Today Melissa chats with Glenn head in depth about his new comic book, a very personal story, called Chartwell Manor, where, as a young boy, he experienced sexual abuse from the male headmaster. He’s a prolific writer, fine artist, and cartoonist, with a penchant for underground comics.
They also talked about his writing style, his process, and what he’s working on next.
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Glenn Head – Interview
[00:00:00] Melissa: This is spoiler country and I’m Alyssa circuit today on the show. I get to chat with artists, cartoonists and comic book creator, Glen head Glenn. Welcome to the
Glenn Head: show. Thanks for having me on Melissa. Nice to
Melissa: be here. Awesome. Thanks for being here. Um, how are you doing today?
Glenn Head: I’m doing great. Doing great.
Melissa: I’m doing good. Yeah. Uh, you know, just every day is, uh, you know, the same. We’re just trying to get back to normal, you know how it goes. Sure.
Glenn Head: I do. Sure. I do.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Especially being a creator that must have taken a toll on you at some point, are you. Did you feel like a creative burst during all of this?
Or, or were you feeling sort of like not wanting to write or create,
Glenn Head: uh, I guess I’d say somewhere in between, I wouldn’t exactly call it a creative burst. What I’d mainly say [00:01:00] is that like, if you do the kind of work I do, which is very demanding drawing, cartooning, a lot of labor involved. Uh, you spend a lot of time alone anyway.
So you’re a little bit of a shut-in, uh, that’s the way you live your life. And so it’s not that different when you’re doing it because you have to do it as opposed to doing it because you want to do it. The main thing is that you feel bad for other people because you know where I am in New York, uh, New.
York’s kind of an intensely compacted city and people want to get out. They want to do stuff. They want to let off that energy. And because they can’t that easily, haven’t been able to, because of the pandemic, uh, you feel for them, you know what I mean? You can feel that kind of contents under pressure thing.
That’s been going on for the past, over a year with COVID. So yeah. Yeah.
Melissa: New Yorkers are resilient, you know? [00:02:00] I it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve, I’ve spent many, many weeks there over time and my sister lived, my sister lived there for a little while and so I would go visit her, you know, um, every few months.
And there’s just something about New York that. Is unexplainable, unless you’ve actually been there. Right. There’s an energy there, like you were saying. And I feel like new Yorkers are so resilient. Um, you know, you know, from nine 11 to, to now, um, would you say that, you know, there is this sort of comradery around new Yorkers that like maybe, I dunno, other places don’t necessarily have.
Glenn Head: I guess there’s something to that. Um, yeah, new, York’s also a funny town in, in so far as like, I think people come here to New York to let go of the identity. They used to have to build a new one. I don’t know that everybody does that even consciously, but it happens because if you live in New York for very long, You are a new Yorker, that’s your life, that’s [00:03:00] your being in a way, you know what I mean?
So that’s, that’s a good thing, but it’s also a real change,
Melissa: you know? Absolutely. Did you grow up in New York or, or was it you grew up in New Jersey and you started thinking, okay, what, what was that like? I mean, did you. When you live in New Jersey, do you go to New York often? Is that something that like you did as a kid?
Or did you wait until you were older?
Glenn Head: I used to go to New York with my mom to go to shows and stuff like that. I didn’t have a lot of strong feelings about New York one way or the other in terms of like, wow, this is the place to go. I, I sort of ended up here. Because I finally, after dropping out of other arts schools, I ended up going to SVA and studying comics there.
And, uh, that’s just where it ended up being that was the early eighties. And, uh, you know, like a lot of people, sometimes you just end up in New York, you know, new, York’s kind of a magnet for a lot of different types. And some people go there because they want to make it. Some people just like me just kind of.
[00:04:00] Find themselves there, which is how I think of it, you know,
Melissa: I just gravitated towards it. Yeah. Did you, did you always want to be an artist growing up?
Glenn Head: Um, not from the very earliest point though. I was always making art. It wasn’t until I was about 12 or 13. Um, I guess this is a way to segue into my book that I’m here to talk about, uh, that.
When I was at that school, which was kind of a time of upheaval because I was, you know, taken away from my family and put in this school. Um, that was when I first really began to show enough aptitude and kind of reinvented myself. You know, we were just talking about that. That’s what New York is about in a way of being at this boarding school away from family allowed for that.
So that that’s when I. First really began to kind of take that on as an identity. And it was noticed that I was good at it. So, you know, kids are always [00:05:00] trying to find their identity, trying to find, you know, putting on different hats. Maybe there’ll be good at football or baseball or art or music. And so that’s what, that’s what happened then by the time I was, uh, Yeah, about 12 or 13 that that began.
And that was also the beginning of my time at this sport. Okay.
Melissa: Yeah. Let’s yeah, let’s get into to it. Um, you know, you wrote best comic book based on your own experiences, um, at the school. Um, would you like to, in your own words, kind of, you know, tell our audience a little bit about what that was.
Glenn Head: Sure. Um, Charbel Manor is a now defunct boarding school.
It has been since about 1985 or so, and it was this, you know, I shouldn’t say quote unquote boarding school because none of the teachers were certified. Uh, the headmaster study was a lot of things that he wasn’t including a doctor. So there was more than the mirror width of scam involved, even, [00:06:00] you know, Before you get to the criminal parts, which was the fact that he was a serial pedophile and that’s the first part of the book.
You know, the reader like me essentially gets dropped into the school. And, you know, as I have to fend for myself, In those pages of the book, the reader kind of has to, to, to make sense of what this kid is going through in this crazy place. So that’s this boarding school it’s in Mendham, New Jersey, not far from where I grew up and I was there for two years.
