Thanks to the great cartoonist, critic and educator, Stephen R. Bissette, who generously got the whole project going, last year Dark Horse Books finally–after more than two decades!–collected the 3-issue Freaks’ Amour comic-book series into a full-fledged and beautifully produced graphic novel. The series was originally scripted by Dana Marie Andra and drawn by Phil Hester and Ande Parks. To make the package deluxe, Steve wrong a long introduction, the artists contributed new drawings, Dana wrote an afterward, Gary Panter permitted us to reprint his 3-page Freaks’ Amour adaptation (first published in Young Lust, 1980), and I wrote a brand-new story set in the Freaks’ world, but decades after the story in the novel. It was a little daunting to go back to material I’d worked on when I was 28, 29 years old, but it proved a lot of fun. For some time I’d been wanting to do another “monolog/one-side-of-a-conversation” story–hadn’t done anything along those lines since Sunburn Lake–and so that’s what I did with “There Used to Be Freaks.” It’s very short and very pointed–it’s not the most subtle fiction I’ve ever written–but I was pleased with the result. (The graphic novel, by the way, is still very much in print and available.)
Only three works of mine, alas, have ever been optioned for the movies: “He’s All Mine” (one of the novellas in Sunburn Lake) was optioned in the late 1980s by the actress and director Anne DeSalvo; Jersey Luck was optioned, also in the late 1980s, by producer Jonathan Brett and director Susan Seidelman; in the early 2000s, it was briefly optioned by a small New York-based production company whose name escapes me (and I can’t find the contracts: no matter). Freaks’ Amour was optioned half a dozen times since its publication in 1979, most seriously–meaning there was more to it than just a check involved, there was at least some development–by Ray Stark Productions at Columbia Pictures in the early 1980s, and, in the early 90s, by the director Alex Proyas and the producer Andrew Mason for Mystery Clock, an Australian film company (Alex and Andrew are both Australian). The actor Ed Asner once tried to option Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies, but his best offer was $1000 for an 18-month option, and despite my fondness for the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” I turned it down. Continue reading
The sequence of ten vignettes below originally appeared in RAW #8 (1986), the comics anthology edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly; Art gave me pica and line counts and I wrote to spec, unifying the sequence by making each part of it pertain, in one way or another, to the lives of cartoonists. The title, which Art came up with, is a jokey reference to my first novel, Freaks’ Amour (1979). During the time I wrote these, I was also working on a book of linked novellas eventually published, in 1988, as Sunburn Lake, which accounts for the address of the Spangler Home-Study School of Professional Cartooning in the first vignette. In 1985 I’d published Funny Papers, the first novel in my trilogy about the fictional “Derby Dugan” comic strip; for the third novel in the trilogy, Dugan Under Ground (2001), I shamlessly cannibalized from nearly all of these vignettes, which still rank high, near the top, on my list of favorite creations.