Four guys walked into a bar and decided to write a comic about Glenn Danzig & Henry Rollins… as lovers. Tom Neely answers a few questions on behalf of Igloo Tornado about Henry & Glenn Forever.
This is a pretty amazing idea. How did it start, and how did you guys decide to actually see this through as a book?
It all kinda started as a bad joke. The Igloo Tornado (the art fraternity that consists of me, Scot Nobles, Gin Stevens and Dino Fucker) were at a bar and after a few too many beers Gin Stevens said something like “I think there should be a book like Tom of Finland, but with Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig…” and we all agreed that we had to make this happen. From there the idea became “what if they were domestic partners?” and we just riffed on that idea for a while. At some point Hall and Oates got thrown into the mix. Most of the ideas came out of a beer bottle… So, we first made them as self-published mini comics and they quickly sold out. After that I kinda let it die because it was just a dumb joke book and I didn’t feel like keeping it in print. But I kept running into people at conventions who wanted more Henry & Glenn. So, I pitched the idea to Joe Biel for Microcosm, and without hesitation he said he wanted to publish it with his imprint Cantankerous Titles. So, we collected all the old stuff, added a lot of new stuff and now it’s exploded all over the place. I’m a bit overwhelmed by how well it’s doing.
One of you guys actually brought the comic to Henry and he signed it, for real?
Yeah! A couple of years ago we had made the mini-comic of Henry & Glenn at San Diego Comic Con. Gin Stevens found out that Henry Rollins was doing a signing at some booth so he waited in line and showed him the book and asked him to sign it. Henry seemd kinda bummed out about it, and he said “Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would NOT be amused.” And he reluctantly autographed our mini comics.
Is this a one time deal, or are fan fiction comics your new career? I know there’s a Garfield comic you did that I have stowed away somewhere…
Oh yeah, that Garfield thing was fun. I keep forgetting I did that. I don’t even know if I have a copy of that anywhere. But no, I don’t want this to be my career. It’s a one-time deal. I just did a few new Henry & Glenn strips for the second edition of the book and I don’t wanna do it any more. It’s too easy. It’s been weird to see how hugely successful it’s been. In 3 weeks we sold more HG4Evers than I’ve sold of The Blot in 3 years. I’m really happy for this books success, but it has caused some conflicting emotions about success and art. I keep hoping some of the attention from the Henry & Glenn book will get people interested in the other comics I do. Everyone’s been telling me I should do a sequel, but basically HG4Ever was a drunken joke and I’ve got better things I want to do with my art and comics.
You’re a metal man, what’s this dalliance with punk about?
I guess you met me after my spiky blue hair phase. I definitely have more of an affinity for metal in a lot of ways, but I’m not just a metal head… I’m just as much punk as metal. I’m also a huge jazz fiend (listening to Albert Ayler at the moment). My taste is all over the place actually. But metal and punk I’m more passionate about because it’s more from an outsider or underground perspective and I relate to that very much. As a self-publishing DIY cartoonist, I find a lot of inspiration from punk and underground music.
You’ve done a number of prints and album covers for bands. How did you get started working with the music industry?
I’ve just always been interested in music. I get a lot of inspiration from music and I’ve always wanted to be involved some way by making art for bands I like. Almost all of the artwork I’ve done for bands has come from making some kind of personal connection to them- becoming friends or friends of friends. I just did a cover for a limited release by ISIS and that happened because Aaron Turner and I became friends after he read The Blot. I suppose if I had an agent or something I could get more of this kind of work, but I prefer it to be more of a mutual collaborative relationship. If a band likes my art, and I like their music, then we’ll figure out a way to work together.
You self-published The Blot in 2007. How has the publishing world treated you in the age of dying print? Will you do it again?
Self-publishing is the best decision I ever made, and I’ve become more and more dedicated to my DIY ideals. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been great! I’m really proud that everything I do is 100% my vision and I don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks. The toughest part has been getting the books out there. I chose not to use Diamond, and too many stores don’t know about my work because of that. I distro through Sparkplug and Last Gasp and Tony Shenton does a lot of work to get my books out there. But most of my sales are at conventions and online through my site. Still I’m amazed that in the age of the internet there are so few stores and people that think to order books directly from a self-publishing artist. I get e-mails from people saying “I can’t find your books anywhere. Where can I get them?” Well, you found my e-mail address, why couldn’t you find the “store” section of my website and order the books from me? If it’s not on Amazon, at Barnes and Nobles or distributed through Diamond some people don’t think you exist. But there are a lot of smart stores that do order from me or through Tony Shenton and I always do well at comics festivals. And that’s one of my favorite things about self-publishing- I really love traveling around and meeting people and seeing them enjoy my work.
And of course I’ll do print again. I’m not completely opposed to digital, but I will always do a print version of my work. I don’t enjoy reading things digitally, and I love books. I love the way artwork looks printed on paper. I love holding books in my hand and carrying them around with me. Books are very satisfying to make. I find making a book just as satisfying as finishing a painting or drawing. Putting artwork on the web just feels like throwing it into a void. Giving a book to someone feels more real and personal.
Print will only die if people let it. And even then, it will never die completely. Just look at vinyl records- they’re actually making a big comeback in the age of digital downloads. The big publishers will probably stop using print, and printed books will become more of a specialized niche. And that’s fine with me. My hope is that the books that are printed in the future will be better quality of content made by people who really love books, and all the trash and fluff and disposable mass-audience crap can go digital. I think people still want books. Look at how many comic festivals there are now. People don’t go to a comic festival to read comics online.
Sorry, I could go on and on about this stuff…
What are you working on now?
I’m nearly done with my next graphic novel The Wolf. It’s a collaborative project of art and music. My friend Aaron Turner (of ISIS and House of Low Culture) is composing a soundtrack to go with the book. The album and book will be packaged together as a book with a CD and probably a limited version of a book with vinyl record. I’m really excited about it because I’m a big fan of Aaron’s music, and it’s been really great to collaborate with him on this project. I’ve been really pushing myself as an artist on this book. I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done. It’s very different from all of my other comics. I’m not even sure if it is “comics” any more. It’s almost more like a sequential art book.
It will be co-published by my self-publishing co I Will Destroy You and Aaron’s record label Hydra Head Records. We’re hoping it will be out by this Fall, but it keeps getting pushed back because our schedules are so busy… He’s been touring a lot with ISIS and I’ve been scrounging around for freelance work to help pay my bills. But I’ll be done with my part soon, and then I think he’ll finish up the music this summer. I’m anxious to see it done, but we’ve been taking our time because we want it to be the best book/album we are capable of making.
Who would win in a fight, Igloo Tornado or Glenn & Henry?
I don’t want to find out. Those dudes are pretty buff. Actually Gin Stevens could probably hold his own. And I think Dino Fucker has some swords. Scot and I could probably outrun them.