Brad Teare: Scratching Away at Truth

« Contained in these works were not only all the important philosophical developments of modern society… there were even answers to as yet unposed questions. » — Cypher has an epiphany

This week’s topic reminded me of the crucial role an enlightened comic shop owner, especially pre-internet, could play in one’s edification in the medium. Case in point: while I can’t consider him a mentor, my old comic shop guy, being adventurous and open-minded, made a lot of obscure titles available, without necessarily pushing them on his customers. And in a world of ‘super-heroes or bust’, such availability is crucial.

Which brings us to Mr. Brad Teare (b. 1956, Moscow, Idaho). I’ve always had special fondness for comics that bloomed outside the usual channels, like hardy plant life rising up in cracks and miraculously subsisting on nearly nothing.

You know, like this.

From what I can tell, Teare’s first professional comics work appeared in a non-consecutive pair of issues of Heavy Metal magazine, during that blessed but oh-so-brief ‘Tundra‘ period when surprisingly enlightened Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman published, at considerable loss (between 9 and 14 million simoleons), some of the finest comics of the 1990s.

Eastman had purchased Heavy Metal in January, 1992. In the March issue, Brad Teare’s Cypher made its first of two appearances in HM, in marked contrast to the magazine’s prevalent ‘dystopias with titties for arrested adolescents’ aesthetic.

The following year, Teare self-published (under the Crypto Graphica banner, out of Providence, Utah, pop. 7,000 or so) Cypher no. 1, with a cover clamouring that it contained the ‘Complete Cypher Trilogy!’. Teare intended to produce further issues, but the market evidently wasn’t built for it. The book is so obscure that even the Grand Comics Database (GDC) has never heard of it. But my comic shop guy did place an order, and found at least one receptive reader eager to snap up a copy. I waited and waited for a second issue, but in vain.

This is Cypher no. 1 (1993, Crypto Graphica). Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the artistic technique of ‘scratchboard’? I have indeed!
This back cover one-pager from Cypher no. 1 has never been reprinted, I believe.

Then, four years down the road, Gibbs-Smith, “a proud independent publisher and distributor“, founded in 1969, also Utah-based… and still around, assembled and issued a compact (22,5 x 16 cm) hardcover Cypher collection, gathering material that Teare must have intended for at least a couple more issues of his series. Aside from an oddly ‘meh’ cover, overworked and underwhelming, it’s a gorgeous package. It also has managed to fly below the GCD’s radar all these years.

Cypher finds himself new employment. This is the version from Cypher no. 1; perhaps because of the smaller format, the collected edition replaced Teare’s lovely, expressive hand-lettering with a computer font.
A spooky sample from ‘Minotaur‘, from the 1997 Gibbs-Smith collected edition.

In the meantime, Teare kept his hand in, providing a pair of highlights to DC/Paradox Press’ well-written but frustratingly visually scattershot The Big Book Of series (1994-2000), also finding success as a freelance illustrator (Random House, The New York Times, Sony, Turner Interactive, Flying Buffalo) in all manners of media.

From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Dec. 1994, Paradox Press/DC).
From 1997, a typical spread from the charming Dance, Pioneer, Dance! Written by Rick Walton, it offers a slightly fictionalised account of the westward migration of Brigham Young and a band of his fellow Mormons.
From The Big Book of Vice (March 1999, Paradox Press/DC). A fascinating bit of history!

Though he’s nowadays a celebrated and prolific painter of the Utah landscape, he hasn’t altogether turned his back on comics, bless his soul. The final chapter of Cypher (to date?), ‘Sub-Wayward’, introduced, in the story-within-a-story tradition, scientist turned reluctant underground hero The Subterranean. And so, long story short, we find ourselves with a Teare book that’s readily available (for the time being)!

« This comic details the thrilling origin of The Subterranean from his humble beginnings at HyperLabs in New York City to his role as sole defense against a terrible evil perpetrated by the Thanatos twins, former colleagues at HyperLabs. This character of The Subterranean is a spin-off from the critically acclaimed graphic novel Cypher. »

In parting, here’s a video of Mr. Teare demonstrating the impasto technique in acrylics.

-RG

2 thoughts on “Brad Teare: Scratching Away at Truth

  1. sbmumford July 29, 2022 / 22:17

    Nice work. It looks very familiar, so I must have seen Teare’s drawings in various publications over the years. His chunky, stylized lines and blocky forms remind me a bit of New Yorker cartoonist BEK, but with a great deal more tonality and liveliness; his drawings and stories seem to express something of a 90s zeitgeist, hints of Kurt Cobain, Twin Peaks, and Monika Lewinski somehow embedded in their clunky rhythms.

    It’s very curious to see Teare’s paintings, which are nice but unremarkable, next to the graphic work. The photographer Cartier-Bresson somewhat mysteriously left his camera for watercolor landscapes later in life.
    Is it the age-old cache to painting, a “finer” art than all the rest? Is the siren song of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, et al, too strong to resist?
    Or is the act of painting outside from the motif such a lovely therapy, that, well, why not? Winston Churchill painted landscapes in retirement…

    In any case I’m glad that Teare hasn’t put aside his ink and scratch pads. I look forward to seeing more of his work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 July 30, 2022 / 20:07

      Hi SB– you wrote:

      >Nice work. It looks very familiar, so I must have seen Teare’s drawings in various publications over the years. His chunky, >stylized lines and blocky forms remind me a bit of New Yorker cartoonist BEK, but with a great deal more tonality and >liveliness;

      Well, I don’t know about BEK. If I were to compare him to any New Yorker cartoonists, it would be Eric Drooker, and perhaps his pal Peter Kuper — this comparison brought to you by the letter ‘K’.

      >his drawings and stories seem to express something of a 90s zeitgeist, hints of Kurt Cobain, Twin Peaks, and Monika >Lewinski somehow embedded in their clunky rhythms.

      Yeah, there’s definitely a vibe of that experimental darkness in there. Twin Peaks comes closest, though, with the melding of philosophy, dark humour and… innocence.

      >It’s very curious to see Teare’s paintings, which are nice but unremarkable, next to the graphic work.

      I agree, his impasto acrylics pale before the rest of his work although, given the texture, their full dimensional effect may be difficult to translate in a mere photo. On the other hand, maybe it’s the sheer, freewheeling fun of creating them that’s the main appeal to him.

      > The photographer >Cartier-Bresson somewhat mysteriously left his camera for watercolor landscapes later in life.

      Could have been an eyesight thing. Or, having seen first-hand what developer chemicals do to an active photographer’s skin (think ‘crocodile with shingles’) and lungs, C-B may have opted for a gentler medium of expression.

      >Is it the age-old cache to painting, a “finer” art than all the rest? Is the siren song of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, et al, too strong to resist?

      I’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Will report back. 😉

      >Or is the act of painting outside from the motif such a lovely therapy, that, well, why not? Winston Churchill painted >landscapes in retirement…

      Sounds about right. At this point, it’s practically expected of retired statesmen.

      > In any case I’m glad that Teare hasn’t put aside his ink and scratch pads. I look forward to seeing more of his work.

      You may have already, but if not, do check out his Woodcuts. Now, *that* is the man’s forte.

      https://www.etsy.com/shop/BradTeareWoodcuts

      Like

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