While I was at APE I missed the opening of a very interesting exhibition of art from indie comic book Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever at Los Angeles pop surrealism art gallery La Luz de Jesus. However, on Sunday I was able to attend the closing of the exhibition to take photos and speak to creator Tom Neely about the art, the book, and his work. (Please click on the photographs to see larger versions.)
Sonia Harris: When did you first create Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever? What inspired you?
Tom Neely: Henry & Glenn originally fell out of Gin Stevens beer bottle at a meeting of my art fraternity Igloo Tornado one night while we were having drinks and doodling on napkins at the Bigfoot Lodge. Somewhere around 2005, I think. It was just a silly idea that we started doodling together and we eventually made a little xeroxed zine of it - like 150 copies or so - and it just took off from there. Pretty soon we got an offer to turn it into a book from Microcosm and since the release of that version of Henry & Glenn Forever it has spread like a cult hit throughout the punk/metal/zine world.
For the latest book, Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever, The Igloo had largely lost interest in the project, but I had an idea for doing something new with it, so I too the reigns for this book. I originally didn’t want to do a sequel, because I don’t like to repeat myself, but then I decided to take a different approach and make it more of a comic book experience. I wanted it to be sorta like a punk-rock Archie comic with several different stories running as a serial. And then I wanted to open it up to include many of my talented friends and weirdos who’s work I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’m inspired by the community that has sprung up around it and the enthusiasm from so many of the artists involved. We’ve had a lot of fun with it!
SH: Henry & Glenn is obviously pretty silly, but it seems to have captured people’s imaginations. What about the concept do you think people find most appealing?
Tom Neely: I have no idea, really… I mean, the obvious thing is if you are fans of Henry or Glenn (the real dudes), and you have a sense of humor about them, you’ll love it. Somehow putting them together is like chocolate and peanut butter. Speaking for the artists in the book, I think we are all genuine fans of both Henry and Glenn - but that’s a complicated fandom because they are such weird personalities - therefore it’s ripe for parody.
SH: Your own ability to echo many different, classic comic book styles is beautifully illustrated in this book, but which style do you prefer to work in?
Tom Neely: I prefer to always challenge myself with a new way to approach my art making. I’ve always changed my style from one project to the next. From my first graphic novel The Blot to my second The Wolf I changed from a ‘30s Segar-esque style to a more expressionistic, erotic, horror style (and I lost a lot of fans because of it). Then while doing these intense artsy books, I turn around and do Henry & Glenn and now The HUMANS… and I don’t know what’s next, really. I like to “echo” as you say, other styles, because I’m inspired by so many different things, but I always try to make it my own. I feel like sometimes people don’t know how to follow my work because I bounce around so much… The result is I have several different pockets of fans who like different things I do... but I can’t imagine settling on one way to draw things for the rest of my life. I’d get too bored. I have to try new things all the time.
SH: How many contributors are there to the series?
Tom Neely: The original Henry & Glenn Forever book was four contributors: The Igloo Tornado is Tom Neely, Gin Stevens, Scot Nobles and Levon Jihanian.
Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever has over 60 contributors doing fine art pieces, pin-ups, one page gags and short stories, as well as my own 4 chapter story all about Glenn’s mother. We weren’t able to get everyone from the book to send the original art for the show, but I think we had more than half of the book represented on the walls of the gallery. I think at least a dozen of us were there for the opening and closing parties.
SH: Do you plan to continue the series, or does this exhibition put it to bed, so to speak?
Tom Neely: Ha! I don’t know actually. I don’t wanna beat a dead-horse too much! After the first book I wanted to kill it because I didn’t like the idea of repeating myself, but I had a lot of fun making the new Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever series, so who knows... I’m putting it to bed for now while I work on The HUMANS series, but if I get an idea for more Henry & Glenn adventures, I’ll come back to it.
SH: What’s next for you?
Tom Neely: Today - November 5th is the debut of my new comic book series The HUMANS! It’s a new series created by me and my friend Keenan Marshall Keller. He is writing it, I’m drawing it, and colored by Kristina Collantes. We self-published our issue #0 this past summer and it was a huge hit. Now it’s starting up as a monthly, limited series from Image Comics. It’s a weird and fun world of biker gangs of ape-men living in 1970s Bakersfield, CA, on a monkey planet that strangely resembles our own world… Except it’s dominated by Apes and humans are dirty slave animals. We’re having a blast making this comic and I hope everyone enjoys it. It’s raunchy and weird and fun and violent! We’re really excited to see it hit comic book stores everywhere this week! I hope everyone will take a ride with us and The HUMANS!