It started all the way back in high school.
Stick with me a second.
Throughout middle school I mostly listened to metal, so it wasn’t until high school that I began to branch out from that genre into others. High school, for instance, gave me a healthy appreciation of hip hop and alternative rock.
In high school the punk I heard was largely pop punk and whatever was popular at Hot Topic at the time – which was YellowCard, Blink 182, and Coheed & Cambria when I came on the scene.
However, I DID like the visual aesthetic of punk. One of my classmates, let’s call him Pete, was a hard core punk and drew album art for bands. Really grotesque stuff, like fat pimpled babies with extra limbs. That made me more aware of art outside of Disney and manga, that’s for sure.
I was intrigued. Eventually I hitched a ride to the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition with one of the friends of Pete on a trip to Columbus (our work was in the first round of judging). Well he misread the directions and we ended up in Short North, the artsy district of the city. And there, we stopped at a magnificent record store, called (I shit you not) Magnolia Thunderpussy.
This record store was my first introduction to the band Gorillaz. A punk aesthetic crossing over with hip hop, a flavor of music I was already getting more accustomed to. And of course, I’m a sucker for visuals, and Gorillaz has legendary visuals. So I had to get a CD.
While I was there I also saw So. Many. Fliers for local punk bands performing at bars up and down Short North and across the city. I, being the wild teenage kid I was, took a bunch of fliers without even asking because they all inspired me artistically – the aesthetic of magazine cut-out letters, screen-printed patterns, and the band names all gave me ideas and introduced me to a lifestyle I didn’t really know about until I saw it.
Then, while I was working at the library after school, I was putting books away and came across one called “Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?” That’s how I got into zines, and that got me further into the punk world. Punks were making comics and zines of their own all the time!
This was also the same time that Gothic Lolita started to emerge in the anime and manga fandom. As I flipped through online photos of this craze, I saw that quite a few were actually goth punks, or just straight-up punk. The best part was finding out that in between the people who got designer dresses and boots for their Lolita aesthetic, the punks featured in these catalogs and magazines all got their clothes at secondhand stores or just made their clothes themselves.
I saw and admired the DIY aesthetic of making minicomics, fashion choices, and art and how it all blended together so cohesively. It was seamless how punk art reflected punk life. And I wanted that in my own life.
Then college came, and with it came summers working at Cedar Point drawing caricatures.
There was an exchange store I went to a lot on my days off, mostly for movies. However, they had an impressive collection of CDs, and one of them included The Dead Kennedys’ “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.”
The cover art made me think back to the days of Magnolia Thunderpussy, of Watcha Mean What’s A Zine, of looking at the fashion – and the shame of never having heard the original music before. Because I had heard of the Dead Kennedys secondhand. I knew they were influential. I had just never heard their music.
I changed that. I bought the CD. And I’ve been in love with punk ever since.
But punk is unique – unlike manga or Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, punk didn’t hit me all at once. It was a gradual love, like the kid you always grew up with and kinda knew, but didn’t really know. Then you both grow over the years and part ways for a few years and reunite at the mall and all of a sudden they became this gorgeous and rebellious human being that you wanted to know and be friends with and be around all the time…and then they let you in to their lives because they actually liked you this WHOLE GODDAMN TIME.
It was like that with me and punk. I’m just glad it gave me space enough to realize how in love with it I was.
And it has returned that love. Over and over again.
Thank you for reading.
You. Are. Awesome.