Thursday, November 26, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #18: John G.

As I type this, it happens to be Thanksgiving, a day usually reserved for showing lots of appreciation for things you dig, eating yourself into a turkey coma, and watching Texas A&M rumble against the arch-nemesis Longhorns. (Gig 'em, Ags!)

The Aggie part is still pending (though looking bleak, as we are down two touchdowns early in the third quarter) and the food is digesting, but I still have the warm and fuzzies when I think about all the wonderful people I've gotten to know this year. I could go on for hours about this particular list, and maybe I should (and not just on Thanksgiving Day), but for now, I'd like to highlight one of the folks on it.

John G. is an artist. I'd like to elaborate on that statement, but I don't know where to begin. I could say he's a poster artist or maybe a comic artist - the media he's known best for around town - but that seems unnecessarily and inaccurately limiting. So, I'll say he's an artist. He's also a cool dude. And he loves kitties. I may be a canine man myself, but I appreciate anyone who surrounds himself with pets.

John is also the dude who is gracious enough to design the posters for my new Show of the Month project. In other words, he's the guy who has to field my micromanaging emails about bands and dates and characters and such.

Right now, John G. is also one of the folks behind the latest and greatest new event to make Cleveland its home, Genghis Con. Like other comic conventions, Genghis Con will feature opportunities to meet the artists and creators of some of your favorite comic work, but the focus here is on the edgy and often underground yet totally vital scene that has continued to thrive in the midwest and, especially, Cleveland. (Click here for more detailed info and here for a brief blurb about the event from the folks at Cleveland Scene.)

In a city where far too many people seem eager to leave and most of the ones who want to stay are content with patting themselves on the backs just for saying so, John G. and folks like him are vital cultural assets. John isn't flapping, he's doing, and I'm really impressed with the event he's had a hand in bringing to our shore. I'm also proud to call him my friend. Now check out what he has to say about Cleveland and all the rest.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I was born at St. John's Hospital on Cleveland's West Side. I grew up in Lakewood for the most part. I've been out in Avon Lake for the past ten years, making things in The Cave.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

On September 12th, 2001, Federation X played Speak in Tongues. I had never heard them before and seeing them play was life altering. They were raw, heavy, and dirged out; filthier than I was (which, at the time was overly goddamned filthy). They sounded like exuberant thunder, and played on the floor in front of the stage. I sat towards the back and felt the world bend and warp around me. They were touring in support of their monumental American Folk Horror record. Everything was all up in the air in that moment, and these guys were grounded in the dirt and grit of the earth like nothing I had ever seen or heard. It made me feel stronger and better. I left there somewhat disoriented, but knowing everything was going to be okay.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

This is a question I think we could probably focus an entire interview all just to answer. I think my work and Cleveland are inextricably linked.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day?

I'd get up early and spend the morning hours reading comics and relaxing. To tie this to the city I guess I'd do this at a coffee shop like Gypsy at 65th or Arabica at 116th, both on Detroit. I don't do this nearly enough, just relaxing. Mostly, I'm chained to a drafting table or running around making things happen.

By 10:30 or 11:00 or so I'd be in The Monastery at the drafting table working on my own comics. I spend most of my time drawing posters. I love doing that, but I would block out a bunch of hours specifically for making comics. The comics I've been working on for the past few years have been Clevelyn Stories. They're my own weird take on the city, right now, in this prolonged moment. Clevelyn is an alternate version of Cleveland, populated by animal people and robots.

I'd break the chain and escape the work at some point in the evening. I'd be starving, so I'd call my people and arrange to get some food. I would assign numbers to Melt(1), Angelo's Pizza(2), Phnom Penh(3), Szechwan Garden(4), Nuevo Acapulco(5), and Crostata's Pizzeria(6). I would roll a die, and whatever the corresponding number lands, that would be the restaurant we would go to.

After that, let's say I would find myself in the throws of a serious dog walking with high quality peoples through a comfortable close knit neighborhood. Stretch out the evening. Spend some time talking about nothing and watching the world go by.

In the night, I'm pretty sure there would be at some form of musical performance happening somewhere that I would be inclined to witness. Most likely at Now That's Class.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I have some artist friends coming in this weekend for Genghis Con, and one of the things I'm definitely going to do is make sure we eat at Melt. Other than that, there's a lot going on, it being Thanksgiving weekend. I'm not sure if there's anything specifically Cleveland-ish we'll be doing. I'll probably take them to the studio (behind Front Room Gallery in Tyler Village) I'm working in now and we'll probably draw. I also want to check out the Capital Theater over on W. 65th at some point.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Warm, moderate weather all year.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commisioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

I had this one plan to scoop up all the condemned and derelict vacant property, and blow it all up on the fourth of July, but that didn't pan out. Honestly, I wouldn't even know what to say to politicos. I think it's time to just face the fact that all the old systems are toast. Time for new systems.

To meet John, make plans to hit Genghis Con on Saturday 11/28 from noon to 6 PM at the Beachland Ballroom. Admission is a mere $5 and gets you, in return, a binding so that you can assemble your own custom-designed comic book from samples available from participating artists.

And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co, Paulius Nasvytis, Lawrence Daniel Caswell, Curtis Thompson, John Ewing, and Shannon Okey.

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