Records Broken By the Perry Bible Fellowship?

By Lou Cabron
January 5th, 2008 Nicholas Gurewitch draws the Perry Bible Fellowship

Is Nicholas Gurewitch fulfilling a childhood dream? Photo by Jeff Marini
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“This is the reason paper was invented. Give him your money now.”

Marvel comic book writer Mark Millar joined the stampede which placed the first Perry Bible Fellowship collection into the top 500 on Amazon— before the book was even released.

25-year-old cartoonist Nicholas Gurewitch watched as the pre-order sales climbed past $300,000 for The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories. Close to 27,000 copies were sold even before the collection of comic strips had its official release in November and crashed into Amazon’s top 250. “It bounces off and on Amazon’s best-seller lists all the time,” Gurewitch told me, jokingly searching for an explanation. “Nifty cover? I’m not sure.”

In December the cartoonist’s site warned that only 3,000 copies remained, and now copies are “in short supply,” Nick says. (The book’s first printing had some errors which required a second printing to fully meet the demand, and Gurewitch confirms that “We are indeed gearing up for a third printing.”) Publisher’s Weekly reports that his publisher, Dark Horse Comics, received their biggest order ever from Britian’s Diamond distributor.

“I think people respond to a packaged volume of comics much more than they connect with a computer screen,” Gurewitch speculates about the response. “Seeing it on someone’s coffee table, or seeing it in someone’s hands, or on a high shelf, can affect us in ways far more grand than seeing it bookmarked on someone’s computer.”

Nick’s cover for The Trial of Colonel Sweeto

In our interview, Nick shared even more surprising news. He’s been building to this moment for two decades — sort of.

NICHOLAS GUREWITCH: My mom says I was doing cartoonist things at the age of 2, though that’s hard to believe. But I was definitely story-oriented. She actually had us making little books around the age of 5 — me and my siblings.

LOU CABRON: Drawings and words?

NG: Early on, it was mostly pictures. And she would bind them with string.

LC: That’s adorable.

NG: I think the idea of making a book was a really fun thing that was ever-present in my mind. I undertook a few on my own once I found a stapler.

LC: What was in the books you drew as a kid?

NG: The same stuff I’m doing now, I’m pretty sure. Lots of monsters, lots of robots, lots of dinosaurs…

I don’t think I’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist. I’ve always just been a cartoonist. I’ve always just been making little stories.

LC: Colonel Sweeto shows a magical candy land where the reigning monarch practices some vicious realpolitik. When I contacted you, I almost wondered if you lived in a far-away fantasy castle of your own.

NG: I wonder if most people have that impression. I love castles. I plan to live in one some day. It’s not wrong that you have that impression.

I wish it were true.

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LC: I was picturing lots of monsters, lots of robots, and lots of dinosaurs all scattered throughout the PBF empire.

NG: It’s a pretty quaint empire. My buddy Evan handles all the t-shirt stuff, and I had a friend helping me out with the prints. (They take in a lot more money than you expect, though I haven’t checked my records in a while.)

Evan was actually my roommate in college when I first started the comic, and he’s been writing a lot of the comics lately. He came up with the idea for Commander Crisp, as well as the one with The Masculator.


A panel from “Commander Crisp”
Earlier on Evan would come up with one out of four comics, and he’s been doing that lately too. And my buddy Jordan is always really good about knowing how I should amplify an idea and he’s come up with ideas on his own. We’re all kind of on the same wavelength collaborating, and it’s extremely easy.

LC: A writer for The Daily Show, Sam Means, described your comic strip as being almost psychedelic.

The Perry Bible Fellowship is what Bil Keane, Jim Davis, and the guy who draws Marmaduke would see if they closed their eyes and rubbed them with their fists. It’s absurdist, comic fireworks, and I can’t get enough of it.”

NG: I don’t want to make judgments about my artwork, but a lot of people seem to think that it’s good, and I chalk this up to the amount of time that I spend concentrating on it and enjoying it myself. If I enjoy it myself a lot, people tend to enjoy it a lot.

LC: Is that the secret reason why you use so many different styles? The strip about Finneas the heroic dog was drawn with acrylic paint, while The Throbblefoot Aquarium switched to the black-and-white style of Edward Gorey.

NG: I might be attracted to giving people the kind of response that makes them write in. That’s always nice. I’m not terribly lonely, but its wonderful to hear when somebody recognizes that you’ve done something very subtle.

I like touching people on those levels. So it only makes sense to make references to childhood heroes and artists that I appreciate.

LC: You also told the Boston Phoenix. “There’s something wonderful, and soon-to-be mythic, about the printed page… I’ll always prefer it.”

NG: I just have a feeling comics drawn on a napkin in 100 years will be far more appreciated than comics made on a computer. Don’t you get the impression that we’re getting bombarded by images that are digital? People often go straight to the digital format, which is unfortunate. I just really appreciate seeing evidence of hard work!

