Stan Lee saw “Heavy Metal Magazine” eating into his profits, Stan Lee couldn’t have that, so Stan Lee decided to start his own rip off of “Heavy Metal Magazine” known by “Epic Illustrated” by first having Rick Marschall as editor under the title “Odyssey” in 1979, it was originally gonna appear in “The Marvel Super Special” magazine Marschall found out that there was other magazines with that same names so he changed the name to “Epic Illustrated”, he was soon replaced by Archie Goodwin who took over the editorial reins. “Epic Illustrated” started in 1980 as a quarterly with a “Roman Soldier” style Frank Frazetta cover, in my opinion not the best representation of the stories contained within the magazine.
Stan Lee, in the editorial to the first issue, says “Forgive us if we sound presumptive but ‘Epic Illustrated’ is more, far more than merely another new magazine. ‘Epic’ heralds the dramatic start of a new era in publishing, an era which proudly presents long awaited marriage of superb illustration and the best in imaginative fiction.” Thus Marvel’s competition to “Heavy Metal” begins and since this isn’t a comic book and is a magazine, more taboo territory can be covered without running afoul of the “Comics Code Authority”, in other words tits, peoples eyes and brains can pop out, really if you put an issue of “Epic Illustrated” side by side with an issue of “Heavy Metal” you’ll see very little difference even in the print type used in the editorials, letters and reviews section, Archie will be editor until the last issue. “Epic Illustrated” begins as a quarterly until issue five (April 1981) then it goes bi monthly. “Epic” will also use alot of the same artists “Heavy Metal” does, but whereas “Heavy Metal” is more “Eurocentric” in its artist choices, Marvel goes more for American artists, not that they don’t use European artists, there is a smattering of them but this is more of a stateside thing some of the same artists that appear in the pages of both magazines are Ray Rue, Arthur Suydam, Barry Windsor Smith, Howard Chaykin, Richard Corben, Terry Lindell, Jeffery Catherine Jones among others. In the last issue Archie writes “This will be our final ‘Epic Illustrated’. We regret that very much, but with the success of other projects here at Marvel such as our ‘Epic Comics’ line and the ‘Marvel Graphic Novels’ with which we’re involved and with wide reader interest in an anthology style magazine (particularly one as expensive to produce as ‘Epic’) increasingly harder to sustain, this seems the best course. The alternatives, decreasing frequency of publication, cutting the page count or paper quality, raising the price etc. would only lessen a product of which we’re quite proud. We prefer to bring ‘Epic’ to a close while its still the same magazine that we know and love.” I don’t know, “Heavy Metal” survived and is still going today though I’d hesitate to say “strong” but even in its weaker periods it kept the quality up and page count the same, we’re talking about “Marvel” here that was a multi million dollar comic book company that had its fingers in various pies, this seems to me a “Stan Lee cutting costs” type thing to focus on cheaper “Epic” related comics and graphic novels, as opposed to a talent laden, slick, and well produced magazine. Not only that, it seems “Epic Illustrated” leaned more heavily on the fantasy side of things and “Heavy Metal” leaned” more on the science fiction/space opera side of things, especially back in those days. And like “Heavy Metal, “Epic Illustrated” had continuing stories, short pieces, and articles on things pertaining to the whole sci fi/fantasy thing, and like “Heavy Metal” with various artists come different art styles that keep the magazine interesting. The continuing pieces in “Epic Illustrated” are Jim Starlin’s sci fi epic “Metamorphosis Odyssey” with his character Dreadstar seeking to destroy a race of aliens that annihilate whole galaxies published from issue one to issue nine (Spring 1980 to December 1981), Arthur Suydam’s ode to 1950’s sci fi and classic slapstick cartoons “Cholly and Flytrap” appearing in issues eight, ten, thirteen, fourteen, and thirty four (October 1981, February 1982, August 1982, October 1982, February 1986),
Roy Thomas adapts a story from Micheal Moorcock and P. Craig Russel illustrates “A Tale of Elric of Melnibone: The Dreaming City” in issues three (fall 1980), four (winter 1980) and fourteen (October 1982), Roy Thomas adapts yet another pulp sword and sorcery hero from Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, in “Almuric” where a lantern jawed, big muscled hero from earth travels to a brutal, barbaric world running away from the cops in issues two to five (summer 1980 to April 1981), Rick Veitch with his “Moby Dick in Space” tale “Abraxas and the Earthman” issues ten to seventeen (February 1982 to April 1983), Chris Claremont and John Bolton with their silver haired, barbarian woman warrior in “Marada” in issues ten to twelve (February to June 1982) and (twenty two to twenty three February to April 1984), Carl Potts with Dennis O’ Neil, Terry Austin and Marie Severin’s Japanese samurai warrior in the Pacific Northwest of the US battling dragons and evil samurai in “Last of the Dragons” in issues fifteen to twenty (December 1982 to October 1983), Pepe Moreno of “Heavy Metal” fame illustrates and editor Archie Goodwin writes a post apocalyptic tale of a world trying to heal in “Generation Zero” issues seventeen to twenty four (April 1983 to June 1984), Dean Motter continues what he started in the black and white sci fi comic “Star Ride” this time colorized with “The Sacred and Profane” where the Papacy sends the church into outer space to convert alien races with disastrous consequences in issues twenty to twenty six (October 1983 to October 1984), Doug Moench and Mike Ploog’s “Elf Quest” rip off (a good rip off by the way) “Weirdworld: Dragonmaster of Klarn” a tale of elves, evil wizards, comedic dwarfs and dragons mixed up in a battle that could destroy the world in issue nine, issues eleven to thirteen (December 1981, February 1982 to August 1982,
Tim Conrad spins a medieval tale of sorcery, and golems in realistic black and white with “Toadswart d’Amplestone” in issues twenty five to twenty eight and thirty to thirty three (August 1984 to October 1985), what is a continuing story and I don’t think belongs in “Epic Illustrated” is the Silver Surfer story in issue one, that needs to be in some other compilation, not a sci fi and fantasy compilation magazine, Silver Surfer, while having sci fi elements is more in the super hero genre and that goes for “The Last Galactus” continuing story in issues twenty six to thirty four (October 1984 to February 1986) by John Byrne, while the art is top notch, “The Last Galactus” is part of the Marvel Super Hero Universe and shouldn’t have been in “Epic Illustrated”. That aside it is a pretty solid series and good competition to “Heavy Metal”, just like with “Heavy Metal” I enjoyed the short pieces more than the longer and continuing stories because I have ADD, HA! HA! The review sections started in issue five (April 1981) Jo Duffy who worked for Marvel and was editor and story writer on the original old school “Star Wars” comics comes aboard as associate editor on “Epic Illustrated” and starts the review section that was prominent in their rival “Heavy Metal” at the time, in the issue she becomes associate editor she starts the “Bookview” column where she reviews fantasy and sci fi books and comics, Dennis O’Neil does “Mediaview” where he does tongue in cheek movie reviews and reminiscences about his childhood movie experiences in Indiana, issue seven (August 1981) will add Steven Grant’s “Gameview” where Steven reviews different role playing game modules and computer games and then husband and wife team John Robert Tebbel and Martha Thomases do “Futureview” a column that talks about technology and future possibilities for tech, this column was “better late than never” since it was introduced near the end run of “Epic Illustrated”, the columns ended in issue thirty one (August 1985) near the end of the magazines run. Also included in later issues were artist interviews, profiles and portfolios. Countless imitators came out of the wood work, some awful and some awesome (I’ll get around to reviewing those some day), however, I kind of wish that Stan Lee and company would’ve bit the bullet and continued this magazine, I don’t think its full potential was reached. In fact, I truly believe that if they would’ve continued the magazine they would’ve bested “Heavy Metal”, out of all the fantasy “underground” compilation magazines, “Heavy Metal” is the major one that rode out all the trends, all the economic downturns and bull shit and survives (some like me would argue it barely survives, its a shell of its former self). “Heavy Metal’s” continuing stories and short pieces still bested “Epic Illustrated” and I am not saying by a long shot that “Epic Illustrated” sucks, I just don’t think it was given enough time to grow but what we have is “Epic”.
My first encounter with “Blab!” was issue eleven. I was in some independent bookstore in So Cal looking for weird art shit as usual, this was in 2003 I’d heard of “Blab!” Before and had seen the covers but none of them snagged me until I saw the weird Mark Ryden illustrated cover. It was my first introduction to Ryden, I picked up the large book and thumbed through it, the book reached up and bitch slapped my retinas. After being beaten black and blue, my eyes sore, I bought the thing and later bought volumes sporadically as the years went by. I’ve gone through two house fires, numerous psycho ex girlfriends stealing and/or destroying my stuff and moves and I lost my original “Blabs” and forgot about them. Eventually I started trying to find artwork by Al Columbia, I’d found out he’d done a rendition of “The Book of Revelations”, nightmare Fleischertoon style, for “Blab!” Volume ten. Trying to find volume ten was like trying to find a needle in a haystack because of the Al Columbia strip but trying to find this one book rekindled the flame of my interest in “Blab!” And if I was gonna start collecting all of the “Blabs” I had to find ten so I had a complete collection. I searched high and low, almost in despair, nobody had it, that is until I saw there was a copy on Amazon Japan, so I had to contact a Japanese shipping export company to buy it for me and ship it for me. Once I got it I went about collecting all the “Blabs”.
Issues one to seven are a smaller size, A5 format, and edited by the great Monte Beauchamp, the first issue features more text and less art and comics, it mainly focuses on the 1950’s EC horror comics that were banned and how they influenced various underground artists like Kim Deitch, Bill Griffith, Rick Griffin etc. Some of the same artists do some artwork for the issue. Issue two features still more text than art and comics, now there is a feature “Blab Dating” with artists doing different grotesque renditions of “Blab!” Dating prospects, the Mars Attacks! Card creator, Len Brown, is interviewed, Daniel Clowes does a strip on EC Censor Wertham’s first book “The Show of Violence”, Gary Arlington and his love of EC comics is shown in a an interview and parodied by Kim Deitch in a strip, EC and early Will Elder “Mad’s” influence is explored by various underground artists. Both issues were put out by Beauchamps own imprint, Monte Comics from 1986-1987, when Kitchen Sink Press took over the title they printed new editions of “Blab!” Volume one and two.
Issue three sees Daniel Clowes doing a strip on another of the censorious Wertham’s books that led to the crack down on comics in the 1950’s, “Seduction of the Innocent”. Spain joins in with his reminisces of 1950’s Buffalo, New York in “Tex’s Bad Dream”. Richard Sala follows the life of a censor in “What the Censor Saw,” Bhob Stewart investigates Bazooka Joe and his origins in “Bubbling Over”, Joe Coleman does a piece on the infamous “Casanova Killer” in “The Final Days of Paul John Knowles”, Kim Deitch features an excerpt from a story that would be completed in “Zero Zero” (I review the whole “Zero Zero” series here http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/09/30/five-four-three-two-one-zero-zero-comix/ get zeroed out, babe) in the strip “Wagan Island”, Richard Sala spears televangelist hypocrisy in “A Date with the Devil,” Blab’s Date Department piece continues and various underground artists talk about Robert Crumb’s influence on them, the content is starting to become more art and less text. This is when Kitchen Sink Press takes over publishing “Blab!” in 1988 from issues three to eight.
