As a publisher and co-owner of a burgeoning start-up, I wanted to pay homage to some of the veterans of indie publishing. Back in 2007 Hart D. Fisher was on my shortlist of people to talk to. He contacted me a few months later about another matter. I suggested an interview with him. I wanted to know the stories behind the stories at Boneyard Press.
He warned me that I was going to be in for a hell of a read. He wasn’t kidding.
His story is one of the most unique in American comics publishing history. He came under the gun of his peers, the media and a lot of the comics industry for the controversial books that he published along with pulling off some pretty ballsy stunts. It was guerilla marketing at its’ finest and most shocking.
A lot of what happened occurred between 1991-1995. 12 years later, Hart was ready to talk about what went on behind the scenes. We ended up with 10,000 words that have to be broken up into several installments. It’s a long harrowing, heartbreaking, sometimes funny and always incendiary read. Hart has lost none of his passion. This is NOT easy reading. Discretion is advised for the faint of heart. Here’s the first installment.
By Hart D Fisher
On starting the comic company, Boneyard Press.
You can blame one man, and one man only for inspiring me to go it on my own – Mark Beachum. I was home from college driving a mosquito spray truck for the summer. Mark Beachum was working for Northstar Studios (the original home of Faust, and yeah, I was there for the beginning of Faust) and living there. Dan Madsen, the publisher and high school friend of mine, told me it was the only way to get any work out of Mark. You practically had to chain him to a drawing table before he would produce. I crashed my truck (long story) and lost my job two weeks before the end of summer and I started hanging out with Mark. Mark was like “Why do you want to spend all of your artistic energy on something someone else owns?” and I just kind of shook my head. He said why work on Spiderman when I could create my own Spiderman.
No one ever said that to me before. Dan was doing it and making a living. Why couldn’t I? I’d been doing my own comic books since I was five. I used to have my mother Xerox them at work (she worked for the department of public aid. She was the welfare lady in some of the worst projects Chicago had to offer) and I would sell them at school. Bill the Bull started out as something I drew in Freshman Algebra. One of my buddies was sitting next to me in class, it was boring, I turned him into Bill the Bull and he was more of a super hero private eye thing then. Nowhere near as dark as the character is now. Dark Angel appeared in 5th and 6th issue of this run of Bill the Bull books when I was a junior in high school.
My comics were more lighthearted and funny growing up, but as my life become more and more violent, the comics went to a much darker place. My work wasn’t a product of the books I was reading, it was a product of my environment and my life experiences. My father was a nut for Mickey Spillane and Ian Flemming. Spillane created Mike Hammer and Flemming created James Bond. My father was enamored with the writer’s lives and those of their literary creations. This influenced me greatly. My father spoke often about Mickey Spillane, pounding out books when he needed some cash.
At the same time he was filling my head with these stories, my friends were getting into drugs, my uncle killed himself, my cousin drowned in Florida on a church trip, I lived on the south side of Chicago which meant when I got into a fight, it was normally with a group of people, not one on one and that was never pleasant, a friend’s father shot himself in the head, another friend od’d, several of my friends in high school had been molested (male and female) or were still in the situation of being molested actively. One of my friends had been molested by her step father repeatedly and got her pregnant. She had to leave for awhile to go have the baby in another state. Her father was a cop.
As I got older, I found myself in deeper and deeper. In college, things grew more and more dark. I was dating women that had been molested when they were young. One poor girl had a problem being photographed. My artwork in college was always under assault from instructors. They wanted to know where my violent art was coming from. They didn’t know I knew people that had had their heads beaten in between two phone books with a bat. My work comes from the world around me, but I have never been able to explain it much more explicitly than that.
When I created Dark Angel, it was coming from a dark pit. What most people, or non creative people, don’t understand, is that the artist creates to survive. I didn’t decide to create Dark Angel, he walked right out of my head and introduced himself and let me get to know him. At the time I was reading a lot of Eugene Izzi, (he was murdered several years back, he was found hanging by the neck outside his office out the window, doors locked from the inside. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, had mace, brass knuckles, but someone had beat the ever-loving shit out of him before they killed him. Chicago PD ruled it a suicide because the doors were locked from the inside.), Andrew Vachss, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Dashiel Hammet, Stephen King was starting to suck around this time, so I was backing off of his books and eating up any other good horror novel I could find. I read many textbooks on serial killers and criminal psychology.
I was also a movie freak. I watched movies. Tons of them. Horror movies, crime movies and action movies. I bought comics by the truckload in those days. I’d been reading comics since I was 5 and I had an appetite for it all. Legion of Super Heroes? If Keith Giffen was writing and drawing it, I was reading it. Frank Miller, loved his stuff then, not a big fan now that I’ve read all of Mickey Spillane’s novels. Grim Jack had been a favorite, Mike Grell’s work, the early Dark Horse stuff before they started playing it so safe, Lobo was fun with the Biz at the wheel.
When I started Boneyard Press, the first issue of the company was Dark Angel. I wrote and drew the book from my basement apartment in Champaign Illinois. It was so cold I had to duct tape newspapers on the walls in the winter time to stay warm. My landlord lived above me and was a religious midget. He collected little religious figurines and they covered every flat surface of his place. I had a big ass stereo that I would crank whenever I was working. I had visions of his figures rattling around on the tables like those old vibrating hockey games. Boneyard Press at that point wasn’t meant to be anything more than a one shot. But I felt the only way to truly test it out was to do a series. So I borrowed a chunk of change from my grandfather and went forward with it. The rest is just another old scar.
Head on over to American Horrors for Hart’s latest antics.