Life In Four Colors #31
THE LEGACY by Andrew McGinn and David Neitzke
Time to step into the good ol' Life in Four Colors time machine again as this time we have a couple of stops to make. First off.....
July 2008. I can't remember the exact date, but it was close to my birthday (July 25 th), heck it may have even been my birthday. I do know it was a Friday evening. I had just finished shooting two rounds of disc golf with good friend and fellow comic fan, Tim Hagans. The two of us decided to stop by a small lecture hall to listen to a man (David Berona) speak about the history of graphic novels. We met my ex-mother-in-law and my daughter Raichal there (Raichal was the person who told us about the event). And as a bit of a pleasant surprise I bumped into Andy McGinn, who I didn't recognize at first because he was sporting a beard.
Andrew "Andy" McGinn channeling Jimmy Page
The LIFC Time Machine kicked into high gear as the room seemed to blur and my mind raced back to the last point in time that Andy and I had spoken. It had to be about May 2001. You see Andy is the entertainment editor for the local paper here in Springfield Ohio and loves music and comics a great deal. He wrote a couple articles about the band I was playing with in 2001 (Violent Whisper) as well as the band my daughter was playing with at the time (she was the guitarist for Kid Chaos at age 12!)
Back to July 2008.
After the speaking engagement was over Andy and I caught up a bit and I learned he had written three issues of what was at the time supposed to have originally have been a four issue comic book limited series. I had let Andy know I was now writing a regular column at Comic Related and I immediately wanted to interview Andy about the book, hoping that he would go into more detail during the interview. He declined. He wanted to wait "until there was really something to talk about".
Zoom ahead to September 10 th 2009. Saturday. Champion City Comic Con. The first comic book convention in Springfield Ohio in 20 years. Andy and I ended up on the same comic panel. "Comic Journalism". It was the first panel of the day and the very first panel at Champion City. It was hosted by Matt Smith (co writer of a great book called The Power of Comics: History, Form, and Culture...I've read it, loved it and a review is coming...great stuff!)
Also on that same panel was Comic Related founder Chuck Moore and Richard Katterjohn founder of the Underground Video Network. And during the end of the panel Andy spoke a little about the project he had first mentioned over a year ago. A project that had now grown into a full length original graphic novel and came attached with a name.
Okay...back into the time machine one more time. Late December 2009. Andy e-mailed me letting me know he just received review copies of the book and wanted to know if I was interested in reading it. Uh.....Hell Yeah. I read the book one day while house sitting for my brother and set up an interview with Andy that following Sunday to talk about the book in detail
That interview was supposed to go up a week later...then I had computer problems. I got the computer fixed...for a few days. Then I had more problems. This repeated for a third time until the pile of material I had to review and other writing deadlines forced posting the interview back even further...until today. A month later than I wanted it to be, and for that I am sorry.
But that's all in the back window of the time machine as it screeches to halt. Let's talk about Andy's book.
The Legacy which Andy worked on with artist David Neitzke is a very well put together story about a young man who happens to be a writer and an artist working on what is sure to be his first ground breaking graphic novel. His plans are derailed as his dying father asks him to continue a newspaper comic strip "Simple Pleasures". A strip his father had created decades ago.
The son can not find it in his heart to say no to his father's last request, while at the same time wants nothing to do with this strip. So he comes up with a simple plan to be rid of Simple Pleasures. He would "sabotage" the strip to the point it would be cancelled. He would be free of his promise to his dying father and also be free to continue his own creative pursuits.
The Legacy is a wonderful tale of a young man making his own mark in the redundant and trite world of syndicated comic strips by accident more than design. On the surface, at least. There's another story buried below the surface. A story of family history, tradition, and personal acceptance. Being a part of a newspaper for a decade Andy has seen his fair share of syndicated strips and wastes no opportunity to poke fun at part of American history that has been with us all now for over a hundred years. Andy's partner in crime Mr. David Neitzke demonstrates a fine working knowledge of all pop culture with a style all his own and perfectly suited for this book. Together these two gentlemen spin a tale that pays homage to newspaper comic strips while at the very same time lampooning them. The Legacy is sure to entertain one several different levels as Andy and David flex their creative muscle to make you laugh about, think about, and in the end respect what the creators (and their families) of some of the longest running and popular comic strips in American history go through to ensure the dailies never die.
With that, let's zip back to a Sunday afternoon in December. A little over a month ago and allow Andy to tell us a little about The Legacy.
Legacy artist, David Neitzke was beginning to wonder when we were going to get to the interview!!!
G-Man: "How long have you had the idea for the Legacy?
Andrew McGinn: "Well I've been with the paper now for almost ten years. And this idea is just one of those things that just came in a flash. Dave and I go all the way back to college. He was a senior while I was a freshman, so I was always the young pup and he was the cooler, older guy. He lived down the hall and was into garage rock and power pop....all that cool stuff. He graduated college back in 96 and I graduated in 99 and he spent a good number of years trying to make it on his own as a cartoonist."
GM: "What? In comic strips or in graphic novel type stuff like this book?"
AM: "Both actually. He tried to go the syndicated route with a comic strip. He had tried to do some comic book work. He did get published for a while back home in Iowa in a weekly comic strip. And we stayed in contact all these years and one day I just threw him the idea. I'm a writer...you're an artist. We both have similar way of thinking...why not work together on something? But it wasn't this book. It was a comic strip. We wanted to go into the syndicated comic strip business and try to get into a couple of national newspapers. We came up with this strip called Monster on the Loose which was about Bigfoot and all these other crypto zoology creatures. And they were all like working stiffs and scaring people was just a job. And I tell you submitting an idea for comic books is a Hell a lot easier than submitting to comic strips. With comic books you have to have a story and about eight pages of art. With comic strips you need four to six weeks of dailies plus a couple of Sundays. We put together a submission package and set it out and within days we were getting rejection letters."
