Brad W. Foster
The artwork for the September page of the free 2010 Midnight Fiction Desk Calendar is the creation of Brad W. Foster.
Brad published his first Jabberwocky Graphix publication in 1976. It was appropriately enough called Jabberwocky. Since that time he's published well over 400 zines, comics, prints, etc., which are carefully tracked on the official Complete Jabberwocky Graphix Publications List.
Brad is also very active in the world of science fiction and has been honored six times with Hugo Awards for his intricate illustrations. If you browse the eFanzine Science Fiction Fanzines Online site, you can download free PDF files of several SF Zines featuring his illustrations and covers.
Many of Brad's Jabberwocky Graphix publications are still available at the original, reasonable prices. There are many to choose from. If you're new to Brad's work, I'd recommend Mechthings, Our Story Thus Far, Stuff, and the Mini-Comics Package Special to start with.
Brad is drawing all the time. In addition to his many comics and zines he's published a beautiful collection of Prints and Reproductions which he sells at art shows and festivals around the country. See his Schedule of Shows and Exhibits for updates.
As you can probably tell from his calendar contribution or browsing his website, Brad loves robots. In fact, he loves drawing them so much he's mechanized portraiture and will reveal "Your Inner Robot" in a custom-drawn portrait. Check out the samples including SF greats Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.
In addition to maintaining the massive Jabberwocky Graphix website, Brad has also begun a cartoon blog. My Corner of the Weird is updated weekly with a new cartoon illustration.
Brad is a perennial contributor to Fan-Atic Press' Slam Bang anthology edited by Allen Freeman. Allen conducted an interview with Brad in issue four (2009) of the annual comic anthology and graciously agreed to allow us to represent it here.
Interview with Brad W. Foster
by Allen Freeman
When did you first decide you liked to draw?
I don't think it was ever a decision. I've always drawn, and just never stopped. Indeed, I've always felt I had to draw, have not had much choice in the matter at all. Cindy pointed out years ago that I seem to have to draw. If I go for a couple of days where events keep me from drawing, she notes that I get a bit "off", and I need to draw something. So, usually always doodling, even if I know it will end up being thrown away or erased. I believe this is referred to officially as a compulsion. Could be worse.
When did you first think you could create your own comics?
The first time I recall trying to draw comics was in high school. Can tell the influence of the underground comics I was sneaking then, as they were based on the single page, big title designs of folks like Crumb and Bode', though, of course, horribly drawn and written. I also immediately started on an epic fantasy comic, again channeling various underground artists, and was rightfully rejected by Denis Kitchen when I sent the first few pages to Kitchen Sink. He was quite kind about it, as I recall. One day I hope to get better at this stuff.
What did your friends and relatives think of you going into art as a business or career? (Is it your only business?)
Let's put it this way. I'm in my early fifties, my mother is in her mid seventies, and she is still waiting for me to get a "real" job one day. My family seems to appreciate what I do, even if they don't really understand most of it.
Have you had other jobs over the years?
Aside from the usual part time gigs while in school, doing delivery, working in a grocery store, etc. When I got out of college I ended up working for a company steam-cleaning furniture for two years. Then quit that to try and be an artist. Aside from one six-month period back in 1997 when I was so worried about covering bills that I got a full-time job with a business card company, I've been making my way as a freelance artist for most of my adult life. Knock on wood. (While I worked at the biz card company, decided I had to do something creative to keep from going nuts. Ended up making some goofy cartoon cards, and fake business cards, and got those printed up between the regular jobs. Called them "Cardtoons", and still have copies of those available at my website.)
Do you have any formal art training? (Any college?)
I studied architecture out of high school, since my family was worried I would starve as an artist. (And, looking at what I was producing then, I can understand why.) Once I had my degree, I somehow convinced them to let me go on to study art, and spent two more years at that. It was mainly to try all the stuff I wasn't doing: painting, sculpture, print making, etc. Found out that the one thing I was already doing, drawing, was the only place I had any real skill at.
What titles have you put out over the years?
Through Jabberwocky Graphix, have been series like Adventures of Olivia, Goodies, Stuff, Fever Pitch, Insipid Six, and The Dirty Old Lady Digest. There was the adult-comic reviewzine, The Randy Reviewer. And lots of one off titles like Eccentrics, Foster History of Unknown Comics, One Year's Worth, Boho Brothers Alphabet Soup Kitchen, The Almost Complete Collected Morty Comix, Chuck Chicken and Bruin Bear, The Eternal Conflict, Giving Due Credit, Bawdy Bible, The Book of Man, Son of the Book of Man, Overly Busty Nekkid Amazon Space Bimbos Mini Coloring Book, Skinboy In Space, Bug Infested Comics #3, The Saga of Happy Ned, Our Story Thus Far, Elegant Ladies, Outlines of Fantasy, Personal Possessions, The Totally Socially Unacceptable Alphabet, 2" = 2', Cat in a Box, Alphacats, Bots, The Perpetual Motion Calendar.... an impressive list until you realize it covers about thirty years!
