Issue #299 of The Comics Journal (in-stores August 2009, premiering at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con) unearths a long-lost treasure: Way back in 1970, satirist/editor Michel Choquette conceived a mammoth anthology of new comics from all over the world by just about every cartoonist imaginable circa 1970 (as well as such unimaginable cultural icons as Federico Fellini and Frank Zappa). All of the contributors were to riff on the 1960s, creating a comics snapshot of that decade, but the project kept growing in ambition until it reached a scale that scared off its publishers. Today, bookstore shelves are filled with comics collections and graphic novels, but in 1970, there was no Watchmen or Persepolis. Even Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-winning Maus had yet to be published. To publishers of the time, Choquette’s dream book was an enormous folly and one by one they backed out of negotiations, leaving Choquette, who had spent all his book advances traveling the globe enlisting contributors, to disappear into relative obscurity.The Comics Journal #299 [Pre-Order]
But by the time publishers had gotten cold feet, Choquette had already assembled an astounding array of comics contributions from 190 of the most influential comics creators and cultural figures of the 1960s and ’70s, including: Jack Kirby, William Burroughs, Harvey Kurtzman, Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, Arnold Roth, Don Martin, Michael O’Donoghue, Ralph Steadman, Tom Wolfe, Wally Wood, Bill Griffith, Barry Windsor-Smith, Gahan Wilson, Moebius, C.C. Beck, Vaughn Bodé, Harlan Ellison, Shary Flenniken, Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny, Russ Heath, Doug Kenney, Patrice Leconte, Chris Miller, Denny O’Neil, Roy Thomas, as well as the aforementioned Fellini and Zappa. It was a legendary compilation of the comic art form that would give heart palpitations to anyone who ever loved comics or was alive in 1970, but no one has seen it all except for Choquette.
Comics Journal writer Bob Levin tracked Choquette down and discovered that this long-lost El Dorado of comics still exists in storage. In an epic article, Levin follows Choquette’s path across continents and countries as the would-be anthologizer encounters a cultural Who’s Who of the ’60s and ’70s (Salvador Dali! Gloria Steinem! Jann Wenner! Jorge Luis Borges! Bianca Jagger!), collecting art that will, in part, see print FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER in the pages of this issue.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.