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Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015



Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Issue 105,Vol. 42, Summer 2015 Copyright © 2015 by Eastwind Studios - All Rights Reserved. All images copyright 2015 by respective artists, writers and photographers to cover the entire issue. Burr Jerger 1917 - 1982

Stu Weiner 1915 - 1985

Uncle Jam Quarterly is published whenever we get enough people in one room to do it, usually once every quarter by Eastwind Studios.

Quarterly, Volume 42, #105, Summer 2015

Any similarity to any other publication, living or dead, is purely the fault of the other publication. Single issues are available by mail for $10 postage paid in the USA. Subscriptions are $20 for 4 issues in the USA. Order through our website or send a check to Eastwind Studios, P. O. Box 750, San Bernardino, California 92402, USA. For ad inquiries please contact or call (909) 867-5605. Please support our advertisers who made this publication possible. Phil Yeh~Publisher Linda Adams Yeh~Co-Publisher & Editor Linda Amick Puetz~Art Director Beth Winokur~Features Editor Tom Luth & Lieve Jerger~Assistant Art Directors Patti McIntosh, Peggy Corum~Copy Editors Edmond Gauthier~Archivist Henry Chamberlain~Seattle Bureau Chief Lim Cheng Tju~Asian Bureau Chief Michael Carvaines~Film Editor Sarah Carvaines, MPH, RD~Health Editor PJ Grimes~Music & Health Editor CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS & WRITERS Rod Underhill, Theresa VanOrnum, Moonlily Winokur, Bernie Mases, Jennifer Daydreamer, Lim Cheng Tju, Ken L. Jones, Terri Elders, John Weeks, Rory Murray, Roberta Gregory, Miel, Jon J. Murakami, Linda Amick Puetz, MB Roberts, Batton Lash, Al Davison, Tom Luth, Donna P. Crilly

Mural by Michael Gross A lot has happened since we published the last issue of Uncle Jam in the summer of 2014. It’s May 2015 as I write this and my father is still alive at 92. He was told that he only had a couple of weeks to live last year, so each day is a gift. My old friend Richard Kyle is now in a nursing home in Long Beach, since our last issue. Kyle created the term “graphic novel” in 1964. I often think about how each one of us can make a difference with just one or two small

acts of kindness. When Kyle opened up his bookstore in 1973 in Long Beach, California, he opened up a whole new world for me and my friends. We started publishing Uncle Jam back in college at California State University Long Beach in the fall of 1973. I had just turned 19 and the whole world was in front of me. My friend Gary Owens passed away on February 12, 2015. We interviewed Owens in November 1977, about his incredible career in Editorial continued on page 25

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Lim Cheng Tju, Lieve Jerger, Tom Luth, Linda Adams, Bruce Guthrie, David Folkman, Greg Preston, Allen Freeman

available online at

COVER ART Edwards Mansion   watercolor by Joanna Mersereau  copyright 2015

Jonathan Winters, Gary Owens, Phil Yeh Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015



Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

A Conversation with Watercolorist Joanna Mersereau Joanna Mersereau has established a long career in innovative watercolors with her continuing fresh view of wide ranging subjects. “Each painting is my challenge to find an approach that will pair my experience and skill to creativity—a new way that uses my imagination to lift an ordinary subject into ‘out of the ordinary’.” Mersereau’s dedication to watercolor is longstanding as one of the founders of Watercolor West. Since then she has won signature membership in the American Watercolor Society, the epitome of excellence in the water media world. Her awards are numerous. Her paintings have found homes around the globe as well as in permanent collections of museums. “It’s exciting to try new color combinations, changing an ordinary horizontal land or seascape into a vertical (layers) or going wild with complements (example: red for trees, orange for skies.) I strive to push my next painting to levels above what I have just completed. If I am successful, someone will be connected emotionally. As it is, when I’m painting I truly touch the depths of who I am.” Uncle Jam visited Joanna at her Redlands, California studio/home recently… Mersereau continued on page 11 Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


B. B. King I added this one to commemorate the recent death of the great blues guitarist and vocalist. I did it years ago as part of a larger group of big watercolor musician portraits to hang in a San Diego area music club, The Belly Up.

Wonders of Watercolor: The Magical World of Ken Meyer, Jr. By Rod Underhill

Atmospherics Cover


Painter Ken Meyer, Jr. has produced some of the most frightening paintings in the world. His published work includes images of vampires, ghouls and scary ghosts. His seminal work for Magic: The Gathering, the world’s first trading card game, helped it become a massive success. It is currently estimated that Magic, as it is known among the game’s devotees, has about twelve million players. Meyer’s work often produces the most beautiful of images, from angels lying on a secluded beach, to the commissioned portrait of a lovely young child. Ken Meyer, Jr. is both versatile and prolific. Sometimes he can be extremely intense, as well. Approximately one thousand different paintings and drawings of cover model Leah Dunsmore-Underhill were created for the purpose of being enclosed as original art as part of a special hardbound edition of Atmospherics. For the modest purchase price, each fan received Meyer continued on page 24

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Brown I have done many musician portraits. Up to this point, I hadn’t done any of James Brown. Bootsy Collins, a famous bassist who played with Brown early on, saw this piece on Facebook and liked it. Done in ink.

Eric Shanower on Little Nemo’s Return to Slumberland

Uncle Jam: You brought back one of the best loved comic strips ever, with your own twist. Can you describe how this project came to be? Eric Shanower: In spring of 2013 Scott Dunbier, an editor at the comics publisher IDW, called me on the phone and asked if I’d be interested in writing a Little Nemo comic. I said yes, but I wanted to know what approach he had in mind. He was open to considering any approach I might suggest. I’ve known Scott since the mid-1990s and worked with him before, and I think he considered me the right person for the job. At first I suggested an idea that I’d been kicking around for a few decades--a darker, more psychological take on the concept of Little Nemo in Slumberland. Scott didn’t say no, but he wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about that approach. Pretty soon after that I decided a more traditional approach would be better anyway, especially since I think Scott already had Gabriel Rodriguez in mind to do the art. I was confident that any attempt to simply redo Winsor McCay’s existing work would be a mistake. It took a bit of mulling over to come up with an approach that would be traditional but not an attempt to repeat the original. I finally got the simple idea of bringing it into the present, and that seemed to work. UJ: Winsor McCay was way ahead of his time when he did Little Nemo and later the first animated cartoon, Gertie the Dinosaur. It’s so great that Shanower continued on page 9 Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


An Interview with Gabriel Rodriguez: Artist for Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland Uncle Jam: Can you please give our readers a brief history of your career? Gabriel Rodriguez: My career in comics started back in 2002, with my first professional job which was a comic book adaptation of the CSI TV series for IDW Publishing. What started as a 5 - issue miniseries ended up as more than 25 issues that were collected in 5 graphic novels. From then on, I continued my partnership with IDW. At first I did adaptations of movies and books, including George Romero’s Land Of The Dead, Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, and Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, amongst others. Then my first creatorowned project came along in 2007. It was a collaboration with writer Joe Hill: the Locke & Key series. It lasted 6 years, and is to this date my biggest and most successful work so far. After that I did a short story for the DC Comics series Adventures of Superman, and after that, I took a radically different turn with the project I just finished with writer Eric Shanower, which was the revisiting of the Universe created a century ago by Winsor McCay in the 4 - part miniseries Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland. UJ: Obviously, you live miles away from San Diego, California; so how did you get hooked up with IDW Publishing? GR: It was a very strange way: an online “casting” process via email, when they were looking for an artist for the CSI comics. I sent a few samples of the characters and a couple test pages, and ended up getting the job. That started an almost uninterrupted partnership for almost 13 years so far, which I hope will endure for many more. UJ: Your artwork brings Little Nemo to life again. How much did you know about Winsor McCay before you started work on this project? GR: I was a huge fan of McCay’s illustrations and comic strip artwork. His inventive use of storytelling tools and his masterful use of perspective, design and color, blew my mind from the very first time I saw a Little Nemo comic strip several years ago. When I was invited to create a new storyline Rodriguez continued on page 10


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Shanower continued from page 7 a whole new generation gets a chance to experience Slumberland. What were your thoughts in writing this new version? ES: Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland is aimed primarily at a Middle Grade readership, that is, 8 to 12 year olds. I don’t think the comics industry does a good job at reaching that readership, so I knew going in that this project had obstacles from a marketing standpoint. But the Oz book adaptations that Skottie Young and I did for Marvel a few years ago were basically for the same level and they were extremely successful. Of course, while my concept of a new, modern child filling the role of the original Nemo allowed me to get a handle on this project, free from the looming shadow of McCay; that new child also is a great marketing strategy, I hope, to reach a modern target audience. I want all those Middle Graders of today to immediately connect to the new Nemo. That would have been much harder if I’d used the old Nemo. UJ: Gabriel Rodriguez is the perfect choice for doing the art and the colorist Nelson Daniel is excellent. How did the team come together? ES: IDW put us together. I have no complaints. UJ: The four issue mini-series from IDW publishing just screams for more! What are the future plans for the series and will they be collected in bigger books? ES: No contracts have been signed for a sequel, but it’s likely to happen. I would have written a different ending to the story if no sequel was being considered. The first series will be released as a graphic novel soon. UJ: Do you think that being nominated for an Eisner Award will make this project more wellknown outside the comic book crowd? ES: I really don’t know how much weight the Eisner’s carry outside the comic book business. Do librarians in general pay attention? I know that many librarians are pretty graphic novel savvy; but from what I hear, there are still a lot that are in the dark about comics. And unless Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland gets into libraries, I don’t suppose it’ll get much distribution outside an audience of comic’s readers. Although Little Nemo has 2015 Eisner nominations, the awards haven’t been made yet, so let’s not count our chickens. I’m very pleased about its nominations and I know that

Gregory Maguire. My partner David’s been heavily involved behind the scenes of OzCon since 2009, but he’s stepping down as Executive Director following this year’s con. The website is UJ: We saw on your website that Winkie Con is in San Diego this year but in 2016 will appear in Portland, Oregon. What are the plans for the future? ES: I don’t think there are plans yet past 2016.

Eric Shanower press releases go out, so I’m always hopeful that Little Nemo will catch on with a more general audience. UJ: I think that gathering up this series as a hardcover book would be perfect for libraries. Any plans to do just that? ES: Graphic novel editions of Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland in both paperback and hardcover will be released in May from IDW. UJ: You are also involved with Winkie Con, the Wizard of Oz convention, with your partner David Maxine. Can you tell us a little about that? ES: Winkie Con is rebranding as OzCon, since it’s a mouthful to explain the name Winkie to people who aren’t Oz fans. OzCon is the convention devoted to all aspects of the Land of Oz originally created by L. Frank Baum. It’s been running for more than 50 years. It’s held every summer on the west coast of the USA, this year in San Diego, usually in July, and attracts Oz enthusiasts from all over the world, though most come from North America. Activities at the convention run the gamut from scholarly papers to goofy games, costumes, an auction of rare Oz books and merchandise, films, quizzes, parties, etc. Themes for OzCon 2015 are the 100th anniversary of The Scarecrow of Oz by Baum, the 40th anniversary of Broadway’s The Wiz, the 30th anniversary of Disney’s Return to Oz, and the 20th anniversary of Wicked by

UJ: It has been our opinion that reaching back into our past might be the best way to insure our future. Both the Wizard of Oz books and the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland were huge hits for the early years of the 20th century. An updated approach to these titles might just bring in a whole new generation of readers. Any thoughts on this? ES: Hey, sounds good to me. But, you know, I work on the projects that interest me--old, new, or somewhere in between. I’m not interested in updating things for updating’s sake. Each project has to work for me on conceptual and creative levels. I’m aware of marketing, and I do what I can with projects I’m involved in. But as a creator, it’s my responsibility to make each project the best it can be, so that’s my first concern. I love to bring in new readers, but I can’t update an old property simply in the hope of getting people to read it. That’s just not the way I think. Each project comes first. Finding readers is later, but don’t get me wrong, having people read my projects is great. UJ: We have believed that the best way to have a good future is by making kids into lifelong readers, reading great books. Comics are really a great way to do this. What are your plans to promote these books to students? ES: I don’t do many school visits at the Middle Grade level, so I don’t have any plan in place for promotion to students. I love speaking at colleges and universities about my comic Age of Bronze, and I do that at every opportunity, usually two or three times a year. Whenever a publisher asks me to do some sort of promotional appearance, I will if I can. I’m always open to interviews. But these are all opportunities that come to me; I don’t have plans in place. I need to sit my butt in the chair at my drawing table more than I do, anyway. Shanower continued on page 18

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Rodriguez continued from page 8 inspired by his universe, I was simultaneously excited by the creative challenge as I was intimidated by the weight of his preceding work as an inevitable point of comparison.

a canvas that certainly can keep growing, exploring new roads in that same universe; so we’re eager to return to tell more stories. It grew beyond our wildest expectations, and helped us additionally to develop a friendship that became more important than any professional achievement.

UJ: McCay is almost entirely forgotten about in this country; so in bringing back Little Nemo you are really doing a whole new generation a huge favor. How about South America? Is anyone aware of McCay’s work? GR: He’s certainly known in the artists’ and illustrators’ circuit, but not as well-known by mainstream readers. I hope this book will help bring his legacy upfront and also invite new, young readers to his world and the world of comics. It’s going to be published here in Chile, so I’m very excited about finding out how Chilean readers will receive this new version of Nemo in his adventures in the immortal dreamscapes of Slumberland. UJ: Your artistic style seems to work perfectly with Eric Shanower’s script. How did you work so many miles apart? GR: When you’re creatively tuned about a project, everything flows naturally despite working conditions. Eric is not only an amazing writer, but also a groundbreaking artist and a huge fan of McCay’s work, and absolutely aware of the collaborative nature of making comics. Both of us shared a clear idea of how we wanted to try a fresh approach to the world of Slumberland, and how we wanted to explore the storytelling tools that comics offer, to put them at service of the story. So collaborating with him was as easy as breathing, and the only difficulties were the ones that the story itself demanded from us. Also, we were blessed by working with fellow Chilean artist Nelson Daniel, who provided the magic colors of this book. In my opinion he is one of the most gifted talents in comics coloring worldwide. His talent was a key component of the coming to life of this new Nemo. UJ: Now that the first four issues of Little Nemo have been published, what are the plans for the future of this series? GR: We have ideas for future adventures


UJ: What is the comic book world like in Chile and South America in general? GR: It is not as much of a formal industry as it is in the U.S., Japan or Europe, but we have very talented artists working worldwide. We also have local authors that are working hard to create and educate an increasing local readership. It’s a process that has been progressing slowly, but steadily, and has been pushed forward by the increasing talent of local creators. Hopefully, it will keep growing. We need to expand the boundaries of creativity all around, and comics could be a key contribution in that regard.

