Interview with Bill Bukowski, 10/29/2020

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Joshua Ranger, Interviewer | uwocs_Bill_Bukowki_102920
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

0:00

[Beginning of Interview]

JR: But first I want to start by saying this is a Oral history, part of the campus stories Oral History Project with William Bukowski. I am Joshua Ranger and we're doing this interview over Teams today on October 29th, 2020. So, Bill, can you tell me who you are?

BB: Bill Bukowski I was born in Wisconsin Rapids. And I attended Oshkosh for three years. After that I graduated from Mankato State University in Mankato and went on to the University of Wisconsin, Madison for an MA and MFA. And basically, said spent my career teaching at Bethany Lutheran College. I just retired after 40 years of teaching at Bethany.

JR: Congratulations.

BB: Thanks.

JR: As -- What a -- That's a great career. I mean so many people come in and out of schools now. I love to hear that people are still sticking with one. That's fantastic.

1:00

BB: I did have one year at Teal College in Greenville, PA right out of grad school. I've been at Bethany since 1980.

JR: Wow. So, Wisconsin Rapids. What can you tell me about your upbringing?

BB: Well Wiscon--We had Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids and it was a nice school. The art program wasn't especially good. But the city is beautiful. They have a nice lake. It was a great place to grow up. The [paper] mill was not quite as ominous as it became, and it was a very idyllic youth. I had a very idyllic youth in Wisconsin Rapids. I really enjoyed it.

JR: What did your folks do?

BB: My dad was an Nabisco cookie salesman and my mom worked at the high school in media. She was a help with the computers and things like that. Just when it came into existence in this in the 70s.

JR: Wow. Do you have siblings?

2:00

BB: I have 5. I have two brothers and two sisters. I was part of a family of five, and my decision to come to Oshkosh was based on my older brother going to Madison. Even though Madison has 50,000 students, I thought, well, I don't want to go to the same college my brother is going to. And so, I was looking around and I really liked Oshkosh because they had a brand-new art facility and they also had film and I was kind of interested in that too. So, I decided to go to Oshkosh, and it was pretty close to home. I mean I remember hitchhiking multiple times which now you think are you crazy? I could hitchhike from Oshkosh Wisconsin Rapids without too much trouble.

JR: I think back then they used to have a ride board too, didn't they?

BB: They did. Yes, you could get a ride almost anywhere if you just watched the ride board.

JR: So, art is what brought you here. A little bit of film, and you said the art 3:00program at Lincoln wasn't great, but when did you start being interested in art?

BB: Oh, I was interested in art. I remember consciously in kindergarten I was always an artist. I as a senior in high school I was trying to decide if I should go into film or art. I kind of flipped a coin and decided art. But then I was gonna -- I wanted to be a comic book artist when I came to Oshkosh. So, I did want to do superhero type drawings because I was a fan. You know, it just seemed like the right thing.

JR: What were your -- What were your favorite titles when you were growing up?

BB: Oh, I was big enough. Fantastic Florence, Spiderman, the Marvel Comics: Thor, Captain America

JR: Got it. Um, so what did you think of campus when you first arrived

BB: I really enjoyed the campus. I love it. I lived in Nelson Hall, and somebody 4:00told me Nelson Hall doesn't even exist anymore.

JR: That's true.

BB: I lived in Nelson Hall and the student next to me we got on and developed a nice friendship and he became the character for Augmento. His name was Rick Gilbertson. I needed a character I could draw from and so. But how that even got started, if you want me to go into it, I can.

JR: Please.

BB: Um, I had work study opportunities and my brother said, "oh why don't you work in the cafeteria?" So, I took his advice and I hated it. I hated the cafeteria, it was nonstudents. It was all adults, and I would felt totally out of place and I didn't like the work. So, then I looked, there was a janitorial job in Nelson Hall. I hated that also. So, I thought how can I use my work study allocation? So, I went to the Advance Titan and said" hey can I draw for work study?" And they said "sure." So, then I was doing illustrations and eventually 5:00started the Augmento comic strip.

JR: So --that's -- why -- I'm assuming then based on your interest that this strip was your idea, or did they come to you saying we need a strip?

BB: Oh, it was my idea. It would -- I have a cousin who is also an artist. His name is Peter Poplaski.

JR: Mhmm

BB: His work is currently featured at in West Bend at the Comic Show Wisconsin Funnies. He was a comic book artist and he had done a strip at UW GB. A couple years before I came to college, he had done a strip I think was called Cartman and I thought, well, that's cool and maybe I could do that. So, I was actually influenced by my cousin. They didn't mind this. I mean the Advance Titan said sure, go ahead. But it was, you know, it wasn't very good. It was. I'm not necessarily a writer. I was more of an artist than a writer, and so that first 6:00year it was -- reading back. They were very kind of awkward and silly and embarrassing, basically.

JR: So, what about what was it about Rick that you thought made a good comic book? Alter ego?

BB: Well, you know he's a very sincere, very nice person. He loved music. He loved art, he you know he was who he is right on his shirt sleeve there was no falseness, and we just had a good friendship. And I thought he lend him -- in his images, his face his hair, everything kind of went to a semi-comic effect, so I thought he would be fun, and he like -- he loved the idea. I thought. I mean I expect.

