My laptop hasn’t been feeling well lately, so most likely this will be written in short spurts. Trying to chronicle the creative process that led me to come up with the character called the Deposit Man, who’s humble beginnings began believe it or not; since I was a little tyke and didn’t come around to achieving its’ true potential until a feverish drunk deprived evening in a North San Diego Hillcrest area flop house. twenty or so years later when I was a young adult (well, I sometimes still consider myself a young adult- of which some of you may digress).
After school during my grade school forays, a group of kids and I residing in the fair weathered apartment complex of Parsippany Vail Gardens used to congregate and meet up to play imaginary army and spy games on a hill where blackberry bushes grew wild and acted as a sort of passageway between two opposing apartment complexes with the Jersey City Reservoir serving as our backyard. Martin Nielson, David Puskar, David Ben-Shimer (my 3rd floor neighbor in my building) and Todd Glickson all served as captains and lieutenants. We do things like Man from U.N.C.L.E., Garrison’s Gorillas, or if we were lucky to have spare Big Wheels around that can pull wheelies – we’d go with Rat Patrol. All this stuff used to be syndicated in the early to mid seventies so we’d had a lot of made up canon to pursue through.
At one time, we were really hiding from each other or sorted into teams and go hunting each other through the thorny bushes and we’d pluck secret code names from out of nowhere from our little seven-year imaginative asses.
I revealed that I would go by the code name….”the Deposit Man…”
What followed next from the gang were impeccable blank little baffled stares…
until skinny bag of bones leader David Puskar broke the silence
“The Deposit Man? What are you fucking spasticated?”
Then we all broke out laughing and falling to our asses, because we weren’t really sure if spasticated was a real word or not.
But then I was thinking maybe I was Hugh O’Brien in my head – who always adorned a black turtleneck and underarm holster gun in the spy show called S.E.A.R.C.H. – which didn’t last on television for far too very long. I think that same image was later paid homage to in the animated series, Archer, which is a spoof on the whole entire spy genre.
The years went on. The childhood pretend games ceased to be and we moved on to our high school and later adult lives.
But the name still stuck in my craw.
Like I said in my 1991 YES LOG concerning the release of Union, there wasn’t a Yes studio album until 1994’s Talk. Shortly after that tour ended, I got an invite from my old high school friends, the Zullo brothers to take a stab at living in Los Angeles, way from the idyllic life I was leading in San Diego playing at assistant sound engineering and playing organ for bar bands. I jumped at the opportunity – FUCK yeah! So I had enlisted the aid of my aunt Megan to help transport my comic books and keyboard equipment up to Van Nuys, CA.
I immediately got a job working with the Zullos and their various roommate at a financial institution called Independence Bank, which evidentially after a few years got shut down by the FICA for accusations that they were running weapons to terrorists my department, the mailing and shipping department got sold to a contractor called Fi-Serv where I ended up serving the rest of my sentence when I got beheaded just before the holidays. Soon after, I got a job testing and shipping products from a used second-hand video game store that did a lot of mail orders around the globe. I was employed there while the Rodney King Riots were happening outside my door. The running joke of the shipping room was: ‘hey I’m going over to Circuit City for lunch: anybody want anything?”
But I got fired over someone blundering that caused an order to be shipped out to a fraudulent credit card and then that’s when the bottom fell out for me at my first attempt to living in Los Angeles. A thousand dollars that my mom sent me to put down as a down payment for a lease on a house in Northridge magically wasted away due to pets getting out of control, biting the mailman (myself included) which caused the Zullos, me, and friends to get evicted – just in time for me to get fired. Couldn’t hack the pressure in finding another well-paying gig, so I opted to head back south to San Diego with as little as much as $66.00 to my name and I had a fight on my hands trying to obtaining unemployment because you know, it’s difficult to get unemployment when your employer proves that they had justifiable cause to fire you.
In ten days I was homeless. But I’d rather be homeless in San Diego than in Los Angeles. It just seemed safer that way. If I were found to be homeless in the trash junkie world of Hollywood, I don’t know what trash bin, my sordid remain would be found in. I’d rather take my chances in the Herbert Walker Bush Economic wrecked world on the beaches of North San Diego, where maybe a ray of hope that someone would recognize me and take me under their wing. Didn’t want to go back to the crazy lady and her two dope smoking hair stylists whose wall I put my fist through. My old roommates Jean and John, not to mention Jean’s sister who I used to be in love with Jennifer departed for greener beach town pastures.
With the annual Comic Con International being around the corner, I wanted to be near there, no matter how penniless I got. So I stuck around as close to downtown as I could and settled for accommodating lodgings in some flea bag motel in the northern area of downtown called Hillcrest. Interesting area you could say. It was the very first place where I witness a massive mouth on mouth kiss taking place between two men at a late Friday showing of Ralph Bakshi’s Cool World.