Gabriel Rodriguez in Slumberland, and certainly want to return. IDW is willing to let us try that, so we’re expecting to check how readers will react to the upcoming collected edition of the first volume, to find out how soon we’ll be able to continue it. UJ: You also worked with Joe Hill on the comic series Locke and Key. Can you talk a bit about this series? GR: Locke and Key was a life-changing project for me. First of all, having the chance to work with one of the most talented writers currently working is a blessing you hardly expect to have. With Joe, we had a personal and creative synergy that I can only describe as magical; because we were surrounded by friends and collaborators that helped us both pour our very best into it. We managed to give life to a mythology and characters, which became uniquely meaningful for us as creators. We developed a strong connection with our readers, many of them newcomers to the world of comics and graphic novels. Also, it established

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

UJ: What are your plans for the future? GR: I have a couple of creator-owned projects in development; the most imminent being a thrilling scifi adventure series called Onyx. It is co-created with my longtime editor and talented writer and friend Chris Ryall, and is planned to debut in July. After that, there’s more Onyx, Nemo, and Locke & Key related projects; plus something I might want to try writing by myself. I’m still not sure in which order those will get developed, but hope readers’ interest will keep us all very busy in years to come. For more about Gabriel and his work, go to

Mersereau continued from page 5

Uncle Jam: When did you start painting and how did your career progress? Joanna Mersereau: My first memory would be drawing monkeys when I was way under 10, and I made my own paper dolls. My high school was small; it was a little town in Illinois that had a population of 1200. My graduating class was a class of 18 and there was no art in high school… sort of like now. I had a scholarship to a junior college in Carlinville, Illinois, because I was a good student. There was no art there, either. I took the liberal arts, without art: Literature and Humanities. I was good in all of them. When that was over, I got a scholarship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Of course all this time I was still drawing, doing the best I could. Since I had no art background and knew nothing about perspective, I thought, “Oh, I don’t dare compete with those kids who came from Chicago and have all this art background,” so I enrolled in Industrial Design. It was a brand new curriculum. There were only three women in the whole program. People were there from Brazil and Argentina; all over. It was a wonderful experience. I was very good in math and could draw. One of the courses we had was in perspective and things like structural mechanics. Before I left there, I was married to John Mersereau and had two children. I lacked three courses in order to have my BA in Industrial Design. My husband was offered a position at UCR here in Redlands for $4000 a year. We’d never heard of so much money! The only other choice would have been a position in Illinois as a hired man on a farm, because John had gotten his BA in agronomy. We came out to California sight unseen with two babies in back, diapers streaming out the car windows … (laughter). We arrived in June of 1955. It was one of those hot, hot times. I think it was 109 degrees during the day. Our furniture didn’t arrive for six weeks. We had an ice chest and we had our sleeping bags, so the first six weeks we slept on the floor. John was at the Research Lab at UCR. It’s one of the oldest buildings. He worked in the various labs when they were testing DDT and that sort of thing. There was no way I could finish my degree, because I would have had to go to L.A. to take classes. I elected to stay home with the kids. We arrived in June and in November there was an ad for a graphic artist at the Press Enterprise in Riverside. Of course I had a portfolio from college and I applied. It was part-time and with two children that was wonderful. That was my first art job. Actually during college I had a job as an artist for an architect that was on the staff at the University Of Illinois. I also worked in the library because I love books. At that time, in the repair part of the library, they actually did

it by hand. I was the one who wrote in gold on the back, so I learned how to skim very rapidly. I had a wonderful time at the Press Enterprise. It was four-hours-a-day job and I worked there until my commercial art on the side became so much more lucrative than the job itself that I quit the job. For three years I was doing great just using the drafting board at home and I was home with the kids. UJ: Were you doing advertisement? JM: Any kind of illustrations. My job at the Press was so interesting. Whenever anybody needed anything I did it. I had my own column called Sketches by Joanna, which meant I went around to the women’s stores and sketched the latest things. Stephenson’s is one I drew from

Joanna Mersereau that is still in business. I had my own office that even had a window with a view and a door, which means I was very upper echelon. (Laughter). Things were really great. Then I found another ad for a graphic artist for the Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. It was part time too, so I applied for that and got that. I worked there for 21 years, until I was at the age of retirement. The superintendent said “We would like you to work full time,” and I said, “Well, ok, I can make it last a full 8 hours. If that’s what you want I’ll do it, but I’ll be sitting around; because I’ve been getting it done in 4 hours.” I retired at age 61 ½. UJ: When did you start painting? JM: My main mentor was Milford Zornes. I was trying to take classes all the time. I took a class in 1969 with Milford Zornes. I liked him, his style, and everything about it. One of the axioms he said to me - I believe him and

it works-is if you continue painting you will get better. That’s something that I’ve told my students too. During this 20-year period between 1970 and 1990 I got interested in the Maya, who are in an area that is both in Mexico and Guatemala. I had a traveling partner, Don O’Neill. We added two others and we had about ten shows together during that 20 year period. Don and I are both watercolorists. We added a jeweler and weaver, Gail Garcia, and a sculptor, Rebecca Jones. Rebecca was from Riverside; Gail was in Redlands. For ¾ of the latter part of that period, we would go down and get the same apartment. In the morning we would go out and do our thing. Gail spoke Spanish, because she was a Flamenco dancer in Spain. She was a weaver, so she would go out and join the women who were weaving. We lived in San Cristóbal de las Casas, which is in the southernmost state in Mexico, Chiapas. We would probably spend two weeks at a time. What a wonderful group; all of them are deceased now. I entered all kinds of shows and won awards. Don and I sent our paintings off to AWS (American Watercolor Society) in New York. At that time you needed to get three juried inclusions within 10 years. Don got in first. I had two in and I still needed the third and it was coming up to the 10 years. I’m sort of a poor judge of the quality of my own paintings, so I let Don pick; you could only send in one. They get about 1500 applications and they actually accept fewer than 150. It was in 1997 that I got in. I thank Don for his expert opinion. What was fun is I have two daughters and one granddaughter. They financed all four of us to go to New York for the award ceremony. Not only that, I won an award and out of that I had a fan in New York that bought two more paintings from me. I saw an original Klimt, which really impressed me. I seem to go through periods, and now I’m sort of putting them all together; because I have this palette of different periods that I can draw from. An artist is stuck unless they change. I think some artists that have a very sudden fame, they think “Oh, now I know how to be successful,” and stay the same. UJ: An artist should paint from the soul, from your feelings. You have to feel something, so you can’t possibly feel the same way every time. JM: One of the pitfalls of a beginning artist is to be beguiled by the customer response and say, “I will pursue that one path because these people like it.” That is being beguiled and will lead you down a very dangerous path because you are not following yourself; you are following somebody else’s ideas. UJ: It’s important that we talk to artists like yourself because you clearly have your own

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


vision. Your work is amazing. JM: If you’re an artist, like every other career of passion, you’re never done. You’re always on the verge of discovery. The next painting is going to be the best. I’ll ask you: “What are your criteria for good art? How do you judge it? Put it in words.” UJ: I think it is good art if it’s original and it comes from inside of you. You can look at a photograph or you can look at somebody else’s art to be inspired maybe, but good art is original. It has to be original. JM: How do you define what is original? I love to draw ethnic people. Beauty is strong in its kind. To me, that covers everything. In the Maya people, I had to actually do a head of the typical Mayan, which is the straight line of the nose, the high cheekbones, the large jaw, the receding chin. I wish I could have gone to Africa, because that is another example of strong in its kind. To me, and I think you and I are saying the same thing, an artist does recognize another art that is strong in its kind. It could be in color, it could be in value, it could be in design. But to me, those few words define it. I would say that also goes for any other kind of medium. It’s not just for two dimensional work. Right now I’m reading Hemingway and I just finished Steppenwolf— things I didn’t get in college. Strong in its kind


means it is something memorable, and as you said it’s original; you’ve never heard it before. I’ve judged a lot of shows. Technique, to me, is second to what you explained as coming from the soul, or original. To me, my definition of what I would give a first award to is not technique, because there could be a bowl of roses that was perfect, but it’s something I’ve never seen before. It could possibly be lacking in technique; it could be rather crude. I look at the masters, because those are actually my mentors; Diego Rivera, Klimt, Cézanne, and Van Gogh. I look at them and I try to imagine what was in their mind. Look at Van Gogh. I saw in some of his paintings, he put a complementary color line around some of the objects. That’s something else I taught. The reason somebody buys your work, is that there is something that is triggered in their mind. If it lasts three seconds, they will look at it. If it lasts ten seconds they are probably going to buy it. So what is it that triggers that? This complementary line sets up a dissonance in your brain and that’s something you can’t get away from. It’s probably common to all of us; you haven’t quite figured it out. Most of my mentors, other than Zornes, have been in books; people that I’ve never met. When I was teaching, there was this one book of Cézanne that I underlined repeatedly. I try to get into the brain of somebody that I consider so strong that

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

I’m hoping to get a little bit of that mountain that I haven’t gotten yet. UJ: Van Gogh is my favorite painter. I’m not attracted to the earlier classical artists, Da Vinci and Michelangelo, as much as I am to Van Gogh’s colors and Cézanne’s colors. Van Gogh had a line quality, almost a drawing quality in his work. JM: He had brush strokes that you couldn’t get away from. You and he are the same in that area. (Laughter) UJ: I think that’s the thing. You know when you’re getting in the mind of an artist. I’ve seen Lust for Life and read books about him. You realize he wasn’t making any money, no sales, but it doesn’t matter. What this guy was doing was so phenomenal. He was bringing himself to every piece. That is what I try to do, but I’m trying to do my work with bringing four or five dimensions to a painting. I’m not painting a scene; I’m painting how it looked maybe a thousand years ago. I think that’s what an artist should do - bring themselves to the piece. JM: I was thinking that I never thought of my background in industrial design as being important to my painting, but when you look at my paintings they are different, because for one thing I haven’t used perspective for years. I try to link the various objects in the painting

with something, either with arcs, or lines or whatever; sort of like a jigsaw puzzle that you put all the elements of design into. Probably if I had had an art background in high school and first 2 years of college, I would not have the base that I do now. To me, it always seemed like it was a lack, but now I see it as a foundation of what I do. I discovered years ago when I was taking a driver’s test that I was partially color blind. At that time, they had pages of dots in which numbers were imbedded. I was very snippy and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I now know it and I paint so that I do not have to worry about that. I am color blind with the darkest of values. Under low light I cannot tell the difference between the darkest reds, greens, or blues. With the values the same, I do not see the color. Yesterday when I was having a couple of paintings framed, I had decided which frame went with which. In the light, during the day, all of a sudden one frame was a reddish brown and the other frame was a blackish brown, so I switched. I do not paint at night at all. Being that way and not knowing it, I took as many workshops as I could from Milton Zornes; not exactly for his painting but for his teaching. I wrote loads and loads of notes and I relied on what he said. I remember when we were painting a barn in Riverside in Rubidoux. The barn door was open. I was painting it and I made it just dark in there. He pointed out to me that there is always reflected light, which meant there was orange. So, although I could not see it, I could do it. The same thing with reflected light under the eaves; the different light in the morning, noon and afternoon; and the color of the shadows. My color knowledge is intellectual because I can’t see it. UJ: You said you were painting in Mexico for a number of years. What other places have you painted? JM: These were years when I was married and had children, so I could only take off so much time. I went to Mexico and Guatemala, and then the Western states. I went to Utah, because Zornes lived in Utah. Two fellow artists and I used to go up there every summer and paint. He had a separate cottage where he lived, so we would eat with him and go ahead and paint during the day. Don and I would make trips to the Mediterranean countries: Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France. We never went to the Northern countries. I didn’t really have the desire to go to those countries. I always wanted to go to Russia; I’ve never had a chance. I would have loved to have gone to Africa. In all those years, I was always able to travel, because everything that went into the trip was deductible, which was great. I would paint during the trip and paint when I got back. I have lots of sketch books. Now that I don’t drive, I’m relying on sketch books or photographs that I took at that time. UJ: How do you decide when you’re ready to start another painting? JM: I’ve taken workshops from Millard Sheets and his group and I remember what one person said, that I now realize is a fallacy. He said you should paint at least one painting a day--No. There are people like me, that there is a natural rhythm; not only to your body, but to your creativity. I know now not to be concerned. I’ve never had a blank period; I finish a painting and it’s done. I don’t let it go until it’s completely satisfying. Once a painting is done, there’s a fallow period and during that period I can clean house, read books; I can do whatever I want to, because it is finished. Usually it takes about a week or week and a half, then that creative urge starts again. I can tell its starting, because all of a sudden I want to look at art books, I want to look through my sketch books; and then pretty soon I know what I want to do and then I even know how I’m going to do it, and then I start. Then I finish it and then we go through it again. It’s a circadian rhythm. I think it’s one of the most

important things I taught my students, whether they listened or not; because they probably hear everybody else say “You gotta paint.” No, you don’t “gotta paint”. You must feed your soul. If you paint every day, it’s like taking the top pitcher-full out of the vat and it never gets full again; because you keep taking a dipperful out. Let it fill and you’ll know when it’s full, because it’s starting to overflow and you’ll start to paint. There are several separate processes to creativity in my mind. The one, of course, is the urge to paint. Then, when you’re facing the painting and doing the painting is not the time to critique. You can stop when you’re almost done, but do not critique your painting during the process. Even with watercolor, I think it’s a fallacy that you can’t change it. I have changed watercolors. You can go so far as to wash them off. I did a demonstration one time in which I had washed off the paper. The colors that are stains were still there, the red and blues were still there. What I did was a portrait of a young Mayan woman with lilies around her. There were some stains across her face. I sold it immediately. I don’t know if you know about these little brushes that are scrubbers. Perfect…you can take everything out. Watercolor is not in cement. To me, it’s not the most difficult. UJ: I read recently, someone was saying that artists or writers have all their good ideas when they’re 20. I was thinking, “Hey, wait a minute - I’m turning 60.” Maybe it’s true that a lot of artists become complacent in their work, just doing the same thing, but I’ve known artists who were still creating in their 90’s. Everyone has creative energy inside of them; some people just aren’t using it. JM: Creative energy also has to do with flexibility, especially when you’re older. You have to be open to new ideas. UJ: Are you still teaching? JM: No, because I can’t stand for a long time anymore. The last time I taught, I had a session of ten classes at UCR (University of California, Riverside) and another session for RCC (Riverside Community College) in Riverside. Out of the art class I taught at UCR, there are three women that actually became selling watercolorists. That makes me feel very good when you have students that pursue it. To see more about Joanna and her art, visit 