And those first two years, I mean the entire two years I was, there are basically covered in the book. And then the aftermath of my time. Both as a teenager, having gotten out of there and we’ll say age 17 or so all the way through my later life, more recently. And. What that entailed, what being [00:07:00] in that school kind of did and the effect it had on my psyche, my sexuality, the reverberations of that, the consequences of that time.
So it’s, uh, just from the sound of that, the way I’m explaining it, it might not sound like that rough of a ride, or it might sound like it that I’m just not filling you in on a lot of the gory details, including sex and drugs and misbehavior of. A variety of kinds that I was lucky to survive. So this is, this is not, um, this is not T time as memoirs go.
This is a sort of a rough ride in various ways, I guess I’d say. Yeah, I should add. It’s a, it’s a propulsive read. It’s now I’m selling myself a little bit. Well, it’s, uh, It’s entertaining. It’s a story that, um, I’ve been, I’ve been very pleased by the response that it’s been getting because people tell me, uh, starting [00:08:00] in fact with Robert crumb, he got, uh, the galley that I sent to him and he got back to me immediately saying he started reading it that afternoon and he didn’t stop reading it until he went to bed that night.
And so. I have had a lot of those kinds of reactions from people when they read this, that it kind of grabs a hold of them, sort of like my headmaster grabbed the whole. Um, and, and there you are. So it’s a, it’s a story that moves and, um, yeah, I mean, it’s also not something that, um, I guess what I’m going to say is it’s not sort of a caterwauling screeching.
My God kind of memoir, it’s more detached in terms of the way it tells you what. Goes on in my life. It’s an easy read in this respect. There’s enough detachment on the part of the person that drew it. That if you read it, it’ll just take you through it. It won’t ask for your sympathy either. It’s not, it’s not looking for anything like that.
It’s [00:09:00] there to tell you a story know.
Melissa: Well, I can imagine you would almost have to detach to write something like that, you know, without falling down dark
Glenn Head: spiraling yourself, right? Yeah. Yeah.
Melissa: And I think. You know, with, with someone like Robert crumb, you know, giving you that wonderful compliment. I mean, I think that’s really the best thing we can hope for is writers, right?
An artists that, that someone couldn’t put your book down. Um, and I think that’s just really. Such a great compliment. So hats off to him for, for letting you know that too, because we oftentimes don’t even know that. Right. There’s, there’s people that do that, but we just never hear from them. So that’s always great.
Um, I do have to ask you when you were writing this or when you were calling, you know, your experiences, was this something that you and the other students discussed or were aware of? Or did you not know until years later that you were not the only one.
Glenn Head: Well, um, [00:10:00] in fact, this, this is shown in the first chapter, uh, that, uh, a friend of mine, the guy who I actually dedicated the book to who died recently, tragically enough from the kind of behavior that a lot of people got up to after being at that school.
And, um, Uh, in the, in the book, he’s his name is Ryan. Uh, but anyway, he mentions having been molested, you know, sexually abused by the headmaster and, you know, in a way that, you know, cause I was too, but this it. You know, it always throws you the, if you’re the victim of some kind of abuse, but somebody else’s the victim of like, I don’t know, gang rape or something, you’re going to be like, whoa, you got it bad.
It doesn’t mean that you had a good, it just means that you’re finally like really seeing just how bad things are or can be. And in this case, that’s, that’s what happened. And Ryan, his character explained this to me. [00:11:00] And so what he and a fellow student did one night when the headmaster was going to come in to tell bedtime stories, was they switched beds as a trick on the headmaster.
And the headmaster didn’t realize that this had been done until he’s actually starting to. You know, grope the kid and then he recognizes that this is a different kid and that’s when it really became public. And answer to your question of did the other kids know that’s when it went from being a sort of, I guess you’d call it a private secret to kind of a public secret amongst the kids.
So. And in fact, over the course of years of the school, there were a lot of things that, and you, you get this with somebody who’s sort of a Jim Jones type. You know what I mean? They’re, they’re always trying to keep all the snakes in the box because the snakes keep getting out because they keep doing stuff and they can’t control it, which eventually of course, led to this guy’s downfall.
He eventually ended up going to prison.
Melissa: Okay. I was going to ask [00:12:00] that if he was in prison, is he still alive? Is he
Glenn Head: dead? Okay. I go into that too. In the book. There’s there’s, uh, a scene of me. Uh, it looks as if, uh, I’m actually at this graveyard where his headstone is and I’m unzipping and urinating on his tombstone.
And then you realize eventually by what we follow it, that’s just a thought. And I’m sitting in front of my computer much as I am now looking at his headstone. On the screen and then thinking, well, it’s a nice idea, but it’s not really worth the trip out to New Jersey just to, just to do that. So, yeah.
Yeah. I mean, yeah, he’s been dead for like, I dunno, uh, at least 10 years now. Wow.
Melissa: And how, how has like your family and close friends responded to, to the comic and also to, to what happened?
Glenn Head: Well, uh, actually, this is [00:13:00] also in the book a lot, um, that my, my family. Didn’t mostly know what went on there. And there mostly wasn’t really the language through which we could communicate about it.
I didn’t feel like it could be talked about and they weren’t about to ask. So it became kind of one of these don’t ask, don’t tell things within my family, particularly my parents, as far as what they think of the comic, um, They’re dead. So they’re not about to tell me, um, my mom died about I’m going to say five weeks ago or something.
