Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Jeff Lint's The Caterer

I first came across Jeff Lint’s The Caterer comic when trawling through the endless mish mash of bargain comics in Notting Hill’s infamous Comic & Book Exchange in the summer of 1996.
Above: The cover to The Caterer #3 by Brandon Sienkel

Initially, it looked just like the other endless crappy Seventies' comics out there, but after surruptisously opening the bag (this was verboten in the shop) I flicked through and had my mind blown. The seemingly random “dialogue”, long rambling monologues, and erractic plotting gave the comic a surreal and disturbing quality. It was like a William Burroughs’ comic mashed-up with Vinnie Colletta and Herb Trimpe at a Temazepam party.

I bought that issue (#7) and read, and reread it, trying to decipher the hidden meaning and depth behind all this talk of goats, "stillness" and hallucinations. Lint was definitely trying to tell me something, I just wasn’t sure what it was. Alan Moore described the series as "the holy barnacle of failure" and that's a fair assessment. It was certainly ahead of its time. In fact I think it still is. Actually, I'm not sure if time will ever be able to catch up with it.
Above: The initial reaction to most The Caterer stories is WTF?!

I tried hunting down other issues of The Caterer in Gosh, Forbidden Planet and Comic Showcase, but bizarrely no one had heard of it and eventually I gave up trying. Around 2001 I had a massive clean out of my comic collection and got rid of a whole load of titles, including The Caterer #7 (a rash move that still haunts me to this day). So I was delighted when in 2008, Floating World Comics reprinted The Caterer #3. This was possible even more disturbing that #7 and I’ve since spent long hours anlaysing the meaning behind the chief protaganist Jack Marsden’s off-colour and enigmatic remarks.
Above: Unusually, for American comics, the cover, pencils and inks were done by 
the same artist, Brandon Sienkel.

It was through this reprint that I discovered more about the insane genius that was Jeff Lint. Apparently there was a biography written by Sci-Fi novelist Steve Ayett in 2005. I picked that up and devoured every page (click here to buy it on Amazon).
It was incredible that here was a man who had been at all the key pivotal points of popular fiction, yet history had chosen to ignore, like a smelly tramp muttering to himself at the back of the bus. Lint not only wrote pulp fiction and comics, but also scripted an unfilmed episode of the classic Star Trek (which gave rise to the classic catchphrase, "Flirting with McCoy") and a Hawkwind-eque concept album, The Energy Draining Church Bazaar  by The Unofficial Smile Group. Yet Lint’s obscurity makes Thomas Pychon and J.D. Salinger look like a publicity hungry gloryhounds on I’m A Celebrity...

So I was delighted that—15 years after first stumbling across the work of Lint—last Sunday I managed to see the world premire of Lint: The Movie in Brighton. The film was made and presented by Aylett and it stars a plethora of pop culture pundits such as Alan Moore and Stewart Lee along with famous Lint fans such as Robin Ince and Josie Long. The documentary is a fascinating insight into the enigma that is Lint and I urge everyone to see it. While it’s fair to say that it perhaps could be 15-20 mins shorter, it’s also fair to say that if you have even the slightest interest in science-fiction, comics and popular culture then you owe it to yourself to see this film

As smirking Jack Marsden says, “Stick with me. Stick with me. Stick with me.”
Above: A panel from The Caterer #9 when Jack Marsden visits a Disneyland cypher and machine guns down every costumed character mercilessly. The ensuing law suit from Disney meant the death of Lint's publisher, Pearl Comics—who filed for bankruptcy in 1976—and this was the last issue of The Caterer ever created.

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