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


March Madness: An Italian Getaway By Terri Elders

One whiff of spring, and I’m ready to go. I may be madder than a March hare, but the winds of March set my feet to itching. Why is this my favorite time to travel? No summer vacation crushes or winter holiday crushes, plus better air fares. I’d heard about Julius Caesar’s seasonal misfortune, but I’d brave even the ruins of Rome to save a travel buck. With the dollar so strong against the Euro right now, March proved a perfect time for me to revisit Italy. This trip I wanted to discover if everything I’d heard about this country were true. Here’s what I found:

Pizza: Italians claim it’s not real pizza unless it’s eaten with Mt. Vesuvius in sight. The popular pizza Margherita debuted, it’s alleged, in 1889 when Queen Margherita visited Naples to avoid a cholera epidemic sweeping the north. The dish features tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, reflecting the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag. (Order a sausage pizza if you want pepperoni, because the Italian word peperoni means bell pepper.)

ancient cellars, dating back to the 16th century, contain in Slavonian oak barrels placed along the corridors, so the aging wine is protected from sudden temperature changes. Once in a blue moon a blue wine comes along. At Ristorante I Tre Pini (The Three Pines) I sampled Fratelli Saracini’s famed Blumond, while serenaded by tenor Roberto Ferraro, who has been singing and dancing at the restaurant for 20 years. It’s a velvety peach-tinged sparkling wine. It isn’t always wine in Italy, though. Limoncello, the liqueur made from the zest of Sorrento lemons, increasingly grows in popularity.

Gondola Serenade

Pisa: Nobody knows quite when the city was founded or, until recently, who were the initial settlers. A necropolis, discovered during excavations in its Arena Garibaldi, in 1991, confirmed its Etruscan origins. It’s the birthplace of 16th century astronomer Galileo. Why does the bell tower lean? Its weight is too heavy for its foundation, built on a weak spot of land. You can grab a decent cappuccino at Burger King or McDonald’s and watch tourists parade by, many garbed in medieval costumes.


Pinocchio: Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, dressed in lederhosen, looks very different from the marionette displayed all over Italy. In his 1883 story, Pinocchio wears “a dress of flowered paper, a pair of shoes from the bark of trees and a cap of bread crumb.” Unlike Disney’s scamp, the original wooden character is described as a “rascal,” “imp,” “scapegrace,” “disgrace,” “ragamuffin,” and “confirmed rogue,” with even his father, carpenter Geppetto, referring to him as a “wretched boy.” Also, the original meets a very different end…he’s hanged by his enemies, the Fox and Cat. In both versions, though, his nose grows with each lie he tells. Potables: All Italian wine isn’t Chianti! At Verraganzo Castle I did sip the Chianti that Tuscany is famed for. Smooth, it lacks the harsh aftertaste of some California varieties. The

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

In conclusion, on this March adventure I trotted through more piazzas, palazzos, boutiques and bazaars than my aging feet had been itching for. They were well worth trudging through, despite occasional winds and rain. Here’s what I’d do all over again: •

Rome: Admire rosaries at the Vatican gift shop; visit Keat’s house at the foot of The Spanish Steps; and gape at Michelangelo’s Moses at St. Peterin-Chains. Venice: Glide in a gondola through the canals; price Murano glass with chandeliers that can cost $40,000; descend into “the wells” of the Doges Palace prison; and peruse the menu without ordering the overpriced Bellini at Harry’s Bar. Florence: Try on butter-soft leather gear; marvel at the Ghiberti panels on the Baptistery; and stand breathless before Michelangelo’s 17’ high David with its oversized right hand that symbolizes the strength of God.

Milan: Rummage through Maria Callas postcards at the La Scala Opera House Museum; listen to street musicians in the plaza; and window shop at the Golden Triangle. Everywhere: Eat gelato! In Siena I enjoyed mango-mandarino and I’d order it for breakfast every day if I could. Other favorites: Nutella and Malaga (rum raisin).

Pure Piffle: Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about Italy. • Venice smells bad from its stagnant water. This rumor apparently dates back to the late 19th century, but the water has enough movement that it doesn’t become stagnant. The canals are frequently dredged. Venice smells of the sea, and I love that salty sea air. • You can visit Juliet’s balcony in Verona. The so-called Casa de Guieletta does indeed have a balcony but it was added to this house in 1936, allegedly imported from China. The house has no connection with Shakespeare’s fictional characters.

Buon giorno!

Pickpockets and Purse-snatchers: Yes, they’re everywhere, but that’s no reason not to venture abroad. Follow the tips on such websites as and pickpockets.html.

Moreover, Shakespeare didn’t set his scene before any balcony at all! The direction in the play simply reads: Juliet appears above at a window. The Coliseum in Rome had a vomitorium so in ancient times visitors could throw up between courses in order to eat more. The vomitorium there was a passageway that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. It was so well designed that in about 15 minutes the venue, which seated at least 50,000, could fill. The vomitoria deposited mobs of people into their seats and afterward disgorged them into the streets.

On the Road Again… By Linda Amick Puetz

If you are anything like me, when taking long road trips in a recreational vehicle the last thing you want to spend a lot of time doing is preparing meals and washing dishes. For breakfast, here is a fast and delicious meal that can be made up in as many servings as you want. Just make extra to throw in the freezer and reheat in the microwave or oven so that you don’t have to do preparation each time. Muffin Cup Eggs There are many versions of this recipe so feel free to mix it up any way you like your eggs. Pat Puetz on road trip Ingredients For each serving: 1 egg Tablespoon chopped cooked or raw veggies – left over vegetables from a

previous meal work great in this: asparagus, broccoli, bell pepper, onion, or whatever sounds good to you with eggs Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste Parmesan cheese (optional) Olive oil or cooking spray Directions Preheat oven to 350°F Grease a muffin tin with olive oil or cooking spray Spoon your vegetables into the muffin tins Beat the eggs, add salt and pepper to taste Pour eggs over vegetables Top with parmesan cheese Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean Top with salsa and serve with fresh fruit and toast. Now you have a simple and delicious meal to start your day. Enjoy!  Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland Book Review by Rory Murray

I first discovered the amazing and magical art of Winsor McCay (1867-1934) as a student at Corona High School, when I took a class called History of Comics. It was a great revelation. McCay was an early animation pioneer. His short film Gertie the Dinosaur was used in his vaudeville act, but McCay’s greatest and most enduring work was the creation of his comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland. Created in 1905 and running in various forms until 1926, the story concerns a small boy who has fantastic hallucinatory dreams that end in the final panel as he wakes up. Little Nemo is considered McCay’s masterpiece for its magnificent layouts and Art Nouveau style. It stands the test of time and that’s why I was hesitant several months ago, when I spied the first issue of Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland at my local comic


store. But when I took a closer look at this new incarnation, I was very surprised and delighted. I hope any fan of great stories, art, and color will feel likewise. This story is wonderfully written by Eric Shanower. The exquisite illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez evoke not only the work of Winsor McCay, but also the great Alphonse Mucha and M.C. Escher. The lavish color provided by Nelson Daniel also plays an important part in this fantastic, whimsical tale.  King Morpheus is the ruler of Slumberland. His daughter, the Princess, is pining for a new playmate to replace a friend from many years ago named Nemo. Due to his middle name, James Nemo Summerton is chosen from among many lists of potential playmates. The King’s minions Popcorn and Bon Bon are dispatched

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

to bring the sleeping boy back to Slumberland; but the new Nemo rejects the thought of being a playmate to a girl, even if she is a princess. Along the way, Nemo becomes acquainted with the mischievous Flip Flap, nephew of the Dawn Guard. The Dawn Guard can bring forth the Sun, which causes Slumberland to melt until Nemo sleeps again. Is Nemo’s journey into Slumberland successful? Does he fall victim to the unusual perils along the way? Whether you visit your comic store to find this four issue mini-series or wait for it in book form, if you love great stories and brilliant artwork... please buy Little Nemo Return to Slumberland. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Editor’s note: Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland will be released as a graphic novel in June 2015.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Shanower continued from page 9 UJ: What else are you working on? ES: I’m still working on Age of Bronze, my comics retelling of the complete Trojan War story. And still working on coloring Age of Bronze with colorist John Dallaire, who’s doing the actual work; I just give him lots of notes. Nothing new has appeared on the Age of Bronze digital app for years now, but we’ll get the coloring into print after the first volume, A Thousand Ships, is all colored. I’ve really tried to clear my schedule for working on Age of Bronze recently, since publication of the comic book has slowed down to a crawl. I’m pencilling Age of Bronze #34 currently. IDW and I have talked about a sequel Little Nemo series, and the prospects for that seem good, although nothing’s firm yet. It will depend on Gabe Rodriguez’s schedule since I think everyone wants him to continue drawing it. My children’s novel The Giant Garden of Oz, which I wrote and illustrated, will be out in a new edition from Dover Publications this fall. I painted a new cover and the text is slightly revised. I wrote and drew a twenty-page comic story for the otherwise prose Young Adult anthology Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns, edited by Michael Cart. That will be out from HarperCollins in September. IDW recently released an oversize volume of Adventures in Oz, collecting a couple of Oz graphic novels I wrote and drew in the 1980s. A second volume collecting the rest of the series is projected, but I don’t know the publication date. I recently finished work on the text for the book Fifty Years of the Winkie Convention, which will be published as a fundraiser for the Oz Convention. I wrote reports on all fifty conventions and gathered reminiscences from attendees. It was fascinating to seek out and talk with people from the early years of the Winkie Convention; folks who haven’t attended in decades. My partner, David Maxine, is doing the design and layout of the book, sifting through hundreds of photographs. It’s a really interesting project for a niche audience, and emotional for me in some ways since I’ve been attending this convention off and on since I was a teen. For more on Eric and his work, visit


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Revisiting Lisa See By Terri Elders

In April, Lisa See concluded her 2015 promotion tour for the paperback edition of China Dolls with an appearance at a Friends of the San Pedro Library fundraiser. The organizers of the event at the Grand Annex emailed me that mine had been the first check received. I’d made the top of the list. Moving to the top of lists, including those of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestselling novels, isn’t out of the ordinary for Lisa See. For me, however, seeing her once again in person would be extraordinary. Though she and her mother, novelist and book reviewer Carolyn See, have sent invitations to her talks over the years when I’d lived hundreds or thousands of miles from the locales, this time Lisa would be close. Aside from a Skype interview with a book club in Colville, WA, I’d last laid eyes on her at Loyola Marymount University. I’d met her there initially in 1979, at a literary event her mother, a professor at the university, had organized: A Symposium of California Writers. At the first of what turned out to be three successive summer gatherings, Carolyn engaged Lisa, a humanities student there, as her co-hostess. Together the two made certain everybody got to meet one another. Literary lions at such events often are kept safely caged from the people who buy and read their books. Not at this one. I’d planned an article for Uncle Jam, so armed with business cards, water-colored by publisher Phil Yeh, I’d mingled with as many writers as I could: Herbert Gold, A. Scott Berg, Alex Haley and other luminaries. The authors sat down for lunch on a firstcome, first-served basis. Anybody could join them for a glass of wine. The second summer, the university rented its campus dorm rooms, so Carolyn and Lisa arranged a square dance for evening diversion. Rub shoulders with writers? That we did, as we dosi-doed. Swept to my feet by an eager partner, I’d forgotten where I’d stowed my handbag. Lisa joined me in an eventuallysuccessful hunt, peering under tables surrounding the dance floor. I still remember how radiant she looked promenading in her full skirt that evening. Three years later she published her first book, Lotus Land, sharing the penname of Monica Highland with her mother and their friend, John Espey. The trio, noticing the success of popular soap opera novels of the day, decided to try their hand. Together they had crafted what turned out to be the first of three books with a nom de plume derived from the Hollywood intersection of Santa Monica and Highland Boulevards. Lisa still looks radiant, and still affords her fans a chance to engage in chitchat. When she’s not up against a deadline, as she is now for her upcoming The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, she even Skypes in to talk with book clubs. My book group two years ago expected we’d be allocated a half an hour at best. Instead, Lisa stayed online with us for an hour and a half, relating hilarious stories about family history, as well as describing her current writing projects. In San Pedro she allowed as much time to answering her audience’s questions as she did to her talk on how she went about researching China Dolls. I took notes: What’s her writing routine? “I learned this from my mother. When I’m writing a novel, I write a thousand words a day. I do

Lisa See it in the morning before I get distracted. I write straight through from an outline, and go back and edit later.” What does she like to read? “I don’t read novels while I’m writing. I don’t want other voices to seep in. I won’t read The Goldfinch…too long. I purposefully keep my novels to a readable length, around 400 pages.” What about covers? “I didn’t have too much say about covers at first. About half my books aren’t my own titles. I’m terrible at titles. The photographer who does my photos for the books is Patty Williams, wife of Los Angeles Times movie critic, Kenneth Turan.” What’s the new book about? The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane will incorporate three main elements: a mother/daughter relationship, the history of tea, and the Akha ethnic minority of China. It’s about a woman who gives up her baby for adoption in China, a woman in Pasadena, California, who adopts her, and the girl herself. The historical backdrop centers on tea, the second most popular drink in the world after water. It’s set in the tea terraces of the province of Yunnan. What inspires her to write? Lisa claims her paternal grandmother and her mother have been major inspirations. She cites a passage by Wallace Stegner, from Angle of Repose, that she used as an epigraph in her family history, On Gold Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Mountain: “Fooling around in the papers my grandparents, especially my grandmother, left behind, I get glimpses of lives close to mine, related to mine in ways I recognize but don’t completely comprehend. I’d like to live in their clothes a while.” Will she consider writing a book that’s not related to China? It’s doubtful. She pointed out that the country accounts for a quarter of the world’s population, and is a global economic superpower. “I do what I can to help others learn about China through my stories. It’s through fiction that we connect to real people and by extension to the shared human condition. I want to find universals through the uniqueness represented by China.” Lisa continues to be fascinated by secrets, what is kept hidden. Secrets provide a major theme for the development of each of her novels. She’s revealed previously that wanting to uncover solutions to family puzzles provided the impetus for beginning research on what became On Gold Mountain. Another theme always is the relationship between women. What is the difference between BFF’s and sisters? Sisters are forever, as we learn in Shanghai Girls.

