About Ink and Drink Comics

Pour Yourself a Drink and Stay Awhile...

The Ink and Drink Comics Editorial Council is made up of:
Jason Green - Editor-in-Chief
Carlos Gabriel Ruiz - Creative Director
Steve Higgins - Deputy Editor

Former Members:
Bryan Hollerbach - Editor-in-Chief (2010-2012)

What started as an excuse to drink beer and talk comics has now become an excuse to drink beer and MAKE comics. Initially a monthly gathering of like-minded comic fans, Ink and Drink Comics is now a collective of independent writers and artists who formed a full-fledged publisher, releasing semiannual themed short story anthologies to show off the depth and talent of comics creators here in St. Louis (plus a few friends from points beyond). But enough about us, let's talk about the books.

 

Strange Things Happen When Mugs Are Emptied

Each month, at such venues as Cicero's, Blueberry Hill and the Richmond Heights Applebee’s, motley St. Louis comics creators (as well as one grumpy camp follower) convene for an "Ink and Drink" session. At such sessions, while guzzling so-called adult beverages, they apply themselves to sketches or works in progress – at least putatively. More often than not, though, they use the I&D as a pretext to rant and rave about comics past and present.

During a recent I&D, one of the attendees asked, "What would everybody think of doing an anthology of horror stories focusing on St. Louis or showcasing local creators?" Six or seven rounds later, many of the other attendees, with characteristic eloquence, responded, "Huh?"

Less jocularly, we solicited stories from friends, friends of friends, and total strangers. (We didn’t buttonhole potential contributors on the sidewalk, but frankly, it was a near miss.) When the first contributions began to arrive, we couldn’t have been more pleased, and things only improved over time, until the anthology, appropriately, comprised 13 tales.

Once all of the stories had arrived, the snowball started rolling, with a vengeance, straight to hell – and from such infernal precincts, we I&Ders gleefully welcome you to Spirits of St. Louis.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Grumpy Camp Follower

 

 

Reloading the Clip

"That first job didn't go so bad did it? "

The second one there lipped an unfiltered Pall Mall and stared at the first, who was studying his own fingers a bit too intently. "I guess not," he said after a time.

"Naw, it went OK," agreed the third, who was cleaning his Colt. "Why?"

"Well, I was thinkin’—" continued the first...

Confession time. Last year, the gang at Ink and Drink Comics scored—and scored big—with Spirits of St. Louis (ISBNs 978-1616301149 and 978-1616301156). In fact, the response to that anthology at comics shops and conventions throughout the metro area made us feel positively...wanted. So naturally, we started plotting our next caper, this one devoted not to horror but to crime.

You now hold the product of that plot: a 104-page, 13-story panorama involving everything from shoplifting to boardroom banditry, from kidnapping to killing in cold blood, committed by 21 writers and artists who either live in the Lou or have "connections" here. We consider Shots in the Dark, this anthology, a celebration of our beloved city’s sometimes seedy seductiveness— a parlous party on paper.

Be advised, though: this party’s not B.Y.O.B. It’s B.Y.O.K.—bring your own Kevlar.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Just the Wheelman, Mr. D.A..

 

 

Sidereal Time

On dark days, many of us lift our eyes heavenward.

At times, of course, that impulse embraces a religious rationale. At other times, the shift in perspective involves a more secular solace, the escapist comfort afforded by the exploits of stellar swashbucklers like Buck Rogers and Captain James T. Kirk and Luke Skywalker.

It almost goes without saying that with Blasted!—the anthology in your hands—Ink and Drink Comics seeks to satisfy the latter sort of celestial focus, with graphic science fiction running the gamut from Edmond Hamiltonian space opera to Robert Sheckleyesque social satire.

Now strikes us as the prime time for issuing such an anthology, for reasons both planetary and personal. Ongoing economic infirmity, freakish climate change, unprecedented political upheaval—the whole globe, quite frankly, seems to be seething. Then, too, closer to home, we lost one of our own earlier this year: Ink and Drink stalwart Brad King, wholly unexpectedly, passed away in the prime of his life. (Miss ya, dude.)

