Endnotes & Digressions:
1. Words, pencils and inks by Mike Russell; inks and colors by Bill Mudron.
2. You can learn more about Crystal Head Vodka — and watch Aykroyd's infomercial for the brand, which contains "Ghostbusters" levels of paranormal "teaching moments" — at CrystalHeadVodka.com.
3. Want to learn more about Brent's tribute band, the Gimme Some Lovin' Blues Brothers of Portland? Visit GimmeSomeLovinBand.com.
4. You can check out the local MUFON chapter’s Web site at OregonMUFON.com. (I also did this CulturePulp comic about Oregon MUFON back in 2007.)
5. You can download a high-rez PDF of this comic right here.
6. If you're curious, here's the full transcript of my recorded conversation with Dan Aykroyd, which I obviously had to whittle down severely for the comic strip....
DAN AYKROYD: A lot of celebrities will do a wine or a vodka or something, but they don't get on the front line -- they don't come see the retailer, they don't come see the distributor. They don't go on the front line of retail -- see what people are eating or drinking, listening to. As a retrospective of my career, it's quite interesting hearing what people watch from my past. And also seeing that people are really enjoying this bottle. I sign a lot of empty skulls.
MIKE RUSSELL: I interviewed Travis outside -- a kid in a ridiculously detailed Ghostbuster costume, complete with proton pack. (Here's a YouTube video of Travis running around in his gear.) He says you asked him for his contact info so he could be an extra in "Ghostbusters 3."
AYKROYD: I'm looking for the 300 who created the most accurate depiction of the pack and the jumpsuit, and he definitely had it. Picture-ready.
RUSSELL: He was telling me outside that you helped design the proton-pack for the original film.
AYKROYD: Well, I wrote the film with Harold and originated the concept. And then, with my friend John Daveikis, a Canadian designer, we designed everything -- we did everything from the logo to the pack.... The look of the movie was there in the first script. [in the RV, introducing us to Curtis Salgado] This is Curtis Salgado, one of the world’s greatest blues-harp players. John loved him dearly.... They met when he was doing "Animal House," and he was very supportive of our ["Blues Brothers"] project. And we're supportive of him.
[From here, Mr. Aykroyd reaches into the RV fridge and kindly cracks us some fine Canadian beers, and I sneak in the following bits of awkward unprepared interview about vodka, the paranormal, fans, etc. between bouts of Aykroyd posing with the liquor-store owner's family; Aykroyd having talking to one fellow's wife on the phone, during which he pretends to be a failed children's entertainer; Aykroyd exchanging small talk w/ Salgado, whose time I'm totally but accidentally impinging on with my visit (I actually apologized to him for this in the parking lot afterward); and Aykroyd giving his phone number to Salgado, which I dutifully fail to write down (Aykroyd checks on me, with a glance). It's awesomely awkward in the way of celebrity green-room encounters, and I just decide to roll with it and enjoy the weirdness.]
RUSSELL: That Crystal Head infomercial video.... did you write it yourself? It sounds like your dialogue.
AYKROYD: Oh, yeah, I wrote that myself. One of the best pieces of writing I've ever done. A good piece of writing, I thought.
RUSSELL: It seems like you hid a bunch of paranormal "teachable moments" inside that video.
AYKROYD: Well, I think that anybody who lives on Planet Earth has to take into account that there may be things in the invisible world that you can't explain, and that they really do exist. Just because you don't see them.... There's a lot of things we can't see -- we can't see radio waves, we can't see television waves, you know? I would say there's probably a lot of other wave activities ... we're not aware of, that our five senses can't comprehend, that may operate outside of the length, width, time and space that we are restricted to. It's just, to me, something that we should all enquire about. We owe it to ourselves as human beings to find out more about it.
RUSSELL: Have you been able to check in with any MUFON chapters while you've been on the tour?
AYKROYD: No, but I read the latest magazine and I'm always interested to see what's going on with the organization. Everywhere I go I'm always asked by press -- radio, television and print -- about UFO activity, especially the Cleveland activity that's been in the news and also the recent revelations about aerial vehicles coming near nuclear sites and in fact disabling the Minuteman system in South Dakota. That's going to be coming out soon.
I'm just there to help and support -- and if anybody asks me, I automatically refer them to MUFON -- to the website and to the work of the organization. These are scientifically bent men and women who are taking it seriously. And it's about time.
RUSSELL: I went to one of the meetings, and I was impressed with the scientific approach being taken.
AYKROYD: Yeah. They start out with "Is it a hoax? Is it random? Is it climatological?" Because hoaxes don't do anybody any good. Hoaxes just undermine all the work. So the first thing you rule out is that.
These are serious people. And their "Star Team" investigation course is quite extensive. I hesitate to call anyone a "ufologist" who hasn't taken it. You learn how to deal with a sighting -- how to judge where objects are, speed, relation to planets....
RUSSELL: The first thing they would do is ask, "What could it be in real life?"
AYKROYD: Sure. Is it a helicopter? Is it Venus? Is it a shooting star?
RUSSELL: You've dealt with movie geeks your whole career. Doing this -- building a liquor from the ground up -- you've been dealing with beverage geeks. What's similar? What's different?
AYKROYD: Everybody in my business, which is motion pictures and television and music, they're all passionate about what they do. Really -- they have creative passion, creative drive. Same thing in this industry. The people who make wine and vodka, the people who work for Brown-Forman and make Jack Daniels, they have a passion about their brand and they're devoted to it. That's what we've been finding. People really invest in these brands -- in the manufacturer, in the marketing -- and they really invest their souls and spirits.
RUSSELL: Have you had to educate yourself in the chemistry of it all?
AYKROYD: Oh, absolutely. Working with the government still in Newfoundland, we had to work to eliminate the fusel oils -- I didn't want those oils in my vodka, because they're impurities. So we have a vodka that has no impurities. The San Francisco Bartender's Guild said, "How can this vodka be so smooth without fusel oils? You must have added glycol, raw sugar and citrus, as is standard in the industry." We did not. We submitted our independent lab test, they submitted theirs, and we're completely flat on the spectrograph -- there's no junk in Crystal Head.
How could we put anything but the purest, cleanest spirit in there where we're trading off the legend of the Crystal Heads? The Crystal Heads are a positive enlightenment story -- so I wasn't gonna put junk in there.
RUSSELL: One was found on Mt. Adams. Am I right about this?
AYKROYD: I believe so. One was found here, yeah.
RUSSELL: And it was causing weather disturbances or somesuch?
AYKROYD: Oh, yeah. Well, they're huge crystals. And crystals are in that thing you're holding right there; crystals are in every laptop, every phone. Crystals have a piezoelectric property. And I think that's what these concentrated crystal heads might have been using to give the Navajo and Mayans and Aztecs a scrying, or an ability to see the future.
[Shortly after this, Aykroyd (who's still been "on" in full preofesional entertainer/sound-bite mode after all that signing work, in defiance of God's law) says, "All right, let's hit the road!" and politely ushers us all out -- me, the MUFON prez, Salgado. Aykroyd, as he's done throughout, praises MUFON and says he hopes to see Tom at the national symposium in L.A. The RV door closes. And yes, it might as well have floated into the air afterward.]
7. Finally, here's a photo of Bill Mudron and I working on this comic on Monday, Oct. 4: