Happy Halloween!

 

An Alarming Tale

Originally written (and partly illustrated) in the 80s, Brian redrew the whole thing not long ago… and now it’s topical again! (Click to read all 3 pages)

Ian

Three Billy Goats Gruff

“Now I ‘m coming to gobble you up,” roared the troll.

A while back I needed some reference for a goat, so I did a Google image search. I found a lot of good photo reference. There were also a whole bunch of illustrations for The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I was inspired to do my own version. Okay if you want to know the truth almost all the drawings were crap. I guess a crappy drawing can sometimes be as inspiring as a great drawing.

Brian

In Memory of Ray

I began writing about Ray Garst with the intent of giving people a sense of who he was, and what he meant in my life… but I quickly got several pages in, and we were still only kids. So I’ll save that for another time, and just tell a small part of the story.

Ray visiting Fortuna, California, 3 months after we met.

I met Ray in the backseat of his parents’ Mercedes, sometime in Early May of 1969.

His parents had taken to regularly attending the Unitarian Church in Riverside, commuting each Sunday from their home in Banning, and had befriended my mother there. On this particular Sunday, it seemed that they had an extra ticket to the play Hair, being performed at an apparently famous Los Angeles theatre. I had gone to church with my mother that day (an unusual occurrence,) and somehow it was suggested that I could join them for the play, which I was eager to do.

So I got in the back, and we drove to Banning. We stopped at their house, and there Ray and his friend Kevin piled in the back with me. We started towards LA, some 60 miles West. Kevin began to tease me, the 12 year old making fun of the 9 year old. Ray showed his basic kindheartedness by defending me, telling Kevin to quit it. I was very pleased to be so defended, and liked Ray right off. We got to the theatre and saw the show, which I quite enjoyed… but what I mostly remember about that day was meeting Ray.

He and his family visited us that summer in Humboldt, and then my mother and I visited them at their next house in San Jose that winter. Ray was cool. He liked rock music and comic books, played pinball… my memories of the songs Pinball Wizard by the Who and Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 are entwined with his enthusiasm for them. During that visit we drove over the summit to Boulder Creek to see Ray’s old friend Mike, who had pet snakes. Also cool! Both were a couple of years older than me, so how could I not be awed?

The next time I saw Ray was in September, 1970, after I had turned 11. I’d been sent to stay with my brother in Berkeley, and was extremely bored for weeks. Somehow it was arranged that I take the Greyhound down to visit Ray for a week in Santa Cruz (where his parents had recently moved,) and I was enthusiastic about the idea.

Right before the trip, my brother and his wife moved from their apartment into a cottage behind their friend Fred’s house. Fred had collected comic books 5 years before, and still had about a year and a half’s worth of several Marvel Comics titles stacked on a shelf in the small hallway in this back house. For 3 days I read as many as I could, immersing myself in a world of heroes and villains, aliens, spies and magic. Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Journey into Mystery with Thor, Tales to Astonish with Hulk & SubMariner, Strange Tales with Dr. Strange & Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD… I had found a doorway to a place of wonder, and was enthralled, fascinated, hooked…

So when I got to Ray’s house, I was delighted to find that he had just gotten into Marvel Comics, too, but the most recent ones. All those comics from 1966 that I had been reading – Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk – were still being produced, and that first night was wonderful – hanging out with my friend Ray, smoking a little pot, reading a bunch of comic books, listening to the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Simon & Garfunkle…

During the days we went to the Santa Cruz Free School, along with Ray’s friends Mike & Frank, and then we’d bike over to Natural Bridges beach and go body surfing… at night we’d read comics and listen to music. Later in that week, Ray hid behind the refrigerator, leaping out at my approach with a loud “Aaaayy! in a Marvin Martian voice. We both busted up laughing, to use a Ray term. Actually falling on the floor convulsed with laughter. What could be better?