I was nearly mortified.
But then looking over at my surroundings I started noticing a lot of men helping other men to help each other cross the street.
I retreated back to my flophouse with a bottle of white port and an utter annoyance to keep the UHF channels from malfunctioning on my portable black & white television. But all I could get was static. Snowy white static. And under the beguiling inebriated annoyance of smacking the television set in order to get a reception (also, that lingering man-kiss I witnessed in the back of my mind), I wanted to see beauty pageant chicas in bathing suits on some local UHF Spanish speaking station so I could momentarily forget the downtrodden situation I found myself in.
But then something started to move in that snowy UHF haze.
A face forming, but not really a face. Staring back at me.
And then I drifted off into sleep,
I woke up with an idea and went out to do laundry.
And while I was doing that laundry at some squeamish Laundromat – I came across an issue of the local weekly alternative paper called the San Diego Reader and caught my eye drawn to the cover story pertaining to the murder of comic book publisher Todd Loren. The murder happened in this exact neighborhood and that annoying fucking detail alone sent a tiny of shard of shivers in my spine. It was pretty risqué, what I was doing being holed up in a gay community, let alone a cockroach infested dump of a motel, just simply waiting for the convention to come and go – with as little as much as $100 in my pocket – NOW I’m totally immersed in this mystery killing of a comic book publisher who didn’t make many friends in the business, since he was publishing a whole entire line of niche books that were unauthorized biographies of music industry types that didn’t approve of the products he was putting out and claimed it infringed unlawful use of their images. Loren got in hot water with of all music acts, NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. It was speculated that Todd Loren was the first victim of serial killer Andrew Cunanan, a real nut case who preyed upon wealthy gay entrepreneurs who finally met his end being shot dead in Miami, Florida after he had supposedly murdered famous fashion designer Gianni Versace in 1997.
For an odd stroke of luck, while in a convenience store while wandering around the town of Ocean Beach in downtown San Diego, I ran into some punk nerd kid by the name of David Foulk, who used to be a supervisor of mine at a job I once held at a software tech company in Carlsbad packaging and sending out mail ordered games. The last I heard, he was living up in Oceanside but couldn’t gel with the jarhead scene of nearby Camp Pendleton, so he moved down to be closer to the hippie and thrash music world scene. I spilled the beans about the unfortunate situation I found myself in thanks to Bush Economics that made me flee my first foray of becoming a full-fledged Los Angeleno, but once I found some steady exemplary work – hopefully in a mail room (I had also tested in San Diego for a mail carrier position – knowing my experience herding three paper routes concurrently), I was going to give a second stab at Los Angeles getting work in areas of clerking in the entertainment industry while putting myself through music school. I told him, that I wasn’t far – over in Hillcrest staying at a fleabag motel and that I could come over and hang while I’m in town and was only staying briefly to attend the comic book convention. David asked me how long did I think I was going to go back to Los Angeles. It was opened ended of course, so David pushed forth an offer that he was in need of a roommate real bad because of his classes at the State University of San Diego (which houses the famous Open Air Amphitheater – where I’ve seen many progressive rock acts, including the reunion of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer of that year) and ‘honestly, wouldn’t you rather stay in my studio cottage abode filled with discarded piece of Hanes’ tighty -whiteys and smelly socks, then a decaying rotted motel with wall filled to the brim with rats and cockroaches?”
Wasn’t really that much of a competition.
I stayed with David for a few months and during my tenure I got some work from a neighbor’s boyfriend helping as a roofer and was allowed to pound out the first draft of this story that popped in my head about this strange snowy man I saw on the hotel room’s television on his typewriter while jotting down notes on paper while seeking real office work in all parts of San Diego, mostly in the downtown and Point Loma areas. I had to limit myself to two hours a night so I wouldn’t’ interfere with his cottage studies. Free time was spent taping the early first run episodes of Batman: The Animated Series onto video tape of which I made David a fan of. I perused through his collection of Harlan Ellison and Norman Spinrad paperbacks, however we didn’t’ share the same type of music. I was cajoling in the reformation of Asia with new singer John Payne and the reunion of ELP, while he would blast thrash metal bands such as Pantera and Megadeth at excruciating ear bleeding decibel level, but by the same token I was grateful that we shared a mutual admiration of Brian Eno mid-Seventies solo output.
