RGFS.NET: Who were the main influences artistically (writers, illustrators, music) on your work growing up as a young artist? In Steve Bissette's TABOO introduction of your story "Akimbo", he wrote that he saw in your work, influences the likes of Alfred Jarry, Samuel Beckett, Mark Beyer, Jim Woodring, and Max Ernst. Vintage John Waters films, Captain Beefheart lyrics, and the Three Stooges were all mentioned at some point also. Were any of these an influence on your writing and artwork in some way?
RICK GRIMES: "If I had to boil it down, it would be the rasp and clang and anvil chorus of the freakishly coiffed Three Stooges. The perpetual background of 'Warner Bros', Terrytoons and (ooh... it's just) Popeyes. Jay Ward's Bullwinkle (and followup characters); and their imitative, less funny brethren, the 'Total TV' crowd (King Leonardo, Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo). Dr. Seuss, probably more than I realize. Walt Kelly and Chester Gould most definitely. Some Carl Barks and more often the less 'thoughty' Paul Murry (Mickey [Mouse] and Goofy stories). None of us knew their names back then. The early Hanna-Barbera TV 'stable' was always fun to look at (tho' never hilarious), until they 'ran out of animals' and abandoned their old crew for self imitation and endless teenagers-with-hound dogs gurge. Their Hollywood derived 'J. Evil Scientist'. The subsequent TV Munsters and Addams Family, casts, settings and all. And their cartoon reflections Milton the Monster and Gold Key Comics' Little Monsters. The forgotten Virgil Partch. Basil Wolverton in a class all his own, and no doubt Ed Roth's Rat Fink and the Odd Rods craze.
Fifties and Sixties B movie 'horrors', [Roger] Corman, [William] Castle, Larry Buchanan and such ilk.
Gilligan (Gilligan's Island), Get Smart and Gomer [Pyle] (Gomer Pyle). Paul Henning's crossover world of Hillbillies - the indomitable vitality and 'frightening charm' of the stupid. Especially, most all of Green Acres, the epitome of cornball surrealism.
That's just part of the flood, folks.
And I hope it doesn't disillusion any of my fellow, but 'differently-challenged', obsessives who think I dropped out of some eyre of insanity not of this beleaguered earth, and prefer mystique. But, that was it. The secret's out. I'm just another media baby.
However, I refuse to take the 'blame by association'. All of that stuff was already here for years before I got here or/and came along/later throo dint of effort of many others not only as goofy but probably goofier than I. Earth, or America anyway, does that to you.
So, whatever the particular passing landmarks in the flood of others' works, I defy anyone not to have that fecundity coming out of their ears in pleasing piles of myriad mind-manure.
To continue: Some of the more readily available surrealists - Dali, Magritte, Ernst.
Sergio Leone. Eraserhead. Herbie. Many others, large and small. It could even be any number of things impossible to track down.
In writing: Dr. Seuss and Walt Kelly, again. Frank Jacobs' song parodies in Mad Magazine. W.C. Fields' domestic scenarios.
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) records freed me to speak of things, things themselves.
A little later, Robbie-Grillet, especially In The Labyrinth and Jealousy, The House of Rendezvous and his book of essays on other writers. His comments on other writers. His comments on Raymond Roussel and examples of his method.
[Samuel] Beckett, of course, took it all to the limits, and I did read him.
Harry Crews brings you back to earth with the anthonic humour of his Southern-fried freaks. Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood.
[Kurt] Vonnegut and [Richard] Brautigan showed you can have a complete story, a full book, using brevity, personal nuance and humour. Some Donald Barthelme.
Am aware of the others you quoted - whatever's been available to touch, glance at or wallow in probably lurks or shines somewhere, too - you have little raps on when, what, & how much. Is there anything that doesn't influence you? I don't think that the nature of it is, in general, even understood. Probably never to be. Plus other people and places - the whole of one's life, which can't be remembered entirely.
Everyone has phases too. I had a Peanuts phase as a kid. Kept drawing the characters. A [Robert] Crumb phase as a teenager drawing, ('twenties' style), cats and dogs. But, how much of that can you see in my stuff now?
Or other things, particularly later in your life, only reaffirm your direction or fill in some area of created worlds and approaches you almost went to; or never conceived of 'til you saw someone else's work.
You may know you'll never go there. Like in dreams where you see this great style or page that may be signed by some weird name. But, you wake up and realize it could have been your style, had you laboured for that, or been a tad or a slew more capable.
You've dreamed artwork that can never, may never quite be. Yet you saw it as if real in a different niche or continuum of artistic influences.
Again, another 'last point': as you develop you realize a direction isn't quite you and you sort of reject it. You must still love it and respect that artist, writer, or performer but you just don't go there as much for inspiration. Maybe for escape and entertainment! A lot of things I love but have not mentioned because I just don't see the effect on my art." -- (December 22, 2008).
