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A Forever & Ever Interview with artist

Tom neely

Interviewed by Chris Auman

Published 2017

Artist Tom Neely
Photo by Joseph Michael Ruiz

Tom Neely's illustrations have appeared on countless concert posters and rock album and comic book covers and his graphic novel work has put him on The Comics Journal’s Best Graphic Novels of the Decade list (2000-2010) and earned him an Ignatz Award to boot. Neely, as a part of the Igloo Tornado collective, is also responsible for bringing the world the Henry and Glenn Forever series of comics, which depict Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig as devoted, but sometimes quarrelling lovers wedded in domestic bliss. Luckily for the Reglar Wiglar we were able to reach Tom on a break from his work in his Los Angeles studio.

The complete anthology Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever (Microcosm Publishing) is now available in paperback!

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever

RW: Have you had any interaction with or communication from Rollins or Danzig about the Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever series and if so, what was their reaction?

NEELY: When my art collective Igloo Tornado published the first zine back in 2005, we actually showed it to Henry at San Diego Comic Con and he signed a couple of them while saying “Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would not be amused.” Which became the blurb on the back of the book. And a couple of years ago in Henry’s LA Weekly column, he mentioned our book and said he thinks it’s funny the book exists, though he denies he has ever read it.

On the other hand Glenn doesn’t seem to like it at all, and I actually made a comic strip in the book called “The Final Blow” which is pretty much direct quotes of Glenn’s real reaction—a friend gave me a transcript of an outtake from a Decibel magazine interview in which he asked him about our book. In other interviews he has called me “opportunistic” and “extremely stupid” so I don’t think he’s a fan at all… However, I heard a rumor that he might have just moved to my neighborhood and I keep imagining myself as Dennis the Menace on his lawn asking Mr. Danzig to come out and play.

RW: Are there plans to continue the series, any spin-offs in the works, or has the concept run its course at this point?

NEELY: I won’t say it’s done, but it’s on hold while I’m working on various other projects. Every once in a while I think of a new idea for a story or a gag strip, so I’m pretty sure I will eventually do more. But nothing planned yet.

Henry and Glenn comic cover Henry and Glenn Completely Ridiculous comic cover

RW: Over 50 artists contributed work to H&G, did you solicit submissions or did you just start receiving them?

NEELY: After doing the original book with the Igloo Tornado, I was very enthusiastically persuaded to consider a follow up series by my friend Ed Luce. He insisted he had to draw something for it! I love his comics and wanted to work with him, so I considered opening up the concept to my other cartoonist friends from the indie comics scene. It just happened very organically that so many of my friends responded and wanted to riff on the idea, it was very fun to see it evolve through the eyes of all these artists.

RW: How did the Igloo Tornado collective begin and is it still active?

NEELY: We began back in 2004 when we were all young artists in the LA scene trying to figure out our careers. It was just s loose group of four friends who would get together and have beers and talk about each other’s art. The Henry and Glenn idea literally fell out of a beer bottle one night when we were doodling on bar napkins. We aren’t really “active” as a group any more, but are all still actively in art: Gin Stevens has been working in the fine arts gallery world for a while; Scot Nobles is still painting and teaching art in Colorado; I’m doing my comics and illustration work; and the anonymous Dino-Fucker is doing amazing work in animation and fantasy illustration.

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RW: Has there been any negative feedback, pushback, from the series from the Left or Right, concerning its subject matter?

NEELY: Ha—not really. I haven’t really dealt with any of it personally. I’ve heard some blow-back from hard-core Danzig fans—years ago there was some message board encouraging people to jump me at San Diego Comic Con, but nothing ever happened. Some people have literally judged the book by it’s cover and told me I made a “homophobic” joke book, but I think if anyone actually reads the contents and sees the diverse list of contributors, that argument falls flat.

Most of the feedback I encounter has been overwhelmingly positive from all kinds of fans of punk and metal music and fans of the real Henry and Glenn. Most fans of their music are big fans of the book—which makes me happy because I am a huge fan, too! It’s also been embraced by many in the LGBTQ community which makes me very happy.

RW: How did you get Rob Halford to write the forward? Was he already aware of the comic?

NEELY: I can hardly believe it myself, but I just e-mailed him! He said he was already a fan and jumped at the opportunity! Since we’ve become friends and we have talked about a possible project together that I can’t talk about yet.

RW: Are you still self-publishing through I Will Destroy You?

NEELY: Not so much anymore. I will occasionally put together a sketchbook zine or something for a comic convention, but I’ve been lucky to work with some great publishers from Microcosm to Image and recently with Silver Sprocket. I have some other books in the works and am considering various publishers for them as well. I love self-publishing and DIY, but there is so much work involved in promotion and marketing and shipping, that I feel my time is better spent drawing and creating new books and art.

RW: Do you ever publish the work of other artists?

