Early Work: comics and illos from my teens and early 20s

Comics, Geek, Illustration, Plug

day-life-len-neufeld1-scan-1000pxMatthew Baker—or Mx. Baker, as he prefers to be called—is a rather mysterious fellow who writes for a living. He contributed a wonderful “seeder” piece to the “Brothers” triptych of FLASHed (responded to by Jon Lewis and then Julia Fierro), and he curates a blog called Early Work, which (as you might guess) highlights the immature work of established writers and artists. My take on the blog is that the stuff each creator chooses shows hints of the themes and styles of their later, mature work. (Or maybe it’s just amusing to see how far they’ve come!) Folks featured on Early Work include cartoonist Anders Nilsen, writer Kelly Luce, and poet Naomi Shihab Nye, to name a few. And now… me.

As you may know, I’m a bit of a hoarder and I have files full of old artwork, going back to my youngest days. (My mom and dad have their share of my childhood drawings as well.) So there was a lot of material to choose from. On the other hand, I was apprehensive about sharing my immature artwork with the world at large.

But with Matt’s help, I was able to whittle down all that material to some stuff from my teenage years and early twenties that I wasn’t too embarrassed about: a collection of one-page comics I did for my dad for his birthday each year, a series of illustrations of roommates from my freshman-year college dorm, and a series of trompe-l’oeil illustrations I did for loved ones.

One aspect of the Early Work site I really like is its “raw” quality—the drawings are presented on the wrinkled, yellowed paper they were done on. Stories are scrawled in a child’s hand. Nothing is cleaned up in PhotoShop. This is ephemera, often plucked from decades past. So I really tried to get into the spirit of that.

Another fun thing about Early Work is that each contribution features a statement by the creator about the “early work” and a photo of the them from that period. There’s something really poignant and charming about these photos of “anonymous” kids who later became  respected writers and artists. Who knew (besides me) that there was a photo of me posing with the late, beloved musician Prince? (Well, a poster of him, at least…) Read on to see for yourself…

So without further ado (what is “ado,” anyhow?), here are some links to my “early work”:

In Honor of the Reopening of Oberlin’s Apollo Theatre, Here is a List of Movies I Saw at the Apollo (in Roughly the Order I Saw Them)


St. Elmo’s FirePrizzi’s HonorKiss of the Spider WomanSilveradoBack to the FutureTeen WolfRocky IVThe Color PurpleOut of AfricaWildcatsBack to SchoolAbout Last NightAliensCrocodile DundeeThe Color of MoneyChildren of a Lesser GodPeggy Sue Got MarriedJumpin’ Jack FlashHoosiersStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeThree AmigosLittle Shop of HorrorsLethal WeaponPlanes Trains and AutomobilesThrow Momma From the TrainEddie Murphy: RawBroadcast NewsMoonstruckGood Morning, VietnamPink Floyd—The WallBeetlejuiceBiloxi BluesComing to AmericaBull DurhamA Fish Called WandaDie HardMoon Over ParadorThe AccusedTequila SunriseMississippi BurningTwinsThe Accidental TouristRain ManBill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureField of DreamsMajor League

Baseball/Softball Encyclopedia: Josh Neufeld


[Originally posted April 12, 2006 — updated for 2017 with final 2016 stats]

 In honor of the new baseball season, I’ve asked Bill James and the good folks at Baseball-Reference.com to compile my career (so far) statistics. Unfortunately, the records are spotty. Though they date as far back as my 1982–1983 stint as a Little Leaguer playing baseball against such classic teams as 15th Street Iron Works and Aurora Phoenix Construction, there is a disturbing absence of information for almost the next twenty years!

I know! No stats from the glory days of the mid-1980s, when man_size, larrondo, thamesrhodes, pango_lafoote, and I tested the confines of Riverside Park during summer softball?! Or the three years at the helm of the Oberlin College intramural softball teams — The Dascomb Lords of Fresh (1987), Better Than You (1988), and Like a Big Dog (1989)? Or those great seasons in the early 90s as captain of The Nation magazine softball team, as we squared off against the likes of The Village Voice and Money magazine? I know: a travesty.

But, since I joined their “league” in 2003, the nutty nutjobs of Prospect Park Sunday softball have stepped up to the plate. With an obsessiveness for stats I can only stand back and admire with awe, they record every out of every game we play during our April–November season.

So sit back and peruse my (admittedly sparse) stats, which prove beyond doubt that I was a born softballer. As the records clearly show, I couldn’t hit a curve — or a fastball, for that matter. (Though I was a pesky hitter, working out a fair number of walks and wreaking some havoc on the basepaths.) And the results some years later weren’t any better: I was cut from the Oberlin College baseball team, a Division III team with no athletic scholarships!

