“Brother Cobweb”: the concept
(Alfred Eaker, reflecting on “Brother Cobweb”)
“Brother Cobweb” is a character I created at the age of seven, in a comic book, which I titled “The Brother Cobweb Chronicles.” Brother Cobweb was a response/revolt/private protest to what I considered my own personal horror of being forced to attend a Pentecostal church, along with growing up in a dumbed down and oppressive fundamentalist environment. I created that comic from volumes of sketchbooks I produced during endless church services (for eighteen years, I literally taught myself how to draw during those charismatic anti-ritual rituals).
“After I escaped that horror, “Brother Cobweb” became a stage persona. Those in Oregon will have enjoyed it in the Houses of Shadows Haunt. He had his own Church, which I painted myself, now dramatically lost to the fires. I wrote his own sermons and performed them. Through Brother Cobweb, I challenged right-wing evangelical ideology.
“The reaction from the audience was so overwhelming that I wrote a script for a film version.
“Before that, however, I felt I had to write it as a novel. Little did I know at the time of writing, how relevant it would become to me. So much so, in fact, it has become my most personal and vital work.
All Calvin Elkan has ever wanted to do is escape his mother and her Pentecostal church, the Lighthouse.
Calvin is eternally at odds with the brutal abuses and ignorance of his upbringing in a right-wing evangelical sect in Ohio. Under the guidance of his great-grandfather, he turns to art and music to escape his mother’s blows and the grip of the Lighthouse. He spins the dark world around him into a satirical comic called The Brother Cobweb Chronicles. After high school, Calvin moves out and enrolls in art school, finally free of his oppressive childhood home. But after a brush with death, Calvin realizes escape isn’t enough.
Through his artwork and a newfound sense of spirituality, Calvin works through the emotional trauma and distances himself from his past only to uncover yet another ugly secret from the Lighthouse—a secret that makes him question everything…
(Artwork and illustrations by Todd M. Coe).
The novel has become more relevant since its publication, April 2020. Brother Cobweb is a surreal and provocative odyssey that has struck a nerve as it exposes the abuses and hypocrisy of an all-too-familiar Midwestern evangelical church. Ironically enough, it has become a ‘lighthouse’ that illuminates the way out of the current political situation in the US.
Not only have people like Eaker forseen the coming of Trumpism, he himself has been dealing with it for half a century throughout his career as controversial filmmaker, innovative painter, and critically acclaimed author.
(Artwork and illustrations by Todd M. Coe).
“Brother Cobweb” is now available through Open Books Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all major bookshops and distributors. If you want to understand America today, travel back in time 50 years and witness firsthand the American Religious Right values, not as they present themselves, but as they truly are…
Reactions by fellow artists and authors
Greg J. Smalley (Publisher/Film Journalist at 366WeirdMovies): “I think this novel will reverberate with anyone coming from similar culturally impoverished circumstances, or from cult-like or abusive backgrounds. Its contention that art can overcome upbringing is believably inspirational”…. More
Richard Propes (Publisher/Film Journalist at The Independent Critic): “For some, “Brother Cobweb” will be a difficult, emotionally demanding read but it is an absolute must read for those who have been wounded by faith organizations, Pentecostal and otherwise, and the flawed yet fascinating characters who fill their sanctuaries”…. More
Amaya Engleking (Poet, Gospel Isosceles): “As with his surreal and mystical paintings, Alfred Eaker’s Brother Cobweb portrays both the beauty and the horrifying distortion in the search for self-identity and purpose”…More
Catherine Swan Reimer (Ed.d., Counseling Psychologist, PhD): “Terrorists, usually thought of as enemies of a country, can also be found within families who have access to terrorize a helpless child daily”… More
Mada Jurado (Journalist, Novena News): “Eaker shows us how, even in the most horrendous physical and emotional situations, we can all tap into our inner self, and find within ourselves the means to stop spraying our poison onto others or punishing them for the pain we feel”…More
Jason Pannone (Reference & Cultural Assets Manager, East Hartford Public Library, Art Curator): “Alfred Eaker’s story is a harrowing tale of violence, abuse, lies, and conflict — yet it ends in hope. There is redemption: in art, beauty, friendship, love, and God” …More
Fr. Justin Belitz, OFM (Franciscan Hermitage, Indianapolis): “Interwoven into the story are psychological, theological, ethical, and religious dimensions that call organized religion as well as social and moral structures to accountability”… More
Cheryl A Townsend (Poet, Photographer, previous editor/publisher of Impetus/Implosion Press, current owner of Cat’s Impetuous Books): “Snips of theological insight, musical and artistic education are an added bonus to an engaging read that should assuredly make you think hard on your own spiritual path. When and if Calvin creates his own church, I hope one comes nearby”… More
Michelle Moore (artist/author): “A tale of resiliency, reconciliation, and redemption, with plenty of ass-kicking and comeuppance along the way, Brother Cobweb is a powerful account of self-discovery that will resonate with readers long after the final pages”… More
Keith Banner (author: “The life I lead,” “The smallest people alive”): “By the end of Brother Cobweb, you have insight not only into what it means to be free of a religion you don’t need, but also what it feels like to find an actual spirituality that can carry you through”… More
Jonathan Montaldo (co-editor of “Soul-Searching: The Thomas Merton Story):”No easy, happy endings to this well-told, fast-paced story about the role of “God” in freakish human experience. Eaker’s novel draws a complex picture of religion in which the Weird is graphically made flesh”… More
Reactions, International Press (Europe)
Novena News (review): “Resilience, reconciliation and redemption after Church abuse: Alfred Eaker’s ‘Brother Cobweb’”
Novena News (interview, Alfred Eaker): Alfred Eaker, author of ‘Brother Cobweb’: “We, the laity, are the Church, not the hierarchy. It needs us prodigals”
“The Brother Cobweb Chronicles”: the upcoming Graphic Novels
Following on the success of the novel amongst the general public, Eaker is currently collaborating with Todd M. Coe on the related Graphic novel “The Brother Cobweb Chronicles.” The first volume with be released in 2021. Here is a taste of Page 1 and Page 2.
“Brother Cobweb”, audiobook version
The audiobook version is also being produced and will soon be available and distributed. Until then, here is a taste of Alfred Eaker himself playing “Brother Cobweb”, an apocalyptic Pentecostal pastor (a composite of Eaker’s childhood preachers) and through whom we can see much that is wrong with the American Religious Right.
“Brother Cobweb” on film: “I Was Married To a Mermaid”
“I Was Married to a Mermaid” is an excerpt from a longer, yet-to-be-released feature movie entitled Brother Cobweb. “I Was Married to a Mermaid” has been co-directed by Alfred Eaker and J. Ross Eaker. It features Alfred Eaker, James Mannan, and Vanessa Blake. The short movie itself has been extremely well received and praised by film critics and the public.
“Brother Cobweb” on stage (by Alfred Eaker)
Apart from starting conceptually as a feature film, Brother Cobweb has found its way through performance art by Alfred Eaker himself.