So if you’re suffering a particularly dark day, dear reader, grab Blasted! and a cozy seat—and rest assured, however unlikely it may seem at the moment, that Sol and its fellow stars continue to blaze with the light of hope.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Putting the Mental in Firmamental

 

 

"Draw!" Snarled the Desperado

And we did. We likewise wrote, inked, lettered, and otherwise sweated the many parlous details of Off the Wagon, this fourth genre-based anthology from St. Louis’ Ink and Drink Comics posse.

Once upon a time in the West—as well as the East and the North and the South, for that matter—the exploits of heroes sporting ten-gallon hats and fanning six-guns packed wire spinner racks, much as herd after herd of buffalo at one time thundered across the Great Plains. Then, of course, that generic mongrel the superhero mauled the Western and all other genres as savagely as pelt hunters dealt with the American bison, taking them to the brink of extinction. (Maurice Horn’s Comics of the American West affords a valuable, if long since outdated, overview of the topic to 1977, roughly the period of that event.)

As a result, over time, Western fans had to hunt long and hard for gems like the Blueberry saga of Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Mœbius), the magisterial Comanche Moon by Jack Jackson, and the far-too-few tales of Rio from Doug Wildey. Meanwhile, the acclaimed misadventures of Morris and René Goscinny’s Lucky Luke, “the man who shoots faster than his own shadow,” received only a tepid U.S. reception, and even 2005’s Tex—The Lonesome Rider, which teamed writer Claudio Nizzi with no less an American artistic legend than Joe Kubert, constituted something of a “stealth” publication.

Nowadays, happily enough, the genre appears to be undergoing a renascence. Recently, for instance, Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello reintroduced The Lone Ranger with considerable brio, and both Howard Chaykin and the late, great John Severin have turned their talents to shorter works in the genre. Moreover, in the past decade or so, Barcelonan giant Jordi Bernet has here and there adroitly visualized stories involving the Old West, most recently with a splendid tripartite collaboration with Scott Snyder on American Vampire. Finally, as of this writing in February 2012, readers can and should enjoy such dramas as the miniseries Hawken by Benjamin and Timothy Truman and (an ongoing) The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, as well as the jubilantly comedic Reed Gunther by Shane and Chris Houghton.

In that context, without further ado, we at Ink and Drink Comics, with hat in collective hand, hope you relish our own modest contribution to the Western, Off the Wagon.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Nursing the Campfire Through the Night

 

 

A Voyage into Fantasy

Two years ago, some may have accused the Ink and Drink Comics crew of living in a fantasy world for thinking we could herd enough cats to cobble together one collection of St. Louis’ best and brightest comics talent, let alone continue to do so on a regular basis. And yet here we sit 731 days later (but who’s counting?), having conjured up our fifth genre-based anthology, each delivered twice a year with clock-like precision.

If you’re new to the world of Ink and Drink, a quick history: Our first two genre-based anthologies explored comicdom’s dark underbelly of horror (2010’s Spirits of St. Louis) and crime (2011’s Shots in the Dark). Next, we took a leap to the far futures of science fiction (2011’s BLASTED!) before hopping a wagon train into the annals of American history for our Western anthology, Off the Wagon, released earlier this year. But now, we’ve delved even further back into the fabled past, where medieval mise-en-scène mixes with the magical and mystical: the world of fantasy.

Do you prefer the plucky heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien or the brusque barbarians of Robert E. Howard? The majestically fluid linework of John Buscema and Barry Windsor-Smith or the bold action of Joe Madureira? No matter what your favorite flavor of fantasy, you’ll find what you’re looking for within these pages: swords, sorcery, brave knights, gruesome orcs, vicious trolls, fanciful fairy tales, damsels in distress, and, yes, even a few dungeons and a handful of dragons, all captured in the broad range of writing and art styles that have become Ink and Drink’s calling card. Whether this is your first Ink and Drink book or you’ve been here all along, whether you buy these books to support independent art or just for something good to read, we offer you our heartfelt thanks and hope you enjoy reading our comics as much as we enjoyed making them.