Issue four has more comics than text, Daniel Clowes dives head first in the apocalypse in “666”, Spain dishes on his old friend in the 1950’s in “Fred Toote Rides”, Richard Sala talks subliminal advertising in “Hypnorama”, Jaxon talks underground comix in “Comics or Comix”, “Blab!” Does the “Dating Depot” thing with ugly dates, Doug Allen brings his cowboy hat wearing character Steven in “Steven Flips Out”, Skip Williamson has his recurring character Snappy Sammy Smoot go to work in the corporate world in “Death Merchant”, Monte interviews Daniel Clowes into “Behind the Eightball”, Jay Lynch and Gary Whitney brings the “Bix” in “The Best of Bix”, “The Wages of Sin” brings Joe Coleman’s criticism of religion to the pages and Mark Newgarden talks “Garbage Pail Kids” in “Garbage, Gum and Lawsuits”.
Issue five is when “Blab!” Goes majority comics and art with some text, in this one Richard Sala does triple cross in the art world in “Big Dark Zero”, Lloyd Dangle does a strip on Deborah Harry (yes that one) and other victims escaping the clutches of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy in “Lucky to Be Alive”, Joe Coleman tells the tale of serial killer Carl Panzram in “Carl Panzram #32614”, Ray Tone talks crime comics of the 1940’s and 1950’s in “The Rise and Fall of the Crime Comic Book”, Doug Allen has his cowboy hat wearing Steven in the air in “Steven in Thin Air”, Spain tells about his youth in the 1950’s and the neighborhood bank robber “Wilcoxson Naussbaum”, Skip Williamson lands Snappy Sammy Smoot in the middle of adopting his thug nephews in “Self Titled”, Daniel Clowes draws a tale of a life owed for death in “One for the Father”, Joe Coleman is interviewed by Monte, and Dan’s brother James Russel Clowes spins a murderous yarn with illustrations by Richard Sala.
Issue six is an “Alcoholic” issue. To start in the inside cover Mary Feelner discusses her parents, alcoholism and herself in the strip “As American as Mom, Apple Pie and Martinis”, Joe Coleman does a write up of old west career criminal and hobo, Jack Black in “You Can’t Win”, Richard Sala does a whodunnit murder story with a bizarre twist in “Where is Christine Brooder?”, Lloyd Dangle does a strip on a real life alcohol fueled murder committed by a couple in “Mixture for Murder”, Doug Allen brings cowboy hat Steven back in a strip with a drinking competition with a talking cactus in “Steven in the Show Down”, Skip Williamson has a lush, vomiting, pink elephant watcher going down for the count in “Necropolis Keester”, Monte Beauchamp and John Pertrie do a write up on alcoholic cartoonists and its illustrated by Daniel Clowes titled “Alcoholic Cartoonists”, “The Lying Ear” has Frank Stack doing a strip about the alcohol fueled and contentious friendship between Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, the “Blab Dating Depot” goes digital with Mark Landman and Monte Beauchamp, Spain talks alcohol in his 1950’s youth in a black r and b/rock n’ roll dive called “Down at the Kitty Kat”, Skip Williamson has Snappy Sammy Smoot being targeted by the IRS in “Travail, Misery, Disillusionment and Pending Oblivion with Snappy Sammy Smoot”, pets get sloppy drunk in Gary Leib’s “Pets That Drink”, Josh Alan Friedman writes a tale of prostitutes and booze and Richard Sala illustrates in “Babes on Broadway”, and Justin Green does a one pager “Great Moments in Alcoholism, Las Vegas 1967”, on the story of his father drinking numerous shots of straight Jim Beam and telling Frank Sinatra and his crew to shut up when they were loud while his friend Clancey Hayes played on stage.
Issue seven is the last of the A5 size format with a Daniel Clowes’ covers and Chris Ware does the inside covers and back covers with “Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth” strip with a mix of fantasy and brutal, creepy reality where each bleeds in Jimmy’s memories and then Jimmy can’t tell what is fantasy or reality, Joe Coleman does “Boxcar Bertha, an Autobiography” his way on the trials and tribulations of a woman hobo, Mary Fleener does a strip on how her husband and herself deal with a dysfunctional couple that are their friends (one who is into pyromania) in “Ashes of Passion”, Doug Allen’s cowboy hat wearing Steven does noir in “Bang”, Gary Leib talks about mental health in an abstract way in “My Mental Health??? Fine”, Spain digs again back into his 1950’s youth in “The Shadow of Fred Toote”, Terry Laban talks about how porn ruined a man’s life and family in “Porn”, Frank Stack goes back into the past and talks assassination of William Shakespeare in “The Bad Must Die”, the drunkard Necropolis Keester drunk stumbles his way into being a corporate spokesman for a sham product in “Necropolis Keester Careens Off the Road to Recovery up the 12 Steps to Psychobabylon”, a man experiences the emptiness of living an urban life in “Tales from the Land of Plenty” by Marc Trujillo”, and Josh Alan Friedman writes up a tale of youth in a old folks retirement home illustrated by Richard Sala in “Come to Pa Pa.” This time the comics outnumber the text with Josh Alan’s story being the only text based thing in the whole issue.
Issue eight goes into a bigger 10×10 format to better feature the art, to get this format kick started Walter Minus and Charles Berberian do their strip retro with a tale of jealous love, voodoo picture stabbing and a sci fi ending with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, Terry LaBan shows what happens when the sun comes out and the pants drop in “Mating Season”, Richard Sala does a strip on a man going to retrieve his father’s brain in “My Father’s Brain”, Doug Allen brings cowboy hat wearing Steven into redneckville in “Steven and the Morons”, Spain goes back in time again to his 1950’s youth and his favorite radio DJ in “Cruisin’ with the Hound”, Jeffery Steele does a text piece on haunted bars across America with illustrations by Johnathan Rosen “A Case of the Shakes”, Archie Prewitt brings on Sof Boy who gets roughed up by a metal head and his Rottweiler in “Sof’ Boy”, Gary Leib celebrates Halloween, old school, with “Halloween”, Chris Ware has Jimmy Corrigan on a island stranded in another installment of “Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth”, a robot goes through abstract adventures in Peter Hoey’s “Angry Gray Robot”, Peter Kuper talks danger on the high bridge in New York City in “The Beaten Path”, David Golden combines drawings with physical objects like matchbooks and beer bottle caps in a story of fiery lust in “Burning Love”, Monte Beauchamp explores the colorful art of the Valmor company in “Art of the Valmor Label”, Frank Stack talks Michelangelo, the painter’s sordid and criminal past in “No Hope No Fear”, Jeff Johnson illustrates a song by Jadydee Short in “Snake Doctor Blues”, Denis Kitchen, publisher of Kitchen Press does a comic on how he is more of a businessman and less of an artist, Marc Trujillo further explores the alienation of urban life with “Tales from the Land of Plenty”, and Drew Friedman talks his career with illustrations from himself and his brother Josh Alan Friedman does a prose piece about an elevator man who loses his cool with an insulting kid in “Elevator Ride”.
Issue nine Richard Sala has a man chasing a bird through a phantasmagorical crowd to get his invite to his own “Prestigious Banquet to Be Held in my Honor”, Walter Minus does obsession, retro style with “Priscilla”, Doug Allen has his cowboy hat wearing “Steven in Double for Danger” doing an amnesia noir thing, Charles Paul Freund writes and Peter Hoey illustrates a sad tale of the last days of a robot swing big band in “Valse Mechanique, The Mechanical Waltz”, Tony Fitzpatrick explores “Dirty Boulevard” with a series of dirty denizens on single page notebook paper, Baseman does philosophy his style in “Enjoy or Suffer”, Christian North East does a collage/drawing with retro ads and pictures in “Goodnight Irene”, Jeffery Steele tells the tale of a loner in the late 1940’s who shoots up his hometown with drawings by Teresa Mucha and Steve Campbell in “The Quiet Man”, Spain explores his late 1950’s youth and fights in diners in “The Fighting Poets”, Banquet has a transgender son taking revenge on his parents with a doll in “A New Version of Love”, Terry Laban does a strip on the extraterrestrial thinning of the human herd in “Park”, Marc Trujillo shows that no good deeds are left unpunished, especially in the city in another installment of “In the Land of Plenty”, “Sweet Grolo” and his invisible donkey wants to cook a dove he kills but can’t find anybody to do it by J. Bradley Johnsons, Peter Kuper talks about how watching the movie “Exorcist” as a young man has effected him into adulthood in “Exorcise”, “Sof’ Boy” by Archer Prewitt has Sof’ Boy homeless and being puked on by an alcoholic bum and being chewed on by rats, Monte Beauchamp does a piece on the cover art of the old Dell mystery books in “The Art of the Dell Mystery”, Nidlog has “Little Baby Gumba” going on a “Late Night Walk” that goes to drunken hell, Chris Ware explores a strange future in “Tales of Tomorrow”, Josh Alan Friedman spins a tale of a sad husband of a former 1960’s girl group singer trying to chase down the fame she lost via the nostalgia circuit with illustrations by Randee Ladden in “The Nostalgia Rapist”, and Boris Artzybaket’s factory based on his animal/human/mechanical hybrid art work is featured by Beauchamp in “Visual Thunder”. Starting in 1997 with this issue Fantagraphics took over publishing and kept the large format, they stopped publishing “Blab!” in 2007 with issue eighteen.
Issue ten is the volume that brought my interest of “Blab!” Back into my consciousness because I wanted to see Al Columbia’s whacky interpretation of the Book of Revelations. While the stand out is Al Columbia’s piece, the rest of the book is no slouch by a long stretch. Walter Minus brings back the retro with Agnes Muckensturm writing a day by day take down of men a woman ate in “Sunday is Not Necessarily the Best Day of the Week”, Banquet spins a tale of a twisted game show host in “The Bitter Happiness”, Greg Cwiklik brings the text and Randee Ladden the art in a story of pioneering black boxer Jack Johnson in “Black Jack, The Legend of Jack Johnson”, Peter Kuper does a strip on how porn corrupted him through the years in “Porn”, Al Columbia brings the high light of the volume, one collectors look for in “The Trumpets They Play” with his cartoonish take on the Book of Revelations with his recurring characters Seymour Sunshine and Knishkebibble the Monkey Boy, the combination of drawings and photo realistic background is eye popping, Peter Hoey does collage and retro artwork in “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden”, Spain does his 1950’s youth thing, this time him and his friends hop the fence to a carnival in “Carney”, Jeffrey Steele writes up on Jackie Wilson and Drew Friedman illustrates in “Mr. Excitement”, Doug Allen does a strip on the everyday existence of a junkyard owner in “Dumpy by Pant”, Pamela Butler drives Little Red Riding Hood hard into adult territory in “Little Red Riding Hood and Me”, Richard Sala does the weird crowd thing with a super sleuth tracking down a psycho in “Stranger Street”, urban every man wants to be a victim to get attention in another installment of “Tales from the Land of Plenty”, by Marc Trujillo, Mark Landman has Elvis as a fetus rockin’ n’ rollin’ and downing copious amounts of drugs in “Fetal Elvis”, Chris Ware spins a yarn about a man alone and his robot in “Rocket Sam”, Charise Mericle does a collage/drawing piece on how her parents immigrated to Canada in “Immigration”, Christian Northeast brings his retro style in “Convention”, Gary Panter paints grass in “Brooklyn”, David Goldin has Little Baby Gumba descending into hell by chasing a rat in “Wonderland”, Sof’ Boy mocks a rottweiler who wants to tear his head off without knowing it in “Sof’ Boy”, Hagelberg brings on the Four Repairman of the Apocalypse in “Baby Universes of the Apocalypse”, J. Bradley Johnson has Dr. Stefanopoulos giving out obvious and “rewarding” medical advice in “Severe Stomach Pains”, David Goldin opens up his sketchbook of drawings and collage, and Josh Alan Friedman writes an essay on working at “Regent Sound Studios”.