JR: So, it definitely looks like him. How about the sort of personality of Murray Marquardt? Was that much of Rick in that?

BB: Not really. I mean I was trying to develop and the anti-hero. The kind of 7:00bumbling -- who accidentally succeeds. The bumbling hero who accidentally succeeds, and I think I think Rick was Ok with the genre. I don't think he expected it to be autobiographical. I mean, the main thing was that he found a magic pitch pipe. He was a music major at the time.

JR: Right.

BB: And he did wear bow ties.

JR: Oh, did he?

BB: Yeah.

JR: He told me that -- yeah that he made the whole first ensemble out of stuff he had laying around, so.

BB: Yeah, that that sounds about right and kind of looks like that too did.

JR: Did you have to draw from him like did he have to pose for you or after while-

BB: He did pose for me. After a while I got used to what his face looked like, but I did find a few sketches of him posing that I kind of just fun to look back on. My own ability was somewhat limited, though at times, and I loved the front 8:00on view a lot. (laughs) That seems to be the easiest one to deal with.

JR: So, you had a -- you had to run a storyline of Augmento coming to be and then and then foiling the plot of a guy that wanted to smuggle drugs on the campus and turn everyone into his slaves, right? Where did the idea for that come from?

BB: You know, (laughs) I think it's called desperation

JR: Ok,

BB: for an idea. I mean, I just -- Igmar T. Felony. I mean, there's a lot of word games in Augmento, and part of that is. Um, I really like the Marx Brothers and I enjoyed some of the puns and word play that they -- I mean, I even have a Groucho show up in one of the panels. And it was -- It's hard. It's harder than you think to write a significant comic strip. And see at that time, I really 9:00thought of Augmento as sort of like a joke a week and somehow connect him.

JR: Mhmm.

BB: And it wasn't like I was part of the drug culture or anything. I mean, it was the 70s. You did have kind of more of that hippie element. It was kind of loose with that kind of stuff, but I -- it wasn't anything I was a part of. And so, when I look back even that he's going to try to drug the campus. It just seems like ridiculous. But anyway, you can't really change the past. (laughs)

JR: Well, yeah, I mean if -- someone might see it as a comment, you know critical comment on the drug culture on campus. Was that your attitude?

BB: Well, I really wasn't trying, I was just trying to write something that people could relate too. I wasn't -- it wasn't considered a criticism. And although people did smoke pot on campus at the time or in apartments near 10:00campus, it wasn't -- I wasn't a crusader or anything, I was just trying to write a story.

JR: Got it. And there's a not even a cameo, but a character. A very good likeness of Roger Gilles. And that did he ever respond to the comic? You know?

BB: The Big Cheese?

JR: The Big Cheese, yeah.

BB: Yeah. And he was not really happy about it at. I mean, I heard he actually called in the staff of the Advance Titan. And talked about what the purpose of a campus newspaper is. So, he was scolding us. I was in on the meeting, and I was kind of sheepish because, again, I was looking for a solid idea that would get notice and I did hear that he liked the likeness. That's the one input I had, and I made him turn out to be a good guy. It was a double. His-

JR: Right.

BB: His evil Twin was actually doing the controlling. But again, it was kind of 11:00a -- you know -- trying to come up with an idea that would link the story together.

JR: Did he -- was that meeting called specifically about just Augmento or did he have other issues with the paper?

BB: No, I think he had other issues with the paper.

JR: Ok.

BB: The Advance Titan staff really wanted to be edgy, and I think they were pretty good at it.

JR: Oh, I agree. I think that some of the best years of the AT's history is in the early to mid-70s.

BB: The thing about it was for me as an illustrator for the Advance Titan and even the Augmento strip, there's a weekly deadline. We didn't get the assignments until the night of the deadline.

JR: (laughs)

BB: So, it was basically an all-nighter once a week to get the drawings done, cause sometimes I would get. I wasn't quite finished with Augmento because there's a lot of work to doing a comic strip and I went -- there is no credit 12:00involved. I mean it was work study, but basically, you're sitting at a drawing table trying to figure out how to make a comic strip. And then they would give me five more drawings to do that night. And so, it really did take until -- all night until the next morning, right before they shipped it to the printer.

JR: Wow.

BB: So that the staff -- there was always people there all night. I would come in like 5 in the morning to hand in things and it made it tough for classes that day.

JR: I Imagine. So, just to get back to the Gilles. Did you change the storyline because of his complaint or was he always gonna be a double?

BB: Oh, I probably I, you know. Looking back, I probably did it to appease him. 13:00I mean, I didn't really want to cause trouble, I just was kind of playing along. I was surprised and a little embarrassed that he brought the staff in and scolded us. Ending the strip too for that season.

JR: Right, right. That was the -- right and then you have a little fun with Rick having to go back to his farm there outside of Portage. So, that wasn't the first time. Then you come back in the fall, but only a couple episodes.

BB: Well,

JR: And then the strip was cancelled. You want -- could you tell me about that?

BB: Well, part of the problem was I had done a promo and I ripped off a James Bond poster. Um, where I it came out in everything he touches turns to excitement and it's James is basically a James Bond poster with Augmento.

JR: Mhmm

BB: Well, they got a lot of complaints. And then we started off, and Mark came 14:00on board, and it was going to be a lot more serious now. And actually, that First Hero was kind of a feminist hero, so. That was his way of, I don't know, kind of dealing with it, maybe.

