Everybody needs friends to encourage them, and that kind of encouragement is particularly important in the rejection-prone world of the creative arts. During the years, I’ve spent trying to get my writing career up and running as a career, I’ve met a number of friends who were on the same journey. When my own creative energies are running dry, I’ve often found it helpful to call or text or Facebook and ask, “What are you working on these days?” Talking to them is like walking into a creative kitchen and seeing what pots are cooking on the stove, and our visits almost always leave me inspired. I thought I’d introduce you to some of them this week.
Al Bohl (pronounced like Bowl) is a Bossier City-based artist and musician. I first met Al when the Shreveport Times carried an article about a futuristic adventure character called Zanaan he had developed for a publisher. I was in college at the time and three or four people showed me that article. I drove to Bossier with a friend, and we visited Al in his home. He showed me his projects and his studio and that was the beginning of our friendship.
Al and I went to two sci-fi and comics conventions in Dallas early in our friendship. As I recall, he and I drove up for a day for the first and his family joined us for the second. I remember the two of us meeting Batman actor Adam West and Marvel Comics artist Rich Buckler (co-creator or the Deathlok character), but can’t remember whether those meetings were at the first convention or the second. What is significant, is that Al managed to interest Rich Buckler in his Zanaan project, and Buckler created his own version of the Zanaan character. He and Al were going to publish the comic together, but it never came to pass. Al has told me recently that he plans to revive Zanaan, (He has a Zanaan Facebook page now!) and I look forward to his return.
One of Al’s more recent projects is a documentary called “Tarzan: Lord of the Louisiana Jungle.” The first Tarzan movie ever made, as I learned from Al, was filmed in the swamps around Morgan City, Louisiana in 1917. Al and his daughter, Allison Bohl Dehart, did extensive research and conducted interviews around the country with Tarzan scholars, heirs of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, Morgan City residents involved with the film (or their family members). In addition to his documentary, Al and Allison also reassembled the original film with a new soundtrack. I had the joy of attending the film’s preview in Morgan City and meeting Edgar Rice Burroughs’ granddaughter and great-granddaughters. Al has been working out distribution arrangements for the film, and I hope the public will be able to enjoy it soon.
One thing Al has always been great about is mentoring younger artists. He has taught a number of summer workshops for children and adults since I’ve known him, and has recently been teaching animation to high school students. Some of my fondest Al Bohl memories, though, are of the times we spent with the Ark-La-Tex Cartoonist’s Society, a group Al formed about the time I started teaching college. The society was open to all ages and skill levels, and it attracted some colorful and talented people. One group of young artists, influenced by The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, published The Battle Bunnies. Michael Philips created a semi-superhero called Adequate Man. (Why bother with a superman when an adequate man is all you need?) There were many others. Many of the group’s original and later members are still involved in the creative arts in some capacity. I might have to do a later some of them.
I still haven’t told you about Al’s famed chalk talks, his book on cartooning, the Canadian cartoon pitching contest he won, about how he once said “no” to a chance to tour with the rock group Yes, and many more things, but my posts tend to run long, so I’ll wrap it up.
Meanwhile I wish Al the best with Zanaan, with his Tarzan documentary, and with his efforts to educate and inspire young artists. Should we call his artistic disciples Bohlians? (There’s a Bolian race on Star Trek. They’re blue and…never mind.) I’ll attach a link to Al’s own website here so you can check it all out.