Um, just what, I’m sorry. Oh, thanks. Um, yeah, it, it had been a long decline and my dad had died, uh, 10 years previous. So, uh, As far as my sisters go, I don’t know. I know they bought a copy, so I’m sort of waiting to see what they have to say. Um, [00:14:00] that said they’re not really in the book. Um, not really. So, uh, I don’t know.
As far as like, uh, friends go friends from the school, I don’t know. I’m curious because in actual fact, um, I’ve been in touch with a lot of people as one will be when you’re putting out a book. Right. And, uh, And it just so happened that over the course of the past couple of years, guys, I knew who had been to this school, uh, had, had reached out to me, contacted me.
And so they’re well aware of, of the book being released as of a few days ago. So they’ve already purchased one. So, and in fact, some of them have gotten back to me and they really liked it. Um, I don’t know. I, I know as I say, this is not by any stretch, nor is it intended to be. An easy book, you know, it’s supposed to take you somewhere.
It’s supposed to take you where I went. Um, and then like me, you know, you survive it, you come through it. [00:15:00] I did. I’m lucky that I did. I’m also lucky that I was able to make art out of it because that doesn’t happen for everyone, particularly in a medium, as demanding as the comic book or even more so the graphic novel.
So. Do you
Melissa: think this experience was cathartic for you?
Glenn Head: Well, um, I got asked that a lot. Uh, yeah,
Glenn Head: Yeah. Um, it’s cathartic in certain respects. Um, first of all, I had been wanting to do this book for the past. Several decades and I just didn’t have it. And that was partly because I hadn’t done anything of this length and it’s a completely different animal doing, say a 236 page graphic, novel memoir, right than it is say, doing a three or six [00:16:00] or 10 page autobiographical comic.
You’re working with completely different system and I needed to learn that system. And that’s one reason why this is not my first graphic novel. It’s actually my second, the first one I did, um, that took longer than this one. And I, and I finished that one up about five or six years ago, and I learned enough about it that I could face this and deal with this as material.
And the point is once you can deal with it as material. It’s not that hard, but an answer to your question, is it cathartic the most cathartic aspect of something like this is that you’re doing something that you feel is risky, but you’re going to do it anyway. Um, there are plenty of people who might not suggest somebody go public with a story like this.
Um, That is in terms of drawing yourself [00:17:00] in situations like I’ve drawn myself. There are plenty of people who would, would think that’s like going pretty far and that’s cathartic because nobody stopped me and no one could stop me. And I was not going to let anybody stop me from doing this. So that’s cathartic and that that’s the catharsis that.
For somebody like me and I consider myself an underground cartoonists. That’s what it’s all about. You’re supposed to be taking those risks. You’re supposed to be doing something that you can’t be sure. It’s a safe bet. That’s really what it’s about. So were
Melissa: you, were you worried at all about being like too vulnerable?
Glenn Head: Well, here’s the one thing that happened. Um, this brings us back to, you know, I mentioned earlier that I sent the galley as I sent some of them out to different people. And, and I mentioned crumb and, uh, I got a really interesting response from him, aside from the, you know, what I’ve [00:18:00] quoted as an endorsement, um, on the cover.
Um, he also. Was telling me kind of like good luck, because he thought, you know, people might be say repulsed by some of the sexual stuff that’s going on in the later parts of the book. You know what I mean? And that really hit me, you know, that made me, that made me think twice. And I am,
as far as censorship, those it’s not something I worry about. But what it did get me to think about when I heard that from him is that maybe I just thought to redraw this one page share. And I did, there’s a page in the fourth chapter that was like really sexually explicit and had a lot of pornographic imagery.
And, uh, yeah, that made me, that made me think twice. And I decided there may be as effective a way to do this, that [00:19:00] doesn’t require. Something X-rated right. And I look at a lot of these things in such a way as like, how do you reach people as opposed to freak them out? I don’t mind people being freaked out or offended, but if it’s going to cut into my readership and scare a lot of people off, that’s just kind of suicidal.
I don’t want to do that. So. I did end up redrawing, if not the entire page done a good sized chunk of it, this one, uh, it’s like a two tier panel, meaning two thirds of the page. And I, and I redid that and I’m glad I did it. Um, I don’t know if that’s the same thing as what your question is about appearing too vulnerable.
Um, I don’t know, in, in truth, you know, uh, no, I don’t. I don’t, um, This is my second memoir. And in the first one, uh, it ends up after a lot of crazy stuff going on in my life when I was 19, that I’m in my parents, attic [00:20:00] of their house. And I’m standing there naked with my dad’s handgun pointed to my temple.
And if you draw something like that, you might think, oh, people are gonna hate this. Or you might think, whoa, people are gonna love this, but you know what? You can’t know. And so if you draw something like that and you take the risk and in that case, people didn’t hate it. That gives you the courage and the confidence to figure, well, I can go even further, you know, and then you stop worrying about it.
You know what I mean? And, uh,
Melissa: yeah. Are you like, is, is there a part of you that hopes, obviously you want to tell your story, you want to. You want to have your say your piece in a sense. Um, do you also hope that other victims of abuse will read your work and possibly have the courage to say their piece as well?
[00:21:00] Glenn Head: Well say they’re PCs. Sure. I mean, do you would want everyone to be able to say their piece? I mean, that’s. That’s what everyone should get. The option should get the chance to do, you know, there’s a great many things in life that are sort of engineered by society to shut us down. And you know, you don’t want that.
So if my book does anything that has any effect like that, that would be positive like that. That’s terrific. Although, as I was saying earlier, I mean, I’m a comic book artist. I draw comics, graphic novels. I illustrate. I am trying to give people a good ride. That’s what drawing a comic book is really about, you know, like drawing a graphic novel.