JR: Right, so there was the -- so there was this thing of -- the bond thing, and then the comic in which he meets this woman called Nympho and takes 'em back home or something. And then there -- My understanding is that somebody, someone very influential complained. So, it wasn't maybe not just the strip, but it was the cover that you think people took issue with.

BB: Well, I mean the direction. It probably didn't hurt that yeah, that character.

JR: Do you know who that was that complain?

BB: I don't know. They at the time I mean they basically would just say, you 15:00know we're going to cancel it, or we're done with it.

JR: And that was Scott Hassett who was the editor of the paper at the time.

BB: Yeah, he becomes a character and then that that series with Mark.

JR: Right. So, what was your relationship with Scott then?

BB: Um, it was good. I mean we were friends. He was -- I thought he was a good leader for the paper. He didn't really, I mean. He did challenge me on some of the things to make it better. And actually, when I was in grad school he was in Madison, and he got me to do some more drawings for him.

JR: Oh cool.

BB: For the daily Cardinal.

JR: Yeah.

BB: So, I actually have another little portfolio of Madison drawings with Bucky Badger.

JR: That's great. Yeah, I mean from the paper. I mean, you make fun of 'em, so you don't know if it was antagonistic.

16:00

BB: No, I didn't. He got a kick out of it. He liked it. I thought he liked the likeness to it. Looked like him.

JR: Yeah, totally does. Do -- so, you didn't lose your job doing other illustrations at the AT then that-

BB: No, no. I was always busy. The Augmento thing was a more of an extra thing that I was kind of wanting to do. I don't think they cared as long as I did all the other ones. And like I said, I do have a quite extensive collection of drawings from that time period also, and we talked a little bit about the Lakeview Terrace ads.

JR: Yeah, I have.

BB: I have five or six of those, too. That became -- he became a marketing tool for Lakeview Terrace and also for an event, Lifestyles and Christian Science Event. Augmento's on the cover, asking what's your lifestyle as you as he's 17:00socking a guy. (laughs)

JR: So, how did that come to be? Did people seek you out and say we want Augmento as part of our brand?

BB: You know, in in retrospect, I think the Lakeview Terrace people talked to me and asked me about doing it, and I believe now it's been a long time and I haven't thought a lot about it. But I think I got extra money for the ad. It wasn't just part of work study.

JR: I love it. So then in 74 the AT gets a new editor Keith La Graves and Augmento returns. As you had mentioned. Now you have Mark on board. Could you tell me a little bit about your relationship with Mark? Where did you guys meet?

BB: Mark and I met in a life drawing class in the art building. He's a very friendly -- He was very friendly man -- young man and we both eventually found 18:00out that we enjoy comics. He found out that I did Augmento, and he wanted to kind of build on that like my sort of beginning. And he is -- he was one of the most creative people I've ever met. I mean, he had so many ideas and so he was very serious about Augmento, and before we got started, he already had the whole script done.

JR: Is that right?

BB: Yeah, he had the whole story scripted out and I thought we have about 15 episodes. He had it all planned out already and see that wasn't the way I work. I was kind of like the night up trying to decide what what's going to happen to Augmento now. I mean, you can see the drawing really changed too. We took it much more seriously. It wasn't a cartoon, now it was more of an action comic. So.

JR: So, how did you guys split the work then that year?

BB: Well Mark, sometimes I mean we heeded layouts, but I did the drawing and 19:00inking. He did most of the writing and I might. I might tweak, you know, just tweak it a little bit. But I did most of the drawing. I -- actually a couple strips were inked by my cousin Peter Pulaski, who I mentioned because he happened to be there, and I was under deadline pressure so he -- there's a couple episodes he inked that are actually very nicely done.

JR: Yeah, I did. The line is completely different then so I didn't wouldn't didn't realize you were still drawing it. I had the roles reversed I thought you were writing, and he was drawing so you really changed the whole look of Augmento and the detail. Was this because -- was a conscious decision, were you just improving as an artist or was this cause you had more time cause the stories were written?

BB: Well, a lot of it has to do with Mark wanting to be more serious about it.

JR: Ok.

BB: I was taking it as a lark, and I knew a lot of different -- I mean the art 20:00of comics is how I grew up studying art. I studied Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and some of these comic book artists. So, it was pretty easy to say from Mark to say, "hey, let's do this like Jim Steranko," an artist who did Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I said, "well yeah, I'd love to." And so that first episode, that's really based on a whole different aesthetic from the early days, but I drew all the Augmentos that I was involved with.

JR: Ok, well, that's great to know.

BB: And the inking I went from a pen -- inking with a pen to inking with a brush. Some of the greats like Hal Foster doing Prince Valiant that was all brush work, so I wanted to try to do Augmento in the same vein.

JR: Very cool. And then you start off, as you were saying, with this Iron Maiden 21:00character to sort of confront the previous complaints from the year before. And she tends -- she's like -- she really sort of introduces the most ambitious chapter, it seems like in the Augmento story, which is the photo comic you guys did, the live action fight?

BB: Yeah.

JR: Could you tell me about that?

BB: Mark was very ambitious for, you know, innovation on this. First, he wanted to ditch the old costume. So, if you look at episode three, he gets a new costume. Well then Mark's mom made a copy of the costume for Rick. That fit him. I mean it was awesome.

