Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Interview with underground comix artist and author ET Russian



RING OF FIRE ANTHOLOGY FUNDRAISER!!



                        ET Russian is, to many readers, perhaps the most exciting cartoonist they've never heard of. To others of us, Russian is a folk hero. A living legend among Northwest Homocore aficionados, an ever-evolving arts activist, a genderqueer artist-to-watch-out-for. Particularly worthy of anticipation is Russian's solo anthology, Ring of Fire: a collection of personal essays, zine reprints, illustrations, interviews, and of course--comics, set for release from Left Bank Books, Seattle. As for me, I am beyond excited at the advent of Russian's latest artistic endeavor, as I have been a fan for many years. Within its covers, I look forward to reading excerpts from Russian's out-of-print zines (much read, often lent, and long-lost), interviews with Russian's artistic peers and heroes, and a girth of exciting new material from one of my favorite artists working today. ET agreed to meet with me this weekend via satellite (phone) from Seattle. I had a migraine, and ET was recuping from stress injuries to their arms, the result of a broken wheelchair. Still we managed to pull off a lively conversation, most of which I will share with you below. This post is meant as both an intro to those of you unfamiliar with ET's work, and a shameless plug for pre-ordering the book Ring of Fire through this fundraising site, thus bringing it ever-closer to material reality. There is only a couple days left on the fundraiser, Order yours now! And please enjoy the interview..


AM: So, basically I wanted to go sort of far back into the history of ET Russian. A folk legend...folk hero is how I think of you.

ETR: Oh my God, Murph...

AM: Because I feel like a lot of people knew you, knew your name and knew your pen-name/stage name, and knew your work. I didn't meet you until gosh, like five or six years after I knew of who you were...I'm trying to think; I think The Transfused was where I first heard your pen-name, Hellery Homosex. Do you want to talk about The Transfused?

ETR: Oh my God...[chuckles] um, Okay. The Transfused was a rock opera that was performed in 1999, I think, in Olympia Washington, written by Nomy Lamm and The Need. It was an absolutely incredible experience, a hundred artists collaborated on that show. And at the time, the Olympia Washington art and music scene was really peaking in terms of its momentum and creativity, with all the music labels like K [Records], and Kill Rock Stars and Yo-Yo Records, and Ladyfest was happening and Yo-Yo A Go-Go and all those music festivals. And there was also a lot of drag shows happening at the time, there was a big queer community. And punk was obviously--punk culture, art and politics--was the big thread throughout all that...no, it [Transfused] was 2000--right after the WTO [protests in Seattle], so there was that whole political excitement in Washington in the Seattle area, and Olympia is right outside of Seattle. So there was a real strong feeling of community and hope at the time. And so I think The Transfused kinda came out of some of that energy, from the WTO, and the successes the activists had at the WTO. It overflowed into The Transfused, which is really a story of hope, resistance--community resistance against corporate and government fascism--and it had a hopeful ending. I was the assistant director, and the make-up artist. Doing the make-up was really, really fun. I got to make a lot of prosthetic pieces for the show.

AM: Prosthetic pieces?

ETR: Yeah, like prosthetic noses that were custom molded. And that was a lot of fun.




Premier performance of The Transfused Intro, Olympia, 2000




AM: You are an artist of many talents. And you're also a collaborator extroardinaire. Making a list of all the things I've known of that you've done is pretty incredible. Because it's so all over the board with the medium and the ways you choose to express yourself. But let's talk about comics! And where comics fits in there. Because I also read your zine Ring of Fire, sometime right around seeing The Transfused. Your comics seems to be a consistent thread, like--you've done all of these different things, but you've consistently done comics. Is that 
right?







ETR: Um..yeah, I've been doing comics this whole time. Well, visual art. Comics and illustration. I think of myself as an illustrator.

AM: An illustrator. What does that mean to you?

ETR: Well, I think one image, a single image, can tell a story. But I think people typically think of comics as having multiple images, or multiple panels. And so I do do those style of comics, but I also do a lot of single-image pieces which you could call comics,  but I think they are more traditionally thought of as illustration.




"Long-Haired Tomboy" by ET Russian. 
[pic shows hair twisted around the small wheel of a wheelchair]




AM: I think that's interesting because I feel like--in the comics industry right now, it's really kinda--it's a gendered idea that--and bear with me here--

ETR: Uh-huh..