GRIMES: "Stuffed toys; tray puzzles; TV cartoon character cereal boxes, prizes and comics. Coloring books, board games, gum cards, playing cards. Gumball machine rings and tiny gewgaws. TV comedies. Photo reels. Paperbacks, paintings, photos and newspaper strip clippings.
Now, taken together, looking like, sounding like an almost constant chaos field of strangeness. The insane greed-flow of the very privileged. But, we weren't particularly well-off.
This is just the flood of what was around in the early and later sixties and beyond, (perhaps all quaint enough now), for an American kid.
The toy companies got a lot of mileage back then out of cardboard and plastic. If you cut out everything I had then that was made out of paper and plastic, there probably wouldn't be anything left.
The various ways to 'be' a cartoon: flat, moving, human, 3rd dimensional.
Some only reaffirming your emerging course.
Some spurring you to fervid imitation.
Company for your mind...
PART ONE: "EARLY SIGNS"
- other early 'signs' -- stuffed Curly Howard colorforms head of sister's into keyhole.
- plastic barn animals into metal barn - ('characters' in 'boxes').
- sat in floor of waiting room, would turn magazine pages carefully without tearing.
- 'drew' as soon as could hold a pencil. Including coloring in tiny horses in sisters grade school book.
1st horror 'movie': age 3 or 4, in a Chattanooga drive-in, trailer for "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?". announcer's lurid cry and Jane's hallway cackles gooseflesh down my neck.
'favourite' accident: Trussville, Alabama, 1962, step short, roll down small staircase like an armadillo all the way to the bottom. okay, but have recurring headaches rest of my life to date, once guessed several thousand by now.
1st 'comic': the Disney movie (did not see then or know of) redo of PINOCCHIO, 'read' by zigzag scanning of panel art. hooded 'Blackshirt' grabs for Pinocchio and Jiminy as they leap over the parapet into the sea.
other stuff at this time: Bullwinkle, Supercar (Mitch the Monk), King Leonardo, Capt. Kangaroo. 'Twinkles' cereal box with cardboard comic 'book' story flap on the back. About the elephant and his jungle friends from TV commercials for the cereal.
Fort Worth, Texas, 1963, probable first sketch pad; Beany + Cecil (animated) especially the 'Three Headed Threep' [think Meemo in Puzz Fundles]; CLUTCH CARGO and SPACE ANGEL.
visit to Houston, Texas 1963. GREEN EGGS & HAM. jumbo Hanna-Barbera coloring book.
car trip to Franklin, Ky. via Memphis 1964, 2nd comic book, (lost), Big Boy Restaurant giveaway featuring Big Boy in a cannibal pot.
summer in Franklin, '64 at my grandmother's house: lots of Three Stooges, (the human 'cartoon'), many with 'Chimp' instead of Curly. knew somehow they were related.
other stuff then: SON of FRANKENSTEIN, House of Frankenstein of TV. "Weekly Reader" kid's newspaper delivered to my granma's roadside mailbox, one with cartoon animals on the cover all talking on a 'party line' (telephone).
fall, 1964. car trip to Shreveport, night-reading (3rd) comic book, TOP CAT with J. Evil Scientist in a cannibal pot. (again). Top Cat and Benny crayon themselves onto a sleeping giant's feet to make dragon burn their images instead of them.
we move into small halfhouse apartment in '20s - '30s neighborhood; a mysterious place with a spiked fence, down-the-block, on the corner.
drawing at this time: copy the heads of SUNDAY funnies characters, Addams Family and local puppets from TV, holiday figures, living food, boats of animals, and (DON MARTIN) fat gal glimpsed in store.
other influences then: MUNSTERS; MR. POTATO HEAD; nightmares; Walt Kelly's version of Chicken Little reprinted in library copy of Bennett Cerf humor book; Viewmaster reels; only copy of JACK & JILL magazine with crazed clown on cover and SEALTEST ice cream company (ad) Walrus, six of them on a 'find the mistakes' page. One has high heels. 'Odd Rods' plastic figures, (could not buy or take home with), tucked about the leather goods by adult son of owner of western shop my father worked in. And must have 'hillbilly' stickerbook with giant-headed characters of all sorts with 'select-a-face' stickers.
staggering films: on TV, after school (first grade), HOUSE OF HAUNTED HILL with Elisha Cook, Jr.'s worrisome lead-in and all the subsequent creepy scares; and [Roger] Corman's NOT OF THIS EARTH with Paul Birch as an urbanized blood-craving 'alien' with wraparound sunglasses and the inconclusive finale. Also stunned by HITCHCOCK (PRESENTS) episode, "The Magic Shop" - its scrunch-faced policeman doll and ambulance gut pain.
first drugstore comic: [Carl] Barks' comics & stories with UNCA SCROOGE performing 'surgery' on cymbal-clashing monkey noisemaker, and GYRO GEARLOOSE and his light bulb helper building a better robot.