Right? See, like you draw a book like this, the cover price is 30 bucks. That’s asking a lot of people to shell out 30 bucks for what it is, the story that you’re telling. So first and foremost, I just want to tell [00:22:00] people a really good story that really grabs them, that they get something out of that’s that’s really what I’m looking for.
Um, If it, if it has an effect, then you know, an actual facts does the answer to your quiz. I’ve already been contacted by people who, uh, had, uh, similar stories who were affected by it. So, yeah, that’s good. I’m glad of that. You know, I would, I would definitely want that rather than, rather than not want it.
I mean, when you do autobiography, uh, It’s, it’s almost by definition to tell a story. If you’re working in media, if you’re putting out something that’s personal, you hope that it will be universal. You hope that people will get it. So, and that they will be able to connect it to something that maybe they experienced.
And not that I would want. Everyone out there to have experienced things I’ve experienced, but everyone has dealt with some aspect of the patriarchy telling them this is this, that is that [00:23:00] Stan line. You know, and part of the reason I’m a cartoonist is that I won’t go along with that. So, um, yeah, I
Melissa: think it’s really important, especially in this day and age, you know, that we have.
All these outlets and platforms that, you know, we didn’t have. 25 years ago. Um, I’m a child of the eighties and we have these, these outlets that we can publicly say whatever we want. Right. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Not everyone should probably have access to a computer, but, um, I think it’s really important that people.
Speak their traits, because I think that a lot of people feel alone in a lot of situations, whether it be your experiences or, you know, whether it’s drug abuse or whatever it is. Um, I think that it is super important and very brave for people to come forward. But I think when one does, it allows other [00:24:00] people to, to feel like, oh, okay, I there’s someone else speaking out.
I’m not the only one. No, one’s gonna say I’m lying. Or you know, that kind of a thing. Did you have anyone. You know, in your life that that didn’t believe you or, um, thought you were, you know, just, you know, kids tend to get pushed to the side a lot.
Glenn Head: Uh didn’t didn’t believe me about having been at the school or what happened
Yeah. That your, your story, I mean, was that cause that’s, that’s, you know, that’s all about like what the me too movement is just believing people and, and not, um, going with what the patriarch wants, you know, as far as.
Glenn Head: I mean, in truth, I went through that a lot earlier as a teenager. And this is also in the book where like I’m hanging out with some kids and we’re smoking pot. And I mentioned that the headmaster used to climb into bed with kids and that it was fucked up. And, uh, and, [00:25:00] and as opposed to the response that one might hope for one of sympathy, commiseration, or at least understanding.
Kids might go on the attack. Now that’s the kind of thing that was very common then. And it’s still, you know, it’s, it’s there, this thing of, um, never wanting to be a victim and therefore never wanting to get close to anybody who has been victimized because that might rub off on them. Now that’s, that’s a common thing in the same way that, you know, people meet somebody, who’s got a terminal illness, they sort of walk away because they fear that it’s catching.
You know what I mean? It’s a, it’s a common. Rather unappealing aspect of, of human nature. So, um, I mean the me too movement is terrific that way in that it brings up this fact that there is this power structure that is bound to. Not be very fair to put [00:26:00] it bluntly or obviously much worse than not fair. So, um, and I can connect my book, although it’s male, you know, uh, and the me too movement is largely thought of, I think, as a, as a woman’s movement.
Right. Isn’t that fair enough.
Melissa: I think for the most part, but there have been a lot of men that have come forward like yourself. Yeah.
Glenn Head: Yeah. I mean, it’s all, it’s an umbrella, I suppose, that, that contains all these things. So, um, Yeah, I can see my, my book connecting to that too, because basically, um, what my book insists on doing is shedding light.
On these situations, it utterly refuses to not show them. And you know, that’s what comics really are about each one of those panels that you see in any comic, any graphic novel, those are the panels that the artists decided. This is what I’m going to show them. Not what’s between the panels that are going to see this.
So if I show myself being victimized or I show myself, uh, [00:27:00] hitting other kids or something like that, That’s my choice too, to expose that. And yeah, there’s a lot of, you know, what you might call exposure in this book. Yeah.
Melissa: Now, aside from, from your own experiences, did you do any other research or, um, you know, gather any kind of statistics, things like that when you were plotting and planning this out?
Glenn Head: Um, research. I mean, I did, I did a great deal of photo research because it’s very demanding drawing this kind of thing, and it had to be realistic, you know? Um, I’m definitely working with what I would consider a comic book realism. Um, not that. You know, everything looks super real in it, but it’s recognizably real and to draw kids and blazers and to draw kids, kids are a kind of a hard thing to draw.
They’re different than drawing adults, all these things. I [00:28:00] did a lot of research for because. Um, I had to be able to capture that in terms of researching, uh, what went on at the school. I, I think I knew that upside down and inside out, because I’ve been looking into this place since a long time back, you know, once, once I heard there was a court case, which I show in the book and, and, uh, once I became wearable that, um, I guess I I’d always.
You know, Pitt paid pretty close attention to what had happened there. And I had also been somewhat in touch with some of the other alumni. So, you know, there was enough to talk about, I guess that’s that’s about all the research I did.
Melissa: Yeah. Now, if you don’t mind me asking, I’m just curious. Why did you end up going to the school to begin with?
I mean, I think, you know, boarding school is, is something that a lot of people aren’t. Familiar with, right. I mean, it’s, it tends to be something that like you hear about in [00:29:00] movies or the boarding school thing. Um, how did you, how did you end up there to begin with?
Glenn Head: Okay, well that, that’s also in the book.
