underground comics Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Felix Dennis, who passed away this week at age 67, was the founder of a publishing empire that included the men’s magazine Maxim and the news magazine The Week, but he also has a place in comics history as one of the defendants in a famous U.K. obscenity trial that drew support of many prominent figures of the time, from John Lennon to Germaine Greer.
Dennis was one of the editors of the British satire magazine Oz, which published a mix of prose, art, poetry and comics. Stung by criticism that they were out of touch with youth, the editors in 1970 placed a notice in the magazine inviting schoolchildren to contribute to a special issue. About 20 teenagers came to London, singly and in groups, to create and edit a special “Schoolkids” issue. (One of those students, Charles Shaar Murray, described the experience 30 years later, and another contributor, David Wills, has posted the full issue online.) Although the “Schoolkids issue” was created by teenagers, it wasn’t necessarily created for them. On the other hand, teenagers were obviously already reading the magazine, as that’s where the call for contributions appeared.
(Warning: Potentially NSFW image below.)
Gary Edson Arlington, who in 1968 opened the San Francisco Comic Book Company, widely considered the country’s first comic book store, passed away Thursday at age 75.
His 200-quare-foot Mission District shop quickly became a magnet for early underground cartoonists, attracting the likes of Robert Crumb, Ron Turner, Bill Griffith and Spain Rodriguez (the store’s employees included Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes, and Flo Steinberg). Arlington was, in the words of Lambiek, a guru and “godfather” of underground comics, who “encouraged and directed many artists on their path to publication.”
“San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the ’60s and early ’70s,” Art Spiegelman told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “and Gary Arlington’s hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco.”
But Arlington didn’t stop at retailer and guru: Under the banner of the San Francisco Comic Book Company he also published such important early underground works as Skull Comics, Slow Death Comics and San Francisco Comic Book.
A bit of a firestorm erupted in the comments section of Frank Santoro’s most recent Riff Raff column at The Comics Journal. Closing with six pictures from the most recent issue of the self-published series Fukitor #9 by Jason Karns, Santoro praised the book for its use of colors on two different types of paper within the same issue, calling it “one of the most interesting print jobs out there.” Indeed, the art is visceral and eye-catching, judging by the photos of Santoro holding the comic.
The sticky part is that three of the images are from a “Special Forces Attack Squad” story that contains what could be considered as racially insensitive. Santoro also described Karns’ work as being “almost ‘too real’ to be part of the contemporary comics conversation.” He also said, “Just about everything compared to his work seems ‘pretentious.’ Karns is not trying to do a throwback style or appropriate ‘bad comics’ in order to make some sort of art comic. This is the real deal. This shit is SERIOUS!”
I’m not sure what most of that description even means. In what way is his work “too real”? Karns certainly isn’t doing journalism comics a la Joe Sacco. Santoro later admitted he could’ve done a better job of presenting Karns’ work, and the ensuing comments to his column appear to have caused him to reassess his appreciation, at least as it pertains to the subject matter. Right off the bat, the first commenter asked whether Fukitor is racist. Karns himself quickly showed up with a strange response that’s boils down to, “They’re just cartoons.” It reads as though he’s claiming the comic book form is somehow incapable of depicting racist imagery, which is pretty easily disputed by any cursory survey of World War II-era comics. Karns goes on to dig a rather big hole for himself.
Earlier this week I interviewed Gary Groth of Fantagraphics and Greg Urquhart of Alexander Street Press about the latter’s Underground and Independent Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels archive and its inclusion of The Comics Journal.
The folks at Alexander Street Press were kind enough to give me a trial subscription to the archive so I could see what it contains and get a feel for how it works. Here’s what I found.
The archive boasts an impressive collection of hard-to-find comics from the 1960s and ’70s. If you ever wanted to read Amputee Love (and I know I have) or Captain Guts but haven’t had much luck tracking them down, you’ll find this archive to be of great value. There’s also a complete run of the Arcade anthology, a complete run of Cerebus, Bizarre Sex and yes, Cherry Poptart, as well as work by Eddie Campbell, the Hernandez brothers, Peter Bagge, Harvey Pekar and more.
Of course, for many the ability to peruse the entire run of The Comics Journal — special editions included — is a major attraction. What’s nice is the searchable feature where you can type a name, like Howard Chaykin, and get a list of every issue he appears in. Clicking on the link takes you directly to the article, too, which is a nice feature. You can’t search by author however, so if I wanted to, say, read everything by R. Fiore or Bart Beaty, I’d have try searching by title or subject only.
