Robot 6 Q&amp;A | Art Comix pay tribute to the 1990s in <i>Rub the Blood</i>

One of the more interesting projects to pop up on Kickstarter lately is Rub the Blood, "an Art Comix tabloid that explores the lasting influence (for better or worse) of the Early 90's Collector Boom comics of Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, etc. on today's most fringe underground cartoonists."

Co-edited by Pat Aulisio and Ian Harker, the project fittingly draws its name from a 1990s cover gimmick and features contributions from a variety of art comix pros. In addition to Aulisio and Harker, contributors include Josh Bayer, William Cardini, Victor Cayro, PB Kain, Keenan Marshall Keller, Peter Lazarski, Benjamin Marra, Jim Rugg, Thomas Toye and Mickey Z. Rub the Blood will debut at the 2011 Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Fest.

Aulisio and Harker were kind enough to share a few thoughts and details about the project and its inspiration with me; my thanks for their time.

JK: Where did the idea originate to put this anthology together?

Ian: It's been something we've kicked around in various shapes and forms for a few years now. The joke was that one day Rob Liefeld will be just as adored among the art comix crowd as Fletcher Hanks is now.

Pat: Pretty much what Ian said, although I would add we were shooting around various ideas of some sort of tribute book involving "an art comic take on _____" and the idea of doing a tribute to the original Image Seven, and each person in the anthology would take on characters from each creator. It eventually ended up being just about Rob Liefeld and Extreme Studios mainly.

JK: Your Kickstarter page describes the project as "an Art Comix tabloid that explores the lasting influence (for better or worse) of the Early 90's Collector Boom comics." In your opinion, what are some of the "better" and "worse" elements of this particular era of comics?

Ian: Well, the collector's boom thing inspired a lot of young artists from my generation. I was probably 12 years old when I saw the 501 Blues commercial with Rob Liefeld. The idea that a 16-year-old kid could draw comics professionally made the whole thing seem real. It was in a way the first dose of do-it-yourself ethos I ever had. These guys were all semi-naive artists creating their own characters; before that you only had the characters that were around for decades. I felt like I could be a part of it. Looking back, though, I think the boom was a net-negative for comics. It essentially killed the newsstand pipeline that brought new readers to comics and drove away a lot of skilled cartoonists who could actually tell a clear visual story. You don't really get to choose what comics you come up on, though; I think those comics stay with you in one shape or form for the rest of your life. The first generation of underground cartoonists came up on EC and you can always see that influence in those guys. That's what Rub the Blood is about, letting the demons run wild.

Pat: Well, I was still in grade school at the time, and I vividly remember the X-Men Swimsuit Special, in particular the image of Psylocke with dinosaurs in the background done by Jim Lee, and me and my friends talking about having sex with all the women from X-Men in the 90s even though we had no idea how to have sex. So I guess you can say the oversexualization is a "worse" aspect of the collectors boom, but it's true I can say those comics helped me discover sexuality and learn about the female anatomy (albeit incorrect) at a young age.

Another thing around the collector's boom was trading cards. I collected the shit out of Marvel's various card series of pin-ups of your favorite heroes, and learning about their history and stats on the back. I loved those and still have them all in a box rubberbanded together by series. You would get a trading card in the first issues of X-Force by Rob Liefeld and X-Men by Jim Lee.

And Wizard Magazine came out of the collector's boom. Now they're just a company of shitty comic conventions and no actual magazine. That's where the infamous "Captain America with boobs" image Rob Liefeld drew was printed.

Rob Liefeld had a clothing line of oversized T-shirts with giant images of his comic covers.

Variant covers were also crazy then, too. I remember an issue of Gen13 had 13 variant covers, and the sad thing is you know there were people out there that bought 13 copies of the same comic because they thought it would be worth a ton of money in the future.

Stuff like this happened:

That original VHS was sold for like $29.95.

