My favorite magazine prior to my awareness of PSYCHOTRONIC Magazine (and the world of exploitation movies) was Fantagraphics Books main publication The COMICS JOURNAL (years before I was published by Fantagraphics).

What I especially liked about the Comics Journal were the interviews. Creative pop culturalists engaged in explaining their motives in drawing and writing stories. In this heady world, the interviewee could also talk about more than just comic books. Music, literature, and film might be referenced, not to mention the real hard knocks stories experienced by golden age cartoonists (like Jack Kirby talking about Nazis telegrams!). Perhaps this confessional style was originally set into my head by the iconic interview format of PLAYBOY (and it's centerfold reinforced psychology) traced back (as for me) to the John Lennon interview some months before his death. (Not to mention Pop Art as if it were embodied in one man (Warhol) who chose to call his magazine : INTERVIEW!)

In memory I treated these words as found objects.

I wanted to explain my four color revelations as backlit by my films, comics, and rock and roll bands to some intellectual figure who sat in half shadow, knew the right questions, and more importantly made cosmic assumptions. Comics Journal Editor Gary Groth always knew the right questions to ask in the comic world, Michael Weldon's cast of interviewers in Psychotronic Magazine were adept while Weldon apparently edited the text to flow like a press kit as if he was a PR man at Paramount before the collapse. I interviewed myself for Cult Movies magazine. Before Weldon's Psychotronic I had seen one previous interview format dedicated to subversive low rent cinema: RE:SEARCH: INCREDIBLY STRANGE FILMS edited by V. Vale and Andrea Juno. (1986). I discovered that most (American) exploitation films were made by folks more interested in commerce than art, and their lives made more interesting for it.

That exquisite soft cover (framed within an "L7" design) had not only turned me on to the existence of Exploitation Movies but repulsed (entranced) me to the possibilities of doing it on my own. Exploitation movies, like underground comic books and raw rock and roll, represented shattered windows and big eyed children and shadows of the glory days of American Pop Culture. Exploitation movies were to be just as artistically challenging than my comics and certainly less lonely, forever horny, disarming and charming. I saw actors (I think they were actors) being manipulated in ways which were comic book-like! Black and White Nudie Roughies with the girl next door on the sidewalks of New York with nary a four color superhero in sight. Exploitation was no longer a hipster term or a pure negative, it was a communal experiment, and for me, a manhood ritual. I hadn't tried it in high school, but By God, I was going to ask a girl to take off her clothes. With this simple act a girl could become a 'Starlet' and I would become herr director.

Stanley Kubrick got the credit from a David Bowie interview in the PBS History of Glam series regarding the origins of Ziggy Stardust, but here was Russ Meyer actually being asked by the Sex Pistols to visualize them, to give them identity. Though the Pistols pretended to hate the past, they were already a part of it. And I would never put Sid Vicious in the same frame of mind with exploitation starlet Uschi Digart, but then again, WHY THE HELL NOT? Both are different but equal variations on sexual persona and surging CARTOON imagery. Watching "FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL!" for the first time in George Cole's living room held me in an adult sway much the same way that my first comic book experience in a greasy spoon did at six years old. And lucky for me, that was a Jack Kirby/Stan Lee issue (FANTASTIC FOUR #88). The feeling I got was larger than life, and I wonder: is it the Jack Kirby drawings itself - or is it a gateway to something else? Either way, it begins a thought process, a yearning, a repulsion which must be answered. Therefore I have always been under the four color influence.

So, I set out to make my comics as films.

For the stereotypical stay at home cartoonist with no social skills more than likely at odds with the social butterfly model of the director, the 'auteur' who not only had to work with people but talk them OUT of their clothes for very little (make that NO) money could have been a problem. But luckily I had played music in a band and that took some social skill even if it de-evolved into stage diving toward that person you wanted to know better. By making no money and disregarding material things (save a magazine subscription), I took a decisive measure to be seen as the anti-hero who needed (and still needs) a break. Back then I made a thousand bucks a comic. This was the salary of the underground cartoonist in the early nineties. This was not Fantagraphics fault, it was my fault for not cranking out the comic books quicker. A young cartoonist who is developing a style can't be fast. And I wasn't. I don't like sausage unless it's a movie. I drew 8 comics for Fantagraphics in about four years. With TEENAGE TUPELO, D'Lana could take her clothes off in four seconds (odds were, she probably wasn't wearing that much to begin with). It took less time to present a visual with content and more people wanted to see it. (Producing one 90 minute movie a year seems pretty incredible but producing only one or two comics a year seems pathetic).