Issue eleven is really the first “Blab!” that caught my attention before I didn’t really get roped in until Mark Ryden’s bizarre cover. Blanquet starts his shadow puppet art style in “The Oak Sorrow” in a dark fantasy tale of the oaks who get revenge on the doll makers that use the wood of the oak trees to make their dolls, Matti Hagelberg has Walt Disney, Albert Speer and Practical Pig searching for happiness in “Alvar Aalto the Furious”, Drew Friedman does a one pager with “Come Fly with Me”, Greg Clarke has an anamorphic dog snob snobbing it up in “The Peculiar Milieu of Precival C. Wolcott”, Baseman shits on philosophy in “Enjoy or Suffer”, a twisted turn of events between a dame and a gentleman by Walter Minus in “Virginia Blondes Can Be Harmful to Your Health”, Lou Brooks illustrated and writes a story of killer mutant buttocks in “Attack of the Giant Buttocks People!”, Christian Northeast does a page by page retro art style story in “Easy’s Getting Harder Everyday”, Peter Kuper does a strip on living in Israel as a young kid, faking sick and getting a spinal tap in “Spine”, Stonehouse collages retro ads and pictures with retro drawings in “Can You Live in Happiness on Earth”, David Goldin introduces the sketchbooks of Waterman Moses that look suspiciously like Goldin’s own artwork in “Waterman Moses”, Peter and Maria Hoey do a piece on a truck driver who ascends a strange ladder to his destiny in “50 Times Brighter than the Brightest Star”, in “Good Boy!” Rob and Christian Clayton spin the tale of a boy who wants to borrow God’s dog, Beauchamp shows the postcard art of Krampus in “Gruss Vom Krampus!” Jethro Kamberoes painting pastiche is on display in “I Don’t Live Today”, Steven Guarraceia does shifting paintings in an art gallery in “In the Picture Gallery”, Laura Levine does paintings of UFO sightings throughout the years in “The Flying Saucer Review”, Baseman does abstract insanity in “Lucky Charms” and “More Lucky Charms”, Jeffery Steele does the words on the Salem Witch Trials and Teresa Mucha does the art in “The Old Haunts”, David Goldin has Little Baby Gumba drunkenly chasing a rat onto a ship and becoming a part of the ship’s crew as rat boy in “The Seven Seas”, Richard Sala has the story of a man who goes to claim an inheritance that isn’t his and all hell breaks loose in “The Story of the Inventor of the Paroximus Elixir”, Lloyd Dangle emails a manifesto that might change the world in “email@example.com”, Spain does the 1950’s thing in regards to his Catholic upbringing and questioning it in “Confessions”, Johnathan Rosen opens up his sketchbooks in “Obsessive Compulsive”, Dumpy fights dog punk drug addicts squatting in his junkyard in “Dumpy and the Punk Animals” by Doug Allen, and Pamela Butler turns the tale of three little pigs on its head on “The Three Little Pigs”.
In issue twelve Blanquet lets fly the “Curse of the Fortune Cookie” where a couple walks out of a Chinese restaurant with more than they bargained for, Charles Paul Freund writes and Peter Hoey draws a missing “Arabian Nights Tale” called “The Binary Dreams of Wahid Al-Sifr”, Walter Minus spins another tale of wicked women in his retro style in “Serial Lover (Seven Lives in Paradise)”, Friedman does another one of his caricatures in simply “One”, Douglas Fresser tells the tale of a car in pieces in “Jesus and Poote”, Greg Clarke captures the musings of various people, various professions and different walks of life in “Private Musings”, Peter Kuper does his own play on Winsor McKay’s “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend”, Monte Beauchamp has more postcard art of everybody’s favorite evil Santa, Krampus in “Return of Krampus!” Julian Mandel mixes 1920’s nude photography with drawn backgrounds to illustrate a fantastical story in “Nus Fantastiques” translated by Kim Thompson, the Clayton Brothers literally paint a house full of insanity page by beautiful page in “Ding Don! Welcome to Tim’s House”, Christian Northeast does face portraits of a fictional 1970’s rock band, more adventures of “Fetal Elvis” this time he meets Nixon by Mark Landman, Baseman explores his weird and abstract world in “Suffer” and “Enjoy”, Johnathan Rosen makes a “New Zodiac for Sentient Machines”, Tim Biskup spins a story of a coin operated robot that goes awry in “Freddy Seymour”, Greg Clarke does a portrait of “Profligate Pork”, Mark Mothersbaugh, member of an awesome band, Devo, integrates strange photos and weird drawings in “Toilet Train”, a robot waxes poetic in “Theres Just One Thought I Get” by Hoey and Freund, wooden idols duke it out for the chance to be number one in “18 Wooden Statuettes” by Michael Barelos, Laura Levine tells the tale of two shut in hoarder brothers in “The Collyer Brothers”, David Goldin combines fire cracker labels with drawn limbs and heads to spin a fiery tale of how fire works started, strange items sold retro art style in “One Day Only Year Long Sale” by Lou Brooks, Death takes a man in a black humor poem illustrated in “Obituary” by Max Adeler, “The Great I Am” discusses the weird esoteric religious cult that was started in my hometown of Mt.Shasta, the “I Am’ers” I went to school with were regular kids, didn’t even seem to be cult like, article by Jim Heimann, Spain and his crew get into a mock battle on the streets of 1950’s Buffalo, New York that gets out of control in “Sons of Hercules”, Johnathan Rosen opens up his sketch books in “Son of Obsessive Compulsive”, Baseman’s at it again with “Enjoy or Suffer”, Doug Allen does a strip on a 1952 Hudson Hornet and its history of bumps and scraps in “Car Cancer”, Baby Gumba becomes a Bollywood star by killing rats in Calcutta in David Goldin’s “Fistful of Curry”, and Ghost of Finnish president Kekkonen appears to champion skiier Matti Nykaren to encourage him to complete the ski jump in “That Splendid Matti Nykanen”.
In issue thirteen Matti Hagelberg has Finnish president Kekkonen getting swallowed by a whale in “Kekkonen in the Belly of the Whale”, Walter Minus does the bad girl retro thing in “My Sweetheart”, Doug Fraser lets loose the dogs of war in “Job’s War”, Charles Paul Freund, Peter and Maria Hoey talk prison in “Song of the Panopticon”, Tim Biskup tells a woodland tale in abstract retro style with “The Helper”, Blanquet spins a tale of He’s and She’s in “Rancid Love”, the Clayton Brothers paint a tale of a boy who lied to the tooth fairy and got what he deserved in “Will All My Teeth Fall Out?”, Monte Beauchamp talks about how “Old Man Tooke” made art out of the old novelty “Johnson and Smith” catalogue pages which inspired him to do the same, Sue Cole delves into man’s inhumanity to animals on shipping barges in “Ghost Sheep”, Henrik Drescher mixes ribbon and drawn art in “The Mechanics of Nashville”, Johnathan Rosen further explores his world of weird mechanics in “The Seamy River”, Christian Northeast makes his strange retro portraits in “Beans and Bacon”, while Haley Johnson goes the same route in pink on “Dirty Girl”, Michael Bartalos tells the story of a brain swapped for the brain of a genius with disastrous results in “8-2-4”, “3 Number 1 and 2” Baseman takes you into his strange, abstract world of skeletons, devil balloon heads and nude women, Drew Friedman does a barbecue party with Robin Williams, Sammy Davis Jr. and Sigmund Freud, Peter Kuper tells the story of how him and his friends almost drowned in a ocean undertow in “Deep Blue”, Camille Rose Garcia has a bedtime story for grown up children with “A Spy in the House of Madness”, Daniel Goldin does his mix of real paraphernalia and drawing, this time with joker cards and the history of the joker card in “The Joker”, Marc Rosenthal goes 1920’s cartooning style in “Une Crise De Style”, Fred Stonehouse mixes his drawings, retro comic strips and bits of found notebook in “Ten Commandments”, Greg Clarke tells the tale of Pierre Chevalier an anamorphic cat and his weird life in Paris in “An Elegy on the Death of a Hirsute Poet”, Spain talks his 1950’s youth and the strange old man in the house full of newspapers in “The House on Wakefield Street”, Johnathan Rosen does more abstract, mechanical art in “Parasitic and Polymorphous Perversity”, a hippie buys a bass in 1968 to play in a band, gets rid of it and maps the road of the bass back to himself in “First Bass”, Juan Soto tells the twisted tale of Mrs. Payne who beat her husband to death at the behest of her “talking” dog and declared insane in “The Pacemaker”, and Blanquet goes deep into dark territory in “Obsessional Hints”.
In issue fourteen Tom Huck does “Vintage Junk ’04: Fair-y Tales from the Mississippi Expo” complete with dominatrices, boxers and native Americans in smiling, wide eyed insanity, “Meinhut” by Bob Starke shows through minimal, abstract art how artists are stiffed by businessmen, Greg Clarke documents the adventures of a white truffle named Herve in “The Forlorn Fungus”, Spain documents his 1950’s youth experience with porn in “The Birth of Porn”, in the “Second Slap”by Juan Soto and Marcelo Rodriguez they tell the tale of a woman whose abusive husband is scared straight by her psycho police captain father, Willem Rosenthal dives fish first into “Saltines”, Reumann and Robel draw the rabble (like myself) who reads “Blab World”, Camille Rose Garcia tells you to drown your troubles in “Pharmaceuticools”, David Sandlin spears suburbia in “Slumburbia”, the Clayton Brothers fuck with your motor skills in “Coping with my Motor Skills”, a black splotch causes havoc in “What’s Dat?!” By Marc Rosenthal, Monte Beauchamp shares early matchbook cover art in “Striking Images”, robots commit suicide in “I Built You First” by Peter and Maria Hoey, in a series of small fires Doug Allen spins the tale of a lawyer who insures his cigars against fire when he smokes them, he files a claim and wins the money but his plan goes “Up in Smoke”, Blanquet paints another one of his hellish landscapes in “Enfer De”, Baseman paints a watery world in “Wet Dream”, Johnathan Rosen talks and illustrates modern sun worship in “The Solution”, just a day in the life of humanoid birds in “Birdville” by Larry Day, in “Love and Peace”, Noah Woods drawing and collages it, David Goldin mixes found items and drawing in “Thirty Third and Third”, Mark Landman has “Fetal Elvis” come back and get drafted in the war against nasal cells by colonel Placenta, Walter Minus has his retro femme fatales in his noir poetry in “Locker Broadway Stash”, Peter Kuper talks about his time in the cave at the Red Sea where thinks he might’ve found the lost dead sea scrolls in “Dead Sea Stroll”, Sue Coe does her political poetry with illustration in “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, Fred Stonehouse has weepy figures on retro sign backgrounds in “Will He Can’t”, Laura Levine tells the story of the vaudeville “Piccolo Midgets”, and Matti Helberg documents the further exploits of former Iceland president Tamminiemi Kekkonen in “Hard Boiled Kekkonen”.
