Musician finds literary freedom in comix

Chipper Thompson's 'Mercury Retrograde' is probably out there already, just waiting for your eyeballs to peel

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 6/12/19

'Comix (which are typically understood as distinct from comics in that they intend a mature audience) got their start in the 1960s," according to Merriam-Webster's definition. Back …

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Musician finds literary freedom in comix

Chipper Thompson's 'Mercury Retrograde' is probably out there already, just waiting for your eyeballs to peel

Posted

'Comix (which are typically understood as distinct from comics in that they intend a mature audience) got their start in the 1960s," according to Merriam-Webster's definition. Back then, among hookahs, roach clips, exotic rolling papers and bongs, head shops and alternative bookstores marketed underground comix - crazy, edgy little publications in which you might find the misadventures of Mr. Natural, the Checkered Demon or the Furry Freak Brothers.

As time marched on and the internet was born, underground became niche.

But the tradition continues mainly because it's easier now than ever just to sit down and start drawing, get your comix printed and if you really want to put some miles on your car or bike, get it distributed. Nowadays you can even use a comic book generator online that will do most of the work for you.

And then there's Chipper Thompson.

The local musician known for his considerable musical talent and addiction to obscure movies has also quietly indulged his artistic talents on the side. Well, maybe not so much on the side ever since he landed a show of his artwork at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe a little while back. But, locally, you might have seen the elaborate posters he has designed for his gigs around town that resemble the sort of '60s style Haight-Ashbury funky style you might see advertising a show by The Grateful Dead.

His new comic book is called "Mercury Retrograde," which is a rather amusing commentary on that cosmic thing people around here tend to blame for everything from broken-down cars to the reason your neighbor's cat has been howling all night. It's a handmade affair that might not get you in trouble with the human resources police but it's amusing enough to grab while waiting for a mechanic for said broken-down car or in the middle of the night after being awakened by the aforementioned howling cat.

So, we just had to ask him, What made you do it?

"The short answer is I couldn't get anybody else to do it," he said. "So, I did it."

The long answer involves his longtime interest in the comic book arts, even going so far as to starting a few but never finishing them. For one of them, he even drew out some basic panels for an illustrator. Eventually, he set to work and approached it slow and steady.

Will it have continuing storylines?

"What I’m contributing are episodic one-per-episode pieces," he said. "I actually, because I tend to get behind in whatever I’m trying to do, I’m a whole year ahead and I’m going to put this out quarterly for a year. I’ve committed to doing it quarterly. So, I’ve got my four contributions all done. It starts out with ‘I am Spoiled Rotten’ and one is called ‘Oh Boy, It’s Depression!’ And, another one is called ‘My Life in an Art Colony.’ They’re just little wry commentaries on whatever biographical moments I have for myself or daily life in Taos.

Thompson said he never wanted to draw the whole comic, so he's enlisted the help of locals Mischa Garver,  Bruce Williams and The Taos News editorial cartoonist Bill Baron, who before he came to Taos had quite a career in cartoon illustration.

"Bless Bill’s heart, he had a big backlog of stuff back from the 70s that he had drawn so I didn’t have to ask him to draw something brand new for free because right now nobody’s making any money, including me," Thompson said. "But, Bill had all these 7os underground comix he had drawn. So, Bill is contributing but I have no idea what he’ll be contributing each time. I imagine it will be something episodic. I have no idea who might come out of the woodwork after they see it. Right now, it’s a free-for-all, a delightful one, I hope."

Thompson said when he was a kid, he was all about super-heroes. "I was a child of the early- to mid-70s. It was all Captain America and Batman, and I really didn’t know much about the underground stuff. Then, in 1977 ‘Close Encounters’ and ’Star Wars’ came along and I sort of drifted away from comic books and wanted to make movies. When I went to college I started hearing about people like R. Crumb (“Zap Comix”), paying attention to San Francisco rock ’n’ roll posters and I started learning about that scene. Of course, Crumb is so staggeringly brilliant as an artist, whether you hate his subject matter or not, the guy can really draw. So, I started learning about it but I didn’t really get back into comics until a few years ago. Now, I like them all."

"I would love submissions for 'Mercury Retrograde' from all the communities of Taos, the Pueblo, Hispanic and Anglo, not to mention male, female and LGBTQ," he said.

So, where do you find it? Local outlets are Brodsky Bookshop, Taos Market (by the Northside Taos Diner) and Maye Torres' gallery Studio 107B on the Plaza. For the first edition, it's free. You might even get two so you can put one in a plastic bag for posterity. You never know.

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