Life of Brian Myers

Tromen and Tromettes, we are thrilled to share with you the TROMEMOIR OF BRIAN MYERS, aka TROMABOY, long time Troma collaborator who is currently working on the Poultrygeist Comic!

Guaranteed: you will laugh, you will cry, you will be TROMATIZED.  Brian is not only a talented Comic Book artist, but as we learned here, he is a FABULOUS writer!   Now enjoy…

THE BRIAN MYERS TROMEMORY 

My Tromemoir starts in 1990 when I was but a mere lad of 14.  Two big things happened that year, I met my best friend Mike and I discovered Troma.

I was not what you would call a popular fellow, in fact, from entering Junior High till the day I left I was the but of a consistant stream of ridicule and abuse for 7 hours a day 180 days a year.  Yet somehow in my 8th grade year the popular folks decided that they needed to get me together with Mike, it was odd really, we both had varying stinks, and neither one of us had an once of cool. It was like they were hoping our artistic abilities would cancel out the negative, as if it was a weird science experiment.  Of course once we got together my penchant for gore and violence and Mike’s for pornography and rap music didn’t make either one of us any cooler to anybody.  Mike and I would later refelct on this time as the “Stink Buddies” phase of our lives.

It was during this time that I discovered Troma, it was in shop class, where a few classmates and I had a bet as to who could watch the most horror films in a single school year, (which I lost by one because I simply didn’t believe at that time that there was a film called Nail Gun Massacre).  It was on a weekend trip to the Couch Club (where they did 5 movies for 5 days for 5 bucks before they were driven out of business by blockbuster moving within a block of all the mom and pop video rental shops  in town) that I discovered THE TOXIC AVENGER.  

Now up untill that time Horror films to me were standard blood gore afairs, that while overall silly in premise, took themselves somwhat seriously.  I had never seen anything that mixed the blood and gore of a horror film with slapstick comedy, social commentary, plenty of boobs, and most of all just an overall sense of fun.  To this 14 year old boy it was like giving a fat guy a mountain of smiley-pies.  Here you had a story of a nerdy guy who was picked on, abused, and generally tormented, turning into the hero, sticking it to the bullies all the while saving the day, cleaning up the city of Tromaville and getting the girl, it was just what I needed to see at that time.

I began to seek out anything that had the names Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz on it.  Class of Nuke Em High, Troma’s War, Mother’s Day, Squeeze Play, When Nature Calls, Redneck Zombies, if it said Troma I had it in hand for the weekend.  Lloyd Kaufman quickly supplanted prior favorites in the world of film, goodbye Speilberg, Lucas, Craven and Carpenter, it was all about Uncle Lloydie.  It began to influence my writing, the straight negativity and violence was being infused with comedy, sex, and an overall irreverance.  Shortly after my discovery of  Troma I discovered Frank Zappa and that kicked it all into overdrive.  The work Mike and I would make would be very irreverant but personal to our shared point of view, although at that time we didn’t have the social commentary part down quite yet, that would come some years later.

As with many favorite things they fall by the way side.  During the late nineties, we did less creating and more running around just pulling shenanigans and waisting time as young adults often do.   So around the time Tromeo came out I wasn’t watching many films, and so I had fallen out of the loop with Troma.

In 1998 Mike moved to Spokane to live with his then girlfriend while she went to college and I stayed behind.  However when things went south for them, Mike and I decided I would move over to Spokane where we could get a place together and work on projects together.  It was right when DVD’s were really starting to hit the market, I had picked up my first DVD player and shortly after was wondering around a Borders when I saw The Toxic Avenger on DVD.  I immediately purchased it and ran home and watched it, it was as if I was watching it for the first time, and I loved it just as much.  Soon after I grabbed DVD’s of War, Class of Nuke Em High, and Tromeo and Juliet.  I hadn’t seen Tromeo at that time and it was the best Troma film yet.  Little did I know in a short ammount of time Mike and I would become part of the Troma Team.

It wasn’t long after I had moved to Spokane in Feb of 2000 that Mike and I did our first real animation entitled “M.C. Tons of Fun”.  This was back when Flash was first getting started as tool to do character animation, there were only really two other people that were doing it full time, Joe Cartoon and Camp Chaos, and then Newgrounds where Tom Fulp effectively designed and built the proto-youtube.  I was looking for work and had found a local gig working at a mall art gallery.  As I continued looking for something better, I happened upon a listing for a graphic designer position for Troma.  I emailed Lloyd directly and got a response that while the position had been filled they were looking for someone to do web cartoons for them.  I went to Mike and asked if he felt it was something that we could do, we both agreed and sent along Tons of Fun as a sampling.  Lloyd loved it and wanted us to get started as resident Flash Bitches for Troma.com. 