What happened was like, I was a, there’s a flashback to how I ended up there and it relates to what my childhood was like. And, uh, Me being kind of, I guess, ATD, but definitely not, not fitting in, in public school and not liking that feeling of being in some sort of institutionalized setting and being told how to learn and all that.
So in other words, things went from bad to worse. And by the time I was, um, I guess by the time I was getting through seventh grade, junior high school in my hometown of Madison, which was a real hell pit, um, It was decided that, that something probably ought to happen. That I, you know, I wasn’t getting up into that much trouble actually.
I mean, the school in some respects was kind of a reform school. Uh, there were kids that I knew who were real criminal types actually, that I was friends with. But, um, [00:30:00] I wasn’t one, but, uh, this kind of stuff happened back then, you know, Now, like, uh, getting sent to boarding school, not that there were that many of them, but the point is that things weren’t researched, then you mentioned research by, uh, families that much, they, they weren’t really, they didn’t know, you know, and like, and you know, there could be this need for it’s thought discipline and maybe a place like this would deliver it.
And maybe it would be a good thing, you know?
Melissa: Yeah. I mean it, yeah. When you, if anyone reads the history book, um, and, and looks back in time, I mean, you think about those days when, when people were putting insane asylums because they had a mental illness and were tortured and treated horribly. And now we, we obviously know now that that’s not the way to go.
Um, I can, I can’t even imagine, [00:31:00] you know, Being in that time, period, I guess, is what I’m trying to say. Just because which
Glenn Head: on the time of insane asylums or the time of boarding school, probably both. There were still boarding schools, boarding schools still exists. That’s a finished thing. They exist in mental hospitals, like assists too,
Melissa: as far as the research on them and the, and what, you know, uh, we call them helicopter parents now.
And which is probably a good thing as far as, you know, I think people. Like you were saying, they didn’t do the research back then. And now I think people are a lot more conscious and meticulous about, you know, things like that. Um, you know
Glenn Head: what I mean, thing of like good touch, bad touch and all that stuff.
I mean, you know, um, kids get that from a very early age, you know, uh, all kids do or at least most of them do I imagine? So that’s, that’s sort of my point too, that like, you know, when, when things were going on back then there was not, as I say, the language. That really could be used [00:32:00] to explain it to a lot of people.
You know what I mean? So it was like, to that extent, you could say that child abuse hadn’t been invented yet. And by that, I mean, in the collective consciousness, that’s all, you know. Yeah, absolutely. Whereas, you know, yeah. It’s a different time.
Melissa: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s still obviously happens today and.
You know what you see it with, like religious groups and cults and things like that. Um, and it, it tends to be, you know, by like an enigmatic person in a sense, right. Where they have this like public persona where, you know, everyone.
Glenn Head: I don’t want basically, I think when it comes down to, I think what it comes down to is people that are in positions of power.
If you couple that with secrecy they’ll who knows what they won’t get up to. That’s why so much of the me too movement has been related to what’s gone on in Hollywood [00:33:00] because that’s the case. There’s a great deal of power there and there, great deal of vulnerable people looking to get a piece of something.
The thing that irks me about that. Is it, the stories in that context really mainly only come out. Or really grab the media attention when they’re sex related, then they’re sexy. But the fact of the matter is in, in showbiz, in the art game so much of the time, there’s so much abuse going on because there’s always a very small stage that people can get on.
And the people that are in positions of power that can help them can also just abuse the hell out of them. So people become really disposable parts. In those worlds. And again, this may have nothing to do with sex, but that’s not sexy, but they still get abused like hell and so, yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. There’s, there’s a lot of toxicity that happens.
Um, that’s not sexual. [00:34:00] Exactly. There’s a very well known. Director that’s been in the news lately, you know, that’s been accused of that and just being awful and creating a negative environment.
Glenn Head: Yeah, yeah. That, that level of like toxicity is like, is very common. And I think it’s actually, it’s a little complicated because I think that art making the creativity that’s involved in that.
There’s also a destructive element that is part and parcel of that engine and right. You don’t want to be around a creative person at the wrong time. That’s all I can tell you because they’re going through a lot and they’ve got to take nothing and turn it into something. You’ve got to take a blank canvas and turn it either into a painting or a comic or movie, all that stuff.
And, uh, that’s really demanding. And [00:35:00] I’m not saying that it’s okay. That there’s collateral damage there. I’m saying that unfortunately it can come with the territory. So, you know, these things are complicated, but to me, they shouldn’t be brought to the surface. I mean, all this stuff that goes on in the movie biz, it should definitely come out.
Everyone should know about that stuff. I mean, I hate it. The idea that these are like, Wonderful people because they deal with particular topics in their movies or something, or, you know, artists or something, some of them are, but, you know, I don’t know, it’s, I don’t like the deification that can happen.
And there’s a lot of that. And the art game just generally it happens in pretty much all the art games, but especially in, in, you know, movie-making or anything where there’s like a great deal of exposure, a great deal of money, you know?
Melissa: Yeah, well, it is always about power and money and oftentimes not actually about sex itself really.
Um, and I [00:36:00] think that’s the biggest misconception that a lot of people have, you know, um, and those types of. Predators tend to prey on, on those who are, you know, they perceive weaker than them or with less, um, strings and more to lose, I guess, in a sense. Right.
Glenn Head: Right. And also it’s like, it’s all just a climb and whoever’s furthest up.
The ladder can stomp on the fingers of anybody else in the rungs underneath them. And it’s just, it just comes with it. It’s not pretty, um, It’s also how people test their metal and, you know, prove they’re good enough by, by taking those beatings. It’s like an initiation process. You know what I mean?