The intended week long visit turned into 3 months, and then stretched into another 5 months at Finegold Ranch School, in the hills above Fresno (where his family moved next.)

At Finegold, Ray befriended a couple of the older kids, and I felt a little left out at times, but he still hung out with me a lot, and there was a lot going on, anyway – including schooling, though I remember less of that than the fun stuff.

I had done a little drawing as a kid, mostly houses and/or trees, but Ray had already been doing some real comic book like stuff. For characters he used himself and his friends Mike and Frank. They’d named a mountain in Boulder Creek MRF Mountain, after Mike, Ray and Frank, and now he created further adventures, with a drawing style inspired by Jack Kirby – huge battles between hordes of robotic giants that resembled the Juggernaut and armies of AIM like characters.

A very early page by Ray, inspired by Kirby's Fourth World comics, which were then on the stands.

Perhaps inspired by his example, I did my very first comic strip at this time, a three panel strip inspired by the Beatles’ Ballad of John & Yoko. A character sang “The way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me” and in the last panel he was nailed to a cross. Ok, not very funny, but I was only 11.

A couple of incidents stand out from those months at Finegold: There was a kid everyone called Mouse, who for some reason is always connected in my head to the Three Dog Night song Joy To The World, which he loved. One evening, Ray asked him if he wanted to play a card game with us, and he said sure! So Ray dealt the cards, and we began to play, Ray making up the rules as the game progressed, and me going along with it. Mouse earnestly tried to follow along as it became more and more complicated, but soon became totally confused. I was amused, but also felt a little sorry for him. When the ruse was revealed, he took it well.
Why do I remember this about Ray? He wasn’t a cruel person, and in fact was generous and kind… but he did have that sort of a sense of humor, and was quick witted enough to pull it off well.

In the spring, a busload of us took a field trip to Yosemite, which was not far away. At Glacier Point Ray and I wandered off, playing in the snow, etc. When we got back to the parking lot, we were nonplussed to see that the van was gone. We waited around a while, and then became rather hungry, so we bummed a dime off of a passerby, and went into the gift shop to see what we could buy. Some time was spend discussing how to get the best food value for ten cents, and we finally settled on a roll of Necco Wafers, which we ate while walking down the road, having decided to try and find the rest of the group. Eventually we were rescued by park rangers…

We couldn't guess the shock ending!

Back in Fresno for Spring vacation, our subscription copies of Spiderman #100 had arrived. On the cover it said “With the wildest shock ending of all time!” so we read our copies together, each waiting until the other was done before turning the next page. And then the final page… Oh wow, he has six arms! We weren’t sure if this was the coolest thing ever, or really dumb, but it was exciting anyway.

After that school year, I went back to Riverside, and didn’t see Ray for quite a while.

The next year, when I was 13, my mother, sister and I moved north to San Francisco, and I was dropped off in Fresno while my mother got settled. That was a great month and a half, riding bikes all over Fresno, eating grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight, listening to KFIG radio and reading comic books.

I had also started drawing every day that summer, and so we both sat around and drew every day, Ray working on his epics, and I trying to do my first comic book, Kitty, based on Ray’s cat, fighting against the evil GG Gopher. (I’ve become only slightly more sophisticated since then.)
Then I headed up to a lonely time in SF, with the occasional side-trip.

A year and a half later, Ray came to visit, and we took a cartooning class from Dan O’Neill.
Dan was going through a lawsuit with Disney, and he was under some sort of restraining order, forbidding him to draw Mickey Mouse. So the very first thing he taught all of us students was exactly that. You pull out a quarter, draw around it, then place it below the circle and draw another. Add the nose, ears and tail, and voila! Mickey Mouse.
I had grown quite tall by then, and Dan called Ray and me Mutt & Jeff, an allusion I understood, since I had spent some time the previous year at the Riverside Public Library, reading a couple of years worth of Mutt & Jeff on microfilm, scrolling forward day by day to read the next one.