I only had to make sure that D'Lana (or any starlet, really) shared the same aesthetics with me because that would lead to a trusting relationship. What I perceived and filmed - or drew - would last forever and I would not. Mortality was my deadline. D'Lana was so giving of a persona (visually) that I realized she was my collaborative memory. We left behind an ink line.

Kerine Elkins, please stop calling me in the nude.

In my movies flesh becomes pulp. My films are not just in color, they are in FOUR COLOR. My previous comic work (rather psychedelic and sexual in nature) was actually Paglia-delic following the psycho-iconic messages from SEXUAL PERSONAE which I knew all along deep inside but couldn't express them until Paglia raped the lock in me. Camille Paglia busted my cherry. Something no teacher in real time had ever done. Dark music in sunshine.

"Cinema", as Camille Paglia "said" in her masterpiece SEXUAL PERSONAE, was the "ULTIMATE form of western expression". Not comic books. Though comics undeniably influence cinema (and rock and roll). But here Paglia challenging my cozy assumptions of danger and art just as punk had challenged my record collection ten years before. Comics had seemed to be conquered all right. Several times. Made stronger in the sense that this American artform was driven further and further underground where my sensibilities were waiting. The crude drawing of the naked woman that I drew and buried when I was six years old has since turned into a forest in Mississippi.

If you can't pay your talent impress them with your own. Show them what you are good at. I had my comic book work to show my potential starlets or win over an investor. I admit, I wanted to draw comic books since I was six years old. The equivalent to being a fireman or a ballerina from childhood. When you work toward the wish of juvenile passion and your skill set backs it up, then prepare your thick skin your weathered nervous system. I was scary good at making comics but VERY slow because I was learning a style. One more reason to admire King of Comics Jack Kirby or King of Rock & Roll Elvis Presley. All these giants create an eerie distance from their subject and arrive on the scene with an inherent sense of style, be it Reed Richards or Rock and Roll. Is the man singing "That's All Right" black or white? What mind was responsible for the Galactus Trilogy? Who is this man drawing this thing I dont understand at six years old? My curiosity creates a repulsion that is personal because intuitively I know it is the thing that I will become. Are they even men at all - or machines? Jack Kirby is Galactus.

Never was a plane or a place where pure punker mixed with comic book geek or movie nerd. I never met the introvert who knew as much about Bowie as Batman as Bardot, let alone create a regional spin on it - so I wanted be that person. I have succeeded in my personal expression and struggled with the commercial aspects, but every dog has it's day. Just as my southern mid-eighties art school did not respect comic books enough to form a curriculum around them (as they have now), so Fantagraphics (at that tiny moment) failed to see personal expression through low budget movies as sequentially important and linked as a trilogy with rock and roll to almighty american pop culture. This was INCREDIBLY ironic to me since I was coming from WITHIN their ranks and utilizing everything the COMICS JOURNAL had taught me to guide the sensibilities of my films. Fantagraphics was and will always be: The Shit - but who wants to step in it? And let's face it, once your mother gives you away, what's a publisher's rejection or a shattered diploma? Let's put things in perspective (and make a bad movie about it!)

Comics are a bastardization of fine art and commercial art. Therefore there was confusion as to what I was to be labeled in art school. No label had I. Finally I settled on "bastard". There, I had to ask permission to draw comics (let's call it 'sequential art') to get my Bachelors Degree and graduate and they went along with it. I, the unpublished bastard was happy. When I proudly presented a vhs copy of TEENAGE TUPELO to Kim Thompson, the editor of the Comics Journal, he declined a review, stating in a letter that he didn't know what to make of it. I imagined him looking at the vhs tape at either end and realizing he couldn't turn the pages. Ironic, because I've come to realize everything I do, every thought I have, even the way I raise my children is all about a COMIC BOOK. My little boy John Marvel likes to point out that my favorite dinosaur is the dimetron. He likes the triceratops. John is no longer afraid of the headless woman in the attic. Nor is he aware that one day Daddy will be his burden. We are getting to know each other over art lessons at the kitchen table. Civilized cave painting. No way to prove what color the dinosaurs really were. They never gave interviews.

I am still an artist at the crossroads. Comics, film, and music are jagged sign posts at my trash disposal. One direction should not dominate over the other. In which direction should I be buried? How long can I survive? Brother, can you spare a dimetron?

I am happy now perhaps pretending to be interviewed by Camille Paglia at midnight, her raspy breathing comes long distance over a noir-lit pay phone in a small town, wet county.

So I answered back, "Daddy likes to draw, he's just not in love with it anymore."

Mike McCarthy
February, 2009

This Totem of Influence; Cover art copyright their respective publishers and artists.