Author: Trevor Hale

Steven Anderson

Steven Anderson fixates on details—it’s a big part of what makes his zine, Dithering Doodles, so fascinating. He pauses mid-story to make sure he hasn’t missed something. Sometimes it’s a detail so seemingly inconsequential that it’s hard to see how the anecdote would be different if it took place in early October instead of late September, but those are the things that matter to Anderson. Little details and exact dates stick out more than anything when Anderson speaks, and it’s something that he takes great pride in representing through his work.

Dithering Doodles. Illustration: Steven AndersonSteven Anderson started Dithering Doodles back in 2011. He’d been writing, drawing, and collecting his thoughts in journals since he was a teenager in the late ’70s, but he never put them in a collection for people to see until just a few years ago. Most issues consist of newspaper-style comic strips that are stream of consciousness trips through his mind and slice-of-life stories filtered through personal and local history. At first glance, some of the clippings might look completely random, but there’s a method to the madness, and oftentimes, how a particular piece came to be included adds another layer of complexity to what appears to be just a collection of crude drawings stapled together.

Born in Salt Lake City in December of 1960, Steven Anderson has lived in Utah for most of his life, and drawing is practically in his DNA. “My dad was a cartoon artist,” says Anderson. “He got an offer, back in the ‘40s, to have a regular strip in the newspaper.” Ultimately, his father turned down the job. “He didn’t want to have to come up and work on deadlines and things like that. But my artistic abilities come from him.”

Even though his father found other ways to provide for his family, he never stopped drawing, which only further encouraged Anderson. Since then, Anderson has been doodling on any and every available surface—even if it got him into trouble. He pulls out the very first issue of Dithering Doodles and turns to a little figure that doubles as his own alter ego. He confesses that he sometimes uses the cartoon to show how he wishes he’d reacted during certain situations. Pointing to a specific sequence on a page, he recalls what kickstarted the shift from his personal journals to creating something that someone might see.

The Sixth Gun
The Sixth Gun
The Sixth Gun is a sprawling story filled with likeable characters, solid emotional beats, adventure, and an ever-deepening mythology.

Comics are one of the few mediums where plausibility doesn’t matter. You’re allowed to take different genres and mix and mash them together into something completely new. No one will question the reality or viability, because comics exist on a little island where literally everything is fair game. Comics are just words and pictures—you can do anything with words and pictures.

The Sixth Gun, an ongoing series written by Cullen Bunn, drawn by Brian Hurtt and published by Oni Press takes that general idea and uses it to do just that—anything they want. By taking a few notes from every other genre and bending them to mesh with a memorable cast, The Sixth Gun is one of the most entertaining books that’s being published. At first, the plot seems pretty straightforward: When Rebecca Moncrief’s father passes away, she inherits his pistol. She soon discovers that this is no ordinary six-shooter. The gun is bonded to whoever picks it up when the previous owner dies, and it allows them to see visions of the future. Soon enough, it’s revealed that Moncrief’s pistol is the last of the Six Guns—a set of evolved weapons that possess unnatural abilities. The gun summons some fierce competition—all of whom are looking for the power that would be attained by possessing all six.

Drake Sinclair, a treasure hunter with questionable motives and a checkered past, is the first to find Rebecca. Sinclair wants the Six Guns for his own reasons, but it soon becomes apparent that the guns’ power is far more sinister than he could have imagined. Sinclair teams up with Moncrief to fight off the evil General Hume—the sixth gun’s original owner—who is trying to collect all six of the weapons to open a vault that would unleash an unstoppable force and alter reality. Oh, and by the way, General Hume has been dead for years. He came back to life in the brief moment that the gun was no longer bonded to Rebecca’s father.

Bunn has gone through painstaking detail to develop full backstories for not only the weapons, but for each character he introduces. Everyone from the main cast all the way down to seemingly insignificant background players are woven together in satisfying ways, creating a dense mythology that’s doled out in bits and pieces over the course of the series. There’s never too much exposition and every bit of backstory is tied into the action at hand. Action is never something that’s lacking throughout The Sixth Gun series. The action scenes are well thought out, meticulously planned and arise out of a natural progression of the story, which is a quality that’s sorely lacking in a lot of superhero books competing for shelf space.

Bunn establishes early on that this isn’t just a run-of-the-mill Western tale. While it is the setting of the plot, Bunn sees too many opportunities to leave it at that. Big action is never more than a few pages away, and supernatural overtones slide right in next to the existential and literal horror tales that are crafted. The characters never take things too seriously, which leaves room for some great comedic bits—especially when 8-foot tall mummies and lizard people begin showing up.

Bunn doesn’t take all of the credit, though. He’s blessed with Brian Hurtt’s art and Bill Crabtree’s colors, and the three of them nail every single aspect of this book. Hurtt is one of the better artists working today and one of the best working on a creator-owned, small-press series like this. The lines are crisp, the detail is amazing and every character feels like an actual, lived-in character.