This living arrangement lasted approximately three months until I got passed off to move in his neighbors’ apartment, and it was there I started to hit the local libraries during spurts of looking for employment and started to read some Raymond Chandler. But then I got distracted by this local latina by the name of Consuelo who I met at a local bar fucking around on their piano pounding bits and piece of Tony Banks solos that I had memorized and it all got put away on the back burner when my friend Joe Zullo called out of nowhere and said he needed me to move in a new apartment at Los Angeles pronto because he canceled his engagement off on his girlfriend and promised he would get my foot in the door at Universal Music. So I had to ditch the budding romance I was going to have with this latina just as Joe drove all the way down in his Datsun 280Z just as I was finished jamming my tongue down her throat. Joe rolls down the windows and says:
“Fuck the wetback and get in the car already.”
And we were off to new adventures, listening to the Toy Matinee album all the way up.
Up in the apartment located above an insurance office in a shitty seedy area of North Hollywood, I further worked on my outline and scripts for a pilot episode on my static snowy friend I kept seeing in my head. Scrapping everything with notes and passages of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” jotted down on legal pads. I began to work on a few plots. The plots simply him as a sort of simple detective investing strange occurrences in the afterlife – such as ‘re-murders’, such as the yellow ribbon mystery, based on my hatred for the craze during the Gulf War of handling out yellow ribbons to remember our military buddies out in Iraq ‘fighting for our freedom’ and pop radio’s horrid revival of that Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree”. Didn’t like hearing it back in 1975, and I sure as shit didn’t like hearing it in 1991.
I wrote another plot about a pregnant woman who’s about to give birth that could cause untold entropy or pandemonium in the afterlife. Another about a screen writer whose imagination causes wanton destruction in the afterlife which was based on a life or death situation that happened during my short tenure in Ocean Beach when some sociopath, who imagined himself to be Al Pacino’s half-brother nearly caused a lot of havoc in the neighborhood. That story actually became Deposit Man: Playgod Act I. Another early plot involved a female succubus masturbating men into another death was rewritten as Playgod Act II.
These little early treatments were meant to be little eight page comic book mysteries much in the similar style of Will Eisner’s the Spirit, a comic strip reprint magazine that somehow alluded me during my youth (and I remember them being on the newsstands all over New Jersey and New York back in my younger days) of which I discovered in an old stack of in at a Ocean Beach used book store.
During the nineties, an era mostly covered in my YES LOGS, I cemented a reputation as a commentator, letter writer, opinion columnist, and essayist for two publications, The Comics Buyers’ Guide & a small fanzine out of Pasadena, Ca called Comic Effect. I also wrote movie reviews and a restaurant review of a Marvel Comics themed eatery out in Universal Studios called Marvel Mania. Served as an ordering manager of a comic book store in North Hollywood called Rookies & Allstars (aka THAT MISERABLE STORE for Comics & Cards) where I championed the cause of small press comics and their creators which eventually wore thin on the owners and lastly, I was made head of the Small Press Department of Comic Con International thanks to the views I shared with the world in all those articles, letters and editorials in Comics Buyers’ Guide (I also helped out with the pro registration department for a couple of years before that) and there I handled the selection of talent, submissions, and writing a few press releases on behalf of my department.
So the only thing missing at that point of my life was actually writing and producing a comic book of my own. So hanging out with all that blistering talent of artists and writers doing it for themselves finally sparked the nerve to try tackling a rewrite of that script.
But I lacked the artistic talent to fully see my vision come to life. But then these independent jokers from out of Miami, Florida called Death Comics contacted me through their emissary in New York of whom I will refer to as Scumbag Scotty Goodygoodshoes having enjoyed my renegade prosing in CBG wanting to know if I had some comic book idea that I wouldn’t mind seeing realized.
“Yeah, I got this thing called….The Deposit Man lying around gathering dust.” (and words of Harlan Ellison echoing in my ears from a phone call I had a couple of years back – “”WHY AREN’T YOU WRITING FULL TIME??”).
“Send it out to Scumbag Scott and we’ll see what we can do.”
Months later, I get a phone call from Scumbag Scott and tells me the good news (of which I thought as at the time) that they want to go through it. Can you come out to New York and meet with us?”
So, in the summer of 1998, I arranged an impromptu trip to visit my mother in New Jersey and to take care of business in New York.
So I met up with Scumbag Scott Goodygoodshoes as soon as I arrived at Kennedy airport and no sooner than I had sauntered in from the runaway that I was met in the terminal with these figurative prototype figures wonderfully enacted by a New Jersey artist by the name of Ben Fogletto- who had art published in a Munsters comic book with ideas of how to improve upon my creation.
Two sides of the Deposit Man with notes provided by Ben Fogletto.
Esquire Row, supposedly The Deposit Man’s handler and dispatcher to his cases. Joined by Spice Cakes (originally Patti Cakes – but that name was already copyrighted and trademarked), his Uniurn addict informant.