So grab a flagon of your favorite mead, hoist it high, and get ready to get HAMMERED.

Jason Green
Fearless Editor

 

 

Pulling the Pin

Tracing the Tread Tracks … to Tanked

As with most other aspects of humanity, war has forever occupied comics.

Bellicose inspiration, for instance, triggered the 1941 creation by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby of one of the mainstream’s icons, Marvel’s Captain America ‐ a paramilitary character of sufficient patriotic power that the revival of its title survived occurring roughly coincident with the infamous Tet Offensive.

Then too, a few months after Captain America Comics #1, Will Eisner, with assistance from Chuck Cuidera and Bob Powell, launched a Quality team title starring a veritable United Nations—a concept Len Wein and Dave Cockrum repurposed to explosive effect a mere three-plus decades later in Marvel’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 ‐ and it shames the mainstream that Reed Crandall’s subsequent work on that team in Military Comics and Blackhawk remains largely unarchived. (That the average fanboy likely would fail to recognize Crandall’s name prompts disgust bordering on nausea at the aesthetic inbreeding nurtured by today’s industry.)

Somewhat thereafter, at the overrated but still indisputably influential EC, Harvey Kurtzman fragged war comics in Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales; to this day, by way of example, his "Corpse on the Imjin!" remains as harrowing a read as it undoubtedly seemed on its debut in the latter title in 1952.

A generation later, for Warren, Archie Goodwin leveraged Kurtzman’s admitted inspiration into the mayfly grandeur of Blazing Combat, whose four issues Fantagraphics Books (to its considerable credit) finally compiled just three years past ‐ 43 years after Vietnam War–era political pressures caused its cancellation.

In this vein, one could, of course, continue at length (if not ad infinitum) and at great diversity. No informed reflection on war comics could neglect, say, the slantwise brilliance of Al Feldstein and Bernard Krigstein’s "Master Race" from EC’s Impact # or Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Maus.

But enough. What follows, Tanked, constitutes Ink and Drink’s collective take on a narrative topic as old as Homer and as fraught with ambivalence as this 68-year-old pronouncement from Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “"More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars."

F.D.R. died a day before he could voice that pronouncement.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Company Chaplain

 

 

You Should Look Quite Fetching in These Green Panties, Dick
(or Comics Love Love Comics)

Paradoxically, most if not all mainstream American comics at the moment rank as romances, however one defines that parlous term, without much at all in the way of bona fide romanticism.

To appreciate that paradox, one scarcely need resort to Dr. Fredric Wertham’s hoary 1954 Seduction of the Innocent, which characterized the Batman-and-Robin dynamic as “a wish dream of two homosexuals living together” and which, it almost goes without saying, inspired the jocular title of this meditation.

One could easily denounce Wertham for speciousness on grounds both anthropological and primatological…but as apologists’ favorite fish in a barrel, the poor bastard, over time, already has taken so many figurative fanboy bullets that he notionally recalls Al Capp’s Fearless Fosdick.

Rather, one need only recall Alan Moore’s characteristically canny Watchmen-era observation that superheroes constitute modern fetishes. In-depth meditation on comics fetishism, almost predictably, can stray widely and wildly—especially if one pauses to reflect how badly the fanboy collective has managed to bollix something so basal.

By way of example, reflecting the fact that the cancer of the superhero has metastasized to consume the corpus of the mainstream over the past half a century, it would be positively indecent to overlook the hilarity of the industry’s ur-icon. How long, after all, did Lois Lane strive to catch hapless Clark Kent donning his underwear, instead of doffing it?

Then, too, has any literary character suffered from a more ellish love life? Again after all, in addition to the aforesaid Lane lass, the Kryptonian Casanova, over the decades, has cultivated an affection for a small parade of alveolar lovelies: Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lyla Lerrol, and, of course, Lex Luthor.

