DRIVING IN CARS WITH DAD
My dad was not a comic book guy. He gave me a love for a lot of things. Hockey. Conan. He loved Robert E. Howard and pulp fantasy. Not Tolkien. The pulpy stuff. But I never remember him reading or being interested in comic books. He would buy them for me, but that was about it. He loved the magazine-sized books though. SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. He loved MAD MAGAZINE and especially Don Martin. I remember the paperback collections around the house. And CARToons. My dad loved CARToons. He was always a car person. He dragged when he was a teenager in Michigan, in his gold Corvair and later in his red Ford Fairlane with a black racing stripe. I remember seeing his drawings of Big Daddy Roth-style monster cars, down on the shelves in our basement when I was a kid. They may still be there. And his old stack of CARToons.
And now, after 25 years, CARToons is back in publication. Trial Issue #0 came out in early-October 2015. As befits the timing, issue #0 is 99% monster/Halloween themed. The cover harkens back to the Big Daddy Roth scene in a zombie vein. “Back from the Dead!”, as the cover exclaims. I have to admit, it’s been 30+ years since I’d read an issue of CARToons, but I didn’t remember it being so horror oriented. It’s a double-edged sword. I love monsters. But I missed on cars and car humor that I remembered from childhood. Now, I am not a car person. I never picked that up from my dad. I admire a ’55 Bel-Air, that’s for sure, but I don’t pretend to get excited about cams and hemis and the cubic size of an engine. Hell, I’m the guy that sat his engine on fire changing his oil. It’s not easy. But I really wanted the old humor I built on just those types of stories. On hemis and cams and drag racing. The insider humor I remembered. Like being in the garage and hearing insane stories. And there is some of that here, the jokes about fuel mixtures and horsepower, but it’s all married to werewolves and Frankenstein’s monsters and zombies. And, as with much of modern pulp culture, the zombies are the least interesting parts of the issue.
Which is not to say there isn’t some really excellent artists and writers associated with #0. The two-pager “Trade-In” drawn by Dave Beaty shows a great thick pencil line that walks a line between old Pete Morisi work and 90s Image. And it worls. Plus he draws a great mid-70s VW van like my parents used to have. Even in the black & white pages, it screamed that two-tone beige I remember so well. Original CARToons artist Jeff Slemons knocks out a piece called “The Night of Cartoonsial Carnage!” which manages to throw some insane cross-hatch car design in with some Jack Davis inspired art, a demolition derby for the demented. George Trosley’s “Sketchbook” is an amusing take on the old how to draw Mickey Mouse or the like from the old days, only with a ’39 Chevy Opera Coupe. It’s goofy, taunting, and delightfully amazing, all at the same time. Of all the pages in the first issue, this is definitely my favorite.
Editor Marc Methot has done an excellent job of pacing the book with larger stories and filler pieces, peppered with extras in “My ARToons” and “Mini Wheels.” These are another item I love. Much like the original, and magazines like LOWRIDER ARTE, Methot populates the magazine with reader/amateur art. I use amateur lightly, since a lot of the pencil work is quite excellent. Following the theme of the cover and the stories, most of the “ARToons” are Big Daddy Roth and monster themed. The “Mini Wheels”, those from the younger art set are more generally car oriented, and are a treat.
The full-sized issue #1 is due to come out in a few weeks in January 2016. I’m looking forward to it. I am hoping that it follows in the traditions of the original CARToons. I know my dad would love to read them. Check out their website at: http://cartoonsmag.com/ and check out issue #1 when it comes out.
Otherwise, the ghost of Shawn Kerri may just haunt you.