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Peter Menice (by Brad Gilchrist)
Brad Gilchrist (by Peter Menice)
I'm not sure how the idea of writing each other's bios came up. Perhaps it's just that neither one of us likes talking about ourselves? Here it goes, Peter... if I go on too long, it's just my way of getting even for your two-hour marathon phone calls...
I first met Peter in New York at the Reuben Awards (the cartoonists' equivalent of the Oscars). Peter was a new acquaintance of my best friend Mark Brewer, and we instantly hit it off. After the awards ceremony, we hung out in a bar at the World Trade Center. We spent many hours talking about baseball, the Zen of installing ceramic tile, comic strips, passive solar homes, philosophy, and the overwhelming feeling that we had met in a Turkish prison sometime in a previous life. I'm making up the part about the previous life, but it did sort of feel that way and I'm pretty sure the bartender was Turkish. Or maybe I'd had a turkey sandwich for lunch. I can't remember.
I recall feeling a little bit jealous of Peter's good looks, athletic physique, tai chi moves, baseball prowess, and total recall of great philosophical quotations. Eventually, the fact that I was syndicated, writing a national feature, and had worked with Jim Henson offset all of Peter's annoying attributes. Then I found out that he got to use Charles Schulz's baseball glove earlier that day in a cartoonist baseball game.
I was jealous again.
One of the topics that took Peter, Mark and me deep into a night of discussion was a comic strip idea of mine. Back then it was called Down To Earth, and it has since evolved into The Green House. Mark and I were considering working on it together, and I could see that Peter was intrigued with the concept. You see, Peter's into all kinds of new age, hippie, karma, vegan, tree-hugging kinds of stuff... and I was just entering the realm of serious, environmental consciousness. I could see that Peter was a little envious of Mark's participation in the budding strip. Ha! One for my side!
Oops. I almost forgot. This is supposed to be Peter's bio.
Peter draws really great caricatures. He has drawn editorial cartoons for the Hull Times, a South Shore Boston newspaper, for at least ten years now (and they are brilliant cartoons, really). He has worked on a couple of very clever comic strip concepts and inked for a few well-known comic strips. He's done about as many odd jobs as I have -- tiling, building, waiting tables, commercial fishing -- and took on a few singing telegram gigs I promised I wouldn't mention, so I won't.
He moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, about five years ago, because they had a lot more new age meditation groups than Hull did... and he writes more in his amazing journals in one night than I write in my comic strips in a month.
Peter competes in Triathlons. He loves baseball, music, reading, Danielle, Pema, Bodhi, his family, Barney the cat, Chaco the dog, his grandfather's inventions, and talking on the phone for hours (not necessarily in that order).
Okay, back to my narrative.
Well, it didn't pan out for Mark and me, and the Down To Earth idea was buried for a few years. I started exhuming it last fall. One afternoon as I was pulling out the old roughs, guess who I hear talking to me from my answering machine? Peter Menice.
I waited a few days to call him back (didn't want him thinking I was too anxious), and it was just too much of a coincidence that we were thinking about each other after four years. Maybe it was Midnight Express showing on HBO that did it?
Peter and I talked about The Green House for hours and hours, and we both connected so well on it that we decided we had to get together and talk about it in person.
I drove up to Boston where Peter was visiting his parents. I met his whole family, we read my roughs together... looked at his art... and it was definitely a match. In the world of comic strips, I believe Peter's an artist who just hadn't found his niche yet... and I was a writer who just hadn't found the right vehicle for my writing style.
Two drifters... off to see the world...
We started working on the story lines, hashing out the characters and just getting comfortable with the concept. In March 2005, I agreed to go out to New Mexico, help him tile his mother-in-law's house (Hi, Joyce!) and see how we got along. It was clear that my writing and his art were clicking. If we could tile a floor together, we'd certainly be able to handle the daily task of creating a comic together.
Staying with his family, we all bonded and the project began to really find its "place." (That's kinda like it's "chi," isn't it, Peter?) I know this sounds drippy, but what became obvious is this is what we were meant to do. It's not just about creating a comic, it's about our families, beliefs, and about joining the larger consciousness of concerned spirits. I've already received so much from Peter, Danielle, Pema, Bodhi, Joyce and her tile... and I've found a soul brother with whom to share my dreams. Anything beyond this point is just vegan gravy.
I've been truly blessed to find Peter, his Dan Millman books, and a new path to blaze. I'm certain that our combined talents will create at a circle of friendship that will be eternally fulfilling. At least it might keep us out of Turkish prisons.
Thank you, Peter!
