A Little Butch Never Hurt Nobody: David Wright chats with Lee Adam Herold (pt.1)
Dave: Let's start this off with a light breezy question: As a creator of a serial killer that is close to death (well causing it, actually) all the time, I have to ask, have you ever seen anyone die in person?
Lee: Well, there's no statute of limitations on homicide, Dave. I'm not about to incriminate myself. Oh wait, you said "SEEN", not "MADE", didn't you?
I once drove past a fatal accident apparently just minutes after it had happened. A tractor trailer was on top of a station wagon, and the whole wreck was still smoking. A woman was protruding from the windshield of the car, and she was obviously dead.
Her head and arm were sticking out. There were other cars stopped everywhere and people standing around in hysterics. A bunch of guys were going over to the wreck with a tarp to cover the woman up. There were kids' toys scattered all over the road, presumably from the station wagon. I don't know if anyone else was in the car. If they were, I don't see how they could have survived. We didn't stop because there were so many other people stopped already, and my wife and I don't have any medical training, so we just would have been spectators.
Dave: You are about to release a book of your comics, and a plush Butch doll, how did that deal come about?
Lee: Through the magic of KeenSpot, of course. Chris Crosby contacted me saying they were interested in doing some merchandise. Books, toys, calendars, etc. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. Well, Chris might tell you otherwise as it took me FOREVER to get stuff together for him. A couple of ugly hiatuses got in the way. I'm really really bad at keeping up with stuff sometimes. But Chris, with the patience of Job, waited me out and everything finally came together just in time for Halloween, appropriately.
Dave: Do you have the book or plush doll yet?
Lee: Nope. Everything's at Keenspot. They're not actually AVAILABLE until just before Halloween. KS is taking PRE-orders now.
Dave: Speaking of hiatuses, what was behind the occasional lack of updates?
Lee: *sigh*... Crack is a harsh mistress, Dave. Actually, I was back in school. I was directing most of my creative energies there, and I found I just couldn't keep up with schoolwork and the comic. Weak excuse, I know. Oh, I almost forgot: In addition to that, I decided to permanently quit doing CB. See how bad I am at keeping up with things? I couldn't even QUIT right.
Dave: Why were you going to quit?
Lee: Ah, my passion was gone. The gags just weren't coming. Truth be known, I think I've figured out what drives me... Misery. When I started doing CB, I was working at a bank. I HATED every moment of my daily existence there. Consequently, I had no problem writing CB. When the bank laid me off and I went back to school, I started actually feeling good about myself, and suddenly I found it hard to get my CB focus back. I graduated in March and started working, and then I was abruptly laid off again in June, with one day's notice, the day before my birthday. That's when I started CB up again. Now, I'm far from
miserable right now, but I still haven't found a job so I can draw on that. I'm best at CB when I'm feeling down about myself. One of the joys of being creative AND depressive at the same time, I suppose.
Dave: I know that feeling; my most creative periods were my most miserable. What did you go to school for? What new career path are you on?
Lee: Web design... not that you'd know it from the CB site.
Dave: 2 other of your Altbrand brethren have also gotten laid off recently. Have you commiserated with them? Is this some Altbrand curse?
Lee: Damn. No, I don't talk to anybody. Ever. Actually, I did exchange a couple emails with Bup recently. I dunno' what's going on. Maybe Satan is trying to destroy us. You're working, aren't you?
Dave: Yeah, but I'm not part of Altbrand. Speaking of which, what *is* going on with Altbrand? It's been static since last October.
Lee: Oh yeah. We're... uh... planning something HUGE! HUGE, I tell you. It's... uh... we got nothin'. We're a dropdown, really. Personally, it was just too tough keeping energy for CB going without the added drag of trying to do other projects as well. Some web cartoonists can juggle multiple projects (as I think you yourself may be aware). I am not one of them. I can't speak for the other guys, but Gluemeat really took off for Case, Xaviar is rockin' with the Comixpedia, Brad has lots of his own stuff going on, Burke is English. You know. We had big ideas at first, but reality caught up, I guess. I don't think any of us has the time or energy to work on the site or side projects anymore.
Dave: Finding time to do the comic can be a strain on personal relationships, particularly when you aren't making a lot of money on it. Is that ever a problem in your family?
Lee: No, not really. I work on it LATE LATE at night. I'm often up until 3 or 4AM. I almost always write and draw the thing the night before it goes up, so I really spent very little time on it when my family is awake. Of course, the new baby is often up at 3 and 4AM TOO, so maybe my wife would like it if I weren't down in the basement doodling then. But it's okay. She would just really like it if I could start making money from it. My kids don't know what it's about, but...
