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Talking Comics with Tim: Michael Dowers

Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s

Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s

I first started covering the comics industry in the late 1990s, and at first I had a mindset of trying to cover the mainstream stuff, DC and Marvel. Fortunately I soon broadened my horizons and started to cover independent and/or mini-comics creators. More recently, when I learned that Fantagraphics had tapped Michael Dowers to edit and compile Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s, I jumped at the chance to interview him. Here’s a rundown of the book from Fantagraphics (plus a Flickr flipthrough of the book):  “Newave! is a gigantic collection of the best small press cartoonists to emerge in the 1970s after the first generation of underground cartoonists (such as R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, and Art Spiegelman) paved the way. These cartoonists, inspired by the freewheeling creative energy of the underground comix movement, began drawing and printing their own comix. The most popular format was an 8 1/2” x 11” sheet, folded twice, and printed at local, pre-Kinkos print shops on letter-size paper; because of the small size, they were dubbed ‘mini comix.’ As they evolved many different artists, one by one, became interested in this do-it-yourself phenomenon. By the 1980’s they became known as Newave Comix, a term taken from England’s Newave rock ’n’ roll movement. An explosion of do-it-yourself artists emerged. Many talented artists went onto bigger and better things, others have disappeared into the fog never to be heard from again.” The collection is a staggering 892 pages–and Fantagraphics offers a 32-page preview here.

Tim O’Shea: The book is dedicated in “Memory of Michael Roden, Clay Geerdes, and R.K. Sloane”. Would you mind telling folks a little bit about each of them?

Michael Dowers: All three of these guys were very dedicated to what they were doing. It was their lives. Michael Roden was a very creative type and not only drew and made mini comix, but was a musician, a sculptor, and an entertainer. This man lived and breathed creativity almost all his life. Clay Geerdes was extremely dedicated to the world of underground comix. He saw Newave as the new underground and was responsible for encouraging, inspiring, and developing many cartoonists along he way. I do believe that Newave would have been a very different world with out him. R.K. Sloane was an amazing creative mind. He had accomplished many things in his life. In the early days he even had real underground comic published before undergrounds died in the latter 70’s. He made a movie called “Goblins” in the latter 70’s and went on to draw comics working for people like Big Daddy Roth. I met R.K. Sloane right around this time and published a full size comic of Big Daddy Roth’s RAT FINK drawn by Sloane. He went on to be one of the best of low-brow surrealistic painters that Robert Williams influenced before Sloane died. We will miss all three of these highly creative and influential people.

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