Monday, October 20, 2008

My Four Hour Madness

In the summer of 1996 I was sharing a house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle with three cartoonists and/or musicians: Eric Reynolds, Al Columbia, and Andy Schmidt. Finding ourselves, one particularly sunny afternoon, achieving a quite remarkable state of boredom, we set out to break the monotony by fulfilling the unspoken belly-flop of the cartooning world, the undertaking of the creation of a twenty-four hour comic, which entailed writing and drawing a complete, multi-paged comic book, within one twenty-four hour period.
I already knew I was in trouble with such talented, idiosyncratic fellow marathoners to parry with, but what I hadn’t taken into account was my terrible predisposition to change my mind in a last-hour bout of obsessive over-thinking.
Some fifteen-plus hours into the affair, only Andy, Eric and myself were still standing. We were hungry, and needed some fresh air.
Al had retired to his room to sleep, his own neurotic tendencies seemingly having caused him to bail on the endeavor. What none of us could have known, as we sat hunched over a very early morning breakfast at Denny’s, only hours from our imposed deadline, was that he’d soon awake, refreshed, and would miraculously proceed to create a half dozen pages of cartooning so resoundingly potent and well-executed it would leave the rest of us speechless.
My own change of course had happened some four hours before we sat down to our greasy platters, at about exactly the halfway point of the exercise in forced productivity.
All of a sudden, in a flooding crash of displeasure with the dozen or so pages I’d already created, I bolted from the shared front room of the house to my own, where I quickly destroyed all I had created. Sequestering myself in my tiny studio, I managed to bash out a furious twenty-four pages of utter nonsense in just under four hours, a free-flowing, sleep-deprived, wholly improvised barrage of dada doodle and description that I entitled It’s All Just Shit and What if it Wasn’t? or Ape #12 Talks Tiny for a Brief Moment.
A direct response to my despair and exhaustion, the heavily didactic pamphlet of half-cracked rhyme and introspection is an exercise in a more pointedly quasi-political hue of my spectrum of thought, soberly offering, near the very end, in as near a summation of its agenda as it might possibly achieve, the following bit of disparaging advice: “The dogs had it right from the start. Scratch your fleas and learn to shut up. They keep building prisons, and they fuck, and they find another Christmas at the end of every year.” Just what that might all mean is still an open question, one I’m more than happy to have the reader discern on their own.
Stylistically, It’s All Just Shit… owes more than a little to Chicken Skin Gloves and a Faggot of Thunderbolts, my book of mainly nonsensical rhyme and picture from 1987. It also harkens to later improvisational attempts such as 2007’s Black Weather.
A warning, before entering the hopscotch narrative that follows. You may well want to loosen the strap on your thinking cap. Better yet, take the silly thing right off – you won’t be needing it, I assure you.

The wrap-around cover.