"THERE'LL BE COOKIES" by Lorraine Mahru for Ben Is Dead Magazine
Darby Romeo (L), co-founder of Ben Is Dead, right, with friend and costume designer LORRAINE MAHRU (R).
I had come across a flyer for the Lines on Paper Comic Book Appreciation Society, so I phoned and had them send me more information. I received a newsletter of sorts that had some news, reviews, issues, and a history of comics, along with some snippets, coupons, and an outline of the noble L.O.P. goals and beliefs. Their printed matter proclaimed that by attending their meetings I could "find out about what comics you should be reading" and "what to show your friends when you think they're ready to read comics", as well as how to "learn page turning and other valuable tips".
I decided to venture out - I'm such an easy target for propagandizers.
Upon arriving, they offered me homemade cookies, and though these four men looked exactly like the ones I was taught not to accept sweets from, my craving for chocolate got the better of me. (I woulda been such an easy target for kidnapping perverts).
Alan Swink started the meeting by passing around his new L'il Abner anthology , and discussion ensued about how Daisy Mae was drawn much sexier in the strip's beginning. When the book was passed to me, I dutifully flipped through the pages. Yup, no disagreement here on the sexiness of Daisy Mae. Next Rod started Show and Tell from the past weekend's trip to the San Diego Comic Convention. In addition to his stack of comics, he'd purchased an original art page from Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve for $150. One of the club's non-present members had written a fan letter to Joe Matt that was printed in the latest Peepshow, so it was proudly read aloud. When they started to discuss Akira, I furtively snatched Dame Darcy's newest Meat Cake (that Rod had brought back from the Con) and read it until they changed the subject.
Even though there were only five of us in attendance tonight, they regaled me with tales of the one hundred and seven people crammed into the sixty person capacity room when Robert Williams was the guest speaker.
They briefly talked about their next speaker, French artist Jean Marc L'Officier who is slated to talk about French comics, and Gary wondered if might not more people attend if he lectured on horror instead (L'Officier's other area of expertise).
The group is in strong support of comics as a vital means of self expression and "believe that comics are meant to be read, not hermetically sealed and stored in vaults." They're concerned about the future of the industry and advocate comics that are less mainstream that Superman, and "promote artists whose work stretches the boundaries of the form" by getting work out there. I asked them why this was important to them, and while they were expounding into my tape recorder, I covertly sketched their portraits under the guise of taking copious notes while nodding affirmatively at the proper junctures.
Gary Cifra: Well for me comics, especially alternative comics, were really important in my life when I was growing up in the 1950s. When I came across Mad Magazine (back when it was a comic book) it literally changed my life forever because all of a sudden I could see that Wow! There're people making fun of the establishment, of our parents, of things that I read in school, and it helped me sort of step outside and not just fall in line. I realized that people can be irreverent towards all those things. I think it's really good for kids to be exposed to these ideas - that you can say whatever you want in these kind of comics.
Mike Lefebre: I think that in a way, comics is kind of a marginal genre that hasn't been beaten to death with criticism, that hasn't been defined to death to the point where everyone expects it to be a certain way or a certain thing. There's a wide open area for creativity in alternative comics.
Rod Mullinax: Once you've read some examples of alternative comics, you see the potential that the medium has, to serve for personal expression for the individual, to get ideas out there, an artistic vehicle that has all these possibilities that some people are beginning to realize, and the idea for me is to share something that I think is artistic, personal, and can open yours eyes about different things.
Mike: I'm here for access to stuff that I might not otherwise be exposed to, that I don't have time to look for, because until I found this group, it would have just been when I had the time, I'd go to certain comic book shops and root around in a quite a few things, and here I get access to all this stuff that otherwise I wouldn't know about.
Gary: Yeah, I go to Hi De Ho Comics once a week, and every month Rod has a bunch of stuff that I never got a chance to see, but I can't go twice a week.
Rod: That's a funny thing about the economics of the situation too, that because retailers do not perceive a large market for this type of material, they order limited quantities, and therefore if you go to the store and try to find it, sometimes it's sold out and you may never see it unless you're really on top of things, which is unfortunate.
Gary: That's true, like Zero Zero, if you don't get it in the first week, you miss it.
Mike: I think it's the nature of the medium right now that you don't know if some things come out monthly, or once every three months, or once a year, or a couple of issues will come out and you'll wonder if it's disappeared off the face of the Earth - it's very difficult to keep up on it by yourself.
Rod: So as a group, together we can keep track of what's happening with things and share our insights and at least be made aware of what materials are out there that might be interesting to us. Sophisticated people who have wide ranging interests are like, "Oh..comics." And they immediately think Superheroes, so part of the idea that we want to promote is that comics is just a medium - you can do anything with a short story or in a movie; it doesn't represent a certain genre, it's just a medium.
Gary: We're really trying to subvert the dominant paradigm. There are certain givens within our culture: comic books are for kids and are not a serious thing, and when you question basic foundations of culture, it's hard thing to break down. Especially with what Hollywood's doing with all these comic book movies?
Though I wasn't quite convinced that any dominant paradigms were being subverted by the handful of white males sitting in the Venice Public Library in Los Angeles, you've gotta start somewhere, and sharing commix is definitely an idea whose time has come. So if you have nothing better to do at 6:00 PM on the fourth Monday of every month, why not bring a comic book for Show and Tell and join them in their proletarian struggle - there'll be cookies.