Anyway, my softball stats are a bit better — at least I’m over the Mendoza Line. However, I believe hitting anything less than .400 in softball is nothing to be proud about, so I’ve got plenty of work to do. (The two stat lines for the 2004 season reflect two leagues I played in, the first being P.P. Sunday Softball, and the second being the weekday Zen League, featuring real umpires. My team, the Plug Uglies, won the championship, but I found it all a little too intense — and time-consuming — and didn’t return the subsequent season.)

So the 2006 season has just begun, and assuming I don’t break any more fingers, I hope to really get my swing in the groove as the summer moves along.

NEW! UPDATED FOR 2017 [with 2016 stats]!

Born: August 9, 1967 Home: Brooklyn, New York
Ht.: 5’9″ Wgt.: 200 Bats: Left Throws: Left

1982 9 17 5 3 0 0 0 5 9 6 6 .177 .391 .177 .568
1983 15 17 6 3 0 0 0 3 13 5 4 .177 .533 .177 .711
2003 60 19 25 6 0 5 18 4 0 .417 .453 .767 1.220
2004 104 22 38 5 1 4 29 13 0 .365 .436 .500 .936
2004 50 6 17 3 1 0 14 4 0 .340 .389 .440 .829
2005 24 69 20 26 3 1 3 18 9 0 .377 .449 .580 1.029
2006 43 127 48 67 13 2 3 31 17 0 .528 .568 .732 1.300
2007 40 133 42 71 9 5 3 50 12 2 .534 .565 .744 1.309
2008 23 82 26 41 8 5 5 27 4 2 .500 .667 .902 1.402
2009 25 78 30 41 9 2 2 26 8 1 .526 .570 .769 1.339
2010 26 82 28 43 8 4 4 43 9 1 .524 .542 .866 1.408
2011 23 67 26 37 7 5 2 30 11 2 .552 .578 .866 1.444
2012 11 37 7 17 2 1 0 12 1 1 .459 .474 .568 1.042
2013 14 45 11 19 4 1 1 12 3 3 .422 .458 .622 1.080
2014 25 74 40 40 5 3 3 40 9 2 .541 .577 .811 1.388
2015 19 73 19 36 9 1 2 25 1 2 .499 .500 .699 1.199
2016 4 14 5 8 1 0 0 3 1 0 .571 .600 .643 1.243
2017 2 7 3 4 0 0 2 6 1 0 .571 .625 .1.429 2.054

My ten favorite comics/graphic novels of the decade

Comics, Geek, Plug

As things wind down, prompted by the Daily Cross Hatch, here are my picks of the 00s, in no particular order…

  • Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
  • Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes
  • Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  • Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli
  • Blankets, by Craig Thompson
  • The Salon, by Nick Bertozzi
  • Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair
  • All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
  • Y, the Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan and (mostly) Pia Guerra

On The Road of Fantasy Fanatacism


An article in today’s Times about Jack Kerouac’s fixation on fantasy baseball caught my eye. (The term “fantasy,” in this case, refers to a sort of role-playing baseball, rather than the rotisserie-type “fantasy” baseball that is so popular nowadays.) Seems most of his life Kerouac was obsessed with a baseball simulation game of his own creation, peopled with entirely made-up leagues, teams, and players. He chronicled the results of his games in various ways, including fake newspaper stories. (He also had a thing for fantasy horseracing, of all things.) Anyway, it appears that Kerouac kept this particular obsession entirely to himself, so even Beat buds like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs knew nothing of it. I find it fascinating that the celebrated author of On The Road and The Dharma Bums had this secret life… as a nerd.

When I was a kid of about eleven or twelve years old, right when I really got into Dungeons & Dragons, I also really got into baseball (specifically the San Francisco Giants, as I lived in Frisco at the time). One of the things that drew me to both pursuits was their almost religious reliance on statistics: constitution values, batting average, hit points, earned run average, armor class, slugging percentage, saving throw — this way of measuring the world made sense to me. (A shrink would probably say it was my way of imposing a sense of order on what had been a fairly rootless, chaotic life up to that point.)

A Boob Tube Boob


I grew up (I thought) in a non-TV household. My mom was against television—especially for kids— and as far as I knew, we didn’t own a set. (I found out years later my mom secretly kept a small black-and-white TV in the closet for emergencies and special circumstances, like news coverage of the Vietnam war, or Nixon’s resignation.) Anyway, despite having no TV of my own, I watched enough at friends’ houses, or during the one month every summer I got to visit my dad, that it wasn’t completely foreign to me. Even back then, I had some favorite shows, most of which were already in reruns. After all, my semi-forbidden TV viewing was very much catch-as-catch-can; I had no way to watch primetime shows on a regular basis.

