Including 'Jennie Mae 'N Jerry Wick,' the final of Bela Koe-Krompecher's three dispatches from the Columbus rock underground
Ken Eppstein has always viewed his Nix Comics as more of a rock 'n' roll-type operation, which made the imprint the perfect destination when Anyway Records founder Bela Koe-Krompecher approached him about creating a comic book based on entries from Koe-Krompecher's blog, which is steeped in Columbus music history.
“I do make these comics from the perspective of: These are what I would expect to see in a record store as opposed to in a comics store,” Eppstein said. “And I think that's what comics have to do in general: Find those people outside what has become the comics world … and introduce them to this manner of storytelling and the variety that exists within it.”
Some of this variety will be on display in the most recent batch of Nix releases, timed to the arrival of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which takes place at various venues citywide through Sunday, Sept. 30 (Eppstein will host a release party at Used Kids on Thursday, Sept. 27).
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The batch includes the latest in Eppstein's anthologized series, Nix Comics Quarterly #10, The Collected Pander Bear, written by Eppstein and illustrated by Bob Ray Starker, and Jenny Mae 'N Jerry Wick, the final of three comics adapted from Koe-Krompecher's blog and illustrated by Andy Bennett. The latter two comics will also be packaged as limited-edition comic/record sets, with Jenny Mae 'N Jerry Wick featuring a song each from Mae (the shambolic, previously unreleased “To Love”) and Wick (“Love, Death + Photosynthesis,” previously available on an Anyway Records compilation CD).
The first collaboration between Nix and Koe-Krompecher emerged in 2014 and centered on a series of blog entries detailing a typically chaotic visit from NYC punk legends the Ramones.
“When the Ramones came to town it used to be that every freaky kid from a 60-mile radius came into town,” Eppstein said, “and [the comic] carried that feel over.”
“[The blog] was like something out of a ‘Harold & Kumar' movie: There's marijuana, and the Ramones aren't going to play unless we're at the show, and then there's the record store and getting chased and skinheads. It was nuts,” Koe-Krompecher said. “It had everything except the White Castle.”
After publishing the blog entry, Koe-Krompecher heard from Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner, who mentioned that the absurd story would be perfectly suited to the comic book form. (In a nice bit of “everything comes full circle,” Wick wears a Mudhoney T-shirt in a Jenny Mae 'N Jerry Wick panel.)
Each subsequent collaboration has become increasingly personal in nature, moving from the second edition, which served as a tribute to late musician Jim Shepard, to this final shot, centered on Wick and Mae, both of whom died (Gaunt guitarist Wick in a 2001 hit-and-run, Mae last year due to complications stemming from alcoholism), but not before leaving a deep mark on both Koe-Krompecher and the Columbus music community.
Working as editor, Eppstein tried to capture the feel of Koe-Krompecher's unique voice in the comics. “When he's writing, he has a very peculiar and poetic way of turning phrases,” Eppstein said. “It's steeped in metaphors, sometimes mixed metaphors, and he uses that to create a feel for the time and environment.”
And if sometimes the details are hazy, so be it.
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“If you've read Bela's blog, they're very stream of conscious and very much written from the perspective of: This is how he remembers it. The failings of the memory of someone who drank so much at that time,” Eppstein said, and laughed, noting one early review of the comic made note of similar artistic mix-ups, including one panel that depicted Gaunt with the wrong drummer for the era. “He doesn't sweat those kinds of details when he writes, which I sort of enjoy, so I don't sweat editing them.”
For Koe-Krompecher's part, he said he's ready to move on to new subjects following Mae's 2017 death, though a forthcoming book will keep him in this era a little while longer.
“All that writing stemmed out of Jenny and Jerry. They were the fountain,” Koe-Krompecher said. “I can still keep writing about my life … but for those moments in time, this is a good, final note.”