Start Halloween weekend early with the release party for Sandwich Anarchy, the first book showcasing more than 200 of Cleveland-based illustrator John G.’s Melt Bar & Grilled sandwich posters. Melt’s Independence location hosts the release party from 7 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, October 26. Sandwich Anarchy collects ten years’ worth of Melt sandwich posters illustrated by the Gordon Square-based artist. The hardbound book features 200 posters on 208 full-color pages, but John G. estimates he has created more than 250 posters and 1,000 concept sketches for Melt since its founding in 2006.
"Initially, I made one poster for one restaurant for one month," says John G. "And now, I've created 250 posters for Melt's 11 locations over 10 years. Surreal. It was actually a crazy trip down memory lane, going through them all and curating the collection of around 200 we feature in the book. There were some sandwich specials I had totally forgotten about. Luckily Matt Chojnacki, from 1984 Publishing, is incredibly organized and a brilliant book publisher with pretty deep knowledge of both pop culture and the underground, more off-beat culture that posters like these are usually relegated to. I will say that the result is this beautiful, over-sized hardcover with this vibrant cover that just radiates energy in every direction. I’ve never seen my work presented in this way before. The production values of this book are so lavish, it looks amazing.”
Although fans of Melt should be quite familiar with these posters, the concept of sandwich gig posters is unique to Melt and possible thanks in large part to the efforts of John G. Maintaining a punk rock atmosphere in his restaurants, founder Matt Fish has played in several local rock bands before and during his time with Melt, including: Ohio Civil War, Chargers Street Gang and Lives of the Saints. Over the past ten years, Melt has received national acclaim from TV programs such as Man vs Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
"Watching our crazy grilled cheese creations come to life each month in the eyes of John G is nothing short of awesome," says Melt Bar & Grilled founder Matt Fish.
Since its founding 11 years ago, local art has always been an important aspect of Fish’s vision for Melt. Last year, John G. and Fish (along with fellow celebrated local artists featured at many Melt locations: Dana Depew, Derek Hess and Jake Kelly) helped select winners of the Melt (Art) Challenge at PopEye Gallery at 78th Street Studios, a juried competition of 30 local artists’ Melt-inspired artwork in honor of the restaurant’s 10th anniversary.
Although the book will be available through local bookstores, Amazon, 1984publishing.com and all Melt locations starting on Halloween for $29.95, guests can grab a copy for just $25 on Thursday, and John G. will be on-hand to sign copies. As an extra bonus, all books come with a Blu-ray copy of Turnstyle Films’ “Draw Hard” documentary, an insightful glimpse into John G.’s life and work.
"I've been a fan of John G's work since Melt opened, plus have been with The Lake Erie Monster since the first issue,” says 1984 Publishing owner Matthew Chojnacki. “John's a great guy. A year ago, he heard through the grapevine that I had cancer and he sent over a sketch, which meant a lot to me. Everyone should check out his doc Draw Hard (see Amazon Prime) to get inspired."
The film includes a number of cameos featuring Greiner’s friends, such as: Matt Fish, All Dinosaurs’ Dave Gibian, as well as fellow artists Joshua Rex, Grainne Bird, Kevin Czapiewski and his longtime friend and collaborator Jake Kelly.
Greiner severely injured his neck in a BMX accident in the Metroparks near his home in May of 1995. Following intensive surgery, he temporarily lost feeling from his neck down. Eventually, though sheer determination and a lot of hard work, he had to teach himself how to write and draw again.
“To be honest, it’s really easy to forget,” says Greiner in the film, “Mostly because I’m pretty independent and capable in a lot of ways that allows me to live a pretty un-tethered life to this thing; this disability; this paralysis. I don’t let it dictate to me what I’m going to do or not do. So, if there’s something I want to do, I’m going to find a way to do it.”
John G has made an outsized contribution to the local art and music scenes over the past decade through his concert posters, his Lake Erie Monster comic book with collaborator and fellow-Clevelander Jake Kelly, work for Cleveland Cinemas and of course his covers of Scene. In 2016, John G. was a recipient of the highly-coveted Creative Workforce Fellowships from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.
In addition to preparing for the book’s release, John G. has been busy with two art residencies, one this summer in Vermont and one currently in his neighborhood, Gordon Square. His current project is an autobiographical comic about his life in the neighborhood. Pages from this new comic will be on view in Gordon Square following the residency.
“I’m very excited and humbled to be the first Artist-in-Residence for The Gordon Square Arts District. The residency started in early September and goes through the end of November. I’m working on an autobiographical comic book about accessibility and the perception of people that use wheelchairs (and by extension people with disabilities in general) in the neighborhood. I’m still working on it, so I don’t have a name for it yet- but I’ll have that nailed down by the end of the week. I started an Instagram account just for the residency just to post process/work-in-progress pics that Gordon Square will be able to pass on to the next artists-in-residence after me.”
John G.’s exhibition opens on Friday, November 17 at the Gordon Square Arts Space, located directly next to Capitol Theatre on West 65th Street. Follow him and each Gordon Square Arts District artist-in-residence on Instagram at @artistinresidence_gordonsquare. In celebration of John G. and his achievements, Capitol Theatre (1390 West 65th St.) will screen Draw Hard, along with one of John G.’s favorite films, Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8. Tickets are available now through the Capitol Theatre box office.
Additionally, each year, John G. organizes Genghis Con the weekend after Thanksgiving. The regional underground comics convention continues to grow each year, showcasing dozens of regional artists, illustrators, writers and small press publishers. This year’s Genghis Con takes place from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 26. Admission is free.
“This year’s Genghis Con is going to be awesome,” John G. says. “We had more people apply this year than ever before- and it makes for an awesome exhibitors list. We’ve got people coming in from as far away as Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as a lot of the usual faces everyone can expect to see at Genghis Con like Derf, Angela Oster and Kevin Czap, to name a few. That’s my favorite things about it: I love getting to see my friends, after eight years it feels more like a reunion than a convention. A reunion with the added benefit of having new people join us every year!”
(Melt Independence) 6700 Rockside Rd., 216-520-1415, meltbarandgrilled.com.