MESA WAR­RIOR AT THE HEART OF TAOS COMICS

Tales of Taos star­ring the Mesa War­rior re­calls un­der­ground comics of yore

Tempo - - CONTENTS - By Rick Ro­mancito

You re­mem­ber Robert Crumb, right? That guy who un­leashed a flurry of wacked-out psy­chotropic hand-drawn fan­tasies that burned up the reti­nas of pot­heads in the 1960s via his sem­i­nal ZAP Comix? Well, here in Taos, there’s a guy named Michael North, 48, who is car­ry­ing on the tra­di­tion be­gun by Crumb, and he’s ready to launch the first is­sue of his Taos Comics Sun­day ( April 1).

So per­va­sive was Crumb’s reach in the ‘ 60s and early ‘ 70s, a whole crop of home­grown news­pa­pers and comic books flooded cities and towns where coun­ter­cul­ture freaks hung their beads and head­bands. In them you could find ev­ery­thing from or­ganic gar­den­ing tips to cool ways to dec­o­rate your roach clips to se­ri­ous re­port­ing on the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal up­heaval sur­round­ing one Richard M. Nixon.

It was all rev­o­lu­tion­ary and sub­ver­sive, and done as a way to take the me­dia by the horns and grind it into a grass­roots net­work owned by no one and no­body.

Along those lines, North has been qui­etly nur­tur­ing the ideas be­hind his new ven­ture in the only place one would imag­ine could pro­vide the most fer­tile ground: The Mesa.

“I orig­i­nally did it be­cause I wanted to make some­thing satir­i­cal based on ac­tual peo­ple, places and events, and maybe just blow it out of pro­por­tion a lit­tle bit to make it funny,” North said in an in­ter­view af­ter Tempo no­ticed a re­cent Face­book post about his im­pend­ing pub­li­ca­tion.

As one might imag­ine, North finds a lot of ma­te­rial out there to pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion.

“You don’t even have to be a writer. You could just look around you,” he said. “I’m not a writer any­way, so, this is per­fect.”

North’s comic is all hand-drawn in black- and- white pen- and- ink to a size he can eas­ily copy old- school style. Each weekly is­sue will cost about a buck, but if the idea takes off and he starts mak­ing a lit­tle money at it, the price might go up to $ 3.

“I’m more of an artist, but ev­ery­body’s say­ing I’m do­ing a re­ally good job writ­ing this be­cause I’m break­ing peo­ple up into fac­tions and mak­ing a big drama out of it,” he said. “I re­al­ized since I’m telling it from the point- of- view of ‘ me,’ the main char­ac­ter, I wanted to write his ori­gin, and the more I wrote this char­ac­ter, the more com­plex he got. He started to re­mind me of a Marvel su­per­hero named Moon Knight. I was think­ing, ‘Wow, I should make it like him.’”

That char­ac­ter is called the Mesa War­rior, a Mad Max- like, tac­ticalout­fit­ted dude who wan­ders the mesa and gets into all sorts of ad­ven­tures … and stuff.

While the satire and hu­mor re­mains, North said that as he con­tin­ued to draw, some of the story be­came more dra­matic.

In­ter­est­ingly, North, who was born in Peek­skill, New York and came to Taos from At­lanta, Ge­or­gia about five years ago, said he gleaned a cer­tain amount of his in­spi­ra­tion from his mom. “She was one of the most pro­lific med­i­cal il­lus­tra­tors of our time,” he said. Her name was Peggy Firth.

On the website for Firth Stu­dios ( firth­stu­dios. com), North writes,

“It is with great sad­ness that I an­nounce Peggy Firth’s pass­ing on the night of July 18th 2015. She was taken very sud­denly by liver can­cer. She was an amaz­ing woman who ded­i­cated her life to the tra­di­tional pen and ink craft­ing of med­i­cal il­lus­tra­tions. As her son I helped her work make it into the new dig­i­tal age, and it will be a life goal of mine to show the world what she has done for it.”

North said he worked closely with his mother, as­sist­ing her with the pro­duc­tion of her il­lus­tra­tions. Af­ter she passed, he said he has em­barked on find­ing his own artis­tic path.

“I didn’t know what to do at first,” he said, “So, I went around to peo­ple that have lived here for a long time and I asked, ‘Do you have any cool old true sto­ries? And, sure enough, I got some great ones. You know, this town has a lot of dark stuff, a lot of dark sto­ries, so I’m kinda leav­ing that stuff out. I’m just fo­cus­ing on the re­ally amaz­ing things, and the things that re­ally make us unique.”

The first is­sue comes out to 12 pages and in­cludes a cover, a story and even some ads. “I didn’t even have to do any mar­ket­ing. I just put that thing up on Face­book that you saw, and peo­ple started call­ing me want­ing ads. I’m not only de­sign­ing the ads for them, but this one guy I’m mak­ing a su­per­hero for his ads, and we’re go­ing to do a spinoff, a lit­tle ‘ zine just for him. This is go­ing way bet­ter than I thought it would.”

Be­yond Taos Comics, North has some am­bi­tious plans. Aside from find­ing some re­li­able stu­dio space in town, he said he’s also look­ing at cre­at­ing a con­sor­tium of sorts called the Taos Comics Group made up of like- minded il­lus­tra­tors and sto­ry­tellers to help flesh out his comic and maybe even cre­ate oth­ers.

He has an art de­gree and has worked in il­lus­tra­tion al­most all his life. “Just never for my­self,” he said. With an is­sue slated to pub­lish each week, North said he’s also think­ing of bring­ing in some help.

Those in­ter­ested in help­ing him with sto­ries, time or ex­per­tise can call ( 575) 741- 9086. “Just give me a call and we’ll set up a time to talk,” he said.

So, watch for North sell­ing his new comic on the streets of Taos. Be sure to tell him to keep on truckin’.

... NORTH HAS BEEN QUI­ETLY NUR­TUR­ING THE IDEAS BE­HIND HIS NEW VEN­TURE IN THE ONLY PLACE ONE WOULD IMAG­INE COULD PRO­VIDE THE MOST FER­TILE GROUND: THE MESA.

COUR­TESY IM­AGE

THE FRONT PAGE of Taos Comics first is­sue by Michael North.

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