...they can't wait to get a couple Beanie Butches.
Dave: So, while most people picture you drawing in pitch black darkness with Black Tape for a Blue Girl or some other goth or metal music in the background, perhaps a victim tied up in the corner, you are in fact playing nursery music, and burping your baby?
Lee: Yes, but I don't wipe off the vomit when I come down to do the comic. I do play stuff like NIN, Evanescence, Rob Zombie while I draw, too. It helps bring me down to the right level.
Dave: Last time we spoke, your kids were 4 and 6 and you said that they hadn't really seen CB. Now that they are a few years older, have they seen the comic?
Lee: They're 7 & 9 now, and no, I don't think it's appropriate for them. I use naughty words sometimes, and occasionally graphic images. They recognize Butch, and they know he's not necessarily a good guy, but they don't know that he kills people. If I'm still doing it when they're in high school, they can see it then.
Dave: Recently you did a bestiality strip, did you get any bad reaction from that?
Lee: Oral sex with the cat, right? No, but there seemed to be some confusion about whether Butch was giving or receiving. I thought the box of gauze bandages on the table would convey the point that he was receiving, but sometimes you don't know how a gag will work until you see it through other peoples' eyes. I guess I didn't quite pull it off right.
Occasionally I try to touch on the things that Butch is drawing from as a killer, and abuse of animals is always pointed at as an early indicator for sociopathic behavior. But in truth, I've never really gotten much of a bad reaction to anything I've done. Which either means that I've got the coolest readers in the world, or that NO ONE reads me. I choose to believe the former.
Dave: Unless there was another bestiality comic....I'm sure some uptight group of people will eventually find your comic and claim it as offensive. Speaking of offensive, what do *you* find offensive?
Lee: Penguins... No, um... anything dealing with exploiting or abusing kids (remember "proud pederast" from my message board?). Outside of that, not much, probably. People are far too easily offended these days. I mean, I have a lot of strongly-held beliefs, and I have opinions on right & wrong... but it's kind of silly to get offended by things that disagree with them. Kids are innocent though, and they lose that innocence all too quickly. They should be allowed to keep it as long as they can.
Dave: No, I think I missed that one. What was the deal?
Lee: Oh, some guy posting with the nick "proud pederast", which is someone who has sex with young boys. We (me & some of the other regulars on my board) asked him to change it and he refused so I banned him. I had no idea what "pederast" meant until one of the others raised an objection.
Dave: I thought it was soothing footwear. Has he come back under another name?
Lee: Remind me never to touch your socks. I don't know if he has or not. He's certainly welcome to, as long as he's not advertising child rape.
Dave: Yeah, they used to advertise child rape on the back of cereal boxes in the 70s, but drew some complaints.... ok, bad joke, I'll leave the dark humor to you.
Lee: Well it was a rip-off. You had to mail in 3 box tops AND a $2 check. Sheesh.
Dave: Recently you added a dominatrix to your site, how did this happen?
Lee: Rowan Ashe, the dominatrix of whom you speak, came on board at the forum recently. My forum is a funny place, it really runs hot & cold. I don't post there a lot, but I do visit it fairly often. The posts come in spurts, then there are really, really slow periods. Rowan seemed to have a lot of energy, and I thought, 'Hey, maybe she could really keep things going around here!' Rowan came to me with a couple of ideas for contests and the like, and I asked her if she'd want to kind of become the mistress in charge of the forum. You know, comics like CRFH!!! and Sluggy have these gigantic, passionate fan bases who are EXTREMELY active on the message boards. Pete has entire offshoots of Sluggy run by other people. I thought we'd try an experiment and see if we couldn't get something like that rolling.
Plus I have a thing for goth chicks.
Dave: That's a cool idea. I like goth chicks, too, but I haven't gotten any to offer to be the official Todd and Penguin goth-babe or anything yet. Plus my wife might not be thrilled with the idea. Does your wife give you a hard time about Rowan?
Lee: Well, it's not like Rowan and I are, y'know, DATING or anything. No, outside of how things are going with the book or whatever, me and the Mrs. don't talk about CB much at home. If Rowan were sending me naked pictures of herself and my wife found them then yeah, I think there might be a small problem. Which is a risk I'd be willing to take if any of my female readers should ever feel the need to start sending me naked pictures of themselves (hint, hint). Damn Case Yorke.
Dave: Does your wife read CB?