For completeness’ sake (what other reason do I ever need?), I will document here the shows I watched regularly over the years. “Regularly” is the key word. I definitely had the TV on at  other times, just not so religiously that I became as intimately familiar with the shows as the ones listed here. So without further ado—and broken down by half-decades—is my TV history:

As I said, most of the shows here I caught at friends’ houses or the one month every summer I spent with my dad. My first love was Saturday morning cartoon shows like The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and the Tom & Jerry Show, and the semi-animated Shazam TV series. From there, I moved on to The Jetsons and The Flintstones. Sundays were not as fun for kids’ TV back then, but I always seemed to be up early enough to watch the wonky Christian stop-motion show Davey and Goliath.
During this summers with my dad, I was also a regular daytime watcher of The Munsters, The Addams Family, Get Smart, The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, and even the game show The Price is Right (which I believe bridged the gap between the morning and early-afternoon reruns). I caught enough episodes of F Troop, Hogan’s Heroes, The Andy Griffith Show, and the Carol Burnett Show to be a fan of those shows too. Evening reruns I always caught were All In The Family, Adam-12, and Star Trek, ; and thanks to my dad, I got into baseball during this period, and started watching Yankees & Mets games with him many evenings as well. That means during the summer I was watching five or six hours of TV a day! The only primetime shows I developed any familiarity with were The Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Charlie’s Angels. And the late 70s was when I first started watching M*A*S*H, which is still my all-time favorite TV show.

My mom and I moved back East to New York in 1980, and by late 1981 I had moved in with my dad—partly because he allowed me to watch TV. With a set in my own room, this was my “golden age.” I still don’t know how I managed to read as many comics and science fiction novels as I did, let alone draw comics—and do my schoolwork! Not having a video game system helped, I guess.

Rerun staples of this period were M*A*S*H, Starsky & Hutch, Three’s Company, Taxi, Diff’rent Strokes, and The Honeymooners; while my primetime addictions included The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard, Enos (!), The Incredible Hulk, CHiPs, Magnum P.I., T.J. Hooker, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, The Greatest American Hero, Cheers, Family Ties; and reruns of Three’s Company, Taxi, Diff’rent Strokes, Mork & Mindy, and of course M*A*S*H, which I was becoming obsessed with. Saturday Night Live was great during this period, and having a limited social life, I was usually home to watch it. I also had intense but ultimately unfulfilled dalliances with such short-lived series as Tales of the Gold Monkey (a blatant rip-off of the Indiana Jones films), Strike Force, V: The Series, and — I’m ashamed to admit it — AfterMASH. Oy.

During this time, Hill Street Blues was the first “grownup” show I got into. Every Thursday during the show, man_size  and I would breathlessly call each other up during commercial breaks to glory in the latest segment’s “fresh illyness” (a tradition we continued through subsequent shows like NYPD Blue and Lost!).

I became an avid baseball and football fan during this era, so I rarely missed Jets games on Sunday afternoons in the fall & winter, baseball games on Saturdays in the summer, or the seasonal shows Monday Night Baseball and Monday Night Football.

These were my college years and (thank god!) I had usually had better things to do than watch television. I had a tiny portable black-and-white set in my room which I usually watched M*A*S*H reruns on. Otherwise, shows I managed to watch on a semi-regular basis were Moonlighting, Miami Vice, SNL, Thirtysomething and, until it really fell off in its last couple of seasons, Hill Street.

Having moved back to New York after college, I tried to get out more, and “real life” mostly kept me away from the TV. I also didn’t have enough money to afford cable. All the same, I managed to catch repeats of M*A*S*H (of course), Cheers, and Hill Street; and I watched Twin Peaks, Monday Night Football, and The Simpsons in primetime. Then, after an eighteen-month hiatus traveling around the world with Sari (no TV!), I got into NYPD Blue, ER, Friends (I admit it), Mad About You (I know), and Seinfeld once we settled in Chicago. I also saw a lot of free Bulls and Cubs games on WGN.

Transitioning during this period from Chicago to San Francisco to Provincetown, Mass, the only reruns I regularly watched were The Simpsons, but I became a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also started watching Law & Order and kept my allegiance to NYPD Blue, ER, Friends, and Seinfeld. The Buffy spinoff series Angel debuted during this period, and I was a regular viewer of that show for two or three seasons.

Finally resettled back in New York, I severely curtailed my TV viewing. Now able to afford cable, ironically we decided we didn’t want it, and the network shows seemed to lose their allure. Due to lack of interest, I stopped watching NYPD Blue, ER, and Friends; though I happily discovered The West Wing, and stuck with Law & Order. I watched 24 for its first two seasons, before I got repelled by its gruesomeness and questionable politics. (And I admit to being the one person who actually saw the short-lived Friends spin-off show, Joey. For that, I sincerely apologize.) And I have been watching Lost from the first episode. I also eventually found out about the amazing HBO series Deadwood; and managed to catch that show on DVD.