Our first cartoon starred Sammy Capulet and was called “Random Acts of Violence” all it was was a hipster type talking about how happy he was daddy was paying for law school and then Sammy pops up from behind his seat hit’s him with his sock and begins to dissenbowel him.  Lloyd liked it but didn’t want us to call Sammy, Sammy, he instead wanted us to change it to something with Troma in the name, and TROMABOY WAS BORN.  The title of “Random Acts of Violence” was dropped and the cartoons became Tromaboy and whatever the title of the episode would be for the week.  We then branched into two more series The Balls which followed the Penis Monster family, and Penis Monster Historical Society.  From 2000 to 2001 we did over 60 animated shorts, written, drawn, voiced and animated by Mike and myself, with occasional help from our friend Jeff (who is featured in the cartoons as Tromaboy’s buddy).  During that time we also did a major facelift to Troma.com and designed ToxicAvenger.com.

In January of 2001 we went with the Troma Team to Tromadance in Park City.  This was the year that Doug got arrested and will always be a highlight of my life running around main street, causing a ruckuss and meeting a lot of really good and creative people.  I have friends from this time that I still talk with to this day, Ramzi Abed, Doug Sakmann, Dan Martin, Dave Yarovesky, just to rattle off a few.

Between 2001 when our time as Troma’s Flash Bitches came to an end and 2006 not much happened. Mike and I had parted ways, as most people who’ve spent most time with each other for that long tend to butt heads and need that time apart.  I went down to California to be with my then girlfriend (now wife) where I did some odd projects here and there.  But I always made it a point to keep in touch with Lloyd, we’d stop and say hi at the San Diego Comic-Con booth, and I would do odd little jobs here and there, I edited the “Where in the World is Toxie” video for Peru and several times tried to get some ideas for Troma cartoons but never felt quite right.

In 2006 I had moved back to Seattle, and began hanging out with Mike again.  It was during that time that we began discussing doing animation again.  It was only natural that the talk turned to Troma.  We wanted to do two things, one, go in and revamp some of the old cartoons adding in backgrounds and fixing errors in the animation itself, giving it a George Lucas if you will, and then go into new ideas and projects.

It was in these discussions our first new idea for a Troma cartoon emerged.  We were discussing doing something in the background for our Ted Bundy Penismonster reinactment.  We had settled on having the viewing room in the background, and the idea hit to have an animation of Lloyd walk in with a bucket of popcorn, a soda, plop into the chair begin munching.  We thought it’d be funny to extend the cartoon a bit by having the execution delayed and having Penismonster Ted commenting on the delay.

In 2007 I got an ominous phone call from Mike, he was asking me some odd questions about a hernia I had had several years ago, but what he described wasn’t a hernia.  I told him he needed to go to the doctor, and it was shortly there after that our worst fears were realized, Mike had Cancer.  Mike went thoough 2 years of Cancer treatments from Chemo to Stem Cell Transplants, ultimately it would proove all for not, the treatments caused severe damage to his lungs and eventually on Feb 12 2009 Mike passed away.

Mike had been my friend and creative partner for nearly 20 years, it was as if someone had cut my drawing arm off.  Over Mike’s illness I hadn’t really talked to Lloyd much, but towards the end I made a call to Lloyd to let him know what was going on, Lloyd sent Mike a care package with a nice letter and a copy of Poultrygeist.  Mike never got to tell Lloyd himself how much he enjoyed Poultrygeist, it was the last Troma film he would ever see.

 During the time of Mike’s Illness we came up with loads of ideas, both for Troma cartoons and our own personal stuff.  Maybe one day I’ll get them done.

After Mike died I really didn’t know what to do with myself creatively, part of me thought about hanging it all up.  It was then that Lloyd came to town for a convention, I was a new Dad and went to the convention to spend some time with Lloyd and help out at the booth.

We talked about a lot of things, but one thing we discussed was doing a comic book of Poultrygeist.  I had been drawing my usual offensive fair of dead celebrities but it was a drawing of David Carradine that sparked Lloyd’s interest.