JR: Right, right.

BB: And then, he came up with the costume for Iron Maiden and I really don't remember who played her. In the pho -- for the photo shoots. Because there is that -- I don't know if -- you must have that poster that shows Rick and the 22:00Iron Maiden.

JR: Yup.

BB: So-

JR: Well, I have the spread from the newspaper. I don't know if -- I don't have a poster.

BB: Oh, I have one that I can include. But anyway, um, that's when we really, I thought -- that was kind of the pinnacle of Augmento when he had to fight with the Iron Maiden. And, at the same time, I was working on the 16-millimeter film in a film class of Rick fight, you know he was fighting bad guys and jumping off buildings and stuff. We were trying to film it in slow mode. But we would go downtown in Oshkosh and climb up buildings without any permission. Of course. We'd climb up fire escapes and he would jump from the corner of a building to another one, which is terribly dangerous. And -- but Mark is in that movie too fighting Augmento. So, it's really kind of fun and also my cousin Pete.

23:00

JR: Yeah, that's what Rick had mentioned that Pete also came down for that.

BB: And -- did -- he was into radio. He had concept radio theater going so he was doing science fiction radio and then he decided we gotta do Iron Maiden fighting Augmento and broadcast it.

JR: (phone rings) Excuse me. Ok so I did pick up on that that it was broadcast live so quotes on WRST so that was sort of like a radio drama?

BB: It was a radio drama and Mark had -- he'd also been doing concept radio theater with a complex science fiction narrative. So, he had access to the studio.

JR; Ok.

BB: And so, he -- I wasn't involved in the radio broadcast. I -- To me the comic book was enough and the film. (laughs) But there is no limit to Mark Gruenwald he wanted to do everything and so. It was great fun though.

24:00

JR: So yeah, I -- on the film you had said you know that it was sort of a toss-up at one point when you were in high school. What were your influences in film then growing up?

BB: Well, I actually -- the limitations of video at that time. I mean, there was no video, so it was silent movies. So, I really like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. And some of those early silent pictures and I could do that with 16 millimeter and actually Augmento is a silent film, because that's all they had. We -- they gave us 16-millimeter cameras and said go shoot something.

JR: Right.

BB: There was no way to add audio or score it, so it's one of those projects, though. When you're in a film class and their lending out equipment, my film starts off with me complaining that I couldn't get the film with the right way because everything was missing and then I show clips of Augmento fighting, 25:00jumping and landing in slow motion and, you know it's alright, I mean for the time it was, once again, very fun. But it's -- like any college student, you know you're so divided by your time.

JR: Mhmm.

BB: I was -- I took -- I was taking classes too. And Augmento was all outside of class. And so. It was all extra stuff. Now the movie. Bringing up some guys together and jumping off roofs and downtown Oshkosh. Now we did that in probably two shoots, but. In those days too, you're editing your cutting your film up.

JR: Mhmm.

BB: And so, I didn't, you know -- it wasn't the best, but it was fun to do, and I have some great stills from it, and I do have -- I have at least parts of it digitized which I can get to you.

JR: Aw, that'd be fantastic. Yeah. Rick didn't know if it had been digitized, 26:00and if you still had the film, but we would be happy to pay for a full digitization if that was something that you were interested in.

BB: Well, I have to see what condition everything is in. I do have the film yet and I think I worked on getting it. I have at least parts of it digitized, but yeah, I'll look into that.

JR: That would be really cool. Did you have a camera growing up?

BB: Oh no, what I used to do is I would borrow Super 8 cameras from people who had him and when you take a few rolls and we - your friends -- I made a film in high school too. That was a slapstick: chase film, eggs in the face with some of my high school friends, we used our high school too. It's -- and I do have that digitized. Also is very fun to look at. Again, it's not as good as it could have 27:00been, but it still exists, you know.

JR: You're a man after an archivist's heart, Bill, and you held on to all this stuff is wonderful.

BB: Oh yeah, I still have it also that is fun and. In the meantime, the climate at Oshkosh was very creative. I thought I really enjoyed my teachers. I enjoyed the Film Festival is they had when I was there. I was introduced to a lot of classic films. One of my favorite classes at Oshkosh was the history of the cinema and then they would bring in -- Not only did we watch great films in class, but they would also bring in films showing on campus. I mean, those are the classic days when you could watch The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman, or you know some of those great, great art house films Fellini, Goddard. And so. I was introduced to that at Oshkosh and I'm grateful to this day.

JR: It really does impress me when I'm looking into this just how multifaceted 28:00you and Rick and Mark were. You know, they -- Mark was into dance and you're telling me radio and art and you know with Rick and music and art and dance and just it must have there were -- I'm sure there were others though, to what was it like with that sort of group of really creative people there was.

BB: It was so much fun. I mean, I hate to just boil it down to that. But it was exciting. We always had something to do that was creative. In the meantime, you know I was going to the studio all the time. I did a whole series of etchings, lithographs, and oil paintings, as well as the comics and. Oh, another thing that happened that affected me though, was. Cousin Pete at my sophomore year say over break, said "hey, I'm going to go to Italy. Do you want to come with me?"

29:00

JR: Mhmm.