A lot of artists get away with great splash pages, and breakneck action scenes, but their work on quieter moments suffers. Hurtt’s doesn’t. Bunn isn’t afraid to write a scene filled with emotion that relies solely on the expressions of the characters, because he knows that Hurtt will nail it every time. Hurtt and Bunn even pull off a completely silent issue, devoid of all dialogue, captions or sound effects. It’s one of the most exciting issues in the series—it includes a daring rescue and dangerous underwater escape. The team didn’t skimp on hiring Crabtree, either. He’s one of the best colorists in the business and every image pops off the page. The clarity is astounding. Nothing ever feels rushed, none of the colors blend together and it feels like each volume has a distinct color palette that sets the tone for the story being told.

Bunn and Hurtt have created a sprawling story filled with likeable characters, solid emotional beats, adventure, and an ever-deepening mythology. It doesn’t set expectations too high, though. This team knows how to dole out little victories along the way to keep the audience invested in the bigger mysteries as they play out over time. Hopefully that time doesn’t end too soon, either. The Sixth Gun is a lot of fun and shows no signs of stopping.

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Of the many musical acts popping up over the con.Bag-pipers – It’s just not the same without them! Photo: Matt Brunk
The final day of Fantasy Con got off to a bit of a quiet start. The holiday hangover was in full effect, and the crowds on the convention floor were a bit thinner than expected, but that just made the aisles and halls easier to navigate and made everything more accessible. Arriving midmorning provided the chance to walk the entire legnth of the floor uninterupted, have a close look at each booth and take in the entire production without feeling forced to dash madly from one thing to another.
There were good reasons for scheduling the inaugural Fantasy Con over the holiday weekend. The thought that many people would have an extra day or two off and would want something to do before the nighttime activities were ready to roll was chief among them. But an extra couple of days off also gave many people a chance to get out of town, which meant that a lot of people didn’t quite realize what they were missing out on.
The benchmark for a fan convention in Salt Lake was set unreasonably high by the behemoth that was Salt Lake Comic Con. With attendance that ranged well into six figures, there was an obvious market for fans of not just comics and celebrities, but cosplay, sci-fi and fantasy. Fantasy and science fiction go hand in hand with comic conventions, but always seem to be overshadowed by the bigger, flashier and brighter comic characters that have become so ingrained in pop culture that fantasy lovers can’t help but feel relegated to their own little corner.
That’s a corner that Fantasy Con was happy to claim, with banners, gargoyles and dragons firmly at their back every step of the way. Founder Josh Patel has been working for over half a decade trying to put together Fantasy Con, and with the success of Salt Lake Comic Con, it proved that his hometown was the perfect place to hold it.
It’s easy to look at Fantasy Con as a quick way to cash in on a market that clearly has demands for an event like this, but the organizers went out of their way to differentiate it as much as possible. The convention floor, which was open to the fullest extent was set up much differently than one would expect—and it really felt like you were entering another realm right from the start. Greeted by two towering, 30-foot sentinals that lead directly into the Hall of Heroes helped gradually absorb the atmosphere. The Hall was full of fantasy-inspired art from some of the talented folks that were on hand throughout the weekend—like Brom, Jeff Easley of Dungeons and Dragons, and Heather Theurer of Disney Fine Art.
While it was billed as a mix of cosplay, film, art and comics, there was little mention of just how much of an interactive experience Fantasy Con would be. Massive, detailed sets could be found at every single turn, and people were ready and willing to welcome newcomers to the world of live-action role playing, sword fighting and archery. People were encouraged to dress up, and many took full advantage of the opportunity to go all out.
The aisles between were filled with artists—some local, some national—selling prints, commissions and original works alongside handmade steampunk clothing, custom wands (yes, Harry Potter fans, those wands) and anything else you wouldn’t have expected to find outside of Middle Earth or Westeros.
While that was happening all three days, one of the highlights of the weekend was definitely the Simon Pegg panel on Saturday afternoon. Pegg is known for his acting ability as much as his love of Internet culture, and he’s developed a rapidly growing, cult-like fanbase that worships his every role—even the romantic comedies. His early roles in British shows like Spaced led to the beginning of his American fame, but it was the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, and his role as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the recent STAR TREK reboot, that he’s become a fan favorite of just about everyone.
While a little bit out of place alongside the dwarves, hobbits, witches and aliens that packed the convention, Pegg was still a huge coup, and didn’t disappoint. He had his own booth on the far side of the convention floor where he held a meet-and-greet and his weekend culminated in a fun audience Q&A session in the middle of the day inside a packed Grand Ballroom.
The panel host made just a bit of small talk with Pegg before opening the floor to questions from the audience. The first five questions were asked by kids under the age of 10, which made for a good couple of bits from Simon Pegg about how he hoped he wouldn’t have to answer any questions from adults.
That wish didn’t come true, but the questions he got weren’t exactly ones looking to land hard-hitting, journalistic scoops. It was a fan convention after all, so he was barraged with questions like, “Which of the three characters did you like playing the most?” referring to Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (Gary, The World’s End) and which character would win in a fight between them (also Gary).
Pegg was asked about reprising the role of Scotty if Star Trek ever made the jump back to the small screen, to which he gave a very diplomatic, non-commital answer about how TV has become a platform that almost has better stories and performances than movies. It wa a long, well-thought response in which he never actually answered, because he’s probably not too keen on reading about it on the Internet for the next four days.
Once the panel ended, the rest of the day was spent wandering the aisles, looking at all the unique art, clothing and people dressed head to toe in costumes—like if the Craft Lake City DIY Fest had popped up in a medieval villiage. There were many things to buy, but for the most part, no one was there to buy anything (aside from an autograph or photo op with a celebrity, which ranged anywhere from $10 to $50),  because everyone could actually take part in something. There was an archery range, there was a group teaching historical swordsmanship, and the biggest and best was the Belegarth opportunities.
The middle of the convention floor had been turned into an arena where they were holding giant battles with foam weapons. By singing a waiver and learning a quick version of the rules, anyone was able to take part and most of the time, the battles were full of people running around, jumping into combat with swords, spears and shields. A little ways away was someone teaching the art of blacksmithing, glass blowers, and a stage where professional fireworkers held court.
Fantasy Con was a truly unique experience, and bravo to the founders, the staff, and all the volunteers for making it run so smoothly. The more people start hearing about what actually went on inside the Salt Palace this weekend and how it was different than a bunch of middle aged men dressed as elves (which, to be fair, there were plenty of), they’ll be sorry they missed. It’s a con that got off on the right foot, and with the effort they put into this one, it’s only bound to get better.

