I met “NiX” publisher and Columbus, Ohio, resident Ken Eppstein after getting an update from his page on garagepunk.com. Eppstein is a member of the GaragePunk Podcast Network, an assemblage of dozens of rock and roll shows spanning psychedelia, punk, soul, surf and lo-fi. He was soliciting support for the first issue of his comic by selling vinyl leftovers from his shuttered store, Evil Empire Records. When I hear about a guy selling records to fund—of all things—the publishing of a comic book, I pay attention. During his record-selling fund drives, the first of which was in late 2010, anyone who bought vinyl from him received a free issue of “NiX.” (For the upcoming issue 4 he’s relying on Kickstarter for funds.) So along with some Billy Childish came Eppstein's self-published comic.
I was not ready to like this comic. Things really worked out, however, because not only were the records in fine shape but so was “NiX.” Unapologetically obscure and trashy, the quarterly is a tongue-in-cheek look at record collecting, underground music, monsters and heroes. Full-color pages run all the way through this traditionally (read: "superhero") sized graphic novel, lending it a legitimacy that is unexpected but well-deserved. Hooked, I bid for another batch of vinyl he listed on eBay. This second bunch of records and comics got lost in the mail for a while, lending anticipation and loathing to Issues 2 and 3 of “NiX.” The package finally showed up at the house next to my old address. Again, I was not let down.
Eppstein solicits pieces from anyone, and although some readers who wrote in with comments seemed disappointed by the prevalence of non-Eppstein-penned stories in “NiX” No. 2, the fact is it's still pretty kick-ass. The editor’s notes have that fuck-the-world quality that Peter Bagge's had in “Hate” comics and Weirdo magazine. Holy misanthropy, Batman!
One fixture of all three issues is Bus Stop Ned, featured in one-page sketches. He’s reminiscent of a David Greenberger character from the old folks' home in “Duplex Planet” who’s found refuge in a copy of Harvey Pekar's “American Splendor.” Ned, who has a bottomless capacity for self-amusement, is apparently a part-time resident at one of the bus stops that Eppstein must pass on his way to work at a Columbus nonprofit that specializes in affordable housing and repair. Eppstein’s title there is "the guy who does all the busy work so shit gets done." Ned speaks gibberish and tends to accidentally insult and compliment other people waiting for the bus. Like “Duplex Planet” and “American Splendor,” “NiX” successfully captures the world through a sophisticate's lens without being offensive to the characters depicted.
Another story, drawn by Darren Merinuk in Issue 3, features a thinly disguised Alice Cooper giving shit to a likewise thinly disguised Marilyn Manson: "You stole my act!" screams Aleister Crowe before pulling out an ax and immortalizing them both. There are also stories involving zombies, flaky junkie drummers and very convincing fake ads for fake record clubs! Perhaps the best of the record collector-centric stories is in the third issue, in which the cover depicts a red-eyed Brian Jones-looking Lucifer selling a record collection that only the Devil could maintain. Artist Mark Rudolph really captures the snarky thrill of victory that all collectors get when they score really big.
If you have any fondness for superheroes, monsters or DIY publishing, this comic might be for you. If you have any predilection at all toward the unpredictable and obsessed world of record junkies and musicians, this comic is definitely for you.