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Underground Station | comics | review | column | Lollipop
by Bruce Sweeney
Well, let me start off with Top Shelf Productions (PO Box 1282 Marietta, GA 30061-1282). They have a pantload of product out there which I hope to address. Just in case my pen or the printer runs out of ink, I'll mention their hottest item.
Speechless at $19.95 by Peter Kuper is an exotic 111-page hardcover that chronicles Peter's brave, bizarre work across the last fifteen years from sources like Heavy Metal, Last Gasp and Fantagraphics. Kuper has always been edgy and sardonic. He was initially a contributor to the undergrounds, and then finally shoe-horned his work into more alternative-y publications. This item is way worth the $20.
Are you shitting me? There's a late night TV commercial for a regional bathroom cleaner named ZAP! complete with cartoon-y letters? Somebody call Robert Crumb in France! This is for his own protection.
Wait! He doesn't need help. According to Water Row Press (PO Box 438 Sudbury, MA 01776), someone is issuing a string of 11" statues that are a replica of Robert Crumb's fever-dreams. The first one is an ultra-cute "Catholic School Girl" in an unlikely very short skirt. These will retail in a limited fashion for $125 ($195 for a more limited version!). This statue looks good boys, but I thought masturbation was free.
NOTHING goes for free. Ever try to get those personal stains out of wool trousers? For reasonable strokes, turn to Rip-Off Press (www.ripoffpress.com). Holy moley, Captain Erecto! They have Genus #43-#45 with X-rated funny animals, Milk #14 and #s 19-20; Wild Zoo #2 & #3; Northern Lights #3; and Cherry #s 12-16 all at $2.95 each. My vote? The Cherry line which includes a sense of humor.
Never to be rated as unprolific is the Seattle-based Fantagraphics (7563 Lake City Way NE Seattle, WA 98115) which has the likely tippity top seller Hate Annual #1 by Peter Bagge. Hate died two years ago, abandoned by Peter. This item features two all-new strips including an unpublished Buddy Bradley strip and several otherwise unpublished items. This is just great material! It's like The Honeymooners of underground comics.
They also have Black Hole #8 by Charles Burns, master of modern horror humor and Measles #7 edited by Gilbert Hernandez with a nine-page contribution by famed Dutch undergrounder, Joost Swarte. Nobody in Europe had more impact on international undergrounds than Joorst Swarte; respected and cultivated by Denis Kitchen of the late Kitchen Sink publishing. To extract anything from Joorst Swarte these days is a major coup. Highly cool.
Just a tiny bit too coffee table is the fabulous Covering the New Yorker. This fabulous chronicle of their truly edgiest covers includes mischievous covers across a half century spilling into great 1990s material from such underground cartoonists as Robert Crumb, Artie Spiegelman (the author's husband), Sue Coe, Charles Burns, Joorst Swarte (him again), Chris Ware, and Mark Zingarelli.
Now you know me... I'm always bally-hooing the impact of the undergrounders much like other reviewers extolling the virtues of a musical peculiarity like new-age rockabilly. I'm hooting it up for my village. My passion and commitment strikes my editor as impassioned at best; cute at worst.
For minutes, though, I thumb through the contributions by the other "straight" illustrators in the book, from the Tin Man going through an airport metal detector in 1998 or a stage performer removing an artificial eyebrow in 1948, to a gay marriage in 1994 and I go "I love it... it's fucked up."
For a few minutes, I go "cool isn't defined by me - cool IS." Maybe it's like some of you discovering The Stooges or Judas Priest and going "Hey, they were tracking in the right direction - they might have been cool if they'd been born later." And then you go "Could it be? Someone was cool and irreverent before I got here? There was pre-cool?" And then the blast of maturity passes and you go "Nah... real cool started here with me. What was I thinking?"