 as one of the best months of my life.

Blammo #2 Release Party at Kilgore
It was sometime in there that a scrawny kid walked into the shop, looked around, saw the books and
 comics, but was too scared to talk to either of us, so promptly ran back out. I don't think either Luke or I noticed him, as we were likely in the alley hauling old bike parts.

After we were open a couple of days, he came back and spoke with Luke. He asked if we'd sell his comic  book, Blammo #1. Luke said yes and bought three copies for $7.20. The next time we worked together, Luke told me all about this local cartoonists who had brought his stuff in. I read through a copy of Blammo #1 and loved it.

It was rough. It was raw. It clearly ripped off Crumb to a point were royalties may have been due. The writing was decent, but not great. Either way though, we were ecstatic. Our goal had been to help promote comics locally, and part of that would be to promote local comics. So, as out first customers trickled in, we'd say, 'hey check out Blammo, it's by a LOCAL kid -- it's really good'.

Kilgore Bookmark
We sold out of the first three copies within a week or so, and when Noah came back in I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his comic.

Over time he and I became good friends, Kilgore began publishing Blammo for him (which allowed us to become comic publishers, and allowed him to stop worrying about printing up five digital copies every time someone wanted one).

The thing we loved about Noah right away was how much he wanted it. How truly hard he was willing to work to become a great cartoonist. I remember saying to Luke early on that Noah had no other choice in life. This was the thing he could do, and I certainly meant it as a compliment.

The second thing we loved is that he WORKED for it. This guy - like Crumb - always has a sketchbook he's drawing in while you're chatting with him. He works crummy jobs then draws til 3am. He sends out stuff to everybody. He networks, and put stuff into so many anthologies it's crazy.

How hard does this guy work? I just added it up -- since 2008, he's put out 28 solo books -- chapbooks, minis, pamphlets, softcover and hardcover books -- for a total of nearly 900 pages.

This means that since 2008, he's done, on average, 150 pages a year for publication. That's a realized page every 2.4 days, a level impossible to most folks, including many working cartoonists.

But outside of his hunger, he has gotten better over time. Each new issue of Blammo is his best. Every time he puts out a one-shot like 1999 or The Death of Elijah Lovejoy, both the writing and the artwork have improved over the last issue.

The Hypo outtake - Noah decided to leave
much of the political parts of the story out
And his Lincoln book, The Hypo? When he was working on it, he'd come in and show me chapters or section which I'd never see again. He probably wrote & inked over 500 pages to get to the 192 that make up that excellent graphic novel. At one point, he realized he'd drawn modern door knobs, so went back and re-drew all the doorknobs as they were in the 1830's.

He's careful to mix things up. A little auto-bio -- some screamingly funny, some heartbreakingly sad (an early story about his first pair of long pants was the turning point for me, in terms of really seeing him as a high quality artist, and a fella I just wanted to hug), incredible history comics like The Hypo, Elijah Lovejoy, The Denver Spiderman, humor like Chicken Strips (still a fave of mine), fairytales like the Fox and the Hound, and just plain old stories about regular stiffs in stories like Abbey's Road, St. Cole, Julio' Day.

Mixing it up like this has really helped Noah become a great story teller, in addition to a fine artist. His work ethic and commitment to comics will one day make him a master story teller.

As of right now, I know he's nearly finished with St. Cole (a ~100 page story being serialized online), Blammo #9, The Lizard Laughed, I'm guessing his Joseph Smith book, and likely a few record covers, one-shots, and random commission work, all of which I can't wait to see.

I have nothing but respect for his level of work and the quality of that work. It's really a treat to get to call him a friend, because it turns out, he's also a really nice guy. I recently bought a couple copies of his October 2013 diary comic, 'More Mundane', and he threw in the artwork for his Built to Spill t-shirt design. He knows I'm a huge BTS fan, and this meant the world to me.

He loves comics like nobody else I know, and he learns from them in a way that I'm in awe of. Getting to watch this guy grow and learn as a cartoonist, in addition to getting to spend countless hours chatting about comics with him, has been one of the greatest highlights of opening up Kilgore.

The Hypo (Fantagraphics): 192 pps, $24.99 (if you order from FB, you get the free mini, 'Who's Dead in the White House')
Blammo 6-8 (Kilgore): 32-40 pps, $5 each
The Death of Elijah Lovejoy (2D Cloud): 28 pages, $5
St. Cole (serialized at 'The Expositor') soon to be in book form (we hope): FREE for now
1999 (Retrofit): out of print, but Noah might still have some bootleg copies -- check his site for contact info.

Until next time, read more comics.

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