AM: That comics have to be something on a page that has a bunch of panels, or boxes..and I feel like I was always attracted, as a kid, to work that would be one picture that had a lot of stuff going on, or that told a story. And I've always included that in my definition of comics. For instance, with [my comic] I Still Live, a lot of people called that 'an adult children's book'.

ETR: Really?

AM: Yeah, I've heard people say that because there's so many full-page 'panels'.

ETR: Hmm.

AM: And to me, that's kind of a gendered idea, because for the last hundred years, women illustrators could only get jobs making children's books. Or creating work for children's audiences. I just think that's interesting. because I know a lot of men, (and genderqueer or trans people) that use single-panel stuff in their comics work. But I feel like sometimes peoples' definition of comics has kind of been this way of writing off a bunch of illustrators that could be included. I was excited that, finally, Maurice Sendak is being included--though he's now passed away--in the conversation about comics. Because he's a children's book illustrator, but you know, he also does things that have word balloons and such.
But back to Ring of Fire, which was the first comics zine of yours that I read. I think about as being all comics. But it wasn't, was it?

ETR: No, not at all. [laughing] Oh my god Murph, your such a comics nerd! Haha. That's amazing. [laughing]

AM: Well, I guess that's what stuck out in my mind. But then I thought about it and was like, "That was a really hefty zine.' I think there was a lot of writing--just writing--in it. Is that true?




Ring of Fire zine #2, ET Russian
[image is purple on black, of two feet from the calves down, one where's a combat boot, the other, a wooden stump. The calves are hairy :) smiley face]



ETR: Yeah, it is. I mean, my work has always been very multi-media. I mean...my creativity is very fluid; the kind of artists I relate to the most are the kind that dabble in many different mediums, different media, different forms of expression. But maybe it's the themes that are consistent. Or the place where the person is comics from that's consistent; maybe there's a certain quality or a feeling that they're bringing to the work that's consistent. But, yeah. i mean, porn, poetry, comics--what I think of as 'propaganda art'. Like, single-illustrations that sort of have a propaganda quality to them; and essays. I think these are a lot of the main things I create. And I think for me, they all go together.  A lot of my writing comes form my own life--although I've really tried to move away fromthat a lot. And there's a big part of me that is a historian and a documentarian. I believe that documenting historyand culture is vital. And that's what motivates me to interview other people, and write essays about other peopleand their stories. To try to bring those to a wider audience.




Ride This, ET Russian
[black and white drawing shows two people on a wheelchair, 
leaning off the chair with hands outstretched. It appears they are doing a 
dance, or perhaps something sexual]




AM: Well, that aspect--you documentarian-ness...your documentarianism? And your recording history, and your propaganda-style art is what--it's sort of...well, when I started conception of Gay Genius the anthology, I couldn't imagine it without your work in it. Because I was envisioning it along the lines of history and documentation...and speaking of which, can you talk about your piece for Gay Genius that you wrote and drew about the historical figure of Tanis Doe?

ETR: Oh gosh...well so I did a comic for Gay Genius, edited by you. Which is an amazing book. That was exciting because--well, two reasons: one, you know I barely knew Tanis. But she made such a huge impression and I knew that I wanted to do an art piece about her. I had been thinking about doing a People's History Poster about her, but then when I found out about Gay Genius,  and the theme being 'history', then I felt like that was what I wanted to do a comic about. Just being able to offer a tribute to her and bring her work to a wider audience was exciting. And then the other thing was, I had never had my comics published in a book. So that was the first time that happened. And that was huge for me.

AM: Very cool. And who was Tanis?

ETR: Oh, who was Tanis? Tanis Doe was..[chuckles]..Tanis Doe was a really wild character who was a professor, a PHD, Canadian, mixed, Native, queer, disabled, Deaf, trouble-maker and academic who was teaching at the U-dub School of Social Work for a while. The U-Dub is the University of Washington. And the first time I saw Tanis was at the queer disability conference in the Bay area in the nineties. No--in the 2000s I think, 2003 or 2004. It's in the comic, I think...and I think, you know, Tanis was really open about being crazy and mixed and sex-positive. She talked about how--because of her multiple disabilities, it was hard for her to have sexual relationships in the physical ways that she wanted to, so she was a big believer in sleeping with multiple partners at once. Because, even if she couldn't physically do the things she wanted to in bed, someone else in the bed could do it. So, she preferred to date couples, rather than individuals. And that was really related to her disability. And that was how she sought a satisfying sex life. Just things like that, knowing those things about her life, was such a gift.

