Artscape: Wolfgang Parker's "1888"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Wolfgang Parker laughs at the adage about teaching old dogs new tricks. Sixteen years after inventing a strain of hepcat hard rock known as punk-rock swing, Parker is enjoying a creative renaissance across several mediums.

Last year he tried photography for the first time and got a dozen photos published. His band is forging into new directions for the first time in years. Perhaps dearest to his heart these days is "1888," the graphic novel he's developing with illustrator John Amor.

Parker has been kicking around the "1888" story - a supernatural update on Jack the Ripper - for five years. Three years ago, despite knowing nothing about the industry, he decided to go the comics route.

"I'm not a prose writer. I knew I wasn't going to write a novel," Parker said. "It snowballed from there."

Parker started researching the field and discovered he had something special. He cold-called Marvel illustrator Mike Perkins, who was eager to write an endorsement. He met acclaimed editor Lee Nordling on a web forum and began absorbing as much knowledge as possible. He learned the machinations of how to bring his story to life and recruited a litany of talented artists to help.

Only recently, though, did he find the means to bring the project to fruition. Parker preferred not to accept upfront funding from a publisher because he didn't want to give up the project's rights. But without some financial backing, he could never afford to pay for the printing. was his saving grace. The site allows artists to solicit funding for creative projects and interact with the backers throughout the creative process. Parker had been looking for just such a system, so he signed up and started recruiting donors with the goal of raising $6,000 by May 23. If the project fails to accumulate $6,000 in pledges, none of the backers gets charged.

In an effort to raise awareness and ultimately raise money, Parker's band is playing Skully's Friday with Ghost Shirt and Mors Ontologica. And to encourage people to pledge, Parker is promising exclusive update videos for backers only, offering a rare window behind the scenes of comics production. He's become almost as enamored with unveiling the process as with making the book itself.

"There are only a handful of books about creating comics," Parker said. "There is no comic book 'Spinal Tap.' "

As Parker awaits the result of his "1888" pledge drive, he's been busy with music too. He released "Petty Standards," an EP of standards like "Ain't That A Kick In the Head" given a punk-swing makeover, earlier this year.

Parker views "Petty Standards" as the final chapter of the sound he's been hawking for the past decade and a half. These days, the band is moving in a "proggy" direction and recording the music as they create it, a welcome change from recording songs Parker has been playing live for years on end.

"I never wanted to be in a Wolfgang Parker cover band," he said.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, April 23

Where: Skully's Music Diner, Short North