The concept of Uniurn is derivative of an afterlife stimulant composed of fermented unicorn urine that the drug addicts inject instead of heroin.
Betty Fusco – undercover detective – although as the series went on, I didn’t know what she was undercover for, since she became such a loud mouth foil.
So Scumbag Scottso and I then went over to Brooklyn and reconvened with another writer who would be helping out with the book by the name of CJ Henderson, who I heard a couple of years back had passed away and discussed what the book would be about. There were already too stories for back up, one written by CJ and Fogletto. I was told that I needed to expand upon the eight page format and make it double the length since the ‘pilot episode’ was going to be the lead feature. Once arriving at my mom’s later that evening, I had made a call to Ben to discuss the character further. Ben was initially on board, BUT something happened to be lost in the translation upon my return home to Los Angeles (which was a nightmare in itself due to my stepfather – the last time I would see him alive. But that’s a story for another time). Once I reformatted the script and sent it off to Scumbag Scottso, Ben lost interest in the character and resigned after handing in the first three pages.
This caused a shitload of turmoil for me, because I wasn’t given a legitimate reason why Ben quit. The pages he handed in were beautiful. But I can surmise for two reasons, other than the bullshit I was fed by Scumbag Scottso about Ben having problems with the subject matter when I had seen certain pieces of his art that could have been labeled a little risqué (he was drawing semi clad females vampires for cripessakes).
There was no money being paid out by the company.
And Scumbag Scottso had plans all along to distribute artwork to his other various friendly circle of cohorts a la piecemeal. EVEN a panel on the page that Ben turned in was cut and pasted by Scumbag Scottso’s upstairs neighbor, who I remember meeting was a stoner idiot. The work wounded up being dispersed amongst 12 to 15 people. However one gem came out all of all this besides Ben’s contribution: two pages were penciled by a very young Mike Lilly who went on to fame drawing Nightwing for DC Comics.
As time passed while pitching pennies working a couple of gigs in Glendale working at a courier service that catered to animation clientage and helping out with a project at a local bank, I had heard a whole bunch of upsetting shit that originally delayed the book shipping out in late December (and I had my very first and ONLY solicitation in Diamond’s Previews at that time). For one, there was this matter over a scene I wrote with a small detail that the perpetrator of the senior citizen re-murders dabbled in matters of pedophilia by keeping a stash of Boy’s Life tucked away someplace (it was just a jab at the Boy Scouts of America who published such a magazine that I used to subscribe to when I was a Scout myself which coincidentally I take more jabs at in the current issue that is in production). This didn’t go well with Diamond Distributors and suggested that we clipped that scene out. So that delayed the book until late January when it finally shipped. And to delay the book even further, there was no promotion behind it. I wanted to see ads in comic book related media such as the Comics Buyers’ Guide and the Comics Journal. So the company refused to dole out any money for advertising, leaving me no choice but to pony up the cash myself to take out a quarter page ad in an anniversary issue of the Comics Buyer’s Guide (of which I never got ahold of a copy- but I was assured by the classified staff that it did appear in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1300.
I finally got to see the finished product when I met up with Scumbag Scottso Goodygoodshoes at the San Jose Alternative Press Expo.
And boy, was it a piece of shit. For a myriad of reasons. The most offensive one being – it looked like that all 600 or so copies (and I ordered 25 of them for my store in North Hollywood) looked as if they came off fresh from the photocopiers at Kinko’s. All the covers had creases in the middle, and the color cover painted by a Jillian Suzanne – whom Scumbag Scottso Goodygoodshoes boasted of having a romantic relationship with was – had been seriously colored wrong and looked faded. BUT for the grace of the comic book selling deities at small expos, when Jillian showed up with an entourage of her fan bases, the copies started flying off our exhibitor table like tender meat off a bone, plus we had an assortment of other properly printed Death Comics products such as Edge of Evil and some scantily clad female vampire books that helped boost our sales. But from half the printer’s stock of Malice that was shipped out to the show from Miami, we had perhaps 25 mere copies to bring home with us.
So in essence, thanks to Julian, we practically sold our entire stock. The only drawback was that Scumbag Scottso Goodygoodshoes made a fucking scene at our table by cussing out Julian because she had brought some guy with her to the show that she was dating. And there was the first salvo that Scumbag Scottso delivered that made me determine that something was not right in his head.
So we’ll pick this story up next time when I explain how I manage to wrestle control over Scumbag Scottso over my own creation when his bosses over at Death Comics decided to spin-off the Deposit Man into his own one shot, The Deposit Man’s Kaleidoscopic Medicine Freak Show with the help of a local friend and fellow co-worker at my shop.