Ray, now back in Santa Cruz, had begun taking Kenpo Karate from Rod Sanford, and, inspired by his example, as well as the kung fu comics and movies that were popular then, I signed up for a class listed as “Introduction to Martial Arts.” Ray told me about a tournament he had gone to, where one of the competitors had thrown another into a row of chairs. The style was Tae Kwon Do, and he said that it was really brutal. So I was horrified to learn on my first day of class that the martial art we’d be studying was, yes, Tae Kwon Do. But it was actually really fun, and only slightly brutal… so when I came down to visit Ray the next summer (right before I turned 16) in Santa Cruz, we both went over to Songs Martial Arts Institute and signed up.

After a month, I was having such a good time, I really didn’t want to leave, and so somehow it was arranged that I would stay in Santa Cruz, with the Garsts as my legal guardians, while my mother moved to Alaska… The next year and a half we spent working out and drawing, becoming first yellow belts, and then green. We’d often go over to Ferrell’s donut house, and sit drinking coffee and drawing at 3 in the morning.

Written by Yves Regis Francois, and published in The New Funny Book #2.

 

On a trip to San Francisco in late 1976, we stopped in at Gary Arlington’s comic book store, and proudly showed him our latest drawings. He said that there was a science fiction writer who’d been in the store looking for someone to illustrate his 8 page comic book story, and he thought we might be interested. So we went up to his small cluttered apartment, where he showed us his book that had been actually published by Doubleday (The CTZ Paradigm) and the script for Propaganda. We said yes, of course, and worked like mad for the next three weeks, finishing it up in time, and actually getting paid!!! $100 each. Wow!

 

 

Over the next few years we continued drawing obsessively, and our studio became lively, with people hanging out, and drawing, even those who weren’t much into art. Ray took an animation class at the community college, taught by Lee Blair, who’d worked for Disney during the golden years. There he met Brian Garvey, who soon joined our studio. We picked up a little professional work, concert posters, newspaper illustration… Ray bought an airbrush, and began painting t-shirts.

 

 

This was inspired by a Berni Wrightson painting.

Ray originally drew this based on the Patti Smith song "Kimberly" - "The sky will split, And the planets will shift, Balls of jade will drop, And existence will stop." As I recall, the final panel was originally black.

This was a short comic that came with an Atari game - Frank Cirocco drew it, and he hired Ray to color it.

Then, while once again visiting Gary Arlington, we heard of an inker for Marvel who was looking for assistants. We met him, and soon were actually inking backgrounds on Micronauts #27.

So the three of us were hitting the big time! Inking backgrounds on actual Marvel Comics, and Danny also had us doing some penciling on Captain Canada and Captain Newfoundland, which were… well, never mind. At this point, Ray began drifting away… he seemed more interested in hanging out at the boardwalk and painting t-shirts than staying cooped up in the studio 12 hours a day, working obsessively on comic books of questionable quality.
Perhaps a healthy attitude for a 24 year old.

So Brian and I plunged full scale into the comics biz, and Ray went his own way.

We drifted apart. I still saw him around, and we still shared all those memories, but our interests had diverged.

He made an effort at getting into the film business, which ultimately didn’t work out. After that he went through some hard times… and then his health problems became serious.
Finally, late last year, he died.

I will always remember him, and wish to do so now as he was back then: quick witted, enthusiastic, kind, funny…

March 15th would have been his 54th birthday.

I miss you, Ray.

Love,
Ian

What’s wrong with this picture?

We mentioned the problem to the editor, but he felt it wasn’t worth fixing, as I recall.
Can you spot it?

Ian

Face Off

This is a sketch I did for a friendly Danish fellow at a London convention.
I was quite pleased with it, asked him for a copy, and he obliged…

Ian

Many Years Later

Akin & Garvey have joined together as a studio again, and are working on various projects.
Bits of work in progress will be posted here, along with some older pieces, random links, etc… stay tuned!