Here’s to William Ehmann Jr.

On July 6th, 1988 I got a large manila envelope in the mail. Inside were 14 minicomics and one full zine. The name in the return address was Bill Ehmann Jr. Bill had seen some fliers I’d put up around town to advertise my services as an illustrator (art mercenary) and was inspired to send me some of his work.

These were the first minicomics I’d ever seen. I’d wanted to draw comics ever since I was a kid but I’d mostly given up on the idea of drawing for a “real” publisher. I was a better artist than most of the people I knew personally but I wasn’t nearly as good as the guys drawing for Marvel, DC, Charlton, Eclipse or … anybody. I couldn’t afford to print my own comics. Or so I thought.

Bill’s little xeroxed masterpieces gave me an example of what kind of comics I could do with the level of skill and the lack of budget I had. Two weeks after getting these in the mail I printed out one hundred copies of the first issue of Cheap Thrills at the Kinkos a few blocks from where I was living.

I never met Bill in person. I sent him some of the minicomics I did and traded a letter or two. I went to a showing of his collage art. He wasn’t doing minicomics by the time he sent me that package. I got lucky and got inspired.

Every so often I google his name. So far I haven’t had any luck at finding him. I’ve found listings of a few of the minis he sent me but nothing that points back to him.

So, Bill, if you’re out there, I want to say thank you again for sending me these minicomics. You turned on a light when I needed it!

Zipperhead #5

Zipperhead #5This is the last of my submissions to All Cover Comics. I submitted illustrations and cartoons to other High School Comics publications. Those will show up on these pages sooner or later. I’m also working on an interview with Bob and Randy that should get posted in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Zipperhead #1

Zipperhead #1Finally, we have Zipperhead, the friendly neighborhood serial killer. Of all the ACC characters, only Zipperhead had any life beyond these submissions. It wasn’t a public life. As far as I can remember he never saw print anywhere else. He just appears in my imagination when I need to consider an over the top psycho. I’ve got random sketches of him in my sketchbooks. I’ve got one specific story that I’d like to use him in but I’ll probably never get around to it. He’s got no origin tale. He doesn’t have any particular motivation for his kills nor does he have a preferred set of victims. He doesn’t have a favorite weapon. I don’t know what his face looks like under his mask. I don’t know how he breathes through that thing.

Zippie just kills people and then makes bad jokes about it. That’s his schtick. It keeps him happy.

Midnight Commando #2

Midnight Commando #2I called my minicomics publishing company Obscure Komix. I published three series:
Cheap Thrills: an anthology of short horror stories
The Highly Unlikely Adventures of Moe and Detritus: featuring the exploits of a couple of punks named (surprise!) Moe and Detritus
The Davey Thunder / Jack Lightning Show: a surreal series written by Glenn Ingersoll featuring a pair of DJs that we’d invented when we were in junior high

When I sat down to create these “covers” for All Cover Comics I wanted them to seem like covers of actual comics. Or at least as close to actual comics as I was going to get when drawing the art by hand. Real comics had consistent logos for each series and real comic book companies to put their logos on the the series they published. So I decided to use my Obscure Komix company as the publisher and I created a logo to be used for all the issues.

The logos had to be created by hand. This was 1990. There was no Illustrator and no Photoshop. I drew the OK logo by hand and then reduced it using the photocopiers at Kinkos. I did the same thing with the Midnight Commando logo. In 1990 photocopiers weren’t good at laying down areas of solid black, usually you ended up with an inconsistent dark gray. The image above is scanned from the original artwork and it’s easy to tell the difference between the photocopied logo and the black ink of the drawing. Even adjusting for contrast in Photoshop doesn’t make them match.

Midnight Commando #1

Midnight Commado #1For about two years, from 1988 to 1990, I published a series of minicomics, 19 in all. I sold, traded and gave them away to friends, acquaintances, and folks all over the country. I also contributed illustrations to other minicomics and small press publications. When I left California in 1995 all of my published minis and all the minis and zines I’d collected got packed away. In 2004, when he cleaned out the old homestead, my brother mailed boxes of that material up to me here in Seattle.

Last year I finally started going through those boxes. A large part of my inspiration for doing that was to find those original 19 minicomics. I wanted to submit them to the upcoming volumes 2 and 3 of the Newave book series. I’d been namechecked in the first volume so I’d like to make a showing in one of the new volumes.

I found copies of most of the original minis. Better yet I also found the original art and the xerox layouts I used when I printed the issues at Kinkos. I also found a bunch of other art that I submitted to other publications. I’ll be posting selections of that over the next few weeks.

The first batch will be a series of contributions I drew for the All Cover Comics series. There’s not a lot online about the minicomic. I’m not sure how many issues it ran or who all contributed. It was published by Randy Paske and Bob Pfeffer under their High School Comics imprint. The concept behind the series was simple – each issue featured the covers of imaginary comic books. I suppose someone might have submitted serious cover illustrations but, if so, I don’t remember them. I invented four series and drew five covers for each.

First up here is Midnight Commando. I didn’t come up with a backstory for any of the characters. I doubt that they needed one. And the more you have to explain a joke the less funny it gets.

 

Building a Web Presence

If the last bit of fiddling that I did to Sentient 39 works out then I just might be able to leave well enough alone. For a while. I’ve added images to the Life in Comics and the GLYPH essays.

If there’s anyone out there with copies of Cheap Thrills, The Highly Unlikely Adventures of Moe and Detritus and The Davey Thunder / Jack Lightning Show who would be willing to scan the covers and send me some jpegs, please let me know. Otherwise I’ll add those images sometime, maybe in 2005. It’ll take that long for me to figure out which box they’re stored in.