A few months earlier, I’d emailed Lisa that I was writing an article for Publishing Syndicate’s WOW Principles. I wanted to learn why writers continue to write despite laments that nobody reads books anymore. Here’s Lisa’s secret: “I write, because when I don’t I have terrible nightmares. I figure this must mean that when I’m writing, my unconscious is working so hard that it has to rest at night. When I’m done with a novel, I sleep well for a while then the bad dreams once again make their appearance. My husband wakes me up and says, ‘It’s time for you to start a new project!’” Though I’d never wish anybody nightmares, I’m relieved to learn that Lisa will continue to unravel secrets for us…and that they’ll always in some way be related to women and to China. I’m happy to have reconnected with her and to have a chance to write about her once more for Uncle Jam. The inscription she wrote in my copy of China Dolls reads: “For Terri: I’m so happy to see you again after all these years.” I share that happiness, and look forward to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Follow Lisa See on Facebook and on her official website:

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Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

An Interview with Nicola Cuti By Ken Jones

Ever since I first was a fan of and then a creative professional in the world of popular culture, Nick Cuti was everywhere I turned. I always admired both his work and my various contacts with him. As was the case back then he could do many different things and do them all well and he still can. Currently it is my pleasure to have my work appear next to his in the many indie horror and science fiction books that I both publish and appear in. So, presented to you with great respect is a conversation with Mr. Nicola Cuti, both a true original and a truly nice man. Ken Jones: Tell us about your younger days. Did you always want to be an artist? Nick Cuti: I always drew, but I think all kids did. It was a simple way to express our feelings; first about our family and then about our fantasies. Perhaps I did drift away from all the other kids in my obsession with comics. When Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon first hit The American Journal I copied panels from it. Later I copied Carmine Infantino’s work from Adam Strange but my favorite sci-fi artist was, and is to this day, Wallace “Woody” Wood. I thought nobody drew starships, alien worlds or alien creatures like Woody. He had been my earliest inspiration. KJ: Was there any defining moment when you were young that made you say, “I’d like to do that too”? NC: I suppose my defining moment came while I was in the service working as an Air Policeman. Most of military police work involves guarding and that can be pretty boring. So, I read a lot to pass the time and one of my favorite magazines was Jim Warren’s Creepy magazine. I decided I could write a Creepy story and so I did. It was Grub, drawn by the incredible Tom Sutton who did it in the Wally Wood style. My career was fixed when Grub was published. I wasn’t much of an artist then so I worked in comics mostly as a writer/editor. I met and became Wally Wood’s assistant and learned a great deal working in his studio. I found I didn’t have much talent as a continuity artist but I wasn’t bad at illustration and so I did black and white illustrations for the pulps, Analog, Amazing

Nicola Cuti Stories, Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, including a few paintings. Later, at the urging of a friend, Bill DuBay, I moved my family to California and worked as a background designer for the animation industry. I worked for such studios as Universal, Disney, Paramount, MGM, and Sony Pictures. KJ: Which artists do you wish had illustrated some of your stories that didn’t? NC: My favorite artists were Wallace Wood, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta and Bernie Wrightson. Technically, Woody did illustrate some of my stories but they were part of his Cannon and Sally Forth series. He gave me credit for writing Prelude to Armageddon, but it was just his way of giving me credit for the uncredited Cannon and Sally Forth stories. I didn’t write Prelude; he did. Frank did sort of illustrate one of my ideas. The cover of Creepy with the giant blonde girl on top of the Empire State building with the tiny gorilla in her hand was my idea, but he never illustrated any story of mine. Bernie did illustrate a single page I wrote called Four Famous Martians and a narrative poem, A Martian Saga, but never a story. All the others are gone, except for Bernie, so I guess it will

never happen. However, I have had the privilege of having my tales drawn by some of the finest comic book artists in the business, like Gray Morrow, Tom Sutton and Joe Staton, so I certainly can’t complain. KJ: Speaking of Joe Staton, who is a wonderful artist, I’m one of the world’s biggest fans of your work with him on the wonderful character E-Man. I haven’t had a chance to tell you before but E-Man was largely responsible for me breaking into comic book writing. I was at the San Diego Comic Con and I had a whole typewritten list of independent comic books that I would like to do a series about. I showed it to many publishers hoping something would catch their eye. Oddly enough what attracted them the most was a sort of comedy super hero I created called Hero Man. I had put it on the list as kind of a joke because at the time I had hoped to write “serious” comics like Green Lantern or something. When I saw what a reaction Hero Man was getting, I quickly decided to get involved with the humorous side of comic book work. Here’s where you come into all of this. The man who originally wanted to publish Hero Man, Dean Mullaney of Eclipse Comics, said that he loved my character because it was so cool like E-Man and then we had a long talk about your great character. Would you care to tell us more about E-Man and are there any plans to revive him in any format or media? NC: Charlton didn’t have much success with super heroes, not because they didn’t have good ones; the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, the Question; but because they were up against the giants in the field, DC and Marvel. I suggested to my boss, editor George Wildman, that we give it another try. He went to a publisher’s meeting and when he returned he said he had convinced publisher John Santangelo, Jr. to take a chance. He told me he was going to encourage our writers and artists to come up with concepts and I should try to come up with one as well. I immediately thought about some of the more obscure super heroes I loved as a child. Captain Marvel and Plastic-man were my favorites, especially Plastic-man. I loved the absurdness and the humor. So I created E-Man based on the most famous equation in history, Einstein’s E= mc2. E is energy, m is the mass of an object

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


and c is the speed of light. It is the equation for converting a solid object into energy, or energy into a solid mass. I also wanted Joe Staton, who had done a bang-up job on Primus and several horror stories I had written. Joe was a very likable person, so I knew we’d get along. I called Joe and told him about the character. Joe thought the character was a winner, except for the origin story. I had him being caught in an explosion while working in a factory. Then, one day, while reading a book on outer space I came across the Nova, a star explosion. There was my origin story; he was a packet of energy created when the star Arcturus underwent a nova or star eruption. He can change into a solid object or energy at will and can direct energy. Joe liked the origin and I told him to design the character. The only instructions I gave were that he was to have the E= mc2 on his chest and no cape. Joe sent me an inked drawing and I overlaid the color. I stayed away from red and blue, the colors of so many super heroes, and went with orange and yellow, the colors of energy. I decided he was naïve, but with a strong sense of right and wrong and was devoted to his girl friend, the streetwise college student Nova Kane. She was also his guide to his adopted planet, the Earth. I


kept the stories on the outrageous level because I felt super heroes had become too serious and the kids needed something light to contrast all the dreaded self-loathing of the others. There will be a new E-Man story soon to be published by The Charlton Arrow. It reveals the story of Nova Kane aka Katrinka Kolchnski. We visit the home town of her parents and her kid sister, Anya, who both admires and is jealous of her famous older sister. When Anya gains super powers the big question is, will she use them for good or evil? KJ: I’m sure you remember the time when comic books were looked down upon and when the federal government investigated them. Every time they wanted to portray an adult as a moron on TV they would show them reading a comic book. Why do you think that has changed so radically, since now that so many top TV shows and movies feature them, when you go to Wal-Mart its wall to wall with everything comic book? NC: I believe the change began with Stan Lee’s Spider-man. Here was a super hero with problems. He has teen angst, girlfriend problems, problems at school, and problems with bullies.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Teenagers could relate to him. Without shame they read Spider-Man and all the other super heroes which imitated those problems. Later, when those high school kids became college students, they made it seem accepted to read comics. Better artists and writers were drawn to comics and comics became an art form instead of just “...throw-away culture...”, as Jim Steranko once called them. Jim, by the way is one of those better artists who was attracted to comics and created a strong following. KJ: I know that you are a very cultured man who is widely read and very knowledgeable about the fine arts. How has this affected your work? NC: Thanks for the impressive characterization. Of course, I read a lot. As a writer you have to fill your head with stories and facts you can draw on for when you write your own stories. Fiction is good, but I also read a lot of science and history books. As an artist you have to do the same thing. The classic artists do exert some influence; nobody does shadows like Rembrandt, but mostly contemporary artists have the greatest influence. Syd Mead and Wally Wood for design, Moebius for subtle story-

telling, Alex Raymond for his fine illustration, Bernie Wrightson for mood and horror, and Frank Robbins for creating art with bold lines and shadows. I’ve only touched on a few but I’ve been influenced by hundreds of writers and artists. KC: I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the current state of literacy and books. NC: I’d like to think that in spite of Kindle the book will always exist. There is nothing like being able to open a hard book and ruffle through the pages in your hand or go to your library to find information. When television came along everyone said it would be the end of radio and movies but both are still around and, hopefully, books will continue. As for literacy, I believe we are the most educated people in history. KC:  First of all tell us about your many accomplishments and which ones you most enjoyed being involved with. NC: My list of jobs-Jack of all trades, master of none-starts with comic book writer, pulp magazine illustrator, cover painter, and background designer for animated cartoons. Lately, I’ve started producing sci-fi and horror indie movies. I’ve worked for such comic book companies as Warren Publishing, Charlton Comics, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and such studios as The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, Marvel

Films, Graz Entertainment, and Sunbow. Presently, I write, produce and now direct movies, which my company Ni-Cola Entertainment LLC and Moonie Productions DBA create. My partner, Nikoma DeMitro, and I are putting all our efforts into raising the funding for a big sci-fi thriller called Too Many Moons. I’ve been awarded the Ray Bradbury Award twice (1970 and 1984) for writing and the Ink Pot Award (2009) for my work in Comic Arts. So far, none of my movies have garnered any awards, but I have my eye on an Oscar. As for what I enjoy the most, it is writing Moonie, the Starbabe novels, and in the past, working for the studios designing backgrounds. I think my love for drawing backgrounds is because I am a frustrated architect. I love designing buildings and cities but I hate the math involved. In animation I can design to my heart’s content and never have to add two numbers together.  KJ: I’ve been involved in putting together movies, both independent and studio, in the past and was wondering what you can tell us about your experiences in that realm? NC: I got into producing Indie Movies while I was in Hollywood working for the big studios. I just decided, after working in animation for sixteen years, it was time to create my own movie. Animated cartoons would be too expensive and time consuming so I decided on live action. I wrote a script, Captain Cosmos and the Pirates of the Forbidden Zone and drew on the talents of my friends in the industry to do the movie. One friend gave me plastic space ship walls from the set of Lois and Clark; another, Clark Langdon, built a control console and two of them, Clark and Marty Warner, created a wonderful space ship model. We set up a green screen and shot the ship and gutted my dining room for the ship interior. The Mojave Desert became an alien planet and, in another episode, became Mars, by using a red filter. We even built a tiny futuristic city and placed it in the desert. We shot it in a couple of weeks. Then David Raiklen composed the theme and we had it done.

KC: Finally, in closing is there anything you can say to younger folks about following their creative dreams? NC: To quote my boss/mentor Wally Wood, “Don’t do it.” You will be poor for most of your life, and if you do achieve a certain amount of success, it won’t equal all you have sacrificed to get there. However, I look back on my achievements and when you come to the end of your life those who said: “Whoever has the most toys wins” are liars. Those who have lived a life of fulfilling their dreams really are the winners. How do you break into the field? Ask a hundred artists and writers and you will get a hundred different stories. All I can say is, believe in yourself; study, improve and do not accept negative results. Those who succeed are those who never give up. (Ken L. Jones has worked in many different creative capacities in popular culture in the last several decades. Still doing just that, he is most proud of how well his poetry is being received today. Years back he broke into all of this by doing major interviews in The Comics Journal and in Comics Interview magazine, where he was also West Coast Editor. Still doing an occasional interview when he thinks the subject worthy, he has always approached all of this as a conversation between two friends and he still sees it that way. )

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Monster Mash This piece actually started with the Tom Waits Frankenstein-ish piece at left, which was done for an online event called “Inktober,” where people did a new ink drawing every day. When someone bought that, they commissioned the others, (from left to right after Waits), a Leonard Cohen Dracula, a Nick Cave werewolf and a Shane MacGowan Nosferatu. All in ink & ink wash.

