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Underground Station | comic | book | column | Lollipop

Underground Station

by Bruce Sweeney

In an odd recycling of an old theme, underground comix legend Spain has moved towards a new comic action hero that is totally reminiscent of his earlier comix hero Trashman. Trashman was a hard-hitting fictional hero of the New Revolution of the '60s. As such, Spain's hero led the fight against fascists of government oppression.

Now, Spain has returned to the roots of his political passions with the story Dies Irae and has created Steve Kirby, a NYPD martial arts instructor who lost his wife and son in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Instead of seeking vengeance against the terrorists, Steve places the blame with the current administration and holds them accountable. (That's not such a wild leap.) You can track down the first five pages of this political action cartoon at www.diesirae911.com. ("Dies irae" means "days of wrath" in Latin.)

The San Diego Comic Con is gathering heat again for this summer's huge comic convention. This year, the nation's largest comic convention will take place July 22-25, 2004. It'll cost $60 for the full four-day event in advance through www.comic-con.org. They have quite an array of professional illustrators and cartoonist lined up to appear, such as Charles Vess, Roger Dean, and Robert Gould.

Top Shelf's Blankets by Craig Thompson made it into the finalists for Best New Graphic Album, as did The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo by Joe Sacco for Drawn & Quarterly. The winners will be announced at the San Diego Con.

Top Shelf (PO Box 1282 Marietta, GA 30061) also has out The Sketchbook Diaries vol. #4 by James Kochalka which retails for $7.95. This is an odd assembly of James' personal ramblings, observations, and drawings. Interesting stuff.

Speaking of Drawn & Quarterly, they announced a Spring cleaning sale with a lot of neat titles going on the market deeply discounted. Among their better graphic novels, I recommend Chester Brown's I Never Liked You, R. Crumb's Waiting For Food: More Placemat Drawings #3, and Drawn and Quarterly Anthology #3, #4, and #5. Keep in mind that Drawn and Quarterly #5 was also nominated for Best Anthology among the finalists at this summer's San Diego Con.

Steve Lafler's Baja is slated for release from Top Shelf this year. It's a 96-page trade paperback, with an all-new story about Bones the jazz bass player. He heads to Mexico when Johnny Muggles frames him in a drug deal. In Mexico, he hooks up with a girl singer who may or may not want a lover; her father keeps reminding Bones that he owns a shotgun. Bones hooks up with a band of Mexican rhythm & blues musicians. I've seen the original pages to this treat and it looks to be quite a project.

I certainly owe Bryan Talbot a nod after the great title bars he's done for me over the years, so people interested in his art can check out his new website at www.modernvikings.com/luther-arkwright.

Another interesting development is the establishment of Steve Sattler's website, Crumbspace, the soon-to-be launched website covering Robert Crumb. Steve assured me that the quality standards of the website will be exemplarity. The site will cover auction results, book reviews, editorial content, essays, and message boards. He's enlisted yours truly into an article. Writing in tandem with collector Eric Morey, we developed an article for Steve on the rare Robert Crumb collectible Morse's Funnies, which was a very limited, obscure item for which Robert created the cover, a caricature of Albert Morse, one-time legal defender of underground artists.

I'll keep the readership up to speed on this project as it moves into reality. It's indeed promising, and may have really interesting insights and observations on one of America's most respected and reclusive underground cartoonists.

Fantagrahics will soon have the R. Crumb: The Comics Journal Library volume #3 out. They are prepared to issue about 25 volumes of the entire Peanuts comic strip. Yow! Talk about prolific!  


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