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Fort Thunder Footnotes
posted December 31, 2003
(The following are the sidebars from the article "Fort Thunder Forever")
Buying Fort Thunder
There are two levels to a buying strategy with Fort material - getting the new stuff and finding the old stuff. The good news is that a great deal of material is readily available. By year's end, there should be five solo books of the type that remain in-print for an incredibly long time and serve as the cornerstone of a publishing endeavor - in this case, that of Highwater Books. Several of the better-heeled anthologies remain in print and can be ordered from an online or brick-and-mortar retailer with only a minimal amount of effort. Paper Rodeo
, where Brinkman is serializing Multi-Force
along with work from a mix of core Fort members and artists who have felt the full brunt of their influence, is an ongoing publication with a reliable PO Box and dependable mail-order service. Fort Thunder alumni frequently appear at two major comics shows - Bethesda's Small Press Expo and New York City's MoCCA festival - with intermittent pop-ins at Comic-Con International: San Diego and its satellite show the Alternative Press Expo. Although it practically sounds medieval in this age of electronic retail, meeting the artists face to face every so often is probably the best way to stay fully on top of their current output, including all of the illustration and design work they might have on hand.
Past work from the Fort cartoonists is much more difficult to obtain. While there are clues in the following as to how to perhaps find some of it, these are definitely disposable works with a limited lifespan. Luckily, the solo collections often reprint the work that appears in the hand-published form - or, in some cases, the mini-comics serve as previews for that later work. Ironically, these are actually scarce comics despite existing well outside the mainstream of an industry fueled in part by inventing the feeling of scarcity where none exists.
So here's the easiest way to go about it:
1. Buy the solo artist trades.
2. Flesh out your Fort bookshelf with anthologies.
3. Every six months or so, send $1 to Paper Rodeo.
4. Visit the occasional show.
Despite their relative obscurity, the Fort cartoonists have enjoyed a healthy life as contributors to various comics and small-press anthologies. There are three that are more directly related to the various cartoonists involved and can be seen as Fort Thunder house organs or their equivalent precursors/sequels: Attack Flotilla Comics Compendium
and Paper Rodeo
. The Monster
issues in particular are really ragged, joyful volumes that never caught the attention of comics fans even when the first wave of solo mini-comics from Ralph and Brinkman enjoyed a high level of interest. Unfortunately, they are as hard to find as any other mini-comic. Coober Skeber
is essentially Highwater's house anthology, edited by its publisher Tom Devlin. Its second issue, a jokingly subtitled benefit for the then-wounded Marvel Comics is not only a good place to find some of these cartoonists working with odd material, but a way to experience their work as they were enjoyed for the first time by many alternative-comics readers. A third issue has been promised for a few years now, and should soon rear its full-color head.
All of the cartoonists are or have performed some freelance illustration and design work, but Ralph seems the most aggressive in placing his actual comics work into various publications. There are several examples below where Ralph is the sole Fort Thunder presence. As for the other artists, it's hard to beat Sammy Harkham's 2003 effort Kramers Ergot
#4 in terms of how they're presented: Harkham's oversized volume is stuffed with comics work, illustrations and sketchbook pages, and is a great sampler. Ralph and Lyons shared space with America's other terrifically interesting mini-comics hub of the last ten years, the St. Louis gang, in Jerome Gaynor's themed disaster anthologies Flying Saucer Attack
and Bogus Dead
, and it's surprisingly easy to find connections between those two artists and the work of the Gateway City group. SPX is where many attendees and fellow artists met Fort Thunder cartoonists in person for the first time; the Devlin co-edited Expo 2000
anthology remains by far the show's best effort in publishing.
Many of the anthologies are available through online retailers and even through comic book shops.