BB: Over Christmas break. And I did. And of course, all of a sudden, the comics took second place to the old Masters. I went to Rome. I went to Rome and saw the Sistine Chapel and went to Florence and saw the great paintings and architecture and all of a sudden, the comic seemed, you know? Well then, I also went with the College of Continuing Education at Oshkosh. They had a London and Paris art trip. And I was able to pay for it by doing drawings for them. I did their brochures and illustrations for their media.

JR: Wow.

BB: And so, I went to London and Paris my junior year over Christmas break. It was a beautiful, wonderful trip and the old masters kind of wooed me away from comics.

JR: Was that your first exposure? Did your parents take you to museums growing up?

30:00

BB: Not too much, but um? Oshkosh used Chicago a lot, so they had a semester trip. We went to Chicago. When I was a kid, I went to Chicago once in Saint Louis once. But once in college, I got to memorize the Chicago Art Institute because I went so many times with Oshkosh and sometimes, we just get in the car and drive down. Just for the day to go to the Art Museum. So, studying the old masters kind of by the time I was in the thick of it with Mark.

JR: Yeah.

BB: It's already kind of losing my drive for comic book art.

JR: Interesting.

BB: Paintings and daydreaming about the old Masters.

JR: Tell me, you had mentioned that the film equipment wasn't great, but you did have this brand-new building for both film and art. How were the facilities? How 31:00did you find them?

BB: Oh, the facilities were good. It's just in a class like filmmaking, there's, you know, there might be. Maybe there were five cameras, but maybe there's twenty students.

JR: Ok, I see.

BB: and you have a lot -- and then we all wait till the last minute.

JR: (laughs) right

BB: As students do. And so, some people don't bring back the equipment. And some people don't check it out, they just take it. But no, I love the art building. I was over there quite a bit and by the time I was a junior, Sam Yates was my teacher and he really allowed me to actually do a lot of painting in my apartment and just bring paintings to critiques. Oh cool. So, I was very. It was more sophisticated, or they allowed me more independence.

JR: More than other students?

BB: Yeah, I you know, just a handful would be allowed to do that just because they knew they would get work done. You're always dealing with the kind of 32:00student that doesn't do anything. Even if you're standing next to him. But I was working all the time and kind of. You know defiant at times, let's just say. But in a way that they respected because I was working. You know, I was doing all this work so.

JR: Oh yeah, I would think that would. You were distinctive amongst a lot of your peers. I imagine the program at time.

BB: See we also had a little side business where we were doing drawings and graphics for companies.

JR: Oh Ok.

BB: around town. So, I did a little portfolio for Fox River Marina or some of the businesses we did illustrations for.

JR: Interesting, that's similar to Rick. He had talked about a lot of his side hustles that used dance or musical theater and so it did just really seem like a really creative time.

33:00

BB: Oh, it was great.

JR: So, getting just back to Augmento now. So, you slipped in Scott Hassett, obviously. He enjoyed his visage, but were there other real people that you slept in the comic as well?

BB: You know he's the one that stands out the most. Just looking back, I don't recall. I mean they were cameos in both seasons, where it might be a friend that we just put in the background just like an extra in a movie.

JR: Ok.

BB: So, some of the faces are real people, but they weren't significant characters.

JR: Got it. So then you -- Alright, so we actually kind of talked about, so -- as you were -- as you mentioned, you were sort of losing your interest in the comic book arts, but you continued with the work. Did that create any friction 34:00with you and Mark then?

BB: It did, yeah. I found a drawing recently where he had given me this it says -- it is his face and he's looking angry. And he says, "Bukowski get to work." (laughs) Another significant change happened at Oshkosh and that was my girlfriend transferred to Oshkosh. And so, I was spending time with -- and the reason you once alluded to the idea that I did leave my senior year, left the college.

JR: Right.

BB: It was purely personal. I -- it wasn't -- there was no fight, there was no -- I didn't -- I wasn't sick of it, but my girlfriend who later became my wife. She came from Bethany Lutheran College, and she just didn't quite acclimate to Oshkosh. And so, she said, "why don't we transfer to Mankato State?" And I was 35:00like, "well, Ok," you know I would do anything for, so we transferred out. Now did I miss it? Yeah, I did, but I worked really hard at Mankato State so I could graduate that year too. Totally immersed in the etching, lithography and painting.

JR: And no comics there?

BB: Well, um yeah, I actually did work a little bit for their newspaper, but nothing -- no comic. It was more like illustrations. For the report -- the Mankato State Reporter.

JR: Ok.

BB: cause usually to make money, I mean to add a little -- to get a little cash.

JR: So, you say she didn't acclimate. Was she -- I mean she came from Bethany. Was she very religious?

BB: Yes, but it's more complicated than that.

JR: Alright.

BB: And yeah, it was kind of hard to leave my senior year, but you know, I was 36:00in love. What else can you say.

JR: Sure.

BB: We're still married.

JR: Aw, that's wonderful. Congratulations.

BB: (laughs) Thanks.

JR: Rick remembers you hitchhiking to Minnesota to see her on the regular.

BB: I did, yeah now -- and I think back on that. How crazy that was, because sometimes I only had a ride to like Eau Claire. Well, that's not Mankato and then leaving Mankato on a Sunday afternoon to hitchhike back to Oshkosh. Sometimes I would fall asleep in the stranger's car.

JR: Wow.

