First Amherst, Then Main Street

At four in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 2, the campus of UMass in Amherst will be the site of a panel discussion about comics and graphic novels featuring two relics—I mean, veterans—of the underground comix movement of the 1970s, plus a member of today’s emerging generation of adventurous comics creators.

One of the aforementioned veterans will be Gary Hallgren of Air Pirates fame; the other one will be me. Sharing the stage with Gary and me will be Sophia Weideman, who will have to wait a few years before attaining the relic/veteran status that Gary and I enjoy but who appears to be making good use of her talents in the meantime.

Gary and I are longtime friends and I’m looking forward to meeting Sophia. Furthermore, if you’re near enough to Amherst to come and be part of our audience in Room 227 of Herter Hall, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you, too!

Moderating our panel, by the way, will be another old friend: N. C. Christopher Couch, co-author with Stephen Weiner of The Will Eisner Companion.

Above: Gary Hallgren’s character Tom Turkey, as seen in the Marvel/underground hybrid Comix Book in the mid-seventies, is flanked by a photo of Gary taken at the 1976 Berkeley Con and a snapshot I took of him a year or so ago.

At left: A photo of yours truly, also taken at the same 1976 convention, garnished with one of my own drawings from that era.

Both 1976 photos were taken by Clay Geerdes, the legendary chronicler of and cheerleader for the underground comix movement.

At right: I couldn’t find a current photo of our third panelist, Sophia Wiedeman, and I certainly couldn’t find one from 1976, since it’s highly unlikely that this 2008 graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York had even commenced to exist by then.

I can, however, show you the cover of her new book The Deformitory, which she self-published with funding provided by the Xeric Foundation.

Our UMass panel is named "Will Eisner’s Ideals," and as the title suggests we’ll be discussing how our own work has been affected by today’s expanding recognition of comics as a medium for serious artistic expression. Many cartoonists of my generation who cut our teeth in underground comix have been aware all along that, while a lot of pioneering went on in the pages of those undergrounds, a trailblazing comics creator named Will Eisner had already begun leading the way well before our own sex-drugs-and-rock-&-roll contributions made the scene.

Amazingly, Will Eisner continued to show what comics are capable of in the parade of acclaimed graphic novels he contined to draw tirelessly until his death in 2005 at the age of 87. In honor of his achievements a host of events will soon be taking place as part of a national celebration called Will Eisner Week. It’s cool that our March 2 panel will be among them.

The Actors Prepare

Fast on the heels of my UMass panel will be the opening night (that’s March 6, for those of you who live near enough to North Adams to think about coming) of the 2nd Annual Short Play Festival at Main Street Stage (57 Main Street).

Above: Me rehearsing on a cluttered stage with Jackie DiGeorgis. I’m sure you think we’ve got our scripts hidden behind those two books, but actually we’ve (almost) got our lines memorized.

Among the five new one-act plays that comprise the evening’s entertainment will be "We Appear To Have Company" by Greg Freier., in which I’ll be making my debut appearance for this community theatre. The other plays in the program are "Restraining Orders" by Ruben Carbajal; "Something Like Loneliness" by Ryan Dowler; "The Shoe" by Ralph Tropf; and "Drip Torch" by Trey Tatum.

Below left: My cast-mate Jackie mulls over costume options with "We Appear to Have Company" director Sarah Rae Brown.

Below right: Assistant director Melanie Staples-Barth grabs a quick snack in the aisle before our rehearsal commences. Our third cast member, Andrew Davis, was out of camera range while I was playing with my Canon PowerShot.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
This entry was posted in A Tip o' the Hat, Life & Art, Me, Me, Me!, Yesterday & Today. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to First Amherst, Then Main Street

  1. Love Gary Hallgren! Please smooch him for me.