LC: Each of your strips always manages to startle me. For example, Hey Goat starts in the winter, but ends after the spring thaw, implying that there’s been a horrible avalanche. You even told one interviewer “there’s a lot to be said for chaos where order is making things very, very boring.”

NG: I think I just always felt that it might be an aspect of my personality, that I think chaotic situations often reveal something about a scene or a person or an object that a still life wouldn’t. It really squeezes out the nature of the characters.

Plus, chaos is just eye-catching. It’s a necessary aspect of comedy and drama that there be some conflict.

LC: Does that mean you were a frustrated artist in school? Did you feel high school stifled your creativity?

NG: Or the spirits of the students, or the thinking of students.

I was an editor of an underground newspaper that we distributed in high school. We ruffled a lot of feathers. I think I have an FBI record because of it.

LC: How do you get an FBI record for an underground newspaper? Are you sure?

NG: Someone tells me I do, for certain.

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A local pastor had seen the work that we were doing in the paper, and he must’ve thought we were more than the basic renegade kids because he wrote a letter to the FBI. This is right after Columbine, and he thought our paper displayed many warning signs for troubled youth.

He was probably right about that. We certainly were troubled youth. I just don’t think we were the type of troubled youth that would express ourselves with guns.

LC: Well, wait — what was in this newspaper?

NG: We had a section where we presented fictionalized accounts of our teachers fighting each other, and how those fights would go. We’d show a big picture of them, and then a “versus,” and then another teacher. It was really entertaining if you had these people as teachers. Lots of blood, lots of violence. Lets hope they never end up online.

We actually published the pastor’s letter in the following issue. We also did a word search, and we hid the word “clitoris”. It was a point at which we lost a lot of our audience.

LC: So you regret it?

NG: It’s the type of thing I look back on and see as funny in retrospect. I think I get paid to make clitoris jokes now.

But I really enjoy having flexed my mind to the full extent at that tender age, because I think it’s really helped me maintain a momentum. College was a little bland, but I think that’s why I ended up starting the comic strip — because I was so hooked on my experience with the paper.

I noticed that the comics page at the college newspaper would get a heck of a lot of attention. It only took about a semester when I realized that’s where I should be putting my attention, and not the articles about the dining hall.

LC: You were “discovered” when you won a comic strip contest in the Baltimore City Paper. When you entered that contest, where did you think it would lead?

NG: The Perry Bible Fellowship debuted in the New York Press the same week that it won, so there were parallel blessings. I had no prediction about where it was going. I just knew I appreciated the extra money while I was at school!

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It was running in two papers when I graduated in 2004, so I gave myself a few weeks to see if I could call what I was doing a job. I sent out samples to ten more papers and heard back from about three. I figured that was just as good as trying to get a temporary job in New York City, so I ended up just staying home and doing the comic and operating from a studio space that I rented near my house.

The initial proliferation of the samples was the only time I sent out samples. Since then most papers have just emailed me — because of the web site, I assume.

I think the story ends right about now. Because I’ve still been doing it…

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duber.net

January 28, 2008

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The Chronicles of Lucky Ello #1


illustratorguy

January 27, 2008

The Land of Happy Little Trails

The Land of Happy Little Trails

Description:
A personal favorite of mine, this shows the guy who showed us how to paint mountains with a glob of paint, showing off a little stomach.

Voltron Hunter

Voltron Hunter

Description:
Bagged me one of them robot Cats! Not this is not a transformer!

Duck Hunt  Playin Mutha Fucka

Duck Hunt Playin Mutha Fucka

Description:
Vincent a

shirts

January 27, 2008

Big-Ass Whammy

Big-Ass Whammy

Holy Scottie Pippen's Nose

Holy Scottie Pippen’s Nose

Supplies!

Supplies!

Description:
This shirt makes us rerry happy. If you ever saw “UHF”, you may remember this scene.

Wong Number

Wong Number

Description:
Hellro? Hellro?

Airwolf

Airwolf

Description:
We all love Airwolf! or at least we think we so

Oatmeal Lumpy

Oatmeal Lumpy

Description:
Thanks Humpty Dance!
Coming soon…. Hey Fat Girl.. Come here are you ticklish?

Amateur Ninja

Amateur Ninja

Description:
Just some footed pajamas and a dream.

New Kid On The Block

New Kid On The Block

Description:
Hangin’ Tough

Sweep the Leg

Sweep the Leg

Description:
Carson-son pulls out the crane technique

Wake me Up - Pj's

Wake me Up – Pj’s

Description:
Hopefully you aren’t in bed with George Michael…

Check Yourself!

Check Yourself!

Description:
Seriously ladies, You gotta really feel around good.

