Haight Street Stories
The tale of how we decided to make a comic book
The Ant had been hanging out at Murio's Trophy Room for several years and had peppered the ceiling with caricatures of its patrons by the time Harry Moss wandered in some time around 1998.
Both men liked to play pool and it didn't take long for them to come to know one another across the table. One night Ant did a drawing of Moss along with a sly comment which hangs there today.
In July, 2000, Moss asked Ant to illustrate one of his recent short stories, "Sterling Beer and Jalapenos," which he had written just two months previous, in April after visiting a dying friend in Olympia, WA. It took Ant several weeks, but he completed the drawings. He did not do any lettering. Moss copied, then cut the drawings up, glued them to paper and added dialogue and narrative using his dot matrix printer. He sent a copy of this tacky paste up job off to Tim Stoup at Cold Cuts, a San Jose distribution company that handles independent comic publishers. Tim said if Moss could turn this into a comic, Cold Cuts would carry it.
That sounds good, but the reality is that means they will buy maybe 50 copies at 40% of cover price.
Moss quickly learned what it takes to print a comic. The cover is usually done by one printer because it is on heavy stock in four colors; the insides, usually news print, are from another printer. Together it would cost nearly $4,000 to print 5,000 copies of a 32 page book which, Moss figured, meant two stories. Maybe three.
The first story Ant illustrated, "Sterling Beer," originally took place at a bar called the Ramp. The Ramp is nowhere near Haight Street. Since Moss and Ant knew one another from Murio's, Moss decided to call the comic Haight Street Stories and to change the locale of "Sterling" and another story, "In Which Esther Gets a Tattoo," to fit the Haight. (Read all three stories as originally written: see original text).
Then Moss got the brainy idea of selling advertising to the merchants on this internationally known thoroughfare. That was in August. By September Moss had a three part NCR contract in hand which an old friend, a graphic artist, prepared for him. He sold his first advertisement to Fred at the New Lite Super near Masonic on
In all, 21 merchants were willing to take a chance on the comic and Moss sold one hundred percent of available space for a total of $6,000. Sales were so good, in fact, that by January Moss decided the book could be increased to 40 pages and contain three short stories. Basically, if it were not for these business people, Haight Street Stories would not exist.
Throughout the sales period, Ant worked to illustrate the stories. With the deposits he collected, Moss was able to pay Ant for his work as well as the graphic artist who prepared the ads for the merchants.
All three stories in Haight Street Stories were written by H. W. Moss. They were quick writes although they went through a number of changes and corrections before they were complete.
Moss wrote "Armageddon Now" a number of years ago, on August 12, 1994. It is a true story told to him by Jason Freskos over a beer at Tarr and Feathers, a bar that closed before the new century arrived. Moss began writing it at 11:30 in the morning and finished by 4:00 that afternoon. It was immediately rejected without comment by Focus Magazine.
"In Which Esther Gets a Tattoo" was begun July 11, 1995, and completed on July 12. A former girlfriend described her experience getting tattoos of Calvin and Hobbes on one ankle, Ren and Stimpy on the other. He added the word "flash" and the discovery of the third most favorite place for a tattoo from statistics found in the San Francisco Chronicle,
"Sterling Beer and Jalapenos" was written on
The line, "Work is day jail," was told to Dawnell, Jason's sister, when she and Moss went to pick up a cup of coffee from a tiny kiosk in Olympia. The counter person said that's what her boyfriend calls her job. Jason told Moss he could have the story, but don't use Sterling's name. He didn't. But he did use Jason's.
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