AM: I remember getting a hold of a copy of your zine [Ring of Fire Zine #1] from somebody's zine collection--this was still in the nineties. And I was maybe 20, 21. And it did talk about sex a lot, and it talked about being a perv, and being queer, and being  gender-queer and all these things. And combining all that with the experience of disability in such a fluid way...I think that I was really lucky to be able to be exposed to that. Whether it's propaganda, your propaganda, your art, or really, you know, almost getting to read somebody else's journal--that experience of reading a zine. I feel very lucky to have been exposed to something like that at such an early age. Because people are still needing to do so much work around visibility and disability and sexuality, just in their everyday lives. And it was very cool to not have that be separate, in my explorations of identity. Unfortunately, I've given away all my zines of yours, because there's people that pick it up, they get so excited, I say, "Read it. Give it back in a little while." And they never give it back. So I'm psyched that this book is coming out.




Fetish, ET Russian
[black and white drawing of a person laying down with 
their prosthetic legs in the air. They are wearing a sexy black 
jumpsuit with elbow-length, shiny black gloves. Underneath 
the figure is the word: FETISH]





[At this point, the camera that I am using to record the speakerphone conversation I'm having with ET runs out of batteries and I have to charge it. After having a long conversation about the TV show SCANDAL, Shonda Rhimes,  Olivia Pope, and how ET--as a professional physical therapist working in a hospital as a 'day job'--has seen all 10 season's of Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy, we return to our subject, and ET discusses how Ring of Fire came about:]

ETR: So when I was eighteen I was in a big accident where I lost both my legs. And then I was in a wheelchair for a long time, and I had to learn how to walk again. And a friend of mine just assumed I would write about it. And she was like, "You're gonna write some awesome zine about this." And I was like...I thought about that. And I thought, "Okay, I should do that." But, you know, when I was a teenager in high school was when the Riot Grrrl movement  in the early nineties was really happening, and thriving. And that was a deep influence on my life. Looking  back now, I see there being a lot of shortcomings; there were a lot of things that were missing from that movement...but there were some keys elements of it that were really pivotal, and one was: self-published writing where people told their stories in a feminist way. And it was done in a do-it-yourself style where it was cheap and affordable, and you didn't have to have any formal training. And that was okay. And there was a big subculture around that. I mean, one influence on me was my friend Zan, who lives n Portland, Zan Gibbs.

AM: Zan Gibbs, I know Zan.

ETR: Yeah, and Zan wrote a zine after her mom died called, Redefining Value. And that zine I think was a huge influence on me. And also Nomy Lamm's zines about fatness, and disability, were also a huge influence on me. Especially because Nomy had comics in her zines. And she was funny!

AM: I remember reading her zine very early on. It might've been right around when I read your zine..did you include that comic in your zine?

ETR: Yeah, Nomy has a comic in one of the issues of Ring of Fire, it's called, "Fuck. I broke my leg." Actually, she has two comics. Two different ones.

AM: That comic left a real impression on me.

ETR: Okay so this is really cool cuz I like how you asked me [pre-interview] about influences from childhood and as a young adult. Annie, this is so brilliant. I think about that a lot. So you know, my parents are not academic. My dad never went to college. My mom had a lot of newspaper comics collections that she'd bought the books--and we had those around. So I read Bloom County, Cathy, For Better or For Worse, Calvin and Hobbs, and Sally Forth. [giggling on both ends] That was what we had around the house. And my mom, when she was young, had wanted to be a children's book illustrator. And when I was growing up I wasn't--we didn't really have money to be in clubs a lot, and do a lot of sports or after-school activities. But when i did do those, they were always art classes. So I had my most formal training when I was a kid, and that was where I learned how to draw and paint and sketch and things like that. We didn't have a lot of money, and so I would just spend hours and hours drawing.




[Bloom County strip by Berkeley Breathed featuring 'Cutter John', circa mid/early-eighties: ]




AM: And how about older influences, like as a teenager, young adult?

ETR: I remember when I was seventeen, and I started going--there was this feminist sex toy store in Seattle called Toys In Babeland. And as part of my early development as a young queer i would go to the sex toy store every week and just hang out for hours. Kind of looking at  things, and learning, and trying to figure out what everything was. And they actually had a huge comics section. At the lesbian-owned sex-toy store. And they also had a huge comics section at the punk records store that was called Fallout Records. That was in Seattle for almost twenty years, and those were the two places I bought comics [laughs].

