This weekend (Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14) Seattle area comics fans have a big old funny book hootenanny to party at inside the Washington State Convention Center. There are some panels and huge rooms full of comics and toys being sold. Also, dealers of another kind: I found the bootleg soundtrack to the Aussie skinhead flick Romper Stomper there last year! Right before a dark cloud of Suicide Girls turned a long table’s corner and crashed into a swarm of Star Wars Storm Troopers. I am not making any of this up. It was freaking awesome-possum.
Last year one half of the Love & Rockets duo Jaime Hernandez graciously held down the fort at his publisher Fantagraphics’ table, signing books and demurely chatting with fans and pals. Love & Rockets was a next level title in the 80s that put Seattle-based Fanta on the map and changed the entire world of both mainstream and alternative comics, which had been a little dry creatively since the 70s.
Jaime’s brother Gilbert is here for the 2010 convention, and will be attending an ECCC after party and kick off for his exhibit at the Fantagraphics store in Georgetown, as well as publication of the 25th volume in the collected L&R series, High Soft Lisp. be careful though: Gilbert is a brooding vicious brute of a man, the Hyde to his brother’s Jekyll. His idea of a good time is pouring beer on the floor of a punk club just to see kids slide around and fall down. No, seriously, he’s actually a wonderful cartoonist and true punk art pioneer, and actually is very genial to everyone who approaches him.
He and his artist and musician brothers (the latter in legendary Dr. Know, you might have seen their patches at Singles Going Steady) are incredibly well respect in and out of the Mexican punk and urban communities. When I taped an interview with Barfly for The Saturday Knights for a bio a few years ago, the hip-hop genius couldn’t stop giving loving props to the Southern California underground comics-saviors.
And oh yeah, Leonard Nimoy is there, and Stan Lee, and Thomas Jane, and Wil Wheaton, and a bunch of other media people who are comics-like I suppose. But the lines to get autographs from them won’t be as long as the one for Fantagraphics, because this world is about as fair as the three strikes law.
The three books I would currently recommend you picking up from the Fantagraphics table (besides High Soft Lisp), which are pretty much comics as rock and roll and rock and roll as comics, are these:
Newave: The Underground Mini-Comix of the 1980s. Lots of strange stories and fantastical doodling, with history and observations from Michael Dowers (gee, that last name sounds familiar), and the late comics-catalyst-librarian Clay Geerdes about the revolution in DIY underground publishing that spurted up in the Reagan years. Mini-comix were usually subconscious transgressive sexual and political rants in which their small press runs and limited audience would allow the artists to express whatever the hell their odd Ids whimmed. This is a squat but very thick tome of pure punk-era ink spazzery. This was the milieu that spawned creators like Daniel Clowes but also was a freak magnet for zine scribes and cultural marginals.
Hotwire Comics #3. At first neglected by the indie nabobs who love the more literary Mome and Top Shelf and Drawn & Quarterly titles, Hotwire is RAW and Weirdo Comix (in the 80s) veteran Glenn Head’s huge, beautiful, multi-artist anthology which has been praised by Boing Boing, Greil Marcus, and others. It is one of the few comics collections that unites the psychedelic extrapolations of the 60s with the aforementioned 80s society attack-back, in unholy visions for a new generation of art-damaged delinquents. (This as well is not a book for the kids, unless your plan is harvesting sociopaths.) The stories (from Michael Tales Designed To Thrizzle Kupperman to Johnny Angry Youth Comix Ryan and much more) run from somewhat surrealist biographical narratives to all out war on the senses, sometimes within the same big, full-page script; the art is detailed and enervated and colored boldly. Head’s doing a great job with this fresh title.
Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art Of The VHS Box. Collected by editor Jacques Boyreau, this is not comics but a great way for Fantagraphics to jolt another aesthetically provocative statement into the world of pop culture publishing. It’s also beautiful, even when the VCR tape cover art is astonishingly primitive and stoopid. Paintings and photos on the fronts and backs of Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity, The Legend Of The Wolf Woman, and a Gary Coleman home safety instructional video are represented. If you’re not much into the narrative form of comics, it’s art books like this that will probably keep you at the Fantagraphics table for hours.
When you’re not waiting to meet Spock, that is.