Remembering Tet

January 27, 2008

Remembering Tet

Greene County man’s collection a virtual Vietnam War museum


By David A. Maurer / dmaurer@dailyprogress.com | 978-724

January 27, 2008


Give your opinion on this story



vietnam0127

Craig LaMountain stands next to two Army jeeps that are part of his Vietnam collection at his Greene County warehouse. (The Daily Progress/Andrew Shurtleff)
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RUCKERSVILLE – Craig LaMountain sat at his kitchen table flanked by a piece of fresh crumb cake and a mug of steaming instant coffee.
When he was serving in Vietnam 40 years ago, the equivalent would have been a yellow plug of C-ration pound cake and instant coffee sipped from a metal canteen cup. Despite all the time that has passed, some memories of that war remain as fresh and vivid for the 60-year-old as the snow-covered meadows outside his Greene County home.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, which proved to be the turning point in the Vietnam War. One of the first areas hit was the Chu Lai base camp, where LaMountain was serving with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade.
LaMountain has more than memories to remind him of his yearlong tour of duty in Vietnam. Not far from his home is a warehouse filled with an assortment of Vietnam related things including a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter that served in the war.
Now retired, the former auto mechanic spends quite a bit of his time using his collection to educate people about the war.
“What got me started doing this was my cousin who was a social studies teacher in Long Island,” LaMountain said. “Back in the early 1990s she told me that they covered the Vietnam War in one day.
“I said, ‘You do 10 years in one day?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ So I started going into classes to give slide shows about
Vietnam, and then I restored a jeep so it looks like the one I had in Vietnam.”
LaMountain didn’t stop there. For the last 12 years he has been hauling a Huey helicopter that served in Vietnam into schoolyards on a flatbed trailer. He received the surplus chopper as a “conditional gift” from the government with the understanding that he would restore it to look as it had in Vietnam, and use it as a historical teaching aid.
The Army veteran does more than take the helicopter around to schools and events to let people see the icon of the Vietnam War. He also displays an array of equipment used by American and North Vietnamese troops.
“If I just talked to kids about Vietnam it would be like a teacher talking and it wouldn’t mean much to them,” LaMountain said. “But when I pull the helicopter into the schoolyard and lay out all the memorabilia around it, it becomes real for them.
“They can walk from bench to bench and see the c-rations we ate, the punji stake booby traps we encountered, the uniforms we and the NVA wore. When I get finished they have some knowledge of what Vietnam was really like.
“My thought is that this isn’t just another day in history class for them. It’s something they’ll remember.”


Early-morning attack
LaMountain certainly remembers his experiences during the Tet Offensive. His unit was one of the first to be engaged in the brutal fighting.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 30, 1968, a breakdown in communications resulted in the premature launching of the offensive. Timed to coincide with the Vietnamese lunar New Year holiday, the countrywide attacks had been originally scheduled to start on Jan. 30, but were set ahead a day at the last minute.
Some Viet Cong guerrilla units, as well as North Vietnamese Army regulars, didn’t get word of the altered timetable. This resulted in thousands of VC/NVA troops striking six cities and towns in South Vietnam a day early.
“No one had been put on alert, so we were all sleeping,” said LaMountain, who had arrived in Vietnam on Aug. 23, 1967, his 20th birthday. “All of a sudden rockets started coming in, and some of them hit the ammo dump at the Marine airbase behind us.
“Hot shrapnel started blowing through the tents where we were sleeping. A lot of guys got messed up by it. That dump was full of things like 500-pound bombs, and all this stuff was going off and was raining down on us.
“We grabbed whatever weapons we had and dove into the rice paddies right behind us. We had no bunkers at that point, because we had never had a problem before.”
LaMountain hunkered down with some of his buddies at the perimeter wire. He was armed with an M-79 grenade launcher and .45 caliber pistol.
“When the jets and helicopter gunships started making fire runs it was almost like watching a Fourth of July celebration,” LaMountain said. “The NVA or VC were hitting our wire in different places, but you had to be careful where you were shooting so you wouldn’t hit your own guys.
“You were seeing all kinds of things, but most of the time you didn’t know if it was us or them. There was such a mass confusion, because nobody expected this. You had to wait until the enemy got close enough so you could see who they were, and then you started firing.
“It was frightening, but remember I was 20 years old and things then didn’t affect me like they would today. I was brought up on John Wayne movies, and he goes out there with his rifle to win. That was my mentality.”


