The (Annotated) 2002 John Arcudi Interview – Part Sixteen

Stout’s annotations are all in italics.

STOUT: Long ago our readers must have thought, “What in the hell does this have to do with comics – or even movies?”

ARCUDI: Fair question.

STOUT: I think what we’re talking about here is crucial to both comics fans and creators – and especially movie fans.

ARCUDI: How so?

STOUT: I used to be a huge movie fan; seriously, a bigger movie fan you’d never met. I’d go to all the L. A. film festivals, movie marathons where you enter the theater on Friday and don’t emerge until Sunday evening. I was walking up Vine Street in Hollywood when a friend spotted me from his car. He pulled over. (Since this interview, I’ve promised not to mention any names here for the sake of privacy) It was the brother of my best friend at art school. He had led an extraordinary life, growing up in Mexico City, running away to Tahiti when he was fourteen, taking up with an older Tahitian woman and teaching Spanish Literature at UCLA. His family was amazing as well. His grandparents were famous novelists; one uncle was a movie star; another had won some cinematography Oscars. His dad was English and his mom was French Tahitian (and a helluva cook; she made me the best mole poblano — the oldest known complex recipe in the history of cooking, pre-dating French and Chinese cuisine by two thousand years — I’ve ever had) and his sister became a top model. Damn good genes!

“Hey, Bill — Whatcha doing?”

“I’m going to see a new movie!”

He looked at me like I was some kind of schmuck. He cut off my brief excited rant about the movie I was going to see. He sneered at my anticipation of whatever cinematic event was forthcoming and said, “Wow. Watching a movie — two hours alone in the dark. Movies are someone else’s adventures. Wouldn’t you rather spend those two hours having your own adventures?” It really stopped me.

I thought about all that time I had spent in the dark living someone else’s dreams and adventures. It flipped a switch in me. I decided to make it a point to start having my own adventures, living and creating my own compelling stories based upon my own life rather than wasting those two hours in the dark. Errol Flynn’s autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways was an inspiration to live life to the fullest as well.

Using the money I made from my Wizards poster, my first big adventure was traveling to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Lima, Cuzco and the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru. I took a fantastic all-day train ride from Quito, Ecuador up in the Andes, all the way down to the city of Guayaquil on the coast — riding on top of the train though jungles and rainforests! And I’ve been doing that kind of thing ever since. I’ve tried to pack three lives into one.

ARCUDI: Wake up, everybody! Get out of your parents’ basements!

STOUT: Exactly! Do something you can call your own for chrissake. Live! Feed yourself and your creativity with adventures! Expand your world view!

Okay, on to the National Science Foundation trip to Antarctica: this time, I was down there for three months. For six weeks I was based at McMurdo Station, a U. S. station – the largest station in Antarctica. During the Antarctic summer, which is our winter, there are about 1200 people there, so it’s like a small town. The other six weeks I was based at Palmer Station, which is on the Antarctic Peninsula. There are only thirty-nine beds at Palmer so there are only thirty-nine people at that station. You can fly into McMurdo station, but the only way to get to Palmer station is by ship, because there’s no place to land even a helicopter at Palmer. I took an American scientific research vessel down from Punta Arenas, Chile, down the coast of Chile, crossed the dreaded Drake Passage (fifty ft. waves breaking over the ship on an average day) and sailed down the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula until we got to my drop-off point: Palmer Station. Palmer Station is the station most tourists visit because the Antarctic Peninsula is where you see the greatest abundance of life. It’s warmer than the rest of continental Antarctica.

I got certified as a Zodiac operator at Palmer so that I could man a Zodiac, a type of inflatable boat, and take it to a different island each day. Each island was unique. I’d spend the entire day sketching and painting the wildlife. I did all of my ice dives at McMurdo; I did one shore dive at Palmer. At McMurdo I was transported to my ice dive locations in a Spryte, a box-like ice vehicle with tank treads. I drove my own Spryte over the sea ice to see a distant Weddell seal colony.

Weddell seal in alarm posture. Behind the seal is a ten ft. tall sponge Stout saw on his first Antarctic dive.

If where I needed to go was farther than the range of a Spryte they’d put me on helicopter and helo me out to where I wanted to go. If it was too far for a helicopter they put me on a Twin Otter, a fixed wing plane, and fly me out. When I went to visit an Emperor penguin colony, I took a Twin Otter to get there.

Emperor penguins

The two Canadian pilots who flew me there died in an Antarctic plane crash two years later.

Recent Slow Death cover by Stout. The book should be out later this year.
Page one of a new Slow Death story by Stout.

Here’s the Happy Ending to this Antarctica section of the interview: Pressure from the UK and Japan was put on President Bush to renew The Antarctic Treaty. He finally signed it, protecting Antarctica for another fifty years. But for me, that’s not enough. I want Antarctica protected forever, hence my involvement in making Antarctica the First World Park.

For those of you out there who think this is a worthy idea, please contribute to The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. Their website is at: www.asoc.org.

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