Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Creaky old "Invisible Hands" somehow found a new life on YouTube

Thank you, Chuck Klosterman & Grantland (third video down):

YouTube Hall of Fame

"Invisible Hands" came out of my love for old horror movies and pulp stories.  When I wrote & drew it for MTV (via Colossal Pictures in San Francisco) I was still working a day job while doing as much freelance illustration work as I could get - and dreaming of one day having a chance (and the time) to do comics.

For years (and years) people used to ask me why the six-part serial I created, designed, drew and wrote (directed by Denis Morella, with music by Eric Tallman, produced by Colossal Pictures & shown on MTV's show "Liquid Television in the early 1990s) -  "Invisible Hands" - had never been released on VHS (remember that?) or DVD, even though MTV did release a few "Best Of Liquid Television" compilations.  (Beavis & Butthead and Aeon Flux also debuted on the same show -- & I was keenly aware - and totally okay with the fact -  that my humble and creaky little genre cartoon would never be anywhere near as popular as those two).

So I told the story again and again to people who wrote to me over the years and asked me how they could get a copy.  I explained that MTV owned the copyright and it was up to them -- and that I had no idea if it would ever be released.  Thanks to the lawyer I had hired for the occasion, I was able to keep the rights to the characters & story in print - since it first appeared in my self-published comic Night Drive in 1984.  But I had no control over what happened with the completed six two-minute episodes - or the full twelve minute version which was also shown sometimes on MTV throughout the early 1990s.  

I was one of the few freelancers to be a part of Liquid TV (most were on staff at Colossal), so although I wasn't too surprised when I was not invited back to do more "Invisible Hands", I was disappointed --especially when I was told that there was a cartoon in the second season (created on staff, for staff salary) that was trying to copy I.H. - or at least cover the same pulp mystery territory.  I don't know for sure myself since I didn't even have cable back then!

So for years I figured I.H. would remain locked away in MTV's vaults and never be seen again.  Then YouTube came along.  

And although I had nothing to do with uploading it onto the internet (I'm still not sure how one actually does that -- I need to learn someday) -- I was very happy to see that fans of Liquid TV remembered my humble and creaky and silly little genre cartoon and that some were even fond enough of it to post the episodes on-line.  

So although I never made another penny off the thing after my initial payment - never any royalties that might have come from video releases -- at least now it's out there for people to see again.

I wrote a couple of earlier posts about "Invisible Hands" on this blog, for anyone interested:


And thank you again, loyal readers, for reading all this stuff!


  1. Thanks for sharing, Richard. I remember at the time being a big fan of your Phoenix New Times stuff - seeing it on TV and in motion was a big thrill! Strangely enough, I forgot about it until this post.

    Between Liquid Television, Pee Wee's Playhouse and the Tracey Ullman Show, this was a great time for quirky TV animation. Too bad it isn't done much anymore.

  2. Thanks, Matt! Yeah - I actually got my first "pro" (non-college) illustration work from Phoenix New Times when I was in school in AZ. Even when I left AZ to continue school in the Bay Area, they still called & hired me to do work. I was able to get a pretty good portfolio of published work together thanks to them, so I've always been grateful. They were fun to work for/with back in those days. Thanks for mentioning that!

  3. That was the first place I saw your stuff, Lynda Barry, Matt Groening -- very inspirational for a teen wannabe artist living in krep-ass Tempe in the '80s!

  4. Greetings, Richard! We wrote back and forth about IH years ago (over MySpace, if you remember that), and I sent you the links. Well, I wanted to show it to a friend in Japan today, but was saddened to see that it had been removed. Some more searching, and I found MTV has posted them all on their site, so even though you can't see them straight through "pirate style," you can still see them. I was so excited I posted it on Facebook, and a bunch of people went crazy for it! Since IH was always sort of "ageless," it has aged better than about everything else that was on Liquid TV back then. Man, so good. At any rate, I hope you are well, Richard. Here's the link:

  5. Richard, it’s Japhet here from Colossal/Liquid Television days. You might not remember this, but it was me who saw your original comics and contacted you. ‘Invisible Hands’ remains one of my absolute favourites from the series. If I’m honest, I think I always loved it more than MTV did - it was more sophisticated and dead pan than most of the other material. I’ve no idea why they didn’t include the pieces in their compilation DVD as I wasn’t consulted. Anyway, you were a joy to work with and I’m delighted that fans are finding the shorts online. I hope you are well and finding ‘Aaah - Satisfaction!’ in all things.