“Maybe we could do a Poultrygeist comic and work in the dead celebrities?”  Lloyd asked, it was certainly something that peeked my interest. So that day myself and long time Troma Teammate Shane Swenson took to coming up with what the story would be.  We bounced ideas and scripting back and forth for sometime, the project stagnated for awhile and then the unfathomable happened.

March of 2011 I got word that Shane had been killed in a car crash in Florida.  It was a shock to the system, I couldn’t believe for the second time in as little time I had lost someone else I worked closely with creatively and while I didn’t know Shane as long as I had known Mike, it was extreamly hard to work after that.  I had to rethink everything.

A few months later I had a phone call with Lloyd, we discussed the project, where it was, where it was going, and the fact that we were trying to rush to get something out by San Diego Comic-con a month away.  We decided it best to take our time and give it the time and care it deserves.  In that time I’ve added a whole new 25 page prologue, and am now moving into a whole new twist and take on the story that Shane and I formulated so long ago, it is better for it and is shaping up to be something truly special.

I will always continue to do projects with Lloyd, and the Troma asthetic will always be a primary influence on my work.   Whenever I create I always have one of Lloyd’s favorite quotes in my head “To thine own self be true”.  I couldn’t ask for a better mentor or friend than Lloyd Kaufman.

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YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED! FAKE VOMIT SOUP FOR THE SOUL

Dear Readers!  Beginning now, we will be introducing our book to you in segments  for your input and particiation!   We want you to be a part of the creation of our tromemoir: rip us apart, tell us what you like, what you don’t like, what to add, what to change.

HERE WE GO:

Growing up Toxic

Everyone is throwing up.  I am surrounded by projectile vomiting.  There are buckets of vomit all over the place.  It is a 102 degree August day in Buffalo, N.Y., and I am literally taking a bath in a McDonalds up to my knees in vomit.   There is only one word to accurately express the acute trauma I am experiencing: TROMA.

I grew up in a family of six:  Mom, Dad, myself, two little sisters, and the Toxic Avenger- a large green creature of super-human size and strength and the star of Troma Studios.  Toxie, as we called him around the house, technically is the oldest child, as he was “born” in the mid ‘70’s when my dad brought to life, on camera, his idea of a 98 pound weakling who turns superhero upon falling into a vat of toxic waste.  Dad’s next sub humanoid masterpiece was a co-production with our dear mother, a trilogy and a work in progress: Me, my sister and our baby sister.

Every couple of years throughout our childhood,  dad churned out a low budget title for the independent film company he had founded in the ‘70s, Troma Inc.  Each film tended to be inspired by his fixation du jour.  Recently, he had been reading and preaching from the book Fast Food Nation.  He had “converted” to vegetarianism, and in a pre-blog world was posting rants about the evils of the meat and poultry industry on his website.  And now, here was Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, a play on the zombie film Poltergeist.  In Poultrygeist the evil practices of a chicken fast food chain built on an ancient native American graveyard causes the awakening of zombie chickens.

When I told my dad that I was taking August 8th off from the trading desk to come up to Buffalo to visit the Poultrygeist set, which had been constructed in an out of business McDonalds franchise, he told me it would be hot, very hot.  But, the good news was that I would be right in time for the “Protest” scene.

I gathered that the protest was critical to the film, and perhaps took up a large portion of the production’s small budget. But I didn’t know much else about this latest Troma flick.  It was a “Chicken Zombie” movie, dad told me, and, it was a Musical.

At the time, I was living in New York City, close enough to my parents to see them nearly every evening after work, and every morning before work for that matter.  In fact, I lived at home. Yep I was that cool, a sort of adult living at home basically in my parents’ attic. I had a high flying corporate job and all, oh sure, in fact I worked on Wall Street.  That’s right, I worked in a building that had specific elevators depending on which floor you were going to, a subsidized cafeteria, a gym I’d rather be caught dead in than sweating on the treadmill next to my MD.  I even wore a suit (and not the grey champion sweat suit like my dad jogs to work in and wears as his uniform all day) and communicated to clients in a minimalist language  as if to say hey, I’m in on it, I know you’re too important to have the time to stick around to hear me say alot of words here, so I’ m just going to save everyone time and just use some acronyms like EBITDA and consolidate a whole bunch of numbers into a few ratios to save your precious time.

