This is the first of hopefully many more ADG interviews, I am starting this off by interviewing a friend of mine who happens to have the best selling comic on our site right now. The comic is called “A Slap in the Face: My obsession with GG Allin”, I’m not usually a fan of autobiographical comics, but this guy’s books are always very entertaining. His name is Justin Melkmann and aside from being the creator of some of my favorite comics, he plays in the NYC punk band WWIX, he drinks like a fish with me at our annual Happy Drunk Xmas Parties, and oh yeah, he’s one of the producers of a small program called “The Daily Show”. I just restocked on his comics and got my hands on his newest one “Earaches and Eyesores 3″, and I have to say it’s probably my favorite one so far. Here is the interview-
I remember getting “A slap in the face” as a hand bound book way back when, what inspired you to write a comic about GG Allin? Are there any interesting stories that didn’t make it into the comic?
Heya Steve. Glad you like the new book. It’s a bit darker than my other stuff. As far as what inspired me to do a comic about GG, that’s an interesting story, a loooong interesting story. About 9 years ago I approached Crazy Glenn Wernig, the editor of NYC’s super excellent music and comics paper The New York Waste, about doing a monthly serialization comic biography of the life and times of GG Allin. GG’s is one of my all time favorite musician/performers, and I knew enough about his life to do a bio that would be both informative and fun to read. See, in the mid 90s, right after GG died, I approached his brother Merle about doing a straight bio of GG. Merle agreed to the idea and we did a bunch of interviews and research for the project. After completing about 50 half assed pages, it kind of fell apart. Over the next few years my creative attention then turned to comics and eventually I was comfortable enough with my drawing skills to approach the Waste about doing a comic version of GG’s story. Generally speaking, the readership of that paper could be counted on as being GG Allin enthusiasts, so Glenn and I knew there would be an audience for this. Over the next two years I wrote and drew five panels a month telling the tale of GG Allin’s life. Then, seemingly out of no where, Merle contacted me and asked me stop doing the strip. To avoid any trouble, I agreed to stop, but I didn’t want to halt talking about GG all together. Whether you like his music or not, it can not be denied, that GG was an interesting character. I’d been obsessed with him since 1987 and…THAT’S IT (I thought to myself)…I can do a comic about my obsession with GG Allin! And so, with The New York Waste’s blessing, I shifted gears a little bit and for the next two years was free to explore my feelings about one of music’s most twisted geniuses. And the book that you guys sell is simply a collection of the Waste comics. That didn’t take too long, did it?
Are there any interesting stories that didn’t make it into the G.G. comic?
When I was in college, and maybe once after, I dressed up as GG Allin for Halloween. Looking back on it now, it was pretty silly, but at the time it felt great. Made me feel powerful. Mind you, we’re talking about GG circa 86. Hair, bandana, sunglasses, jean vest…he did look pretty cool back then.
When Merle and I were working on the biography I’d stopped by his apartment to pick up some papers and wouldn’t you know it, I got a pretty bad paper cut. I didn’t think much of it, shook Merle’s hand good-bye and went back to my place. However, once at home, my INTENSE germaphobia kicked it, and I had one hell of a panic attack on my hands, no pun intended. The waves of gut crushing anxiety were not slowing, and I realizd the only thing that was going to calm my irrational fears was to march BACK to Merle’s place and make sure that his hand that I’d just shaken was not cut and we had in fact not exchanged any potentially deadly body fluids. I know this shit sounds irrational, but that’s what phobia is. GG’s song I Kill Everything I fuck kept playing over and over in my head. I knew that GG and Merle were not the same person, but I couldn’t shake this. With in a half and hour I was back standing in Merle’s holding his hand making sure there were no matching cuts. I was a wreck, and he could NOT have been cooler. Then and there my panic subsided and he invited me in. We sat at his kitchen table for a bit and he let me talk it through. I apologized for being so out of control, and he calmly reassured me, that he’d seen worse in his day.
Pretty sure the event that pushed Merle to ask me to stop doing GG’s bio in comic form was showing up at the 10 year Anniversary of GG’s death show at Don Hill’s with Jimmie The Swedish Scum. This was 2005 and they had a notorious feud going. Well, notorious to anyone who gives a shit about this stuff…like me. Anyway, Jimmie and I go way back, he had the BEST GG site on the internet years before Myspace, etc and he had stayed with me a couple of times. He was in town from Sweden for all of the ten year anniversary stuff, including a show with the newly reformed Jabbers (thanks to him) up in New Hampshire. The two of us, along with World War IX’s first singer Max, went to Don Hill’s to get drunk and pay our respects to GG. I was pretty nervous though since I knew Merle wouldn’t be happy to see Jimmie, but….I figured the Bud Light would cure everything, for me at least. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Merle and I got along fine until someone tipped him off to who I was with. At one point Merle comes over to me, leans in real close and asks “Who the fuck are you sitting with?” Once I told him, Jimmie was thrown out, my relationship with Merle was never the same, and a month later I was writing and drawing Slap In The Face: My Obsession With GG Allin. A fun night, tarnished temporarily, only to be turned into one hell of a memory.
With the Earaches and Eyesore comics you keep up the autobiographical tone but the focus is a little different, how do you decide what makes it into the comic and what doesn’t?