Click here to check out a complete set of photos from Saturday.

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Blake Foard, frontman and original member of Cool Your Jets, opening for Trial at Foursquare earlier this year. Photo: Frank Carroll

In 2004, hardcore blew up. Killswitch Engage released what would eventually become a gold record, Hatebreed was nominated for a Grammy and everything changed—again.

Before that, hardcore and metal were the genres of the underground and the bands were kind of like members of a secret society. They weren’t afforded any mainstream recognition, and if you met someone who had also heard of an obscure start-up band like Terror, Every Time I Die or Bleeding Through, you immediately knew you shared a bond. Then, all of a sudden, there were TV shows like “Battle for Ozzfest” and Jamey Jasta was the new host of a revived Headbanger’s Ball.

Local hardcore shows, which had been topping out at 100 people on a good night, were suddenly drawing upward of 400-500 people. Things were good again for Salt Lake City hardcore, the way they hadn’t been since the heyday when Clear and Triphammer were playing shows in the late ’90s. Nationally recognized bands were coming through town all the time and there were so many shows that local openers were starting to get the opportunity to play in front of crowds they’d never seen before.

It was great exposure for bands that were just starting up or had been playing under the radar for a few years. Bands like Pushing Up Daisies, Parallax, Gaza and Clifton were all building a solid local fanbase. Tamerlane and the vegan-straight edge band Cherem—both of which I spent a number of years playing in—were also gaining recognition and being invited to play bigger shows outside of the ones put on by our small circle of friends.

Once that started happening, Blake Foard, member of bands such as Aftermath of a Trainwreck and Skeiff D’Bargg, and longtime show promoter, saw an opportunity to give a little something back to the community through the hardcore scene he loved. “Hardcore, to me, is helping out the people who matter most,” says Foard. “I figured I could utilize my connections and use it for the good of the community.”

Foard has been booking and promoting shows since October of 2000—when he was just 16—when he booked Figure Four and the post- Triphammer outfit Her Blacklist Disaster in a theater in the University of Utah Union building. Having grown up in the scene, with four older brothers dragging him to shows since he was 11, Foard has long since been one of the most dedicated to a hardcore scene that always seems on the brink of collapse. He wanted to use the newfound popularity of the music for something good. That’s when the annual Sub For Santa show was born.

In December 2004, Aftermath of a Trainwreck, Skeiff D’Bargg and Grace from Gallows played the first Sub For Santa show in the basement of Burt Murdock (Wagstaff) Music on 9000 S. and State St. It was a great turnout, and there was a supplemental Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament afterwards. “It was amazing how it all came together,” says Foard.

Burt Murdock Music was a good distance from downtown with really limited accessibility to those without a car, but it was the only option at the time. There was a long string of venues back then, some only lasting for as little as a single show. It’s a problem that Salt Lake City has always faced. A mid-level, do-it-yourself venue for heavier music never existed, forcing a lot of bands to skip the city on their tour. It doesn’t help that Salt Lake is eight hours in every direction from the next biggest city, either.

