I am taking time out from politics (in general) to discuss a man who has had a great personal influence and impact upon me. He is my friend going back many years, back to when I was an angry twenty year old, and he was twenty-three. This is the man who offered me my first professional writing job, scribbling offensively violent and sexually deranged comic books for his somewhat obscure, but influential and tremendously controversial horror publishing company Boneyard Press. I’d like to introduce you to Hart D. Fisher.
I have written about Hart here before, if only in passing (referred to in particular in my evaluation of the evolution of horror books and films in the post-9/11 era), but mostly from an academic standpoint. Before I really go into it, here’s an advertisement for his current (and increasingly successful) company: http://www.americanhorrors.com/ which is a wonderful uncut horror film and interview network available on Roku. This channel features some old, some very strange, and some classics horror movies, including memories from my own childhood, back when I was trolling my local video store for the most violent film I could find. I would then ask my mother to rent it for me (I was too young to get such a hard-R myself–she generally complied). These films, some of them retrospectively awful, have had tremendous influence on making me into the person I am today, complete with some rather distasteful interests.
All these films, as previously stated, are shown uncut. Between features there are a whole variety of very interesting shorts, notable mostly by interview and evaluation programs, including Gorecast, and shows Hart Fisher himself, always dressed spectacularly, interviewing creators and stars and celebrities at horror conventions, film festivals, or at his palatial estate in Wisconsin. Additionally there are a handful of commercials scattered throughout–but do not take this as a moment to ignore! Of course some bills must be paid and it has been a little difficult for what is essentially a 24/7 NC-17 network (the only of its kind, anywhere, that does not feature hardcore pornography; although some of the movies come close, and you suspect that the two actors really were fucking. But there are no penetration scenes and all the sex is either part of, or subsidiary to the horror stories on display) to garner many mainstream advertisers. But Americanhorrors.com continues to exceed expectations every single week and the advertisers are coming around. What we can see between films and interviews and podcasts and excerpts from Hart’s radio show, the weekly Hart Attack, are some rather strange and even vintage commercials. These include trailers for 1960s to present day horror films, some extremely creepy cigarette commercials that are laugh out loud hilarious, and original short films by up-and-coming horror filmmakers with serious edge and, usually, something important to say.
To give you a bit of background on this man and his company that I am furiously advertising here (and without compensation, I might add; this is a mini-biography with Hart’s blessing), I want to explain a little about the complexities and lifelong tragedies of this optimistic, generous man, who people have been trying to write off or nervously ignore for many years as a degenerate scumbag.
Hart told me that from a very early age he has been “riding the lightning,” describing his whole life as an adventure, filled with joy and romance and absolute triumph, countered with so much personal horror, misery and struggles with some very powerful people trying to silence him. He explains that ‘riding the lightning’ refers to a moment as an infant when he bit into an electrical wire and felt some sort of, I don’t know, mystical or supernatural power flow through him. Instead of injuring him too badly, Hart believes that this somehow has connected him with a deeper understanding of how the world operates, and what the idea of freedom truly means. But unlike other people who may believe such things, Hart not froth-mouthed insane. He has not transformed this experience into a religion, or something to preach about. Instead it is something that defines him, and has done so for his entire life.
Hart graduated from college with a fine arts degree and his ambitions were always very high, at times exceeding his dreams until they actually came true. He founded a company–Boneyard Press (where I presented stories such as “The Ruined Boy” and “I Wish I Were the Candyman.”) Hart managed to get some young and extremely talented people, as well as some established comic book creators, to join his team and promote his vision of absolute freedom. Around this time, also, the then love of his life, Michelle Davis, was raped and murdered by a profound waste of genetic sludge named Eric Daniels, in a motel room where Michelle worked. Daniels was sentenced to death for this crime, but saw this sentence commuted by the governor of Illinois, changing the murderer’s term to life in prison.
Hart became a celebrity with the release of his bloody, biographical comic book on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer. Having gone through an experience on par with Roman Polanski, when Charles Manson’s cult murdered his pregnant wife (although Hart never degenerated into kiddie fucking like the Polish auteur), Hart channeled his rage into his increasingly dark visions, including his two poetry collections Poems For the Dead and Still Dead, (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&kn=hart%20d%20fisher&sts=t) which are intense, emotionally autobiographical shrieks of anger, outrage, sadness and an immaculate use of language mixed with horror tropes.
The Dahmer comic book, upon publication, gained national attention when several members of the families of the serial killer’s victims decided to sue Boneyard Press, and Hart Fisher personally, for the ‘unauthorized’ use of their relatives stories. The judge threw the case out after an irritating struggle with legal bills. The motives behind this lawsuit are curious, mostly because none of the other books on these hideous crimes committed by a human monster saw their author’s sued (even the unauthorized ones!) The lawsuit led Hart on a First Amendment crusade, appearing on programs such as Larry King Live and the Sally Jesse Raphael show, where beyond his promotion of civil liberties, he took the opportunity to publicly call out some other people who had tried to suppress him. Hart became an important spokesperson for all American’s freedom of speech.