BB: Like I was so tired, but the people were so nice. I mean there were multiple occasions they dropped me right off at Nelson Hall. So, it's it was a different time, let's just say.

JR: Yeah. Absolutely so you're Mankato and now Mark takes over the strip 37:00entirely. Did you have any input, or were you pretty much checked out then?

BB: I was pretty much checked out. I mean he sent me stuff and showed me what was going on with it. I mean, I could definitely tell it wasn't my drawing anymore.

JR: Right.

BB: Mark has a more -- his figures are a little bit more elongated and just a different style. But no, I was happy for him cause that was his element and we stayed friends. I visited him in New York City multiple times, and he came to Bethany and did a talk on comic art. And brought a collection of original arts to Bethany in Mankato.

JR: That's so great. That must be -- it must have been a pretty amazing for you to have this friend that essentially living out your childhood dream, right?

BB: Yeah, it was really cool. I think I as an art teacher at Bethany, I brought students to New York City, I said, hey, let's all go to New York, and I would take like a group of 10 to New York City. Mark would arrange a visit to Marvel 38:00when he was still alive. So, we would show up -- the first time we came, he had a guy dressed like Spiderman to give us a tour.

JR: (laughs)

BB: And the guys jumping on the table and acting like Spiderman, and this is long before the movie started.

JR: Sure, oh, that's so cool.

BB: And Mark was he -- we always stayed close. I don't know if he could understand me leaving comic books. But I stayed with the multiple times in New York City, and we were always close friends.

JR: Wow. Do you remember kind of how the strip was perceived while you were on campus? I noticed that the AT did a reader survey in '75.

BB: Oh, really?

JR: And Augmento was dead last in popularity.

BB: (laughs)

JR: But then I, I always wonder if that was just an inside joke cause it's 39:00really clear you had some real fans, people who would write to the paper about it and so on. Do you remember, like any notoriety you had as Augmento creator?

BB: I would say, no.

JR: Ok.

BB: No. and I didn't expect any. I was just to kind of happy to be there, happy to be doing it. And it was really, uh, it was a personal -- I mean to have Rick involved and Mark and sometimes my cousin Pete that was enough for me, I mean. And then some of the cameos like I said or friends or relatives. And that was also just really fun to do. I didn't take any of it that seriously, you know. I was just enjoying kind of being there. I still do like comics too. I mean, I-

JR: Do you?

BB: I don't -- I'm not an avid collector, but I was as a kid, and I still have 40:00all my comics. What's changed so much are the movies. You know the whole Marvel Universe in movies? I've often wondered if Mark would have lived longer, what his connection to the movies would have been. Or what mine would have been through Mark.

JR: So, he did bring Augmento into a little bit more mo- not the movies -- but a modern Marvel World with that issue of Quasar. Are you familiar with that?

BB: I mean no. He talked to me about it, but I never -- I don't -- I never actually saw it.

JR: I'll scan it for you and send it to you.

BB: Ok.

JR: But did he tell you after the fact? Or did he try like did he seek out your permission or anything like that?

BB: Yeah, he did talk about it including Augmento in something I recall but I 41:00wasn't, you know, at the time and, I don't know if you know the date of that?

JR: That was '91.

BB: So, at the time. When he's talking about Augmento, I'm teaching at a small liberal arts' Christian college. I have 3 little kids. I'm still painting. And totally distracted from what Mark's talking about and if -- I would have loved to see more Augmento but, like I said, I was very distracted with my own real life at that time. Sure, and he kept inviting me to New York. But that's another thing I couldn't just do like drop everything and go to New York. But when I did go, he was always, you know, great.

JR: That's great.

BB: You know, I always thought Augmento might have been -- might have become more of a -- even a feature. He would have lived longer.

JR: Is that right?

BB: Yup.

JR: cause he was gaining influence or-?

BB: Yeah, and even at-

JR: To make those decisions

42:00

BB: He talked about it as a limited series. I don't know if you have that DP 7 that he did? A bunch of-

JR: No.

BB: He did a whole -- he did a limited series called DP 7 where they were mutants that all live in Oshkosh or in that area.

JR: Ok, I did do some research and I found a character named -- he was like a woodsman character.

BB: Yeah. Yeah, I have the comics, I just haven't looked at 'em for a while. I do have a lot of the comics Mark wrote. I have his that last comic that has his ashes in it too, which is strange. But the Squadron Supreme, his wish was to have his ashes in ink and then put into a comic.

JR: I hadn't heard that.

BB: Yeah, he had his ashes put into a comic book ink and then was rolled into a Squadron Supreme issue. So, one whole side of the page was black with Mark Gruenwald's ashes, I have that issue. Strange, isn't it? my daughter found it on 43:00eBay, and she just randomly gave it to me, and I thought wow this is a strange artifact.

JR: Since you know unfortunately, and I again I'm sorry for your loss of your friend because that was tragic and early death. Since I can't ask him, when you look at his -- when he took over the strip, could you tell me sort of where you think his artistic stylings were influenced from? You had mentioned Jim Sterankie [sic] as you're sort of-

BB: Jim Steranko. He influenced those first issues. Mark's -- when I think about his art, it seems like someone like Gil Kane was an influence. Gil Kane is -- he's more of a DC artist, but Mark didn't -- he wasn't prejudice like Marvel or 44:00DC. He like them both. But I see more of a Gil Kane influence in Mark's drawings.

