365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

T-shirt #160 - THB Paul Pope

T-shirt #160 - THB, Paul Pope, and why my wife is perfect for me


IMPETUS: Now that the cat is out of the box, with or without the poison, dead or alive, depends on when you look, I am being open about being a cancer survivor. Looks like this is the new term for my continued existence on this planet.

celebratory drinks following post-op appointment
1308.26 at Food Dance
I was diagnosed with cancer on March 13th. One week later (March 20), my Son of Satan shirt arrived with my weekly order at Fanfare, reminding me again of my idea to do a T-shirt blog, which, after learning I had cancer, did not seem nearly so narcissistic or self-involved. Or rather, I just didn't care. I needed to be self-involved. And the blog is something I needed to do. I started it two days later after the usual weekly work Grading Robot deadlines were met.

ON MOMENTUM: Since March, there has been an urgency to life and to the blog. Rationally and consciously, I knew that once I chose a date for the surgery (there was quite a bit of discussion on this point) that I would have the prostate out, that the cancer would then be out of me, and I would be fine. But deeper, in my unconscious and quite irrational mind, I came to realize that the surgery felt like a huge ending. I started doing bucket list things, like riding the Kal Haven trail (T-shirt #136) and going to what I thought was the Abbott's Magic Get Together (and now I know better) (T-shirt #134). I reveled in nostalgia, which is a theme that runs through the whole blog; check out the nostalgia categories. And I struggled with growing up/change (T-shirt #128) and the pervasive and intrusive spectre of my own narcissism (T-shirt #77).

After some analysis, I realized that I was motivated by this feeling that my life would be over after the surgery, that if I did not do something before the surgery, then I would not be able to do it after. I know this is silly. But like I wrote, this is what was going on in my unconscious mind, clearly an expression of my fear and anxiety, which I was refusing to deal with. I really did not think very much about the surgery. In fact, since I kept being told that I might go home from the hospital the day after, I thought I would be completely fine. I did not even consider how much pain I would have, and no one prepared me for the pain. Not that the pain was all that awful, really. I am sure some people have much worse and debilitating pain. But given that I was not expecting any pain at all, I was a little surprised.

Okay, so, there was all this momentum, driven by fear and anxiety, herding me toward the surgery. And then...? And now...? I don't know.

My life did not end. I am getting back to normal. My wife and I decided to go to Hawaii. We leave in exactly one month. We never went on a honeymoon, and since we got married four years ago, our longest trip together was a two day stint. This will be our longest trip together since before we got married when we spent a week in Oregon for Liesel's step-father's wedding.

The surgery is over, and there has been a shift. The urgency and momentum I experienced that drove me forward for the first 147 entries has changed. The urgency has evaporated, and the momentum consists of a different flavor.

But I am not throwing in the towel. My towel is with me. After all, a towel is a required item for traveling the galaxy. Forward and onward. I am nearing the halfway mark. T-shirt #183 (182.5 actually) will mark the halfway point in this year of T-shirts. Eventually, I will exhaust my collection of cool T-shirts, and will probably just feature one old Ultimate shirt after another just writing about whatever strikes my fancy.

Until then, I have lots to share and several more really cool T-shirts. Like today's shirt.

MY WIFE LOVES THIS SHIRT: The fact that my wife loves this shirt is further proof that she is perfect for me. I kind of think of this shirt as a depiction of my wife in aspect and spirit. She is H.R. Watson from Paul Pope's THB.

This shirt features art from Paul Pope's THB.

I met Paul Pope in 1995 at the Ohio Comic Book convention in Columbus, where he was living at the time. He had just started publishing his THB series via his own company, Horse Press. I was working with a local company, Chiasmus Publishing, to promote various comic books created by others and eventually to launch my own series (which never saw print) called Night People (expect a future blog post on this topic).

Paul Pope is a kindred spirit. He and I liked the same music. We both had an interest in manga, surrealism, and art with a European flair. I did not get to know him well, and we did not strike up an enduring friendship, but our conversations at the convention were stimulating. I became a huge fan of his work.

Independent comic publishing was booming in the mid-1990s. The move of key comic creators to form Image Comics inspired legions of mini-comic creators and comic book hopefuls to start their own companies and self-publish. Distribution consolidated and became easier as computers became useful and the Internet began to be used prolifically by many to communicate and market (and even place orders).

