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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Geek Confidential
The Apes of Wrath
Lewis Shiner
Carlos Kastro
Jon Macy
Tom Stazer
Shannon Wheeler
List of Blackbird Press publications
Ellen Datlow
What happened with me at Blackbird
Rayguns Over Texas
In the Beginning...

The Apes of Wrath After a nearly decade since the publication of Geek Confidential, my newest book hits the stands in February. The Apes of Wrath delivers a collection of 17 simian-laden tales by such luminaries as Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Robert E. Howard, Joe R. Lansdale, Karen Joy Fowler, Philip José Farmer, and Pat Murphy alongside four original essays on various aspects of apes in pop culture and a foreword by Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt. This anthology is the first book I've edited in 15 years. Pretty ironic since I initially established my reputation as an editor.

It all began in 1990 with Lewis Shiner and comics. At the time I was meeting weekly with Shiner and writer Thomas Smith at the Lone Star Café for lunch. We'd discuss writing, editing, comics, and what exactly it means to be writer. The lessons learned at the Lone Star Roundtable (as Shiner dubbed us) continue to influence my professional behavior to this day.

Shiner, who was writing for DC at the time, received an invite as a special guest to the 1990 San Diego Comic Con. This proved a most fortuitous, life-altering event. The con offered Shiner an additional pass for a guest of his choosing. He chose me.

At the time the San Diego Comic Con (now called ComicCon International), while still massive, had yet to morph into its present obese media-driven, pop culture orgy. A young creator could still attend with the hopes of meeting writers, artists, and even editors. That's exactly what happened to me.

Modern Perversity When I moved to Austin in 1997, one of the first people I met was Morgan, pretentious peer (weren't we all at 19?) and remarkably talented artist. Inspired by the likes of Alan Moore, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Frank Miller, we both strove to create a new kind of comic, one unshackled by kiddie labels, stereotypes, and bad pop culture riffs. (Did I mention we were pretentious?) Morgan suggested that when I get to San Diego to look for Carlos Kastro. The duo attended the same school district and Morgan felt Kastro was the only high school artist that was as good or better than him in the entire region. (Apparently the pair were 1-2 in many district competitions.) Relocating to Paris after graduation, Kastro achieved acclaim as the artist for the Clive Barker-penned Night of the Living Dead: London.

Heroes I don't recall how but I found Kastro on my first day at the con. He introduced me to Austin-based comic creators Martin Thomas and John LeCour. All three worked with John Nordland II, who wasn't there, and his Blackbird Comics. Kastro and I exchanged ideas and decided to meet again when we got back to Austin (he was planning on visiting family there before heading back to Paris).

Another important meeting occurred at the con. Shiner lettered his DC comic The Hacker Files and was on a panel discussing the little understood art. After the panel, several of us stood around waiting for some facetime with Shiner. I started chatting with a guy standing next to me. We clicked and after we finished with Shiner, I suggested lunch. My fellow Shiner fan? Mark London Williams, my Nexus Graphica co-conspirator.

Once back in Austin, Kastro introduced me to Nordland. Blackbird Press at the time primarily served as the home for his Heroes title, but Nordland had ambitious plans to expand. An accomplished printer, he owned his own press and thus could produce books affordably.

Nordland and I shared similar views for the future of the comics industry. Our discussions quickly went to how we could achieve these goals. Within two weeks I signed a contract and joined Blackbird's burgeoning line of books that included the future Lambda Literary Award Winner Jon Macy's first comic Tropo and Crazy Bob by the very funny Tom Stazer.

Creature Features Wild West Show
Through my talks with Kastro, I developed an idea for a series of thematic anthologies in graphic novel format. For some reason, I decided that Omnibus would work as the overarching title. The first four titles planned were Omnibus: Modern Perversity, Omnibus: Laff Riot, Omnibus: Creature Features, and Omnibus: Wild West Show. As a neophyte editor, I didn't realize the folly of editing four anthologies at once, and comic ones to boot. Comics are much more difficult to edit, largely thanks to the sheer number of creators involved. Plus add to that Blackbird did not pay advances. I had to convince everyone of the creators without the promise of money.

I learned quickly. In his introduction to my book Geek Confidential, Michael Moorcock wrote "[Klaw] has the powers of persuasion common to all great editors. Somehow you find yourself giving him your best for nothing." (Course Moorcock also said: "This gentleman is known the length and breadth of the comics world as 'that bastard Klaw.'") An adaptation of Shiner's "Scales," illustrated by Kastro, headlined Omnibus: Modern Perversity. I later convinced Joe R. Lansdale to write an original story for Creature Features (with art by Ted Naifeh) and an adaptation of "Trains Not Taken" for Wild West Show. The latter book also contained an adaptation of Shiner's "Steam Engine Time."

Children With Glue Shortly after the agreement to produce Omnibus, I met Shannon Wheeler, future creator of Too Much Coffee Man and New Yorker cartoonist. He was new to Austin and was hawking his newest handmade publication Children With Glue. Wheeler's profound and hilarious view of life struck a chord and I pitched the idea of a book length collection of his work to Nordland. Within a month I was editing that as well. The full length Children With Glue hit the stands in 1991.

Omnibus: Modern Perversity shipped in May, 1992 with a Kastro cover, though not the one he originally envisioned. His painting was of a nude woman. While I'm pretty liberal, I'm also a realist and know that there was no way that book would hit the stands in most comic shops. The final version, was modified by Martin Thomas and Wheeler, who had signed on as art directors for the project, by placing leaves on the naughty, exposed bits. Along with Shiner and Castro, Modern Perversity offered three additional tales and a poem by Joe Preston, Ian O'Keefe, D. Cameron Johnson, Mark London Williams (him again!), John LeCour, Roger Cuevas, and Morgan, all for $3.25. Initially, it sold well but there was a small defect. Nordland had yet to master perfect binding and the covers fell off of a vast majority of the shipped books.

Even with that flaw and some questionable editorial decisions, Modern Perversity garnered some positive attention. Ellen Datlow, then editing Omni's fiction, sent me an encouraging postcard.

  December 23, 1992

Dear Richard Klaw,

I enjoyed the OMNIBUS:
cularly the rendition of
I'm very much looking forward to the second OMNIBUS.


Ellen Datlow


Datlow would have to wait until 1994 for the next volume. Things soured fairly quickly with Blackbird. I've written about that elsewhere, so I won't go into that here (check the sidebar). When I left Blackbird it was with a nearly completed Creature Features and a half done Wild West Show. Both those books saw print with Mojo Press. Beyond a fantastic cover by Ken Huey and a strip by Shannon Wheeler, Laff Riot never really congealed.

My final anthology of the 1990s, The Big Bigfoot Book appeared in 1996 for Mojo Press. Beginning in 2001, I served as the RevolutionSF fiction editor for year and a half. And now I embark on the next epoch of my editorial career with the soon-to-be released The Apes of Wrath and then later this year Rayguns Over Texas, an anthology of original science fiction by Texas writers.

Copyright © 2013 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF, Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, Steampunk, and The Steampunk Bible. Coming in March 2013 from Tachyon, he is editing The Apes of Wrath, a survey of apes in literature with contributions from Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Joe R. Lansdale, Pat Murphy, Leigh Kennedy, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, Karen Joy Fowler, Philip José Farmer, Robert E. Howard and others. Klaw can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.

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