That last, to be sure, may strike certain readers as a trifle too Werthamish. Still, unrequited love, too, counts as love, and it takes no Gilbert Shelton—he of Wonder Wart-Hog fame—to envision Kal-El, in the Arctic fastness of his Fortress of Solitude, pining for his ovicephalic complement while stroking his über-unmentionable and, in a colloidal pseudo-inversion of his own origin, sending tiny rockets of want pulsing into Uranus.

Beyond the superhero, a place all but unimaginable to the average fanboy, one might also dwell on the recent "quasi-imaginary" adventures of Archie Andrews wherein everyone’s favorite redheaded rake has managed to wed both Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge—Archibald day and night, again and again and again, a succès fou of having one’s cheesecake and eating her too.

Those of a humorless persuasion, almost assuredly, will balk at the surfeit of humors herein and insist yet again on retailing Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s "creation" of an entire form with Young Romance ‐ clearly an instance not of creation per se, but of mere transposition. Whatevs.

Moreover, admittedly, romance and romanticism still persist in the medium, albeit at the periphery or in mufti. Just this past July, for instance, Omaha the Cat Dancer by Reed Waller and the late Kate Worley with James Vance concluded triumphantly. Further, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples recently earned a full-page rave in Time, of all places, and Sex by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski may well rank as the most perversely prodigious alt since Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!

In a signally roundabout fashion, dear reader, that brings us to On the Rocks, the anthology of romance comics you now hold, whose contents range from the tawdry to the tender, from broken hymens to broken hearts.

With luck, all jest aside, those contents speak for themselves—so, as someone once said, let’s get busy, shall we?

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Always a Groomsman, Never the Groom

 

 

Home Broodings or Mugging for the Bicameral

At a glance, comic books and beer seemingly share few, if any, congruencies. Here at Ink and Drink Central, however, research both intensive and extensive has disproven that perception, at least in the U.S. at the conglomerate level. Consider, if you will, a few select industrial observations involving both fourcolor follies and froth-topped tomfoolery:

  • In comic books, the so-called Big Two — DC and Marvel — specialize in one paraliterary construct of stunning vapidity, the superhero. In beer, brewing behemoths like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors spew barrel after barrel of an über-lager of striking insipidity.
  • Overindulgence in the products of one or the other industry by anyone with even a rudimentary aesthetic will, in all likelihood, prompt nausea of the most virulent sort.
  • Hydrocephalic apologists for both industries discourse on distinctions of hilarious inconsequence, as if conceptual chasms truly yawn between Superman and Batman, say, or Busch and Budweiser.
  • In polite society, whether by accident or through superior intelligence, distaff members of the populace shun the products of both industries; that is, one can just as easily find an intelligent woman debating Thor vs. Hulk strength as one chugging a carboy of MGD.
  • Both industries, insidiously, have elevated almost to an art form the design and marketing of products of near ineffable inferiority, if not downright worthlessness.

Happily enough for devotees of comic books and beer alike, change has been taking place, slowly and often less than surely, during the past four or five decades in matters both panelological and zymurgical.

Against all odds, innovative comic books and beers continue to present themselves for the delectation of bona fide aficionados.

More specifically, nowadays it would border on the perverse to slog through this year’s re-re-re-re-reboot of Amazing SpiderMan while swilling Stag when one could be enjoying, say, Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s incendiary Sex with a pint or two of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.

In that regard, dear reader, kindly consider Home Brew, the anthology now nestled beside your coaster, the latest creative ferment from St. Louis’ stalwart Ink and Drink Comics collective.

As ever, it showcases a heady selection ranging unapologetically from the gingerly to the stout, a reading experience designed to be the graphic equivalent of “good for what ails you” — or perhaps “goodwort ales for you.”

More specifically, with Home Brew, its contributors wish to clink mugs with other St. Louisans (present, past, and potential) in yeasty celebration of the quarter-millennial anniversary of what came to be nicknamed the Gateway to the West. French fur trader Pierre Laclede and his assistant and quasistepson, Auguste Chouteau, founded the Mississippi River metropolis in 1764, and the contents of this anthology reflect the predictably quirky Ink and Drink views of that anniversary in various ways, shapes, and forms.