Meyer continued from page 6 an original Ken Meyer, Jr. painting or drawing; a most amazing thing! Dunsmore modeled for both the cover and for the main character of the novel. As Dunsmore acted out each scene, Meyer would take scads of photographs to use as reference for his drawings and paintings. Meyer would repeat the process for most of the characters appearing in the book, and his process provided a uniquely realistic collection of sequential art. “I remember acting out some of the scenes,” remarked Ms. Dunsmore-Underhill. “Ken had me hold a hand-held hair dryer during one dramatic scene. He later turned that into a gun for the front cover painting.” “I did draw or paint some of the other characters from Atmospherics for the special edition, but most of them were of Leah,” Ken mentions. “I do not think I have ever drawn or painted as many pictures of one person before.” Atmospherics was released in several different editions. In part, the success of the graphic novel was due to the skill of the famed author, Warren Ellis. Ellis is an extremely talented writer of television, novels, comics and graphic novels. Yet, the noir-style cover of Atmospherics, which shows a beautiful, yet “no one to mess with” woman, is what any purchaser would be immediately drawn to. Meyer is a watercolorist and his images are close to photorealism. Yet, with the magic of his delicate brushwork, he can combine a clearly defined image of a person with fantasy. If you ever wanted to have your portrait painted and appear as a hobbit, winged angel, zombie, or monster, Ken is your man. Ken also works in acrylics, ink and mixed media, as the situation warrants. Watercolor painting is extremely old, dating perhaps to the cave paintings of Paleolithic Europe. It has been used for manuscript illumination since at least Egyptian times, especially in the European Middle Ages, and its continuous history as an art medium begins in the Renaissance. Watercolor painting may be the most demanding of all painting media. The techniques used are unique to the medium. Unlike oil or acrylic painting, where paints are willing to “stay put,” watercolor can sometimes act like it has a mind of its own. Watercolor is both an active and complex partner in the process of creating a painting. Meyer has a rare skill set: he can both anticipate and leverage the behavior of water, and he resists attempting to control or dominate it. A good start for anyone who wants to study Meyer’s work would be his book of collected works, Into the Crimson Light. The artist subtitled this work as follows: “Vampires, sirens, and abominations; artwork from the shadows”. Meyer would be the first to point out that he also paints beautiful paintings of music stars and children. However, it is difficult to take your eyes away from his paintings of the arcane, the enchanted, or the just damn spooky. Follow Ken Meyer Jr. on Facebook or visit Perhaps you will want to commission yourself as a zombie Rod Underhill is a fine artist and attorney. He also confesses that he is married to cover model Leah Dunsmore-Underhill. 


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Editorial continued from page 3 radio and in television. Mike Bloom and Calvin Ogawa did the interview; but when that issue of Uncle Jam appeared, Owens called me up and asked that he have a chance to talk about science fiction and cartooning. He had won an art scholarship to the mail order school called Art Instruction School, in Minnesota. Owens grew up in nearby South Dakota. The art instructor at the college was none other than Charles Schulz, before Peanuts. Later on in California, both men became friends. We published that interview in our sister publication, Cobblestone, in the summer of 1978. We also published some of his artwork. Owens asked me to sponsor him into our cartooning club in Los Angeles (CAPS) and he became a regular host of our annual banquets through the years. One of my fondest memories was when Owens introduced me to his friend, Jonathan Winters, at a banquet. Jonathan assumed that I must be a Native American and went into a brilliant funny riff on all things Native. Owens had one of the most successful and popular radio shows in history. He was also on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In television program, and was the voice of Space Ghost and hundreds of other characters. He once even had me on his radio program. I will always remember him as a nice human being who treated a young man with respect. When you are starting out in the world, that means an awful lot. Michael Gross, whom we interviewed last issue, painted a nice mural with some friends in Oceanside, California. The mural was done from an original work by Gross.

A couple of books caught my attention in the last few months. Dreaming With His Eyes Wide Open – A life of Diego Rivera by Patrick Marnham (University of California Press 2000) is an excellent book exploring the life of Rivera, one of Mexico’s great painters and muralists. He is best known these days probably as the husband of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; but as this book explores brilliantly, Rivera is much more. Just Call Me Mike; A Journey to Actor and Activist by Mike Farrell (Akashic Books 2007) is not the standard actor autobiography. Farrell goes into his career outside of Hollywood, the real life dramas involving civil wars, and his opposition to the death penalty. Many decades ago, Farrell actually wrote a piece for this publication about Thailand’s refugee camps. He was known to many Americans at the time as one of the stars of M.A.S.H., one of the mostwatched television programs in history. But Farrell has so many serious interests that mere television programs do not begin to hold much interest. He is talking about real life; life and death. I believe that when one begins to delve into these subjects, you can really see how much one person can do to make a difference. He touches on both M.A.S.H. and Providence, but the heart and soul of this book are real issues. Last Christmas, my youngest sister, Kathy, gave me a copy of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Penguin Books 2013). This true story tells about how nine American young men won the Gold Medal in rowing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Hitler was attempting to fool the world with the 1936 Olympics, and we

can see how easily the world can be deceived. I have no real interest in rowing, but couldn’t put this book down. Brown opens his story with his first meeting with Joe Rantz, one of the members of the 1936 team. Rantz is an old man as the book begins, but then we are transported back in time to 1933 Seattle when Rantz was a young college student at the University of Washington. I love history and when the lead character has obstacles to overcome, all the better. Rantz had a childhood that was filled with poverty and hardship. Brown paints a vivid picture of just how many things Rantz had to overcome and how he did it. He goes into great detail about what kind of physical and mental toughness one needs to have, to become a great rower. It’s a lot more than just rowing that Rantz has to face in his life and I think that’s what makes this book a must read for anyone facing anything tough in this life. As I read this book, I thought about my own life at the age of 60. I have been thinking about the past a bit and also thinking about what I hope to accomplish in the future. One of my main projects is being part of the Renaissance happening in the city of San Bernardino. We continue to paint our mural at the historic site of the original McDonald’s, and as we do, all sorts of incredible things are happening! I have always believed that art and artists make a difference in the world; all the arts, from performing arts to the visual arts. We are only here on this Earth for a short time, so make the most of each moment. ~Phil Yeh

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Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015



As we, young budding 1950’s humans, sat watching GUMBY, it never really occurred to us that there was someone there - a real live person, a creative human hand - on the other end of that “cartoon”. After hundreds of thousands of years without it, television appeared to us (the humans) almost out of nowhere, a phenomenon: The Lucy Show, The Wonderful World of Disney, Ed Sullivan Show, Davey Crockett, Eddie Haskell, and American Bandstand. Even in the surreal world of television’s pioneer days, Gumby and Pokey stood out as an exceptional and curious oddity. It was a divergent that came along before what it was diverging from had even appeared. The world said: “Surprise me.” And a guy named Art Clokey delivered. We all have come to love Gumby and Pokey. I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone that actually hated him; and it’s hard to figure out

Bob Burden, Art Clokey, Rick Geary at San Diego Comic Con, 2006 that something that was so perfectly iconic and completely charming could come at us out of nowhere like that. For me it was a mystery… and I love mysteries. This time I had to think about it. I had to think about it on and off for a day or two. In an age where millions are spent on corporate images, mascots, and logos every day; and teams of highly paid, brilliant minds at Ad agencies and PR firms focus with all intensity to come up with a home run, what sense did it make that one guy, out of the blue, would create such a perfect anomaly here. I personally believe that he created our Gumby and Pokey friends from instinct. That is, he didn’t think about it – he just did it. What Art Clokey did back then was to come at it all from the angle of a child’s imagination. He was simply following a child’s sense of logic. Gumby’s world was forged out of the imaginative daydream of a child’s wistful and fancied imagination.


For Clokey it must have been a total immersion. The “Claymation” itself was his playground. He was a kid in a sandbox and Gumby and Pokey were his playmates. (What a delightfully wonderful idea for a children’s entertainment.) Following the logic of such a world, a clay boy should be able to act like clay – change shape like clay – and most of all, think like a little boy.

You could see that Art Clokey was having fun – having as much fun making his clay stories as the kids would have watching it. Why green? Why is Gumby green and Pokey red? Why the oddly shaped top-bump-lump on one side of his head? Why does he go into books and “live them” instead of just read them? And why… Blockheads? The answer is Why not? As a bit of a designer myself, I can see how well-conceived the Gumby concept was. It was so simple and yet it grabs you. It still grabs you now, 60 years later. I remember they had a contest for a big Olympic mascot when the games came to Atlanta 20 years ago. I remember seeing it back then, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it looks like anymore. Somehow with Gumby, you cannot forget (unsee) him. Simplicity is magic here. But as odd and alien as he looks, you know he is a little boy as soon as he is speaking. And here, Art did a good job of capturing the persona of a playful little boy and his playmate Pokey. One of the most curious things about Gumby is the universal appeal he engenders. Gumby somehow seems to appeal to people from all

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

races, all sexes, and all cultures. Women in particular love Gumby. I have no explanation for this, but back when we first got the agenda to produce the Gumby comics in 2005, that very day I heard the news, I did a little marketing research. I had some errands to run that day and wanted to “biopsy” Gumby recognition amongst the general public. At the Laundry I asked a 38-year-old woman; at the Grocery story I asked a 24-year-old cashier; at the corner convenience store I asked a 56-year-old woman, “Have you ever heard of Gumby?” In each case the woman sort of swooned and smiled and then gently said “Oh yes, I loooove Gumby!” That’s when I knew we had something. I did my research. I found it interesting that back in the day, Gumby not only appealed to the kids it was aimed at; but that it was also a cultural icon (along with Jazz, Mad Magazine and Ernie Kovacs) for the hipsters of the times, what they called beatniks back then, and later the hippies to come. Surreal, mindbending visuals like Gumby or Fantasia or the Zap Comix also entered the Hippie culture of the 60’s and resonated with the kids on HaightAshbury and beyond. I was really stoked to get a shot at the Gumby franchise. For one thing, it was one of the few “Indy” cultural icons and household words that was not tied up and owned by big corporations. This was a real opportunity for me. With Gumby I could possibly reach a broader audience outside the cottage industry world of Indy comics. So I worked on the story with all my diligence and powers. Gumby had a cachet. It was a special character, rising above others that people remembered fondly and wanted. It was like Ed Norton or Barney Fife or the Twilight Zone music – something everyone seemed to just crave and get excited about. As with my original outing with Gumby in the 80s, I had to come up with something special. Not only did I have to do honor to the work and traditions of Art Clokey, I had to appeal to a modern audience. As I saw it, Gumby had to be positive, upbeat and squeaky clean. All the other proposals had a negative or subversive take on Gumby, like Beavis and Butthead or Married with Children, where everyone’s tone was condescending, snide, sarcastic and negative. Looking at animation, it was apparent that “snide” was the pervasive tone of most cartoons. So I had to come up with something that was clean but would still hold the interest of

a modern audience. Most of all, it had to appeal to both a male and female demographic. I thought long and hard about this. I had a lot to live up to. I had to honor the tradition of the original Gumbys. I had to do something that Rick Geary would enjoy drawing and that Steve Oliff would love coloring. Most of all, I needed a plot and a story arch. While the cartoons had all the wonderful and brilliant little hit-and-run story lines, I needed a graphic novel length plot. Eventually the idea of Gumby’s first crush hit me. That was it. Gumby’s first crush. Clean, sweet, simple, but something that would draw the audience. The story was really written for young boys on the surface, but it was also something that might cross the gender barrier. The female character (Cuddles) was what I considered a feminist writing triumph. She was a cute, cuddly little girl, but she was actually leading the story from the start. She initiates the journey, was able to be fickle (when she walks off with Nimrod over Gumby) and still able to be vulnerable (when Gumby saves her after the clowns set the store on fire). But what would the Clokeys think about it? And the readers? More than anything the story had to be fun. With the budding romance laid out, I had to layer in all the surreal and offbeat surprises that was Art Clokey’s magical trademark. And that was the fun part. With the same impish, childlike whimsy that I imagined Art Clokey experiencing as he wrote the original Claymations, I hummed along, dropping the stardust, the sparkles and magical nuggets of surrealism and fun into the story. The Clokeys liked it. The fans liked it. The critics liked it and we all won Eisner’s that year. And that’s why I love doing Indy comics. I think that if some big company had come along and given us big intimidating page rates and a lot of editorial feedback from amateur, minimumwage editors, I would have been trying to please the company rather than Art, my readers, and myself. There were a lot of problems, frustrations and disappointments doing it ourselves (and we sure could have used a big company page rate), but I’m glad it all turned out. Rick and Steve did some of the best work of their careers and I’m sure that Art Clokey and his trailblazing creative spirit brought all that out in us. Best regards, Bob Burden May 2015 Bob Burden is an American comic book artist and writer, best known as the creator of Flaming Carrot Comics and The Mystery Men. He won the Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for the Best Single Issue for Gumby’s Summer Fun Special.

Art Clokey The Uncle Jam Interview by Phil Yeh

In Uncle Jam #88, October-November 1986, I had the opportunity to go up to Malibu and interview the creator of Gumby. This came about because of a man called Brian Morris. My friend RC Williams came along as our resident Gumby “expert”. We have decided to rerun this interview to give a whole new generation of fans a look into the man who created this little green guy.

Ingalls at 20th Century Fox. He was grateful to me for tutoring his son in English; he had been behind in English. Sam Ingalls was producing a motion picture at the time with Burt Lancaster and Sophia Loren. He was also president of the Motion Pictures Producers Association and it was a great privilege to be able to show a film to him and have him criticize it. He saw Gumbasia (three and a half minutes), and then he wanted to see it a couple of more times. While he was waiting for it to be rewound, he walked back and forth in front of the screen and said, “Art, this is the most exciting film I’ve ever seen in my life. We’ve got to go into partnership.” So I thought, “Boy, I’m getting started here at the top, right out of USC.” Sam asked if I could make little figures and write stories for them to improve the quality of television for children. So I went back and developed little clay figures. It was the only thing that I had to do at the time. UJ: You created Gumby at this time? Clokey: Yeah. I devised practical figures, simple figures to duplicate rapidly.