It got harder to book touring bands with an ever-growing audience to DIY venues that might not even exist by the time the show rolled around. Given a choice between a promoter who does it for a living with money to spend, and a few youngsters with a lot of heart but no way to guarantee anything, the former usually won. Booking and promoting shows is a frustrating endeavor with lots of hoops to jump through, but at the end of the day, seeing a satisfied audience is a reward that can’t be matched.

“So many people come in to the scene, suck it dry and take, take, take, but never want to give back,” says Foard. “Bands break up, promoters realize it’s not as glamorous once they get into the thick of it and give up on doing shows.”

2012 marks the eighth straight year of the annual Sub For Santa show, and this year, Foard has teamed up with Dylan Stout to organize the two-night event. Stout—currently playing with Foard in Cool Your Jets and his own band, Hitchhiker—built and maintains the new local music website slchardcore.com. It focuses on getting show information, videos, band interviews and other great, original content out to the masses.

“After a lot of Salt Lake’s better-known hardcore bands broke up or moved on, kids just stopped coming to shows,” says Stout. “I created the site to inform people that we are still making music and try to bring people back out. The more people there are, the more fun we all have.”

The site is still in its infancy, and Stout has a lot of great things planned for it, including a hard copy zine called Staunch that will feature album reviews, articles and a calendar of events. The first issue will be available just in time for the December shows.

Using his connections from years of booking and touring, Foard has been able to get some great bands back together or even make the drive from out of state to be a part of it. For the 2012 show, a slew of bands that haven’t played Salt Lake City for a long, long time are coming out of retirement. He was able to pull a few strings and get the ever-reclusive Tamerlane out of extended hibernation for a night—which was much harder than one might think, even if the singer is his older brother, Jack Foard.

Cherem is also reuniting, playing their first show in nearly six years. “I moved to New York City in 2007 and logistically, we just couldn’t make it work anymore,” says Bill French, singer and founding member of Cherem, who recently moved back to Salt Lake. “I know a lot of people have these delusions of grandeur that hardcore is supposed to be about massive shows with people smashing into each other,” says French. “When I went to my first show in ’94 to see Bleed, it was 20 people packed into an abandoned trailer. Hardcore has always been what you make of it. The scene is as alive as it ever was.”

With a re-dedicated lineup, French is excited to use December’s benefit show as a new beginning and try to finish what he started with Cherem way back in 2001—not just treating it as a one-time thing.

“For me, the most important part of Cherem was using our music as a vessel for breaking down the myths that surround our way of thinking,” says French. “The idea that we’re individuals separated by air and space and that we’re not part of the collective whole is a flawed and damaging idea. Sharing those ideas through this medium is what I miss the most.”
Maybe the biggest coup of all was Foard’s ability to get early ’90s hardcore band Reality on the bill, too. Reality was never one of the most famous of the early Salt Lake bands, but they were definitely one of the most loved. Fast and dark, the band’s Something Hurts 7”, from local label Flatline Records, is still a favorite among collectors and SLCHC history buffs. “I think we’ve all just missed playing together and playing our songs,” says Reality vocalist Trent Falcone. “We’ve all done other bands since Reality ended, but these songs remain special to us.”

Foard is happy to have a revived scene and is doing everything in his power to make it as great as it ever was. As an added bonus, there’s going to be a very lucky family or two that come along with it.

“If I could get up onstage and let people throw rotten vegetables at me while I tell awful jokes, I would. Instead, I try to get bands that I feel still give a shit about hardcore. It’s always given me a voice, a place to feel welcome and a sense of purpose. I just want to try and give that back,” says Foard. “It’s the one time of year I don’t feel like a total piece of shit because I can make a difference.”

The Sub For Santa show is a two-night event this year. The first night, Friday, Dec. 7 will be held at Kaffeneio Coffee (3300 S. 300 W.) and feature Reflect, Cool Your Jets, Hitchhiker, Prime Oppressor, Willows and Speak Out. The second night, Saturday, Dec. 8 will be held at Club Sound (579 W. 200 S.) and feature Sleeping Giant, Outspoken, Mean Season, One Choice, Tamerlane, Cherem and Reality. Both shows are all-ages events. For up- to-date information, check out slchardcore.com.

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Photo: Russel Daniels

When the last bell rang at Valley Christian School in Kearns, 8-year-old Anthony Lucero gathered his things just like the rest of the students. Only instead of heading for the door to be free until the next morning, Lucero headed to another part of the building.

