From The Comics Journal #175 (March 1995)
Rick Veitch is having the sort of career that most cartoonists only dream about. He drew his first comics at home; saw his work published at the end of the underground era with Last Gasp’s Two-Fi...
From The Comics Journal #175 (March 1995)
Rick Veitch is having the sort of career that most cartoonists only dream about. He drew his first comics at home; saw his work published at the end of the underground era with Last Gasp’s Two-Fisted Zombies; was a member of the first class of the Joe Kubert School (along with longtime friend/collaborator Steve Bissette), saw his work published in the glossy science-fiction magazines of the late ’70s/early ’80s; did movie adaptations (1941); produced creator-owned limited series and graphic novels (most notably The One); worked on the acclaimed horror title Swamp Thing; made his own contribution to the reworked superhero genre (Bratpack and Maximortal); was involved with Kevin Eastman’s Tundra; became connected with Image during its early days (1963); and is now riding the new wave of self-publishing with his dream diary Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends.
Rabid Eye: The Dream Art Of Rick Veitch ©1995 Rick Veitch
Through it all, Veitch has maintained a remarkably consistent visual style — equally effective at communicating the quiet lush beauty of a natural setting, the power of war machinery, or the childlike clarity of abstract symbols (from advertising to trademarked super-symbols). As an artist who has become as well known as a writer, Veitch has developed his style in large part due to an admirable ability to make a clear and insightful analysis of others’ work.
The purest blend of Veitch the writer and Veitch the artist can be found in his latest work, the aforementioned Rare Bit Fiends. Veitch’s work has a bold authority; one never doubts the honesty of what is being conveyed or the unsettling “feeling” of dreaming that Veitch nails right on the head. It is his best, and most ambitious, work to date.
Jeremy Pinkham explores the depth and breadth of Rick Veitch in the following conversation. [Note: Veitch posted a comic about his experience being interviewed here.]
PINKHAM: What parts of your upbringing do you think were encouraging you to become an artist and what parts were against it?
VEITCH: From the time I was very little, I always knew, in the deepest part of my heart, that I was an artist. My environment was such that I was bombarded by a constant reinforcement that art was a dead end, that creativity was kind of suspicious, and comics, especially, were a subversive kind of thing — which is what probably drew me to it even more quickly than it would have normally. [Laughs.] I grew up in a dying mill town and my dad was a very good artist, a very creative person. He got into this situation where he had to work a regular job in a factory his whole life in order to bring up six kids. So there was a feeling I got from him that something was missing and he wasn’t connecting creatively with the deeper parts of himself. This translated in my parents relating to my art by saying, “Oh! You’ re such a good artist! It’s nice that you draw. But… you can’t make any money doing it. Forget it.” This message was reinforced all the time I was growing up. It became the great battleground of my adolescence, a fucked-up mindset I had to break out of to become a functioning adult. The town I came from was a roughneck mill town that was on the skids, was on the way down. There were a lot of poor people there, hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-livin’ kind of people.
PINKHAM: Which town was it?
VEITCH: Bellows Falls. Folks from other Vermont towns referred to it as “Sin City” [laughter]. There was always weird stuff going on there: police corruption, pornography. We had a gay bar.
PINKHAM: In the ’50s?
VEITCH: No, but in the late-’60s and early ’70s. And it was a big party town for all the hippies who moved to Vermont to get back to the land.
PINKHAM: Is this while you were in high school?
VEITCH: In high school and a couple of years after, too.
PINKHAM: What did the people your age around you at that time think about what you wanted to do?
VEITCH: There was a deep fear and suspicion