Underground Station – Column

Underground Station

by Bruce Sweeney

Here it is, just about the half year and it’s time to take a peek at the significant titles on my watch. Of very high quality and interest is Patrick Rosenkranz’s Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975 published by Fantagraphics. Rosenkranz masters his task in a serviceable fashion, but he stays focused on that period alone. With a very few items from the ’80s, he does no wandering off-course into the quasi-undergrounds, the independent projects, the fan base, or the newer-arriving artists beyond the four major publishers. Essentially, it over-panders to the mainstream underground world… if there is such a concept. It’s well-researched with lots of behind-the-scenes observations, but I always thought of the undergrounds more holistically as a comprehensive cartoon movement instead of a country club for hippies with pencils. As limited as the author keeps himself, it’s nevertheless a monumental book.

What the book lacks in full sweep of its subject, it replaces with good looks. The editing is excellent and the content can be stunning. Its display of underground art pieces – some of it rare – brings you to realize that this movement laid a lot of bricks in the foundation of alternative illustrated periodicals. $39.95? Well worth it.

Shpilkes (vol lll, #1) came into our office and is distributed by Last Gasp. It tells a dark, sick tale of a swamp culture too retarded to live beyond the pages of a twisted, fertile artist. $3.50 and it really ain’t right. It’s twisted enough in its gore and mayhem to be worth the money. Grab this where you can. (wwwaltgeek.net)

Too Much Coffee Man #17 arrived today. It’s loaded with articles like one on Flatulence Deodorizers and loads of tight, right comics. Like Lollipop, it has a taste for quality contemporary punk. (No, that’s not an oxymoron.)

Dark Horse is a publisher constantly straddling the fence between underground/contemporary comics and tamer, more entertainment-oriented items of adventure. They’re currently presenting the second volume of the trade paperback Xenozoic Tales set in a someday future when dinosaurs come back and Cadillacs, machine pistols, and Amazon women never went away. The artist, Mark Schultz, entered undergrounds just when they were transitioning over to the graphic novel concept, and frankly, his material really sings. Unmistakably, his style is extremely reminiscent of the old E.C. masters of the ’50s, like Al Williamson or Frank Frazetta, so I suppose the word “retro” could be thrown at him. His work is just too good to over-focus on which decade he should’ve been born in.

Story in the Snow: Bigfoot in Wisconsin by Lunetta Woods is a new paperback out from Galde Press. While the book itself doesn’t feature a Crumb cover, they’ll include one request a promotional postcard designed by Robert Crumb. They are also featuring another paperback titled Pig Laffs (The Dirty Joke Book, volume 1) featuring a Crumb cover. Both retail for about $10. Additionally, they’re carrying the magazine Fate, which also have Crumb covers.

Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly have Clumsy out, a new comic about artist Jeffrey Brown’s relationship with an ex-girlfriend. Check him out at www.holyconsumption.com, don’t ask. They also have new titles out such as Jason Lutes Berlin #10 for $3.50 U.S. and The Last Issue of Louis Riel by Chester Brown. I know, I never heard of the previous issues, either.

When-Good-Things-Happen-To-Good-People Corner
I just heard from Bryan Talbot, British illustrator extraordinaire. It appears that more resourceful people than I have discovered him. Koukou Productions, an Australian film production company, plans to produce his stellar book, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright as a film. Bryan has been on the telephone and in my email beseeching me to play the lead character, but I’ve told him that Scott Hefflon at Lollipop has me under a major-million-dollar contract that I’m tied into…

Through Bud Plant‘s copious catalogue, I sprung for a copy of something called Pirate Tales for $7. The motivating draw was reference to the underground artist, S. Clay Wilson. He’s one of the original Zap cartoonists and a genuine article. He’s an ex-biker out of Lawrence, Kansas who went to San Francisco in the ’60s and hooked up with the likes of Crumb and Spain. His work includes great stories where a lesbian biker gang meets somewhere in time and dukes it out with pirates. I mean, shlongs get lopped off, tits are bitten, and mayhem is the order of the day. Wilson has unfortunately slipped into occasional pieces for men’s magazines and is less prolific and seldom does comix books.

Pirate Tales #1 has one skimpy page by Wilson, but how’s the publication otherwise? Well, if you’re up for a cartooned black & white tale or two about pirates by people totally committed to getting the ship-rigging, weapons and clothing right, look no further. It’s fairly weird, obscure stuff, and I can’t say that I minded being lured in. Go to www.pirate-tales.com and see for yourself. I dunno… pirates? I suppose it beats guys going around in baseball caps worn backwards, right?