Spring Is the Mischief in Me


And then you have to read the next couple lines in the poem.

With the comic finally put to bed, 11 days late, I managed to get a seasonal bulletin board up; the image hadn’t been changed since mid-December and now it’s basically spring in Tucson, even though the weather has been unseasonably cold.

The quote is from Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” which was first published 104 years ago, yet presciently questions the point of a meaningless wall.

The letter art for the word “spring” is all original, of course, although I did look at some animal alphabets for inspiration on the S and the G. The S is supposed to be a vermillion flycatcher, the P is a lemon bud, the R is a monarch butterfly, the I is a desert marigold, the N is a long-suffering saguaro, and the G is a gecko. The small block letter are just the easiest style to cut by hand, and the lettering of “mischief” is based on a Harry Potter inspired font called “Mischief Managed.” The other animals are a hummingbird, a jackrabbit, some kind of fish, and a gambrel’s quail. I feel like it needed more animals, but The Man wanted me at home and the school is closed until Monday (in Tucson we don’t celebrate President’s Day, but we get 2 days for Festival of Vaqueros: the rodeo).

Maybe I should go back Monday and give the rabbit some whiskers, and take a better picture. We’ll see. My massage therapist also suggested that I should let my creating hand rest a little bit.


Crimes against a Tow Truck Driver

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All about being all about American Salvage

Bonnie Jo wrote this script and provided the pictures of the junkyard. She also wrote the following text:

Why Write Fiction?

Most of the stories in AS were all inspired by real life, but I ventured far from actual characters and events.

Sometimes we fictionalize a story in order to make more sense out of it

As Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

There are some stories that can be told ONLY in fiction. In “The Inventor, 1972,” I write a guy trying to rescue a girl he’s hit with his car, and while she’s lying there in the road, he has a fleeting thought of molesting her. No man who hoped to survive the night could dare admit to such a thought.


How and Where I Enter

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According to my insider sources, all the 1 percenters read standing up whilst wearing tiaras.

There are a lot of ways of looking at any piece of fiction. After rewriting and illustrating 30 of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s short stories and telling her story about writing American Salvage, it seemed like I could/should write my story (apology?) about making these comics. A little piece of it anyway, which was much harder to tell than I thought it would be. It took all week to finalize the text; my first draft would have filled the entire page with words and never even got past panel 4. I guess I’ll have to write another comic about growing up in the North Shore of Chicago when you’re just not like the other humanoids, because John Hughes never got too deep into that story.

I think I mentioned the details about panel 2 in a previous blog post, although I can’t seem to find it, but Ferris Bueller, Michael Jordan, &c: true story. Panel 3 depicts “Hassle Castle,” which is what we called the admin building at Antioch College. The building, we were always told, was designed by the same guy who designed the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, DC. The side I drew was originally built as the front door of the school, at which time it faced a railroad station and only had 2 buildings behind it. Later, the train line was shut down and the school expanded behind the Castle and now this is the back of the Castle, facing 1000 acres of protected wilderness (nice backyard!) and the old back of the Castle is now considered its front.

Panel 3 has a little backstory. I’m not sure I ever ate Stove Top Stuffing in my life; if I did, it certainly wasn’t at my mother’s house. We didn’t use boxed matzah ball mix either, but Antioch College is in a tiny town in southwestern Ohio, so I couldn’t necessarily be particular about ingredients while I was at school. Anyway, I was cooking it in the minuscule shared kitchenette in Birch Hall. At Antioch, I met a number of lovely and academically talented people who referred to themselves with some degree of pride as “white trash,” and one of these people came in to use the kitchen at the same time. She saw the box and asked me what the heck it was. I explained matzah balls and then added, “I’m cooking from my culture,” and she indicated her box of Stove Top Stuffing and said, “I’m cooking from my culture.” So that happened.

Even as a starving artist, I’ll always be an outsider to American Salvage, but I hope I got into it pretty well.



Metropolitan Industrial Salvage

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That flattop is awesome and I don’t see how it could fail to make anyone smile.

It was pretty nice of Craig to write this script for the Upcoming American Salvage comic, not only because we gave him about 6 seconds notice that he was getting a page in the book, but also because last year he published an entire comic book about the history of Portage Printing (I drew 3 pages for him) and it’s sort of amazing that he still had any material left over. I thought he might have some kind of clever advertisement in his back pocket, already prepared, but he managed to come up with an original story that ties back into the “salvage” theme of the rest of the book.

I’ve never been to Portage Printing: when I lived in Kalamazoo I had a 500-page a semester copy code from the university, plus I got one of the secretaries to give me an unlimited code so I could secretly make copies of my 600-page novel in the middle of the night. However, I suspect it’s a top-notch place. Craig has really created an amazing business model, combining an obvious passion for professional excellence with the unforgettable marketing device of filling his workplace with old-timey artifacts. If you happen to be in southwestern Michigan and need to print a comic book or something like that, I highly recommend checking his place out.

Craig sent me some of the source images, and his loyal customers provided some others via the Portage Printing Yelp page.


The Origins of Super Bon Bon

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I continue to not understand why a plain black dress costs as much as an F-350 stake-bed truck.

Bonnie Jo had the idea for a comic about the origins of American Salvage, and she sent me about 6 sentences, one per panel, and then we sort of bounced the script back and forth until it worked for both of us, so this is actually the first true collaboration we’ve done in 2 books. The other 31 (thirty-one!) comics I’ve written about her work didn’t really involve any direct communication or feedback during the process. So this was fun. I love memoir.

The dog in panel 5 was named Rebar, and he only had 3 legs. The picture of me in panel 6 is totally recycled from the last book. The donkey in panel 4 is the only donkey I drew for American Salvage, while Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is full of them. American Salvage, on the other hand, features many more drawings of blood and weapons.


Ermine (the Weasel in Winter)


Look into his shiny black eyes and try to say no.

There were a couple details from “American Salvage” that seemed especially striking, and this ermine definitely topped the list. So cute! In the story, the white-furred ermine has been scarce in Kalamazoo, Michigan, having been long over hunted due to the value of their gorgeous pelts, which probably look way better on their original owners than any subsequent possessors of said coats. They are returning to the area of the salvage yard due to it being neglected for so long, but soon enough they will pave the place over to build more suburbs, and what will become of the poor weasel then?

At any rate, I’ve spiffed up his lines and memorialized the elusive ermine in my RedBubble shop. You can support the artist and can get Ermine on a T-shirt, sticker, and a variety of other fine products.