Lee: No, she really doesn't, though she's very supportive. I'd always wanted to be a cartoonist, and she's just very happy for me that my work has found an audience. Plus I think she recognizes the cathartic value this thing has for me. Since I started doing CB, a lot of negative compulsive behaviors I had have vanished. I tell her about it or MAKE her read it on occasion, if there's one I particularly like or feel is poignant. But she's not a comic reader in general, and she doesn't go online unless she has to.
Dave: Speaking of your OCD, is it completely gone now?
Lee: Who knows, with OCD? I've got it as part of Tourette's, which is a whole kettle of fish in itself. Doctor's can't even agree whether Tourette's is a combination of a physical/psych disorder, or purely psych. So I don't know if the facial and body tics are actually OCD behaviors, or if they're physiological. I do a lot of counting routines, which I think is compulsive. But I'm not doing anything really disruptive.
Dave: What kinds of tics and thoughts do you have? What sort of counting routines do you have? I ask, because I have mild OCD myself, and never meet anyone else who admits to having it, so it's interesting to compare the conditions.
Lee: A lot of facial stuff... sticking out my bottom lip, making weird faces. I tend to imitate expressions I see other people make. I do it constantly while watching TV. I shrug my shoulders, trace the outlines of letters in the air with my fingers when reading or speaking or thinking, usually vowels, double consonants, or the last letter of the last word that was said. Not, like, so that people can see it, but I know I'm doing it. I repeat things like "mah" "woo" "huh" "doh" and such things to myself all the time. I tend to kick the ground with the toe of my right shoe when walking, so that over time the sole of that shoe gets worn down more than my left. I count the sides of letters, the outlines of signs I see while driving. For example, a stop sign would be 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 around the outside, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 around the white line inside it, 1-2-3-4 for the post...Sometimes I take a shortcut and just do "8, 16" for the sign. Lots of other stuff that I'm really not always even aware of doing, it's become so routine for me. I used to have a big problem with things like going to the drugstore every day when I was working and buying exactly the same snacks. Every day.
Dave: Are there any numbers you avoid?
Lee: No, I like all numbers equally. I do not however EVER make a motion that ends in coming back toward me and up. When I do I envision a large fishhook going up under my sternum. Gah. It's making me cringe just talking about it. I like to finish pointing tics by pointing at myself though, rather than people I care about. If I don't like someone, I have no problem finishing the tic pointing at them.
Dave: Do the thoughts keep you awake at night? What irrational fear keeps you in the routine? Is there some thing you think will happen if you do not follow through?
Lee: Nothing keeps me awake, ever. I can fall asleep within minutes of lying down, and can sleep virtually anywhere, anytime. I don't have any fear of anything happening, and really, I don't even THINK about doing the things I do. I just do them. That may be where Tourette's separates from other OCDs. Maybe all the behaviors I have are generated from a physiological source, whereas other OCDs are psychological.
I forgot to mention that I used to have a bruise at the base of my sternum from pushing back down on it.
Dave: Oh, man. Were you nervous admitting the condition on your â€˜About' page? Normally people hide OCD, not announce it on their web page. What made you do that?
Lee: No, you know what, it's so much a part of me, and I realize that the comic I do ties into it as well, since doing the comic has had such a profound effect on my behaviors. I've learned to embrace that dark streak, and really to embrace the condition as well. I wanted to do something with the about page that was uniquely me, and once I started writing it, it just spilled out. I probably didn't set out to make it that personal, but it felt right. I thought it showed really well where the darkness in me comes from, and I thought people might appreciate it. I've gotten quite a few letters from readers thanking me PROFUSELY for writing that. People who have "mental" conditions as well. I think I made an emotional connection with a good portion of my audience with that page. I used to be ashamed of my OCD too; hell I still am to a degree, but writing that helped me to be more comfortable with it. It's certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
Dave: One last thing on the OCD, have you ever sought treatment? Did you hide it from your wife?
Lee: Well, the tics are kind of un-hideable. Nobody ever sees me REALLY go to town, as I make virtually no effort to suppress them when I'm completely alone. But there's a lot of stuff I do that people are just GOING to see. So they were always out there. But yeah, there were some things I hid from her for a long time. Fortunately, everything's out in the open now. After I was diagnosed with Tourette's, I went on Prozac (which sucked. It made me really irritable and gave me heartburn), and started seeing a therapist, who was completely worthless. She may have been a perfectly fine doctor, but she wasn't a good match for me. She just sat there and expected me to do all the talking, which just simply is NOT my modus operandi. As such, I spent every session being more nervous about trying to think of what to say than actually trying to solve my problems. I quit going after a month or so. That's right around when the comic started up. Butch is my therapist now.