Mike's pictureMy name created with my own hand

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The pictures below represent my earliest. Pablo Picasso related “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child,” and “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Be My Valentine (marker, crayon, collage on paper, circa 2/14/1961)

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Could this represent my earliest artifact? My mother Martha Lee Bohacz labeled it with my age (3) and the year (1961). She must have helped me a great deal to make this Valentine's Day card for my dad Emilian Anthony Bohacz. Mom told me she taught us to read and write before we were in school (we didn't attend preschool). She probably guided my hand for the writing and provided an example for the face drawings. I believe the face example is the little frowning one on the lower left of the back page. Knowing my mom, she probably intended the example to smile. Perhaps this indicates dyslexia, perhaps subconscious sadness. She had a troubled childhood. The loose separate yellow arrow piece pierces the heart on the cover page.

No Room at the Inn (crayon on church issue paper, 1963)

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My mother labeled this with a year, my name, plus "CHURCH SCHOOL." Church school was Vacation Bible School affiliated with Lawndale Emmanuel Baptist Church on the south side of Chicago. They issued this template of the inn where the Holy Family didn't get lodging for us preschoolers to finish. My contribution was the color and perhaps the first figure I ever drew. Notice what I thought important: ears. The hands are interesting, it looks like I struggled to draw fingers.

KINDEGARTEN (crayon on paper)

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This picture I later labeled with the misspelled "KINDEGARTEN." It looks like a self portrait expressing my joy after successfully tying my shoelaces. This figure seems more accomplished than the church drawing. Notice the enlarged and improved hands. My kindergarten teacher was Bette Toborg. Her name always reminded me of the robot from the film Tobor the Great.

Outdoors (crayon on paper, 1963)

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This drawing I later labeled with the year 1963. I like the water damage, I cannot recall what it looked like without it.

Squirrel Tracing (ballpoint pen traced over pencil on paper)

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My older brother, Joseph Mefford (nicknamed Buddy), had a sketchbook with his drawings in it. I traced over some of his pencil drawings with a ballpoint pen, improving my own drawing skills. Internal evidence in the sketchbook could date this tracing to 1964. Joseph Mefford possesses the sketchbook.

Time Drawing (ballpoint pen on paper)

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This drawing from my older brother's sketchbook may not seem the most accomplished but I find it interesting in another way. Probably all children draw with time included as a formal element in their process. There's a definite beginning and ending to a sequence here. At first a cannon was drawn then a target, here presented as a building or structure with a skull and crossbones representing the bad guys. Notice the long fuse attached to the cannon. Before the explosion took place, fire pen marks were added to the fuse starting from the farthest away from the cannon to the closest, with sound effects of the fizzing fuse added by mouth. When the fizzing fire reached the cannon a hurtling projectile was represented by pen marks to exit the cannon and strike the building causing it to explode. Marks were used to represent the extent of the damage. Sound effects of the cannon and the final explosion were also provided by mouth. Thus we can think of this drawing representing a performance in time. I will use this technique quite a bit with my future drawings which will eventually evolve into comics and animation. Joseph Mefford possesses the sketchbook.

Superhero (ballpoint pen on paper)

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This represents another of my drawings from my older brother Buddy's sketchbook. If memory serves, I collaborated on this drawing with my childhood friend Jerry Posluszny. I really cannot remember who drew what in this drawing but this kind of collaboration became frequent, as evidenced by other drawings in the sketchbook. Joseph Mefford possesses the sketchbook.

Sylvester the Cat and Friend (ballpoint pen on paper)

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I began to draw cartoon characters that I saw on television. My older brother's wife, Arlene, commented to me that when she saw this she could tell I had drawing talent.

George Jetson (ballpoint pen on paper)

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Here's a picture of George Jetson. I loved The Jetsons and the show's portrayal of an American future.

Our Newspaper (published Oct., 1964)

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Ms. Sloan, my first grade teacher, asked me to draw for our class newspaper. Here's the cover of our first issue. My legal name at that time was Michael Anthony Montague.

Antenna Creature (pencil on paper, circa Feb., 1965)

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When I saw My Favorite Martian on TV, I so much wanted to be a martian I tried pushing antennae out of my head like Uncle Martin did on the show. I remember staring at the clock on the wall of our grade school classroom as the second hand rounded its way toward the top while I gave a supreme effort toward raising my pair of antennae. I was watching the clock because, if memory serves, I used it to time one minute of effort to raise those antennae. I had my first grade class convinced I was a martian. I can approximately date this drawing because it's on the back of a February 1965 copy of our class newspaper. It's possible this was drawn by my friend Gregory Miller, I can't recall.

