Underground Station – Column

Underground Station

by Bruce Sweeney

If, ungentle reader, you’re so rich in attitude, then how come you don’t have any Loompanics books? Are you dazed and blasé, or just out of that loop? You can be forgiven until you finish this article because Loompanics (PO Box 1197 Port Townsend, WA 98368) is so esoteric and subterranean a publisher.

Their subject matter is material that no one else will touch. The titles cover topics such as how to live without electricity, how to create a false identity, how to take on our nation’s tanks when they come rolling down Main street, how to make effective bombs, pick locks, sneak into movie houses, become a successful welfare cheat, start your own country, or hitchhike efficiently.

Now, my days of screwing the system are far more subdued than when I rigged public telephones for free calls all over Boston or snuck into rock rehearsals. I mean, why steal library books only to find that you don’t have space for them, and that they loan them out for free in the first place?

So, if I’m so blasé, why Loompanics? Partly it’s because the material has such attitude that it’s almost refreshing. More importantly, many of these books are well-illustrated by some underground artists such as Spain, Joe Zabel, Robert Crabb, Jim Siergey, and others that have preceded these assignments with excellent “comix” work. Do you really need “The Art & Science of Dumpster Diving” with a cover and illustrations by Ace Backwards? I would have to say that you at least deserve to have a copy, but I don’t know any dumpsters in which they might be stocked, so why not?

Firebrand Books (141 The Commons Ithaca, NY 14850) is a publisher that aims at the lesbian readership. “Shriek!” goes the readership, “I’m a rock ‘n’ roll warrior with an earring and a baseball cap! How terribly gauche!” At ease, trooper. Firebrand books includes some amazingly off-beat poetry and fiction, and more importantly, a very “quick-witted and incisive social commentator,” Alison Bechter, who creates as truly imaginative, autobiographical, and personal a set of material as anyone working elsewhere – boy, girl, or straight. Hey, you’ve already pissed off your mother, it’s time to shock the guys in the band…

The Spit & a Half catalogue is out (PO Box 95826 Hoffman Estates, IL 60195). They carry punk and folk cassettes, CDs, and a big handful of independent comics including the semi-successful Silly Daddy and KingKat line. They will consider individual fanzines for distribution – They’re heavily into small press items, and stock way too many independent titles to detail here. Try $1 for their catalogue.

Viz Communications (653 Bryant St. S.F. CA 94107) started this year to push their Pulp line, which is the monthly Manga anthology for grown-ups – meaning Japanese sex/violence material. This is hardball black & white graphics.

Slave Labor (979 S. Bascom Ave. San Jose, CA 95128) announces the arrival of Potential which tells the tales of a high school junior, Ariel Schrag, who is coming out and of age – as we speak. Last year, Slave Labor published her first graphic novel,Definition, about Ariel’s sophomore year. The first issue of Potential “came out” in March for $3.50 each. Ariel Schrag has a lot of style.

Equally compelling from Slave Labor is the Smith-Brown-Jones: Alien Accountan t title about an alien accountant sent to Earth from the Galactic Central Hub to report on Earth conditions. It sounds like Men in Black comes to comics, but I have yet to see any real advance material from the Slave Labor gang. (Hey, Slave Labor,…hell-o…)

Last Gasp (777 Florida St. S.F., CA 94110) has evolved from an initial underground comic publisher to a major distributor of off-beat poetry, adult photography, gay readings, fine art, comix, drug books, film books, and magazines. While more peddler than publisher, two items that are theirs alone are the latest Horny Biker Slut for $3.95 with very racy shit from John Howard, D.B. Velveeda, and the rest of the regular contributors. Within its genre, this is a highly recommended line.

Publisher Ron Turner showed me the guts of the Crumb Family Album, with material from Robert, Aline Kaminski, son Jesse, and a Crumb brother. What’s astounding about the book is the density of coverage and the thin line of Crumb-ism that runs through the family. They don’t all execute similarly at all, but there’s some sort of familial lean to the material that is extremely arresting.

The bad news is that Fantagraphics (7563 Lake City Way N.E. Seattle, WA 98115) has announced that they are going to finish Hate with issue #30. Staff artist Eric Johnson and I both rued the departure of this near-great series at the last Lollipop party (Eric, call me – ya owe me a beer!). We agreed that this as a terrific title that will be truly missed.

The good news is that Fantagraphics are astute comix-businesspeople who are wise enough to tease us all with the promise of more trade paperbacks of this material. It finally went over 600 pages of the Buddy Bradley material. Their Penny Century #1 is out for $2.95 by the mighty Love & Rockets artist, Jaime Hernandez.

MU Press used to carry the ever-cool Underground Station long ago, so they’re cool enough to warrant a blatant plug. (5014-D Roosevelt Way N.E. Seattle, WA 98105) They have a great rock band comic title Those Annoying Post Bros. for about $3 each, and a plethora of independent titles like Filthy Habits,Rat,Mad Raccoons,Rhudipart, and Morty the Dog – which was near-famous long ago. Like Spit & a Half and Top Shelf, they have genuine ability at assembling comix oddities of rare execution. This is the material that makes a coffee table as cool as a stash.

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