Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Ménage à Bughouse Official Roll Out

CO2 has formally announced the publication of Ménage à BUGHOUSE, the 408-page collection of all my insect-jazz comics.
The book is a print-on-demand item--it will not be sold via the traditional book distribution system. The paperback edition is available here for $24.99, and the hardcover edition is available for $39.99.

As an artist, the publication of this volume is a dream realized. It takes the body of work at the center of my life and puts it all on one gorgeous place. Kudos, and big thanks, to Gerry Giovinco and Bill Cucinotta of CO2 for helping me bring this book into existence.

The work in Ménage à Bughouse has previously been published as a trilogy of graphic novels from indie comix publisher Top Shelf Productions. I love the Top Shelf series, each book is a complete jewel that stands on it's own. But you can't knock having all the Bughouse material in one book, and the real bonus here is the larger format--it really features my brushwork to advantage.

I've been blabbing about the new book for a month already, and the fact that I'm going to tour the U.S. this month (July, 2012) to promote it. So, I'm going to put a little something extra in this post. Here, I'm reproducing the foreword to Ménage à Bughouse, a pertinent bit of comics history explaining where the heck this book comes from:

The Coming of Bughouse

I was a bit feverish one October Monday some years back, so I called in sick to my part-time graphics job. Immersed in a wobbly, none-too-comfortable mode, I still found myself possessed of a playful curiosity. Picking up my pencil and a fresh piece of bristol paper, I determined to make one decent drawing before the day was out.

For inspiration, I pulled on some half-baked notions that had been piling up in my mind's eye. About six months prior, I'd read the shocking and lively autobiography of Miles Davis, the jazz trumpet giant of the 20th century. Miles was a supreme ranconteur, spinning his narrative around the creative leaps of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and many others as well as himself. He was the brilliant bad boy at the center of cutting-edge jazz, getting into hair-raising scrapes as a matter of course.

It was more than synchronicity that David Croenenberg's film adaptation of William Burrough's Naked Lunch appeared about the same time. Croenenberg's film was a brilliant translation of the ethos of Burroughs' work to film, underscored by a sublime Ornette Coleman soundtrack. Actor Peter Weller hit just the right note as Bill Lee, the stand in for Burroughs—dead pan hilarious and desperate at once, all the while embracing his dark destiny.

My fascination with the post-war NYC world that served as a back-drop to the Be-Bop and Beat movements dovetailed perfectly with the mood I wanted to capture in my “one decent drawing” that day. I was pregnant with intent to create a story set in that milleau.

The intent gathered strength and spilled over into the physical world. I quickly sketched a tight little drawing of an insect saxophone player in a pin-stripe suit. I inked the drawing and had my first image of Jimmy Watts—the strutting saxophone genius, capable of explosive innovations at the drop of a hat, yet crippled by addiction to a substance known as “Bug Juice.”

Bughouse burrows into the spirit of the artist, the innovator, the improvisor. I put the nature of creativity itself under the microscope, while at the same time I scrutinized the dynamics of addiction. Why are so many great artists and musicians hopeless addicts? Are they simply escaping pain, or do they seek the key to “the other”, the secret font of knowledge, to put it to work in the service of art? I came to understand that addicts are very good at fooling people, but their supreme skill is self-delusion.

I dove into Bughouse head first, and was rewarded beyond my wildest dreams. I sought to give a unique voice and perspective to each character, driving the narrative forward by writing dialog that illuminated character. The muse showed up, encouraged by my drive and focus, and happily handed Bughouse over to me.

The first nine-page Bughouse story appeared in Buzzard, the underground comics anthology, in the spring of 1993. At the time, I was excited at the prospect of creating enough material to publish a full 32-page comic book of Bughouse.

I would have been flabbergasted, and actually ecstatic, to know that the series would extend to six comic books, one graphic novel and one graphic novella on my own Cat-Head imprint, and a trilogy of graphic novels from Top Shelf Productions.

Now, the entire work is here in your hands, inviting you to embark on a singular adventure to the insect-noir, indigo-tinged world of Bughouse.

Steve Lafler
Oaxaca, Mexico
Spring 2012

Back here in real time, it's July 3, I'm starting my tour in 8 days. If I don't see you out there on the road, I hope you'll consider ordering Menage a Bughouse!

Photo of Steve Lafler by Jeff Charles

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