While my mom constantly peppered me with questions about the difference between what I did trading derivatives and what her stock broker did, and my dad would corner me daily and ask what I thought about investing in GE, Citi, or Alan Abel’s latest editorial in Barrons, when it came to my parents’ professional film careers, I kept my distance.

It was my parents who had drawn the boundaries separating my sisters and me from the world of Troma.  Growing up, I had never really questioned why exactly it was, that I wasn’t allowed to watch my Dad’s films other than the specific dailies from scenes I had been in.   Then as I got older and more familiar with his particular “artistic style” let’s call it, I understood that his films, clearly a product of ideas he must have developed as a teenage boy, were not intended for my demographic.

Troma movies had violence, they had bad words, they suggested sex. No, they definitely were not porn films, I often had to confirm, but they had busty ladies – lots of them.  Let’s just say dad wasn’t producing Disney’s next Little Mermaid.

Although we never saw the final product, my sisters and I had spent several childhood summers hanging around the Troma sets. Clearly, I’m not talking glamorous Steven Spielberg film sets with a production budget that rivals the GPD of a small nation, fancy air conditioned trailers and 50 people just to do the under-eye make-up of the lead actor.  On a Troma set, the cost of the entire movie was probably equal to the catering budget alone of a huge Hollywood film.

Troma Low-Budget R&D focused on new innovations in red-die-corn-syrup fake blood and low cost special effects such as:

CLOSE ON BLONDE MAN WITH GUN TO HEAD

CUT TO:

WATERMELON WEARING BLONDE WIG

WATERMELON EXPLODES. BLOOD SPEWS FROM WATERMELON IN SPURTS THEN FLOWS FREELY FROM HIDDEN PLASTIC TUBE.

“You can stay in the basement with the crew” my dad offered one morning when he was home for a couple days.  I was putting my high-heels into my bag and wearing my flip-flops with my suit, the modern day corporate uniform: sneakers + white socks 2.0 trend that had evolved recently among young women walking to the office in NYC.  My dad stood in the kitchen ready for work, he was wearing his sweat suit. Today he had on a yellow polo shirt tucked in, maybe he was meeting someone for lunch.  “Your sister just brought a sleeping bag, you can do the same.”

As a kid, I had run around his sets without a care, or a clue for that matter.  But the older I got, the more I felt I stood out in Dad’s world.  It made me writhe to think about what the ultra cool tattooed film students in ragged jeans and grungy clothing who surrounded my dad on the set thought about me, if they even noticed me.

Sure, I may not have had the stereotypical signs of an unruly teen like many on my dad’s sets. In fact, for all the judging I felt they did of me, I scoffed at the amateur ploys of these typical “rebellious” young adults.  Dyeing your hair blue, piercing your nose, a boyfriend on a motorcycle.

I too had rebelled, in my own way.  I did exactly what a rebellious child does: the opposite of his or her parents.  I had joined Corporate America.

If there was one thing my dad stood for, or against, it was Corporate Conglomerate America.  His anti-fast-food rants were a mere sub-sector of his resentment of corporate conglomerates.  While he had financed his own films in order to stay independent, most film companies, he would say in disdain, gave up their goal of  producing art and sold out to the mainstream film companies just for the money.

So nothing could have been more shocking than my taking a job on Wall Street. For five years, I held strong to my rebellion, working on a   Trading Desk.  Money, cursing and derivatives– If I was going to do Wall Street, I had surely found the TROMA of the Markets.

My friends complained about suits, offices, corporate culture.  No tattoos, no worries that you will shock someone with your profession, nothing potentially offensive or inappropriate, this career was terrific!  On my dad’s sets, I felt like just another yuppie, but at the desk, and to my work friends, I was the creative one.

My baby sister was younger, grungier, and 8 years my junior she had 8 years less of being hammered by the pressure of making the decision between following a career you loved but did not pay for the lifestyle you wanted, or the corporate world that did.

I called her later that day to ask her about the lodging situation in Buffalo.  She was spending the summer on the Poultrygeist set, and despite her special status as director’s daughter, she certainly did not receive any red-carpet treatment.  She had been sleeping in the basement of a church, dining from the random assortment of crackers, potato-chips M&Ms, fire-ball candies and the occasional sandwich that makes its way into the fine dining provided to the crew on the set at meal times.