Baptism by fire. There’s a lot of that too. Think that none of this stuff is easy. I mean, anybody, anybody can tell you that spend any time in the arts that, uh, nothing comes easy or free. You gotta work really hard and you got to earn it. And you’ve probably got a fight.
[00:37:00] Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Has that, has any of that ever like turned you off from, from doing it, you know, at least in a public sense, like have you ever just thought about, you know, running away into the woods and, you know, Stephen King style and writing in a cabin somewhere?
Glenn Head: That’s not really my thing. Um, no, it, it hasn’t been like that. I, I, uh, No, it’s it’s, it’s like there, there’s also, there’s other things that relate to like how much you’re going to work and whether you’re going to run away from it or not. And I mean, the field of comics, you know, especially alternative comics, uh, it’s had its ups and downs starting around, you know, 1968 was when things first really started.
Really hopping. And then by 1972, everything was down the toilet because there was a paper shortage and, you know, the hippie thing was ending. So all these people that wanted to do work couldn’t because maybe the publishers were [00:38:00] going under or the head shops were closed or what have you. And what I just described, there’s been a lot of.
Permutations on that kind of story that have gone on ever since. So not exactly like that, but something like that. So basically if you’re in this for the long haul, you’re going to have to deal with some fallow times and just accept that and maybe do other stuff too. It’s not like you’ve just got to draw comics.
You can also paint and do illustration. You can work in a sketchbook collect. Things that you liked, that that inspire you, you know, go to galleries. There’s, there’s a lot of things you can do. Um, but you got to keep your hand in it. I guess that’s my answer. You gotta keep your hand in it and be working somehow.
I mean, or else I imagine you would just lose it. I’ve been doing comics for a long time and, uh, for whatever reason, I haven’t lost it. It’s always stayed with me. And I’m grateful for that. Yeah.
Melissa: Do you ever journal or write poetry or anything like that?
[00:39:00] Glenn Head: Uh, not so much. I think I did when I was first in AA, where you were suggested that you, you write down how your day went and stuff like that.
And I did it. I didn’t, I eventually like just ran out of gas with it and stopped as far as poetry goes. Um, Nope, never
Melissa: done it. I’ve done a lot of writing.
Glenn Head: I suppose. Yeah. Um, I’ve done a lot of writing and I, and I do believe that, uh, comics is essentially a writer’s medium. And I think that not enough, there’s not enough of a realization of that.
Um, and it’s partly because, um, comics is such an exciting visual, medium that, uh, especially if you’re a kid say you’re 12, 13, 14, whatever, and you see these exciting comics, what are you seeing? Well, what’s right on the surface, which is really exciting visuals. So that’s what grabs you. And that’s what may get you to first go into it [00:40:00] eventually, uh, after looking at a lot of comics and reading a lot of them and drawing them over the course of a lot of years, start to realize that.
It’s what’s going on underneath the surface, not just underneath the ink, meaning the pencils, but what’s going on underneath that, the idea, the narrative does the artist, the writer have something to say. So those are, those are really important considerations to, you know, you learn this stuff. Yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. I think what’s interesting for me as.
Uh, especially as a woman, I guess I should say, because they growing up in the eighties, like we weren’t really, comics weren’t really pushed on it. We weren’t the demographic. Right? Like it was, it was something that boys did and we had dolls and that kind of a thing. And, um, I think with, you know, the way things are today with so many more, uh, women with it being just so much more inclusive and there’s so many different.
Uh, avenues and different subject matters. You know, that’s [00:41:00] not just about the superheroes that there’s so many more steps you can, you can talk. All right. Like it’s, it’s amazing how much content is out there, especially on an indie level.
Glenn Head: Yes. Yes. And I, and it’s funny you say that because, um, that actually was beginning in the, in the early eighties, uh, it was becoming a thing.
The whole thing of, um, very personal type stories, as opposed to simply that kind of superhero stuff, which unfortunately, as we know, has sort of taken over this universe and several others and definitely every movie theater, but, um, what I really noticed, uh, that was interesting. By the early two thousands, there were these kinds of comics, conventions that were independent style and in New York city called, uh, mocha, which is the museum of contemporary cartoon art, uh, conventions.
And then [00:42:00] there was also this one in Brooklyn called cab, which stands for comic arts, Brooklyn. But the point is that it was amazing because it was a. Real mix of men and women, guys and girls that were going to these places and that were also making the art. So that was just a seismic shift because when I was at SVA, uh, the cartoon department was really, it looked like a bunch of deadbeats.
I mean, it was just a bunch of eyes. Like no girl would go near any of those classes or have anything to do with those guys. So this was a real change in, in this century. That that’s not the case that, um, anybody and everybody who felt like getting into this was encouraged to get into. Now you can make the argument that that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s still true.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I remember 15 years ago, a group of guy, friends of mine had like a Dungeons and dragons. Game going. [00:43:00] And I was like, oh, you know, I’m a big gamer. I’m like, let me get in on that. They’re like, oh no, we, we, we don’t, we don’t let girls come to our games. And I’m like, what, what are you talking about?
I mean, this was. Like 15 years ago, wasn’t the dark ages. I thought it
Glenn Head: was still like that. I thought the whole thing with Gamergate and all that weird shit was that like, those guys are terrified of women or something. I don’t know. That’s
Melissa: fine. They’re, they’re afraid we’re going to be better than them. I don’t know.
