My last night in Austin this time round was the best, partly due to exhaustion-induced hairtrigger hysteria but mainly due to hanging out with the astonishing Johnny Hicklenton and his wife Claire, subjects of Animal Monday's compelling doc 'Here's Johnny'- which charts Johnny's traumatic struggle with multiple sclerosis over the last 12 years.
Johnny draws the character Judge Dredd for the cult comic 2000AD, and so as the disease takes its toll, the threat to his career and his sanity presses nearer and darker as it threatens to stop him drawing. In an odd echo, in our film 'Living with the Tudors' we meet a character for whom a serious accident jeopardised his sculpting career, though he miraculously overcame his incapacity to continue his work.
For Animal Monday (the directors) the film journey has been epic, starting as a fairly casual record of a friend's life and taking them on a 7 year journey together. The film avoids sentimentality because of Johnny's own at times brutal honesty about himself, and the humour is never far away as the charismatic Johnny 'narrates' past scenes with laconic observations on how fat / miserable he looks!
Presently Johnny's health is good due to a mere 2 and a half months on a new drug, which made it possible for him to leave the house for the first time in 5 years to visit SXSW.
Johnny possesses one of the sharpest senses of humour I've ever experienced, regaling me with incredible stories of 'behind the scenes at 2000AD' and making everyone in their hired SUV hysterical with his take on everything from obese Texans to crack deals.
Long may he continue to kick the ass of the disease he rightly describes as 'fucking mediaeval'.