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Underground Station | comic | book | column | Lollipop
by Bruce Sweeney
Here we are, looking at a new year and it appears that underground comics are going to last into the true new millennium. Whooda thunk? Fantagraphics Big Book of Losers is just that. Presentations in this cool book run from the first loser, Adam, to General Custer to some great unknowns tucked into sports, general events and foreign history. You shy away from reading these tales one after another, so this is a terrific three-month coffee table item that brings guffaws from everyone who picks it up. The famous Susan B. Anthony Dollar shows up, as does Rick Geary's Cars of Future Past and Steve Leialola's The Pneumatic Subway. Over 70 artists, underground, European and mainstream show up in the 191 pages. $14.95
I met with Steve Leialoha last summer, and he's still loosely connected with the rock group Rock Bottom Remainders (or whatever) which includes Stephen King and a couple of other successful writers. No plans to go too far national here, but they're toying with the prospect of doing a book convention or two.
According to Spain, the great California underground artist, Blab #11 should be out by the time that you read this. One of the better and currently successful titles. My teenage heart breaks to think how many titles have expired that were home to truly imaginative work... The good news is that many of them, The Fabulous Furry Freak Bros., Death Rattle, Snarf, Brain Fever, etc. are either still in print or available on the second-hand market.
Rosebud #18 (PO Box 459 Cambridge, WI 53523) is a quarterly literary magazine that I just stumbled upon through Bud Plant's catalogue. This issue of their $6.95 item is their cartoon issue and features Robert Crumb and the nearly-retired Joorst Swarte, among others. It's nicely illustrated with tasty comics and spot illustrations. I tried to contact Joorst while I was in Amsterdam, but word has it that his illustrating has drifted into more commercial applications than comics.
A very interesting new item is out called Fogelcomix (PO Box 20474 El Sobrante, CA 94620) for $14.95. It's 160 pages of some of the best of the original underground artists like Bode, Crumb, and Shelton mixed with newcomers like Kiernan Sawyer and Randy Vogel. Much of it has been around before, but it's good for the occasional fan that prefers a compilation instead of a half dozen obscure comix. Not all of this is great and the local guys add a lot of filler and are above answering their mail, but for all of that, it's a solid anthology and is carried by Rip Off Press (www.ripoffpress.com).
Rip Off Press has drifted into a heavily T&A format. Most of their new release material is soft-porn comics, but two that have some appeal are Cherry #22 with Larry Welz and Mark Bode, and perhaps LCD #1, an independent (Fogelcomix again) that purports to be more underground, albeit X-rated. That could work, although I haven't seen one yet.
John Kerschbaum, creator of the Wiggly Reader, has a new title out in time for the New Year. Petey & Pussy is a 24-page black and white with a color cover for $2.50 from Fontanelle Press (firstname.lastname@example.org). It's also available through Fantagraphics and Top Shelf. I can't more properly address it because they only sent me a flyer on it.
Comic Con News
The 2000 San Diego International Comic Con came and went last July. It was a helluva convention in a helluva city with over 48,000 fans in attendance. Hollywood, dot.coms and, to a lesser degree, independent comics made an impression on the con and it's flavor last year. Marvel and DC hogged the center, as usual... until they got to the awards. Out of twenty-six categories from Best Short Story to Best Cover Artist, DC got six Eisner awards. Fantagraphics got three and Bongo and Dark Horse got two each. Marvel got nothing.
Dark Horse's comix enthusiast and project director, Dave Scroggy, was awarded an Eisner special project award for developing a set of varied lunch boxes for Hellboy, Milk and Cheese, and other of their comic titles. At the customary winning publisher's celebratory party, Dave seemed a bit weirded-out to get so screwy an award. After all, no one else in the community even developed lunch boxes. Dave brought the project off with his usual steam and determination, so odd project or not, it paid off.
Last Gasp had a couple of serious contenders, but got swamped by the great final Charles Schultz project, Peanuts's Golden Celebration. Publisher Ron Turner was appropriately sanguine about the awards. To paraphrase him, how do you by-pass a project dedicated to one of the great strip artists of his century? Nevertheless, smaller comic houses are accounting for more of the awards and even more of the nominations.
Even now they're trying to entice us to the 2001 Convention with bad-girl Canadian cartoonist Julie Doucet, science fiction writers Kim Stanley Robinson (of Red Mars fame), Spider and Jeanne Robinson (no connection), and master comic horror mister, Bernie Wrightson.
The Eighth Annual Alternative Press Expo (APE) is established for San Francisco for Feb 17th and 18th of 2001. Last year had 1,500 in attendance, and February's line-up includes Steve Lafler of Bughouse notoriety and Peter Kuper. Admission is a reasonable $6 per day or $10 for both. I'm taking up a collection for this one.