Public’s attitude changes
The following night, Jan. 31, an estimated 84,000 VC/NVA troops launched attacks from one end of South Vietnam to the other. Within two days the enemy attacked 39 of South Vietnam’s 44 provincial capitals, and all but one of its six largest cities, including Saigon.
Despite an all-out effort and initial surprise, the Tet Offensive was a staggering military defeat for communist forces. VC guerrilla units were decimated, and would never again be a serious threat during the war.
By the time the fury subsided an estimated 58,000 VC/NVA soldiers had been killed in action. Although the Americans and South Vietnamese military had won decisively, it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory.
For months the American public had been assured by military leaders, as well as President Johnson, that the war was being won, and the endgame was at hand. Then in the face of these rosy reports came news of the heaviest fighting of the war.
The magnitude of the offensive stunned American military leaders in Vietnam, as well as the American people. Much media attention was focused on the fact that the North Vietnamese had even hit the U.S. Embassy and the Presidential Palace in the heart of Saigon.
During the ensuing four decades many books have dissected the Tet Offensive and its aftermath. Peter Braestrup’s two-volume work, “Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet in Vietnam and Washington,” concluded that media reporting was one of the major reasons why a disaster on the battlefield resulted in a strategic psychological victory for the communists.


Bewildering war
But even after four decades, Vietnam veterans like LaMountain remain bewildered by a war they won on the battlefield, but somehow lost anyway.
“I still don’t really know what happened there,” LaMountain said. “I read history books about it. I’ve been back to Vietnam seven times, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me.
“We kicked the hell out of them – all that has been written about. Everything militarily we won. But back here in the states, psychologically and politically we lost.”
LaMountain and countless other Vietnam veterans, like William Huppert, did everything their country asked of them. And when it was over, they were the ones who had been irreversibly changed by the experience.


Clearest memories
For Huppert the Tet Offensive will always be personified by his memories of a horribly burned young boy and a terribly wounded American soldier. Out of the countless patients he helped as an Army medic working in the intensive care ward of the 95th Medical Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang, those two are clearest in his memories.
“This young GI was too critical for us to transport to the hospital in Japan, because he wouldn’t have survived the trip,” said Huppert, who lives in Charlottesville and works at Oyster House Antiques on the Downtown Mall and operates a nearby kiosk.
“He had multiple shrapnel wounds in addition to being a double amputee above the knees. He was fully aware, and was always asking us if he was going to die.
“He hung on and hung on and we all knew he was trying so hard, but he eventually ended up dying. Less than five minutes after he died the ward telephone rang, and I answered it.”
Huppert remembers the female voice on the other end of the line sounded distant, otherworldly. It was the mother of the soldier who had just died calling from the states, trying to get information about her son.
Just a few feet away the ward doctor was removing tubes from the soldier’s lifeless body. It was almost more than the 18-year-old medic could handle.
“I guess I was pretty upset, and the mother could tell by the tone of my voice that something was wrong,” Huppert said. “I was sort of crying at that point, and she began to cry.
“We talked a little bit more, and then she said she needed to talk to someone over me. I said I could let her speak with the head doctor on the ward. I told him someone wanted to talk to him.
“He was just zipping this kid into a body bag, and he asked me who it was. When I said it was the dead GI’s mother, his face … I’ll always remember his face.”
The young soldier was one of 3,895 Americans killed during the offensive. The failed campaign also resulted in the deaths of 14,300 South Vietnamese civilians, including 2,800 citizens of Hue who were slaughtered by NVA/VC death squads.
It’s the memory of an innocent Vietnamese boy who had gotten caught up in the Tet fighting that has had the most profound effect on Huppert’s life.


Stark realization
“I never found out how it happened, but this boy who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 had been burned over his entire body,” Huppert said. “His eyelids had been seared off, and his fingertips fell off.
“He was in such agony. I don’t think there was ever a hope that he could survive, but he was still kept alive. His parents would visit him, and at one point I think they tried to help him commit suicide by giving him something to choke on, but the doctors brought him back.
“He had been on the ward for about three months when I went to his bedside one day to check on him, and heard a gurgling sound. I asked him if he was in pain, but there was no response.
“I started to realize then what was going on, and I walked away from him very peacefully. He had bitten his tongue off and drowned in his own blood. But it was over for him. That was the whole thing. It was finally over for him.”
Huppert was silent for several seconds before he continued.
“My whole perspective of life was altered by that boy,” he said in a quiet tone. “That was actually the day that love died for me.”
Huppert said he has often thought about the young boy he named Bien Hoa, because he thinks it means peace and love in Vietnamese. Like LaMountain he finds it all but impossible to comprehend that 40 years have passed since those terribly trying days in Vietnam.
“Forty years,” LaMountain said thoughtfully as he looked out his kitchen window. “It surprises you when you realize how the years have flown by.
“But that’s why I do what I do with my equipment – you know, go into the schools to teach students about Vietnam, and what it was like for regular guys like me.
“I think people learn from history. You learn from your mistakes. That’s part of life.”
Schools and organizations interested in seeing LaMountain’s exhibit can contact him by e-mail at clamount @embarqmail.com