Uncle Jam: Can you give us a brief history of Gumby? Art Clokey: Well, Gumby started in a way that I never expected. I really wasn’t interested in clay animation. I was studying at the USC cinema department to be a director and producer of films with adults…people…live action. In order to save time and money in one of my classes with Slovco Vokivich, I used a miniature clay animation to study some of the kinesthetic film principles that he was trying to teach us. It was a lot easier and cheaper to use little pieces of clay to jazz music rather than to get big sets and people and everything. I could make the film in two weeks, where it probably would take me two or three months. Also, you have complete control with clay. UJ: Right, you don’t have any strikes. Clokey: Yes, and you can control the movement, the angles, the color and everything. So I showed this little film, Gumbasia, to Sam

UJ: Had you had any background as a cartoonist? Clokey: Just art classes in college and high school. My father was an artist; he taught me some drawing and painting. UJ: You’re making this sound like a pretty instant thing. You just went out and there was Gumby? Clokey: Sam Ingalls financed the pilot film and we did the pilot film in 1955 and I showed it to Tom Sarnoff at NBC and he immediately liked it and signed me up to a contract. By 1956, Gumby was on the air on Saturday morning. UJ: How many versions of Gumby did you come up with before you landed the final one? Clokey: He just developed, very straightforwardly. The problem was to compete with Hanna-Barbera and their very low-cost, limited animation. We were doing full animation in three dimensions besides. So in order not to have to re-sculpt our characters, which would take a lot of time, we devised very simple, basic

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


characters. That’s why Gumby is so simple – so we could duplicate him.

Tin Tin, and Tom Maynard. They were all in my mind underneath, out of which Gumby grew.

UJ: How long would it take to make one Gumby cartoon? Clokey: It takes one animator with our type of animation eight hours to do 20 to 30 seconds.

UJ: How many Gumby adventures are there now? Clokey: 130 6-minute films. It makes up about 30 half hour shows.

UJ: In the beginning were you doing a lot of the animation yourself? Clokey: Just in the beginning.

UJ: Now you’re planning on doing a feature length film? Clokey: Well, we’re waiting for a movie proposal and a new series proposal.

UJ: How many seasons did Gumby run? Clokey: One season, 1956-1957. UJ: How many episodes was that? Clokey: We made 21 15-minute segments for NBC and then Pat Weaver was fired. So was the president. The stockholders were cutting corners. We were new and they hadn’t invested much money in us, so we were cut off. I was able to buy the films back from them and we started to produce more films for syndication ourselves with our own money that we had made from David and Goliath for the Lutheran Church. So you might say that Gumby was partly supported by the Lutheran Church…well, indirectly… (Laughter).

UJ: Do you own the rights to Gumby? Clokey: I have a 55 percent interest in the original series. My former wife also has ownership of the original series but in any new creations, it would be mine.

UJ: (Brian Morris speaks) I don’t remember seeing Gumby in England. Clokey: You had very rigid censorship over there. I remember trying to sell Gumby to England and they thought Gumby was too violent. (Laughter). UJ: Too violent for the country that gave us Monty Python? Clokey: This was the early sixties. I grew up in Detroit and every Saturday I would go down to the theater on Michigan Avenue and watch all the films of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, who was my favorite. And of course Tom Mix, Rin


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

UJ: Many creators in the cartoon field haven’t held onto the rights of their characters, especially in the area of licensing. There seems to be a genuine resurgence in Gumby lately. Was this going on before Eddie Murphy played Gumby on Saturday Night Live? Clokey: Oh yeah. I think Eddie Murphy playing Gumby happened around 1983. In 1979 I went to India and met a guru or avatar, Sachi Sai Baba, who stood in front of me when I put Gumby and another toy up. He materialized sacred ash and gave us a special blessing and ever since then things started happening. We got a request to do a show at the Beverly Hills Library. That was number one, which led to an executive who was in the audience seeing the tremendous crowds, inviting us to do several shows across the country. UJ: What do you do in the shows? Clokey: We’d show about an hour and a half of Gumby films and talk to the audience, answer questions and give out prizes. UJ: What was the most commonly asked question? Clokey: Where did Gumby get his bump? And then in 1981 some colleges were getting interested and then Eddie Murphy did Gumby and this led to reruns on television again. So Gumby made Eddie Murphy. (Laughter). UJ: Aside from the interest of the college crowd, there’s obviously a tremendous amount of interest from the new baby boom. I have three kids and they all love Gumby. Clokey: Where do you live? UJ: Long Beach. Would you like to come over to the house? Clokey: (Laughter) There’s something magical about Gumby because Gumby was created not out of any commercial motivation. Sam Ingalls wanted to improve the quality of television for children and he was thinking of something for the children which wouldn’t exploit the children. We created this show for NBC. Under Tom Sarnoff they didn’t give us any censoring problems and total creative freedom. There was no pressure at all to put out toys. It was pure rapport with the children and it was so great. I was afraid to license Gumby for toys because I didn’t want parents to think we were trying to use the children. Of course, that’s all they do nowadays. It was seven years before we did the first Gumby toy.

UJ: Today, we see many children’s television shows that are developed after a line of toys. It seems that the licensing industry has become almost completely money oriented with little regard for the kids other than as customers. Clokey: This was exactly the opposite with Gumby. We created a love affair with the children and then they demanded something from us that could be touched. As we drove back home from Malibu, I reflected on one of the great similarities I’ve witnessed about successful people. It always seems that they’ve managed to become successful because they understood that being successful has little to do with making money and everything to do with making yourself and others happy. Yesterday, my two year old son, Gabriel, was listening to Art Clokey’s voice on the tape recorder as I typed this. He asked me who was talking to Daddy. I told him that the voice belonged to the man who recreated Gumby and Pokey. His eyes lit up and he went into the other room. A little while later, he climbed into our reclining chair with me, holding his little Gumby and Pokey. He looked up at me and told me that he wanted to go and visit the man that made Gumby. I smiled and knew exactly how he felt. The above interview was written almost 30 years ago. My youngest son, Gabe turned 31 in 2015. He runs his own company, 0484 Creative, making videos with his friend Matt Trenton. They both grew up in Lompoc, California.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015



Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015



Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Squirrels, Lighthouses, and the Swedish Chef with Tim Labor Conducted at UC Riverside by Robert Winokur

Uncle Jam: Could you give us the elevatorpitch version of your biography? Tim Labor: I am a musician, who became a sound designer, who became a musician again. Essentially, I was a clarinetist and student, and studied composition at Queen’s University (in Canada). I was always interested in theater and music for movies and things like that. This led me to an interest in new music and an interest in a more formal understanding of theatrics, which led me into graduate study and an examination of modern music and contemporary art music. I also started working, in the nineties, in computer games and other forms of new media. After that, I graduated and experienced another few years of being able to freelance. This led me, through kind of a circuitous route, to work in Los Angeles in the 99-seat theater system. UJ: What is the 99-seat theater system? TL: The 99-seat theater system, or the equitywaiver system, is a system that’s fairly unique to Los Angeles, in which theaters which are 99 seats or under enjoy certain privileges in terms of the contracts associated with actor’s equity. It becomes possible for us to use extremely high-quality professional actors in public performances. So, I joined the faculty at UC Riverside in 2002, based on theater music and my experiences in the nineties as a researchassistant for the composer Roger Reynolds, for whom I did surround-sound processing. The other aspect of music technology education was computer music studies at University of California, San Diego in surround-sound. UJ: So at University of California, Riverside you are a… TL: I’m an Associate Professor; 75% in the Music Department and 25% in Media and Cultural Studies, which looks at the criticism of media. UJ: You said you were a musician who had gotten interested in sound design, who had then gone back to music. Then you spoke about theater music. Did theater music take you to classical music?


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

TL: In a sense. I think that the popular theater music you consume as a child – the music from Hollywood and from TV – is a kind of theater. This took me to classical music, because I became fascinated with the big-budget film scores of the seventies and eighties, particularly Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, which validated my interest in playing in classical music ensembles. I loved playing concert-band pieces; I like playing in orchestra and things like that. To see that there was a relevant place for these ensembles was an encouraging thing. UJ: “A relevant place for these ensembles.” That sounds ominous, like a bit of a swipe at the classical music industry. TL: No, that’s a good question. I don’t think it’s a swipe at the classical music industry, I think it’s a validation of the classical music industry. I think it’s the recognition that Romanticism never died. UJ: So the next most natural period after the Romantic era is the movie era? TL: I would contend that the movie era is the Romantic era; I would contend that we are 200 years into the same era. UJ: Where might one find your games, music, and writings; any of your output? TL: You’ll find the output of my last ten years in the theaters of Los Angeles. The commitment to the 99-seat theater paradigm means a few things; it means that you cannot record your performances. It means that the prices you pay in terms of distribution, including recording, are made up for by the fact that you can work with star talent, and that you have special copyright privileges. There are things that you can do in the 99-seat theater paradigm that you can’t do in an equity paradigm. It’s not a fair-use system; but I bought that, in principal, because of a commitment to live entertainment. So, if you wanted to find literary documents, you would find a couple of CDs containing computer music. You would find me on the 1989 International Computer Music Conference. You would find a couple of CDs containing soundprocessing pieces. You would find my work on some of Roger Reynolds’ pieces. UJ: What about the more current stuff you’ve done? You wrote a book of poetry, is that right? TL: Not published. UJ: Ah, so I’ll have to strike that from the record. TL: You do not actually have to strike it. In fact, I may very well read you a piece of poetry today. This is a very short poem called King of the Squirrels.

*** King of the Squirrels By Tim Labor Commander Adama. That squirrel by the summer cottage. Crazy Wilson. Uses his VISA to fill the shed with nuts - enough to last until next rental season. The next year. Eighty-six squirrels. Adama orders them about in plain English. You heard me. Wilson uses his VISA to fill the shed with books and nuts. Macadamia, Ms. Mitchener. Anything he thought they’d like. Next year. Commander Adama Throat ripped out. Wrapped in a page from “Hawaii.” Black strawberry shredded torso and a honeyroasted cashew shoved down his throat. Commander Adama had become King of the Squirrels. And that was that. *** TL: In terms of the books that I’ve published, they were published by a small publisher who had a “Tunnels and Trolls” license. You can find them pirated online. You can find some of my [musical] scores in the Canadian Music Centre. ( UJ: What are you currently working on? TL: I’m working on a piece for the University of California Riverside Symphony Orchestra, called The Queen of Qwok, based on L. Frank Baum’s story from American Fairy Tales. The objective here was to work with a friend of mine, Johanna McKay, who is a person I’ve worked with at Idyllwild Arts for the last ten years or so. We met, oddly enough, in LA Theater doing a project called Laura Comstock’s BagPunching Dog, which was a musical by Jillian Armenante. We had been working at Idyllwild for about ten years, and about three years ago, Artistic Director Ruth Charloff came up and saw a production of Twelfth Night. She was very impressed and then she came to me and asked me for a piece for the UCR Children’s Concert. And so, the piece for the UCR Orchestra is an L. Frank Baum story, sort of in the style of Shakespeare’s world. What this style espouses is a kind of low-brow sensibility towards the orchestra. I had been a little bit disappointed with orchestra music for a number of years,

because I felt that it was difficult music to feel that you could be a good ambassador for. So, if twenty years ago you took a friend to a concert and you said, “There’s a piece of new music on the program”, well, you know, they’ll get all excited and say, “Oh it’s gonna be new music, it’s gonna be new music.” They want to hear the orchestra in all of its heroic glory; they want to hear the strings sing and they want to hear the woodwinds trill and they want to hear the trumpets go [sings] tat-ta, da-dah! What they get, you know, is a study in harmonics, or something that reflects what I think of as an inwardly-looking, overly-academic view of music that is incompatible with the economic model the orchestra has always succeeded with. UJ: Music for the people? TL: Music for some people. The problem is sometimes this was music for one person; and this has always been a problem for me. I felt that, for better or for worse, I had low-brow sensibilities, so I was in a unique position to write the best music with low-brow sensibilities. It’s a casting decision. It’s looking at the orchestra and saying, “What do I want to hear?” and then trying to write it; not “What does the world need to hear?” UJ: I love that you talk about designing music with language derived from the theater. TL: Well, the current conception of the Shakespeare World-style orchestra and this idea that an orchestra is a theatrical event is, I think, a fairly historically grounded idea. The popularity of the Romantic orchestra wasn’t just in sound production and amplification; it was a reflection of an Industrial-Age concern for “showing off the factory.” So, you would go to a factory tour and be amazed. You would see the looms; you would see the processing of fish, that sort of thing. What more wonderful way to listen to music than to see the factory in front of you, and have it manufactured – the sound – in front of you? I think the orchestra has always had this element of theater. But I think that the way I think of the orchestra differently than the composer who views music only as a process of sound production, is that I’m trying to bring the idea of Repertory Theater to the orchestra. So I joke about the Muppet Show. But if the Muppet Show is doing Treasure Island, you know that, like it or not, all the characters in “Treasure Island” have to be matched, perfectly or imperfectly, with an existing set of Muppets. Kermit the Frog has to play something, even if there’s no role for him. Fozzie Bear has to play something, even if there’s no role for him. So it’s this mismatch that produces the thrill of seeing. You’re not watching Treasure Island, but you’re watching the Muppets do Treasure Island.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


