Thanks to all who have responded to the release of Rare Bit Fiends #22 and purchased a copy over on Amazon.com. And double thanks to those who also purchased Super Catchy, my other new Print On Demand title from Sun Comics. Seeing as how many memories might be hazed and glazed from the events of the last twenty years, I thought it might be a good idea to run my Little Omens editorial, which offers a concise history of Rare Bit Fiends and my thoughts on the new material I’m generating.
It has been twenty years since the last LITTLE OMENS (and the last issue of my dream diary in comic book form, RARE BIT FIENDS).
A self published series launched in 1994; RARE BIT FIENDS had been bankrolled in serendipitous fashion by a financial meltdown of the American comics industry. In 1993 a giant speculator bubble had formed in the marketplace and I’d been lucky enough to get a few top selling superhero books through the system before the whole shithouse went up in chunks. Suddenly flush with capital, I was in a position to ignore the usual commercial considerations and do what I really wanted to do.
And that was to launch a dream comic.
I got into dreamwork in my early twenties and had come to rely on it as a sort of psychological keel that helped me navigate life’s undercurrents. I very much wanted to somehow meld my dreamwork and my comics work, but for many years wasn’t sure how to do it.
RARE BIT FIENDS began in my notebooks as an answer to Scott McCloud’s 24 Hour Comic Challenge. I didn’t do any of those first three issues in a continuous 24 hour stretch as per Scott’s rules, but spent fifteen minutes a day sketching my dreams. After a few months I was happy and intrigued by both the process and the results.
The act of drawing any dream seemed to give me a deeper understanding of its potential meaning. And having a visual record of a lot of dreams, to revisit from time to time, always provided fresh insights.
While other cartoonists had drawn dream themed comics, and artists everywhere have painted, sculpted, filmed and danced their dreams, I knew of no one anywhere who had created an extensive personal library of comic book dream art; enough so the the patterns that run through dreams could be easily appreciated. I was a prolific commercial comic book man and I knew once I got going I’d churn out a fair amount of material. And in the process perhaps make a real contribution to the understanding of dreams.
Things went pretty well for the first couple years. I was in my forties, barnstorming the country, part of a small group of self publishers. I engaged this gang of eclectic creatives into contributing their own dreams in the form of the ROAD BITS sketchbook I carried with me to our comic conventions and gatherings. And when these folks appeared in my dreams, along with other artists and writers I knew, I shanghaied their likenesses into my book. (Thanks to all for being good sports!)
On a very strange level, RARE BIT FIENDS became a distorted funhouse mirror reflecting my relationships within an extraordinary group of comic book people at an exciting time to be doing comics.
Some of these cronies also created fully realized dream comics of their own. And readers filled my post office box with submissions which I ran in LITTLE OMENS. At conventions so many fans told me their dreams I felt like a conduit for the collective unconscious of comics.
The International Association For The Study Of Dreams found me and declared RARE BIT FIENDS to be the first egalitarian dream art journal; something they had been on the lookout for. I was in LIFE Magazine.
RARE BIT FIENDS was very much an “underground art” book rather than a solid commercial title, so sales were never great. But they were decent enough that, aided by my fast dwindling bubble money and freelance side jobs, I could keep body and soul together and pump out an issue every month. But as 1996 rolled around, the systemic damage inflicted by the financial meltdown brought the comics biz to cratered ruin. After months of distributors going bust, I had to throw in the towel. What the bubble had giveth, the bubble tooketh away.
But now I’m back; once again thanks to some recent commercial success and able to work on what I really want to do: dream comics. The new story I want to tell in RARE BIT FIENDS is THE ART OF MERCURIUS. I hope it will offer some sense of where I think all dreams are heading. Or perhaps, more to the point, where they originate.
Mercurius is an enigmatic figure at the arcane core of alchemy, being descibed as both the beginning and end of whatever it was the old alchemists were doing. Most people think of turning lead into gold or Harry Potter style spell casting when they think of alchemists, but I’m here to tell you they were into something else entirely. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was one of the first to see it in our time, but his writings can be very confusing.
This new RARE BIT FIENDS material is my attempt to share with readers how I personally came to grips with what Jung and the alchemists (and as it turns out many others) were actually talking about; direct experience of the living heart of nature.
When I make a statement like that, I hope you won’t assume I’m the victim of some sort of mind cult. While there definitely is a cult of personality around C.J. Jung, we dreamworkers recognize the extraordinary value of his research. He left us a realistic model of the human psyche and the tools to investigate it. What Einstein is to physics, Jung is to dreamwork.
Here also is the second installment of my SUBTLEMAN arc, which I left dangling back in 1996. SUBTLEMAN focuses on what I like to call “shamanic” dreams. These are dreams that seem to hint at deeper layers of reality, the presence of other dreaming entities and the physics of consciousness.
The 45 year old Roarin’ Rick who did SUBTLEMAN is now the 65 year old doing THE ART OF MERCURIUS.
Fans of the earlier RARE BIT FIENDS will note a change in the names of my publishing imprint; from KING HELL PRESS to SUN COMICS. When I was a little kid doing my own home brew comics, I named my imprint SUN COMICS. I had the recent good fortune to be gifted with the rights to the SUN COMICS domain name and have decided to do my new Print On Demand titles (which will be available on Amazon.com) under this new/old name.
Rick Veitch Windham Hill, Vermont December 2016Comments Off on A Short History of Rare Bit Fiends