Thanks to Brad Gilchrist, I now have worms. Bad. And I've never been more appreciative. They're sprawled all over my drafting table in comic superhero fashion. Really.
I'm a sucker for a great super hero whether it be of the human or wriggly kind, because they remind me that we all have our own unique gifts that make us super when used for the greater good. Batman is my favorite because he was just an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things. Like Brad Gilchrist. Bradman. Brad is that kind of super hero. I was actually intimidated by Brad, as we mortals are in the presence of a real hero. After all, he has attained everything I was working so hard for: super gag-writing strength, the ability to appear in more than one newspaper at the same time, and cartoonist nirvana: SYNDICATION!
And what's not to be intimidated by? He is a truly gifted writer with sharp comic instincts. Our phone conversations are mottled with his quick wit, outrageous word play and brilliant insight. He extracts the remarkable out of the mundane and can easily serve universal truths on a personal, emotional level. Truly, the markings of a great comic strip creator. And he can draw, too! His brush work is easily some of the best I've seen. It's a rare blend of sophisticated line that forms lovable characters reminiscent of Walt Kelly. His CT Fan comic is a rare gem.
He writes "Nancy" -- we all know that -- but did you know he used to work with Jim Henson on the Muppets strip? And this at the young age of 19? He even got to slip his hand into actual Muppets, making Fozzie, Grover and Kermit talk under his spell. I once slipped my hand into Charles Schulz's baseball glove, but it looked stupid when I tried to make it talk.
And if that's not enough, he is also a loving and caring husband and father. He often works late into the night to meet a deadline because he is serving his populace like a true super dad, opening his home to his kids' friends for safe fun, helping to build a life-size mythological beast for his daughter's school project with wings that actually work, caring for a houseful of pets and repairing anything at any time. I've seen it.
While Brad was visiting my home in New Mexico, I got up late one night to get a drink of water in the kitchen and caught Brad red-handed fixing my faucet by moonlight. He can't help it. It's in his blood.
I first heard of Brad several years ago from a mutual friend, Mark Brewer, who was raving about Brad's new comic brainchild about a super hero worm. Mark was so thrilled to be illustrating this worm with a seasoned cartoonist like Brad he could hardly contain himself. And I was SO genuinely happy for him. Well, I was mildly amused at his good fortune.
Okay, I was envious. I mean I had been working on my own strip and was sweating over the gag writing so much I had no time to draw the danged thing. And here's Mark simply and easily drawing his way to comic nirvana while Brad sweats out the writing part. And to top it off, he was drawing a worm! No hands to screw up -- a cartoonist's dream.
Later that year at the NCS Reuben Awards in New York City, Mark introduced me to Brad. As I shook his hand, I was thinking, "Hey, this is the worm guy." And he really was... gentle, quiet, really down to earth. So much so that he quelled any instinctive thought I had to take on this syndicated cartoonist by introducing myself as his arch rival and vowing to use my own unique gifts for the greater bad. Yes, his super, grounding demeanor had brought me back down to earth, reducing my diabolical plot to a mere wriggling of an earthworm. Wow...He had more super power than I thought!
We hit it off immediately. We shared a passion for the environment, the Red Sox, and the aesthetic beauty and durability of ceramic tile. He was the perfect compliment to my puppy-dog-like mind. We knew that we were destined to team up on a major project together. So in March 2005, we tiled my mother-in-law's floor together. Brad mixed the mud; I slapped the tiles in place.
Brad had flown out to New Mexico so we could bond over his brilliant comic strip idea about the worm. We bonded like a couple of kids playing in the mud. Work felt like play and it spilled over into the strip. Our fate was sealed. We became mud brothers. How I got reconnected with Brad is pure magic. I was calling him up to run an idea by him about combining the environment, baseball and ceramics into the greatest comic strip ever. (Hey, they say write what you know and draw what you love.)
What I got instead was more than I could ever imagine -- a dream come true. I was offered that rare opportunity to work alongside a master of my chosen craft, and my work has grown to super-hero strength ever since.
As it turned out, Mark Brewer had decided he liked drawing hands and feet after all.
Brad asked me to collaborate with him and we are now creating the comic strip with the worm. Brad mixes, I slap them into place. I started out humbled in the presence of one who has reached nirvana not once but many times -- a rare feat indeed. But instead of a sidekick, I felt like an equal Super Hero. You can't help but be spiritually lifted in his presence. He gave me a task and like our own little Earthworm with the mask and cape, I passed with flying colors.
Thanks to Brad -- my partner in grime -- I now have worms. Tons of them now. For this I am grateful!