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Underground Station | comic | book | column | Lollipop
by Bruce Sweeney
The title block this time, as before, is by British cartoonist extraordinaire Hunt Emerson. He's been a mainstay of the British underground cartooning movement for decades, and I have some original art by him that's up for grabs. He's not only a friend, he's a pronouncedly real-world character.
I met Hunt at a London cartoon-comix convention along with Bryan Talbot over twenty years ago. Based upon that flimsy, over-a few-beers encounter, I contacted him two years ago and announced that I'd be passing through Birmingham after hanging with Bryan Talbot for a couple of nights and would he like to get together? He not only met me, but ended up putting me up on his living room floor, introducing me to his ladies, Jane and their delightful daughter Pebbles. He also set me up with a few comix-oriented drinking buddies. I instantly had a gang to hang with.
I finally decided to get back in touch with Rip-Off Press, which was one of the Big 3 in Underground Comics publishing in the '70s, along with the late Kitchen Sink and Last Gasp, which still survives. Their main contributor was Gilbert Shelton, who invented the hilarious Fabulous Furry Freak Bros. who were perhaps the Marx Bros. of hippy comix. They were always scoring weed and staying one step ahead of Norbert the Nark.
Refreshingly enough, Rip-Off is still out there. Among contributors currently in their stable are Larry Todd, who did the Dr. Atomic series, the brilliant son Mark Bode of the late brilliant father, Vaughn Bode, and Jaxon, to name but a few.
From Rip-Off (www.ripoffpress.com), you can get the entirety of the seminal Zap comics line #0-14 for $64.50, or the Gilbert Shelton comics set with his pre- and post-Freak Brothers line for $15.95. Also available for $18.95 is the famed American Splendor anthology, upon which Harvey Pekar's movie was based. It features such illustrators as Crumb, Spain, and Gary Dunn.
You might want to get a peek at Robert Crumb's daughter Sophie's material. Allegedly, she has a title out called Belly Button Comix #1, but I haven't seen it yet.
Speaking of Gilbert Shelton, a bunch of his European friends and contemporaries including that Hunt Emerson character, snuck a book into production with a lot of them doing a spoof of his Freak Bros. material. He apparently didn't even know of the book until it came out of production. It may not be available through standard U.S. distribution, but there may be a way around that. You might want to try to locate material through www.knockaboutcomics.com, based in London. They've been in the comix business for over 20 years and have endured the rough battles with British customs and god knows what else in trying to stay afloat. These folks are friends and troopers who've kept the soldiers in ammunition.
While I was dicking around in Sonoma, CA this last summer, I wandered into the Sebastiani Theater where they had a great color poster by Spain. Apparently, he did it for the San Francisco Mime Troupe for an anti-Bush theater production titled "Showdown at Crawford Gulch." Check out www.sfmt.org where his color poster honoring this theater group's 40th Anniversary is only $5 plus shipping!
Fantagraphics.com is also always out there. They have a couple of hot items every month. The two that are probably the most compelling are Jimbo in Purgatory and Blood Orange. Jimbo is by Gary Panter, one of the best of the California punk flavor. His work was seen in the dynamite Raw title, and his tightly-packed style is absolute busy mind-candy. A 40-page black & white hardcover for $29.95.
The other Fantagraphic title that intrigues me is Blood Orange #2. I have yet to see the first issue, but this purports to be a quarterly anthology of innovative new artists. I recognize maybe one artist by name, Mattie Hagelburg from Blab! Other promising new faces include Archer Prewitt, Rebecca Dart, Chris Wright, and Jeffrey Brown. This is a 48-page black & white for $5.95.
As for Blab! itself, I just got #14. It's one the longest-running undergrounds still running. It's as daring and innovative a line as any, including the defunct Raw and Weirdo. It's an odd-sized 10" x 10" softbound black & white & color format, but it's well-worth the $19.95 because that bigger-than-usual size lets the pages really breathe and spread out.
As a result of a conversation with a Crumb collector friend, Steven Sattler (who's starting a Crumb-oriented website tentatively named Crumbspace), I decided to join the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (PO Box 693 Northhampton, MA 01061) for a modest basic $25 per year. Don't think that with the election going wrong that we shouldn't be looking to protect our basic American rights in the next four years. I decided to stop just being a smart-ass and put my money where my mouth is. There are over 3000 comic book shops in the country and less than 100 members in CBLDF. What's up with that?!
And finally, when Playboy gets into it, your world has become too square. Actually, for the briefest time, I was an irregular contributor to Playboy. I wrote transvestite cartoons with an illustrator in 1985 and a few got published there. It's taken me nearly 20 years to claw my way up from Playboy to Lollipop, but I'm finally here in the big time!
The only time I ever buy Playboy is when I fly. It's perfect for a few hours in the air. I recently bought a copy along with Modern Drunkard. Playboy had a piece on the 25 most important comedian contributors. The article was titled "The Playboy Compendium of Outlaw Humor" by Jamie Malanowski. Any list like that is bound to be subjective and arbitrary. But I agreed with their first pick, Lenny Bruce, who single-handedly wrenched stand-up comedy away from jokesters and mother-in-law jokes. Number 8 was Robert Crumb, called the godfather of underground comix. The author cites Crumb's contribution of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. Additional outlaw comics include Richard Pryor, George Carlin, the movies Animal House, Dr. Strangelove, and the strip Doonesbury.