But, um, but what I did go to my first real Comicon, um, you know, in 2016, I think it was in Seattle and I was just so blown away at how. Many women were there and to how nice everyone was, you know, that sounds weird to say, but yeah, I know
Glenn Head: I saw that too. It was, it was amazing. Like the enthusiasm that I saw in all those kids was just really striking because I don’t know.
My, my own world of cartoonists and cartooning was [00:44:00] kind of snarky and snarly and vaguely embittered and edgy. And like, it wasn’t like up like, whoa, this is just the greatest thing ever. And that’s that kind of thing I would see in those conventions, those places. And I was like, oh my God, how did they get so happy?
Melissa: They’re like pumping pheromones in the air or something,
Glenn Head: pumping something in there, man. I don’t know what it was, but it was definitely a different animal. It was, uh, it was such enthusiasm. Like, uh, it made me want to become less cynical or something. Yeah.
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. Like want to have fun for, you know, I know.
Tell me about it. Um, so with cartooning actually, did you ever do any like political cartoons or no, I
Glenn Head: never went in for that. It’s been a little bit of it here and there. If I got called up to do it, but it wasn’t my thing. I, I dunno. I don’t like, I don’t like doing comics to tell a message or to educate people about what’s what politically or something.
I dunno. It’s just not my thing. I never did one panel gags either though. So [00:45:00] you find out that, like, there are things you can do and things you can’t, or rather things you want to do and things you don’t and. Yeah, none of that was my thing.
Melissa: Okay. Well, you’ve been in like a lot of publications with your heart tunes.
Um, like what, what, what would you like describe, like, how would you describe your style as far as like, you know, what, like, what influenced you? Like what inspired you to be like, I’m going to write this, I’m going to draw this.
Glenn Head: Uh, what, what style inspired me to,
Melissa: like, what’s your style? Like what would, how would you describe your style of cartooning?
Glenn Head: Um, well, Okay. First of all, it’s graphic. It’s very black and white. My, my work is, uh, it has a tendency towards, uh, some filmic influences. Although people don’t see that right on the surface because it’s cartoony. But I think of my work as being very noir. If you look at a certain. Two-page spreads in the book, for instance, you’ll really see it, that, um, for instance, the [00:46:00] city scenes, things like that, uh, I’m at least as influenced by filmmakers are inspired by them.
Anyway. Uh, as I am by cartoonists, I like, and one thing that I learned when I was at SVA was that like, if you’re reading comics, you know, you’re reading the wrong thing, you should really be like taking in other influences, forms of inspiration. You should be reading books, you should be looking at, you know, great movies, but, you know, Getting into stuff that isn’t, you know, directly related to your own medium, because that’s just incestuous.
So a lot of these other forms of media really, really affected me. And, uh, you know, I always think of the great movies that are really like, like Martin Scorsese and his, his crime movies, street movies, that kind of stuff. Just, that’s the kind of thing I think of. And for that matter, I, I’m also really inspired maybe.
Equally by, by rock and roll music, like say Lou Reed or Iggy pop and for the kind of [00:47:00] self-inflicted brutality that they sing about. And there’s a certain amount of self-inflicted brutality in my character, in this book. So I can sort of, uh, channel that, that energy. Um, as far as my own style goes, I mean, it’s, it’s a kind of, uh, it’s a kind of comic book realism.
Um, but it’s got sort of a wide, uh, lassitude maybe, or a wide space for different kinds of drawing. Like I can like do a page that will show a bunch of crazy action, like a motorcycle accident, or I can draw. Um, my character would some other character who he knew from school, years later, sitting in a bar just talking.
Um, I, what I love about comics, if you can think it. And you can draw it, you can use it. [00:48:00] And that’s a wonderful thing about it. It means that there’s a great deal to learn, to be able to do that. It really does take a long time. And that’s why, when I was sort of saying like, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, that everybody draw comics, I don’t think it’s either good or bad.
Yeah, but I do think that it’s an extremely demanding medium to learn how to draw, to learn how to work with telling stories with symbols, which is basically what you’re doing. It’s really demanding, you know, I would, I would tell anybody go into it, but I would tell anybody it’s going to be a lot of work.
I think that that’s the best way to take it. It is a lot of work, but if you have a little, it’s also very rewarding. It was very satisfying for me to draw this book more so than anything else I’ve done. And it was the most demanding just in terms of page count alone. So,
Melissa: yeah, and I can’t remember who said it, someone I, I interviewed said, you know, if you’re.
If you’re trying to get into comics to make money, like just get into something else, [00:49:00] because it’s, it’s not about that. It’s about creating and about art and, and not, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s not, it’s not a Marvel
Glenn Head: movie. Yeah. You know, I, I mentioned, um, movies before and I actually believe that one reason why the graphic novel has really taken off and people are willing to really put everything into it is because what you can do with the medium, you can make your own movie.
Now, no one can make their own movie anymore. They can with their like iPhone or whatever, but to really make a real movie. That has all kinds of different scenes, all kinds of different characters, uh, a wide scope, a long narrative, like say I did it in my book. You and my book would actually make a movie.
It could be made as a movie, but good luck getting that done. Then that’s really the problem to make [00:50:00] a personal movie. Now, I don’t know. I don’t see many of them. It’s a really, really difficult thing to do much more so than it was. Probably in the eighties, nineties when there were a lot of these, uh, independent filmmakers coming up.
So I think that the energy that goes into drawing say a really personal story like mine and Chartwell manner is probably very similar to the energy that might go into making a film. It’s just that. You got to have a lot of people, you got to have a bank roll to get that movie made. Right. And then you gotta fight like crazy to get it distributed on top of it.