In issue fifteen Camille Rose Garcia illustrates her poem “Subterranean Creatures”, Matti Helberg brings back president Kekkonen from the dead, literally, in “The Shoes Say “Ukk”, Bob Staake illustrates various ridiculous lyrics from various songs in “They Got the Shapely Bodies. They Got the Steely Dan T shirts”, Nicolas Debon documents various fanatical sects of the desert in “The Holy Saints of the Desert”, Peter Kuper talks the American Dream in “Dream Machine”, Marc Rosenthal has two undercover cops in the city in “Convergence”, Monte Beauchamp documents the “Kilroy Was Here” art from back in the day during World War Two, Christian Northeast wants to know where the smell is coming from in “Mr. McGillicutty in Whats that Stink?”, in “Astrida” Walter Minus brings his femme fatales back into action, Baseman does the “Garden of Unearthly Delights”, David Sandlin does his abstract suburban couple thing in “I Dream of Joni”, Don Colley rolls it up in a carpet in “My Burdened Heart”, Owen Smith does a painting of a boxer forlorn and his dame in “Cornered”, Tom Huck does “The Race of the Wheelbarrow Brides”, Tim Biskup features art from his miniature books in “Tiny Bubbles”, David Goldin combines found junk and drawings, primarily a Yoohoo can in “Yoo-Hoo”, Blanquet does another hellscape in “Dream of the Great Lake”, the Clayton Brothers do “Home Take Them Out”, knuckles get bandaged in Doug Fraser’s “A Pugilist’s Alchemy or Pulp”, Gary Taxali plays around with his lunch in “Lunchbox”, Laura Levine tells the story of the world’s most famous headless chicken in “Miracle Mike the Headless Chicken”, man about to have a literal blast in “Hope Your Holy Daze are a Blast” by Don Colley, Peter and Maria Hoey draw and C.P. Freund writes an old school ode to “Tin Tin” in “Major Sands in Shadow of the Mirage”, Sue Coe and Judith Brody do the bird flu in “Fowl Plague”, Vinnie does a comic on why your a loser for reading comix in “Comix are for Losers!”, Teresa James illustrates and Jeffery Steele writes about the Black Dahlia in “The Unkindest Cut”, Grey Claude explores the career of a pissed off actor in “The Blithe Spirit of Tinseltown”, Reumann and Robel illustrate their insane and absurd cityscapes in “Four Horsemen”, Spain talks about his artistic evolution in “The Education of an Underground Cartoonist”, Geoffrey Grahn talks taxi dancers in “Dime a Dance Girls”, and Drew Friedman does real life like portraits in “Wonderful Land”.
In issue sixteen Andrea Dezso does a topsy turvy evil version of the Teletubbies in “Names in a Book in Random Order”, Geoffrey Grahn tells about how the world almost ended in the early 1960’s between Russia and the US in “The Man Who Saved the World”, a weird pet gets pawned off in “Destroy Accident City” by Paco Alcazar, the “Swamp Preacher” drinks deep of sin by David Sandlin, Sergio Ruzzier does a children’s bed time story for adults in “The Nice Devil”, in “Lost Liner Notes” Hoey and Freund shed a spot light on various unknown jazz musicians, Spain draws an attempted pick up in “Blab Cartoon #1”, the abstract gets crazy in “Humanimals” by Mats!? Ronnie and Pal talk “Jesus” by Christian Northeast, Esther Pearl Watson paints various houses and the purported “Legends, Rumours and Hearsay” about them, Greg Clarke wants you to wipe away your problems in “Blab Cartoon #2”, Bob Staake tells you how to “Live Like An Artist”, Mark Todd does a single page ass joke in “Blab Cartoon #3”, Henrik Drescher tells you “How to Dance”, Peter Kuper puts a explosion and everyday life side by side in “Explosion”, Walter Minus does his femme fatale thing in “Blab Cartoon #4”, Monte Beauchamp shares his collection of 1950’s and 1960’s “Impko Decals”, Gary Taxali does his retro sketches on found paper in “Notty”, Owen Smith does a retro “Dragon Lady” painting, Brain Cronin shows them legs in “Nadia”, David Sandlin does the “Angel of Redemption in a Web of Sinsation”, J. Bradly Johnson piles on the “Image Surplus”, Fred Stonehouse weeps over “Nino”, Lou Brooks does sweaty burlesque in “Take It Please-y on Me, Girl”, Laura Levine does “Veronica Lake”, Christian Northeast has “Doctor Wells” give a kid pills for a tummy ache brought on by ice cream, Baseman draws a one pager showing when love between a girl and her teddy bear goes way too far in “Blab Cartoon #5”, Rubel and Reumann got pink in “Four Pages”, Marc Rosenthal does his own ode to Tin Tin’s style in “Flotsam and Jetsam”, Christian Northeast does “Blab Cartoon #6” with stores of literal shit, “Fetal Elvis” looks for amphetamines in the pancreas, Sue Coe and Judith Brody “Run” with the hunters and the hunted, J. Bradley Johnson talks about loss of will power in “Pepin and Joe Go to Work”, the Clayton Brothers do a rare pen and paper story in “We Miss You”, Spain does a story on his jive talking friend James in 1950’s Buffalo New York in “Return of James”, and Drew Friedman proclaims “Live and Cookies”.
In issue seventeen Sergio Ruzzier shows the sadness “While You Sleep”, Matti Hagelberg puts a modern spin on Hansel and Gretel in “Ernst Starvo Blofeld” in Christmas in Shacktown”, Geoffrey Grahn shows the oldest trend mania in “Dutch Tulip”, Steven Guarnaccia does a miniature artist in “Max Vesta Matchbook Artist”, Peter and Maria Hoey talk jazz with Coleman Hawkins and Django Reinhardt in Paris in “Out of Nowhere”, Greg Clarke does the anamorphic animal thing via a French mouse in “The Pungent Gaul”, next up “Vintage Rolling Skating Labels” by Anonymous says it all, Sue Coe and Judith Brody do one on the hurricane and its effects on humans and animals, Walter Minus wants an ex in “Blab Cartoon #1”, eyes paint a “Stone Maze” by John Pound, wet sloppy kisses in Lou Brook’s “The Wetter the Better”, tropical bliss with monkeys in Amy Crehone’s “Monkey Love”, Calef Brown has different creatures in the act of “Migration”, crying monkeys in Fred Stonehouse’s “Little Bug”, “Sun Rays of Death” assault retro America by Ryan Heshka, Esther Pearl Watson explores the “Haunted Eleazer Plot”, Gary Baseman does his own version of the “Li’l Egg Hunt”, Mark Todd does “High-Ku Class of 89”, Lou Brooks twists your tongue in a knot and lets it grow in “My Garden of Tongue-Listing Twimericks”, Shag does the artist from the early 1960’s painting a nude in the stand alone “Blab Cartoon #2”, Monte Beauchamp does a “Tribute to Bazooka Joe”, Marc Rosenthal does enchanted forests and subdivisions in “Behold the Wave”, Brian Cronin says “I have Dyslexia But I Don’t Know Ti”, Peter Kuper has “Nine Lives” and he proves it in his comic strip, Mark Landman has Fetal Elvis do the “Fetal Sunday Funnies” satires on Sunday comic strips, Gary Taxali’s retro teddy bear character needs another poker player for his game in “The Poker”, Spain talks about his old job at a copper cable company in “High Smile Guy in a Low Smile Zone”, Paco Alcazar gets the shovel in the weird “Membrane”, and Drew Friedman does portraits of “Old Jewish Comedians”.
In issue eighteen Bob Staake does his own take on e mail scams in “Hugh Got Mail”, Paco Alcazar talks a hired assassin’s relationship with his mom in “Obedience”, how to draw comics the Blab way with “The Blab Academy of Visual Arts” by Randall Enos, Drew Friedman does “More Old Jewish Comedians”, Nora Krug tells the tale of a American defector to North Korea in “No Man’s Land the Life of Sargent Robert Jenkins”, here comes “The Ever Elusive Yeti” by Mark Todd, Sergio Ruzzier once again lampoons children’s books in “Two Birds”, Fred Stonehouse paints “The Widow’s Garden”, Esther Pearl Watson talks harmless apparitions in “Caspers”, Steven Guarnacia tells the story of the master builder of mini golf courses in “Moe Greene”, a beautiful wine taster talks the taste of her different suitors in “The Tasting Notes of Annapol Garda”, Richard Bears draws the “Shapes of Things”, John Pound has eyeballs working in “Brick Rooms”, Baseman plays in the “Devil’s Playground”, Tim Biskup draws a “Helper”, suited devil men populate Travis Louie’s “Krampus One”, Shag talks hand jobs in “Blab Cartoon”, Skip Williamson does a story on a hermaphrodite turned actor turned killer in “Daddy was a Lady”, Mark Zingarelli does one on a burlesque house club owner on “Chick’s Club Taboo”, Peter Kuper talks about bullies in “Bully for You”, Ryan Heshka does one of his strange painted retro sci fi stories in “Brides of Science”, Sue Coe and Kim Stallwood take down circus’ treatment of the elephant Topsy in “The Elephant Never Forgives”, Mark Landman’s “Fetal Elvis” gets high off paint thinner and steals porn from Colonel Placenta, Mark Frauenfelder gets juiced in Calef Brown’s “The Eldritch Commons”, “Peas” waxes poetic by Serge Bloch, Randall Eno’s teaches another Blab cartoon class with “Sound Effects in Comics”, Geoffrey Grahn does one on the poor houses of yesteryear in “A Visit to the Poorhouse”, and Gary Taxali does his retro thing with “Billu”.