NEELY: I tried to years ago. I put out an anthology called “Bound and Gagged” that has 50 or so of my fellow cartoonists doing weird one-panel-gag strips. I was inspired by working with Dylan Williams and Sparkplug Comic Books to expand and publish more people, but some life-altering things happened and I became more focused on my own art and just wanted to spend more time drawing.

Green Day Demolicious

RW: What are the biggest advantages/disadvantages of self-publishing?

NEELY: Biggest advantage is absolute control and nobody can tell you “NO.” My first book The Blot was going to be published by a bigger publisher, but I eventually pulled out of the deal to self-publish because of creative differences over the content and printing of the book. I didn’t want to change my vision for the book, so I did it myself.

Biggest disadvantage is distribution and promotion. The comics world has a big problem with distribution of indie comics and anything out of the ordinary. And trying to independently promote yourself in this noisy world is a constant struggle. My second book The Wolf kinda sank my self-publishing goals because it was never picked up for distribution and was generally too weird for comic shop audiences. I still have a warehouse full of copies of that book and it’s only available on my website. It’s too bad because I think it’s one of my best, but I learned from it and moved on to new things.

Having my self-publishing goals kinda collapse pushed me to work towards getting published and collaborating with others and that lead to The Humans and Henry & Glenn, which has been very good to me. I don’t mean to sound to down on it though. It ain’t easy, but I absolutely encourage self-publishing as a place for any artist to start their career. There are zine fests and indie festivals all over the country and it’s a great community to be a part of and grow as an artist. Everything I did in self-publishing has lead to greater opportunities in my career.

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RW: You’ve done album and poster art for Green Day, Groovie Ghoulies, Isis, Melvins, do these bands align with your musical tastes generally? Any bands you’d love to do work for that you haven't yet?

NEELY: Yeah—I’ve always sought to work with bands that I connect with—either musically or personally as friends. My music taste runs all over the place, but my art seems to work best with the Metal and Punk genres. Lately I’ve been working with Psycho Entertainment designing posters and merch for their annual festival in Las Vegas. Last year’s festival had like every band I could imagine wanting to do artwork for—and next year's will take that another level. It’s kind of a dream job at the moment.

RW: Do you listen to music when you draw and if so, what's the most conducive band, album or genre to get you going?

NEELY: I listen to different things at different stages of my process. Lots of music, but also books on tape and podcasts and sometimes too much news. It’s hard to pinpoint specific bands or albums. Music can really affect my mood, so it depends on what I’m working on. And I’m constantly looking for new music, so it changes all the time. Lately I’ve been into this new wave of death rock and goth that a lot of my friends are making, but also I can’t get enough trap.

Your Disease Spread Quick Tom Neely

RW: Growing up in Paris, TX before the Internet, how did you find out about the music, comics and movies that would eventually ruin your brain?

NEELY: Oh, it was a constant hunt for anything and everything different or strange! There was tape-trading by mail —I remember getting my first Misfits tape from a friend I made at Church Camp in the 6th grade. Whenever I could make a trip to the nearby big city, Dallas, I would go to every comic shop and music store I could find in the yellow pages. Bills Records and Tapes in Dallas was where I found most of my alternative, metal and punk music. I scoured flea markets and yard sales for old copies of Creepy and Eerie and other weird comics that I couldn’t find at the drug store. And there was a used book store in Paris that had a small section of new comics as well as old longboxes to dig through. I actually did my first “professional” job as an artist painting a mural of superheroes for their front window when I was 15.

RW: What was your first concert?

NEELY: Bon Jovi and Cinderella, Slippery When Wet Tour.

RW: According to your website, you are currently working on your third graphic novel, The Devil? How is that progressing and do you have any details about how and when that will be published?

NEELY: It’s still progressing slowly! I’ve got about half of it penciled, but I’m not sure when it will be finished. I’ve spent the last several months working on various freelance projects to save some money before I can devote more time to drawing my comics. I’m also in the early stages of planning the next Humans mini-series: The Jungle.

RW: The comic you did which was inspired by the music of the Melvins, Your Disease Spread Quick, how did that come about?

NEELY: I had become friends with Aaron Turner (formerly of the band ISIS, currently SUMAC and others) who at the time was running Hydra Head Records. I did various art projects with them and The Melvins book was a part of a vinyl box set that they released in 2008(?). Aaron is a big comics fan and he just thought it would be cool to see what I would do with interpreting their album as a comic book. It was a really fun project and I still love that story.

RW: Are you going to finish that pecan cobbler?

NEELY: Is it vegan?

The Humans vol 2 Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller

Read more comics artist interviews:

Jesse Reklaw
John Porcellino
Hans Rickheit
Mimi Pond
Ed Piskor
Derf Backderf
Andrew Maclean
Jef Czekaj
Jeffrey Brown
Box Brown
Simon Gane
Corinne Halbert
Ben Snakepit


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