GM: "Where's this material now?"
AM: "I still have it around here somewhere. I'll show it to you. But between you and me, I'm kind of glad the comic strip thing didn't happen."
GM: "You weren't pleased with the material?"
AM: "It's not that we weren't pleased with the material, it's more along the lines that I didn't understand how big of an undertaking this sort of thing is. As much fun as it was for Dave and I to make fun of cartoonists in The Legacy I do have to acknowledge that is one Hell of an undertaking. To do something that comes out seven days a week....365 days a year you've got to have a strip. And it's got to be to the point and funny at the same time. Some of these strips have been around for 50 years! You try being funny 365 days a year for fifty years."
GM: "So you guys gave up on the idea of a syndicated strip."
AM: "I don't like the term gave up. We smartened up a bit maybe. I mean there's only three or four national comic syndicates. You think the window of opportunity is small trying to break into comic books, try breaking into comic strips. There's no room there. None at all. You're competing with strips that have been around for decades and that are not going anywhere carried by these three or four syndication companies.Figure in the amount of strips that are actually carried by each paper...and those numbers dwindle everyday. We were fighting an up hill battle and then some."
GM: "I never thought of that. Everybody talks about how hard it is breaking into comic books, but this is even harder. It's like a micro version of that."
AM: "I think you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning twice in the same spot on the same day."
GM: "You essentially ...with comic strips...have a static form of entertainment that doesn't really change from year to year...decade to decade."
AM: "You could have read a Beatle Bailey strip back in 1970, fell into a coma, woke up today and read the latest strip and not missed a damn thing. It's the same exact shit. Nothing's changed. But at the same time that's one of the reason's people won't let these things go. People don't like change. I don't like change. So these strips go on and on forever. They become what is known as legacy strips. A second generation and sometimes a third generation of creators...sometimes family members or what not are tapped to keep creating these strips."
GM: "And that's what your book is about to a certain degree."
AM: "To a certain degree, yes. I mean don't get mean wrong I realize these strips are an important part of our past and I do respect the creators that have worked on them over the years, but at the same time they are just so damn easy to make fun of. And I really think there is something that is lost when these strips are handed down from original creators to assistants to sons to third cousins...whatever...and then it goes back to the syndicate. So comic strips remain this wholesome form of entertainment that can equally entertain a nine year old or a ninety year old, but at the same time it's like they have this huge target on them that just screams to be made fun of."
GM: "And that's exactly what you guys do."
AM: "Why not? I mean we had just been rejected by the syndicates, why not make fun of them. We weren't trying to live out a revenge fantasy or anything. It just seemed to be an idea waiting to happen. And when you get right down to it, the type of humor that Dave and I are really into wouldn't really be welcomed in a syndicated comic strip. So doing a comic book...which evolved into a graphic novel seemed to be the right way to go. We had creative control...if we wanted to swear , we could swear. As much as we wanted...not that this book is like that but it happens occasionally."
GM: "That's one of the things that caught me by surprise when I read this. I had never seen that aspect of your personality before. Some of that stuff...especially in the added extra features was just funny as Hell but a little darker than ...you know the editorials I read in the paper."
AM: "At least the editorials that got ran. I've had my share of being edited. Did you like the extra features?"
GM: "That was one of my favorite parts of the book."
AM: "We had to add that at the last minute. The publisher that picked us up wanted us to add another twenty pages. And you read it. The story ended exactly where it needed to end. I couldn't just throw in twenty pages of story and ask Dave to draw them. I mean when the artist is done, you're pretty much done. So we came up with that idea."
GM: "I loved it. Now when does the book come out again?"
AM: "Originally it was supposed to come out March 1 st 2010, but it's been moved back to May. Afterwards I hope you and Scott will carry it there at the store."
GM: "Of course. We've had a lot of people doing signings and have their books at the store at the store, but this a local event. You live here in the same town. Most of these other guys are driving in from Columbus, Dayton, wherever....you're just a few blocks down the street. And how much will the book cost when it does come out?"
GM: "And do you have a website where people can go to get more information about not only the book but you and Dave as well?"
AM: " www.MolechPress.com That's a pretty interesting side note. I don't know if you noticed or not but Molech Press is the name of the newspaper syndicate in the book that runs the Simple Pleasures strip. Well Molech is also the name of this ancient, pagan god that people used to sacrifice their children to. So I thought that made a perfect name for the company in the book. Not only do Dave and I get to take this squeaky clean comic strip and distort it. I mean everything I ever thought about doing with say the Family Circus we pretty much do in this book...but we take a jab at the syndicated companies that have been handing this stuff to kids for all these years."
GM: "Nice. Well Andy thank so much for sitting down and talking to me about the book."
AM: "Not a problem. Glad you enjoyed it."
And there you have it. A little later than I originally wanted but that's the story behind The Legacy. It's great to have known Andy for pretty much ten years now, see him become a very talented writer and produce a very noteworthy book, but it's also great to be able to support him for a change. Andy's written several articles about the comic shop. Really got behind Champion City Comic Con last year and now I get to help promote something he's involved in.
And it won't be the last time. As soon as The Legacy becomes available in May you can bet Andy will be doing a book signing at the shop and you will be reading about here.
Until next time....see you in the funny papers!
Bill Gladman - Bill is a writer and illustrator and currently working on several different projects including the first issue of an ongoing comic book series (Prodigy), an illustrated fantasy novel (The Book of Noheim), and the first of four illustrated science fiction/fantasy novels (Jack the Rabbit, Living Legend of the Purple Plains) as well as a light-hearted on going mini-comic (Three Wise Men). Bill also pens a column for Comic Related and will be doing a mix of regional convention coverage.
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