Around this time the comic book industry published an article on the “100 Most Influential People in the Comic Book Industry.” Alongside famous writers, editors and artists, as well as major publishers, people from Marvel and DC Comics, Hart landed on this list. It showed the power of his message, even if many people in the industry found Hart’s work offensive.
After this Hart moved on, nearly bankrupt, hiring younger talent that demanded far less in payment (my total income over the nearly two years I worked there was somewhere in the mid-range of three digits.) Hart even hired a very young Gerard Way, later of the middling band My Chemical Romance, when he was fifteen years old. Way later denied he had ever worked for Boneyard Press, claiming that a much higher profile comic book he wrote for Dark Horse comics was his first. I suspect, personally, that this had less to do with a guy gone mainstream denouncing working for the man that Hero Illustrated referred to as “the most dangerous man in comics,” than with the fact that Way’s On Raven’s Wings, despite an intriguing premise, truly does come across as the work of a pretentious fifteen year old brat. But Hart, being as generous as he is, was then excited to promote a child he believed had some future untapped talent.
Eventually Boneyard Press began to sink into debt, and Hart got a job as a writer and co-editor at Glen Danzig’s Verotik Press, a more sexually oriented horror comic book line, while he pursued a career in the film industry and briefly worked as an advertising copy writer, if nothing else, learning even more about the process of marketing. Hart had been working on a film called The Garbage Man at the time of Michelle’s murder (this movie was eventually completed–a vicious story of a black serial killer, with a subtle racial motive underneath the killer’s horror) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1581643/
Having somewhat rebuilt his finances and ‘riding the lightning’ onward into his prospering life, Hart published the first novel, Jones Inn, of the noted novelist and filmmaker Stephen Elliott (as well as some poetry in the horror comic anthology Flowers on the Razorwire ( https://atomicavenue.com/title/7127/Flowers-on-the-Razorwire)–which, by the way, also includes my own “I Wish I Were the Candyman,” in some of the early issues, as well as a few otherwise disposable stories I penned in about fifteen minutes in between the dense academic papers I was composing for linguistics and specialized history classes. “Candyman” was never completed, because the artist’s prudish wife told him he was no longer allowed to work on something so offensive to her questionable morality.
Hart moved to Los Angeles after this, working first as a film editor, and then directing a number of pornographic features, all the while working on and rebuilding his personal film career, which eventually resulted in a number of horror projects of some note (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1591795/?ref_=tt_ov_dr), and documentaries about real life horrors, and the underground ‘serial killer culture’ that includes ravenous fans of extreme violence.
Hart met his future wife, a brilliant Japanese beauty named Wakako Kawagoshi, and together they soon co-founded American Horrors. This channel developed quite rapidly, at first an underground sensation (he may be offended if I state that American Horrors has by now transcended such a specific genre market) with niche horror fans. The company grew and grew, finally granting Hart and Wakako some of the great success they both worked so hard for and deserved.
This past February, Wakako passed away after a long struggle with colon cancer, a terrible tragedy in its own right, but an nearly overwhelming grief for Hart Fisher, now having lost the two great loves of his life. A few months later, as Hart was slowly piecing himself back together, sometimes drinking too much, often in a state of working himself to death, Hart’s beloved dog died in his arms.
But Hart Fisher is the most resilient man I have ever known. He is still ‘riding the lightning,’ crashing his electric wave into the future, and who knows what joys and nightmares? He recently said to me “Some asshole said, ‘who the fuck are you?'” Hart responded by saying, what at first sounds defensively deflective, ‘Only cool people know me.’ And this might sound like the statement of a person trying to keep their confidence in a literal half-life in the public eye (Hart is a marvelous self-promoter and can tell very openly of many (many!) other experiences he has had far better than I ever could). But then I thought about it. I thought about the rather large swath of his fans. I thought about bands like Slayer and Venom and Cannibal Corpse, and realized that the majority of people may not actually know who they are. Certainly they are not to everyone’s taste. But to those who do know of them, there can hardly be anyone who is not a huge fan.
Hart D. Fisher is the same, a legend within a specific marketplace who is growing by leaps and bounds out of the swamp that once was his near obscurity. Hart is heavily tattooed, has been involved in a variety of mixed martial arts training for many years, (he’s 49 years old now, and could still kick your ass–nearly all of you). He loves guns and is a terrific shot. He is a fascinating and certain a potentially dangerous guy. And it is the cool people who know him. Want to be cool? Then one more time: http://www.americanhorrors.com/watch-channel/