2013 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Anthology
"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 hes best known for his two-fisted tales of the chopper-riding Trashman, Spains 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 Spains 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 Spains 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 occurred.
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. Crumbs 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 erathe fiftiesthat American culture cant let go of." Ray Olson, Booklist (Starred Review)