A sneak preview of Drew Friedman's book of portraits of underground comix icons

The fantastic Drew Friedman says: "My latest book project will be one hundred black and white portraits of underground comix icons presented as they were during that most fertile era of underground comix, 1967-1977, from Z to A, ZAP to ARCADE (with some stops before and after). Short biographies and samples of their work will also be included."

To me, this is a natural followup to my two Heroes of the Comics books that both focused on the great creators of mainstream comics, from the mid- thirties to the mid-fifties, now jumping a decade to the dawn of the undergrounds.

Underground comix was a counterculture movement that produced iconoclastic and wonderfully forbidden, no-holds-barred comic books and other small press publications focusing mainly on sex, violence and drugs, and featured comix and graphix produced by some of the greatest artistic talents and satiric minds of the day, most prominently the "father of underground comix," R. Crumb.

All of the essential players from that ten year era of undergrounds will be included: Frank Stack, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, Diane Noomin, Denis Kitchen, Justin Green, Kim Deitch, Jay Lynch, Jim Osborne, Trina Robbins, Vaughn Bode, Howard Cruise, all the ZAP artists, the Bijou Funnies artists, the Air Pirates, etc, as well as several obscure, forgotten and black creators. This project should be completed by early to mid 2021 and published either later that year, or in 2022, depending on unforseen circumstances in the publishing world.

I love everything Drew does, and I'm really looking forward to this one. Read the rest

Rare new video interview with R. Crumb

Legendary underground cartoonist R. Crumb in a rare video interview recorded a few months back during the Louisiana Literature festival at Humlebæk, Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. From a summary of Crumb's comments:

“I was so alienated when I was young, that drawing was like my only connection to society. That was the only thing that I could see was going to save me from a really dismal fate of God knows what.” Crumb describes his social skills as a young man as being “completely nil.” At the same time, he was driven by his “fucked-up ego,” and he had to balance those two sides. Drawing became a way for him to deal with reality, and in the 1950s, where “being a comic-book artist was the lowest level of commercial art,” he pushed toward a more personal use of the medium: “At a certain point I decided I don’t want to be America’s best-loved hippie cartoonist. I don’t want that role. So I’ll just be honest about who I am, and the weirdness, and take my chances.” Consequently, Crumb alienated a lot of people with his often provocative content: “It was just too disturbing for most people, too weird.”

Crumb has an urge to question things and is acutely aware that he’s going to get hell for what he’s doing – even lose friends – but he is willing to take the heat for it. He feels that he plays with images, emphasixing the word “play.” Nowadays, he argues, there’s a tendency to take everything at face value – including his artwork: “The artwork I did that used those images and expressed those kinds of feelings, I stand by it… I still think that that’s something that needed to be said and needed to be done… It probably hurts some people’s feelings to see those images, but still, I had to put it out there.”

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The Best of Wonder Wart-Hog

That Gilbert Shelton’s name isn’t immediately recognized by everyone who reads these words is a shame, one Knockabout Comics has spent the past half-dozen years working hard to correct. In 2008, the UK-based publisher issued The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus, followed a year later by a collection of the delightful spinoff series, Fat Freddy’s Cat. The company took a couple of years off from the Shelton racket, issuing books by, among others, the cartoonist’s better known peer and fellow French transplant, Robert Crumb.

Late last year, however, the company returned with the final piece in Shelton’s puzzle: Wonder Wart-Hog. Like Shelton himself, the bestial hero is mostly forgotten outside of sequential art faithfuls and those who followed his skewed super heroics in sporadically issued comics collections throughout the 60s. Read the rest