NIX COMICS - BOOKS WITH BEAT

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Did you know that Beatles renegade, John Lennon, gauged a lot of this musical inspiration from comic books? For example; The surrealist song, 'I am the Walrus', is in actual fact a reinterpretation of a 'Brave and the Bold' issue where Batman and Hawkman fought the Penguin whilst stoned out of their minds. Hey! Do you want to know who else is sto... err... likes music? My mate Ken Eppstein. Here, check out a conversation we had just the other day, whilst reinterpreting the lyrics to the Outkast song, 'Hey Yah'.


Hammer House of Horror


1) How would you describe your publishing house, www.nixcomics.com?  Ha! Is there a comic book equivalent to “The Island of Misfit Toys?” Y’know - There are lots of folks out there hungry for comic book and graphic novel stuff that is nothing like what’s being distributed through what’s become the industry standard model. Right now there’s no motivation for a record store or rock music themed boutique to try and open up an account with Diamond and sell comic books.

The but crossover appeal is there!

'Nix Comics' are the pulp equivalent of a good punk rock or power pop LP. And not just stylistically. Even down to how I promote and distribute my comics has a lot more in common with small garage and punk records labels from the 80s and 90s like Estrus, Crypt, Get Hip or Damaged Goods. (Hey, three outta those four of those are even still in business to some degree!).

2) What are your own origins Ken? And when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?  I wish I had a nice concise origin yarn to feed to you, but the fact of the matter is that for most of my life I’ve been a dabbler and a bit of a nomad. I’ve worked in a lot of jobs, tried a bunch of start up businesses and lived in a bunch of cities. There have been recurring themes - I've started both comic book and collectible/used record businesses - Most of the 9 to 5 jobs I've had, have been do good-er non-profit kinda gigs…

The nice thing about being a dabbler though? Is that I have a leg up on a lot of other creators and would be publishers when it comes to the basics of running things like a business. I know how to put a project together from soup to nuts. If along the way, an out of the ordinary task or unexpected problem pops up, I’ve probably already dealt with something similar somewhere along the line.

Anyway, its got to the point that dabbling wasn’t really satisfying. I always loved comic books, even entertained being an artist when I was a kid, but the mainstream had kind of left me behind. I guess I want a craft brew now and they’re selling Coors and Budweiser.

I figured I couldn’t be alone in that and started writing the kind of comics I would personally want to read.

3) I’ve noticed that you like to work with an array of talented artists with varying styles, such Bob Ray Starker and Brian Kraft for example. How do you choose what artist would draw which book?  In a lot of cases I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of these artists kinda fall into my lap. Serendipity chose them more than I did. For instance, I’ve known Bob Ray starker for years, from the days when he was in a band named 'The Sovines'. I had no idea that he was also an illustrator until he approached me after the first issue of 'Nix Comics Quarterly'. There was a lot of that kind of thing. Once I showed that I could not only put a book out, but also that I paid upon completion, artists starting finding me.

My favorite artist meet up was Matt Wyatt, who has been on my roster since 'Nix Comics Quarterly #3'. We’ve both lived in Columbus for a long time and traveled in the same circles, but didn't know each other at all. We have fairly similar musical tastes and we’d probably been to 100s of the same shows, but had never really connected to either of our memories. Last April, I went to a Fleshtones show at a tiny club called 'The Summit' and actually got to hang out with the band briefly. (And by hang out, I mean seem like a star struck dork while they prove how eminently cool they are.) The bass player, Ken Fox. told me that I should meet up with the guy who did the poster for their gig… Matt. Basically, Matt and I were introduced by one of our musical idols.

4) In the past, flamboyant musician, Elton John, has said that his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, writes the words before he composes the songs. In your case, what comes first, the comic book or the music associated with it?  In my case, the music influence usually comes first. In the Ramones documentary “End of the Century” Dee Dee Ramone spits out this great line about the days before MTV, about how music listeners could kick back close their eyes and imagine stories that go along with the songs on spinning LP.