“New and Used Blab” features the best of the previous “Blab” volumes, and while there is a lot of good material in this part of the book, if it were me I would’ve included Al Columbia’s “The Trumpets They Play”, the absence of that twisted genius piece is mind boggling, turn the book upside down you get new material with a introduction by Mark Mothersbaugh, David Goldin does his hybrid of found objects and hand drawn characters in “Horace”, Camille Rose Garcia does “Who’s Afraid of the Peppermint Man?” A grotesque story of how peppermint candy is made and shipped into town, Doug Allen does a strip on being stranded and rescued by a ghost ship in “Adrift”, Peter and Maria Hoey with Charles Paul Freund writing about how alien invaders use humor comic strips to conquer humanity in “The Paper Grin”, Marc Rosenthal goes to “France”, Douglas Fraser takes a shot at capitalism in “Pax Americana”, Monte Beauchamp features the cover art of old detective magazines in “Cover Couture”, Sue Coe goes after factory farming in “The Man with No Heart”, Blanquet does a shadow puppet nightmare theater where a girl’s teddy bear instructs her on how to get revenge on her bullies in “Sweet Teddy”, Johnathan Rosen does stream of conscious in “Hey Mister”, Teresa Mucha paints “Go There to Rest”, Haley Johnson does “Dirty Girl Body Language”, Walter Minus has a pixie femme fatale cause havoc in “Tarantula B.”, Spain talks the Cold War in “My Cold War”, Drew Friedman shows how you can have a successful career in “Show Business”, Richard Sala features a treasure hut for “Amber Eyes”, Fred Stonehouse has weepy characters in “General Martyrology”, Baseman does the devil balloon head thing that causes destruction in “Baseman”, Monte Beauchamp does “A Tribute to Jim Flora!!!” And his abstract jazz record covers, “Fetal Elvis” fights his evil twin by Mark Landman, and Peter Kuper talks fear of nuclear destruction in “Bombed”. Chronicles Books put this one out in 2003 after Fantagraphics gave up publishing “Blab!”.
“Blab World 1” came out years after in 2010 and was put out by Last Gasp it starts with the then departed Geoffrey Ghan’s artwork and study on “Slime Molds”, Kari Lane McCluskey’s strange Lolita like doll world is photographed in “Collodion”, Greg Clarke chronicles the trials and tribulations of “The Neurotic Art Collector”, Bill North features and writes an article on how the skull played a major role in cover art back in the day in “Skull!”, Nora Krug illustrates a story on “The Tumultuous Life of Isabelle Eberhardt”, Shag shows what happens when you screw around in “Eames Lounge”, different artists draw and paint their vision of the apocalypse, artists like Ron English, Mark Ryden, Ryan Heshka, Owen Smith, Jean-Pierre Roy, Andy Kehoe, Spain, Martin Wittfrooth, Femke Hiemstra, Natalia Fabia, Joe Sorren, Gary Baseman, Karen Barbour, Edel Rodriguez, Sue Coe, Mark Burckhardt, Calef Brown, Kris Kuksi, Tom Huck, Andrea Dezso, Yoko D’Holbachie, Alex Gross, Fred Stonehouse, Gary Taxali, Travis Lampe, John Pound, Michael Noland, Sofia Arnold, Larry Day, Teresa James and Kathleen Lolly. Sergio Ruzzier does his parody of children’s books in “The Life of an Artist”, Steven Heller does a write up on “Weirdo” I also did one on my blog ( get weird-OH! Here http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/05/19/your-such-a-weirdo-underground-comix-magazine-1981-1993/), James Lowe writes on and shows propaganda caricature art of World War Two in “Ax the Axis”, Mark Landman has Fetal Elvis commanding his “Art Empire”, Juilia Moore writes and Steven Guarnaccia illustrates the “Lament on the Death of Willie”, Mark Todd does the tale of “The Dreaded Mothman of West Virginia”, CJ Pyle draws braided people with ballpoint in “Ballpoint Bravura”, and Peter Kuper does his interpretation of the “Four Horsemen”.
In “Blab World 2” Nora Krug does a strip on “Adolf’s Aberration” not that Adolf, the artist Adolf who drew and invented a colorful past for himself after being arrested for various, uh hmmm, indecencies, Greg Clarke does the trials and tribulations of Edward in “Dispatches from Oblivion”, Ryan Heshka does a profile on Frank R. Paul who illustrated covers for “Wonder Stories” and “Amazing Stories” in “A Passion for Paul”, Elvis Studio does an abstract pink world in “Hollow Inside”, Andrea Dezso does a strip on a woman who summons a demon lover called “Liderc”, Drew Friedman draws and writes a profile on “Will Elder”, different artists draw their visions of “The Hereafter”, artists like Ryan Heshka, Jon Macnair, Eric White, Femke Hiemstra, Erik Mark Sandberg, Larry Day, Brook Slane, Christopher Buzelli, Gary Taxali, Luciano Scherer, Cahtie Bleck, Craig Larotunda, Laurie Hogan, Marc Burckhardt, Martin Wittfooth, Travis Lampe, Robert Connett, Lou Beach, Kris Kuksi, Lou Brooks, Yoko D’Holbachie, Charles Glowbitz, Elvis Studio, Kevin Scalzo, Fiona Hewitt, Jean-Pierre Roy, Chet Zar, Rob Sato, Michael Noland, Nicoletta Ceccoli, Xinoqing Ding, Jana Brike, Baseman, and Owen Smith, Steven Heller does a write up on Zap Comix in “The Zap in my Life”, Sergio Ruzzier does his kid book satire thing with “Left Overs”, a bird character wakes up and finds he is dead, Doris Kitchen of Kitchen Sink publishing does a comic strip on a haunted house him and his family lived in “The Vexing Thing Upstairs”, Mark Todd does a strip on “The Great Sea Serpent of Brazil’s Parahiba River”, Bill North does a write up on Fred Stonehouse in “Fred Stonehouse! A Life in Between”, Peter Kuper talks about how he dreamed of his dead father in visitation. “Blab World” in particular stresses more of the painting and single page illustration than the previous issues of “Blab!” Nothing wrong there, it almost is an easier and accessible issue of “Hi Fructose” art magazine.
So in closing “Blab!” Is a series with interesting, eye popping, art work and comics, a cross between high brow and low brow. I absolutely fell in love with this series again, there will be times I’ll just crack an issue and drink in the sights like a heady brew, while not all of the stuff in “Blab!” Is my cup of tea, that is any comics anthology, not every story, strip or art is gonna be somebody’s cup of tea and that is OK, the point of “Blab!” Was to introduce people to art that they’d never seen or heard of. I sure do hope Last Gasp continues to put out “Blab World”, this world would be the richer for it. “Blab!” Away my friends.
Now if any of you want to buy these go on amazon or ebay, good luck getting a copy of the ever illusive issue 10.
To be completely honest I bought these issues of “Mome” because Al Columbia had work in them, and for no other reason, that being said the comics and art in the rest of these issues is pretty damn good. “Mome” was edited by Gary Groth and featured cartoonists that were new to the game, with a few old school hands on deck. “Mome’s” content is varied but the same themes seem to repeat themselves in each issue, mainly dealing in philosophy, dreams, imagination and some autobiographical stuff thrown in. Gary interviews a different artist in each issue. I have five of them, all featuring some of Al Columbia’s work but I will go through them one by one and give some highlights not a run down of every story in each issue.
“Mome” issue 7, Spring 2007 is the first issue featuring the illusive Al Columbia’s work, its a series a of pieces titled “Chopped Up People” what you get is Al’s twisted sense of humor bleeding off the pages. You get Pluto, Mickey Mouse’s dog, chopped to hell smiling his head off, a portion of a comic strip featuring Al’s recurring characters Pim and Francine, a blue smiling man cut into pieces etc. you get the drift, in Al’s nightmare Fleischertoon world anything is possible even smiling cartoon corpses. Eleanor Davis’ “Seven Sacks” is another highlight, a ferryman takes seven different weird creatures across the river with each getting bigger and bigger, each with a sack going to a gathering, at the end the ferryman sees a foreboding column of smoke in the distance and pushes off hurriedly to the other side. Sophie Crumb (daughter of (in)famous underground comix couple Robert and Aline Crumb) does “Lucid Nightmare Pt. 2” about a trio of kids that do “Z-9” which transports a person to the “Land of Sweet Dreams” but also has them waking up and not knowing where the hell they are with a really bad hang over, and thinking they might be kidnapped by predators. “Nothing Eve Part 3” about a group of guys in a bar who are deciding on what they want to do before the end of the world by Kurt Wolfgang. In “Al Loose Ends Part 2” Lewis Trondheim does the autobio thing which I normally hate but in this one he tries to find out from his fellow cartoonists (mostly French and Dutch) if the cartooning profession causes the cartoonist to age badly or cause more depression than other professions. “Hollow Leg” is a dream bout a girl having a hollow leg that talks to her by Anders Nilsen. And another dream (or nightmare) comic comes our way via David Heatley at a house party where September 11th, 2001 gets replayed in a absurd way.
“Mome” issue 8, summer 2007 has Al Columbia’s “Fucking Felix” and with this one we’re back in Columbia’s “Fleischertoon from hell” world. It is literally that, Felix the cat getting fucked in nine, single black and white pages, Felix awaits his lover, a bald man in a suit who gets some “pussy” and “makes” in Felix’s mouth, Felix spits out tadpoles. Again Al’s twisted, sick humor oozes through. Eleanor Davis has a bard meet and enchant a woman of the wild in “Stick and String”, or is she the one doing the enchanting? Sophie Crumb does “Lucid Nightmare Part 3” where the kids wake up from the “Z-9” trip to be chased by a maniac and they have no idea where they are at. Tom Kaczynski has a character named “Cayce” who has a dream, he wakes up in the future in 10,000 years, and he watches a TV show with Karl Marx leading a zombie revolution on Mars. In “Young Americans” Emile Bravo does a comic strip taking place in the 1950’s and the strip proceeds innocently like a comic strip from that period with a intellectual father trying to relate to his jock/sports addict son but then the strips repeats the same panels and makes the dialogue more profane which gives you pause for thought. “Hide and Watch” by Joe Kimball is a surrealist comic where the sun gets attacked by light bulbs and various other, unexplained things happen. And Trondheim does “At Loose Ends Part 3” in which he further explores if cartoonists age worse than any other profession.
In “Mome” Fall 2007, Al Columbia actually follows through on a Pim and Francine strip! Normally, Pim and Francine are only featured in partial strips, one page art or scraps. In this one Pim and Francine get eaten by a bald headed butcher who bakes them into his pies. “Shhh!” Tim Hensley goes 1960’s art style with a tale of a guy trying to woo a girl with a band contract in a library. Jim Woodring does his weird, anamorphic squirrel character, Frank, in his weird, abstract, Buddhist/Hindu world in “The Lute String Pt. 1”. Joe Kimball tells the tale of vampire love in “The Lifer”. Then there is pages of Mike Scheer’s ballpoint pen drawings that are jaw dropping with an intro by Eric Reynolds. Tom Kaczynski has a new condo slowly drive people insane in the surrounding community in “976 Sq Ft.” Sophie Crumb does “Lucid Nightmare pt. 4” which is the final part were the addicts escape from their captors to join up with a bunch of hippies.
“Mome” issue 11, Summer 2008, Al Columbia goes off the “1930’s cartoon from hell” thing and paints a scene of a sad, lonely, empty and deteriorating house, the panels show and emote the loneliness of the house, near the end you see a older woman with a rope around her neck but the question is was it a suicide or foul play? In the comic “5:45 AM”. A woman sees every man looking pig like but when she comes across a man she likes she sees him looking like a male version of herself, but his penis has the head of the piggish man in “Einmall Ist Keinmal” by Killoffer. Eleanor Davis does “Its Dot and Louisa in the 10.000 Rescues” each panel features the aforementioned characters in different weird rescue situations. “In Million Year Boom” a man goes to help develop public relations for a brand new “green community” that is a lot more than it seems and more horrific.