Creators | Although he almost missed the anniversary, Mark Waid celebrates 25 years as a comics professional by recalling his first day of work at the DC Comics offices: “If you’re wondering what an Associate Editor does – or did in 1987 – I’ll list my job duties those first two days. Ready? Here we go: I erased Green Arrow pages. Eight hours a day for two days.” [MarkWaid.com]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham are pretty upbeat about DC’s most recent graphic novels — with some justification, as a number have made The New York Times graphic books best-seller list. “Batman: Earth One has been a runaway bestseller for us, even better than Superman: Earth One,” Wayne said. “People are familiar with the Superman: Earth One title and we don’t have explain what the new book is about.” [Publishers Weekly]
Fantagraphics announced last week it has formed a partnership with Alexander Street Press to include a complete run of The Comics Journal as part of the Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels online archive. Not knowing much about Alexander or the archive, I contacted Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Gary Groth to get some more information.
Robot 6: For the uninitiated, can you explain what Alexander Street Press is and what purpose they serve in the academic community?
Gary Groth: I’m by no means an expert on Alexander Street Press, but my understanding is that they provide searchable digital databases to academic institutions composed of classics works in a variety of disciplines — such as film, theater, literature, etc. These are provided primarily for scholarly use. I was able to go into some of their databases and poke around and they’re truly remarkable. You can search for subjects, themes, proper names, historic events, key words, etc.
How did this partnership come about? Did they contact you or vice versa?
They approached us.
Legal | Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh has been sentenced to 25 lashes for a cartoon he drew that depicted Arak Member of Parliament Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani in a soccer jersey. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview, Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci talks about the comics market, the demise of Borders, digital comics and the slump in book sales: “[T]here are more and more trade paperbacks and hard covers coming out, so there’s less chance of getting as much attention as you’re used to, and reorders are down because of it. As the number of trade paperbacks and graphic novels increases, the number of SKUs increases, the number of units sold per SKU is decreasing. There are very few exceptions to this. I remember looking at the Diamond chart from a month or two ago and the bestselling trade paperback that month was 7,000 units. It might even have been a Walking Dead trade paperback, and as much as two years ago the bestselling trade paperback sold 12-15,000 units.” [ICv2]
Free Comic Book Day | In anticipation of Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, the San Francisco Chronicle interviews Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics, who came up with the idea in the first place, inspired by “free scoop” days at ice cream shops. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Free Comic Book Day | John Jackson Miller traces the 10-year history of Free Comic Book Day. [The Comics Chronicles]
Conventions | ReedPop Group Vice President Lance Fensterman takes stock of this year’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo and sees plenty of growth, both in attendees (42,000 this year) and exhibitors. It looks like the show will continue: “We feel like we got the answer we needed. We made maybe a little bit of money, which is fine. Year 3 is when we expect to start to see some positive cash flow, but even more so we felt that the community embraced the event and the turnout and the ticket sales reflect that—and that is just what we needed to see.” [ICv2]
Our friends at Fantagraphics have provided us with another party favor for today, our last before we take a few hours to sleep it off and start again tomorrow morning. We’re pleased to present an exclusive five-page preview of Glitz-2-Go, which collects nearly 40 years of comic stories by underground comix legend and editor of the women comics anthology Twisted Sisters, Diane Noomin.
Noomin’s career in underground comix began in 1972 and included appearances in Wimmen’s Comix, Young Lust, Short Order, Arcade, Real Girl, Lemme Outta Here, El Perfecto, True Glitz, Aftershock, Mind Riot, Titters and Weirdo. The book stars her best-known character, DiDi Glitz, a “frustrated middle-aged glamour-puss and anxiety-ridden suburban Sisyphus.” This is the first time all of her stories are in print in more than 30 years.
Check out the preview after the jump.
Warning: Pretty much every image in the linked article is flagrantly, joyously NSFW. If your eyeballs disintegrate and hair grows on the palms of your hands when you click the link, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Underground comics are by their nature transgressive, so it comes as no surprise that the Comix Classics: Underground Comics app produced by Toura, an app platform often used by museums, and Comic Art Productions and Exhibits, ran afoul of Apple’s content guidelines. As Kim Munson, who designed the app, explained to Michael Dooley of Imprint Magazine, the app is not a digital comic but “more of an interactive art exhibit.” It’s based on James Danky and Denis Kitchen’s book Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, and it contains all the comics from the book and the exhibit plus some new graphics.