Second Grade Drawings (pencil and crayon on paper, 1965)

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Here's a slice of drawings I did in my second grade classroom numbered 106. The left half represents pictures I drew to complete an assignment. Our teacher, Mrs. Bastien, had us make small drawings in grid sections. You can see how interested I was in TV shows like My Favorite Martian, Jonny Quest, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea from these pictures. The right half represents doodling in the same classroom and references Lost in Space and Jonny Quest. My legal name was Michael Anthony Montague at the time.

Martian Essay (pencil on notebook paper, 5/24/1965)

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I used to decorate my elementary school reports with drawings, as our teachers taught us to. On the back of this assignment I drew a likeness of Uncle Martin from the TV show My Favorite Martian. He stands gleaming in his space jumpsuit, the antennae on his head passing electromagnetic radiation between them. Different views of his spaceship are also in the drawing as is his home planet Mars. My legal name was Michael Anthony Montague at the time.

Rockets Essay (pencil and crayon on notebook paper, 10/21/1966)

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The illustration that goes with this third grade assignment shows a Gemini space capsule and a variety of other things in orbit around the Earth. If memory serves I got the idea for the picture from Mad magazine. My teacher, Mrs. Warfield, gave me a grade of "E" which stood for excellent. If memory serves I once asked Mrs. Warfield if I was a genius. She answered "no" because she said if I was a genius she wouldn't be able to teach me anything. My legal name was Michael Anthony Montague at the time.

United Planets Cruiser C-57D (colored pencils on paper)

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I loved watching flying saucer type spaceships landing in our family TV, they struck me as so awesome! Those round disc shapes that I saw in The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, My Favorite Martian, Lost in Space, The Invaders had a lasting effect on me and any time one was on the tube I was glued to the screen. Here are drawings I did of the Forbidden Planet ship United Planets Cruiser C-57D. I struggled with the shapes. The ship was very symmetrical while my renderings look lopsided.

The Body (pencil on notebook paper, 1966)

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My older brother Buddy owned a book that I liked to look at a lot. The Body was one of Life magazine's books in their Life Science Library. Another title that I liked from the collection was The Mind. Buddy also took us to see the movie Fantastic Voyage and these sources inspired me to create this humble book. I partnered with my third grade chum Jeff Lockridge. We both wrote and I did all the illustrations.

Skin and Bones (pencil on paper)

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My older brother Buddy owned a book that I liked to look at a lot. The Body was one of Life magazine's books in their Life Science Library. I took my time to make this drawing as I looked carefully at Buddy's book. I misjudged the proportions and had to bring in another piece of paper to finish the legs.

Snowed-In City (pencil and crayon on notebook paper, 2/2/1967)

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If memory serves, my fourth grade teacher Mr. Richard Miller assigned us to write about the 1967 Chicago blizzard. The events described in my poem actually occured. Mr. Miller gave me a grade of "E" which stood for excellent. My legal name was Michael Anthony Montague at the time. There's a strange thing about the year of this class. I remember remarking to Mr. Miller that he reminded me of the actor Patrick McGoohan from the British TV show The Prisoner. I meant it as a compliment but the problem is The Prisoner did not air in the United States until June 1, 1968. This does not add up. Did I take summer school with Mr. Miller as well? I don't remember doing so. Perhaps he spent a day in my fifth grade class as a substitute teacher. This definitely is a mystery!

Tracing Oswald (pencil on tracing paper)

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My older brother Buddy gave me the book Easy Way To Draw by Walter Lantz. It was intended to teach kids how to draw cartoon characters. I didn't exactly follow the directions in the book. Rather than drawing the characters step-by-step by eye, I used tracing paper to duplicate the lessons. This resulted in exercising my hand coordination for drawing and text but left the pages for actual drawing practice empty.

Woody Woodpecker Front and Back (pencil and crayon on paper)

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I used to like the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker quite a bit. Here's a drawing of him showing his front and his back. The original is on a single piece of paper with his front and back on the two respective sides.

Early Drawing of Nick the Cliff Dweller (pencil and marker on paper, 1968 or perhaps 1967)

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I believe I began drawing Nick the Cliff Dweller in 1968 or perhaps 1967. Also if memory serves, I didn't draw this picture of Nick with the background you see here. I drew the figure and I believe my younger brother Monte Paul Bohacz drew the cliff with Nick's house. Perhaps Monte's addition was the reason I called the character "the Cliff Dweller." Perhaps the song The Fool on the Hill by the Beatles inspired his creation. My earliest drawings of Nick don't show him with any hair above his ears. The cliff Monte drew looks like it could collapse, hmmm.....

Earliest Nick the Cliff Dweller Comic (ballpoint pen on paper, 1968 or perhaps 1967)

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If memory serves, this was the very first comic that Nick appeared in. I can't find the original comic from which I copied this version. I can tell this isn't a true early comic because Nick has hair above his ears. I believe this comic represents early doubts I had about the Christian doctrine of faith-rest.

