So, I always seem to have a pile of "odds and sods" indie comic books occupying a dusty corner of my desk, waiting for their chance in the limelight, their fifteen kilobytes of internet "Fame Lite" in "Beyond Spider-Man".
Today I was sifting through, looking for the most deserving candidate, and I thought to myself "Look, I know I rave on about Jesse Reklaw all the time, but maybe he's due for another mention." And then I thought "I wonder how long it has been since I covered any of his stuff." Subsequent thought (number third and final) was "Holy Moly, I've never covered Jesse Reklaw!"
It's time to put that to rights. But to put things in context, we need to go back. Back... to the dawn of the Internet...
[cue wavy fade-scene and spooky music]
Actually, sort of the "just thinking it's about time for breakfast" of the Internet. 1995 or thereabouts. I was programming Motif in FORTRAN on a VAX/VMS workstation. I was also investigating telnet, usenet and ftp, and I noticed all these "public_html" directories floating around. HTML? What the heck was that. So I downloaded and compiled Mosaic for VMS, and before long I was surfing "The World Wide Web" - such that it was back then.
The 'net of '96 was tiny. Multimedia? Well, there was one site that had some free ".mpg" files (120x80 pixels resolution, several seconds long). There was an online confession booth, and "spatula city". And what else were people doing? Well... strangely enough I stumbled across several "dream logs". That's where each morning you document your dreams and publish them for all to see. Of course, in 1996, "all" meant "a small subset of the world's scientists, programmers and college students".
Cutting to the chase. I wanted to contribute to this exciting new network too, so I started my own "dream log". And before long I was contacted by Jesse Reklaw of California. Turns out he wanted to buy one of my dreams to illustrate and produce in his self-published dream-anthology comic book Concave Up. Specifically, he wanted buy my dream entitled "Cushions in a Bathtub". He offered me ten bucks U.S. I countered with one penny U.S. plus a complimentary copy of the first half-dozen issues of his comic, and we had a deal.
A year later and my "Marvel On-Line Quiz Site" was up and running... soon to become "The Unofficial Spider-Man Page" and eventually the "SpiderFan" of today. Meanwhile, Jesse's work had included six wonderful issues of "Concave Up", and fifteen years worth of a weekly four-panel dream-derived comic strip entitled Slow Wave. It's still going stronger than ever. Put it on your regular reading list.
Jesse has also produced two book-form anthologies of Slow Wave, as well as many other original works inspired from all sorts of sources. In fact, it's probably about time I sent him some more money and got him to post me whatever he's been working on recently.
Here's a couple of images of some of the earlier stuff I've got from him.
The collection of "MIME Compliant" mini-comics are very clever. They're slightly the smaller than a trading card, 16 panels (one per page) with no text. Each skillfully tells an original story. The format is perfect for leaving on the lunch table at work to get people curious about comics.
Lo-Horse and Couch Tag are one-shot Reklaw compilations featuring a few of his works. Impulse Freak #2 is from an anthology series collecting several writers. "applicant" is a wonderful piece of "found art" featuring photos and extracts from a bundle of rejected CVs and interview summaries that Jesse stumbled across.
There's much to commend in Jesse's work. It's all fresh and original. His writing is tight and effective. Many stories are based on his personal experienced and have a powerful honesty, while others are equally as far removed from reality, bizarre and unexpected.
But the overriding thing that really makes me inspired by this guy is his commitment. Sure, I see plenty of writers who'll happily pencil up a few pages for an anthology if the opportunity comes along and it's not any effort. But Jesse Reklaw self-publishes quality material relentlessly. It's a vocation. For a guy who writes so much about dreams, he sure has his feet firmly planted on the ground when it comes to actually producing new material week after week, year after year.
Here's to you, Jesse. Thanks for introducing me to the world of real comics.