May 2, 2015


Comic Week on Spy Vibe concludes with national Free Comic Book Day. Visit your local shops today to pick up free books. Be a detective and check out some new stories and artists. Hermes Press is celebrating Free Comic Book Day with The Phantom! My friend and fellow agent, Katharine Boyd, is celebrating by launching a new website dedicated to her Mod Tales series. Spy Vibers can order issue #1 through the site. If you are a fan mid-1960s Mod culture, Op Art,  EuroSpy, The 10th Victim, and Gainsbourg, this is for you! Details at Mod Tales. See below for a cool promo video and a re-posting of my interview with Katharine. And stay tuned for Mod Tales #2 coming this fall. Enjoy!

My friend Katharine Boyd (Our Agent K), Mod and fellow art teacher, has recently published a comic called Mod Tales. Steeped in international spy conventions from the 1960s, this 34-page book follows the trail of K's comic alter-ego as she hunts down a secret 45 record in Paris. The adventure takes her over Parisian rooftops and into evil lairs, where she faces a rogue's gallery of characters inspired by Serge Gainsbourg, Heino, and her real-life partner, Jhalal Drut. I've been watching Mod Tales take shape over the last couple of years and it's exciting to see it out at last. K and I sat down this week to talk about the project and about her life as an artist and Mod. Images below from Mod Tales and from K's own photo album.

Tell me a bit about your experiences in Art School. Where did you study and what kind of visual projects were you doing?

I got my MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was involved in a variety of projects, including large painted backdrops for my performance art work, installation art, video art, graphic design, drawing, and painting. I loved SAIC because they were so flexible in the different majors. For example, if you were in the Performance/Interdisciplinary art program you could still take a painting class, a film class, fiber class, etc. Chicago is a great place to be an artist. The Chicago art community is very welcoming, flexible and diverse.

You got into performance art. How did you discover that? Did you have performance art heroes?

In 1989, my painting teacher in undergraduate school at University of Nevada Reno introduced me to Performance Art. I remember I was doing these large Op Art paintings. I was a mod then, and came to class in Op Art dresses, and she said, “You should do performance art!” I went to the library and started reading the periodical Drama Review, where I was introduced to Karen Finley, the Kipper KidsChris Burden, and Linda Montano. There was always a narrative or figurative element to my paintings, and these early works were usually autobiographical. My favorite performance artist at that time was Ann Magnunson. She was a well-known artist from the 1980s East Village performance scene in NYC. Her work involved different personas and monologues. 

Do you remember your first introduction to Mod Culture? Was it during the 1980s Mod revival?

My first introduction to Mod Culture was twofold. I loved watching The Avengers when I was young. They would show reruns on TV, and I just loved Emma Peel! When I was in high school, I was first introduced to Mod through Ska music. I remember seeing the movie Dance Craze at a local independent movie theater in Reno. That same year, roughly 1983, a Mod guy showed up at my high school. He was from Orange County, CA and he rode a Vespa. He dressed so cool! We went thrift-shopping together, and since we were basically the only Mods in Reno, we found 1960s clothing easily and cheaply. I already knew the Jamthe Who, and Ska music, but he introduced me to revival bands like The Secret Affair, Squire, the Lambrettas, and the Three O'clock.

For the uninitiated, can you give us your definition of Mod?

What is Mod? It was a modern stylistic movement that surfaced in France and Italy in the early 1960s. British youth adopted the style of the Vespa, smart clothing and it merged together with Mod bands like the Who and the Creation. That's the basic history, although it's a bit more complicated and lengthy. I believe the Mod aesthetic has continued because the look is classic, smart, and stylish. Of course, it morphed into psychedelia in the later 1960s, and then into the skinhead movement (not the Nazi skin heads, but with an interest in Jamaican Ska and Rock Steady). In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it made a comeback in London and later in the US. It's still going strong, especially in the UK and Europe.  

What were some of the things that excited you most when you first started to explore the Mod world? Do you remember favorite artwork, fashion, music, films?

Favorite things that were the start of my quest: For Art it was 1960s comics, graphics, and Brigit Riley's Op Art paintings. Courreges and Mary Quant have always been my favorite fashion designers. In cinema Quadrophenia was the classic "Mod" film, but I think it didn’t really reflect the larger cultural styles. The 10th VictimQui etes Vous Polly Magoo?, and Bedazzled were all early introductions to Mod for me. Musically, my tastes have evolved. I started with the Jam and Mod revival bands, but then I had my "cave teen" period in the later 1980s with bands like the Fuzztones, the Creeple Peeple, the Primates, and Gravedigger 5. Now I like a broad variety of soundtracks, French singers, Freakbeat, and Psychedelic. The great thing about Ebay, YouTube, and Facebook is that it's fun to discover new/old sounds through friends.