Valley Christian School was a K-12 institution with around 60 students total. Lucero’s mom was an English teacher for the junior high– and high school–age kids, and was often stuck after hours grading papers and finalizing lesson plans—which meant that he would be stuck there, too.
Lucero and his friend Garritt Tucker, whose mom was also a teacher at the school, needed a way to pass the time each day. The two of them would unfold sheets of computer paper—the kind that was attached together with feed strips down each side—lay them out and just draw.

“We’d have contests to draw sharks and other creatures and just make them as long as we could,” says Lucero. “Every kid gets showered with praise for whatever they do, but that’s the earliest encouragement that I can remember.”

Like most kids, comic books and cartoons influenced Lucero’s drawing style. As he discovered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and James O’Barr’s The Crow, he began to emulate what he saw. He always kept drawing, moving on from sharks to detailed portraits. Lucero kept progressing, but he never got too serious about it—especially because art classes at a Christian school weren’t the most involved or rigorous.

“When I got to high school, my teacher was just like, ‘Do whatever you want and I’ll give you a grade based on what I see,’” says Lucero. “She trusted me and just let me draw, but looking back, it would have been cool if I’d had a more focused learning regimen—someone to actually go ‘try this’ or ‘use this material’ instead of just ‘do whatever you want.’”

Eventually, Lucero transferred to Kearns High and, after he graduated, he slowly began rebelling against his Christian-school upbringing. Nothing too drastic, though, because his mother “was never an example of the hypocritical insanity I was exposed to there,” says Lucero. Still, whatever is forced upon children the most will be the thing they ultimately rebel against the hardest.

He played guitar for a few hardcore bands, started attending local all-ages shows and hanging out at the place that all young, heavy-music-listening art lovers go—tattoo shops. It was there that he discovered he might actually be able to take his artwork somewhere besides his sketchbook.

“When I first started hanging around Lost Art, Fletcher Booth had his art hanging there,” says Lucero. “That spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t had art speak to me before. I started working with charcoal and basically just biting his style because it was so awesome.”

Lucero was still looking for his voice, so he tried a little bit of everything. He couldn’t make the charcoal work the way Booth could, so he began adding other elements, trying to find a style that he felt comfortable with. He was also discovering new artists all the time, taking everything in and letting their work percolate in his mind. He found influence from all different styles, from the album artwork of Nick Blinko of the U.K. band Rudimentary Peni, the great Pushead (a.k.a. Brian Schroeder) and Raymond Pettibon—the artist responsible for almost all of Black Flag’s album art—to Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer.
Dürer was someone who Lucero never knew by name, though he had seen and remembered a lot of his work. His incredibly detailed pieces were hugely influential and stuck with Lucero as he found his way. When neither charcoal nor paint gave Lucero the satisfaction he desired, he stripped everything away and settled on intricately detailed line work and inking. He began to identify with Durer more than any other artist, because his pieces could inspire feelings and draw out an emotion that was forming below the surface. That’s what Lucero was after, too.

“Some of it is so twisted and so dark that, looking at it when I was a kid, it gave me that feeling in my gut,” Lucero says of Dürer. “He was able to do something that makes you feel unsettled, but was still, for lack of a better term, a ‘pretty’ piece.”

Lucero started focusing on line work and realized that was what he did best. He has an enormous amount of patience and a remarkable ability to use grayscale to his advantage. Lucero’s pieces have been stripped to the core and forced to survive solely on attention to detail and the focus of a tightrope-like style in which each piece can be ruined by a simple twitch at the wrong time. He doesn’t use computers, so every line, every shade, every detail counts.

As Lucero started getting more comfortable with his art, he started showing it to more people—particularly the members of his band, Gaza, the chaos-infused metal band he’s played bass in since 2006. The band started using his drawings for shirt designs, which boosted both his profile and his confidence. Soon, other bands were seeking him out for their own artwork. Lucero began designing logos and album covers for bands like Colorado’s Call of the Void and Portland’s Elitist.

“It’s hard to distinguish whether people want the guy from Gaza to do the art or if they actually want Anthony Lucero to do the art,” says Lucero. “Either way, it’s fine because it’s giving me the opportunity to keep drawing and I’m willing to do it to take it to another level.”

On Gaza’s last tour, which ended in mid-December, Lucero took a huge step in trying to distinguish himself from being known simply as “the guy from Gaza.” He wanted to find out if his art could survive without being attached to anything else.

Lucero had been working on a design for a T-shirt company, but with all the touring that Gaza had been doing, it had taken over a year to draw and the window to use it had closed. He was left with an intricately designed moth that he was immensely proud of, but nothing to use it for. Oz Yosri, his close friend and bandmate in the local, Southern-tinged death metal band Bird Eater, kept pushing him to make it a print and take it with him on tour.

“Putting it out there as just a piece of art was pretty hard to do,” says Lucero. “I don’t know if I would have done it, but Oz kind of forced me into it and helped make every single print.”