AM: What were some of the titles that interested you?

ETR: Oh, I have a huge list, let me bring it up...okay. Well, one was  Hot-Head Paisan [Homocidal Lesbian Terrorist,  by Diane DiMassa], one was Molly Kiely, she did Diary of a Dominatrix and Saucy Little Tart. And then another influence was Anonymous Boy, which are like gay, punk comics--

AM---Love it. love Anonymous Boy.

ETR: Yeah. And other ones--ones I didn't find at the record store or the sex-toys store: Lynda Barry, Love & Rockets, and also The Propaganda Art of Homocult.

AM: Oh wow. I'm gonna have to look that one up.

ETR: Yeah, i think it was a British group that just did queer propaganda art, and they would wheat-paste it all over. And then, Tom of Finland, and GB Jones. 





[Drawing by: Tom of Finland]





[Drawing by: G.B. Jones] 




[Shine My Foot, Drawing by ET Russian]




AM: Who are some of your favorite artists now?

ETR:  Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, German painter Neo Rauch, Keith Haring.  I really like Gene Luen Yang's 'Boxers'and Saints' and the Lebanese cartoonist Zeina Abirached.

AM: Are there other queer and/or crip [disabled] comics artists you could point readers in the direction of? Why or why not?  

ETR: I don't often know much about the artist and where they are coming from, so I tend to like comics that feature strong female characters, and sometimes disabled characters. There are still not enough well developed queer characters or story lines in comics...so, the Saga Comics illustrated by Fiona Staples, I love her art. Wuvable Oaf-a great gay punk comic. 14 Nights by Kristina Stipetic features an anti-hero-type character who is a gay Russian public health worker missing an arm. Petit Polio by Algerian cartoonist Farid Boudjellal is about a little boy with polio and a leg brace. Special Exits by Joyce Farmer is a well told story about caregiving for aging parents. I really love the work Garry Trudeau from Doonesbury is doing about veterans with amputations and brain injuries--not only accurate, but laugh out loud funny at times.


AM: Very cool. On a not altogether different note, can you tell me about the 'disability justice' movement? And maybe a bit about how it differs from the 'disability rights' movement?



[Disability Justice, drawing by ET Russian for the collaborative 
project, Radicalphabet]





ETR: Okay. Well, disability justice is an emerging movement that has developed in the past several years, a vision mostly formed by disabled people of color, but also some white anti-racist disabled folks, across the U.S. Disability justice is not so much a thing, but a lens to view community and movement building through. And the lens is: seeing the ways in which all people and all movements are connected, keeping people with chronic illness and disabilities and our needs at the center, promoting accessibility for all people, as well as an understanding of each other's varied ability experiences. Racial justice,  economic justice, and gender and sexual liberation are core aspects of the disability justice movement.




[Erik and Yulia,  block print by ET Russian]
I n this picture, two friends regard each other, one is his motorized chair,
one in their scooter. They appear to be sharing a meal, or perhaps a joke.


ETR: A lot of people think about disability as a problem that an individual has, instead of thinking about disability as describing this vast group of people with a shared history and culture. Many people think of disability awareness as: "Oh, we need to get a sign language interpreter," or, "We need to build this ramp," but disability justice focuses not only on individual access needs, but big picture stuff that's relevant to disabled people, and to everyone else, too: poverty, health care, housing, racism, and immigration rights.






Sasha Dubrul, [co-founder of the Icarus Project], by ET Russian
in this picture we see a man, Sasha, preparing food in a kitchen, looking down, concentrating.


The 'disability rights' movement was important in many ways. Without it, we wouldn't have things like Social Security, healthcare and education for kids with disabilities, and the entire Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even Canada does not have an equivalent to the ADA. But, the leaders in the disability rights movement were mostly people who were class-privileged, straight, white, men--people already granted privilege from our society. And that movement hasn't really adapted to the greater needs of the community over time, hence the emergence of disability justice.






This is a picture of a femme lady grinning and looking at us as she zips up her boot.




ETR: Patty Berne is one of the co-founders of the disability justice movement [and the co-founder and director of the ground-breaking performance, Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of InvisibilityBecause of the nature of her disabilities, she was very isolated. So Sins [Invalid] also played a key role in the founding of the disability justice movement. And of course, racial justice is a key element of that.