In “Mome” Vol. 12 2008,Al Columbia does the single art pages with “Invasion”, all the pages show is what looks like an empty, suburban street with empty houses and front lawns except for the blue cats, the title “Invasion” makes me think these cats aren’t of this world and maybe why no people are about. This is why Al is one of my favorite artists, some pieces leave more questions than answers. Sophie Crumb does portraits of an old west female outlaw named “Agnes Freeman”. Oliver Schrawuwen does a pretty fucking funny comic called “Hair Types” where a buffoon in an art class, when seeing an illustration of different types of hair made by a fellow bearded art student sees that his hairstyle is listed as “docile hair”, the bearded student says that he has “crazy hair” he is roasted by all the students with hilarious results. “Train” by Dash Shaw has a woman, who is a children’s therapist, go on jog after a therapy session and witnesses a train wreck where the survivors stampede towards her in fear and she doesn’t know what to do. Jon Vermilyea does a violent rip on children’s breakfast food ads in the “The Breakfast Crew”. David B. tells a tale of a man whose skin is made into a drum and whose spirit leads his men into battle through the beating of the drum, but love gets in the way in “The Drum Who Fell in Love”. Sophie Crumb does a “Tijuana Bible” take, old school style, in “Loopy Liza in “Tsk Tsk”.
So while I bought the issues for Columbia’s work the rest of these issues surprised me and were just as interesting and good. Maybe down the line I might try to buy the whole run of “Mome”. I didn’t list the issues with Al Columbia covers because I am more interested in his comic strips and art, less so about his covers. The interviews are pretty interesting in these issues, and “Mome” sure is the word, get it out and get into it.
Al is one twisted motherfucker and from one twisted motherfucker to another he made me a fan. The “Biologic Show” is when he started to develop his style that he is famous for, the “Fleischertoons from Hell” art style, in “Biologic Show”, the art style is more drippy, sharp and edgy goth, not that there is anything wrong with that, his demented and twisted sense of humor is intact. The “Biologic Show” issues 0 and 1 are very rare and hard to find, they were collected with other odds and ends and put in a book by Hollow Press with a dembossed cover in Italy and now that is sold out. That is the book I read and I am reviewing
The first issue of “Biologic Show” was published by Fantagraphics in 1994, this was issue 0, why Al just didn’t call it issue 1 I can’t figure out. “Biologic Show” issue 0 features “No Tomorrow If I Must Return” featuring his recurring clown character, Seymour Sushine, this time embedded in what looks like the mouth of his hinged mouth character, Alfred the Great, featured in “Zero Zero”(get zeroed zeroed out here: http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/09/30/five-four-three-two-one-zero-zero-comix/), the next one up is self titled and its about a man who finds his girlfriend murdered so he commits suicide to find her in the afterlife, the problem is this afterlife is Hell and his girlfriend will have nothing to do with him, “Grinding Larry” is about Larry who gets in a car wreck and loses his brain and now he has to find it, “Over” is a nasty poem set to some horrific comic strip art, “Extinction” features a couple’s escalating fight on a park bench and a man nearby who fights his mutant dog, nothing goes right as you imagine, “Lowborn Peacock” has another one of Al’s weird poems being performed in Hell, “Lil” Saint Anthony” is a tale of a man in a semi catatonic state eating his own shit on the ground and a boy wanting to buy bullets for his gun to put the man out of his misery, “Bruja” is another nonsensical strip and poem, recurring characters Pim and Francine make their first appearance in “Tar Frogs” they look different, more goth like as opposed to the 1930′ Fleischer Brother’s style characters they’d become, Pim eats some tar shaped like frogs off of their pervert neighbor Mr. Crowley’s front porch and becomes horny, he rapes Francine who might be his sister while Mr. Crowley (I have Ozzy’s voice echoing in my head) leers and watches behind a curtain, Pim impregnates Francine and she gives birth very fast to a beaked monstrosity, Pim tries to kill it but realizes he’s been really stabbing his sister.
“Biologic Show” issue 1 is really issue 2 called “Peloria Part One” and features Pim and Francine only in their nightmare world being chased by Siamese twin girls who are trying to kill them, Francine runs away and Pim gets cornered, Francine grabs a ride in a car with a creepy old man who attempts to hit on her and she wants to be let off at the fountain in town where she meets another recurring character of Al’s, Knishkebibble the Monkey Boy and his vacant eyed goth girlfriend and asks Monkey Boy if he’s seen Pim, Monkey Boy says “no” while feeling up his girlfriend and Francine gets back in the car with the creepy guy, Pim in a daze emerges and asks Monkey Boy if he has seen Francine, he lies and says he hasn’t, Pim passes out and Monkey Boy tries to revive him, soon Francine in the car with the weird guy thinks she sees Monkey Boy and Pim sitting at the fountain, she decides not to get out of the car and drives away with the stranger. The story is supposed to continue in the next issue.
Al claimed he was gonna do “Biologic Show” issue 2 which was actually gonna be 3, the story “I Was Killing When Killing Wasn’t Cool”, was supposed to be appear in that issue but Al realized his style of drawing had changed and he’d changed it into the “Fleischer Brothers from Hell” style he is known for and didn’t think it would fit “Biologic Show”, the story ended up being put in “Zero Zero” which I reviewed (link above). Al got the title for his comic from William S. Burrough’s book “Exterminator”. After Al didn’t want to do “Biologic Show” anymore (Surprise! Surprise!) Fantagraphics said they were gonna expand “Peloria” into a graphic novel, but of course a lot of Al’s plans, it didn’t happen.
This book also features Seymour Sunshine “Debris”, bits and pieces of his recurring character in “Slow Machine”, “Casigian”, “The Hellbound Bellydancer”, and “Ersatz (A family name)” featuring two characters that look suspiciously like Pim and Francine, the book republishes the mini comic “23 Skidoo” the story “Orifi to Boreal” about a man who goes to a wishing well wishing for pussy and throws his coin down the well he gets more than he bargains for, in the next untitled story a man gets in a car crash and skids yards and features a poem about the man internally bleeding to death and the last piece is “Johnny 23” a piece published in the comix mag “Taboo” in 1992, a guy tries to suppress his murdering impulses by imagining he is a crooner while having his ex girlfriend tied up in his bathroom.
So there you have it, “Biologic Show” is nihilistic, bloody, violent and to be honest a bit juvenile, the thing is meant to convey pure black mortician humor. You can see the progress of Al’s style, from the drippy, jagged edged style to a more 1930’s cartoon from hell style. While the art style has changed, the humor and messed story lines have not. “Biologic Show” is not for the feint of heart, I do like his later art style better, it is more original and his own. A lot of people back in the day were doing the whole “goth jagged edges with drips” thing. I do wish Al was more prolific, people say he is a perfectionist, problem is there is very thin line between perfectionist and procrastinator. Finding the original issues and the compilation book from Hollow Press at a reasonable price is gonna be impossible, I know I looked. I have my copy and got it right before it went out of print. Good luck if your trying to find it.
If you want to find physical copies go look on ebay, but I got to warn you your wallet is going to be screaming to be put out of its misery.
Comics anthologies are my thing, especially ones that are non traditional and feature various forms and styles of art, “Mirror Mirror 2” is one of those compilations, this is meant to be a “horror” compilation edited by Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrorer. In the foreword Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin says “Great horror is the pursuit of meaning through defilement, a conscious and inquisitive violation of the mind, body, the beloved, the home; the concentric circles of security that comprise our lives. Great porn proceeds from a similar root, grappling with that which delights and with that which abases in the context of their inextricably. There is no division between the shame that ignites desire and the desire itself, just as there is no division between love and fear of death.”
Thus starts this anthology, all of it, unlike the other “Mirror Mirror” anthologies are in black and white. Again as with other compilations some pieces don’t evoke anything near horror, in fact, some pieces made me chuckle at the “try too hard” story lines, but there is pieces in here that are also bone chilling, overall its a beautiful book. 6″x 9″, flexibound in black Pantone offset with black gilded edges. The highlights are the castrating lesbian love affair in “Love” by Laura Lannes, Clive Barker (yes that one) summons his inner Stephen Gammell on his one pager “Dark Moon”, Lala Albert explores dark fairy eroticism in “Vespertine Odor”, Nicole Claveloux goes old school medieval with her silver and black paintings of erotic dark fantasies, Mou descends into the darkness of depraved self pleasure in “Empty Handed”, Uno Moralez uses 8 bit video game graphic art to show what happens when man’s idealized fantasy of women go awry in “Vitalya (I’m Fucking Tired of You)”.
Dame Darcey does the Gothic haunted castle thing brilliantly in “Meat Cake: Fire”, Johnny Negron does a cryptic and horrific poem form justice in “Perfect Beast I: Baton Sinister”, Trungles puts his own erotic spin on the old Beauty and the Beast story, reptilian style in “Shifts”, Al Columbia brings out his recurring characters Pim and Francine and strings them along in his 1930’s surrealistic horror cartoon world in a bunch of one pagers, Meaghan Garvey flirts with death in “Everytime”, Apolo Cacho runs through a weird beast like world in “Coatlicue”, and Josh Simmons does a day out with a son and mother who want to visit a cave and end up getting more than they bargained for in “The Cave”.
Over all its a solid comp with a different take and spin on what horror means, some of the pieces art wise and story wise don’t work and only elicit a shrug from me, the ones I listed above are gold. If your into unusual, underground comix you should dig into “Mirror Mirror 2”.
So where do you look in the “Mirror Mirror 2”? Go here, the company 2d cloud publishes this book, support them, when it looked like my copy was missing in the mail the owner of the company offered to send me another copy, free of charge, no questions asked, luckily it finally came: https://shop.2dcloud.com/products/mirror-mirror-2
Ergot is a fungus that infects rye and other related plants, it is also closely related to the chemical composition of LSD and was prevalent during the middle ages, some speculate widespread Ergot poison helped contribute to the witch hunting hysteria of the time. Its apt that a comic compilation like this one has “Ergot” in its title, I think the editor, Sammy Harkham, made that title for his compilation of art and underground comics on purpose, who “Kramer” is besides the guy in “Seinfeld” I can’t figure out. “Kramers Ergot” is worth every wallet emptying penny, once these go out of print the price of used physical copies shoots into the stratosphere and I hate to say it digital masturbators, “Kramers Ergot” is meant to be enjoyed holding the actual thing and reading it, the experience isn’t the same as reading it on “Comixology”. “Kramers Ergot” was started by Sammy Harkham as a zine in 2000 under his own Avodah Books, issues 4 and 5 were published by Gingko Press, the issues 1-4 are very rare and way way WAY out of my price range, there is some prices I am not willing to pay, I have 5 to 10, out of those 5 is the weakest of the bunch but its still got good material, stand outs in 5 are M.L.E. (Mutant life Expectancy) by the great Matt Brinkman with Neil Burke coloring, the always talented Chris Ware with “My Life”, the always cryptic Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel’s alternate reality, dialogue free comics, Gabrielle Bell’s comic panels look like paintings, Kevin Huizeuga’s foray into theology with “Jeepers Jacobs”, Jorand Crane’s western ghost story “The Hand of Gold”, Leif Goldberg’s colorful insane paintings, Paper Rad’s Yellow Submarine type acid trip comic strip, Fabio Viscogliosi’s strange old time children’s book type illustrations in “Love or Leave a Dunce on Holiday”, J. Bradley Johnson’s “Brimming with Enthusiasm: A Selection of Early Comics” and Dan Zettwock’s head trip of a horror comic “The Ghost of Dragon Canoe”.
