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Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s - Introduction & Table of Contents Print
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Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s - Introduction & Table of Contents
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Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s
Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s
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Introduction by Michael Dowers

Before we get started it must be said that this book is not about all mini comix. This book is about a small group of comix creators who were inspired by an alternative comix art form known as underground comix. With no other way of getting published they became their own publishers and went on to produce handmade mini comix themselves. This book is certainly not the last word about mini comix. Mini comix themselves would cover every comic book genre imaginable... This is the story of the underground mini comix of the 1980s...

October, 1982... My first introduction to mini comix was an article in Jay Kennedy’s Underground Comix Price Guide. An article about “how you too can make your own comix.” Up until that point it had never dawned on me that this could be done. Immediately after reading this article I went to work and within 48 hours had written, drawn, folded, stapled and cut my first book, titled Starhead Comix #1. It wasn’t very good but I was blown away with the 12 pages with cardstock covers that I had created. Not very long after that I made a second issue and started to pass these little booklets around. I don’t remember how I found a few addresses, but it became obvious that there was a circle of creators doing the same thing. I mailed out a few copies and actually got a few responses back along with copies of mini comix made by other creators. One of these people was Brad Foster and he gave me some very positive feedback, saying I should do more. For me, that was all it took, one person to give me some positive input, just one. My life was never the same again. I never told Brad Foster this and right now want to say to him, “Thanks... for completely messing my life up.” Seriously, though, Brad, your words were like getting sprinkled with magic fairy dust. It was a very kind thing to say to somebody who had no idea what he was doing.

It wasn’t long before I started adding different artists to the mini comix I was making. Folding and stapling and cutting became an obsession. My papercutter and deep-throated stapler became my best friends. I can remember wild fantasies going on in my head while my fingers were collating pages to be folded and bound together. Fantasies of expanding the production of these little pieces of paper into something that was real. A real comic book, perhaps, with color covers printed with ink on newsprint. All I knew was that if this continued that someday, I didn’t know how and didn’t know when, I was going to work as a professional in the comic book industry one way or another. I felt like I had finally found my calling in life.

Now in a way this was kind of pathetic. I was already 32 years old. I was married, working odd jobs, struggling and trying to keep our lives afloat. I had been living the life of an irresponsible musician/crazed hippie with no other desires but to fuck around and play the guitar. All of a sudden there was focus in my life.

I always wondered if some of the mini comix creators had the same thoughts running through their heads as I did. How could these little books with cartoons and drawings in them have such a powerful effect?

If you don’t include the Tijuana Bibles in their history, it seems that mini comix came about through what was known as “fanzines.” In the early ’60s fans of comic books started publishing handmade zines about their favorite comic books and comic book characters. Some of these fans were going even one step further and included drawings they had made of their favorite superheroes. And some of these guys even became very famous comic book artists because of the drawings they were making. By the late ’60s and early ’70s the underground comix movement had hit hard and the do-it-yourself spirit was born. While it is almost impossible to nail down who was the very first to publish his own comics, my guess is that this task had already been accomplished by the early fanzine creators. While I have not personally seen much I can almost guarantee that some of these fanzine guys were quick to publish stories of their own superhero creations. The undergrounds broke everything wide open with a cartoon art movement that said, anything goes. That would include making your own comic books or art ’zines too. While a lot of people credit Gary Arlington for publishing some of the first mini comix, there were a few others who had already begun the task. This book starts with a duo from New York who started publishing their own mail art booklets in 1971. Mail art entailed contributors sending in a page of art upon invitation and all the pages would be bound together into a small chapbook or “zine.” I feel this phenomenon might have been a “collective consciousness” type of thing where a handful of people living in different areas across the country all got the idea about the same time. By 1972 mini comix was born. By the mid to late ’70s underground comix had run their course and because there was no place for the new young underground cartoonist to go, by the latter ’70s the NEWAVE mini comix scene came into existence. Different groups of people like Artie Romero’s Everyman Studios sprang up and started taking on new and different artists. Clay Geerdes started up his Comix World group and was encouraging fresh young artists to be a part of this self-made movement. By the early ’80s the shit had hit the fan and there were creators all over the world that were drawing, folding, and stapling their own creations in an attempt to show the world what they could do with a pencil and some ink. By the early ’90s NEWAVE had turned into something different. While the same sense of independence was and still is rampant in mini comix, tastes changed and mini comix became more socially accepted and easier to find.

I personally have made an incredible amount of these handmade booklets. While I never kept exact records of how many books I have made, I would give a lowball estimate that I alone, under my own steam, have handmade about 45,000 comics. Yes, I said 45,000. I did a series of 15 mini comix back in the early ’90s distributed through Diamond Distributors that totaled over 16,000 comix alone. I must have been completely nuts to have wasted so much time. You know what? I’m still hand-making mini comix and in just the last couple of years have produced 8 new titles. If there is anybody out there who thinks he can beat this figure I would really like to know and personally shake his hand for being even crazier than me.

Across the whole scene there have been so many mini comix created it would take 50 or more books like this just to cover most of it. Nobody could ever really know how many mini comix have been made and by how many creators. At least 60% of all mini comix have fallen into obscurity. A lot of them had print runs as low as 25 copies, while for others there might have been only three or four copies made. Because of space alone, there are many creators that had to be left out of this project and to those, I apologize. But maybe you are one of the few who could understand the immensity of a project like this.

What you hold in your hands is just a brief overview of some of the best work that has been created by obsessed nutballs who realized if they were ever to get their work published they were going to have to do it with their own willpower. They not only had to write and draw their own work but collate, fold, staple, and trim their creations too. The endless trips to the photocopy or print shop alone would be enough to drive some crazy... I want to dedicate this book to anybody out there who has had the sense and wits about them to fold, staple, and trim their own book. To you I bow respectfully, in humility.



 
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