AM: Speaking of Patty, can you talk about the collaboration you two did?

ETR: Oh yeah, so at the time Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and I were writing 'Crip SEx Moments,' a performance for Sins about our sex lives and dating other people with disabilities. Patty said, 'Oh I've got a story..', and I made her tell it to me, and then I made her let me record her telling it. I transcribed it and set it to a comic, as a film. Drawing can be such a lonely artform, and collaboration can do a lot for that.






[Patty, block print by ET Russian]
This picture shows Patty in her motorized chair, concentrating as she types at her computer.


AM: What are you working on now? besides the book, of course.

ETR: Well I've been working on several 'video-comics' [like the above collaboration with Patty]. That's where I do illustrations, photograph them, and then edit them in a video program, setting them to voice-overs. For instance, I'm doing one about a friend with a brain injury based on stories of taking their service dog on walks. And one about my friends, a disabled transgender couple who just had a baby...What I am most excited about this book [Ring of Fire] is, it shows my development of myself as a person, as well as an artist.

END OF INTERVIEW. <3 p="">


ET Russian is a white, disabled, female-assigned-at-birth genderqueer anarchist human who uses the gender-neutral pronoun 'they'. [For the sake of non-argument with the grammar police, here is a wiki-link detailing the words' optional usage as a gender-neutral pronoun, dictionary approved]. In addition to the projects we discussed above, we didn't even get to how ET has been a contributing artist to all three Collective Tarot incarnations, co-directed the underground queer cult-classic Third Antenna: A Documentary About the radical History of Drag, contributed to the Radicalphabet project, and regularly attends the Comics and Medicine Conference. Another interview, another day.




[ETR , with art and work station]





You can meet ET Russian IN PERSON this weekend at Seattle's Short Run Comics Fest. Visit ET and Andy Panda at table G-33, and check out ETR's video-comic during the animation screenings. And you can pre-order the book RING OF FIRE here, if you hurry!!

xo, Murph



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Doris, Bob, Rick, and Lucy

I came up with this blog entry last night when I was still awake at 5:00 in the morning with no restful sleep in sight. It is one of my favorite comics and serendipity stories and it is epic, so I hope you enjoy it.
Here goes...



                     I freaking love estate sales. I dream of them at night: endless, labyrinthine houses chock full of amazing Things. Material evidence of a life that once was, hovering at that moment just before the Things get dispersed amongst hungry wolves, collectors consuming the remnants of a life, parsing them out until they no longer resemble the puzzle pieces in the portrait of their former owner. The Thing now exists as a new entity, to be absorbed into the body of the vulture. It is a magical object, imbued with the essence of many years, maybe loved--cherished in an almost sacred way, or maybe gifts received from stranger-esque relatives, languishing for years in a crawl space only now to find a real home.

         Sometimes in my dreams the estate sale is my Grandmother's. I realize with horror that I recognize the items laid out and meticulously labeled with price tags, I see the hordes of hoarders, antique dealers swarming onto the precious items, these my inheritance, her lineage, being swept up and in an instant dismembered. Disappeared.

          I go to estate sales because I am obsessed with STUFF. It makes for many problems. But I have learned so much from the study of once ordinary items: a musty book on a stranger's shelf; archaic undergarments and bathroom products; ancient, unidentifiable implements of dental pain; bewildering appliances and and unidentified photographic accessories. I have garnered so much joy in my life from discarded items and relics amassed during a lifetime of rifling through the bins, free boxes, junk stores (RIP Store II). The satisfaction of knowing there will be an awesome estate sale when I die is worth the shame that comes from being a hoarder.

            It's not often you get to wander through a stranger's home unattended. A big part of the estate sale experience is the chance to explore other people's houses, to witness it as-is, as it once was--perhaps how it existed for decades--before it's all gone. The house is a time capsule, evidence of a soon-to-be-buried past. As witness, I feel a reverence. I sense the spirit of the recently departed. They wonder: who are these people? how could this have happened? I piece together the lives of these spirits with my eyes like Sherlock Holmes looking for clues as to the identity of the individual. I try to sense who they are--who they were. I thank them for the opportunity to purchase their belongings. I salvage old family photos with a sadness and true caring. I try to have as much respect as possible, yet knowing that I am one of the wolves.


