Underground Station – Column

Underground Station

by Bruce Sweeney

One has to stop from time to time and thank the baby Jesus that one is in a major metropolitan area or adjacent to an urban area that supports a minor comics community. In Boston, it’s Million Year Picnic, in NYC and London its Forbidden Planet, and on the West Coast, there’s Comix and Comics, among others. For so many devoted fans however, to stay locked into what Crumb, Eddie Campbell, S. Clay Wilson, Jaxon, Spain, or Emerson is doing demands a huge commitment to the individualized product being pushed out on us by Rip-Off, Last Gasp, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, etc.

Recently, while in NYC, I lurched into Forbidden Planet to track down Eddie Campbell’s Bachus #20. I knew Campbell to be a solid storyteller with an eye like a movie camera lens, and Bacchus did not let me down. Coming in at midpoint of #20, I engaged a story about prison-life in England that was all too clear and real… but if you don’t hear about these things, they all go sliding by.

Bud Plant (PO Box 1689 Grass Valley, CA 95945) just admonished me yesterday that no orders from me equals no more catalogues from them. Kids, they have my sad Irish ass on the ropes because I need Bud Plant catalogues even more than they need me. Plant has constantly maintained a premier position as a major mail order retailer of comics; undergrounds; art books, calendars, portfolio’s and more. They stay a tad close to the bigger houses like Rip-Off, Kitchen, etc. but still… they take their chances and stock high-end items , too.

Kitchen Sink now has out a trading card set of the Beat Generation – let’s face it; the grandfathers of hip – to include cards devoted to Allen Ginsburg; Jackson Pollack, William Burroughs, and Thelonius Monk as interpreted by such artists as Robert Crumb’s son. Kitchen Sink are also featuring a new title, Black Hole #4 a new black & white horror magnum opus by the mighty Charles Burns. $3.50 in the best of places.

One of the most overlooked acting performances was easily Matt Dillon, an enormous beat art/lit. fan in his Drugstore Cowboy as a junkie outlaw who shares some riveting scenes with the Beat great William Burroughs. Matt Dillon is allegedly a devoted Beat fan. WaterRow is advertising some sort of beat Kerouac item with Dillon reading spoken word. Robert Crumb once did a great job of doing posters of the Beat greats for WaterRow Press (PO Box 438 Sudbury, MA 01776) which does a solid job of blending beat lit. with contemporary undergrounds.

Best underground sensibility film this year so far has gotta be Kissed, devoted to an unbelievably sensitive exploration of a young woman’s immersion into necrophilia as a proclivity while employed at a funeral home. (Talk about an after-school job…) It speaks well of the film and Toronto audiences that none of the audience went for cheap crowd responses like shock, repulsion or loud outbursts. Clearly, this is dicey material to try and bring off with a sense of taste, but it worked for me. (I mean, talk about an underground film…)

I just got something in called the Best Comic Book on the Earth from England. Ballsy, eh wot? David Britton’s Adventures of Meng and Ecker. Banned in England in 1992; like the Labour Party, its baaack. I believe that this scorcher would be highly popular with our readership. It costs about $25 from AK Press (PO Box 40682 S.F. CA 94140). This is a huge sucker of about 260 pages of intricate art that is meaner than the famous junkyard dog. The artwork is tight and detailed and the material makes “outrageous” look life a small Vermont village. It’s largely black British humor with a wildly scatalogical bent.

NBM (185 Madison Avenue Ste. 1504 New York, NY 10016) is more odd than weird, but if you can’t come up with a handful of weird, at least get a glass of odd, right? NBM’s style is to reproduce for American audiences some of the more significant European adult graphics. It’s diabolical how clearly these European selections mirror so much of the dank and offbeat sensibilities of European films. A Jew in Communist Prague tells just that story, rendered in full color from the viewpoint of a young Czech teenager coping with an arrested father, anti-semitism, the general repression of the times and country, and his own fumbling sexuality. (8 1/2″ x 11″, 48 pp $11.95)

On the cheaper side, Spit and a Half (PO Box 1356 Denver, CO 80216) serves as a clearing house for lots of truly independent titles that don’t get carried by the likes of Bud Plant, a real service. A lot of their material are digest-sixed, $2-$3 individual projects, or even a $3 St. Ink #5, which is a 5″ x 5″ local item with 13 Boston area contributors.

For $25, you can’t beat being the only kid on the block with that bizarre Ming & Ecker English item for snazzy bad-boy fun that no one has. If ,on the other hand, $25 comes your way a lot more slowly, Spit & a Half is a great way to spread that $25 around with independent product. Let’s reduce it all this way; Ming & Ecker is a bootleg Iggy Pop Live at Toad Hall, Spit & a Half are three sampler CDs from obscure labels.

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