My Friend Steve Perry:

Remembering the Man & His Work, Part 4

There’s no news stories to share this morning about Steve Perry. Until the police investigators tip their hand, we’re all in limbo, waiting to find out what’s happened to Steve, and who was responsible.

But I’m going to continue to focus on Steve‘s creative life and our shared past together, working in comics. If nothing else, this will provide some balance for the terrible events of the past week or so, in celebrating what Steve accomplished.

Today’s post is written by Steve Perry himself, and it’s an excerpt from an introduction Steve wrote earlier this year for me. You’ve read my account of my meeting Steve and our work together — here’s Steve‘s own account of those same years.

“A Croak Before I Croak” (Steve’s title, not mine; he was battling cancer at the time, and presumed the intro would not see print before his death) will be referenced again down the road, when I get into Steve‘s and my collaborative process on our Bizarre Adventures story “A Frog is a Frog.” Steve’s introduction will hopefully one day see print, too, for the dreamed-of collected edition of our work together it was intended for.
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Steve Bissette has asked me to write an intro to our collected works should they ever be assembled and published, and while the body of work we have done together over the years is not very large some of it turned out pretty satisfying. “Kultz,” for Epic Illustrated, “The Blood Bequest,” our Dracula story for Bizarre Adventures, “The Saurian Remains” (one of my personal favorites because of the beautiful art job done by Mr. Bissette), “The Crystal Skull,” a Timespirits story, the unpublished Dinosaur Bill, some little stuff in Heavy Metal and the single 10 page story that most everyone who ever read will remember, “A Frog Is A Frog,”  published in the violence issue of Bizarre Adventures, #31, in 1983 or 1984.

[...]

Back in the early 1980’s I had the great fortune to count Steve Bissette among my closest friends, as we had met in the 70’s at Johnson State College, done our first underground comic, Abyss, together and then seen him off to the Kubert School where he began to make a mark in the comics business. I was determined to break into comics as a writer and was naive and foolish enough, all sparkled eyed, to think I could just go to New York City and break into Marvel, or DC or Warren or even Archie.

[Johnson State College campus on a winter day.]

I stopped along the way to visit SRB in Grafton, Vermont, where he lived in a fantastic old one room schoolhouse with no running water or electricity – a classic and idyllic living situation that boarders on the mythic. Of course, lugging water from a frozen stream, shitting in an ice-cold outhouse and dragging cordwood out of the forest to feed a ravenous pot-bellied stove sounds a lot more idyllic than the reality of it; that is a hard life-style, even for the young, tough twenty-something year old mountain man Bissette was in those days.

While there I happened to look at a Brattleboro Reformer newspaper, and in the ‘Help Wanted’ section there was a job listed for someone to work in a comic book store that was going to open soon. I applied, got hired and began my tenure at the fabled Moondance Comics.

Moondance was recently acknowledged in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films, changed into the café where Kirsten Dunst works, and I believe this is a tip of the hat to us at Moondance because Sam Raimi used to buy comics from us. Moondance did a huge mail order business, second only to Mile High, and we were a constant fixture at the Creation Conventions in New York.

Having, at the time, piggy-backed on Bissette’s growing fame by scripting a couple of tiny pro jobs which he drew and sold, this detour from going to pound the pavement of Manhattan probably saved my very life, something SRB would do for me far too many times over the years.

[Splash page to "Kultz" by Stephen Perry and Stephen Bissette, ©1981, 2010 Stephen R. Bissette.]

Moondance was a great job, working in a comic store, setting up at conventions, handling the mail order packing and shipping. It allowed me to ease into the New York scene in a reasonable manner, approaching comics from the retailer end first and gaining me contacts and familiarity with people in the business. I still relied on SRB and his huge talents to try and get writing work, and it paid off with a story he had called “Kultz,” which appeared in Archie Goodwin’s Epic Illustrated #6 [June 1981]. Steve really was not a writer then – he was an artist. He sold this “Kultz” idea to Archie and needed help writing parts of it. I had published fiction and journalism and was fairly okay at it, but I desperately wanted to become a comics writer and drooled at the chance to script much of “Kultz.”  SRB graciously allowed my name to be credited as writer.

Publishing a story in the prestigious magazine, Epic Illustrated, opened a set of doors at Marvel for both of us, and the great Denny O’Neil was editing another Marvel Mag, Bizarre Adventures. This was right up our alley, and Steve and I were invited to submit a story for an issue whose theme was also up our alley …violence.

This would be my first real comic scripting job. A small 10 pager, just a part of an anthology, nothing special. But I was determined to make it special….
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“A Croak Before I Croak” is ©2010 Stephen Perry, used with permission granted upon its writing. “Kultz” artwork ©1981, 2010 Stephen R. Bissette, all rights reserved; “Kultz” was co-created by Stephen Perry and Stephen R. Bissette, © and TM 1981, 2010 Stephen R. Bissette, per contractual arrangement with Stephen Perry.


Discussion (4) ¬

  1. Alan B. Goldstein

    I remember the day that Steve applied at Moondance. He purposely delayed his arrival at the interviews so he could be last. He brought along his portfolio. Amongst the pimply kids he stood out, physically (6′ 2″) and professionally. There was no hard decision on who to hire. I could tell many tales (boy could I tell some tales – Red Hook for instance) but time doesn’t permit at the moment. Suffice it to say we become close friends and partners during the Moondance Days and he was an integral part to our success and fun. Those were the days that Steve Perry was at his Very Best. Those are the Days I choose to remember… and cry about.

    I miss you my friend.

  2. srbissette

    Ah, Red Hook NY! I’ll have to post that story one day — our misadventure en route to a convention, ‘shipwrecked’ in Red Hook. The good ol’ days…

  3. Paul Riddell

    It’s been over twenty years since the first time I read “Kultz”, and it still scares the crap out of me. Of course, a lot of that was because I got very heavily involved with the extensive midnight movie scene in Dallas just before it imploded in the mid-Eighties. That panel creeped me out in particular, because it reminded me far too much of the Forum 6 theater in Arlington: that place made more money off its midnight movies than off firstrun films, and the entire surrounding Forum 303 mall ran with it. (I still remember when the mall Toys By Roy celebrated a solid year of midnight showings of Alien by allowing a local model builder to take over one of its big side display windows. An absolutely beautiful recreation of the egg chamber from the alien derelict, with one of the Kenner 18-inch action figures lovingly converted and added to the scene.) There are times when I really, really miss the midnight movie crowd, and then there are times where I remember the people who got just a little too far into character.

  4. srbissette

    “Kultz” was such an odd story to work up and on: I knew it was attuned absolutely to something real and extraordinary, but had no idea how quickly the coming tsunami of the home video revolution would render the ‘Midnight Movie’ experiences and cults obsolete — both mutated into something quite unlike what “Kultz” grew out of.

    Steve felt that, too, though he hadn’t experienced as I had the urban midnight movie scenes in Boston, Cambridge, NYC and the Village, etc. Still, it’s a curious artifact of its era, and I’m still awfully proud of it. “Kultz” was reprinted in an issue of FILM THREAT magazine, and had an immediate echo in a HEAVY METAL that was published almost the same month as our EPIC appearance (more on that in a future post about “Kultz”) as well as Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS — the mysterious half-metal-faced ticket distributor played by future director Michele Soavi sure reminded me of our faceless ticket-distributor for “Kultz.” That was mighty cool (and I responded to it immediately, having been lucky enough to see DEMONS on the big screen when it opened at the Greenfield Cinemas in Greenfield, MA, a theater no longer extant).

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