The above strip reintroduces a critical character to the BELLIGERENT PIANO story - Vera, the accordion playing entertainer who sings French songs at Ruby Ray'sParisian Cabaret. The truth is (and I might as well confess it here), the entire BELLIGERENT PIANO story is not exclusively my invention, but instead a kind of creative elaboration on a story that a fellow told me about while I was living in San Piablo in the early 1990's. The man, who I met while I was working at a job sand-blasting car engines when I was twenty-two, told me about a triple murder and robbery that had taken place in 1947. The man, who was an old-timer (probably dead now) claimed that the main suspect in the murder, whose name he couldn't remember, had shown up in a variety of pop culture venues, including daily strips by a collection of obscure cartoonists, and some not so obscure. At the time, the idea seemed absurd, but later I discovered that cartoonists of daily strips, most famously Chester Gould, regularly used real-life incidents as material for their stories. Nevertheless, I took the old-timer's story to be merely the fabrication of a fruitful and bored mind, but always remained curious about the tale's authenticity. All of the information this old-timer gave me was very vague, and much of the specifics I've since forgotten, but, thanks to the internet, I've recently stumbled across a few artifacts that give some verification to the old man's tale. I recently stumbled across a whole selection of obscure celebrity photos on Ebay of a girl named Vera. Nothing else is mentioned about her; the Ebay post is simply a general search for 1940's celebrity pictures. Here are a couple of those photos: vera morgan-17 vera morgan-2 vera morgan-11 vera morgan-7
These are just a few which I was able to purchase off a seller in Ohio. But, although I've tried contacting the seller directly to get information about this "Vera's" story, no information has been gained. The seller didn't know anything about her - he'd found the portfolio in the proverbial suitcase in his deceased father's attic under a bundle of old clothes. If anybody out there recognizes the woman in the pictures, please let me know. I'm very anxious to find out about her.
With the upcoming publication of HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA #3 due to be out in June, I'm including an installment of BELLIGERENT PIANO that picks up where the narrative left off in the last issue of HAPPY HOUR. Of course, it's been several years since HAPPY HOUR last saw print, but I've decided to maintain a relatively consistent schedule with it from now on, primarily because I love the look and feel of the old comic book format, now called "pamphlets" (A term I just can't seem to get used to, although I understand the point of it), but also because I see it as a great outlet for limited material meant for other books - such as FOLKTALES - and to experiment with a wide variety of story-telling techniques. Getting back to the above splash page: It is a redrawn image that I first attempted back in around 1996 or so. I decided to include it in this post for the sake of comparison.
Although I'm very confident in the decision to redraw the image, I was sort of pleasantly surprised that some of the designerly decisions I made back in 96' weren't half-bad. Most of the work I've redrawn for BELLIGERENT PIANO has been pretty dramatically changed from the original drawings, but now I find that I'm finally starting to (kind of) like some of the earlier drawings, however sophmoric they might be on certain levels. But redrawing the splash page was an excellent experience. Although I always love to draw, the best moments for me are when the act itself feels like playing a Miles Davis solo with your pen. I don't mean to compare myself to Davis's virtuosity, but the very experience itself - the movement of the pen across the page, the slight friction caused by the surface of the paper - feels transendant like a Miles Davis trumpet solo. Pure bliss. Otherworldly. It reminds me of the line from The Hustler when Paul Newman's character, Fast Eddie Felson, tries to describe those moments when he's playing and the pool cue feels like a part of him. But I guess such abstract explanations are better left unsaid.
Here's the following page, drawn around 2003. This one I'm NOT going to redraw.