House of Twelve celebrated its tenth anniversary on August 6, 2011 (a rare gathering held on a Saturday). The whole thing, to hear Cheese tell it, came about largely due to inebriation in the wake of a failed romance. “The real story is, the girlfriend dumped me, and she was big in the comics community, but we had broken up, and I wanted to keep all my friends in the comics community. So there was a message board called The Comics Journal, and one drunken night I went on the message board, and I’m a friendly, communal drunk, so I was like “All my friends on the message board who live in NYC: let’s all get together and drink some beers and draw some comics together!” This was 2001, and there was a lot of infighting in the community [at the time]. So I said “Let’s have some beer.” We had our first meeting in a bar called Max Fish on Ludlow St. We had like a dozen or fifteen people show up, and we had such a good time we said “let’s do it again next week.” So from Aug 2001, it’s been rolling ever since.”
The call for unity worked to help the healing process for Cheese personally, but also to help broker the peace between two warring factions. “There was a lawsuit going on between two guys in the comics community, Ted Rall and Danny Hellman. It split the community down the middle. People were arguing about “I’m with this guy, and I’m with this guy,” it just became overbearing and stupid to me. It didn’t involve most of the people, so I didn’t understand why it was an issue. So we were able to get past that by everybody getting a beer!” Cartoonist Darryl Ayo , who has been attending the Jams almost from the beginning, tread carefully when he joined up. “Back when The Comics Journal message board used to be around, I would see the members would talk about this, but I wasn’t living in New York City, I was in upstate New York. When I moved to New York, one of the first things I did was to finally get down there. The Comics Journal message board was a really contentious place and I didn’t say who I was at first, so I was there for a couple of hours and they were like “oh, that’s you?” I froze up and thought I should run away, but the people were really cool, so I kept coming back. And they put me in their comics!”
Speaking of the comic, Cheese explains: “The last ten years, we’ve been doing print anthologies every eighteen months or so. And a couple of smaller things in between, and some group jams too. House of Twelve has put out eight books in the last ten years, and last year we started doing just digital comics. We started working with comixology.com, and their mobile app Comix. Over the last year, we produced four twenty-four-page books for them. Each issue features four different artists. All full color. Some of them are continuing stories, some of them are singular, self-contained stories. It’s all my favorite creators, and we’re all doing a lot of fun stuff. We have a new print book coming out at Small Press Expo (SPX), which is September 10-11 in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s a selection of stuff from the last year of digital comics in print form. It’s a sampler so we can show people what we’re doing, and hopefully drive people to the digital stuff.”
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