What other comic companies have you worked for or contributed to? (Large and small?)
I did my solo Mechthings comic through Renegade Press, and was "Big Background Artist" on various issues of Shadowhawk from Image Comics. Did some color work on covers for a few Fantagraphics comics, plus a handful of other odd small publishers over time.
Have you done any commercial art work for clients?
Yeah, mostly small clients. Logos, advertising art, decals, book and magazine illustration and design, posters, games, concept art. A little bit of everything, but nothing of huge import. It helps to pay the bills.
Do you still attend and/or set up a booth at comic shows?
Not as much as I used to, since I've not had a lot of new material to show in the past few years. I do hit some of the small local conventions, but don't do any of the cross-country things I used to. It's just too expensive to attend the shows if I can't at least sell enough material to cover the costs. And what travelling we do these days is on the art festival circuit, where my main artistic income comes from. After doing a couple dozen of those a year, it's nice to be able to stay at home for a weekend now and then!
I first met you in 1987 at the Chicago Comic-Con. We had a party in one of the hotel rooms with everyone drawing in each other's books and notepads. You had a large black cover, bound sketchbook full of your artwork. Did you ever publish that art? What happened to that great book?
I think you might be referring to "The Book", a series of notebooks I kept over the years. There are six volumes now, sitting on the shelf behind me, fully indexed. (Did I mention I was incredibly anal retentive?) They were never meant to be published, just a place to keep my notes, sketches, clippings and such to be able to reference for future works. I haven't actually added to them in years though. My sketching and notes go into cheap spiral pads from the dollar store, using free ball point pens I pick up here and there. It's a lot easier to just play, and come up with new ideas, when you don't have that feeling that the material will be locked for the ages into a "nice" sketchbook. If the page has a good idea on it, it's ripped out and added to whatever file of ideas it would work with. If there is nothing of interest on the page, it's ripped out and thrown away. I've got tons of files of notes and sketches like that, waiting for the time to develop them further. Ideas are easy, time is tough!
What artists have influenced you over the years?
Okay, I'm asked this question in just about every interview I've done, but I've managed to talk around it. It's pretty much standard issue, as everyone is curious to see what influences an artist has had. My trouble has been a fear of leaving someone off the list, since I have had so many influences. So, I usually just say something like "My main artistic influence can be best summed up as Art Nouveau mixed with underground comix" and let it go at that. But, just for you Allen, here's my shot at doing as complete a list as I can. It's a mix of fine artists, commercial artists, comic book artists, cartoonists, architects, and a little bit of everything else. So, see how many of these names you recognize. All are amazing in different ways, and affected my art in different ways at different times, big and small. They are also listed alphabetically so as not to show any favoritism: Aubrey Beardsley, Vaughn Bode', Franklin Booth, Robert Crumb, Salvador Dali, Roger Dean, Gustave Dore', Philippe Druillet, Will Eisner, Max Ernst, Erte', Virgil Finlay, Rick Geary, H.R. Giger, Edward Gorey, Rick Griffin, Al Hirschfeld, Greg Irons, Michael Kaluta, Stan Lynde, Rene Magritte, Russ Manning, Mark Martin, lan Miller, Moebius, Alphonse Mucha, Mike Ploog, Fred Schrier, Dave Sheridan, Jim Steranko, Louis Sullivan, Bill Ward, Chris Ware, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Wally Wood, Patrick Woodroffe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Berni Wrightson ...and I just KNOW, as soon as this is published, I will remember a dozen more!
You once worked on a mainstream distributed comic called Mechthings. Were there ever plans for this to return? Or do you have other ideas for full size comics? What was it like to work on that book?
I'd love to do more of those stories. Only four issues were published, and I had only really just introduced the concept and characters in the first three, and started to play with stories. I've notes for dozens more on hand. But, though the sales were good enough at that time, it was when Marvel was starting to grab a bigger share of the market by putting out multiple new titles and reprints each month, and that started to hurt my sales. I couldn't make a living doing the full-time work that it required, so I had to stop. If I could have continued with it, if I could have paid my bills by just doing the comic, it would have been great. But, was not to be. Had a fun run though, and it's four issues I am very proud of. (Still have copies available, at cover price, at my website, Jabberwocky Graphix. End of commercial plug.)
