Good Vibrations, photo by Greg Means.
Greg took the photo above right after the three of us sat down to talk about potentially doing a book together. I had no idea back then how awesome the experience of working with Greg and Dylan on Whirlwind Wonderland would be. It pretty much changed my life forever.
It has been hard for me to write anything coherent since I heard the news about Dylan but I will try my best. Saturday, I was with my two sisters watching tennis on TV. I had my iPhone at my hip checking Twitter messages every five seconds because Warren Sapp was tweeting about the same tennis match I was watching. The generic iPhone ding went off and I was excited to see what his next tweet would be, maybe something about how Rafael Nadal was wearing normal short pants rather than his wedgie-inducing capri pants. Instead, it was an email from Greg Means and its subject was titled “Dylan”.
As I started my career in comics in 2001, Dylan’s name would come up in conversation a lot among other Bay Area cartoonists even after he had moved away to Portland. I myself first knew of Dylan from reading his comic Reporter, then through lively message-board discussions, and later when he started to distro my mini-comics through Sparkplug. When Greg Means and Dylan decided to publish my first graphic novel Whirlwind Wonderland, it was a complete honor. These two got into the business of publishing mainly to promote work that they themselves enjoyed reading and that meant a whole lot to me since the only ones I thought read and liked my work were my family. Although I guess you could say Greg and Dylan felt like family to me, so maybe it wasn’t all that different. My relationship with Dylan was not just that of publisher and artist. It became an unlikely friendship. At first it seemed like we really had nothing in common. We never had long discussions about old comics or about movies, but it didn’t matter. That was the wonderful thing about Dylan, he would always find some common thread between him and another person. I quickly found out that we shared a penchant for being wise-asses, a borderline fanaticism for ’70s Filipino cartoonists (I was supposed to get him that Francisco Coching coffee table book for him for Christmas), a knack for promoting and defending other people’s work more passionately than our own, and an approach to comics-making where there were no real rules just as long as you told stories that you cared about.
I could go on and on about what comics meant to Dylan and what Dylan meant to comics: how he was one of the few publishers who still took time to distro self-published minicomics, how he firmly believed in continuing to publish pamphlet comics while others abandoned that format. Through Sparkplug Comics, Dylan was a steady fixture in the comics community, tirelessly exhibiting at shows, and introducing an array of comics of varying styles and artists off the beaten path. Right now, while I’m maybe not thinking too rationally, it is hard to imagine the small press, alt/indie comics world (whatever we calling it these days) continuing to flourish without Dylan. The landscape will definitely change with his absence but I am hopeful that other publishers will pick up the torch and continue to publish what Dylan called “weird ass comix.”
On a personal level, I miss Dylan more than any words I can say here. I miss his mellow demeanor. I miss his pretend belligerent old-man voice greeting me at shows just to appease my own cranky disposition. I miss him sharing some random health food snack (“Hey, want a whey bar?) and miss strategizing with him on the best way to make vegan adobo.
I keep thinking of things I won’t be able to email to Dylan, the jokes I won’t be able to tell him at some show or party. My heart breaks when I keep coming up with ideas for my next comic and and can’t share them with him. I know with time this all will get better, that I will move on and be able to celebrate Dylan’s life in productive and creative ways. But for now I just want to thank him for letting me into his life, for being patient, for seeing the good in people first and for being a life force in the world of comics.