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trick, treat, or a mortified movement?

One of the great treats about now having Dave Carnie contributing words to our Luddite site is that: a) I'm no longer the sole voice of questionable reason; and b) Dave has a much more worldly and wise mind and, as such, always has exciting new tidbits of knowledge to drop on me in the midst of casual eCommunication. Curiously and fortuitously, one of our latest exchanges just so happened to provide a heretofore unknown to me label for something I'd been planning to blahg about in conjunction with our upcoming annual Halloween [1] release: a mortified movement!

Yeah, I know, it sounds exactly like something you'd experience after stuccoing the porcelain bowl with a frightening plaster of blood and poop [2]… and in a metaphorical way I guess it kind of is? But here's the working definition so we can all be on the same page going forward:

"Mortified Movement: Adults sharing their most embarrassing childhood artifacts—journals, letters, poems, lyrics, plays, home movies, art—with others, in order to reveal stories about their lives."

So, without further embarrassing ado, here's my very own mortified movement [3] for the ages.

As an impressionable young sponge, I'd always been fascinated by monsters of all sorts—ghastly, goofy, or otherwise—as well as the artists behind their creepy creation. Bernie Wrightson, Basil Wolverton, Richard Corben, John Pound, Jack Davis, Graham Ingels, and Stephen Bissette were but a few of those whose horrific work seeped into my imagination, and since my dream job then was to become a professional comic artist I'll be damned if I didn't try my best to get it to leak back out of my absurdly amateur pen.

The first obvious step toward staking my claim as a social pariah was to create my own homemade comics—or "mini comix," as I learned they were called—after discovering an oddball network of aspiring artists around the USA who bought, sold, and traded these cheap comix via the U.S. Postal Service. So in 1985, my friend Brad Overacker and I founded Alien Phlebotomy Coalition Publishing, or APC for short. We proceeded to crank out a number of our own Xeroxed monstrosities up until 1987 when we parted like the Red Sea as punk rock took him one way and skateboarding took me the other, but we still collaborated from time-to-time on show flyers and T-shirt designs for his band Balance of Terror [4].

On that four-chord note, the discovery of punk, skateboarding, and the art of Pushead, VCJ, and Jim Phillips only furthered my affinity for skulls and putrid ilk, so my favorite things to draw then on were all variations of the same basic theme: dead heads. No, not tripped-out hippies, but disembodied skulls in various states of decay and devil-locked hairstyles, more than a few of which wormed their tortured way into my high school art class projects. Eventually my teacher, Terry Smith, passed on this sagely bit of wisdom to me during class one day: "You really need to stop drawing stuff like this if you ever want to have a serious career as an artist." Ha-fucking-ha! But honestly, it wasn't so much the content of what I was drawing but how badly I was going about it, e.g. using a tossed salad of Zip-A-Tone and pen 'n' ink shading techniques on a single drawing, because that would have been a much more valid and worthwhile critique.

Needless to say, I did not heed his advice and I merrily went on to enroll in a super low-rent college art program in Madison, WI, where I also stumbled into an after school job in the campus graphics department. Given my proximity to an unsupervised Xerox machine (not to mention an early desktop Mac with a remedial PageMaker program), I briefly resurrected the APC label and eked out a few more mini-comix featuring, what else, a zombie character.

During this same time, I briefly flirted with the haphazard use of a sketchbook, as I'd been inspired—well, humbled really—by the astonishing doodle books of local comic art star Steve Rude of Nexus fame. No big surprise, most of my early pages were filled with goofy attempts at graphic gore, but I did succeed in making one girl audibly gag during class after she looked back to see what I was drawing. Oh, also worthy of note is that yet another art instructor of mine, Jill Kerttula, told me to ditch the skull fascination or my final portfolio would likely add up to nothing more than a job as a Domino's pizza delivery driver (okay, I added that last part for dramatic effect, but that was the general gist of her critique). No more than a month or so later, though, I found out that I'd won the job to be an artist at Powell-Peralta, which now seems like a miraculous Act of God looking back on these half-ass drawings.

Anyway, 30 years later, here I am still drawing ghoulish shit. Am I trying to make up for all the poorly rendered dead of my youth? Perhaps, but it doesn't really surprise me that I haven't grown as an artist, because arrested development has pretty much been my professional MO throughout this so called life of drawing death. I do hope you enjoy the special treats we went deep into our pockets to pull out of our ass, though, because Halloween truly is our most strange love [5] of all. —Sean Cliver


1. The trick was on us. Despite our best intentions and honest to god preparedness—for once!—this traditional parade of ours still may not roll out in full until well into November, because COVID (which has basically become the all-encompassing excuse for anything and everything production-oriented this year and probably well into next as the world continues to slosh about in a viral wave tank).

2. As I'd mentioned to Dave in the course of our emails, my own "mortified movement" came in the alarming form of a solid albino log, circa 1992, where I stared into the bowl with considerable troubled pause until I was finally able to retrace my dietary steps to an entire bag of white turbinado yogurt-covered almonds I'd ingested in lieu of an actual dinner one day. Ah, the nutritional follies of youth…

3. My apologies to Dave, because I'm pretty sure he's prepping his own "mortified movement" for an upcoming post and I probably just zapped a bit of his thunder. So… sorry, Dave.

4. A remarkable hardcore epidemic swept through central Wisconsin in the mid '80s, where at least three to four punk bands had sprung up like weeds in each and every town across the region. Aside from BoT, our local scene included three others: Ted, Mud Luscious, and The Lacerations.

5. This type of "cute" writing is inexcusable. It's like watching a movie and having one of the actors say the title of the flick in full cheese dialogue. Still, I couldn't help myself [6], which means I've finally become my own worst editor and it's all corn-filled shit from here on out. Hmm… maybe I should have gone with my alternate ending where we simply decided to dress up as Creature for this Halloween.

6. Well, this is a first—a footnote within the footnotes! But I really just wanted to coin this as the Stantz Syndrome, where you are simply incapable of preventing yourself from doing the one thing you know you're not supposed to do (obviously named after Raymond Stantz, who ultimately chose the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as the form of Gozer the Gozerian for the destruction of the world).

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  • Wade Rewey on

    No flyer from the TED show in the basement of the YMCA in Point?

  • RB on

    I have a copy of APC #13 I really enjoyed going through it. Awesome to learn a bit of the history behind it!

  • dave carnie on

    sean, you jack zombie drawing son of a bitch…

  • Glenn Nowell Nowell on

    Madison is a great place to be college aged

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