Underground Station – Column

Underground Station

by Bruce Sweeney

I got so many emails and calls about missing the last issue! I left so many of you high and dry, and many of you were genuinely saddened by that unfortunate development. I’ll try not to let it happen again. How can I make it up to you?

Well, by mentioning a hardcover book called Scorched Art by Tom Hazelmyer at Feral House (PO Box 13067 Los Angeles, CA 90013) at $18.00. It’s a book dedicated to the illustrated Zippo lighters of the last ten years, one of which was adorned by a color Crumb. It’s that bald character with the big nose going “hilk, hilk” in red, white, and blue. [Been my trusty lighter for years. -Ed.] The book which also features illustrated Zippos by Kaz, Robert Williams, Charles Burns, Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, the Pizz, Gary Panter, Coop, los Bros. Hernandez, and R.K. Sloane. This is a handsome collectible.

Speaking of Crumb, his Art & Beauty magazine #2 is out and received great praise by The Philadelphia Weekly. I haven’t seen it yet. Middle to top of his game, however, is the eternal Robert Crumb. Now he’s central to the movie American Splendor. Like the documentary Crumb, it should just further getting Crumb in front of the public.

Further chatting about Crumb, I know that I’ve wrung my hands about this title before, but I can’t get over it. Actually, this is the new #3 in the Waiting for Food series. Drawn & Quarterly (www.drawnandquarterly.com) has the inside track on this line of titles that reproduces Robert Crumb’s drawings on placemats in various restaurants.

Mr. Crumb goes into these restaurants, orders food, and while he waits or is between courses, he draws fellow patrons or random ideas onto his placemats. He collects them, sends them to a publisher, and they end up in these books. Ironically, one of his sketches is of Elvis Presley, which reminds me of an enterprising barber who once sold Elvis’ cut hair clippings. Talk about money for nothing and chicks for free!

Get your girlfriend a copy of When I’m Old and Other Stories by Gabrielle Bell published by Alternative Comics (www.indyworld.com/altcomics) for $12.95 for Christmas. This is one of the few autobiographical comics by a woman, and more importantly, these stories are weird, personal, and filled with imagination.

Close to being the important title of the year is Spain’s Nightmare Alley. Coincidentally, HBO has a series, Carnivale, based upon carnival life during the Depression, which is also the venue for Nightmare Alley. This is a mammoth achievement for Spain. It’s published by Fantagraphics.

So what else have you all missed out on due to my negligence and overseas travel? Well, there’s Graphic Classics, volume 6, Ambrose Bierce, by Eureka Productions (www.graphicclassics.com). This is a semi-obscure writer of the 19th Century, an extremely controversial satirist. He begat H.L. Mencken who took on the bible freaks of his time, who begat Gore Vidal, a major 20th Century science-fiction writer and satirist. Everything works in continuity. This instructive line of books is discharged by such great illustrators as Rick Geary, Mark Nelson, and Stanley Shaw. It also showcases art by British illustrator John Coulthart, who got his first U.S. exposure here as a title bar for this column (June 97, Issue 36). But then Lollipop prides itself on breaking new artists that’re going to make a difference in three to six years. Stay with us, folks…

Graphic Classics has a Jack London item out, #5, with terrific art by Geary, Peter Kuper, and Hunt Emerson, another Brit whose art has shown up as the title bar of this column.

Top Shelf would never get away without a mention at least every other column. Slight budget, big balls, experimental material. They’re very much of a distant sister publisher. Pistol Whip: The Yellow Menace is an extremely mature publication (PO Box 1282 Marietta, GA 30061).

People talk about the demise of underground comics and agree that things aren’t as simple as they used to be in the ’70s. But what is? Attention deservedly due to Urban Hipster #1 and #2, bravely done by Alternative Comics. It’s under-crowded by two artists who lack the sense to reach out to more contributors, but it’s still a great effort by two people paying homage to the underground comic movement. They deserve coverage and attention.