Your initiation was before the Internet. How did you learn about rare records, cool fashion, and scooter rallies?

Before the internet, there were a few zines! My favorite was Hippy Hippy Shake, written and created by my friends Carrie Swing and Stephen Bissinger. My boyfriend at the time and I would take our Vespa down for the rallies in SF. There was a scene in the Bay Area. I started writing to Hippy Hippy Shake and Carrie and I became pen pals. Bands usually played at the Purple Onion or at the Mabuhay Gardens. I remember seeing the Loved Ones, the Creeple Peeple, the Pandoras (a garage band from LA later turned Heavy Metal), the Fuzztones, and the Primates. 

Are there major musicians and artists from the past that are still tending the Mod flame?

I suppose Paul Weller of the Jam still tends the mod flame. 

Tell us a bit about Euro YeYe and other international events that interest you? What would my readers see if they attended one of these gatherings?

There is a fun Mod scene in the UK called the New Untouchables. And Euro YeYe is an event that is held on the northern coast of Spain. Jhalal and I went to our first YeYe three years ago, and I was literally blown away by the number of people, the style, the movies, fashion, records! It was very impressionable. We are happy to be going again in 2014 for their 20th anniversary. Your readers should attend Euro YeYe if they want to enjoy movie nights, art shows, vintage clothing and record shopping, and a three day all-nighter of dancing to real records (not mp3s) spun by some of great DJs. Usually, there is a psychedelic night, a northern soul night, and a garage band.  Some great 1960s bands and musicians have played there. We were lucky to see the Bongolian and July (UK psych band from the 60s) perform. Also on the world scene, there are LP comps like LeBespoke. I have to thank my partner in comics and love, Jhalal, for introducing me to some of the best heavy hammond organ grooves.

I love how Mod Tales looks! We talked a few years ago at the early genesis of the project. Can you tell our readers a bit about how the comic progressed from a collection of drawings into a cohesive comic book?

I had completed a few earlier drawings of Serge Gainsbourg before I met Jhalal in Paris. When he saw the drawings he inspired me to make a comic, so we started talking about the story, which Jhalal Drut wrote and storyboarded for me.  He has been a comic book lover for years and introduced me to a variety of genres and rekindled my love for them.

It seemed like the book really picked up steam when you decided to fund part of the digital process through a Kickstarter campaign. Can you talk a bit about the working rhythm you established with Jhalal Drut to take the project to the next level?

In the early stages, Jhalal and I were talking about the drawings and the story, and then I had heard that Kickstarter was a good place to propel some interest in the work. Thanks to my friends, family and kind strangers, the Kickstarter campaign took off rapidly. It was very exciting to see the support come in from all over the world. After we were funded, Jhalal and I knew we had to get more serious to complete the project. I showed the concepts to my anatomy-drawing professor, Rob Anderson in San Francisco, and he had many ideas about composition and design.  I went home and Jhalal and I worked on crafting a few more storyboards. 

You and I had a funny afternoon when I was helping you smooth out the narrative (I had K act out the scenes with me to test continuity and logical flow of action and character). Were there things you learned regarding story or character development in issue #1 that will shape or inform the next issue?

The next issue will feature a different feeling. The one we are working on now may be a bit more psychedelic. The wonderful thing about the 1960s period is that there is so much material to consider and include. Our rhythm for the comic was also like a collage, Jhalal would find some groovy images and he would do a rough sketch, and then I would refine and revise the drawings. We would talk about the story and see if things were fluid. I do remember that day you visited and we acted things out, Jason!  That was tremendously helpful especially for me. I have written non-traditional narratives and monologues, but this was new territory. I felt completely lost at times. Thankfully, I also had a team of computer support staff who helped me colorize the black and white drawings. I'm not skilled in Photoshop yet, and that was fun to learn how to do, but it was so time consuming (even more so than drawing). I was very fortunate to have help. I have learned so many things, including story boarding, formatting, layout, and Photoshop from this process. As most working artists who hold down two jobs (one the bread and butter and the other the creative job), finding time is the most challenging aspect.

One of the fun things about reading Mod Tales is spotting some references from 1960s culture, which you sprinkle in carefully without becoming pastiche. I love seeing the Elsa Martinelli fashion and space-age phones from The 10th Victim. Readers are also treated to subtle nods to Sterenko's Op Art-era S.H.I.E.L.D.Serge Gainsbourg and Schlager-king Heino. Faced with the grooviest period in history to mine for inspiration, how did you choose what to include or leave out?