The Adventures of Nick the Cliff Dweller: Pirate Planet (marker and ballpoint pen on paper, 1968 or perhaps 1967)

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Here's a Nick the Cliff Dweller full length story, my first. I loved this comic story so much that I revised it many times, this being the original version. I patterned my drawing from my love of Peanuts and the stories from comics like Hot Stuff the Little Devil and fantasy television. Mad magazine's Don Martin was another influence.

Stair Crazy (ballpoint pen and pencil on paper, 1968 or perhaps 1967)

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Cool Man (crayon on notebook paper, prior to 9/21/1968)

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I drew Cool Man for inclusion in the Picture Gallery of our Skull Club. I created the club when I was around 8 or 9 years old. Although Cool Man has the year 1969 marked on the picture, it was made earlier than that year. I drew the picture and added the year later because I wanted to label it with a date before any more time passed. I recall that I felt great validation about the Skull Club when I saw the character No. 48 sing our Skull Club theme song Dem Bones on the climactic last episode of Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner. The episode "Fall Out" ran on CBS on the Saturday evening of September 21, 1968. Today the club continues and I regard the Skull Club as an ongoing series of conceptual-performance works of art and/or experimental theater. I updated, in a minor way, this downloadable version of the original secret book for those who want to join the club today. Feel free to initiate your own souls into the Skull Club as you will find everything you need within the pages of this volume, including thirteen empty secret name slots waiting for your members’ entries. The Secret Book of the Skull Club Volume 1: Illustrated Writings of Terror-Children is a history of the early Skull club available for sale on Amazon.

Monster Cat (pencil on paper, 1969)

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Cousin (pencil on paper)

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Ribbet the Frog visits his cousin Kermit.

Town Below (ballpoint pen on paper)

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I began to imagine a larger world for my character Nick the Cliff Dweller, including an origin story. In this comic we see Nick making his way down the road to what will become his home. In the near future Nick will live on a cliff overlooking Town Below. The name of this town came about when my friend Michael Wayne Davis misread my comic story where Nick sees flying saucers and runs to escape down his cliff to "town below." I meant it to mean he was running to 'the town below' but Mike laughed that it was the name of said town. The name stuck. Nick singing "Goin' down that long lonesome highway..." was from the theme song to the TV show Then Came Bronson which went on the air on March 24, 1969.

Dinosaur (pencil and crayon on paper, 1969)

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This drawing took an honorable mention from the Little Village 26th Street Chamber of Commerce (Chicago) on 10/31/1969.

Ice Cream Man (tempera on paper, 4/1/1970)

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I made this picture for my sixth grade teacher Ms. Bernice P. Murray. Ms. Murray and her class caused me great distress. Prior to her class I always seemed to be the teacher's pet. Ms. Murray, however, seemed to bestow her favorite student status onto a different boy in her class whose name I cannot recall. She seemed to not like me in particular. One day she asked the class something like "Where is Old Faithful geyser located?" I raised my hand, she called on me and I answered seriously "Jellystone Park." Everyone laughed except Ms. Murray. The correct answer is Yellowstone Park (Jellystone Park was the home of an animated television character named Yogi Bear). Ms. Murray asked very sternly "Was that supposed to be funny?" When I realized my mistake I laughed out loud but stopped suddenly because none of the rest of the class laughed. I was very embarrased and felt my face flush red heat. Ms. Murray then called on her teacher's pet for the answer. Prior to this occurrence I felt for the most part I was a happy, outgoing kid. After this I changed into an introvert. I became very shy and depressed. I felt alienated from my fellow students ever after, including all future classes.

Nock (ballpoint pen on paper, 10/25/1970); The Evil Mountain Countain (ballpoint pen and pencil on paper, 10/27/1970)

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My visual journal dates Nock to October 25, 1970. If memory serves I conceived the idea of Nick making a robot but my friend Mike Davis came up with his name "Nock." I didn't develop Nock more than this single comic. My visual journal dates the Mountain Countain to October 27, 1970. These two dates are so close I've decided to include the two in this single entry. The "Countain" in Mountain Countain's name was a clumsy attempt to give him evil status. My character Count Bat, derived from Count Dracula of course, had such status. The Mountain Countain appeared in at least three comics including the one presented here. He also had a major role in the lyrics of Nick's theme song. The visual journal records the dates that I first rendered the characters to paper in drawings, the comics presented would have been made after.

