“Strange Sound,” a strip rooted in the underground comix movement, follows relatively unknown and often unusual stories from around the Puget Sound region. For years on the pages of Seattle Weekly, Seth Goodkind’s “Strange Sound” has told the stories of the Steelheads Negro League Baseball Team and how a boating accident that damaged the West Seattle Bridge was related to premeditated murder several years later. Often the stories relate to the region’s rich labor history.
Goodkind is bringing “Strange Sound” to Real Change, where it will be published monthly and continue telling these hidden stories. This issue features the first comic for Real Change, telling the story of a man who went missing and was found in an unexpected place in Pioneer Square.
Goodkind is a longtime contributor to Real Change, including illustrations and many covers. His art includes comics, commissioned illustrations and, recently, tattoos. He inks at True Love Tattoo on Capitol Hill.
Real Change chatted with Goodkind via email to discuss his influences and how this strange comic came into the world.
How did “Strange Sound” come to be?
I’ve been interested in history since I was a kid. I made my parents stop at historical sites and battlefields on road trips, and I got a degree in history. That always seemed like a good source of material for comics: tell stories that most people aren’t gonna hear or read in an easily accessible way. The Seattle underground comix scene has been incredibly supportive, and when Marc Palm asked me to contribute to the now defunct Intruder Comix, I pretty quickly began drawing from history. For the brief period that Seattle Weekly was publishing comix, I wanted to do a similar thing. They ran my series of stories about Puget Sound religious cults, and “Strange Sound” was born from that — just weird forgotten historical moments in regional history.
What is your process for researching these stories? Where do you look to find your material?
There are a lot of great resources. I did a lot of research for the UW history department around local labor and radical politics, and I still read a lot, one story leads to another. My wife is doing a lot of historical research on Seattle feminists right now, and I’m drawing info out of that too. I mean, Seattle has a lot of rich history, and a lot has been written about it already! I’m mostly just standing on the shoulders of other historians and re-telling that work visually.
Was there a “Strange Sound” story that particularly surprised you when you found it?
The story about the West Seattle Bridge collision in ’78. I had done a web search on bridge accidents, and that came up. But when the drunk ship pilot story turned to murder and dismemberment, that was just too much.
But it gets even better. After the story ran in the Weekly, a woman came into Push/Pull — the gallery in Ballard my wife, Maxx, and I run — and saw the original hand-drawn comic page on the wall. She returned, but we were closed; it was the day Maxx and I got married. A week later she came back a third time. Turns out that she was the bridge operator on the day the bridge was hit, and she bought the original comic
What comic artists have inspired you or influenced the work on “Strange Sound”?
The Ripley’s panels have always been fascinating to me for weird historical stuff. Joe Sacco, more recently. I never cared for mainstream comics, superhero fluff. I grew up on undergrounds, and “Heavy Metal” mostly. Some of my favorites are “Martha Washinton” (Dave Gibbons), “The Freak Brothers” (Gilbert Shelton) and probably Los Bros Hernandez.
What has this project taught you about the Puget Sound region? Or how has it influenced your view on this area?
I don’t think it’s really anything unique, honestly. Seattle has just as much strangeness as any other part of the country. The murders, the cults, the disasters and mishaps, it’s all there, just concentrated for population. If anything I suppose it’s that we see ourselves now as a “liberal” bastion, but the history of this region, this city, is remarkably racist and conservative. That’s no surprise to anyone paying attention to current events, but the record demonstrates that this isn’t something new. It’s clear to me that Seattle is far from a done deal. It still needs to be fought for. We have a long way to go before this is the progressive wonderland we keep hearing about.
Aaron Burkhalter is the editor. Have a story idea? He can be can reached at aaronb (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @aaronburkhalter
Wait, there's more. Check out the full April 25 - May 1 issue.