The idea that a clarinet can mean something, a clarinetist can mean something, that a lead trumpeter can mean something in that way: that they can play a role and they just happen to being making notes rather than saying words; this is very congenial to my thinking about the theater. UJ: So this is classical music with scare-quotes? TL: It is theatrical production accomplished through the medium of the orchestra. A classical musician looking at my music would perhaps be disappointed at my addressing of classical music. I’m trying to narrow down to the thing that I want to, and can do, the best. The fact that I happen to be writing classical music is the accident. It is theater accomplished through a Muppet Show, which in this case, is the orchestra. UJ: Henson was a humanist and was both parodying and attempting to show us, as humans, what we could do better. The parody part is the scare-quotes question; so for you, is this parody? When you write theater that “happens to be using classical music language”, are you writing parody? TL: Yes. There’s a lot of essentialization in it. I think one of the things that possibly makes my music indigestible to a certain kind of critical theorist is the Muppet Show. There was a letter to Henson about the Swedish Chef at one point. It said, “This character doesn’t speak any kind of Swedish.” It was the argument that this was a culturally-offensive character, to which Henson wrote back, “The Swedish Chef has now been instructed to take Swedish lessons.” It goes to the question of authenticity in a way that a post-modern person might address the question. To get to the cultural bottom of the Swedish Chef was not what Henson was about. He was trying to use low-entertainment paradigms to produce something like satire. He had to deal in symbols that were vivid. This speaks to a kind of expressive efficiency. The price of the expressive efficiency is a presumed unification of the audience in terms of its reception; and this presumption is intolerable to a certain kind of thinker who believes that audiences are dumber than they are – believes the audience are dumber than they are. UJ: Why music? You do all the other things, but, even though you refer to theater quite a bit…and gaming - it’s still music. You’re a professor of music, not a professor of gaming. Why music? TL: I’ve always had a kind of a satisfaction associated with the concentration problems that


music presents you. There’s a kind of different way that you sometimes think if you’re a musician, particularly if you’re a musician interested in melody. I’m sure that there are musicians out there that are interested in other things, that won’t have this experience; but what happens when you have a melody in your head is that you are at its service until it completes. So you can think about and comprehend an abstract idea like a mathematical algorithm or a formula. In the amount of time it takes you to comprehend it, is the amount of time it takes your brain to comprehend it. When you’re thinking about a melody and it’s running through your head, the amount of time you have to comprehend it is the amount of time it takes to play. So, it’s a different social relationship with the world. I think when musicians are accused of being spacey or “in their own world,” this is a very imprecise way of saying that they are being occupied by a temporal art form in their heads. I found it difficult to get away from the constant running of melodies in my head; so it’s like there’s this constant chatter of music that’s happened since I was a kid. There was something about the fact that it was arcane. It was easier to explain things in terms of music where you couldn’t be nailed down to what they really, really mean. I think music dignifies a subconscious, and perhaps even irrational, quality of humans. I want to endorse a holistic understanding of humans; and to do that I need to fall down on the side of something I can’t explain. I need to side with something arcane. UJ: What inspires you in your creation of art? That could be any art that you’re creating; anything that’s inspiring you. TL: The subjects I’m choosing now have a kind of troubled balance. One of the projects that I worked on last year, and that I hope to workshop more, is a musical called Eddystone. This is a lighthouse that was built off of Plymouth. What inspired me was that I was researching a play; I was researching Papa, which is a play about Ernest Hemingway. In Papa there was the song of the Eddystone Light. I became interested in what the song meant and why it had to do with this particular play. I was interested in the author of this play, a guy named John De Groot, who won a Pulitzer Prize very young for reporting on the Kent State riots. I became fascinated with the history of the lighthouse on Eddystone. In particular, the question arose, “Why would anybody do it?” It takes six hours to row out to it, in the ocean; the rock is 24-feet long and the pathway is covered for half the year. I discovered that it was actually created by a person who had a kind of balance between an

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

art life and a rational way of living; and, in fact, they needed to be crazy to do the job. UJ: And this was a practical lighthouse that actually worked? TL: This was a practical lighthouse that worked for three years. Then, he was in it at the time it was destroyed. The largest storm in England happened in the third year of this lighthouse. He was out doing repairs. At that moment, this strange thing – this non-aerodynamically designed Victorian thing with flags and iron bands to hold it together -- this thing teetering on this rock - was torn off the rock; and God basically said, “No.” Ever since that point, we’ve had Eddystone lighthouses. Proving the necessity of this cost this person his artwork and his life. The idea of putting this into theater was a kind of perfect design choice, because that’s what theater does: it brings something up in front of you for a short period of time, tears it down, and all you’re left with is whatever impression it happens to have. So, I guess if I was to say what inspires me, that is, what is the thing that’s going to knock off an existing project, it’s a combination of something that has extreme thematic balance, and in this case, it’s a person and a medium that is perfect for representing it. So, the idea is that a theater piece is perfect for representing other forms of artistic impermanence. UJ: And with a 99-seat theater, they’re not able to record it or make any other lasting record of it either. TL: Right, I mean I’m not actually wedded to the idea that this won’t make any money. (Laughs) That’s the structure. UJ: It seems like part of the point of the 99seat theater system is that there is no lingering record. TL: It’s true art. It doesn’t have a dirty second side to it. It’s not like I’m writing the piece for performance, but I also want people to look at the score and be impressed. There’s no secondary goal. You go in, in white-hot thunder, and you make the biggest splash you can. It could be the last thing you do; I have had several friends in 99-seat theater who have died doing 99-seat theater. It’s a commitment to the sincerity of art-making that is not reflected by the questions about, “Where do you find your work?” and that sort of thing. UJ: It seems like a big part of your art-making has to do with making the art piece thematically represent itself formally.

TL: I’m looking for psychological integration – and I’m looking at art as a way to help me understand what has been wrong with my head. This is the old Woody Allen thing about why we make art; because we can’t write happy endings in real life, so we have to create art. It’s seeking psychological integration that I’m finding incompatible with contemporary teaching in those aspects where you have to say, “I’m going to rectify something.” Once that happens, this shuts down some critical apparatus to the benefit of being able to commit to things wholly. If you look at Queen of Quok, there’s a passage where we go through a series of ethnic stereotypes. Women come to marry the young king from a variety of different geographical areas. So, you hear Bilken and Bilken have military music, and Mulgravia has ethereal music, and Junkem has jazz, and then Macvelt has a kind of a fake bagpipe sound. This goes back to a discussion that happened where there was an outcry, by our ethnomusicology faculty, against Katy Perry’s representation of Japanese culture at the American Music Awards. This produced a public event which dealt with this aspect of political incorrectness. UJ: This is the Swedish Chef? TL: Yes, we’re back to the Swedish Chef. The onus on me is not to argue that the position is right. The onus on me is to prove that the position is plausible, by actually manufacturing an art object. UJ: So, you don’t always agree with your colleagues here? TL: Oh, you’d die if you did! UJ: Those disagreements, whether they’re external or internal seem to a part of your art-

making too; that coalescing of separate ideas. TL: Right. Despite the fact that I actually did call myself on the subject a little bit when I was writing it. I did say to myself, “Will this be read wrong?” The aspect of it being read wrong was not, “Will the audience hate me for producing an ethnic stereotype in the middle of a children’s concert?” It was, “Is it the mistake that is not a mistake?” That is, will the apprehension of the ethnic stereotype destroy their ability to involve themselves in continuous storytelling? Because I believe that it did not, the icon made it into the piece. That was not a high-level, ethical reason. It was a fidelity to an unspoken, unconscious, musical urge that I was telling the joke correctly. It’s the Swedish Chef.

it comes from because when you can make somebody laugh, they cannot hide from the fact that they did so. If you tell a blue joke and somebody laughs, they can’t point to you for telling a bad joke; they must point at themselves for laughing. There are very few serious forms of art that can really verify what they’ve gone through.

UJ: Kurt Vonnegut said that he would spend all day on a paragraph, just trying to get a joke right. That not only does the joke come off, but that it also appears nonchalant. TL: The appearance of the joke is as important as the meaning of the joke. Just because a joke comes off, doesn’t mean that it can’t do damage. To a certain extent, Albert Speer, in developing architecture for the Third Reich - his artwork came off - but that doesn’t mean it’s something that is psychological integrated.

UJ: The Emperor’s New Clothes? TL: Yeah, exactly, so the Emperor’s New Clothes doesn’t exist in comedy; because if you don’t laugh, then it didn’t work. It doesn’t matter whether it should have. There are few artforms that are pure in this way. Comedy is one; pornography is another. You can’t fake those responses like you can fake a response to Mozart, or you can fake a response to Tolstoy. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these artists; I’m not saying there isn’t an authentic response for many people, and that this is not the basis of a kind of a true understanding. I would never say that drama is bullshit, but I get what Mel Brooks is saying. He’s saying, “I’ve got one life on Earth and I have to spend it with things that I know matter, and if somebody laughs, at least that’s something.” It’s not somebody coming up to you and lying and saying, “It was beautiful.” Life is too short to spend on some of those other things.

UJ: Yes, people can be hurt by artwork. Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor - those guys offended tons of folks. TL: These are people that I admire enormously because of their ability to do this. If we can’t teach the honest art reaction, we can’t teach the honest art-making. I think it was Mel Brooks that said, “Drama is bullshit.” He committed his life to comedy. I’m not a huge fan of Mel Brooks, but he committed his life to comedy and he made this statement. I understand where

UJ: So this is hiding behind academicism; behind highfalutin’ speech. TL: Highfalutin’ speech is closer than academicism, I think. It’s the desire to appear cultured; the desire to clap at the same time other people clap just because you’re supposed to.


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles By Phil Yeh

I would have liked to have known the late author/illustrator Leo Politi. I have come to know him because my wife, Linda, works in the Children’s Room of the Central Library in San Bernardino. Every day that I am there, I always look at Leo’s wonderful pictures that are hanging on the library walls, which he signed to the children of San Bernardino. Recently, I read a book about his life called Leo Politi; Artist of the Angels by Ann Stalcup. The book was published in 2004 and is filled with wonderful illustrations by Politi. He won the Caldecott Medal for Song of the Swallows in 1949. I am happy to report that four of his books were reprinted in 2008 by The Getty Museum, including Song of the Swallows. Politi’s life is fascinating and in some ways mirrors my own artistic journey. Politi was born in Fresno, California to Italian immigrants and at seven years of age his family moved back to Italy. After studying in Italy and London, Politi ended up in the city that he loved, Los Angeles, in 1931. Not the fancy neighborhoods of Beverly Hills but right in downtown, near Chinatown and Olvera Street. It was in Olvera Street, the birthplace of the City Of Angels that Politi felt most at home; sketching the people that passed by and drawing from the richness of the cultural diversity that is Los Angeles. In 2008, Politi’s centennial year, (he died in 1996) there were celebrations of this artist in Los Angeles and around the country. My wonder years were spent growing up in Los Angeles. I was born in Chicago in 1954 to a dad from China and a mom from the suburb of Homewood, Illinois. My mom’s ancestors are Welsh, Scottish and German. An interracial couple in the 1950s was rare then, in the United States. My dad soon got a job in New Jersey so we moved. I started school in Wayne, in the Garden State, and was a favorite of my first grade teacher, Mrs. North, because I did a lot of art. She saved my drawings and told me that I would be famous for my art. I thought about those words long after we moved from New Jersey to Southern California during the last part of the first grade. When I painted a mural for our Cartoonists across America literacy tour in the 1990s at a Borders Bookstore in Wayne, Mrs. North read about my appearance in the newspaper and called me on the phone. She reminded me of her prediction. A teacher’s words can have a great impact on a student. When we got to California, we first lived in a rented house in Culver City and then finally into our own brand-new home in a part of Los Angeles that bordered Watts. It was the early 1960s and my family and I spent almost every weekend driving around Southern California, getting to know the area. I have a good sense of direction and pretty much memorized the L.A. freeways before I started the second grade. When I was young, there were good bookstores all over the place. Cherokee Books up in Hollywood was one that I went to and Everybody’s Bookstore on 6th Street downtown was another favorite. I talked my parents into just dropping me off in downtown L.A. on my birthday for the entire day, when I was in the sixth grade. They had given me $5 and I was free to look through the treasures of Everybody’s Bookstore and the neighborhood. It started an annual tradition that lasted until high school. I am the eldest of four and being alone for my birthday was a real treat for me. This was another time and parents often left their kids to explore on their own. I got to know downtown pretty well in my youth. Had I known about Leo Politi, I might have met him as a kid. My dad often practiced Chinese opera at a school in Chinatown, so we kids had a chance to explore the neighborhood. As I got older and could drive, I started to branch out all over Southern California. We moved to Seal Beach just before the 11th grade. I went from a mostly African American high school (Washington) to one that had one African American kid (Los Alamitos). Talk about culture shock. I had to learn a whole new way of speaking and a whole new way of seeing the world. I left home at 17 and moved into Anaheim with a few friends. We actually had a little studio in a place called Pepper Tree Faire near Disneyland and my friend, Mark Eliot, and I got a job painting a huge mural promoting Pepper Tree Faire on the tire company next door. That mural was one of the first ones that I did and started me on a career painting murals all over the world that continues to this day. Next I moved with my friend, Paul Swain, to Huntington Beach. I was going to college at California State University Long Beach in the fall of 1972 and I would either ride my motorcycle or my bike from Huntington Beach to Long Beach on Pacific Coast Highway. In 1973, my sophomore year in college, we started Uncle Jam. We chose Roberta Gregory as the first cover artist. We also had discovered a great bookstore in downtown Long Beach that handled comic books, fantasy, science fiction and mystery books. It was owned by a guy called Richard Kyle, and we became fast friends. I even painted the sign above the store window. At the time it was called Wonderworld Books, but soon Richard changed the store’s name to Richard Kyle Books. I have talked about this magical store in previous issues. It was so much more that just a bookstore. You could actually meet other artists and writers in Richard Kyle Books. For a young writer and cartoonist such as myself, it was a goldmine for making contacts and making friends. Richard would actually offer his opinions about the latest books and very spirited conversations were often heard. Tom Luth, who started off as our colorist for Uncle


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Jam and would go into comics as the colorist for Sergio Aragones (MAD magazine & Groo the Wanderer), was a frequent client of Richard Kyle Books. Alan Brennert actually worked there as a clerk before going into TV writing (LA Law) and novels (Moloka’i). Rick Hoberg (Star Wars), Jan Burke (Irene Kelly mystery series), Mike Royer (inker for Jack Kirby) and many others frequented Richard’s store. Aside from starting Uncle Jam at CSULB, in 1976, we opened up our own art gallery called Cobblestone. For a couple of years, my partners actually convinced me to change the name of this publication to Cobblestone. Legendary artist Rick Griffin would do one of the covers for Cobblestone when we interviewed him in 1976. Samir Nader did some photography for our paper and I helped him by drawing some cartoons for his paper The Cedar Press. My friends Pat and Samir lived around the corner from the Cobblestone Galley and made a deal with me to take over their apartment in Long Beach when they moved east to Washington D.C. This was a time in our life when anything seemed possible. Flash forward to the 21st century when it is sometimes difficult to find a real bookstore with

actual books in it. A few years ago I discovered a store in downtown Los Angeles that really is remarkable. The Last Bookstore is located at 453 South Spring Street just a short walk from The Los Angeles Athletic Club; a charming hotel that reminds you of the turn of the 19th century. The artwork and photographs that cover the walls of The Los Angeles Athletic Club are worth checking out. Breakfast in the dining room is fantastic, with great paintings surrounding you as you eat. The views from the roof, of the buildings downtown, are also worth checking out. When you enter The Last Bookstore’s huge space, dedicated to new and used books as well as open spaces for performers, you feel like this is what a bookstore should look like. Upstairs they have an incredible collection of used books, arranged by the color of their spine. There are also spaces that they have rented out to various artists and local businesses, giving this a very cozy feeling. You will find that readers of all ages are generally looking through the books in order to discover that special treasure that you can only get from LOOKING through books, real books on real shelves. They also have a huge selection of vintage vinyl records.