I was impressed with Paul Pope's aesthetic. I do not have access to my original THB issues here (they are stored elsewhere), but I liked that he added extra material to his comics, such as playlists of music that he listened to while creating. I owe Paul Pope for discovering Nick Cave, the Birthday Party, and the great song "Release The Bats" (see video to follow below).

Paul Pope is a creative juggernaut, and his work is very exciting. In the mid-1990s, as a new age of comics dawned, his work showed me what was possible with story telling in comics. Lessons that still resonate with me today. I did a few mini-comics during that period, from which I will share some art work eventually. Paul Pope had taken a look at my stuff and liked it. I was honored.

Recently, Pope republished through Image Comics some of his earliest works in a volume entitled The One Trick Rip Off and Deep Cuts, which features an introduction by CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein. He described Pope's works as such that "lean into poetry and employ almost painterly expressions of landscape." He heralded THB as a unique work that did not fit into the landscape of the 1990s independent comic world with things like Cerebus and Bone (both of which have already been featured in this blog: (T-shirt #158 plus shirts 24 and 82 respectively). Brownstein  described THB as "unusual even by the standards of creative diversity that were being set by Sim (Cerebus) and his compatriots. THB was a science fiction series set on Mars that explored the adventures of teenage heiress H.R. Watson. The setting gave Pope a massive canvas for world-building where he could freely mesh influences ranging from comics to pulp fiction to economics in a holistic and adventurous way."

His pen and ink tip and brush work was unlike anything being produced in comics at the time and had roots in fine art and poster illustration.

The stuff is just fucking brilliant.

And my wife can quickly spot what is truly brilliant and amazing and laud it with her interest and praise.

THB qualifies.

A few cool links...


AIN'T IT COOL - thb comic from mars #1

CBR: Paul Pope on new THB and other stuff


The Birthday Party - Release The Bats 1981

Okay, as promised, here's my list.

  1. Optic Nerve - Adrian Tomine (all the collected editions)
  2. Marvels - Busiek/Ross (for those wishing an introduction to super-heroes)
  3. Bone - Jeff Smith
  4. Concrete - Paul Chadwick (all collected editions)
  5. THB - Paul Pope (all collected editions)
  6. Fables - Willingham/Buckingham/others
  7. Tale of One Bad Rat - Bryan Talbot
  8. Ed the Happy Clown and all the other books by Chester Brown
  9. Blankets - Craig Thompson
  10. Maus - Art Spiegelman
  11. Jar of Fools and Berlin - Jason Lutes
  12. Planetary - Warren Ellis/John Cassady
  13. V for Vendetta - Alan Moore/David Lloyd
  14. Cerebus - Dave Sim (first three volumes to start: Cerebus, High Society, Church and State)
  15. Y the Last Man - Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra
Honorable mentions: Phonogram (Gillen/McKelvie), Watchmen - Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons, From Hell - Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell, Box Office Poison - Alex Robinson, Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi, Sandman - Neil Gaiman and various, Black Hole - Charles Burns. UPDATE 1311.30: I think Honorable mention should be given, also, to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which I would rank ahead of almost all the comics in the honorable mention list except The Watchmen and Black Hole.

Added 1401.11: Madman Comics and all various work by MIKE ALLRED, especially Red Rocket 7.

The list above has many obvious omissions, many of which I did not add to the honorable mention list either. It's my list. It's hardly THE DEFINITIVE list. And the recommendations would have to be tailored to each individual and what the individual wants from sampling the comic book world. If the person is interested in superheroes, I would start her with Marvels. But if the person specifically is interested in Batman, I might suggest Batman: Year One to start followed by Batman Earth One and then The Dark Knight Returns and Hush. If the person is a fan of horror, I might recommend The Walking Dead, which did not even make my list this time around. Fantasy lovers would hear me suggest Bone and Fables. Those with more science fiction interests should start with Planetary and Y The Last Man. Alt-kids and those with fine art and/or a European bent should sample THB, Optic Nerve, and the work of Chester Brown first. Some of these comics just would not work for some readers. I know my wife would love Bone and Fables much more than Optic Nerve or Blankets.

I would welcome suggestions for comic books that should be on this list and are not.

Today, I will close with a Paul Pope image gallery. Enjoy.


- chris tower - 1308.28 - 11:50