So, and then you gotta, you gotta have all these people involved in lighting and everything else. And God knows what. So to actually draw a very ambitious graphic novel by comparison, it may not be easier exactly. But it’s simpler because it’s just you doing it.
Melissa: Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. It’s just, it’s just one, a one [00:51:00] man show essentially, right?
Glenn Head: Yeah. That, that show is limited only by the artists gifts and willingness to work really hard. So that’s exciting. And anyway, I think that is probably one reason for the excitement that has built up for years now and decades really regarding the graphic novel it’s it’s similar energy, similar drive to making a film.
Yeah, your own personal movie
Melissa: now with Chartwell Manor, is this, is this story, is it a closed chapter now or, or do you have any plans to expand on the story? Or make a sequel or a spinoff, anything like that as far as other, is there more story to tell essentially is what I’m asking?
Glenn Head: No, not from this piece of my life.
No, this is pretty much it. I, in 236 pitches of this is plenty for me. Imagine it will be for anybody. Yeah. That’s what I would figure. Yeah. I got, I got everything there [00:52:00] was to say about Chartwell manner into, into Chartwell
Melissa: manner. Good. Okay. And what are you, what are you working on next? If you can talk about that, is there are projects in the works.
Glenn Head: Yeah. Um, see, one thing that happened was, uh,
The spring before this last, right before COVID hit, I had finished this book, um, you know, I hadn’t cleaned it up or done the covers, but the guts of it were complete and then COVID hit and who knew what was going to happen. And, uh, there wasn’t anything else to do. And on top of that, there was another book that I wanted to start, which I did.
And I’ve been working on that, uh, since then. And that book is about. A lot of personal stuff. That’s almost too personal for me to talk about right here, but it’s called asylum, which actually [00:53:00] relates to a couple of things. One of which is my best friend who came over here from England and was working in construction, but didn’t have asylum and died in a construction accident.
And so the story. That story is kind of the platform for a lot of the rest of what goes on in the story, in my personal life, family, things like that. And yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m very excited to be working on that. It’s very, very personal and it’s about the same length and it’s, uh, it’s different kind of book, which is good.
You don’t want to do the same kind of book again. It seems especially like this. I mean, but you don’t really, I mean, you don’t want to take the same approach again, you, you want to try something that’ll, that’ll challenge you in a different way, I guess. And I I’ve found that, um, there’s, it’s interesting to do a story [00:54:00] that, uh, is based in friendship and the interactions in a friendship, and that becomes the content and that becomes.
The narrative, uh, as opposed to events C Chartwell manner is, is entirely event driven. Every event that happens in every panel is content. Uh, it happens, it has to be dealt with it moves the story. Um, it’s interesting to work with, uh, human relationships, friendships as content, because that moves the story too.
But it moves it in a different way. And the guy was a great character. His friend of mine is a terrific character. He was a good guy. Um, but he was one of these, these Brits with like a lot of style and funny hat at all and all that kind of stuff. So he was a big character and I’m [00:55:00] really enjoying drawing him and drawing, uh, How he and I got along or didn’t, you know?
Melissa: Yeah. So it’s more character driven versus plot driven, essentially.
Glenn Head: I guess you could say that. Yeah. I mean, I don’t exactly think of a Chartwell manner as plot driven. Uh, although you could say the same thing if it’s a venture driven, but, um, yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. I’ve been driven. That’s that’s a good way to put it.
I haven’t heard anyone use that.
Glenn Head: Yeah, maybe I just don’t like the idea of something being plot-driven it sounds really hack, you know what I mean, Hitchcock movies. And you’re like, where’s the MacGuffin? Why is it going this way? Where’s it going that way? Oh yeah. Somebody fell up the statue of Liberty, a great shot, you know?
Melissa: exactly. Well, before I let you go, you know, I’d love to ask you. You know, after writing this book and, and everything you’ve been through, you know, and today in this moment, what gives you hope? What, what makes you happy?
Glenn Head: What gives me [00:56:00] hope? It makes me happy. Um, uh, work manly.
You know, and I, I don’t have to relate that back to what I was saying earlier that like, um, this was the most satisfying book I’ve ever drawn. I was working on it pretty much every day of the week during almost all of those five years. Me and my wife took some trips here and there, but not for, not for too long.
So, um, I find the work of drawing comics to be very fulfilling and. I can handle it better than I, than I once could. Um, you know, I mean the whole process of art making when it’s tough, it’s really tough. And you don’t ever get away from that completely, but you find that you can handle everything that’s been thrown at you because it’s been thrown at you before.
So [00:57:00] yeah, that’s, that’s what makes me happy. And it gives me hope, you know, If as long as I can do it, you know, that kinda kinda means my life is over if I can draw comics. Um, so I hope I can draw comics for a while because that’s life, man.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, I’m sure he’ll be doing it for a very long time. I seem to have, yeah, I, you seem to have, um, some great fans and, and great reviews, uh, for your newest books.
So congratulations on that.
Glenn Head: Thank you very much,
Melissa: Melissa. Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing your story with me. I really appreciate it.
Glenn Head: Yeah, I’m glad I was able to thanks for
Melissa: having me on. Yeah, everyone listening, uh, Chartwell manner is available now in bookstores comic book shops and online retailers.
You can also find more of Glen’s art and [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at Glenn L. Head. Thank you so much. This has been
Glenn Head: awesome. [00:58:00] And then Instagram is Glenn had comics.
Melissa: I don’t have comics. Okay. I’m going to go follow you on Instagram too now. And I’m buying your book because I’m just, it sounds amazing and fascinating and fantastic.
And I want to support you.
Glenn Head: Thanks. I really appreciate it, Melissa. Thanks very much.