Begin to truly catch on to DICK TRACY's crazy appeal when glimpse 'Piggy Butcher' on a slab in the (previous highlights) little rectangle of a Sunday strip. Pay more attention to the ongoing story of 'Chin Chillar', a woman with a goatee who hides a key in her mouth that [Dick] Tracy shakes out of her; and later stories such as 'Purdy Faller' sequence - he slashes throats with his angle-pared fingernails, the 'clue' they find a grapefruit with parallel slash marks... Purdy's 'practice' grapefruit.
summer 1965 -- we move again, a long way I think, but only coupla miles to '40s neighborhood. first day there, Jack M. shows up, asks my name: "Gick Rimes??" he says. "Rick Grimes!" says I.
We became friends right off. More restless than I, he is always buying & trying out the latest oddball toy crazes or whatever junk he/we can afford to get hold of. Throo Jack 'exposed' to the old comic ad standbys - blasting caps, potato gun, 'snake' pellets, x ray specs, joy buzzers and rubber monster feet. He buys a "Creeple People" oven, the Aurora (?) "Phantom of the Opera" model kit with its own little rat and the contraption game 'Mouse Trap', which I must have, too; (mine becomes a dust-gathering 'home' for my troll dolls).
Jack has a "Metamorpho" comic, and a Rat Fink album, (by Allan Sherman?). We acquire various sizes of Rat Finks for plastic rings from gumball machines. We pool our money to get complete sets of the (Crumb illustrated) "Monster Greetings Cards", (Norman Saunders' painted) Batman cards, Green Hornet cards (with green sticks of bubble gum) and (most emphatically) the Basil Wolverton Ugly Stickers ((also by Norman Saunders & Wally Wood: http://www.normansaunders.com/Ugly%2C01.html) which we strew about my living room floor. (With his okay, to complete my set I pry #22, 'Clifford', off Jack's stepdown-playroom wallboard and stick it onto a shopping bag).
Other stuff at this time: first newstand comic - SUPERGOOF #4 ("Sept. '66") with (Paul Murry) Goofy in red flannel underwear, who becomes 'super' by eating a "super goober" from his weird blue hat. In this issue, 'Dr. Stigma' mass-hypnotizes Duckburg into believing world landmarks are missing & stolen for ransom. Huey, Dewey & Louie were scuba diving so had no effect - they run across bridge that is/n't there.
Also (By Paul Murry - he is easy to spot by the long, low stride of, particularly Mickey & Goofy, who seem never exactly to 'run' but only to stretch quickly from crisis spot to crisis spot; and for Goofy's long body and big, long slappity feet. Frequently is also seemingly the only artist back then still using 'Black Pete', the big fat stubbly cat character left over from the early Disney animateds):
Phantom Blot #6 ("July 1966") Mickey with Donald [Duck] track 'the Blot's' soap cell escape. While the Blot, with (Barks') Beagle Boys waylay Scrooge's ocean liner, crewed by sailor-hatted apes.
PHANTOM BLOT #7 ("Nov. '66"): The Blot escapes prison again this time using balloons-in-a-suit and switching places with the janitor. Then flies away from his garage-like 'headquarters' in a ball shaped helicopter. The heroes go to F.I.B. spy school while the Blot is trying to cause a border war with 'Bullivania'.
Besides the Murry artwork, also easy to spot by his use of long panels on a four-rowed page, these comics were also special to me as they had no ads, as GOD intended comics to be, [unless you count the use of the Disney name and 'his' characters as an ad]. And, also, they had 1 comic story throo the whole issue; with black & white comics for the inside covers.
tried doing crayon versions (six on a notebook paper page) of 'every' character in my Gold Key comics, ('Disney' and "Little Monsters"), interest usually flagging after a few pages.
When I look back again, at any given time, at Murry's work I think I've probably underestimated the effect it had on me. (Like Seuss). I didn't keep trying consciousl to copy it after moving on to other things. But, at the time, there was/is something very consumable about his style. Whereas, with Barks, who was & is amazing and the creative, unheralded source of nearly all the so-called Disney stable of comic book characters, his linework was so fine and so careful its always seemed beyond my seat-of-the-pants abilities. Murry's close-to-the-ground style, red flannelled, slappy-footed Goofy and his convoluted 'mystery' serials seemed more possible for me.
As they used to say at the 'end' of some of them -- " -- Rick Grimes (April 16, 2009).
TO BE CONTINUED...