           Doris was a special lady. I could tell that from the people gathered in her home. I turned left at the sight of the tell-tale generic estate-sale sign (indicating less likelihood of its already having been picked over by dealers in charge of the sale). I've never been an early bird--though I envy their tenacity. I often come late, after the house has been picked over, left to wonder what sort of gems and stories are now lost in the dispersal. This time I am in luck: the place was pretty well inhabited by collectors and the curious, but the pickings were still good. I knew once I stepped in the door that this was a sure thing.

            Doris lived just off Alberta Street on 20th in Northeast Portland. She was of a bygone era and had lived to see the Great Change, the influx first of the punks, queers and indy-rockers, then the artists and the clowns and the aging white yuppies with their jogging strollers and plenty of free time. At the moment of her passing, the neighborhood has reached the tipping point; the near-final stage in the gentrification of a historically working-class predominantly black neighborhood. [this story took place several years ago now]

            Doris was a white lady. I saw her in photographs, in ancient yearbook pictures. She appeared to have been a spinster, or perhaps long widowed--there were no men's clothes. She probably died of age-related causes--ladies named Doris often do. Most interestingly to me, Doris was a COLLECTOR of collections. And the president of the regional chapter of a postcard collecting club.

            The front room was filled with shoe boxes and shoe boxes full of postcards mostly from the 70s and 80s priced 4 for a dollar. Here's a sample:







































and finally, THIS amazing photo of the profile of a woman spirit in the ash of Mt. St. Helens. It is by far the most remarkable photo of the eruption that I've ever come across [photo credit: Jack Leffler/SKY EYE May 1980, postcard published by: Coral Lee]


           One of the back rooms was filled with twice as many shoeboxes of postcards, more postcards than I've ever seen before or since. I had begun to rummage through these when I felt eyes on me. An elderly white lady was squinting at me with a stern expression on her face. I realized with horror (as I had already amassed a short stack of amazingly weird antique postcards) that this was the "bid room." The thousands and thousands of cards in her were BID ONLY. My flipping hand recoiled. This was too rich for my blood. I put my postcards back in their shoeboxes and went upstairs.

            It is incredible to see these ancient houses in their pre-gutted, pre-renovated, pre-flipped and turned-over-for-an-outrageous-profit-state. Some parts looked as if they hadn't changed since the fifties, others since the thirties. At the top of the stairs was a narrow winding hard-wood hallway. There were two tiny sloped-ceiling bedrooms, wallpaper stained with age. On a table in one of the rooms were several framed pictures of cats. Some were paintings, some were photos of old friends. One was a framed studio portrait of a stocky, surly-looking Russian Blue dressed as an angel, with a gown, wings and a glittery wire halo-hat.
It was signed:

To Doris,
thanks for everything.
Love,
Bob

                 I gasped. It was Bob Weather Cat! A Portland celebrity the caliber of Ramblin Rod or Tom Peterson, Bob the Weather Cat was a fixture of the KATU News weather forecast during my childhood. He would come on for moments at a time dressed as a policeman, a sailor, a witch, or even Willie Nelson. Click on this link to see some choice internet archives of Bob's fabulous career. It has to be seen to be believed.
I bought the angel portrait and gave it to my friend because Bob looked just like her cat CatFlag, the coolest cat in the world.

                   In the next room, I found this nifty little book about some unlikely friends:


              I left that room and at the end of the hallway I saw a tiny doorway. I stooped underneath it and walked out into a large room that smelled horrible. I could barely breathe through the musty odor of hundreds of glass perfume-filled Avon bottles, the kind shaped like cars and hats and boots and ballerinas and things. Like this:


               At the other end of the room was a long crawl-space/storage closet. I ducked into it and my eyes lit up. There were stacks of old programs from plays and musicals, Ice Capades (what is it about old ladies and ice skating? It brings out our fighting spirit, I guess), circuses, Blazer games, Rose Festivals, Sesame Street Live, et al. I lust after ephemera like this. I'm obsessed with "photo reference". I only wish I'd had more money at the time so I could have bought them all, beautiful and bizarre. The stuff was dirt cheap, .25, .50 cents apiece--but I was strapped. I bought about seven, gave some away to friends and kept some.
           
                   Among the programs, I came across a comic book: A Treasury of Victorian Murder by Rick Geary.

                   I vaguely recognized the drawing style, his faces had a bizarre look to them like those baked-apple dolls, or the ones made out of panty hose with the pinched features and the butts in the back. You don't know those? Ask your Grandma.

