Happy 2010 everyone! As you may have noticed from the fancy new logo up top–STAPLEGENIUS.COM(ics) is now 10 YEARS OLD! To commemorate this exciting (pathetic?) milestone, I will be doing a “RETROSPECTICUS” of the comics I’ve done/taken part in from the past ten years (leading up to MANLY TALES OF COWARDICE) over the next few months. So lets begin. And where better to start than December 31st, 1999….
As I’m sure you recall, most of us spent that day waiting for all the computers to crash, planes to fall from the sky, nukes to randomly explode, and the world to generally burn. It didn’t take me too long after I woke up that day to realize that Y2K had all been a load of hype and bullshit, and everything was going to be fine. The world wasn’t going to end. I was going to have to go back to work after the New Years break……..dammit. So what do with this new-found information that the Apocalypse was just a hoax that everyone falls for at sometime in their life?
I had always been drawing. At some point these drawings were influenced by Sunday funnies and turned into comics. This evolved into a love of comics and sequential art, and a dream of becoming a cartoonist when I grew up. Then I became a teen, realized there was world of artists vastly more talented than myself and that I was never going to be drawing Spider-Man for a living. Sure, I still drew all the time, but I gave up the dream. With the help of my friend Aaron “Captain Honkass” Wallace, I turned my un-trained focus on the world of zines in 1993. Over the next few years I made zines sporadically, with each one gradually growing from text-heavy suburban angst to comic-heavy suburban angst. Then in 1998/9 I gave up on zines. I was tired of poems and short stories and clip art. I just wanted to draw comics again. I also “ran away” from my friends, my life in Minneapolis, and my “problems” for 9 months and lucked my way into being the *PAID* staff cartoonist for the ST CLOUD STATE CHRONICLE, producing a strip called DANNO COMICS twice a week. But when that school year ended I was back in Minneapolis, and back to being non-productive. But as we established earlier, I was sure the End of Days was nigh, so why bother, right?
So back to New Years Eve 1999. I was with my friend Matt at his parents (they were out of town and the free eats and cola was flowing like tap water), and Matt was about to smash the TV–so damn angry he was that midnight came and there was no mushroom clouds and the ball in New York was still dropping (it only infuriated him more when I pointed out that was on a one hour tape delay). Instead of joining in the anger, I decided to make a Resolution. I NEVER make those on New Years, but I felt this year I needed to–I HAD to. Life was gunna tick away whether I wanted it to or not, so I should get serious about something. And drawing comics was that something (it really helped I had discovered BIG BRAIN COMICS and the vast and wonderful world of indy comics). So I resolved then and there:
“I, danno, will produce and publish 4 (mini-)comics–minimum–every year until I am either rich beyond my wildest dreams…or am destitute and dead. Whichever comes first.”
I knew this was possible for I had surrounded myself with a great group of friends, many of whom were extremely talented in art and music, and all of them funny as hell. MATT RISNES, CASEY “NELS” NELSON, and PAT PIERSON especially (who along with me I like to think of as “THE STAPLEGENIUS 4“) were also habitual doodlers, and I was going to include their scattered genius in my master plan. They were all more than down with this idea. So with what gags we had already done, a new “longer form” story I quickly whipped up, and the awesome power of stealing copies from work combined under my supervision and before January 2000 was out STAPLEGENIUS #1 was born.
Even from the beginning, I could tell NELS was going to be my right-hand man in this STAPLEGENIUS venture. He did mad, crazy doodles and each was funnier than the last. The one above (MONSTER PIG-FACE BOY) would within the year even help STAPLEGENIUS evolve from a series of stoned gags into an almost legitimate book of actual sequential art.
Pat’s master-stroke contribution to STAPLEGENIUS #1 was the “THE BIG BOOK OF DONG”, a series of historical photos that he ever so “subtly” worked a hand-drawn penis into (ahh, life before photoshop). The hope was that “The Big Book…” would eventually become a best-selling coffee table art book owned by every suburban house frau, art snob and captain of industry. I still don’t understand why this never happened.
MATT never believed he was terribly talented as an artist, but I encouraged the shit out of him to keep at it. His childlike drawings of hellish nightmares fascinate me to this day. He’s also quite a wordsmith. Nowadays he’s a highly literate voice of insight on the Horror Genre Podcast Circuit. Starting with episode 23, he’ll be the new regular co-host of the GUTMUNCHERS podcast, and is a frequent voice of reason on the Gutmunchers board. If anyone I know will be pull a William S Burroughs and be discovered later in their life as a mad genius, it’ll be Matt.
ME: So here’s that “longer” piece I did for STAPLEGENIUS #1…
So, looking back 10 years later…STAPLEGENIUS #1 is kinda a jumbled mess. Lots of barely readable gags, drawings of dongers, frightening wishes for Lovecraftian doom, and some pap about the weather. But it was START! It was very inspiring to me. It kept me going. It made me sane. It gave me something to work on and towards. Basically, it saved my life…or at least gave me a new lease. And 10 years later I’m still at it–Always improving, always learning. And while the friends I draw and create with now are completely different then the three I started out with, the feeling that collaboration and mutual encouragement are the cornerstone of any artistic endeavour endures and grows each year. So thanks muchly to not only Matt, Nels, and Pat, but also all my new friends from the INTERNATIONAL CARTOONIST CONSPIRACY. You–ALL OF YOU–have helped me keep my resolution.
Oh…and in case you were wondering…Why did I choose the name STAPLEGENIUS? Is it because I was really proud of how fast I can throw a mini-comic together both in pre and post production? Is it because I thought my friends and I were all such masters of art and intellect? Or is it because one day on mushrooms my friend Tom thought up the term, and then a few weeks he later found a stray cat that he named STAPLEGENIUS and we all helped raise him?
Now you know!