I do that ALL THE TIME! Most of my stories are generated like that.

5) If your publishing house was a movie or an object, what would it be and why?  Nix Comics would be a cool movie house that showed Roger Corman, Hammer and other B-Movies. In between movies, The Ramones, Thee Headcoats and similar bands would be blaring while a slide show of EC Comics and Warren Magazines pages cycles through for the audience’s amusement. And the concession stand would have real Texas BBQ instead of popcorn.




6) What was the first comic book you ever read? And do you still read mainstream comics?  I’m not sure if I could place the first comic I ever read. Probably something my older brothers had laying around the house or maybe a copy of 'Hot Stuff The Little Devil' that my mom bought me at the airport to shut my yap. Around the age of 10 or so I became a regular at the Comics rack at the local 7-11.

Howzabout this though… The first comic I ever bought with my own money was actually the first record I ever bought as well! It was one of those “Power Records” deals where they reprinted the first issue of the Fantastic Four and through in a 7” record with a narration. To this day I hear a little “ping!” in the back of my head when its time to turn a page.

7) If you could assign a smell to some of your comic book creations, what odours would they be and why?  That’s easy! I’d want them to have that smell that comics used to have when I was a kid. Cheap newsprint and printer’s ink. Oh man! In this slick and glossy digital age we are really missing out on those dirty industrial smells of the old days. I remember when you could practically huff a comic to get high.

Errrr! Which nobody should actually do. It’s a crappy high and can cause brain damage. Save your brain cells to make comics kids! (Reviewers Note: Sniff baby - SNIFF).

8) If there was one thing you could change about your work, what would it be, and again, why?  On a purely artistic level, I think like any creator, everything I’ve ever done is subject to review and I’m probably my own harshest critic. But y’know, it is what it is - a snap shot of my evolution as an artist at the time. There are no magical do-overs, so I don’t spend too much time thinking about what I’d do differently on past projects as much as how to apply the lessons I’ve learned to future projects.

My point of view in that respect does falter a little when I step back and take a broader look at what comic books are, and that’s one of the canonical forms of pop art. As such, Production, promotion and distribution are as much a part of the art form as writing and drawing. In my mind, the biz is inseparable from the actual creation of the art. That being the case, I need to figure out a better way to get the boxes of Nix Comics sitting in my basement into the hands of an audience.

9) During your time as a writer, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead? Plus are there any new projects upon the horizon? I hope you can forgive a little homersim, I’m not sure that there’s a better city in the States to be an independent comic creator than Columbus, OH. Cartooning is in the water here - From James Thurber to Milton Caniff to Sean McKeever to Jeff Smith. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at Ohio State University is the largest collection of comics and cartoons in the world. Every April, the Small Press and Alternative Comix Expo here in town draws hundreds of artists and publishers. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that Columbus has real provenance.

Plus, the rent is cheap when you’re smack dab in the middle of Ohio. More money to actually print and pay artists.

Next on my slate is actually a bit of a repress. Nix Comics Quarterly regular Darren Merinuk, in addition to having done the art for about a zillion record jackets and tour posters, illustrated a comic titled “Rockin’ Bones” in the early 90s for 'New England Comics'. Four issues came out in all before it was canned, but it remains a big seller to garage rock fans. 

At this point he owns the rights to the material, so we’re going to print up some TBDs with all for issues. It’ll be a big hit for anyone who digs The Cramps or old flyin’ saucer movies. If that takes off some, I think I would be really interested in doing small runs of things that have gone out of print for other Nix Contributors. (Mark Rudolph did a great graphic Novel called “Closing Doors” about a record store closing that would fit real well into the Nix Canon, for instance.)

And of course 'Nix Comics Quarterly #5' is starting to take shape!

Thanks for that Ken. That was smashing mate. So when you have the time dear reader, please check out Kens stuff at www.nixcomics.com. Plus don't forget to do the facebook and twitter thing.