Swimsuit specials, trading cards, magazines based around comics, clothing lines, special edition variant covers, VHS specials ... basically none of that shit would happen nowadays, which in the end is actually probably for the worst. I would take on any of those projects (we actually did make a VHS special, too!)

JK: And for those who don't know, what's the significance of the title, "Rub the Blood"?

Ian: It was the tagline on the cover of Bloodstrike #1. It was a gimmick cover that featured a dried-blood effect. I remember obsessing over this when I was a kid; I never really understood the damn thing.

Pat: Ian told me about this, and when we were just deciding to try to organize this, I was shopping for comics at a thrift store and found an unopened copy of it for 25 cents. The blood effect still worked! That's when I knew we had to do this book for sure.

JK: How did you go about recruiting the creators who are working on the anthology?

Ian: Me and Pat have a lot of like-minded attitudes about comics. Pat's philosophy on life is "Yeah Dude." Rub the Blood is about the spirit of sitting at your mom's kitchen table when you are 13 and drawing anatomy that you don't understand. Like I said, there is a DIY ethos to that, and I think there is a spiritual kinship with the attitude of art-brut comix. Brian Chippendale has said in interviews that he never intended to draw like Gary Panter, he always wanted to draw like Jim Lee (I'm paraphrasing.)

Pat: Me and Ian have worked together on a variety of different things for a while now, and to have a curated anthology we do together was just a obvious step in our comic relationship. We have the same taste, and together we know enough awesome cartoonists. We came up with a dream list of people to get involved. For the most part, everyone that's in the book we had some sort of pre-existing relationship with before. Except for Bald Eagles, I think Ian met him once, but we were both just big fans of his work and the insanity that he isn't published more. We contacted him and since then, he's been one of the most entertainingly insane cartoonists to work with and talk to. Love that guy!

JK: Have you guys already seen some of the contributions? If so, what can fans expect?

Ian: A lot of gnarly drawings and comics. Big boobs, pouches, big guns, shoulder pads. They just don't look the way you'd expect.

Pat: Your new favorite comic ever.

JK: Besides through Kickstarter, where else can folks buy the book?

Ian: People will have to wait and see. We're kind of just working it on the convention circuit and seeing where it goes from there. If you really want one the best thing to do is pledge for a copy on Kickstarter. This thing is intended to be a one-off weirdo artifact more than anything else.

Pat: Each contributor will get a decent amount of copies, so you'll have a variety of different artists to buy it from either on their websites or at art shows, conventions, etc. It's almost better without wide distribution. It's one of those things you have to go through an effort to get. But if you want to distribute our book go ahead and contact me! We can work something out!

JK: You've already hit your fundraising target on Kickstarter. What do you plan to do with any extra money above and beyond it?

Ian: We could go a few ways with it, but it's definitely all going into the book itself. That could mean more copies, more pages, better format, maybe all of the above. 50 percent of our print run is going to the contributors either way. They did an awesome job.

Pat: It's all going into making the book BETTER.

JK: What else have you been working on lately, or have planned to release over the next few months?

Ian: Me and Pat will be co-editing the next issue of our newspaper-comic Secret Prison for the first quarter of 2012, and I'm also working in the embryonic stages of an even more preposterous project with Box Brown for late 2012 based on the groundbreaking manga Garo.

Pat: My new three-issue comic series-turn-graphic-novel, Bowman. The first issue is out in November from Retrofit Comics. I already started inking issue #2. It's an epic life-spanning adventure of lost astronaut David Bowman. I'm also doing a long-form, snail-mail jam comic based around Conan the Barbarian and a talking duck with a Spider-Man mask with Josh Bayer titled The Unforgiving Blade of Conon. That is coming out the same time as Rub the Blood. Me and josh are doing a signing Friday, Dec. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Jim Hanley's Universe in Manhattan. I also got a Xeric Grant comic I'm applying for to try to get the last of that opportunity. It's a 32-page collection of various anthology work I've done the last year and a half.

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