JR: Ok.

BB: Mark was always a writer though, and we what we used to fight about is he wanted more words. I wanted more pictures. cause I always looked at comics as a visual medium that you should be able to read without reading.

JR: Ok.

BB: And he was more literary. He had an English major. He liked -- he loved words. He liked complex stories. And even in the comic books he wrote, if you look at his Marvels, they're very wordy. (laughs) And so that was just his characteristic of Mark. He loved words. He loved comic books as literature.

JR: And you can totally see that when he takes over the amount of words per page go up dramatically.

BB: Right. And I was always trying to fight that. I was like, "Mark, we want to be able to read this visually." So, we didn't really fight about it though.

45:00

JR: He had a really interesting way of arranging, or maybe this was you, arranging the images. Kind of, I mean, I guess this was him. It got very complicated how to read the strip.

BB: Mhmm. Yeah, he loved the design of the page even more than the drawing.

JR: Ok.

BB: And so, he loves. He loves complicated designs. I do too, but not to that degree. cause if you had really complicated designs with a lot of words makes it really hard to read.

JR: Did you return to Oshkosh much after you transferred?

BB: No.

JR: Ok.

BB: I came back up. My cousin actually ended up going to Oshkosh and graduating.

46:00

JR: Oh, Pete did?

BB: Pete did, yeah. He graduated from Oshkosh and then he and another artist had a big show there a few years ago, so I went to campus for that show.

JR: Ok.

BB: Otherwise, I do have relatives in the Green Bay area and so occasionally I'm close by but. I haven't been back.

JR: So how -- so you stayed in touch with Mark over the years until his death. What about Rick?

BB: You know with Rick things kind of -- we both kind of went our separate ways. Now we've been reunited because of Facebook.

JR: Oh cool.

BB: So, I see -- we, that's the way we would communicate now, and I see his pictures he sees mine and there isn't a lot that -- we don't really see each other in person too much. We've only seen each other maybe a couple times since 47:00we were at Oshkosh together. But through Facebook I pretty much know his life and I think he pretty much knows mine. He will -- he'll still critique my paintings. I put 'em up on Facebook, which I think is kinda funny cause he was a fairly harsh critic of mine.

JR: Is that right?

BB: Well, he had high expectations for me. He thought I could do better. So, I didn't begrudge that opinion. I enjoyed it.

JR: Oh, that's cool. So, now's the time, Bill, where I sort of look over my questions and see which ones I skipped. So, you had mentioned some of your illustrations you did for the AT and some of the ads you did. But you also worked on a publication called Tangent. Do you remember that the science fiction magazine of the English Department?

BB: Oh um, you know, I only did a couple illustrations and I think that was -- I'd have to look back. I did work for the Quiver.

48:00

JR: Ok.

BB: I did more work for the Quiver than Tangent.

JR: Ok.

BB: And so, the Quiver I probably have a little portfolio of -- but I'd have to even rack my brain to remember. I have a big pile of drawings and they actually still look pretty good. It's just that they're not catalogued properly. And I just, like I hope I've been implying, I was involved, and I was drawing a lot, but I wasn't taking it too seriously. Yeah, that science fiction. I have to even think about that.

JR: Yeah, you did a drawing of, I think the contributors and Mark's in the picture, and I believe you have a self-portrait in the picture with a hairbrush going at it and then some of the other folks, the writers and so on. Mark did 49:00some drawings, too. Anyway. We talked about that. So, I guess the other question I have is just your insight and, you may not know this, and I do have an interview next month with another friend of Marx who worked -- helped him develop stories for the last year, but some of the themes that Mark worked through in the next year when you were in Mankato in-- It was a big, long thing about a very religious villain, cult type figure. Pokes fun a little bit at some of the -- Evangelists who go in the library mall, for example. Do you remember what his attitude about religion was?

50:00

BB: Well, I think that as a comic book writer he considered religion kind of fair game. I know he later got in trouble with Marvel because he used Jesus in one of the comic books. Like The Justice League he had all the different gods that people still venerate. He was brought up as a Christian. And I remember it in for one of our assignments to do a self-portrait. He took it to the extreme, and he did the self-portrait of himself crucified.

JR: Wow.

BB: And so, he built a cross, had himself, tide to the cross, and then took pictures and did a life size drawing of it. Well then, he painted it, and a I think he donated it, or someone bought it for his church. I don't know if it's still in Oshkosh.

JR: Oh wow. You remember-

BB: It was a life size self-portrait as Jesus on the cross. And I -- that kind 51:00of blew me away. I just thought wow, the rest of us are taking a mirror and drawing, you know, like our face.

JR: Sure

BB: And Mark -- the cops came. I guess they were -- someone was afraid what was going on? You know there's a guy being crucified on a Hill in Oshkosh. Which would be typical Mark. That's just how he was. You know. He had so many ideas that he didn't use. He was writing fan magazines and reviews and. He had a lot of energy and he continued that as a professional. I mean when I would talk to him at Marvel, he worked seven days a week. Not because he had to because he loved it. And so, religion, I don't know if it was a driving force in his life. I would say he used it almost like a genre.

JR: Ok. So, he didn't have a particular axe to grind there?