Dis-Guises (pencil on paper)

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Take A Joke (ballpoint pen on paper)

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A Collection of Characters (pencil on paper, 1970)

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When Mike Davis and I began hanging out we started, among other things, improvising comedy. We took on different characters and voices and interacted spontaneously to create scenarios. Our characters Dr. Frankenfreak, played by Mike, and his hunchback assistant Egor, played by me, were inspired by the 1931 Universal film Frankenstein. We drew these characters as well. Here's Mike's collection of our characters just mentioned and others we either created together or he created on his own. I apparently didn’t like the way he depicted my character Egor and I tore Egor out of the picture. We eventually created audio tape recordings of the characters as well. You can hear them at my SoundCloud account.

Bully (pencil on paper)

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Nick's distinguishing feature is his hat, which was influenced by the Peanuts Linus character who carryed around a security blanket. The hat evolved to symbolize Nick's individuality. I got that idea from Patrick McGoohan's TV series "The Prisoner. My old friend Mike Davis recognized the hat as one belonging to a wizard but he didn't like the pom-pom. This comic shows that Nick has more concern for his hat than that this bully taunts him.

Benno (pencil on paper)

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This Nick the Cliff Dweller comic features a character named Benno along with Nick. Benno was inspired by a grade school chum of mine.

Belt (pencil on paper)

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Tie (pencil on paper)

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Fishing (ballpoint pen on paper, 5/15/1971)

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The Adventures of Mr. Cookie and the First Adventure of Superbad (ballpoint pen on paper, late 1970-71)

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With the characters Mr. Cookie and Superbad I explored super-hero and car enthusiast themes influenced by the animated series Speed Racer. Mr. Cook, a substitute teacher I encountered in school, inspired the main character. Mr. Cook’s hair didn’t look real to me. This is how Mr. Cookie ended up with a wig from which he acquired his Samson-like strength. I remember that I passed around this comic book to my 7th grade classmates in the fall semester of 1970. The teacher, whose name I cannot recall, caught one of my patrons, whose name I also cannot recall, reading the book during class. He scolded the class and confiscated the book. I did get it back, thankfully.

Nick's Feature Film Development (ballpoint pen and pencil on paper, 1971; digital completion, 2023)

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I started Nick the Cliff Dweller's backstory with my comic Town Below where Nick travels a road toward his eventual residence on his cliff. I began to plan an animated feature film about Nick and imagined an expanded backstory which would occur before the comic Town Below. In this story, Nick was a secret agent in the service of King Klang of Klangodia. He was one of an elite group of four agents inspired by the Speed Racer episode "The Royal Racer" where Nick's group reflected the so-called assassins. The Speed Racer assassins sounds, appearances, ninja antics impressed me. King Klang had in mind to promote Nick to a higher status in his government and this upset Prime Minister Fool, who felt the promotion should be his. This caused political intrigue and instability in the kingdom. Inspired by The Prisoner, Nick resigned from his secret job and moved to the isolation of his cliff. The political intrigue would eventually find its way to Nick and he would be forced to confront the forces of Prime Minister Fool and the remaining three secret agents. This is as far as I got with the story. Mike Davis and I created many characters and scenarios for Nick's film and this work is documented here. The film wasn't made because I ended up spending more time making comedy audio recordings based on these and other characters. You can hear these recordings at my SoundCloud account.

The Adventures of Mr. Cookie (Part 2) (ballpoint pen on paper, 1972)

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With the characters Mr. Cookie and Superbad I explored super-hero and car enthusiast themes influenced by the animated series Speed Racer. Mr. Cook, a substitute teacher I encountered in school, inspired the main character. Mr. Cook’s hair didn’t look real to me. This is how Mr. Cookie ended up with a wig from which he acquired his Samson-like strength.

Outer Space Attack (ballpoint pen on paper, 1972, titled 2023)

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Mrs. Stien's Tree (pencil on paper)

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My older brother Buddy owned a book that I liked to look at a lot. The Mind was one of Life magazine's books in their Life Science Library. The book, in addition to providing an introduction to the fascinating human mind, also had a wealth of pictures. My favorites were the artworks that were either created by or inspired by the mentally disturbed. This was my introduction to strange artwork. If memory serves, it was in 8th grade that we looked at slides of famous artwork, including surrealist paintings by Magritte. This introduced me into a wider art world and had a profound effect on me. Surrealism resonated with my uncanny feelings and dreams, reminding me of the images in The Mind book. My 8th grade science teacher, Mrs. Stien, noticed I had drawing talent probably from seeing the comics I made. She asked me to create a painting. She set me up with oil paints and I created a picture of a sky with smoke ring clouds floating through it. The canvas was about 3 feet high by 2 wide and I remember the rings being reddish-orangish-brownish on something like a magenta sky, if memory serves. This was the first oil painting for me and it didn't have the cartoon character look of my previous color pictures. It was definitely inspired by surrealism. Mrs. Stien was so taken with the painting that she took it. I didn't even get a photo of it. This picture of a tree was drawn by Mrs. Stien.

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