[Warning, unless you are into alternative and obscuro comix, the following essay will contain references that might seem esoteric and remote. This article (now slightly revised, 12-1-07) was originally written in Apr. 2002 for the White Buffalo Gazette (WGB):]
Morty Comix started in Feb. 1983 with several motives in mind. First, it gave me a way to loosen up my drawing hand. Second, it was a way to drive completist collectors crazy. The basic Morty Comix was a blank index card folded in half with four original drawings. They were numbered in sequence, dated and signed. I attempted to include an issue in each piece of correspondence. Here are some answers to questions you probably didn't want to ask about this series:
The first issue was drawn in Feb. 1983 in Olympia, Wash. It was sent to the now legendary Ron "Gato" Vicens in Hawaii. I won't call #2195 the final issue, since I consider this title to merely be in stasis, but this was drawn in late 1999 and sent to Jeff Zenick in Florida. It was reprinted in WBG in June 2000.
There are four distinct subsets. #1-1000 (Feb. 1983-Mar. 1984), #1001-1225 (Jan.-June 1985), #1226-1760 (Sept. 1985-Sept. 1986), and #1761-2195 (Apr. 1, 1989-Nov./Dec. 1999).
In addition to the blank index card format, other issues were drawn on library waste cards, large sheets of butcher paper, cardboard, foam, styrofoam, and wood. Some issues were produced as puzzles, #1446 and #1500 are 80 pages thick. One issue (sent to Tim Corrigan), was burned into a large sheet of plexiglass. Another (sent to Bob X), was drawn in the sand at Ocean Shores, Wash. and sent as a photo. #1641-1690 were drawn on the inside covers of copies of Starhead Presents #1Other artists participated in a few issues. Bruce Chrislip jammed on a few, although the exact numbers have been lost. Marc Myers jammed on #1430-31, 1439. Clint Hollingsworth and Myers and I drew #1432. John E. (John Eberly) with #1467, and #1730 was a 4-way effort, which included Ted Bolman, Michael and Keenan Dowers. #1433 was a Marc Myers solo.
Chris Bors took his copy of #1025 and (with my permission) reproduced it as a minicomic with a 50 copy run. #1882 and #2173 were drawn to be published, the first from Starhead Comix and the second by myself (50 copies). #2058 and #2114 have been "published" online at minicomic.com [2007 note, the URL is now dead].
Morty Comix have been sent all over the world. They have found their way to at least 4 libraries (NY State Library, Michigan State U., Washington State U., and Wis. State Historical Society). #1702 was attached to a string on a helium balloon in 1986 and was last seen high in the sky heading west from McCleary, Wash. Five issues were sent at random to other guys named Steve Willis. Lynn Hansen held the record for having been sent the most issues (70). He died in 1995 and when his comix collection was donated to WSU, it can be assumed the Morty Comix were in there as well. Other major Morty holders were John Eberly, Michael Dowers, Brad Foster, and Jay Kennedy. Minnesota collector Joe Schnide, by my reckoning, has managed to accumulate the largest collection of any living collector [2007 note, eBay bidder Albert Law seems to usually win the auctions when Morty Comix show up, so he must be up there as well by now], although WSU is where you'll still find the highest concentration. There are 13 issues I sent but cannot account for.
In 1984 Brad Foster published a large collection of this series in The Almost Complete Collected Morty Comix, culling from the 1983 and early 1984 issues. Somehow Brad managed to talk several people into loaning him their copies. Morty Comix have also been published in: Inside Joke, Acme Subheroes, Mini Haha Komix, Monthly Independent ..., Scratchez, Misc. Comics, City Limits Gazette, American Leather, Over the Wall, Small Press Comics Fanola, Mashuga, Small Press Comics Explosion, Morty the Dog, Upperground, Industrial Toilet Paper, Maximum Traffic, Bezango Obscuro, Damn Weird Comix, White Buffalo Gazette, and, Cartoon Loonacy.Although Morty Comix didn't exactly start a genre, it did inspire a number of short-lived responses from other artists such as: Par Holman, Paul Cartmill, Richard Wayne, Roldo, Chester Brown, Jim Ryan, Clint Hollingsworth, Maximum Traffic, George Erling, Marc Myers, Hank Arakelian, Gary Usher, Larry Weir, Jamie Alder, Jim Waltman, and Bruce Chrislip. They had titles like: Dawg'on'it Comix, Jimix, Le Morte Comix, Maori Comix, More "Tea"? Comix, Morfy Comix, Mormony Comix, Neon Paisley Dino Attack on Morty Comix, Nivlem Comix, Non-comic Comix, Nonmorty Comix, Psuedo-Morty Comix, Puppy Chewed Comix, Shorty Comix, and Ytrom. The only other artist I am aware of to seriously undertake creating multiple issues of an original hand-drawn series was Ted Bolman, who started Nauga Comix in, if I'm not mistaken, Jan. 1986. I'm not sure if Ted is still drawing this title, but he was up to #294 last I saw. Most of the Nauga Comix I have seen appear to have more of a storyline and are drawn with more planning and care than my dash-offs.
Morty Comix was sort of a statement that original art (at least my original art) is not some sacred collectible thing, but merely the residue of a compulsion that is freely sent to anyone who I was in contact with. In the last decade it was harder to keep up, and I didn't always have issues to send. They were messages in a bottle. It is fun to track them and see where they wind up. So it is with considerable irony I have seen them sell for as much as $50 each on eBay. Sure, it is out of my control now, but Jeez, what will these things be worth after I croak? Will I ever bring this thing out of stasis and start subset 5? Not for awhile, if ever. The 21st century and I are not really getting along too well so far, and somehow I feel I'm protecting Morty Comix by keeping it forever in the amber of the 20th century.