Tag: underground comix

Self-expression from the underground in 1968

At The Comics Journal, critic R.C. Harvey has a lengthy examination of the start of underground comix. He writes that back in 1968, new series like Zap Comix on the West Coast and in radical newspapers in New York City, cartoonists were given “the chance for self-expression,” an opportunity they weren’t afforded as contracted freelance artists for mainstream comics companies. A tide of irreverent strips and stories sprouted up around a time of social upheaval in America—there were protests against the Vietnam War on college campuses, assassinations of political figures, and more.

underground comix history harvey spain

Harvey drills down on the beginnings of the East Village Other, which included the work of Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez and more:

The EVO, as it was dubbed, was among the first countercultural newspapers to emerge, following the Los Angeles Free Press, which had begun publishing a few months earlier.

The EVO was described by the New York Times as “a New York newspaper so countercultural that it made the Village Voice look like a church circular.” The Voice, which had been founded ten years earlier by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, John Wilcock and Norman Mailer, is usually recognized as the country’s first alternative newsweekly. Although it hosted a variety of writers and artists and cartoonists (most notably in the latter category, Jules Feiffer), the Voice was not known as a newspaper for cartoonists. The EVO, on the other hand, was.

It was a breeding ground for the underground comix, providing an outlet for artists including Spiegelman, Deitch, Rodriguez, Trina Robbins, and Gilbert Shelton before underground comic books emerged with the publication of the first issue of Zap Comix.

The popularity of comic strips led to the publication of separate comics tabloids, beginning with Zodiac Mindwarp by Spain Rodriguez and continuing with Gothic Blimp Works.

See R.C. Harvey’s informative feature (and wealth of reprinted art) at The Comics Journal.

Last year at Hyperallergic, I wrote about the work of artist Spain Rodriguez. In my review of an archival collection from Fantagraphics Books, I struggled with finding a balance between appreciating Spain’s venturesome cartooning while pointing out how totally misogynist his stories and visuals could get.


An answer to graffiti art

In anticipation of two new solo exhibitions of his work opening in New York City, writer Brett Sokol profiles street artist, illustrator, and comics creator Richard McGuire. From The New York Times:

Posters featuring Ixnae Nix receive central billing, drawing upon nearly 150 variations that Mr. McGuire plastered throughout Soho, Tribeca and the East Village. Using oversized sheets of blank newsprint he would spray paint a silhouette of the spiky-haired Ixnae Nix, usually in a state of frenetic motion, and then use a crayon to neatly fill the edges with cryptic text, all without spacing or punctuation. The net effect married a hard-boiled voice straight out of old detective movies — “I Knew She Could Whistle;” “Someone No One Remembers Who;” “Good And Sick Of The Whole Business” — to unsettling science-fiction imagery, akin to Jean-Luc Godard’s film “Alphaville.”

But Mr. McGuire says he was more inspired by rumblings from underground than the stars above.

“I wanted to do an answer to graffiti art,” he recalled. “I can still see that cast of character names when the subway would pull into the station, all with their own code names: Futura, Lady Pink. So I had mine: Ixnae Nix. I would hear those words in 1940s movies. Ixnae is the pig Latin of nix. And I like the double negation, it just sounds good.”

exhibitions New York City Richard McGuire

In Manhattan, Alden Projects will host Richard McGuire: Art for the Street–1978-1982, and at MoMA PS1, another exhibition will open this weekend at the New York Art Book Fair. Four years ago, in association with a show at The Morgan Library & Museum, Pantheon Books published McGuire’s Here, a stunning, full-color graphic novel grounded in an experimental black and white strip that the artist contributed to anthology magazine RAW in 1989 (see my post). Read Brett Sokol’s story here.

“Here” original strip © 1989 Raw Books & Graphics.

Richard McGuire: Here

richard mcguire hereArtists-editors Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman launched an avant garde anthology magazine called RAW in 1980 that focused largely on comics, but featured other visual art, all the work of globally sourced contributors.