We here at the collective toast your continuing health (physical, mental, and aesthetic) as you turn the page tand savor the wonders we’ve herein sought to tap.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Forever Craving the Next Round and the Newest Releases

 

 

In a World Bereft of Phone Booths, Wherever Can Clark Kent Nowadays Drop Trou?
or “Shazam!” Goes the Collective

A certain grim inevitability colors the release of this latest anthology from the Ink and Drink Comics collective, given its focus.

The superhero. Ah, yes—of course.

In a dire twist of fate, over the course of three quarters of a century, the comic book industry (if not the medium only rudely twinned with that industry) has engaged in a classic codependent relationship with that paraliterary construct.

The use there of the phrase “paraliterary construct” itself should speak volumes to the discerning reader. Over time, the average superhero—and heaven alone knows that the preponderance of superheroes falls far short of even average—has rarely risen to the level of a character type (amanuensis, say), let alone a bona fide character. In that regard, this anthology marks a departure for Ink and Drink, all of whose previous compendia, more or less, have centered on distinct genres. The adventures of superheroes qualify, at best, as subgeneric.

To an extent, that seems apt, especially if (as often, if arguably, happens) one dates the superheroic era from the 1938 debut of Superman in the first issue of Action Comics. As diverse commentators like Steranko (in the gloriously idiosyncratic first volume of the Steranko History of Comics) have noted, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster “appropriated” much of that industry icon from two sources: Philip Wylie’s searing 1930 novel, Gladiator, and the Doc Savage pulp adventures of the 1930s and ’40s, written largely by Missouri native Lester Dent.

In that light, the colorful kennel that followed, the whole madly slavering pack baying down the decades, sprang from the loins of a simple mongrel.

Moreover, within a decade and a half, the icon withstood inarguably one of the most withering conceptual assaults in the medium’s history: the 1953 publication in the fourth issue of Mad of writer Harvey Kurtzman and artist Wallace Wood’s “Superduperman!”

In that landmark deconstruction, the title character bellowed, proudly if presciently, “Captain Marbles has been destroyed by the only force as strong as he… He!” Equally presciently, the character of Lois Pain, Girl Reporter, remained signally unimpressed, reflecting the ongoing disdain of society at large, even then, for a form regarded as the purview of simpletons.

Nonetheless, just three years later, the fourth issue of Showcase, with its revamp of the Flash, revived what had seemed a moribund industry by revisiting the headiness of the so-called Golden Age in the Silver Age.

Over the next four-plus decades, alack and alas, that metallurgic miracle proved both a blessing and a curse. The industry not only survived, but also throve, albeit not as a mass market but as a niche market. At the same time, woefully, the superhero came to dominate that industry and the perception of that industry in a manner not merely pernicious but pestilential, with nonsuperheroic comic books all but vanishing—even parody, for pity’s sake, customarily girded itself exclusively in cape and cowl (as if a horde of bungling fanboys could equal, let alone better, Kurtzman and Wood).

Happily enough, in the past decade or so, slowly and not so surely, the industry zeitgeist appears once more to be shifting after a seemingly endless procession of dorky knights and Juvenal japes. More and more diversification has been returning to the mainstream, and in places, even the superhero as such has enjoyed something of a renaissance—albeit generally not at the so-called Big Two, whose stewardship of their own cherished-by-many “intellectual properties” has, in many cases, become repugnant beyond endurance. (Moreover, alarmingly, one top-flight creator—writer Grant Morrison—has willfully transformed himself into the freakish love child of Stan Lee and Mort Weisinger.)

All of the preceding, in a characteristically roundabout fashion, brings us to what follows: Liquid Courage, Ink and Drink’s first full-tilt-boogie sortie into Spandexville. This anthology’s contents purposely run a vast gamut as much as the contents of its predecessors, and although individual mileage inevitably will vary, the members of the collective hope that readers hereof find far fewer chunks of Kryptonite herein than diamonds.

Bryan A. Hollerbach
Philbert Desenex’s Pal