Books 6 and 7 came out through Buenaventura Press. 6 is a huge improvement over 5, the highlights in this one are the tale of a church haunted house in “Cross Fader” by Dan Zettwoch, reprints of underground Dutch artist Marc Smeets, intro by Chris Ware in “Passing Time”, the insane satire of action and kung fu movies with a psychological and metaphorical bent in “Ejector Seat Cadence” by Bald Eagles, the colorful and LSD haze inducing “Kramers Ergot Fuck You” by Paper Rad, Jerry Moriarty’s painted comic panels in “Sally’s Surprise”, vice cop corruption in “Pushing” by Chris C. Cilla, the Aztec high school dramedy in “Jaguar Street” by Matthew Thurber, reprints of Suiho Tagawa’s colorful Japanese war propaganda comics from “the Norakuro”, X rated Aesops fables from Fabio Viscogliosi in “Pornography for Beginners”, the fantasy water color stylings of Sherry Boyle in “The Porcelain Figurine” and the insane world of Elvis Studio by Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel.
7 is a killer, I’d say a literal killer because the thing is hardbound and the size of a old Sunday comic supplement from the 1930’s, i.e. giant and I even had a hard time flipping through the thing, you could easily use it as weapon to beat somebody to death. I had problems finding room for the thing, its in full color with glossy pages if you don’t lift it right you can get a hernia, however, staring at the giant pages will immerse you even deeper in the stories, now I know why my grandparents were nostalgic about their Sunday comics page. “Kramers Ergot” 7 appeared in 2008 at retail price of 125 bucks because of the cost of putting it together and publishing it, “Kramers Ergot” 7 killed Buenaventura Press. Alvin Buenaventura, the publisher went on to set up another company and ended up committing suicide in 2016, whether it was due to his company going under is speculation. The stand outs in 7 were Shary Boyle’s elephant fantasy “Grow Old”, Ted May’s Frankenstein space adventure in “Cradle of Frankenstein”, Daniel Clowes’ twisted noir “Sawdust”, CF’s weird ass fantasy “Crate Cauldron”, Kim Deitch’s tale of a beer bottle cap collector in”Sex, Drugs and Sweet Music”, Chris Ware’s tale of a girl with one leg in “Home”, the late great Richard Sala’s tale of chasing love in an interesting crowd of characters in “I Chase the Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love”, Rick Altergott’s continuing adventures of his mentally challenged hero in “Doofus”, Matt Brinkman’s animal/skull/reptilian hybrid one pager, Eric Haven’s otherworldly tale of a barfly and reptilian woman in “Reptilica”, Matt Thurber’s tale of Brian Eno in “Produce the Corpse”, Blex Bolex’s tale of an artist who is given a offer he can’t refuse in “Lost for Life”, Will Sweeney’s journey of mad scientists, hallucination machines and space in “Chatsworth Miasma”, Anna Somers bear hunt gone awry in “Lumberjack’s Widow”, Helge Reumann’s untitled story of his weird world with bearded men and weird deformed creatures who beat and shoot each other and Matt Groenings bunnies losing at the game of life in “Road to Success”.
“Kramers Ergot” 8 went way down in size, to almost the size of a pocket book and was put out by Picture Box Press who has put out some bad ass books. It was a tan hardcover with partial gold foil and tangerine colored hexagons on its front, it reminded me of one of the books I’d pull off my grandpa’s walnut bookshelf when the dust jacket went missing, the contents of said book would normally be boring. The cover, simple design and color scheme screamed 1970’s, this next volume in typical fashion goes in a different direction, this time only some of the pages are glossy and some in color and starts with a boring fucking essay on how without gay people “camp” wouldn’t exist, half way through the preachy essay I skipped ahead for the comics. “Kramers Ergot” 8 doesn’t disappoint, Gary Panter roars into this weird and twisted future with his recurring character “Jimbo”, C.F. gets into strange love in “Warm Genetics House Test Pattern”, Takeshi Murata goes art pop culture funky with “Get Your Ass to Mars”, Johnny Ryan goes into outer space and gets slaughtered by aliens in “Mining Colony X7170”, Anya Davidson has a mean ass bitch kicking butt in “Barbarian Bitch”, Sammy Harkham, the editor of this shebang, contributes the weird and terrifying tale of spousal upheaval in “A Husband and Wife” and, last but not least, reprints of the deliciously evil Wanda from 1970’s era “Penthouse” magazine gets brought back to life in full color, I see a lot of the old Warren magazine artists of “Eerie”, “Creep” and “Vampirella” in Ron Embleton and Frederic Mullalley’s art work for “Oh, Wicked Wanda!”
“Kramers Ergot 9” switched publishers to Fantagraphics and switched size, this thing is the size of a telephone book, the other part of the title is “Evil Fully Determined”. This time the boring essay is dropped and the comics come on like a freight train. Highlights are Renee French’s bird abstract world in “Bjornstrand’s Elise”, Helge Reumann dives back into his strange mutant/lumberjack world in “Sexy Guns”, Anya Davidson channels Pagan Rome/Christian animosity in “Hypatia’s Last Hours”, Al Columbia has his recurring characters Pim And Francine do a one page nightmare appearance in “Night People” and does another color section on the aftermath of a party from hell from the 1930’s in “The Devil’s Mansion”, Al is a genius, problem is he very erratic in his output, Al was supposed to contribute a full page comic in the oversized 7 but couldn’t get anything done, people who know him say he is a “perfectionist” but that to me is another word for lazy and/or procrastinator. Tim Hensley channels old school cartooning into a story about a priest who gets in a “unholy” jam in “I Confess”, its all in a days work in “Police Work” by Adam Buttrick, Lale Westvind goes a on a space cannibal ritual retreat in “The Kanibul Ball”, Kim Deitch goes down memory lane in a zoo in “Shrine of the Monkey God”, suicide goes haywire in “Adieu Cruel World” by Baptiste Virote, Blobby Boys get violent towards infidelity in “Blobby Boys” by Alex Schubert, one criminal gets out of prison but wants to come “home” in “Comics and Gags” by Abraham Diaz, and Jonny Negron has one of his voluptuous vixens get felt up by a 1980’s action hero stereotype in his one pager.
“Kramers Ergot” 10 is a bigger volume not as big as the other one, this one was put out by Fantagraphics an affair goes off the rails in Dash Shaw’s “Police Woman”, Robert Crumb digs into knuckle dragging modern neanderthals in “The Ruff Tuff Cream Puffs”, Jason Murphy does abstract in “A Calamitous Exit”, Arouk Richard does the duck walk west in “Ducky Co Co”, C.F. goes crazy on “Liquid on Neutral”, Blutch does face melting action in “Angel Face”, Shary Flenniken trots out “Trots and Bonnie” and their sexual misadventures and satire of old comic strips that first appeared in “National Lampoon” magazine, Rick Altergott brings out his immortal and idiotic “Doofus” who klutzs and crashes through his strip, editor Sammy Harkham spins a tale of old Hollywood in “Blood of the Virgin” it is the longest strip and worth the slog, Will Sweeney gets spacey in “The Embigening”, Helge Reumann’s weird world is great as usual in “Equalizers”, a full color reprint of the classic Frank King’s “Gasoline Alley”, Kim Deitch tells about roaming with Spain and writing underground cartoons in the 1960’s in “If It’s Weird It Works”, and the always cryptic and awesome Lale Westvind with her half shark half lady in “Sarka”.
The “Kramers Ergot” volumes before 5 are too rich price wise for my blood, their heavily sought after collectors items. There is some prices I won’t pay and the prices for 1 through 4 I won’t pay for. “Kramers Ergot” with each volume keeps it interesting, editor Sammy Harkham mixes comic strips and art together seamlessly. Each volume has got its own personality and own flavor, from varying sizes to different artists and content. “Kramers Ergot” is something you can ingest and not see werewolves and want to hunt witches (maybe you will do that after reading these volumes anyways). I sure hope Mr. Harkham does more volumes.
So where do you ingest this ergot? Well go look on ebay and amazon, hate to be lazy but search these out, there is some of these that at reasonable prices, except for the oversized volume 7.
I remember people being afraid of an apocalyptic event as the 1990’s was wrapping up, some said it would be a huge computer crash via Y2K (anybody remember that?) that would destroy all systems politically and economically, an environmental disaster that the Greens kept predicting every ten years like their religious counterparts with the book of Revelation etc. of course none of that happened some would argue in September 11th, 2001 was an end to our way of life and now that the Coof is running rampant it looks like the end could be at hand and is being used by unscrupulous, authoritarian scumbags to push their various control freak agendas. The underground comics anthology series “Zero Zero” played on those fears tangentially and manipulated them into absurd humor by various artists.
The editor was Kim Thompson who was an editor on other Fantagraphics publications. This comic anthology series lasted from 1995-2000 with 27 issues. Kim got the name “Zero Zero” from artist J.R. Williams who is another recurring artist in the series, originally J.R. was gonna call his own series “Zero Zero” but instead ended up calling his comic “Crap” instead (insert joke here). Not only that, “Zero Zero” is another way of saying the year 2000 which evoked hope in some and fear in others, the comics themselves in between the covers, mostly black n’ white except for some two color pieces looks like it takes place in a post apocalyptic, nightmare world. In the forward to the first issue Kim says “That balance of the new and established, of penthouse art and gutter art, of quantity (page count for RAW, frequency for Weirdo) and quality remains elusive. ‘Zero Zero’ is but the latest attempt a few steps down that path.”
Also Kim shit on the then current trend of “autobiographical” comics started by Robert Crumb’s wife, Aline, when she was editor of “Weirdo” and shit balled into a crap avalanche by countless artists. Kim said in the same forward “Zero Zero’ will be something of a refuge for those who are sick unto death of the autobio comics trend, not to mention its the cousin the graphic/lecture rant, although I will let my defenses down for the occasionally extraordinary piece (this (first issue) issue’s Bukowski/Moriarity collaboration being a case in point, ‘Zero Zero’ is about fiction in comics form.” Now of course Kim would go on to not really hold that editorial position with David Collier’s comics which were rants/autobiography, Collier’s art style is very close to Crumb’s, and while the art was good I often found his pieces to get too self involved, preachy and up their own ass. Though I have to say Joe Sacco’s piece on himself and a couple of journalists confronting a dictator on Christmas at an orthodox service in Serbia was interesting, so was J. Backderf’s story on hanging out with the infamous serial killer Jeffery Dahmer in high school which was expanded into an award winning graphic novel and into a feature length movie but its very rare that an autobio comic is interesting to me.