Since time was running short before the tour started, there wasn’t time to get it letterpressed or screen printed like Lucero had hoped. He came up with an idea to make sure every print was original while sticking to the DIY roots honed through years of touring with a metal band.

Lucero used a baking tray filled with French vanilla coffee and dipped each blank page. Depending on how long and how much he left submerged, each one would stain a bit differently. He took the wet paper outside and hung it from a clothesline in the front yard. The pages drip-dried for a bit until Yosri took them down and ironed them flat. They did that five at a time, working all through the night until they had around 100 unique pieces to print on.

The next day, they took the pages to the FedEx print shop. Since the pages were so delicate, each one had to be hand-fed through the roller and, because of that, occasionally a tiny, extra smudge was left here or there, adding a level of uniqueness to each one. Lucero ended up with 89 prints he deemed worthy of taking with him to sell.

“Because we did the work, and it was a pain in the ass to feed them through the machine, it was enough to justify in my head that we didn’t just go to Kinko’s to get them printed,” says Lucero. “It also made it so that I couldn’t smell French Vanilla coffee for like a month without getting sick.”

The prints went over better than he’d hoped. It was enough to give Lucero a few extra bucks each day and show that his work could live as a piece of art without having to rely on a band logo.
Now, he’s focusing on finding a way to make his art a viable source of income while he’s not on the road with the band.

“My life is so wrapped up in touring and playing music that there’s no room for normal-people things,” says Lucero. “I have to find something else in the overall world of art to help sustain living as a musician. Being able to set myself up with something like drawing is the dream, so when I’m at home, I’m a full-time artist and I draw as much and sell as much as I can. Then when I’m on tour, I’m a musician.”

The benchmark for Lucero is someone like Jacob Bannon or Kurt Ballou, both of the band Converge. Bannon is a successful artist in his own right, and Ballou owns and operates a recording studio called God City—where Gaza recorded their current album, No Absolutes in Human Suffering. However, he knows the path to get where those two are isn’t easy or short, as both Bannon and Ballou have been working constantly for over 20 years.

Lucero is focused on “finding something that will feed the art monster” inside of him while he’s home. He’s talked to a few local galleries about being part of a group show or possibly doing one on his own, but right now, he’s focused on the work itself. Each piece takes longer than he’d like, partially because he’d grown accustomed to using a charcoal drawing-sized canvas. He’s trying to rein things in and make his pieces a bit more manageable in order to produce more in the short time he has between tours.

“I’ve been traveling and doing all these awesome things that they’ve kind of ruined a normal structure,” says Lucero. “I’m trying to find something that’s satisfying. What I do is never going to make me rich, but the goal is to sustain myself and not feel like a dirtbag doing it. I want to be happy with what I create and where it has put me.”

You can find more of Anthony Lucero’s work at thegoddamned.tumblr.com, or shoot him an email at gazaeater@yahoo.com.

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Local full-time Invincible comic artist Ryan Ottley will be at the first-ever Salt Lake Comic Con this September. Photo: John Barkiple

When Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane (among others) founded Image Comics, they revolutionized the comic book industry. The artists were treated like—and acted like—rock stars everywhere they went. It was that attitude that put the creator-owned mindset of Image on equal footing with Marvel and DC.

Twenty years later, Image Comics is still a force led by some of the most famous creators working today. Its continued success is thanks, in large part, to books like Invincible—illustrated by local artist Ryan Ottley. Ottley may not have the bombastic, rock star personality of some of his Image peers, but he is every bit as talented. His line work is some of the cleanest and most detailed in the industry, and the level of gore he reaches at times is a stark contrast to the personality of the mild-mannered Utah resident.
 
Since 2004, when he began penciling Invincible on a regular basis, Ottley has been attending Draw Night at Nobrow Coffee. It’s a low-key, weekly tradition in which a group of local artists get together for a few hours and sketch, chat and just be creative. “I met [local artist] Derek Hunter online, and he used to do Draw Night,” says Ottley. “They’d been doing it for years, but stopped for a while. I said I’d be interested in doing it, so we got together and started again. We’ve been doing it like clockwork ever since.”
 
The number of people attending varies from week to week. Sometimes it’s small, but on this particular night, there were nearly 10 people packed in, all working on various projects. For Ottley, it’s just a nice break from the daunting task (but still a better gig than most jobs, of course) that is illustrating a monthly comic. He uses Draw Night as an exercise in sketching, where his mind can wander and he can let his pencil do the talking. “I have no clue what’s going to happen here,” says Ottley. “I just start drawing.”
 
