! = recommended
* = all-ages
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The Spectacular Saturday Series begins this Saturday at the Fantagraphics store in frisky Georgetown, starting with the press party for NEWAVE! The Underground Mini-Comix of the 1980s.
If you're a fan of graphic novels like Ghost World and wanted to see the raw cool beginnings of Daniel Clowes and his fellow "ink studs," this would be like releasing a DVD set of a mess of vintage Velvet Elvis and Paradox performances for Death Cab and like-minded band fans. The mini-comix and zine scenes back in the Reagan era were entwined around each other, filled with post-Robert Crumb surreal political protest and punk rock splattering and autobiographical bizarreness.
Clowes won't be at the event this Saturday, but a lot of his contemporaries are in this lavish, beautiful, hardcover ode to that berserk generation, and many of them will be at the store to celebrate: Jim Blanchard (a Roq La Rue gallery demigod whose depictions of celebrities and weird kids and meat are queasy-legendary and painstakingly rendered), David Lasky (who has a comic in The Stranger this week and is working on a GN tome based on the Carter Family with scribe Frank Young, for the Smithsonian), Dennis Worden (whose nihilistic Stickboy was a proto-grunge era favorite, as ubiquitous in coffee shops in Seattle as Tad records), and Michael Dowers, who will be giving a mini-comic demonstration and giveaway. It all takes place this Saturday, January 30, beginning at 6 PM and tapering off at 9. Music to be performed by iji, as a special treat.
After this, coming up through the top half of February will be a signing for Chocolate Cheeks by cruel children's tale satirist Steven Weissman. His books were big sellers at Confounded, when it used to exist in the same space as Wall of Sound on Cap Hill. He masterfully captures the dark side of kids' lives and the usually banal cartoons created for and by them, with nasty little brute characters and a chaotic mess of misadventures. His work is very accessible and trouble making indie-punks would probably feel his comics are more friendly than VICE's Johnny Ryan but not exactly Dennis The Menace either. This party will be held on Saturday, February 6, from 7 to 8 PM.
Fantagraphics (publisher and store) are readying for the historical release of the ultimate collection of macabre illustrator Gahan Wilson, the Playboy and other magazine cartoonist who like Charles Addams and Edward Gorey brought a mash up of bitter black humor and playful art terror to mainstream gag pages. Gahan Wilson: 50 Years Of Playboy Cartoons has absolutely nothing to do with slick soft-core porn, and everything to do with eviscerating Santa Claus in a variety of ways, stomping on all respectable institutions formed by 20th century American status quo values, and squeezing the teats of sacred cows a bit too tightly. There will be a celebration of the publication of this immense, gorgeous tome beginning at 6 PM and heading to 9 PM on Saturday, February 13.
Since Georgetown has so many great shows every weekend night and places to eat all the time, spending the next three Saturdays attending the artistic thrills at Fantagraphics as a big part of the experience will have many terrific pay offs. Come see some historical underground and subversive comic art, hear iji, and get some of the best books available to people with pretty twisted imaginations and tastes.