“I sleep in a basement with props and fake blood.” She confirmed, “I personally sleep next to a giant egg, with a bloody fetus chick staring me in the eyes every morning when I wake up.  You know, the usual Troma stuff.”

Sure enough the Poultrygeist production was no different from what we had experienced in the past. “I got to personally feather about 100 local extras from Buffalo yesterday,” My sister told me on the phone that afternoon. “I smeared Elmers glue all over their oversized bellies and sausage arms and then delicately placed chicken feathers all over their bodies.”

Critics often described Dad’s work as “shock art.” In fact according to an article I read, Dad had allegedly philosophized that “making movies that shocked audiences would keep them in their seats to see what would happen next.”

I looked to my mom, a perfectly mannered beautiful blonde southern belle.  While Dad preferred to make his creative shock horror films in independent anarchy rather than succumb to Mainstream Hollywood conglomerate tyranny, Mom embraced the other end of the film spectrum as the New York State Film Commissioner.   She developed economic programs and incentives to enhance the budgets of the films of the Steven Spielbergs of the world.

Hollywood proper embraced Mom.  There was nothing like attending a Hollywood event as Mom’s “plus one” sure, quite sure, that this was the time I would be discovered.  Gliding behind mom down the red carpet, past the white Mylar sheets with corporate logos for media photos.   I’m here! Snap away Paparazzi!  Well, maybe they would discover me next time.

So how did she, my beautiful, perfect, demure, modest, well-mannered, proper, church going, former President of the Junior League Mother manage the tattoos, the crazy movies, my dad’s rants, or the uncertainty – had the straight-laced business person on the other side of the desk googled you and seen your name associated with Troma Shock-O-Rama titles such as Nymphoid Barbarians in Dinosaur Hell, and of course Redneck Zombies!

“Your father has a vision.”  She told me.  “A lot of his work is really quite genius and ahead of its time.”

Perhaps I just didn’t get his art.  Maybe I just needed to be educated.  Dad was a Yale Graduate after all, and I hadn’t even hit the Ivy’s.

And then one day it just hit me. I had a moment of epiphany.  Suddenly the skies opened. My Bloomberg screens cleared. The trading floor fell silent. Even the talking head on CNBC shut up his mindless repetitious jabbernothing.  A voice spoke to me through the trade box! I was sure it was God, it said:

“He’s Gonna PUUKKKKEEEE!”

Turns out it wasn’t actually god, it was just the fat guy from the Mortgages desk reporting that the new analyst had made it to 47 out of 50 McNuggets – just 3 shy away from fulfilling the 5 minute eating challenge on which bets had been placed as far reaching as our London trading floor.

But it spoke to me, and I knew my calling at that moment.  There would always be a part of my heart reserved for the derivatives markets.  But, while I might not have the same talent in creating art from big boobs and blood, I would find my own way back to Troma.

As the eldest, most responsible and I’m quite sure most favorite child, I would illuminate to the world my dad’s genius through a well documented book, or better yet Screenplay.  Yes! I’d probably be half way through explaining Dad’s Artistic Genius when the studios would start calling.

The same scum eating academy and conglomerate hollywood studios that had turned their backs on Troma would be brought to their knees with a newfound understanding of dad’s pure genius! They’d offer huge sums of money for a screen adaption, they’d throw him on their celluloid shoulders! They’d give him hours of standing ovations, they’d watch the entire toxie box set director’s cut standing up in standing ovation back to back….! This would conveniently coincide perfectly with the writers block I’d hit around Chapter 10, when I needed some new tension and plot development:  take the money and big Hollywood studio offer or stay independent and go the Troma way?

The first step, of course, would be learning to understand Dad’s art myself.  So here I was, in Buffalo, throwing myself head on into the protest scene of Poultrygeist.  The next step… I’d have to learn how to write.

“Annnnnd… ACTION  Come on! More throw-up!” Dad is yelling, “Ben! Give me some more action.  Fat guy – you gotta throw yourself into the retching.  Retching! I want retching!  I want to see and hear retching, come on people.  Ben – can you throw up on Janet’s feet, great! Now Joe, run over and projectile vomit right onto Ben’s back.  Great every body!  Bring in the Blood! Now! Blood! Where’s the blood?  Cut!  CUT! Goddamnit, where’s the goddamn blood?”

When I finish the screenplay, I’ll start my acceptance speech.  And for those sitting in the front row, I advise you wear plastic, it may include fake blood or vomit.

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