The material evolved like the moods of the day. The 10th Vicitm, Serge Gainsbourg, and 10th Victim fashion all seemed like old favorites and ones that our audience could easily relate to. Jhalal also introduced me to Jim Steranko. Wow! I remember looking at Marvel comics, but not since the mid 1980s. I must have seen his art in Marvel, but when I saw it again, I was taken aback. The line, the flow! The compositions are fluid and ecstatic.

Heino has such a distinctive look and makes a great villain. We brainstormed forever to give him a name and I love that you arrived at “Vermes”. Where did that come from?

Heino just looked perfect for the role of the bad guy. It's the combo of the hair and glasses (his music is not Mod or groovy).  Jhalal arrived at “Vermes” for the pseudonym for Heino. I don't remember his process, but it stuck and I liked it.

What would recommend from Gainsbourg’s music and film output?

Gainsbourg is so popular now in the US and it's wonderful. He was a talented and prolific artist. I love Serge because he just did what he wanted to do. Some of his work is very controversial, but he was more “agent provocateur”. I'm not going to pretend that I was listening to Gainsbourg before "everybody else", but I do remember how I picked up my first record. I was at Amoeba Records in 2006. I was studying French on the side, and went through their international LP section. I found a copy of Comic Strip and loved it! As a portrait artist, he was compelling to draw. I've also done a classical drawing of Serge, which was featured on the blog Draw Serge.

For Gainsbourg Music and Film Recommendations: I would start with Couleur Cafe and Comic Strip.  He's an enchanting entertainer. My fave film with Serge is an obscure Swiss film, L'inconnue du Shandigor. Serge as a master-mind criminal! How cool is that! Anna is also a great movie!

You and Jhalal have explored a lot of European comics. Do you have stand-out favorites? And what about US comics besides SHIELD?

Stand out titles of European comics: Guy Peellaert Pravda, La Survireuse and the Adventures of Jodelle. I love the fluidity of the line and movement of shapes and colors. Yes, I can only hope to draw as well as Guy Peelaert someday! US comics: I'm a big fan of Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and Heather McAdams.

Which printing service did you use for Mod Tales? Did you learn any tips that might help Spy Vibers looking to self-publish a comic?

For printing, we used Litho Ninja. What a great service. Affordable and excellent proofing. They are so helpful!

I'm a big fan of the BBC interview show, Desert Island Discs. Katharine, if I had to strand you on an island, what eight recordings (not albums) would you take with you? And which would you save from the waves if you could only have one?

Which 8 tracks? The Creation/Making Time, Pink Floyd/Astronome Domine, Serge Gainsbourg/Chatterton, Chopin/Prelude in E minor, The Sorrows/No, No, No, Los Bravos/Bring a little Lovin, Ennio Morricone/Matto, Caldo, Soldi, Morto, Girotondo, Alan Bown Set/Jeu de Massacre. Ennio Morricone I would save for myself.

And what one book would you want to take to the island?

What if you could have one luxury item, what would it be?

One luxury Item: 1968 E type Jaguar.

Thanks again to Katharine for visiting the Spy Vibe lair and sharing her Mod Tales! 

Selected Spy Vibe posts: Agente Secreto ComicsDanger Man Comics 2Danger Man ComicsJohn Drake ComicsDer Mann Von UNCLEGolden Margaret NolanMan From UNCLE RocksteadyPussy Galore Calypso, Cynthia Lennon R.I.P.Edward Mann FashionLeonard Nimoy TributeShatner at 84Bob Morane seriesNew Saint PublicationsThe Saint Complete box setGerry Anderson Box SetsMusic For SpiesThai Bond DesignBrian Clemens RIPBond vs ModernismImitation GameNew Avengers BooksRingo Does GoldfingerSixties Beat WearPopular SkulltureArt of ModestyAvengers Blu-ray updateTokyo Beat 1964Polaroid SpyFeraud Mod FashionFlint Scores!Bond DanishNew Richard Sala BookNew 007 ComicsDesigning Bond BooksGreen Hornet MangaMargaret Nolan ArtNo 6 FestivalBarbarella ReturnsDesigner: Gene WinfieldAvengers Interview: Michael RichardsonIan Fleming: Wicked GrinJane Bond Hong Kong RecordsRyan Heshka Interview, Comics Week: Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.Comics Week: ArchieComics Week: Robots, Comics Week: Cold War Atomic, Comics Week: SPYMANComics Week: Jimmy OlsenRare Avengers ScriptsMan From Uncle UK ComicsThunderbirds ComicsShakespeare Spies: Diana RiggShakespeare Spies I, Rodney Marshall Avengers InterviewAvengers Book: Bowler Hats & Kinky BootsGeorge Lois Design & Mad MenRichard Sala: Super-Enigmatix, Cold War Archie, Playboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese Books, The Saint books returnTrina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.

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