Oddly, when the app was submitted to Apple, the iPad version was accepted as is (with a string of warnings to potential consumers about sex, nudity, etc.) but the iPhone version was rejected for “excessively objectionable or crude content.” Munson removed 16 images, which apparently shifted the ratio enough to make the Apple folks happy. (For those who like to skip straight to the good stuff, the deleted images are at the link.) Munson noted that “The deletions were plainly based purely on the visual representation, not the context of the pieces.”
As was revealed during today’s Fantagraphics panel at San Diego, the Seattle-based company plans to publish The Complete Zap Comix. The book, which will collect every issue of the seminal underground comics series to date, is tentatively scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012. It will be a hardbound, two-volume slipcase, similar to their collections of Harvey Kurtzman’s Humbug magazine and Bill Mauldin’s Willie & Joe series.
One of the most influential comics ever published, the first two issues of Zap were created entirely by Robert Crumb, who then invited other artists to contribute, including Spain Rodriguez, the late Rick Griffin, S. Clay Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Gilbert Shelton and Robert Williams. The series quickly not only catapulted Crumb and the other artists to stardom (or a relative stardom at any rate), it quickly became seen as one of the more prominent symbols of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, along with LSD, rock music and head shops (where issues were usually sold). While it was not the first underground comic, it was viewed by many both inside and outside the counterculture movement as the lodestone for the underground comics scene, and its existence and influence directly led to the development of the alternative comics scene in the 1980s and 1990s.
Fantagraphics was kind enough to share today’s revelation with Robot 6 prior to the start of the San Diego con, and we took the opportunity to talk to publisher Gary Groth about the project, its origins and the comic’s significance.
Publishing | In the latest twist in a bitter, and prolonged, family feud, the daughter of Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo is seeking to have her parents declared mentally incapable of running their affairs. Uderzo’s only child, Sylvie, accuses her parents’ advisers of “pillaging” and “destroying an entire family.” Albert Uderzo, 83, fired back by accusing his daughter and her husband of “legal harassment” stemming from his 2007 decision to remove them from senior positions in Editions Albert-Rene, the publishing company he founded in 1979, following the death of Asterix co-creator Rene Goscinny. The family quarrel erupted into the public eye in 2009, when Sylvie Uderzo criticized her father’s decision to sell his stake in the company to Hachette Livre and authorize the publisher to continue Asterix after his death. [The Independent]
Great catch by Jeet Heer of Comics Comics: Underground comics legend Justin Green has launched a blog, with three comics up so far and counting. Green is credited with more or less inventing the autobiographical comic — a staple of alternative comics ever since — with Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, his exceptionally and hilariously frank 1972 comic chronicling his adolescent battles with sexuality, Catholicism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I first saw his work back in the ’90s, when his Justin Green’s Musical Legends strips graced the pages of Tower Records’ late, lamented Pulse! magazine. (You might also know him as cartoonist Carol Tyler’s on-again, off-again husband from her own autobiographical comic series, You’ll Never Know.) Whatever he’s selling on this thing, I’m buying.
(via our own Chris Mautner)
Having looked at what women want in superhero comics, let’s examine their attitudes toward poop jokes.
Sean Michael Wilson, the editor of the alt-manga anthology AX, didn’t do a scientific survey, but he did read the reviews of his book and noticed something interesting:
However, one aspect has surprised both myself and Asakawa, the Japanese editor – quite a few female American reviewers have taken issue with the large amount of scatalogical toilet humour and also the sexual content of the collection. Somehow they seem to find it offensive, or unpleasant, or immature. It was surprising to me to see this kind of reaction, as it never occurred to me at all – as a British person – that these could be seen as negative.
It was surprising to me that Sean would find this surprising, but maybe that’s because I’m a female American comics reviewer, and I have always regarded potty humor as the purview of seven-year-old boys. I haven’t been to Scotland since I was six years old; now I’m beginning to wonder what I’m missing. Do sophisticated people there stand around at gallery openings sipping Cabernet and cracking fart jokes?
Digital | Sean Kleefeld points out the launch of Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels, “the first ever scholarly, primary source database focusing on adult comic books and graphic novels,” the site’s home page says.
The site currently hosts 24,000 pages of comics and a small number of The Comics Journal issues — all with the permission of the copyright holders — with plans to eventually expand to 100,000 pages of materials. The site’s advisers and partners include Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth and Kitchen Sink Press’ Denis Kitchen. Access to the site is available for one-time purchase of perpetual access or as an annual subscription. [Underground and Independent Comics]