Last month I received an email from D. Blake Werts, a name that meant nothing to me. Werts lives in Albany, N.Y., where I lived for almost twenty years. He publishes a monthly zine titled COPY THIS! which, he says, “focuses on the Newave mini comics creators of the 80s and 90s.” As a newspaper features writer, one of my self-appointed mini-beats was subcultures, artistic and otherwise. I admire the phenomenon of people pursuing their interests on their own, usually without pay or funding but often with the support and encouragement of fellow subculturists. The “zine scene” of the seventies and eighties was a lively and largely harmless phenomenon of the immediate pre-internet era. Among its proponents was Mike Gunderloy, publisher of Fact Sheet Five, whom I met and interviewed in 1989.
Werts asked permission to republish a feature story I had written about an Albany artist, Jim Ryan. The story appeared in the Times Union on Sept. 16, 1990, and Werts supplied me with a link to “It’s no trick to find the real amid the surreal” (I didn’t write the headline). He was planning a tribute issue dedicated to Ryan, who died on Dec. 11, and wanted to include my story. I agreed, of course, but confessed to him that I couldn’t remember Ryan or the story I had written about him. Granted, that was almost twenty-seven years ago, and I have subsequently written millions of additional words. Still, it feels disrespectful. Fortunately, the story isn’t too embarrassing (I hate reading my old work), and I even like this paragraph:
“Despite his subversively surrealist tastes in art and politics, Ryan is a pretty conventional guy, in a short-haired, hard-working sort of way. He saves his subversion for his art: `I never, ever hung around with other artists. I don't generally like artists - their sloppy habits, their lack of respect for other peoples’ lives. I have no regard for artists who want to scrap all traditions.’”
Werts was true to his word, and the latest issue of COPY THIS! arrived in the mail on Friday. My story appears with others written by people who not only remember Ryan but knew him well and respected him and his work. The honor is mine.