The State of the Ace Backwords Address

.Ace Backwords, 53, former underground cartoonist who has been homeless for the past 3 years and is nearly blind, stands for a portrait on Wednesday March 17, 2010 in Berkeley, Calif. His friends are worried that he will soon die of exposure. Photo: Mike Kepka, The Chronicle

 Ace Backwords on death:

“I’m afraid of death. Even as I embrace it because I know that death is a return to the Godhead. This living life is more like death, the land of the living dead. Zombies. Sleep-walkers. I think when we die we actually become more alive. Death is probably like waking up from a really weird dream.”

Ace Backwords on sex:

“When I was younger I used to think about sex all the time. Now that I’m more mature I only think about it 90% of the time. So I’ve been able to develop some other interests and become a well-rounded human being. The thing that confuses me the most is when somebody is sexually attracted to me. I can’t help thinking: What’s wrong with you?

Ace Backwords on the streets:

“The streets are hard. They’re mostly made out of cement.”

Ace Backwords on the streets:

“To paraphrase David Letterman, the streets are just like high school except with rattier clothes and less teeth.”

Ace Backwords on God:

“God is everything. God is playing out all the parts. This life is a cosmic drama acted out on God’s own body.”

Ace Backwords on family:

“My whole family is nuts. Most people are, aren’t they? We’re all weirdos in our own special way.”

Ace Backwords on suffering:

“This life can really hurt. You can quote me on that, motherfucker.”

Ace Backwords on drugs:

“I’ve done most of them. Some of the time they work. Which is more than you can expect from most of the shit in this world. But after awhile they all turn on you. What goes up must come down. I always thought “ecstasy” was the greatest name for a product. Who wouldn’t want to score some of that. But then, there seems to be a market for heroin, too, and they call that “junk” and “scag” and “shit.” So people will buy anything, really.

Ace Backwords on drugs:

“I’ve always needed drugs. I always wanted them. I liked turning the channels on the television set in my mind.”

Ace Backwords on sex:

“Am I still thinking about sex?”

Ace Backwords on love:

“I’ve fallen in love 5-and-a-half times. There’s one I’m still not sure about.”

Ace Backwords on unrequited love:

“I’m the patron saint of unrequited love. All my love infatuations ended tragically. So I was obviously doing something wrong. And yet the weird thing is, to this day, I’m still really fond of all 5-and-a-half of them. Thats the sickest thing of all.”

Ace Backwords on art:

“Charles Bukowski and R. Crumb were the two great artists of my era. I was the third. But I was too humble to point it out.”

Ace Backwords on art:

“The art that lives on is the stuff that touches universal archetypes. Race, love, hate, sex, drugs, death, God. Some things never go out of season. They’ll still be smacking you in the face in the year 2247.”

Ace Backwords on cats:

“I have 4 feral cats that live in the hills near my campsight that I feed every morning. Cats are so much easier to relate to than people. All my cats ask of me is that I feed them and don’t bother them. So we’ve developed a relationship. I really like to watch them eat. And I’m not sure why. Maybe its because I can only eat 3 meals a day, but with the cats I get to squeeze in an extra meal vicariously.

Ace Backwords on sitting at a typer and blathering out verbiage:

“Sometimes I amuse myself with this chatter. Thats the best I can hope for.

Ace Backwords on himself:

“I can’t figure out who I am. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m perverse.”

2002_10_16 This is art, goddammit! And if it isn’t, I sincerely apologize

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I don’t know why I do this: send out my thoughts to thousands of strangers at the other end of my reality. I’ve been doing it off and on for 20 years; I’m compelled to do it in a way, but there’s always been something a little weird about the whole deal.

At one point, I couldn’t come up with any good reason to do it, so I stopped doing it. I sat under a tree in the woods and mostly kept my damn thoughts to myself. But doing nothing really didn’t work either, so I went back to doing it again.

I suppose I do it for a lot of reasons; both good and bad; both noble and ignoble. Fame, glory, and money. And self-expression and self-knowledge. To impress chicks. And to understand my soul a little better. It was an odd hodge-podge of motivations for sure.

Joan Rivers once said: “You have to be a little screwed up in the first place to have this need to stand up in front of thousands of strangers and win their approval.” I suppose you can look at anything from a neurotic side. “Sure, you’ve created this artistic masterpiece, but you’re just doing it to over-compensate for your lack of self-esteem and your tiny dink.” On the positive side you could say you’re trying to offer other people something worthwhile to feed on: food for thought or whatever. I know a lot of people on the street scene who don’t contribute anything to the world. They don’t produce; they just consume. I doubt that’s healthy.

At the peak of my so-called cartooning career in the early 90s, I was reaching about a million people every month. Minor-league stuff compared to real media celebrity. But it was too much of an over-load for my fragile psyche. It was one reason I ended up sitting under a tree in a daze for a year or six. Its no wonder all the truly famous people are mostly nuts. Communicating to even a minor-mass audience was like talking into a powerful microphone hooked up to an echo machine. Words you said 5 or 10 years earlier would come flying back at you when you least expected it. It was a lot like carrying on a conversation with thousands of people simultaneously. And if your work has a “personal” edge, or a weird cutting edge to it, the audience feedback can be doubly jarring. You can get lost in the feedback loop of it all. I mean, jeez, just regular life alone can be enough of a mind-fukk. Having intense personal relations with the mindless beast known as Your Audience added another layer to it.

I’d have people come up to me and say: “There was something you wrote 5 years ago that totally changed my thinking! It totally changed my life!”
“Aw gee shucks!” I’d say, all bashful and humble.
“Yeah, it totally screwed up my head! I’ve never been the same!”
Oh. Uh. Oops.

There was another guy who came up to me a couple years ago and said: “I’ve seen you around for years, and I’m still pizzed at you for what you said in that one comic strip back in 1992!”

He was legitimately angry at me, in fact he was seething with hatred towards me. Eight years after the fact. I asked him what the strip was, and it turned out it was some lame strip that I hacked out one night in 30 minutes one night when I really couldn’t think of anything to say, and then I never thought about again until that moment. Recently I came across that strip on a random search of the web. So it’s still out there, active, its wonders to perform.

Not that I’m complaining. Is there anything more insipid than famous people who spend their lives striving to get “known” by millions of strangers, and then, the minute their dream comes true, the first thing they start crying about is: they want their damn “privacy.” Stupid fukks.

Overall, its a great game. It’s all just Show Biz, right? Whether it’s high art at the one end, or schlock journalism at the other. And I can honestly say I’d be sitting here typing the same thing whether 2 people or 2 million people were reading it. Because really, I’m really just doing it for myself. It’s nice if people like what I do sometimes, but in truth, the best I hope for is that what I do isn’t harmful. And there are times when I’m not even sure of that.

The High Priestess knows whereof she speaks

Go straight to the Acid Heroes buy-it page

prstsvertshortMemo to anybody with two brain cells to rub together

and some disposable income or investment capital:

Record and distribute this guy’s music!

I’m talking about the songs that Ace himself has written, performed, and recorded, despite creating it with rudimentary equipment and living on the street.

I mean, the book is great and all, but to let the music be lost would be a crime against both Humanity and Art.

Give Ace Backwords some decent production values, and you will thank the High Priestess for pulling your coat.


Video Bonus! Uncle Juan reads from Acid Heroes on YouTube!