Dennis Eichhorn’s Story Ended

Hoagie-thumbComic book creator Dennis Eichhorn died. I wasn’t close friends with him, but I would have liked to have been. We were friendly colleagues though when I interacted with him in the late 90s—mostly by mail and once in person. I’m not sure when I first encountered his work. Like Harvey Pekar, Eichhorn was a writer not an artist; unlike other autobiographical comic creators, however, his life was actually interesting. In the pages of his comic Real Stuff, he shared a bevy of stories about his life in the Northwest US (and occasionally beyond) from the 50s through the present day.

Eichhorn was a picaresque figure. Fighting, drinking, getting high, screwing, working, engaging in low-end criminality, getting busted and imprisoned for a time, bumping into historical and cultural figures as well as lesser-known but no less compelling personalities. He shared it all through comics made in collaboration with cartoonists like Peter Bagge, Ed Brubaker, Julie Doucet, Michael Dougan, Chester Brown, Pat Moriarty, J.R. Williams, and others. I’ll let this link speak for his work (FYI sometimes NSFW).

Good grief. I forgot how often he wrote about marijuana.

When I knew him, Eichhorn served as editorial director for Loompanics Unlimited. Being a young weirdo, I was a faithful customer and eventual contributor. At some point I submitted a couple of articles for their catalog and supplements. One piece was about alleged culture-bound disorders like amok and koro, another about literal mythological sex gods. Considering my writing style and subject matter, there were few places where I could get my work published in the form I preferred. Loompanics was one of them.

In my experience, he was a decent editor. He crafted, he didn’t hack, sending his edits for my approval/alterations along with notes for tightening things up and the like. I would send him copies of my zines and he’d always drop me a nice note. The man was a great communicator.

Some time after that, I think, the American Bookseller’s Association held its convention at McCormick Center. My friend Steven of Quimby’s asked me if I wanted to tag along. I did. We made the rounds of  the underground and weirdo publishers: Fantagraphics, Feral House, Last Gasp, and the rest. I remember bits and pieces—I hope I’m not conflating it with other conventions. Quite a time, in which I ran into my own brand of real stuff: Running into the ex-husband of a former zine/mail friend—we had a bad falling out—who recognized me from my visit to his San Francisco home five years before. A high-end publisher of coffee-table erotica who looked visibly irritated when Steven introduced me as a writer (Jesus, I wasn’t planning to pitch you, so fuck you buddy). Mr. T, covered in gold chains, posing with people while shouting at a maniacal clip: “YEAH! YEAH! WE’RE HAVING A GOOD TIME! LOTTA FUN! LOTTA FUN!” Quite a time. We ended up at the Loompanics booth where we met owner Mike Hoy and Dennis. Eichhorn was a big guy, in body and personality, and gregarious as hell. I can confirm he had a firm and memorable handshake, as I read somewhere today,

Hoy and Eichhorn were preparing to leave. They let Steven take all their display books back to Quimby’s to sell on consignment while I got a couple of cheap bookshelves out of the deal (the benefit of owning a car when most of your friends don’t). After that we gave Dennis a lift. As we passed through the Loop I pointed out particular buildings until we turned onto State Street.

“And here we have State Street…THAT GREAT STREET!” I said.

“Hey! Hey!” Dennis said pointing out the window, “I saw a man dance with his wife!”

We all went out for drinks afterward. I can’t remember what we discussed. I just remember it was a fun and fascinating talk. What struck me though was that even though he was the Real Stuff guy with the wild stories, freaky background, and incredible past, he was still grounded, friendly, and approachable. Just what one looks for in a folk figure.

For the next year or so I sent Dennis a few more zines and we exchanged the odd postcard, but we didn’t stay in touch. I edited an issue of Lumpen and asked him to contribute a piece. Within a week he had a write-up about his prison experiences, in particular with the captain of the prison guards who he described, quite accurately, as the living embodiment of The Manâ„¢. It was a consummate Dennis Eichhorn piece: funny, scary, observant, and interesting.

The world is the poorer for not having time to hear all his stories.

RIP, Dennis Eichhorn.

P.S. Apparently he just released a collection called Extra Good Stuff. Please check it out.

And It’s Green Too

Nate (My four-year-old, in the back seat): “Is the junk superstrong?”

Mike: “What, buddy?”

Nate: “The junk. Is the junk superstrong?

Me: “Huh? The junk?”

Nate: “Yeah. He’s an all green guy, but is he superstrong?”

Me: (I develop a suspicion, one which my geekier friends have undoubtedly also developed) “Are you reading a comic back there, little guy?”

Nate: “Yeah.”

Me: “Let me see it.” (I reach back and take it, then look at the page he’s been reading.) “Ah, I believe you mean the Incredible Hulk, buddy.”

Nate: “Yeah! The Incredible Junk!”

Me: (To Mike) “You know, I have no doubt his junk IS incredible.”

And I Discovered It Because People Still Find My Site by Searching for “Kate Beckinsale shopping”

Kate Beckinsale and her family visit a comic book store. Somehow, I feel like this was probably tied in with promoting Underworld or some such thing. Still, her kid is obviously enjoying herself, and so is she. I took my son to his first Free Comic Book day a few weeks ago and had the same delightful experience. Yay comics!

Also, I wonder how many heart attacks were experienced by the staff and customers when she walked in?

Pretty Cute

Last night I was standing alone in the kitchen at a party, sipping a cider, trying to get over my damned social awkwardness and inability to chat easily with new people. At once, a lady walked through with wild hair and clothes and a big smile on her face. Our eyes met and I said a quiet, “Hey.”

“Hey!” she replied. And usually that would be that.

Then she walked across the kitchen to where I stood, clinked my bottle with hers, and said, happily, “Hey, cheers!” Then left. It was a nice gesture that put me more at ease.

And during the toast I saw that she still had on her name tag from the event she’d been speaking at that morning.

It was Lynda Barry.

Thanks, Marlys.

The Goddamned Batmorality and Batemperance Society

This morning I was helping Nate get dressed, and I suited him up in one of his two or three Batman shirts. It looks like a Dick Giordano Batman, courageously going forth to fight the bad guys with Gotham City as a backdrop. I noted that the shirt had a caption:

Me: (Pointing at each word.) Nate, that says “THE CAPED CRUSADER SAVES GOTHAM CITY!”

Nate: Caped crusader!

Me: Yeah, that’s one of Batman’s nicknames.

Nate: Batman! (Distracted by something.)

Me (To my wife Michael): But in the end, the Caped Crusader realized that Gotham first had to save (dramatic pause) itself.

Mike: Ha ha!

Nate: (Wanders off.)

Me: “Caped crusader.” It sounds like he was mounting an anti-porn campaign.

Mike: Heh heh!

Me: (Christian Bale Dark Knight voice) Gotham has too many sex shops and porno theaters! We need to clean up this city once and for all!

Mike: Ho ho!

Me: (CBDKV) Will no one think of the children!?!

Mike: Har har!


Mike: Ha ha!

At this point, Nate began impersonating me impersonating Christian Bale impersonating Batman. Which was completely hilarious.

End scene.