Attack Flotilla Comics Compendium
Fort Thunder, 1996
(Ralph, Drain, Chippendale, Brinkman)
DC Comics, 2001, 1563897792, $29.95
Jerome Gaynor, 2002, 1891867199, $9.95
L'Association, 1999, 284414022X, $67.50
Coober Skeber #2 - The Marvel Benefit Issue
Highwater Books, 1997, $4
Highwater Books, 2003, 097008580X, $22.95
(Brinkman, Drain, Goldberg)
Small Press Expo, 2000, 0967056675, $6.95
(Brinkman, Goldberg, Ralph, Lyons)
Flying Saucer Attack
Jeroman Empire, 1995, $6
The Ganzfeld 3
Edited by Dan Nadel
Monday Morning Books, 2003, 0971367019, $24.95
Avodah Books, 2004, 0967798957, $24.99
(Brinkman, Drain, Goldberg)
Edited by Jordan Crane
Red Ink Press, 1999, $6.95
Red Ink Press, 2001, $28
Paper Rodeo, Ongoing, $1 ppd
(Brinkman, Chippendale, Goldberg)
Peanut Butter and Jeremy: Free Comic Book Day
Alternative Comics, 2003, $.25 or Free
Small Press Expo, 1999, $4.95
Magazine and Zine Appearances
There are very few instances of Fort artists providing cartoon content to an otherwise non-comics magazine. Both major samples provided here are worth tracking down. "Reggie-12" is Ralph's high-concept partnership with the Asian-culture-tracking crew at Giant Robot
and makes for pretty clean and beautiful comics besides. Editor Mike McGonigal ran illustrations from various comics artists in the first issue of Yeti
and followed it up with two sterling samples from Brinkman and Chippendale in his second.
$9.95 per issue, $25 three-issue subscription
Giant Robot Magazine
Edited by "Megan"
The most rewarding and intense way to experience the Fort artists is also by far the most difficult. What follows is a short list of high-quality, representative offerings from each cartoonist. You should search for them all. Even the ones from Brinkman, Chippendale and Ralph that are reprinted in their various trades are worth having as mini-comics for their design and presentation. There are bound to be many more minis out there, and there are more produced all the time, if not with the frequency they once enjoyed. If rumors are to be believed, there are perhaps even a few bootleg efforts cobbled together by artists or collectors who give them to friends as gifts or for trade.
I'd suggest four different sources through which to attempt to find this kind of material: the regional comic-book store Million Year Picnic; the local comic-book store Two Million Year Picnic; Tom Devlin at Highwater, who receives minis old and new intermittently; and Paper Rodeo
's PO box.
Untitled Mini About Lights in Snow
Untitled Patterned Mini
If and Oof
Gold Dust Comix
Citybound Monsieur VT
Escape From Earth
Santa Claus in Eve of the Last Millennium
Untitled Mini with Keith McCulloch's Dog Comics
You Have Been Wrong About Everything
The Invasion of Earth
Crum Bums Volume One
Crum Bums Volume Two
Untitled Alligator Mini
In the coming years, solo trade collections intended for the bookstore and direct markets will be an increasingly dependable way to see work from the core Fort Thunder cartoonists. The books out thus far owe their genesis to Highwater Books, the Xeric Foundation or a combination of the two, and if Chippendale's first and Ralph's latest manage to slip into stores by year's end, then 2003 will have seen the Fort's available book catalog more than double. Highwater's Tom Devlin has made plans with Ben Jones for a planned forthcoming trade. But there is a vast amount of material from the core and satellite members that could become books under someone's savvy editorship - particularly if the amount of capital on hand meant they could publish in full color like in some of the more ambitious anthology work. There is also an art book here just dying to be made.
Still, even if these were the last books published by artists connected to Fort Thunder, the legacy of their beautifully idiosyncratic packaging and compelling content would remain intact despite only a handful of proper releases. The very fact that these have become books can and should be seen as a general victory for good taste and diversity. And as it still takes seeing something in a prestige format for their impact to be felt at all levels of the market, their influence as representative works of the artistic values shared by many at Fort Thunder will remain very high. It is hard to imagine any serious fan of the form, good comics or art direction who would not include these works in their collection.
, 2003, ISBN: 0966536320, $12.95
, 2003, ISBN: 0970085834, $18.95
, 1998, ISBN: 0966536339, $12.95
, 2002, ISBN: 0970085856, $10
, 2003, ISBN: 0970085842, $12.95
Attn: Sammy Harkham
PO Box 2316
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2316
PO Box 63207
St. Louis, MO 63163
Million Year Picnic
99 Mount Auburn St
Cambridge, MA 02138
PO Box 321
Providence, RI 02901
Two Million Year Picnic
286 Thayer St
Providence, RI 02906
Attn: Mike McGonigal
PO Box 3061
Seattle, WA 98114
228 W. Houston #3
New York, NY 10014