November 8, 2016
I’m gearing up for my appearance this weekend at Wichita’s Air Capital Comiccon and I’ll be bringing a new comic (in addition to my “Watusi and the Emerald Serpent” roadshow) along with me. Well, maybe “new” isn’t quite the right word; here’s the story behind it…
The Smeary Soapbox Press-ents 100-Page Inventory Closeout Super Spectacular is my way of thinning out my backstock in a way that also pays homage to DC’s 100 Page Super Spectaculars of the early 1970s. Assembled from extra copies of my one-shot comics, each copy has its own unique mix of content (although I did make sure they each contained the characters mentioned on the cover: Watusi, Flamin’ Frank, FooF!, Professor Harvey, and the Guy with a Hammer!), as well as an original convention sketch. Given that nature of this collection, the material included varies, ranging from just a few years ago back to my earliest days as a self-publisher in the 1980s! The mix could include a sampling of my earliest superhero parody comics, a smattering of the annual holiday comics I’ve made since 1985, one-off comic “singles”, and/or comics featuring Watusi and his costars. The drawings may be rough, the stories may be silly, and they may even take me down a path I ultimately decided not to follow. But many of these comics are work I’m still proud of, if for no other reason than they led me to become the creator I am today.
I had fun “curating” the material that went into these copies, and I think my binding comes pretty close to capturing the feel of those great old 100-pagers. Check it out if you’re able to make it to the Air Capital Comiccon– I hope to see you there! But if you can’t make it, here’s a selection of some of the better sketches that ended up in the copies…
August 28, 2012
Last time I wrote about the seven-year run of my ongoing Armen Hammer comic series, and how it came to an unexpected end in 1989. About three years later (on the 10th Anniversary of the first issue, in fact) I attempted a revival of the character.
In late 1992 I found myself with some extra time on my hands, so I decided to reformat the series and attempt to distance the main character from its obvious inspiration (How successful was I? See for yourself here). In a surprisingly short time I re-edited and reprinted the entire 11 issues of the series (along with the Pantheon Comics crossover and the Giant-Size issue), adding 3 new issues and 3-D special in the process. Unfortunately, I was without a decent comic shop or connection to other cartoonists to get the word out about it (when SPCE folded a lot of my small press peers seemed to drop out of the scene, as I did for a time when I spent too much time drawing for classes and clients and not for myself). So once my schedule filled up I left the series hanging once again … though this time I think even fewer people noticed.
Since that time I haven’t really utilized the character except for a 20th Anniversary essay in Larry’s Kitchen #42 (in APA-5 #332) and a story for 2008’s LarryVillains United. But I didn’t entirely abandon the foundation I laid in those early comics, either. Instead of focusing on the title character, I’ve found myself repurposing many of the incidental characters and ideas that I associate with those stories in my later comics— from Minerva Stone to Flamin’ Frank to the “Continuity and Vine” strips … and even in Watusi’s milieu.
While I was working on the 90’s revival I came to realize that the Guy with a Hammer’s story is not an ongoing arc, but rather a novel-like structure with a beginning and an end. Maybe knowing how it all ends has cooled some of my enthusiasm for the character (along with the fact that I have little interest in writing– let along drawing– 80-odd issues of superhero comics). But, for better or worse, the character keeps rearing his block head in my sketch book, and the concept of that story structure develops a little more each time. And since I’ve learned to never say never with this character, chances are good that at some point I’ll revisit him … if only to get his story out of my system.
Maybe I’ll even finish it in time for the 40th anniversary…
August 7, 2012
Earlier this year I wrote about my first self-published comics, a fan-fiction series of Firestorm comics I created with my friend Robert Macke 30 years ago. Inspired by how good inked comics copied in multiples looked, over the following summer I inked the first issue of my solo title Armen Hammer, a thinly veiled Thor knockoff merged with an animated Arm & Hammer baking soda commercial ca. 1980. Over the previous couple of years I had created a fair number of comics with this character (probably 10 or 12) in pencil on notebook paper, jumping around to different points (and “issue numbers”) in the character’s history. But in the summer of 1982 I finally inked the first one into a finished form with a #1 that I copied and distributed once school started up again that August; my first solo comic was pretty popular among my cartoonist friends who read it at the time … and now you can read it in all its spelling-error riddled glory as a downloadable .pdf e-book.
[August 2015 UPDATE: the .pdf version of this early effort (still FREE) is now available in my online store!]
Even though Armen Hammer was probably the least original concept of those I had created up to that point (including a more standard superhero comic, and a quirky teamup between an opera singer and an inventor), this was the comic that I stuck with and developed more than any others. In hindsight, that turns out to have been a lucky break for me, as I discovered superhero parody was more fun to write than straight superhero action. I quickly moved on from parodying Thor and into more original stories and a general satire of superhero conventions (though early on using the kind of gratuitous foul language typically associated with teenage “creativity”). I published two more full-size issues by the time I graduated high school (while also puttering around but never finishing various comics with my friends and drawing two years of editorial cartoons for my high school paper, the Heights Highlighter). Then, while making copies of a strip I attempted to self-syndicate to high school papers, I met Jon E., a cartoonist working at Kinko’s, who keyed me into small press for the first time (and explaining the concept of the digest comic, to boot)!
That summer I remember staying up all night and finishing Armen Hammer #4, which I published in October of 1985 (as both my first digest comic and the first use of the Smeary Soapbox Press imprint). By the summer of 1986 I had discovered Tim Corrigan’s SPCE, which introduced me to a wider network of other self-publishing cartoonists, and over the next 3 years I kept pretty active publishing Armen Hammer comics (you can see the full list here) along with other titles. Over time I found myself enjoying the incidental characters more than my protagonist, who was tied too directly to his source inspiration for my tastes, and when in 1989 I published Armen Hammer #11, I didn’t realize it would be the end of the road for the character as I’d known him.
But it turns out he wouldn’t stay out of the picture for long. More on that next time …