In 1998, while I was doing my self published comic book EXIT 6, I was approached by Schwinn Bicycles to do a few comic books featuring their bikes and members of their racing and stunt team.
Each catalog would feature not only new products from the company but a short comic book story where the racing team members were heroes and fighting every bad monster and demon that got in their way.
I didn't write any of the stories and took my direction from the art director assigned to me. The first story featured some demon women who were trying to seduce the team. But, of course, using their bikes, they fought back and saved the day. It was kind of a corny story where the team would do tricks on their bikes to break the demons' hold over them. But it was a paying gig and made me draw a bicycle for the first time.
The unfortunate part was, because I was doing my own book at the time, Schwinn decided to plug my name and address in the catalogs to help promote me. It was a really great gesture and I wish more clients would do it. But, I didn't foresee some of the interesting mail I might get because I drew a bunch of guys on bikes fighting demons.
Here is one of the more interesting letters I found in my PO Box one night:
"Dear Mr. Tiffany,
I took my son of age 7 to shop for his first bike. Having bought cycles from the local Schwinn dealer before, we made it our first stop. After a few minutes of consultation with the salesman, he produced a "catalog" that was subtitled "Flying South, A Tale of Subterranean Terror." I did not pay much attention to it until we came home and wanted to review some of the details of the bike.
To my surprise the catalog featured a comic book styled story of demonic women who prey on unsuspecting travelers. What did you hope to accomplish with this story? (get paid!) Better yet, what redeeming value does the story have? By your own admission it is a "sick and twisted tale." (Schwinn's words...not mine...I didn't write the thing)
Allow me to point out some points from your story that make it particularly twisted. Firstly, the demonic women are well built, sexy in a perverted way, and provocatively dressed. (thank you...I thought it was going well here and my artwork was being praised) Having studied a bit about real demons (uh-oh) I know that they are actually disgustingly ugly and frightful beyond human understanding. Your characterization of them has helped diminish their repulsiveness, making it easier for people to accept evil as OK (you do realize they were the bad guys, right?)
Secondly, a few young men were able to defeat these demons with their own strength and their bicycles! (it's because Schwinn racing team members RULE!) What foolishness! (uh-oh again) Again, this kind of thought only diminishes the true danger that real evil has and makes it more likely to be tried. (riding your bike makes you try evil...OK)
Finally, I'd like to thank you for helping to bring future generations of parents closer to God. (hey, I do my best) Tragedies like the Littleton, Colorado shootings help people remember to pray and your comics will do just that! (did she just compare my comic book to the Columbine shooting???) Yes, kids across America will read your twisted stories and become desensitized to the evil that they perpetuate and, who knows, they may befriend a real demon!"
Geez, I feel like I'm back in the 50's and the Wertham witch hunt is breathing down my neck! Comics are bad and the root of all evil! Geez lady, get over yourself. Go blame video games and TV and the internet while you're at it. Actually, I'm sure they all got letters too. This woman seems like the type of person who thinks the world would be a great place if it weren't for the rest of the people on the planet messing it up for her.
So, yeah, this Schwinn job got me my first ever real piece of hate mail from a crazy lady. Cross that off the list of things I need to happen in my life.