How many years did you put out Fever Pitch? Is it still coming out? I know Bud Plant's company distributed/sold The Best of Fever Pitch for years. What is your relationship with Bud Plant? Any other avenues for selling your comics?
The first issue came out in 1978, while the latest (I refuse to say "last", since still hoping to do more) was number eight in 1988, then did the "Best Of" 100 page collection in 1990. I was lucky enough with that last one that it somehow ended up being one of Bud Plant's best sellers in his adults catalogue for a number of years, helping to move much of the back stock, and allowing me to send out royalty checks to the contributors for quite some time. I sold through the major comic distributors when I was publishing (and was doing that in the old days, when there was more than just Diamond to deal with). It was good times to be a small (okay, a -tiny-) publisher. I don't know if we'll ever see that again.
Will you always live in Texas?
I like the way that is phrased. I've no idea, but I am quite happy and settled in here. About the only thing that would allow me to even think about moving would be a huge influx of cash that would give me the freedom. But with instant communication, you can live about anywhere on the planet these days and be in touch with anyone else you want.
Do you have a family of any pets?
I used to think I had pets, but now I know they are also family. Basically it's me, the lovely and loving Cindy, and an ever-changing roster of cats. At the present time there are two furry little bosses inside the house, and a number of ferals outside, I think we are the "crazy cat people" on our block.
What music do you like? Do you play any musical instruments?
All kinds, with my favorites being jazz and fusion-jazz related. I wish I could play some sort of instrument, but can't even hum in tune. Feel lucky I can at least draw!
Do you feel that you should get some sort of award for contributing to Slam Bang for more issues than anyone else?
I always thought that being in so many issues was punishment... er, reward enough. But, now that you bring it up, I wouldn't mind something if you want to send it. Maybe a cash award of, let's pull an amount from the air, $7,357.00?
If someone gave you $7,357.00, and told you, you have to spend it on something other than just bills or debts or give it away—what would you spend it on?
Well, other than trying to get overly clever and cheat, like "hiring" a friend for the amount of money it would take to pay off my bills, and have HIM pay them, or stuff like that? Let's see... probably get the kitchen completely remodeled. Cindy is an amazing cook, but our old house has been falling apart. At this point the oven and stove in the kitchen no longer work. She cooks with a little plug-in two burner unit, a small toaster oven and a microwave. I'd put in all new appliances and lights and make it a great work space for her to enjoy. That would probably use up all that money, but if there was any left, put it toward a trip to London, another dream we've both had. So, can I expect the check soon?
Do you have any hobbies (non comic book related)?
I accumulate toy robots. That phrasing is to make sure what I do is not confused with collecting. A collector seeks out rare items, spends real money, keeps things carefully set away. I have just managed to accumulate several hundred odd little robots over the years, spread all over the house. Many were sent as gifts from friends who know my love of weird toys, and of the ones I've bought, I've never spent more than $20, If anyone has toy robots they want to send to good homes, you can always ship them to me!
How can people get in touch with you? Do you do commissioned artwork?
Yes, I do commissions, big and little, always willing to hear from folks what they might be interested in and see what I can come up with for them.
Main website is Jabberwocky Graphix, email contact, and mailing address is:
Brad W. Foster
P.O. Box 165246,
Irving, TX 75016
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
My plan is to get more drawing done, but then that is my plan every year. Making a living often gets in the way of time at the drawing board, but I certainly do plan to do that as much as I can!
What would you tell a young kid wanting to start up his own small press or indy comic book company?
Have fun! 'cause if you're not doing it for fun, there's no point in doing it all. That's what has kept me at it for all this time!
Thanks for your time Brad!
The photos and special artwork included with this article/interview are copyright Brad W. Foster and used with permission.
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A few of the comix and zines featuring artwork by Brad W. Foster
Time Warp Comix #3 (2007 Weird Muse Productions)
Comix Wave #7 (1982 Comix Wave)
Quark #1 (1981 Blue Moon)
Quark #2 (1981 Comix World/Blue Moon)
The Looking Glass #23 (1981)
Weird Ripoffs #2 (1980 Comix World)
Fanzine Connection #16 (1979)
Dream Quest #2 (1978)
Vootie #13 (1978)
The Collected Tales of the Gigags (1975)
Brad W. Foster
Lance "Doc" Boucher
Noah Van Sciver
Joe Wehrle Jr.
Joe Wehrle Jr.