                   So, I tore through this book of 'true', unsolved Victorian crimes and learned he had many more books like it that came after. I quickly became obsessed with Rick Geary. A prolific cartoonist for National Lampoon magazine and others, Rick is a cartooning veteran and creator of the amazing Treasury of Victorian Murder series, nine volumes total (and now he has begun the Treasury of 20th Century Murder. He has a new book out about Sacco & Vanzetti that I must  get my hands on).

                    I was obsessed (and still am) with historic and non-fiction comics, as well as all things Victorian (or Edwardian). I am not one of those serial killer/mass murderer-obsessed folks, but I have read a few true crime books in my day. One of the things I really appreciate about Rick's books is the minimal gore factor while still leaving you chilled and checking over your shoulder as you read--as well as his meticulously researched historical illustrations. Did Doris enjoy this book I wondered? Or did she stash it up in the far recesses of her house for a reason?

                    I could tell from reading Rick's books that he must be a collector too. There was just too much detail there for him not to have drawers and stacks and shelves of papers, books and visual aids. My suspicions were confirmed when I was reading one of those giant Comics Journal anthologies from Fantagraphics. It had a short piece in it by Rick about postcard collecting. I thought of Doris, wondered if the connection in my mind was coincidental.

                     A year or so later I took a continuing ed comics class at PNCA and made my first real comic, a biography of Lucy Ann Lobdell. Here it is in its entirety, circa 2006:




























































































Around this time, I made up my mind to write Rick about Doris, her postcards, and tell him how much I liked his comics. Here is an excerpt from that email:

                           "I suspected you were also a collector, because I doubt anybody on this world today could draw what you draw without spending time looking at and loving old pictures and relics from other times. [Doris'] attic is where I found your book and it was one of those serendipitous instances a collector lives for when the right book, record, photo, garbage pail kid, falls into your hands at just the right time and for the right reason."

            To my jittery fan-boy excitement, he wrote back:

                            "...I appreciate your thoughts and support, and you certainly have my encouragement for any project you pursue. If you ever need any advice or help I'm at your service. You are also correct in surmising that I'm a collector and aficionado of old photos, postcards and paper memorabilia of all kinds. If anything, I've accumulated too much of it, and am in the process of selling a lot of it off, in anticipation of my move next year to New Mexico. I have many artist friends up in the Portland area. Also postcard collectors. In fact I think I might have known the Doris you speak of."

             I can't say I'm surprised. Doris knew a lot of people.

             I decided to send Rick a copy of the above comic, and this was his reply:

                              "Many thanks for sending your historical comic. It's a story that was new to me, and I must say I was carried along by it. You have a knack for presenting historical material in a compelling way and moving the narrative along briskly. Your inking lacks a certain polish, but that will come in time as you develop a personal style."

True, so true. Still working on that. Thanks for the feedback.

And to Doris, Bob, Rick, and Lucy,
thanks for everything.
Love,
Murph

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shit People Say to Sick and Disabled Queers

Shit People Say from Annie Murphy on Vimeo.

This is a video me and some friends made last month for the show SICK during the National Queer Arts Festival in S.F. It examines the sick/disabled experience through a queer lens, but there's stuff in there for you straight folks as well. So it's: shit people say to sick and disabled queers, shit sick and disabled queers say to each other/themselves/other people, and repeat! (btw: this is by no means claiming to represent the experiences of all sick and disabled queers. only a few. otherwise it would have to be hours long. unfortunately. Right now it clocks at around 12 minutes. hope you enjoy!)

Friday, October 19, 2012

THE COLLECTIVE TAROT


     Are you a Tarot fan? Or like trading cards? Interested in learning a little bit about magic? Looking for a deck that reflects images of real bodies and multiple genders/identities? The Collective Tarot is a project I've been a part of creating and publishing for the past five years. After a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer we were able to print for a third (and possibly final?) time. If you'd like to order a deck, you can do so here. It comes with 78 full-color cards and a 250 + page pocket-sized book with directions, definitions, and illustrations.

I drew the Bones suit (the Earth element suit), the Code card (the Emperor in traditional decks), wrote the definitions for my cards, co-wrote the booklet with the help of the core collective of 5 and over 20 contributing artists/writers, and drew the handsome sleeve.

Below are pictures of the card/book set, photos from the Kickstarter video, the printing of the cards, this summer's Tarot Tour 2012, and some CT-inspired tattoos. Enjoy!