The fourth issue in Jake Kelly's 'Death Destruction, Vice and Sleaze' comic series, which is based on weird underground tales of Cleveland freaks, hippies, bombings, murder, strippers and biker gangs, will be released this Saturday.
“Blowing Minds” traces the origins of an LSD drug ring, a well-known biker gang's alleged involvement in a double homicide, and the brutal beating of Cleveland piano player.
Robert Williams, the aforementioned piano player, was brutally beaten by a handful of bikers who randomly descended on Barto’s Café on East 93rd on February 23, 1968, presumably high on speed and LSD.
They asked Williams if he was a cop, to which he jokingly replied “yes,” then they proceeded to jump him before a bartender, Mildred Williams (no relation), broke it up. Moments later gunshots rang out and two men died.
The comic is dense with facts, wrought with the tight illustration offering Kelly’s signature dark visual descriptions of real life events, while the cover art blasts the reader with an enticing look down the barrel of a smoking gun, resplendent with limited but flamboyant color appropriately resembling that of a 1960s magazine cover.
“I was looking through some old '60s underground newspapers and the colors were usually a limited pallet, like black and maybe two other colors, and there would be these crazy drawings with crazy spot color on it and this was the inspiration for the cover,” said Kelly. “They were always kind of a little shitty and off register so that’s what I was shooting for with the cover. I wanted it to be a little intense, gun right at your fucking face!”
The senseless violence contributed to the already infamous public perception of biker gangs of this era. In the press, the gangs were presented as tumultuous, violent, agitators, rapist murderers and violent drug addicts out to cause havoc wherever they roamed. These are stereotypes which to this day follow motorcycle collectives and enthusiasts to the point of being almost a cliché.
The story also delves into LSD international drug suppliers and smugglers called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a drug ring initially launched out of The Mystic Arts Bookstore in Laguna Beach California. Some key players included Tim Scully, Nicolas Sand, and Dr. Lester A. Friedman.
“I was focused on Lester Friedman and I spent months researching The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and this international drug smuggling syndicate with unreasonably bizarre connections with weird circumstances surrounding it,” said Kelly. “So I had this humungous stack of shit and I’m writing all this out and I have all these photos and making all these notes and you know this essentially a comic book about Cleveland and we’re in like Thailand now! So I chose to not include every little fact a figure and chart and photo.”
The comic takes the reader along the journey of trying to unravel all of this high-level weirdness and calamity, all based on actual court documents, witness testimony, newspaper articles, transcripts, and undoubtedly a lot of coffee and cigarettes.
“The best thing about doing this I think is that the more I learn the more interested I get and the more excited,” Kelly said. “If a project begins waning at all I get bored, but I am more excited now than I was when I started. I really feel like I’m running on all cylinders."
Kelly would also call upon all readers and anyone who was involved in the political scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s who might have any stories they’d like to share to get in touch. He says he’s “all ears” and they can contact him through his website at stonechurchpress.com
as he gets to work on the fifth issue, which will involve bombs, riots, pornography, the Weather Underground, the United Hard Hats for America and more.
“I'm shocked at the positive response that I've gotten from this comic,” said Kelly. “I never thought the first three floppy comics would sell out, and I didn't think the collection would do as well as it has. I'm stoked that people like it enough to drop their hard earned dollars on it. So, as far as take-aways, for “Blowing Minds,” to the faithful readers of DDVS I say: this issue is the final dressing on the stage for our dive into Cleveland in the 70s. To anyone who has never read an issue but might be curious, every chapter is completely self-contained and this book is about motorcycle clubs and LSD in Cleveland in the '60s. I view it as a tragic story. My email is on the inside cover, buy a copy and let me know what your takeaway was.”
The issue will debut at an event this Saturday, September 24, from 6-9 p.m. at Superscript Comics and Games in Lakewood on Madison, Ave. Kelly will be there, in person, signing comics, talking true crime and weird history, and offering a free, limited edition DDVS mini-comic called “Hessler” for everyone who shows up. All pre-orders of the comics will ship the following Monday.