Ottley held a number of different jobs while harboring dreams of becoming a comic artist. After he was fired from a warehouse, he saw an opportunity to actually go for it. He began posting his work online and trying to find writers he wanted to work with. He contributed to various anthologies and illustrated a number of short stories, including Ted Noodleman: Bicycle Delivery Boy, until his work was discovered and he was asked to fill in on an issue of Invincible. “I did pencils and inks in two weeks, which is way too fast, but I was really hungry at that point,” says Ottley. “I actually finished [Issue 8] before Cory [Walker, Invincible co-creator] finished his pages for Issue 7, and then they asked me if I’d come on full time.”
 
Since then, Ottley has penciled nearly 100 issues of a book that continues to be a refreshing change of pace from other superhero comics. With a dedication to characters and a strong focus on family dynamics, it still manages to contain some of the most imaginative—and sometimes brutally realistic—takes on traditional superhero tropes.
 
Since Invincible is on a monthly schedule, Ottley works six days a week to make sure the book ships regularly, which leaves little time for anything else. That’s not to say he doesn’t try. He and fellow artist James Harren have a site called The Bog (the-bog.tumblr.com), which is mostly for fun, brain-dumping sketches. He also has his own book with Jason Howard (artist of Super Dinosaur) called Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark. Ottley promises that they have more in store, but want to make sure they can get them out on a regular basis before any official announcement is made.
 
While Ottley may not get recognized on the street yet, that could all change if the upcoming inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con is any sort of success. Ottley is a veteran attendee of conventions all over the country, most notably San Diego Comic Con and Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Dan Farr, the hometown convention’s organizer, has been working hard at pulling together some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry to make sure it’s a memorable first year. “We’ve had some good ones here and there, but this one feels like it’s going to be the biggest,” says Ottley. “I really hope that it’s good, and that it’s huge and that it lasts. That would be great to do a convention and then just drive home.”
 
The convention is on the same weekend as Baltimore Comic Con, which Ottley had already committed to. He will have a presence on at least Thursday of the Salt Lake show, which runs September 5–7 at the Salt Palace. You can purchase tickets and find more info at saltlakecomiccon.com.
 
The next year is looking to be just as busy for Ottley, with Invincible showing no signs of slowing down. He’s excited about the direction the book is going and the popularity it has. He’s also looking to branch out a little bit more to some of his own projects, like Grizzly Shark, but it’s just a matter of finding time while trying to keep some semblance of a normal family life. Well, as normal of a life as you can have when your job is to draw immortal beings punching holes through people’s stomachs.
 
Keep up to date with Ottley’s work at ryanottley.com.
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(L-R) Insight members Chad “Chubba” Smith, James Holder and Jeremy Chatelain are responsible for the birth of the Salt Lake hardcore music scene in the early ’90s, along with bandmates Mark Olsen and Doug Wright (not pictured). Photo: John Barkiple

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Jeremy Chatelain, Chad “Chubba” Smith and James Holder are sitting around a table, drinking coffee and swapping stories. The three of them are in full youth-revival mode, trying to remember details of things that happened nearly a quarter of a century ago.

“I Googled ‘Insight’ and ‘straight edge’ the other day,” says Chatelain. “There’s some old hardcore fanzine entry that comes up called ‘straight edgers are dicks.’ It goes on to list all these bands and the reasons why they’re dicks––and we’re on there.”

Smith and Holder laugh, but are a little bit shocked at the same time. Chatelain gets excited to tell the story and continues, saying, “It’s like, ‘Anybody ever heard of this stupid fucking band Insight from Utah? They came through New York City to play ABC No Rio, didn’t walk in the club until right before they played, borrowed gear from Supertouch and didn’t even stick around to watch them. Dicks.’” Smith and Holder remember the exact show in question and everything that happened that day. “We had to park our van like seven blocks away!” says Holder.

Along with singer Mark Olsen and bassist Doug Wright—who live in California and New York, respectively, and were not present for the interview—guitarists Chatelain and Holder and drummer Smith make up Salt Lake’s first straight edge band, Insight. They were only together for a brief period, from 1988 to 1990, but were instrumental in shaping the hardcore scene in Salt Lake City. They’re reuniting for two shows this month—the band’s first reunion in nearly 25 years.

The conversation keeps going, discussing the seedy parts of cities and reminiscing about being woken up from a nap by huge strangers reaching into the van at a rest stop. It’s fun to listen to, but it’s even more fun to watch old friends interact. These three are clearly enjoying each other’s company again, and even though they’ve all played in bands together since, Insight is the one that sticks out. The stories go on and the laughs continue as they talk about the band that they all cut their teeth in that gave them their first taste of something bigger than local fame.

“Fast and loud” was the mantra of Insight, and they took influence from hardcore bands of the era like Youth of Today, Minor Threat and 7 Seconds. They rapidly built a following by playing as often as they could. Shows at The Speedway Café and The Word got bigger and bigger, and their unique, crossover sound enabled them to fit with pretty much any hardcore band on the stage. “It was a thirst for volume and a thirst for playing really, really fast,” says Holder. “Our half stacks were always turned all the way up.”

