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Underground Station | comic | book | column | Lollipop

Underground Station

by Bruce Sweeney

There are three good reasons to boycott Starbucks Coffee forever:

1) The coffee is made from bitter African beans that make an unpleasant coffee.

2) The company tried to squash Seattle underground artist Kieron Dwyer like a bug for lampooning their damn logo.

3) According to Time Magazine, they were charging usurious rates to rescue workers at the World Trade Center on Sep 11, 2001 for coffee and water.

...Boycotting forever actually isn't long enough for Starbucks. This is why Capitalism has such an ugly face sometimes. Don't quote me though; they might sue me as well. I wrote them about this and they explained that one or two employees caused the gouging, but they had no response to the lawsuit issue.

I occasionally overlook my readers' sensibilities and cover and recommend alternative comics with my own taste imperatives. For once, rather than drag you to a higher path (yeah, right!) let me aim for where you are. That would be the mailing list of Rip-Off Press, Inc.; PO Box 4686 Auburn, CA 95604 or http://www.ripoffpress.com or ripoff@JPS.net for their latest titles.

No other comics publisher/purveyor features material so close to the punk mentality (What can I say? I'm a WWI relic with a huge collection of Van Morrison, the Stones, and Joe Cocker). If I were into punk, garage rock, or metal, I'd be into Rip-Off.

The Annoying Post Brothers by Matt Howarth are blackly humorous black & white tales that've been around for twenty years (so has Iggy Pop). Savage Henry is a comic about a punk rock band, the Bulldaggers, that occasionally features real life musicians i.e. Foetus, Dave Brock, and Klause Shulze in their whirlwind band life.

Rip-Off has plenty more where that came from. Among their current titles are the Cherry series, up to #23 by now, with the great sex adventures of Cherry. Additional adult-oriented comic titles include Shaundra, Tart, Ship of Fools, Demi, and One Fisted Tales. They even feature truly underground titles like LCD #1, The Complete Crumb, and Horny Biker Sluts to name a few of my favorites. Many of these titles go back and forth between hearty guffaws or over the edge into tasteless. Ain't it cool?

On a better-behaved level, the Mexican Sketchbook Diary, done in a limited supply of 150 copies, are $6 each from the authors Steve Lafler and Serena Makofsky at buggy@ neteze.com. This is an illustrated journal of excerpts of a five-month trip through Mexico taken from June to November 1997. It's an oddity. By reading their notes and digging the sketches, you actually get a bird's eye view of their journey. There's nothing rowdy here. They don't trash hotel rooms or get wasted on mescal and chew the worms but nevertheless, you do get a sense of the adventure of visiting another culture. Steve will have Baja out soon through Top Shelf (PO Box 1282 Marietta, GA 30061) in February. I can't wait. His Bughouse was one of the great titles of 2000.

Fantagraphics (www.fantagraphics.com) are up to their old tricks of publishing too much material to stay on top of. One title that got overlooked last issue that is a favorite of some of our staff artists is Hate Annual #1 by Peter Bagge. Peter has done more to capture his generation of 20-somethings in a humorous sitcom kind of comic than virtually anyone else. This title has his characters grappling with the crappy side of maturing in America. His character, Buddy, does more to avoid responsibility and accountability than Dick Cheney!

Additional hot and promising titles include Angry Youth #2 by Johnny Ryan, Measles #8, Nimrod #6, Duh #4, Meatcake #11, Weasel #4 and Glam Warp by Jim Blanchard.

I generally have little truck with straight comics, but one title that almost won me over is Startling Stories: Banner by Marvel, of all uncontroversial publishers. It seems to be the tale of a doctor who erupts in huge furies that nearly level a small city in the aftermath of his rage. Everyone then stands around the emergency rooms and triage centers saying "How can it be?" but the high point of the comic, of course, are the scenes of violent destruction that seem to follow this guy's eruptions. This is part one in a four-parter, and if it's meant to whet the appetite, it does. It has full, rich color with the mighty cartoonist Rich Corben at the wheel.

Word has it that "Spain" Rodriguez has a new title out from Last Gasp titled Boots, but I haven't seen it yet. Spain is one of the founding ZAP Comics artists. Word further has it that Spain has illustrated Sherlock Holmes Strangest Cases, according to publisher Malcolm Whyte of Wordplay Publications. This will be five Arthur Conan Doyle stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. The book will be in a 7" x 7" format with 120 pages. It's unclear how many Spain illustrations adorn the book, but it's certain to be a forceful rendering. Spain's hefty, forceful style set against the delicacy of a Holmes story will likely work as a study in contrasts, but it's not yet out or available for my attentive consumption. The paperback is $17.95; a signed, numbered hardcover is $48 for only 200 copies (cheap!) and a signed, lettered A-Z goes for $160.

Wordplay Publishers (1 Sutter St., Ste. 205 San Francisco, CA 94104) has another new title in front of us, Hardcore Mother by Maxon Crumb, brother of Robert Crumb. This is the artist's first novel with nine new illustrations. Wordplay will be carrying the lettered hard-covered, slip-cased version for $150. For those of us without allowances from dear old Uncle Reggie, the paperback version purports to be $24.95 and $39.95 for the ordinary hardcover, and $75 for the signed and numbered. They are available from "Doc" Russell Roberts, c/o CityZen Publications, PO Box 29638 Shreveport, LA 71149. This should prove to be a very unbalanced book, indeed. Maxon's artwork, which bears no immediate similarity to Robert's, has an extremely tormented, haunted feel to it that guarantees shivers.

Then there is Shpilkes, a new Generation X comic for $3.50 from PO Box 12253 Berkeley, CA 94712-5253. This is a new title by somebody, Fred Noland (?) that has knocked off an interpretation of the classic blues ballad, "Stagger Lee," along with some engaging street stories.  


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