52:00

BB: No, I don't think so. I think any hypocrisy I mean he might tackle and-

JR: Sure.

BB: There were plenty of evangelists at that time too, that would seem like hypocrites. But no, he wasn't particularly anti-religious. He always respected Sherri and my, you know, our approach to it.

JR: What were his politics than at the time?

BB: Boy! He did -- I mean, he was -- he had very liberal views and I don't -- I can't say we've talked politics much because of all the art and comic books that we talked about. So, politics would be a long way away from what we were really interested in.

JR: Got it. Yeah, I asked cause in that last semester he sort of has you know, from a modern perspective, he's dealing with a lot of sort of identity issues 53:00and he's got a gay character. You know who is sometimes allies, sometimes not. He's got a black villain, an obese woman villain. Not so much a villain, but there's a martial arts master Asian guy in that and I'm just curious what I want to talk to Jay Marc Madison about. It's just what he was - it seems sort of deliberate these choices of these different identities and what he was trying to do with that. If that was a, I don't know comic history, I don't know if that was sort of a trend at the time to try to make more, you know multicultural, you know, comics and comic book characters at that time. I don't know if you had any insight on that.

54:00

BB: Yeah, I think I think it was. I think Mark wanted to be relevant. I think he loved dealing with those kind of issues. You know, if you look at something like Green Lantern and Green Arrow that came out with DC, they were dealing with a lot of social issues in their comics. Like, don't one of the sidekicks becomes a junkie. Orr protests and radicalism. And I think Mark liked that. I mean, I think he liked to be cutting edge and if that was going to be what was happening, he's right there. That's what I would say. I don't know personally, and Mark was pretty -- he could be pretty mysterious about his own, his own views. He liked to use anything he could in order to tell the story, or in order to be, you know, interesting or relevant.

JR: That's great. I think we've covered my questions. I was wondering, I, you know, I always like to ask if there's anything I didn't touch on that you'd like 55:00to talk about.

BB: Well, I mean I could -- I do think those times in Oshkosh were very creative and very exciting and I think as a university, in a way, I guess I think they should be proud of those times because it was exciting, you know. It was a great education. Great exposure to creativity in the arts. And the idea is that it can happen in Oshkosh you don't have to be in New York or on the East or West Coast, but I really thought Oshkosh was an exciting and creative place to be.

JR: That's great to hear. You mentioned one of your professors. Were there, others that that sort of help foster that community.

BB: Ron Weaver was teaching life drawing. He was a big influence. Sam Yates in painting and Tom Brady in drawing and Jeannine Heart in printmaking. And I once 56:00I found a professor I liked, I tended to stick with them. I mean, I think I had Sam Yates for every semester, for six semesters in painting.

JR: Did you guys show at galleries in the area?

BB: Well, they did student shows and they did shows in the student union.

JR: Ok.

BB: There weren't too many downtown. There were juried shows we were encouraged to get into in the area. But yeah, the student union always had a big student show. And then the art building itself. Sometimes there was a summer show. But they were very good about encouragement. My first advisor or the first day of school I don't remember his name, but he said -- first, I said, "I want to be an art major," and he said, "Well pick something else, because there's no way you can be an artist." And I was so upset I went to that Department head and said, 57:00"look, who is this guy? That's my advisor." He said, "well, I'll get you a different one then." So, I got a different advisor, but it kind of shook me the very first day, and in retrospect, that can see why he would say that. cause if, what if I would have believed him? You know?

JR: Yeah.

BB: He was one of those guys and I like I said I don't remember his name. I could probably find it, but he was just trying -- let's cut through the cut to the chase here and get rid of the people that aren't going to survive.

JR: He was testing you, so if you really had the passion, you would ignore him, but if you didn't, probably weren't gonna make it anyway.

BB: Exactly.

JR: Got it. Fascinating. No, I you know I read a lot of the newspaper and other things from the past. It did seem like a very special time. Students were given a certain amount of flexibility and independence that they may not be given 58:00today and looks like you guys took that and really produce some amazing work. As a professor, do you see the teaching of art changing then over your career from what you experienced?

BB: It is changing, but not where I was teaching and not what I teach. I -- some of the lessons I learned at Oshkosh stuck with me the whole time and It's still -- I mean, it's still a combination of hard work and personal expression, communication and that's not the lesson you hear as much in art today. So.

JR: What is-

BB: A lot of it is conceptual. I mean, there's a lot of conceptual work. There's a lot of issues. There's a lot of strange opportunities. I mean, the world is 59:00changing so fast, and they want art to reflect that. And training artists, in my opinion, you have to start back aways. Teach them the basics and let them explore rather than teaching them the end result. So. And I'm not sure -- I looked up the Art Department maybe a year or two ago at Oshkosh and it did look very strong. I'm guessing it's still a thriving art Department.

JR: I think so. And we -- in the middle of budget cuts and so on, we were able to -- I was part of the group that hired her, get a curator position on campus to take care -- better care of the campus collection and also teach you know some museum skills to classes as well. And that I think, from my perspective is 60:00someone -- you know as a custodial perspective, I was really encouraged to see that.

BB: Yeah, that's great. cause some of our smaller colleges and some of the state universities even are looking at cutting art.

JR: Alright. Well, this has been a real pleasure. Bye-bye.

BB: Bye.

[End Interview]

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