Being the first outspoken straight edge band in Salt Lake, Insight were gaining popularity in the early ’90s—not just in Salt Lake City, but all over the country as well. Eventually, their debut 7”, Standing Strong, was re-released by Victory Records as What Will It Take in March of 1990, and they hit the road with lofty goals and the world at their fingertips. It was short lived, though, and the band never made it past that one, six-song EP and a handful of compilation tracks.

When Wright got married and had a kid straight out of high school, he put family first and wasn’t able to tour any longer. Real life came calling and threw a wrench in what had been a great thing. These five friends had grown up together over the course of a record and numerous tours with some of the biggest hardcore bands of the era. No one really wanted to continue on without the core members, so they decided to hang it up. They all moved on to other projects, most notably Iceburn and Handsome, broadened their musical horizons and never really looked back. Insight was done.

Last year, Revelation Records—one of the most respected record labels of the era—celebrated its 25th anniversary with three huge shows across the country. A lot of bands from its early years got back together and sent off a sweeping wave of nostalgia. For fans of hardcore, it was hard not to get caught up in it, and the Internet soon overflowed with Facebook and Twitter posts of which bands everyone would love to see back together, even for just one night.

Olsen had been playing in The Gimmicks in Seattle and later Sweet Evil in Los Angeles, touring Europe and still living the rock n’ roll life, but Insight was never all the way out of his mind. With all of the bands that they toured with back in the day reuniting and playing hardcore shows again, Chatelain feels pretty confident saying that’s what kicked Olsen into high gear trying to put together an Insight reunion. “Mark’s been bugging me about it for probably five years,” says Chatelain. “Truthfully––and no offense to any of the guys because I love them––I really wasn’t interested. I’m not sure if they were, either.”

Chatelain had a change of heart recently and felt like playing again. It wasn’t so much that he had a desire to play the songs they’d written in 1988, but that he wanted to be in a room with those guys again, playing music. He left the hard part up to Olsen: getting the other four guys to agree and finding a place to play. “Jeremy and I have been in touch ever since Insight broke up,” says Olsen. “We entertained the idea of doing this for years. I had a chance to play with the guys from Chain of Strength, Against the Wall and Excel, and it made me miss what I loved—playing hardcore with my brothers from Insight. I just put the wheels in motion and got all the guys on board.”

It was very important to everyone that if a reunion were to happen, it had to come from a genuine place. None of them wanted it to feel like a chore, and everyone that was originally in the band had to be on board. Luckily, everyone signed on, and April 12 at The Shred Shed and April 13 at Urban Lounge will be the first Insight shows since September of 1990. The hard part turned out to be easier than they all thought, and the new challenge was relearning songs that hadn’t been touched in 23 years. “That first practice, we had an iPhone sitting on the top of a Marshall half stack, and we were trying to play along,” says Holder. “It’s more complicated than I thought. I underestimated the difficulty factor.”

Playing along to recordings didn’t last long, and soon after, Smith showed up to take his place behind the kit and the songs just started flowing again. “I feel like it’s just muscle memory,” says Chatelain. “The songs stuck in my head for so long, then at some point they disappeared. The minute I started hearing them again, it was like ‘Oh yeah!’ James and I had moments in the rehearsal space where we were both just like, ‘and then it goes here, and then it goes right here.’”

With Olsen and Wright living on opposite sides of the country, the practices have been scaled down, but no one is worried. They’ve both been playing in bands and know what they’re supposed to be doing. The only thing they’re worried about is whether they can still pull off how fast the songs are supposed to be. “I feel bad for Chubbs,” says Chatelain. “It is really, really fast. We’d worked at it for years at that point, but I can’t play that fast anymore.”

The set list stands around 11 or 12 songs at this point, and no one denies that this might not be the last we hear of Insight. They all admit that they’re having a great time being back together, hanging out, swapping stories and playing music again. Chatelain reveals that he did find cassette tapes of songs that never got recorded before the band broke up, and it’s obvious that everyone is having more fun than they thought they would. “We start playing and I get pumped,” says Chatelain. “I want to just jump around, which is crazy. It’s fun to get back into that headspace.”

The hardcore scene isn’t exactly what it used to be, and bands come and go with such regularity that it’s hard to keep up, but everyone remembers the ones who put it on the map, and this is definitely one of them. To the guys in Insight, though, it’s always been more about the friendships formed and the fact that they’re able to get together more than 20 years later and it’s still the same as it ever was. “It’s been awesome,” says Chatelain. “I’d say the biggest reason for doing this is just to play music with these guys again and see what that would feel like. It’s totally selfish.”

Maybe Insight are actually dicks, after all. Catch them live on April 12 at The Shred Shed and April 13 at Urban Lounge.

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