Cartoonist Mike Russell's First Thursday gallery show is a collaborative effort
PORTLAND, Ore. —
Writer and cartoonist Mike Russell compares the collaborative comic strips and books he produces to much like being in a band.
“When you’re working together in a group to make a comic, it’s like being in a band in the way the panels move the pacing is almost like musical notation,” Russell said in advance of his first gallery show during First Thursday at the Everett Street Loft’s Sequential Art Gallery.
Russell used to pen a strip for an on-campus publication during his University of Oregon days, and resurrected the process about 12 years ago when he started freelancing for The Oregonian. The non-fiction strip “Culture Pulp” started with simple premise: Mike goes out and does stuff and then draws a strip.
Like the time he went to Powell’s City of Books and wound up in a trailer with Dan Aykroyd, the head of the local chapter of the Oregon Mutual UFO Network and Portland blues artist, Curtis Salgado.
“That doesn’t usually happen,’’ he said. “I invited the president of the UFO Network because I knew Dan Aykroyd was a contributor to the society and is a really intense UFOlogist. Curtis Salgado taught Aykroyd how to play harmonica for “The Blues Brothers.”
In addition to works related to his classic “Culture Pulp” strips from his days as a freelancer for The Oregonian (he also wrote about film for A&E), the show includes his latest joint effort with writer Erik Henrickson and colorist Bill Mudron, “The Un-Inventor.” His work has also appeared in Willamette Week, The Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe.
“It’s about a chaser of patents who creates an invention that radically simplifies his life in horrible ways,” Russell said. “It starts out looking like it’s making fun of the kid from the ‘Far Side’ all grown up. And it becomes -- over 8 pages -- this horrible, very frightening story that may or may not be about alcoholism.”
Sequential Art Gallery founder and curator Kaebel Hashitani says he and Russell discussed mounting a show for the artist numerous times. The time was finally right.
“Mike has always been the connective tissue all of the people that work in comics in the city because who he is a person, his personality type,” Hashitani said. “He’s always been the greatest champion for other people’s work.”
In the case of the “Un-Inventor,” Henrickson wrote the story/script, Russell penciled the drawings and Mudron inked and colored the panels.
“This is all Erik’s story,” Russell explained. “He came up with this wonderful script that was an 8-page story. We thought it would make a good centerpiece for the show.”
Russell’s First Thursday show runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Sequential Art Gallery, 328 NW Broadway. Also, check out his work online on the "Sabertooth Vampire.