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Graphic Novelist Eaten Alive by Oaxacabilly Cult

October 22, 2017

Photo: Jeff Charles

When I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico in the Fall of 2007, I was looking for adventure. If I’d know I was to be drafted by a clandestine group of shaggy, mezcal-slugging musicians caterwauling under the moon, you could have knocked be over with a feather.

The remote highland city of Oaxaca has it all. An art scene second only to Mexico City, eclectic late-night cafes, astounding ruins, and it’s own Oaxacan cuisine celebrated the world over.

Along with adventure, I was looking for a house. The wife, two kids and I had to live somewhere on our Mexican sojourn. Enter one Todd Spiehler, expat real estate agent. Mr. Spiehler, an amiable fellow, showed us a few houses around town. Within 15 minutes of meeting us, Todd gave me a cock-eyed look and queried me with an impish grin “So you’re a guitar player?”

“Huh? I’m a cartoonist! Sure, I know a few chords, but…” Undaunted, Spiehler informed me that I’d be attending Thursday night jams out in San Pablo Etla, a village a few miles out of the city of Oaxaca. Turns out a rag-tag group of expats & Mexicanos known as the Bodega Boys assemble weekly to run through an assortment of bluegrass, blues and rock & roll tunes.

What’s more, the host, Tony Raab, is an expert mezcalero. He makes craft mezcal, the distilled agave spirit that is the heart & soul of Oaxaca. Mr. Raab’s mezcal still is conveniently located 60 meters from where the Bodega Boys play under the stars. Trouble ahead, trouble behind! And, and amazing amount of fun beckons.

To say I fell down the musical rabbit hole is an understatement. I played under the stars with the Bodega Boys week after week for several years, and played in bands with a variety of swashbuckling musicians, both expats and Mexicans.

Fast forward almost 10 years. By the time my family returns to the United States, not only am I the frontman of Radio Insecto, a local “Oaxacabilly” band, but I had my subject for my new graphic novel Death Plays a Mean Harmonica.

Currently, I’m running a Kickstarter to finance my Oaxaca graphic novel, a limited edition first printing with a screen printed cover. The book highlights the small moments of life in Oaxaca, exploring street food with an insider’s eye, as well as big overarching themes such as the Mexican take on mortality. And yes, making music under the stars with a jicara of craft mezcal in hand.

Steve Lafler

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