Ironically still without cable, the shows I am most addicted to now are all non-network programs: Battlestar Galactica, Rome (now canceled), and The Sopranos, which I’m finally watching now that it’s over. To be fair, though, there are some good network shows: I still enjoy Lost, and I’ve been watching Friday Night Lights since day-one as well. (I also confess to watching the entire run of the thankfully canceled Aaron Sorkin show, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Lord, was that show a disaster.) I seem to have lost my interest in sitcoms, so even though at various times I’ve sampled The Office and 30 Rock, they just don’t do it for me. Shows that are intriguing to me but I have yet to really study are The Wire and Dexter, so a DVD acquisition may be in order…

Whew! Quite a compilation of mostly dreck and occasional brilliance. It’s interesting to look back on those periods and see how the shows reflected—and informed—my stage of life at the time. Like most people, I guess, I continually veered between desiring mindless entertainment and/or escapism, and then wanting something more meaty or intellectually challenging.

Although I’ve never considered myself a couch potato, there were clearly periods where I was addicted to the tube. All the same, I think my hours of TV watching pales in comparison to most other American kids of my generation. Still, I’ve often wondered if the fact that TV was so verboten early in my life made me need it to the point of obsession later on?

This is a question I have to ponder as I raise a child of my own. Already, Phoebe is automatically drawn to the bright colors and flashing images of the TV screen. So far, we’ve minimized her exposure to the tube, but eventually we’re going to have to deal with her active desire to watch it as well. One thing we can do is limit the available temptations by staying cable-less. But that’s not the final answer to the dilemma…

TOP TEN MOVIES of… 1991?

Geek, Review

I just found this in some old computer files, so in homage to the de riguer tradition of year-end top ten lists, here are my…

TEN BEST FILMS OF 1991! (compiled in 1991, when I was 24 years old)

Barton Fink (dir. by Joel Coen)
Cape Fear (dir. by Martin Scorsese)
Cyrano de Bergerac (dir. by Jean-Paul Rappeneau)
Dead Again (dir. by Kenneth Branagh)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (dir. by Nicholas Meyer)
The Silence of the Lambs (dir. by Jonathan Demme)
The Double Life of Veronique (dir. by Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Thelma and Louise (dir. by Ridley Scott)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (dir. by Anthony Minghella)

I fancied myself a bit of a film critic back then, and even published a couple of reviews in the lefty weekly In These Times. All the same, my tastes were fairly unsophisticated  (as they still are now!), tending toward the mainstream.

Some of these films I hardly remember anymore, not having seen them in 16 years. But some – Silence of the Lambs and Thelma and Louise, for example — are considered modern classics. At least one film, Barton Fink, has not in my mind stood the test of time. I’m a big Coen Bros. fan, but that particular film doesn’t do for me what it did back then. (To give Sari her props, she hated it at the time!) And as a kid who grew up during the Cold War, I still love Star Trek VI, with its un-subtle allusion to Gorbachev and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

And, just to be fair, here are what I considered the…


Blowback (dir. by Marc Levin)
Defending Your Life (dir. by Albert Brooks)
Delusion (dir. by Carl Colpaert)
The Doors (dir. by Oliver Stone)
Eating (dir. by Henry Jaglom)
The Fisher King (dir. by Terry Gilliam)
Green Card (dir. by Peter Weir)
Jungle Fever (dir. by Spike Lee)
The Last Boy Scout (dir. by Tony Scott)
Regarding Henry (dir. by Mike Nichols)

What’s notable about this list is how many bad films there are by good directors. Oliver Stone, Terry Gilliam, Peter Weir, Spike Lee, Mike Nichols — they’ve all directed many great films. But none of these are them! (And Tony Scott deserves mention just because his brother made the top ten list for that year, while he made the bottom ten.)

The Artists of American Splendor

Comics, Geek, Work

As Harvey Pekar’s unofficial, unauthorized archivist, and in honor of the publication of The Quitter, I’ve updated my list of Pekar’s artists! From R. Crumb to Joe Sacco, “Dino” man_size Haspiel to Gary Dumm, Joe Zabel to Frank Stack, Chester Brown to Jim Woodring — even Joyce Brabner to Alan Moore — this is where you can find which artist drew what story.

The list is organized by artist’s last name and features the title of the piece, where it appeared, and the date it was published. It’s fairly comphrehensive: I own pretty much everything Harvey’s ever published, with the exception of American Splendor #1 (but a lot of the material from that issue ended up in the first AS collection), but if you spot an error or have an addition, please let me know.

Enjoy the arcana: joshcomix.com/and/pekar_artists.

Expense Account


Image hosted by Photobucket.comI haven’t kept a journal or a diary since about 1981 (and that one only lasted about four months), but my obsessive record-keeping sometimes fulfills the same function. I recently came across some “expense accounts” I kept in the 80s when I first went away to college. What they are is item-by-item lists of everything I bought while at school that I was hoping my dad would reimburse me for.