"They were all there, the pimps, the fags, the whores, the curious, the alcoholic, the
weird of the late ’50s... blues lovers, Canadian bikers, thrill seekers, junkies, insomniacs,
hepcats...” So begins “Down at the Kitty Kat,” one of the 20-plus never-before-collected memoirs and yarns by Spain Rodriguez, one of the original
gang of Zap Comix provocateurs.
Although he’s best known for his two-fisted tales of the chopper-riding Trashman,
Spain’s blunt graphic style and uncompromising gift for caricature, rendered
in eye-punishing slabs of black and white, work equally well for more
subtle fare — such as these memoirs of his misspent youth.
Cruisin’ with the Hound ranges from Spain’s days as an innocent young
churchgoer to his time as a member of the Road Vultures motorcycle gang, with
stops along the way for his discoveries
of science fiction and other, more adult pursuits (“The Birth
of Porn”) — as well as the “The Education of an Underground Cartoonist,”
describing his journey from a pimply Captain Marvel-reading
scribbler to his arrival as a professional artist.
But the heart of this collection is a cycle of stories (originally published
in the acclaimed Blab! magazine) set during Spain’s teenage
days in the 1950s, often featuring the doomed, dot-eyed Fred Tooté, a
wild, flaky character in whose company some of his wildest escapades
Raunchy, hilarious, and often violent as hell, Cruisin’ with the Hound
is an unsentimentally nostalgic trip to half a century ago — the anti-
Happy Days, set to a true rock ’n’ roll beat.
"Rodriguez, renowned among alt-comics mavens by his nickname/nom de plume, Spain, had the perfect
youth for reality comics. He grew up in an ethnically mixed working- and lower-middle-class
neighborhood of Buffalo, and he was self-directed from early on. He went to religious instruction on his
own initiative (his parents were indifferent) until a boozy priest chewed him out without hearing his story.
He attended public school, discovered EC Comics, turned teenager just as R & B turned to rock ’n’
roll, went to art school after high school, dropped out to do factory work, and, most important, hot-rodded
around to dance bars with his friends and then joined a motorcycle club. How cool is that? Answer:
extremely, especially since all that time he was honing his drawing skills into the thick-outlined, carefully
detailed style (like R. Crumb’s but without broad caricature) for which he is universally envied and
beloved. This collection of autobiographical stories, accompanied by a long excerpt from a biographical
interview with him, is one of Fantagraphics’ best production jobs as well as a helluva satisfying window
on an era—the fifties—that American culture can’t let go of."
– Ray Olson, Booklist (Starred Review)
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