Everything I write about in my autobiographical stuff has happened. At times life can be both incredibly awesome as well as pretty fucking humiliating and I see the humor in both sides of that coin. I usually add some kind of a surreal element to the drawings though to keep it interesting for the reader. Lots of funky shit going on in the background, or on people’s t-shirts. I mean, my life is fucking fascinating to me, but I don’t know how many people care about the ups and downs and ins and outs of playing in a punk band. In my last issue I wrote a lot about my uh…beer intake, and again…I tried to make it pretty absurd. The stories and emotions are all true, but a lot of the laughs come from the drawings. For example, I tend to spend a good amount of time hanging out in bars with some pretty wild characters, but usually there aren’t ACTUAL aliens and monsters sitting next to me. What doesn’t make it into my comics is very little. For the most part I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. That said my good friend and drummer for World War IX Jon Kleinman recently pointed out and incredible quote from a Hell’s Angel: “Treat me good, I’ll treat you better. Treat me bad, I’ll treat you worse.” I’d say that credo holds to some of the subject matter of my comics.
I hear that you are developing an animated version.
Yep, Jon and I are developing an animated version of my comics. It’s had a few incarnations, but it looks like the best and most effective way to do this is to just do it my damn self. We’ve had good friends help us out doing some great work, but it takes too long to make it all fancy. What Jon and I want is the same d.i.y. ethos we bring to our music to come to this animation. Shit, it’s barely even animation. I just bring all my drawings into iMovie, put some groovy moves on the images and punctuate the sequence with sound effects and music and it’s done. And most important…it’s fun to do. Eventually I’ll start using After Effects, an animation program that DOESN’T scare the crap out of me, but for now…it’s all iMovie. Plus, and this is key…we want to make this project inclusive of the scene we play in. We know so many talented people that we want to celebrate as much as possible. We want to use other bands’ music and eventually include interviews and live clips of our friends and their work. Think of it as an animated zine. For our last show I made an animated flyer, so it’s just a lot more of that. Thanks to the internet all of this can happen relatively fast and practically pain free.
You are also in the New York punk band WWIX, seems to be a lot of drama going on with that project, was your facebook page hijacked or something?
Oh yes. World War IX started in 2002 and our second singer who joined in 2007 didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t work with him anymore. He locked Jon and I out of the old band fb page, proceeded to use it as a forum for public abuse, and basically stated that he would stop at nothing to dissuade anyone from taking his place. Oh well. I suppose it can come with the territory. The boring truth is that things just weren’t working out anymore, especially in terms of being able to practice and play shows, and when things aren’t working, things aren’t fun. And if things aren’t fun, then what do you have? Nothing. We’re not the fucking Ramones where we HAVE to stick together because if we don’t we can’t pay our rents. 75% of the people I know play in bands and 100% of those people have been kicked out of a band at some point in their lives. Everyone handles it differently I suppose. Our new guys, Filthy Phill on vocals, and Brian “Chinatown” Jackson on bass, kick ass. Right now we’ve got this incredible balance between having a complete blast and working our asses off. Imagine that.
(You can “like” the new WWIX fan page here)
I don’t get to NYC too often but the few times I’ve seen WWIX I fucking loved it, do you want to play our Xmas party this year on December 17th?
You mean the greatest party of the year? Hell yeah! I’ll ask the rest of the guys if they can do it. I’ve been the last two years and it took me about a week to recover both times.
I’ve done a few comic cons with you, real big ones and real lame ones you seem to enjoy even the crappiest of cons, why?
Why? Because I get to hangout all day with people I like, talking comics and drinking beer. What could be better? I love meeting all the wacky comic con goers too. Man, last year was NUTS. Sat at about 5:00 we offered a free beer to anyone who buys a comic! How fun was that? Eventually we had a freaking full blown party break out at the table and then we all went out for post con festivities! I usually give out a ton more books than I sell, but honestly…I’m so pumped to even HAVE books that, at least for now, I’m not bitter that I’m not making enough money selling.
What do you think of the current comic book market?
It seems to be doing ok. I know I could sell more, but shit, there’s an indie shop in my hood called Desert Island and they’re doing something right because the place is always packed and the owner is actually happy with his business. Shit, I can’t say that about most people. And when I go to the MOCCA fest, that’s HUNDREDS of people selling their own comics, it’s always PACKED! If I wasn’t sitting safely behind my table, I wouldn’t go…too crowded.
You are producer at The Daily Show (a small time basic cable TV show where some unknown comedian reports the latest news stories) how come you haven’t done a book on that experience?
For the most part I do comics about things that drive me crazy or make me anxious. My job is a dream, and who wants to read about how happy someone is? I’d rather do comics about things that upset me, it’s more fun.
Buy his comics from us!
Earaches and Eyesores #3
Earaches & Eyesores #3
Is the party over? This, the third collection of debauched punk rock and roll stories, has taken a decidedly dark turn. However, even amidst the tales of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, blown apart friendships, and death, the laughs keep rolling…like an empty beer bottle on a desolate midnight subway train!
32 pages b&w with color cover. $4
A Slap in the face: my obsession with GG Allin
One of our best selling comics is BACK!
Justin Melmann's autobiographical comic about the time he was asked to write a comic about GG Allin. Follow him along his journey into GG's world, meeting his parents, driving up the coast with Merle and eventually being asked to stop writing. It's an awesome read!