There are less than a hand full of artists who's work caught my eye at a young age that still continue to influence and challenge me today.
Michael Zulli is one of them.
I found his work through Dave Sim and Cerebus. I was buying the reprints and back issues in every dusty shop I could find as a 10-12 year old in Kansas City. I started noticing ads for this strange looking book called "The Puma Blues." Pictures of pumas, or sometimes vague posters of Zulli and Stephen Murphy served as these weird windows into something I had to discover. Fortunately for me, KC MO/KS was a treasure trove of odds and ends back issues at the time and I was able to (through fortitude and parents/grandparents who didn't know better) to spend hours wading through said stores and back issues to find these things that had captured my imagination.
As a Pre-Teen/Teen, I was enraptured by Zulli's line-work and these anarchic/post apocalyptic images I was seeing in each new issue I would discover, always out of order (I would not read the whole series in order for another 20 years). The newsprint and faded ink were tools in his arsenal to assault my senses. I was catching on too young and too late to something I desperately wanted to understand, but knew I was years away from grasping. The Puma Blues meant something bigger than I could understand.
The Puma Blues continues to be a formidable influence on me as an adult.
I still re-read the single issues I've managed to track down over the years (after having lost/sold/misplaced the ones I got when I was a kid). I have digital copies (thanks, internet) on my iPad. I study the lines, I ponder the themes. I think about how I can create a work that's as moving and affecting as this is on me and I wonder if it's too late to do so.
Michael Zulli has done many amazing works since 1989 and the end of Puma Blues (seek out his 3 issue run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if you want to have your fucking mind blown), but the closest (for me, to me) in spirit of continuation is the recent release of Fracture of the Universal Boy.
It's a beautiful and amazingly crafted piece of work that, while I don't claim to understand it all, speaks to me in a way that not a lot of things have over the last 20 years. I was around 10 when I first discovered Zulli. I'm 32 now. To have someone's work speak to you consistently and truly over that long a period of time is a unique and rare thing. At least, for me, it is.
I can't do Fracture justice here, nor Puma, nor any of it's effect on me and my work and my attitudes on life and nature and politics and the economy and art and life.
What I can do is say thank you.
Thank you, Michael Zulli for being a constant inspiration all these years. Thank you for fighting the good fight and thank you for creating things that are beautiful and challenging to me as a person and an artist. Thank you for proving that one's voice can be just as powerful and effective later in life as it is during those early formative and angst-ridden years.
- Kevin Mellon
Kansas City, Missouri. 27 July, 2011