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where I grew up in the 1960s. Rodia’s sculpture is my favorite piece of art in the world. He was an Italian immigrant who poured his heart and soul into making these towers on his property in Watts, from 1921 to 1955. My friend, David Brown, used to teach art classes at the Watts Towers, so when David visited us, I asked him to draw himself with some children at the base of the towers. When my friend, Gaby Maya, came to the San Diego Comic Fest from Mexico City last October, we arranged for her to add her own Gaby Cat in a hot air balloon, and she also painted in David’s drawing. Beth Winokur painted in Gaby Cat on the mural. I emailed Jeannie Schulz for her permission to include Spike in Needles, California. Her husband, the late cartoonist Charles Schulz, lived in Needles for a couple of years as a child. He never forgot this desert town and created Spike as a prospector living outside the city in his internationally known comic strip, Peanuts. Spike is actually one of Snoopy’s siblings! Mr. Schulz was the very first cartoonist to call our office in Long Beach when I created my Cartoonists Across America tour in 1985. There is a brand new animated Peanuts film coming out in 2015. Speaking of films, there is also a new feature film starring Michael Keaton and Laura Dern called The Founder. Keaton portrays Ray Kroc, who bought McDonald’s from Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1961 and turned the enterprise into a billion dollar industry. This film starts shooting this summer in Atlanta, where the film producers have recreated the first restaurant on E. Street in San Bernardino. The way I understand it, the film’s story begins with Kroc meeting the brothers in the 1950s and shows how he bought the brothers out in 1961. Once Hollywood recognizes you, the rest is really history and we expect that visitors will come out to this location in great numbers once the film is released. They say that it will be out in November 2016. Cartoonists Across America was originally just going to last a decade. My idea was to tour North America using cartoons and humor as a way of promoting reading. It came about when I interviewed Wally “Famous” Amos in 1985 for Uncle Jam. Wally was a national spokesperson for Literacy Volunteers of America at that time, and my youngest son, who was with me for this interview, was just one year old. Gabe is now 31 in 2015 and traveling all over the planet shooting videos for a number of clients. Gabe and his friend, Matt Trenton, own their own company called 0484 Creative. In 1990, when we were invited to Budapest, Hungary, we added “& The World” to our banner. Since 1990, we have painted murals in 15 other countries and continue to add more places to our resume. Last November, Marie Elisabeth Mortenson and Helene Franck Mortensen came out from Denmark and stopped by to see the McDonald’s murals. I had met these women in New York City a few years ago. They actually are bringing us to their town of Ry this summer to create a mural on a park wall! We continue to tour the world promoting creativity, literacy, and the arts; painting murals in schools, libraries, and public places. I joke that I will quit touring when I turn 70 in 2024.

had to go live in an abandoned chicken coop in San Bernardino, for a time. He put himself through college but still could not find steady work during the depression. In 1937, Carlson was in New York studying the law. Since he was unable to afford law books, he actually wrote the information down by hand. This led to his greatest idea, to make a machine that could copy a page. That invention, which Carlson patented in 1937, led to Xerox copies in the late 1950s. In February 2013, we began a far more detailed and complex mural on the north wall devoted to Route 66 in California all the way from Needles to Santa Monica. Beth Winokur devoted her talents to creating the train cars filled with fruits and vegetables and most of the cities in San Bernardino County. Jan Windhausen painted beautiful skies and cactus. Rory Murray added classic automobiles from film and TV shows, as well as certain historical buildings. Other artists came by and added their own unique take to this north wall, including David Brown, Brendan Moore, Mark Nelson, Anna Lambert, Gaby Maya, Rob Valentine, and Barry Keller. I originally saw this north wall as a way to pay tribute to some of the things that most influenced me as an artist growing up in Los Angeles, going to college in Long Beach and finally ending up in the Inland Empire these last few years. I painted one of the craziest beach scenes, filled with animals and people, in Santa Monica at the end of Route 66. Next to this, I created my own version of Simon Rodia’s masterpiece, The Watts Towers, not far from

One can actually believe that literacy is alive and well after spending a few hours in The Last Bookstore. We have been by this store a few times over the last couple of years, and although I haven’t actually had any cool conversations there, I can imagine that they do happen. I believe that real bookstores with real books are the best way to discover something that you didn’t know existed. This is my argument against Amazon and the Internet in general. By going into a real bookstore and spending some time looking through real books you may actually discover something that you were not looking for. Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen used to come to Long Beach to a fantastic used bookstore called Acres of Books, just to see what treasures they might find. Acres of Books was an incredible store near Richard Kyle Books. Sadly, neither exists in 2015, but The Last Bookstore does. This can only bring us hope that bookstores are going to make a comeback. A new generation of real readers looking through real books is my dream for the future. In our last conversation with Mr. Bradbury, he said to me that people who love books make the best conversationalists. To see more about The Last Bookstore and their events visit

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Sandy Cvar: Art is My Life! Uncle Jam: We have known each other for over 40 years. I seem to recall that we worked on a class mural in high school. Did you do other murals aside from the wall at the McDonald’s museum? Sandy Cvar: I have worked on a few other mural projects with you, and others on my own. I have done some volunteer projects for good causes and paying jobs, both commercial and private. One of my favorites was a tree for a furniture store. I had to paint the highest parts of the tree while on a lift. It was a blast! UJ: You studied print making in school. Can you tell us all the different mediums that you use in your work? SC: I earned my BFA in Printmaking from CSULB. One of the many things that attracted me to their campus, in addition to a multidisciplinary  curriculum, was their extensive Printmaking Department. It was the best I found in my tour of campuses in Southern California. I use skills I learned in painting and drawing classes as well as sculpture.  I like to mix different processes. At CSULB, I was able to learn everything from silkscreen techniques to etching and engraving and lithography. I learned relief techniques such as woodcut, linocut, and collograph. I have conducted demonstrations and taught workshops at the International Printing Museum on how to do etching and engraving, linocuts and monotypes, monoprints and collographs and lithography. They have

asked for a portrait of Richard and Maurice McDonald. Of course, it was a very hot day in May, 2015, when you came to do the portrait. Any thoughts on working on this mural? SC: Phil! I think you picked only the hottest days for me to work on all of the portraits!!! You saved the rainy and cold days for yourself and others! Seriously though, each time was an adventure and I enjoyed my time working with you and others! UJ: Recently, we heard you got a full time job doing artwork for Trader Joe’s. I have always wondered how they do all their cool art. Could you tell us a little about this? SC: I love working for Trader Joe’s!  Such a fun and hard working group of people! Each store has 1-3 in-store artists who take care of some wonderful old presses that everyone ALL the signage in that store. Some artists are should take the time to check out! loaned out to help out when needed, but for the most part; each store has its own personality. UJ: Your pictures of animals are quite The artwork can be up as short as a few hours to remarkable. What kinds of animals have you as long as a few years, depending on its purpose, painted and drawn that stand out? but most of our large signs are only up for a few SC: I am happy to hear that you enjoy them!  weeks. And yes, we are crew members and work I love doing realistic as well as imaginary.  I the register and stock shelves just like the rest of have a few favorites. An intaglio titled “Dog In the crew.  ;) Curlers” is one. It is Renaissance-style portrait of a black and tan dachshund I had whose ears UJ: Are you still available to do artwork on were long enough to hold sponge curlers. I have commission? a couple of scratchboards of imaginary birds SC: Yes, I still do commission work on the side. that I had fun with. I love a two-plate lithograph Art is my life!! titled “Naptime” of a rhino resting, and a For more of Sandy’s art visit http://sandycvar. woodcut of a camel titled “Arabian Night”, com/ also several portrait paintings of dogs, cats and koi along with tortoise prints. I love doing studies of zoo animals as well. UJ: On the south wall of the mural at McDonald’s, we asked you to do portraits of several well-known people who were either from San Bernardino or who visited; everyone from Chester Carlson, the inventor of Xerox to Wyatt Earp. How do you approach these portraits? SC: One at a time! You have watched me sketch the portrait with a brush for proportions before mixing a skin tone and painting the features. I try to step back and reassess it, and then dive back in. UJ: Recently, we began work on the front of the building. Albert Okura, who owns the building


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Sandy Cvar

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Vince’s Spaghetti Route 66 “A family tradition since 1945”

8241 Foothill Blvd Rancho Cucamonga, CA (909) 981-1003 42

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

McDonald’s Mural in San Bernardino By Phil Yeh

Photo by Allen Freeman As we go to press with this edition of Uncle Jam (May 2015) there has been a lot happening at the original site of McDonald’s in San Bernardino. Over three years ago, we started painting a massive mural on the south side of the building that serves as the headquarters for Juan Pollo and the unofficial McDonald’s Museum. Albert Okura, the owner of Juan Pollo, purchased this site in 1998. The site has a number of buildings located there, including The Inland Empire Military Museum. This museum was where Jim Valdez actually talked me into painting a POW/MIA logo after my stroke in 2011. Juan Pollo presents an annual Veteran’s Day Parade hosted by E St. Cruizers Car Club and The Inland Empire Military Museum. This year the 16th annual parade is Photo by Allen Freeman being held on November 7, 2015 from 8 am until 4 pm at 1398 North E Street in San Bernardino. Next door to the military museum is the unofficial McDonald’s Museum. I started painting the south wall of this McDonald’s Museum in 2012, with the help of Rory Murray, Jan Windhausen, and others. My old friend, Sandy Fischer Cvar, from Los Alamitos High came and added the portraits of noted people who were from San Bernardino or who visited. My good friend from Hawaii, Jon J. Murakami, actually flew out to paint some of his Dragons of Hawaii on this mural. The south wall faces the sun and it got really hot while we were painting. The one man who stood out for me was Chester Carlson; Cvar painted him on our mural. A graduate of San Bernardino High School in 1924, his life should be turned into a film. There is a wonderful book about this man called Copies in Seconds, Chester Carlson and the birth of the Xerox Machine by David Owens (Simon & Schuster 2004). Carlson’s mother died in 1923 and he and his father McDonald’s Mural continued on page 39

Phil Yeh photo by Allen Freeman Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Photo Courtesy of Walt Farmer

Phil Yeh with Marie Elisabeth Mortensen & Helene Franck Mortensen from Denmark Rory Murray

Mexico’s Gaby Maya and Beth Winokur


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Sandy Cvar painting the McDonald Brothers

Travis Adams Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015


Greta Grigorian: A Passion for Life and Art

Uncle Jam: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in art? Greta Grigorian: I’ve always loved art, but it wasn’t until I became a student at Otis Parsons School of Design that my formal art education began. Through art history classes and exposure to a lot of talent in the fine arts program, I learned to have a great respect for it. I got a degree in Environmental Design and later applied that to the film and television industry. After 26 years of working as a Set Decorator and sometime Art Director, I decided that it was time to explore painting and photography as a new medium. UJ: You participated on the first side of the mural at the McDonald’s Museum, coming all the way from Eagle Rock. What prompted you to come from all this way? GG: I was teaching Adult Literacy at the Lincoln Heights Library at that time and had read about Phil Yeh promoting literacy around the world through his books and art on Facebook. It prompted me to friend him and we began a dialogue. When I saw a post about the painting beginning on the mural I contacted him and asked if I could come by and volunteer along with my stepdaughters, Emily and Abbey. I found that day to be very motivating and was inspired to come back as often as I could. UJ: Your work is very vibrant. Can you tell us what influences your choice of colors? GG: Everything in nature, to begin with; plus I think that the colors reflect a certain passion for life. UJ: Can you talk about your future plans for your art? GG: I am enjoying the evolution of my work right now. Currently I’m experimenting with mixed media 3D and 2D pieces and am very excited about the direction these works are taking. I am also working on some commercial product lines to help fund some of my bigger projects. UJ: Do you think that travel influences what you paint? GG: Yes, absolutely. The adventure, self reliance, and exposure to new and interesting cultures and people are very stimulating. I’m the most prolific after coming back from a trip overseas. UJ: Where would you like to go that you haven’t visited yet? GG: Right now India and Turkey are at the top of my list. For more on Greta and to see more of her art, visit www.gretagrigorian. com


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

San Bernardino San Bernardino - Original watercolor by Phil Yeh Unframed 12� x 16� giclee print. Limited Edition of 200. Signed & numbered by the artist, $200 each, $250 International. Shipped flat. Send check or money order to: Eastwind Studios, PO Box 750, San Bernardino, CA 92402 or order online from Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015



Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 42, #105 Summer 2015

Uncle Jam 105  

Magazine about health, books, the arts, and travel. Est. 1973. Publisher Phil Yeh. Eastwind Studios. Current issue #105 features exclusive i...

Uncle Jam 105  

Magazine about health, books, the arts, and travel. Est. 1973. Publisher Phil Yeh. Eastwind Studios. Current issue #105 features exclusive i...