Forty years of Duck Soup Productions?
Well… yes and no. In the sense that I am Duck Soup Productions and Duck Soup Productions is me, then it’s considerably more than forty years. But everything starts somewhere, and for Duck Soup it started in the summer of 1979 when I opened the very first Comic Book Store in the state of Maine. That store was called Duck Soup.
Most people assume that the name derives from the Marx Brothers movie of that title, and while I neither mind nor discourage the Marx connection, the fact is that the phrase “Duck Soup” pre-dates the Marx Brothers, and that it means exactly the same thing as “Easy-Peasy.” What that has to do with comics is anyone’s guess.
I was a kid who liked to draw and write stories, and so it was only natural that I started publishing my own comic book that same year, and that I published it under the store neme, or as I called it then “Duck Soup Comixworks.” I suppose the less said about those comics, the better. People were awfully polite about it though. Even the lady who stood in the middle of the store going on and on and on about how bad that comic book was — until she looked at me and realized she was talking to the author. Out of guilt, she ponied up the buck-fifty to buy the comic, and I wasn’t too proud to turn it away.
The second issue was a little better, and the writing was a lot better… but still not good enough to build a business on. And speaking of business — I was a 20 year old kid with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome who didn’t know the first thing about operating a business, much less making that business thrive in challenging times. And at the end of that decade, the comic-book industry was certainly facing challenges — Duck Soup hit at a time when the business was dramatically imploding in a number of ways, not the least of which was the way comics were sold and distributed. After about 1981, the business was never the same again.
Duck Soup closed business as a storefront, and for a long while it went into hibernation.
I worked in retail for a local chain of bookstores for many years; in my free time I wrote for comics industry trade paper The Comics Buyers’ Guide, and I wrote novels and short stories. Like the first two issues of my comic book, my early efforts were nothing to write home about. But with my second novel I started to get better, and started to place short stories in various non-paying literary journals. One of my stories was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Another was published (for money, even!) in The North American Review. Still, I couldn’t get that one Big Breakthrough that a writer needs to get if they ever hope to make a living out of their work.
Then this thing called The Home Computer happened. I was not an early adopter. Ultimately, it was the software and the creative possibilities that it opened up that caused me to break down and buy my first Mac. Not long after that, we began hearing rumblings about the internet. My friend Bruce Canwell — now associate editor for The Library of American Comics — suggested that a personal website would be a great thing for me. He was more right than any of us know, but it took a few years more for it to come about.
It wasn’t until I discovered Don Simpson’s weekly internet comic strip version of his popular MEGATON MAN character that I really saw the possibilities of the inter webs… and in that moment Duck Soup Productions was well and truly born, or re-born depending upon your point of view. Simpson published a single tier of panels every week, and I determined that, with my backlog of QUIRK (that was my late-70s comic creation) stories, I could do him one (or two) better. And for two years, I did. With QUIRK (a sci-fy parody) and TINSEL*TOWN (a graphic novel about a cartoon fox in Depression-era Hollywood), I ran TWO weekly web comics and never missed a deadline in those two years. In the end, I couldn’t keep up the effort, though, especially with nothing to show for it but a couple of webcomics with the total readership of maybe six people and a cat.
Duck Soup Productions went into hibernation again, and I started drinking. That and caring for and minding the affairs of my mother, who was both aging and ill, took up more and more of my time. I lost a decade in there somewhere.
2010 was my “Tower of Destruction” moment. Those of you who know Tarot will know exactly what I mean. My mother’s death brought about the total dissolution of life as I had lived it for more than thirty years. Everything changed that year, or started to change. To help me cope with it all, I started a blog: and that blog was called simply, “It’s Duck Soup.”
It’s still out there at wwwduscksoup.me, and it’s not going anywhere. I still post there from time to time. But in 2013 as a part of my alcoholism recovery I started reading tarot cards again, something I hadn’t done in decades. I started to write fiction again. All these things connected and suddenly I was creating illustrations in the style of Tarot Cards for a novel I was writing. Then the best thing of all happened: Somehow, Carrie Paris — a teacher, designer, reader, entrepreneur and all around Good Person (you can and should find her at www.carrieparis.com) — noticed me, reached out to me, and encouraged me to develop those early illustrations into a full Tarot Deck.
Making that deck was so good for me, and so much fun, and so eye-opening; and somehow it found a response in the Tarot community; somehow, suddenly, I was doing work that people liked and responded to. No one needed to tell me to grab that bull by the horns and run with it.
Since then I haven’t looked back. I started up “Tarot by Duck Soup” using nothing more than Blogger and an e-commerce plug-in. It was a great way to make a start, but now I’ve outgrown it. That’s why “Tarot by Duck Soup” is re-opening on this new platform, in a bright and shiny new setting.
So here we are. Forty years of just trying to make it by doing what I love to do has brought Duck Soup Productions to yet another Fresh Start.
It’s been anything but “easy-peasy” — and only time will tell whether or not it finally has the Right Stuff in the Can.