On an overcast Friday in December, I drive from north Phoenix to Orange County for Joyce's first book-signing, at Latitude 33 in Laguna, two days before Special Exits is officially released. The next day, we take Amtrak to downtown L.A.'s Union Station (another first provided to me by Joyce, the child of a railroad man). I'm along to provide moral support and potential bodyguard services.

During the train ride from Irvine to L.A, Joyce and I take inventory of body parts that have betrayed us. On the list are broken bones and breast cancer (she had two breasts removed, while I opted for reconstruction after a unilateral mastectomy). She had lost both parents by 1994, while I lost my father in 2003 and, the following year, my middle sister.

One of artist Joyce Farmer's favorite
pages from Special Exits, a graphic novel 13 years in the making, about the decline and deaths of her parents.
Kathleen Vanesian
One of artist Joyce Farmer's favorite pages from Special Exits, a graphic novel 13 years in the making, about the decline and deaths of her parents.
Tits & Clits
Kathleen Vanesian
Tits & Clits

Location Info

Map

Changing Hands Bookstore

6428 S. McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283

Category: Retail

Region: Tempe

Details

Joyce Farmer will appear at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 22, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe to sign her book and participate in a Q&A led by local artist Jon Haddock, co-founder of the Comic Book Creators Support Group. Visit changinghands.com.

My sister, Janet Wright, died after a long, painful struggle with breast cancer, which had spread into her bones. My mother, youngest sister, and I tag-teamed in home hospice for several months, so I know all about the hospice experience covered in the last part of Special Exits.

As my dad was fond of saying, no one gets out of here alive.

Probably the worst thing that had happened to Joyce since I had seen her, physically speaking, was wet macular degeneration, which hit just as she finished drawing and had not yet inked Special Exits. Macular degeneration is an eye condition, usually affecting older adults, that results in the loss of vision in the center of the visual field. Surgery failed to correct the problem and, in fact, caused scarring, then cataracts, so Joyce was forced to wear an eye patch, working about eight inches from the paper on which she was drawing or inking with an old-fashioned pen nib.

That had to be especially grueling when she decided to re-draw and re-ink the first 35 pages of the book, each of which featured a different composition and obscenely small detail in every frame.

"I redid them because the artwork was black, dense, and unfocused. It just wasn't suitable. I tend to draw in great detail," she says. Added to this is the fact that she can't draw or ink with the radio or TV on, "or any distraction whatsoever; if my husband comes through the door, I have to wash up the ink and stop," she notes. "I cannot be interrupted, because this is a flow and I am thinking every second of what the next line should be and how funny I can make it."

Joyce's interviewer in Santa Monica, Richard Metzger, is founder and former creative director of The Disinformation Company, a publishing house and its website, and was the host of Disinformation, a British talk show. His latest foray into subcultural matters is his website, dangerousminds.net. He chauffeurs us to a taping room at Mahalo.com, located in a strip mall on Colorado Avenue. I sit four feet outside the room, looking up at a gigantic monitor displaying the interview. Before they begin talking, I overhear Joyce asking Metzger whether or not she could swear on camera; Metzger gives her a thumbs-up.

During the interview, Joyce charms Metzger with a story about the first time she met R. Crumb in San Francisco, a tête-à-tête during which he, without warning, jumped on her back for a piggyback ride, straight out of Zap Comix.

It's then I realize, with particular clarity, that I would never have been introduced to the world of art or the art of speaking one's mind fearlessly about art, had I not befriended Joyce Farmer back in first-year Latin class. Joyce is one of those people who always will be a constant in my universe, remaining essentially unchanged, despite everything life, or I, might pitch at her.

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9 comments
Rhinoplasty Los Angeles
Rhinoplasty Los Angeles

Hyperthermia alone will not rid your cancer alone but the high heat is known to kill cancer cells directly and to make them more susceptible to radiation. The low dose radiation catches any renegade cancer cells that may have dodged the heat bullets. This can work on a variety of cancers. It has been known to work very especially well with breast, prostate, head and neck, throat, and tongue cancers without any recurrence of the cancer cells.

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helentroy4
helentroy4

It is such a pleasure to come to the New Times website and see Ms. Farmer on the home page. She has such lovely skin with an almost luminescent glow. Thank you for writing this article. I was not familiar with her work.

As for the naysayers who say that kids these days are uninterested in this genre, and are naive ignorant sad sacks when it comes to these kinds of publications, I think that you are woefully ignorant of the popularity of what are now called graphic novels which are this generation's underground comics.

Movermoves
Movermoves

can't understand why there would be an art critic in phoenix. there isn't any art here.

Crazed Country Acid Head
Crazed Country Acid Head

todays yuppies could care less about underground comix. those days are gone with the 60s and 70s hippie generation. the punks today dont even know what underground anything is. they are all ignorant naive mental sad sacks.

The Snoid
The Snoid

I have a collection of about 400 old underground comix from the 60s and 70s from all different writers and artists.

Self Help Guru
Self Help Guru

there is no culture here either or blues music culture. phoenix is just a very unsophisticated boring dusty sandy desert in the middle of nowhere looking for a city. but i love the sunshine, blue sky's and hot dry desert heat so i put up with this boring burg even though there is nothing to do here but ride motorcycles, swim and get skin cancer.

 
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