There is a few strips that are serialized and their all good, chief among them the late and great Richard Sala with his very retro “The Chuckling Whatsit” which was later gathered in a graphic novel, Max White’s tale of greek/Christian mythology “Homunculus”, Kim Deitch’s obsession with old pop culture in both his “Molly O’ Dare” and “Search for Smilin’ Ed” pieces, Dave Cooper’s space age/futuristic put down of the man hating butch brigade in “Crumple”, Kaz and Timothy Georgarakis’ collab on “Meat Box” a comic that takes place in some absurd dadaesque/abstract world, Ted Stearn’s adventures of a Teddy Bear and his chicken friend in “Fuzz and Pluck” and David Mazzucchelli’s “Pop. 66” that takes place in some hellish town in Italy or Spain, not one of these serials bored me they were all entertaining and I couldn’t wait for the next episode in each issue.
Some of the names that show up are the old guard of the underground comix scene mixed with the new, you’ll get some nastiness from Mike Diana, Henriette Valium, Max Andersson, Glenn Head, Skip Williamson, Blanquet, P. Revess, Chris Ware etc. You get a bunch of different art styles which makes the anthology overall interesting. Some pieces don’t hit, some fucking nail it. While the series is mostly black and white there is Al Columbia two color sections and that was my whole reason for searching out this thing, because Al Columbia hits the ball and the park for my money, in issue 4 Al has the two color Fleischer toon inspired nightmare “I was Killing When Killing Wasn’t Cool” with his two recurring characters Seymour Sunshine the clown and Knishkebibble the Monkey Boy which was supposed to appear in his own “Biologic Show” comic issue 2 until he canceled the series and gave this to “Zero Zero” the title is a play on the song title “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”. Ole’ Al has a inside cover color job in issue 8 called “He Didn’t Wake Up”, issue 15 back cover has Al’s depiction of “Walpurgisnacht” that will send every safe space crybaby running for their mama, God I loved the Un PC 1990’s! Issue 16 has Al’s two color dark fairy tale “Blood Clot Boy” a boy born of, what else, a blood clot who goes on twisted adventures, issue 20 Al steps up his art game in the two color nightmare featuring Sunshine and the Monkeyboy called “Amnesia” not to be mixed up with his grotesque animated movie poster collection from the 1930’s comic, “Amnesia”, in this one Al out does himself by using photo realistic backgrounds and with his characters layered on top of them, no wonder Al’s issues sold out real fast, he’d continue this new artistic direction in issue 26 which is considered the “last” issue with “Alfred the Great” a hinged mouth freak who can juggle anything with his tongue, of course this goes south really fast and then the wrap up issue 27 Al does the cover of a monkey in front of an unappetizing plate of meat and he does back cover featuring his other recurring character “Cheapie the Guinea Pig”, he said this will be a character he is gonna use in future comics but with Al its “I’ll believe it when I see it”. But Al’s work shouldn’t overshadow anybody else in this series, the whole damn series is interesting, I’d even go as far as to say almost better than the classic “Weirdo” and “RAW”.
On the back of every issue was the feature “The Signs of the Impending Apocalypse” which has comical and satirical depictions of apocalyptic scenes done by the likes of Daniel Clowes, Marky Ramone (yes that Ramone) among many many others. Kim said the back covers were to suggest a Jack Chick comic tract.
So “Zero Zero” isn’t a zero, every issue is regular comic book size but even with a majority of black and white pages this is one of my favorite comic anthologies, this is one I will pull out and read again and will sometimes pick up an issue and just thumb through it and revel in the weirdness of it all. You won’t be bored by it either, some stuff is tear jerker funny and some of it is messed up. If you want to find issues, good luck, try amazon, and remember there is a total of 27 issues and the Al Columbia ones especially come at a high price, I was lucky enough to find a whole set and I am too embarrassed to tell you how much I paid for it, I will never pay that much for anything again but I don’t regret one bank emptying penny of it either. “Zero Zero” is an embodiment of the alternative “comix” and zine culture that spread through the 1990’s, whacky, surreal, weird, slackeristic (I made that word up), cynical, maniacal etc. Set them gauges to “Zero Zero”.
I don’t make it a secret that I like comics that take different paths, all the overblown “stuperhero” stuff bores the hell out of me, its been done to death and every variation of some caped schmoo has been tried, granted I am sure there is people out there that will never get burned out on Batman, Iron Man and company, but for some reason I have this weird thing where if something is just overdone I lose complete interest in it. I like when people go in a different direction with the comics format which is the reason why I review mainly independent and underground “comix”. If somebody puts a new, fresh and different spin on the superhero comic than I will be interested, until then I will be reading stuff like “Highbone Theater” by Joe Daly.
Joe Daly mainly studied animation at Cape Town’s City Varsity college, and also put out the awesome “Dungeon Quest” lampooning RPG players and the equally good “Red Monkey Double Happiness Book”, with “Highbone Theater” Joe goes into stoner territory with his muscular, bearded main character, Palmer, who is a intellectual, plays the Chubush, reads books, smokes weed and has weird dreams about 9/11, his room mates are macho meatheads who hunt sharks, drink, party and screw anything and everything that moves. The art reminds me a lot of Robert Crumb’s stuff, the men are all barrel chested, with thick arms, and legs, big hands and feet, all the women are hour glass shaped with big asses. Through this all, Palmer has strange dreams that have him questioning reality itself and Palmer meets a strange man at the paper mill he works at named Billy Boy who thinks that there is people who live under the earth that manipulate events on the surface.
And the art goes from black and white when Palmer isn’t dreaming, to color when he is dreaming or high which makes me think that this is the artist’s way of saying the so called whacky dream world of Palmer is almost more real than the mundane day to day existence world. Conspiracy theories, the occult and Gnosticism get twirled in this heady brew of a comic, the humor is absurd and sometimes I think gets lost in translation because of the different humor and culture of South Africa.
This book is thick and collects all of the “Highbone Theater” comics in one place at 572 pages in hardcover and put out by the awesome Fantagraphics, it seems that whatever Fantagraphics touch turns to fucking gold. If you want something different in your comics I highly recommend Joe Daly’s stoner opus, it will make your brain bleed, guaranteed.
They don’t make men like Norman Pettingill anymore, hell, you could argue they don’t make men today, period. Pettingill seems like he chews bark like gum and could stomp your modern, smart phone scrolling, skinny, whiny ass into the ground with his hiking boots. They also don’t make humor like this anymore.
I discovered Norman Pettingill from reading Robert Crumb’s “Weirdo” magazine (see my review of “Weirdo” magazine here: http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/05/19/your-such-a-weirdo-underground-comix-magazine-1981-1993/). Robert Crumb republished some of Pettingill’s art work in his 1980’s underground comix/cartoon magazine, his art jumped out at me, it was ribald, crazy, chaotic, free spirited and had to see more. So I went to go find out if there was a book and sure enough the fine folks at Fantagraphics put one out, “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” in 2010 and this being Fantagraphics who won’t do another fucking print run of anything, the book is out of print which is a damn shame because this artist needs more exposure in my opinion.
This a document of a bygone era, when rural America really had its own culture, food and humor, since the urbanization of most of the country and homogenization of culture country wide a lot of this stuff has just disappeared. In “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” you’ll see some of that past preserved. Most of Pettingill’s work was collected and preserved by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, located in the Wisconsin area, keeping alive the independent, DYI folk art that would otherwise be lost. The Arts center helped with this book.
Norman’s grandfather, John A. Pettingill, a farmer and cattle dealer bought the land and started the town Norman was born in on 1896, Iron River, Wisconsin. Norman says he’d been drawing since he was six years old and dropped out of high school in his third year because he wanted to be outside fishing and hunting. John was drafted during World War One and only served in Mississippi for a short period and was discharged when the war ended. Norman lived off the land, his drawing and calligraphy skills. He did calling cards, signs and other jobs until 1946 when he started drawing postcards, printing and selling them from door to door, he’d make a living at it for pretty much the rest of his life. That pretty much sums up this book, you get most of his postcard work as well as his nature paintings. John claims he pretty much didn’t get lessons from anybody and was self taught, even when he wrote letters to people he would illustrate them. His bar, hospital, public beach etc. paintings are something else, a cross between Will Elder and Hieronymus Bosch, silly, stupid, profane, carnival like, ribald etc. When looking at a Norman Pettingill postcard you will always find something new or something you missed. That being said if you can find a copy of “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” snap it up, there is copies available on ebay and amazon, it might give your wallet and/or paypal account a diet. Robert Crumb does the introduction, Leslie Umberger, the Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at Kohler Arts Cent does the foreword and Gary Groth does the biography. The front cover and back cover are literally made of wood and the book horizontally is oversized to fully show the art. Highly recommended.
The title of this underground comix series sounds like the title to a bad b movie from the 1950’s-1960’s at the height of the red scare and I think that is the purpose. This series pretty much satirizes the “Red Scare” and science fiction comics and movies in general, kind of like what the early 1960’s card series “Mars Attacks” did. This was published by Last Gasp, first issue came out in 1973.
It was edited by Tim Boxell who would, oddly enough, direct the serialized puppet biker, soap opera segments of “Winter Steele” for the awesome animation anthology show, “Liquid Television”, he was also a technical advisor on the Eddie Murphy’s oriental occult movie “Golden Child” among other jobs in Hollywood. The series, a lot like Last Gasp’s other series, would span years and publish sporadically, in “Commies From Mars” case, after its first issue there would be a six year hiatus before the next one.
Many authors and artists would come aboard, most from the underground comix world, people like Greg Irons, Peter Kuper, Spain, S. Clay Wilson and Kenneth Huey which gave the series variety and kept interesting. Different strips explored different themes, some were straight up satire, some action, eroticism (especially between humans and aliens), science fiction, propaganda, societal control and social mores while not taking itself seriously.
In those fourteen years six issues came out, I first stumbled across this series while reading old “Heavy Metal Magazines”, the ads in the back were from Last Gasp Publishing’s underground comix satire line up which featured “Cocaine Comix”, “Young Lust” and “Commies from Mars”, when I read that title I busted up laughing, it brought to mind those corny and cheesy 1950’s B monster movies I used to watch while stoned on a Saturday night on the local public access station. I forgot about the title until I started going through my “Heavy Metal Magazines”, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to dig into my wallet to buy the series issue by issue. Luckily, Last Gasp released all six issues in one beautiful book.
“Commies from Mars The Red Planet The Collected Works” will set you right. Jerry Garcia from a band I fucking hate, The Grateful Dead, does the foreword and Tim Boxell gives warning about the “Martian Extermination Legion” knocking on your door at 2AM. There was very scant info on this series and its publishing, nonetheless the mystery adds to the mystique of this series. This comes highly recommended from me, visual white noise every noise addict should search out and inject in their veins. THE MARTIANS ARE COMING! THE MARTIANS ARE CUUUUMMMMINGGGGG!!!!