With our forthcoming opus STRANGE & STRANGE: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO hitting in just a few weeks, I thought I would share a brief Steve Ditko story. About ten years ago we had the great fortune of publishing a new series by Mr. Ditko, STEVE DITKO'S STRANGE AVENGING TALES. This was incredibly exciting to me, having been a lifelong Ditko fan. Unfortunately, I did not get to interact much with Mr. Ditko. See, I do all of our promotion, and to say that Mr. Ditko is not big on promotion is like saying the Pope is not big on gay marriage. And, he preferred snail mail to phone. As such, I did not have many opportunities to interact with one of the greatest comic book artists of all-time. Except one.
At the time, the venerable fan publication COMICS BUYERS GUIDE was very excited about Mr. Ditko's new series, and CBG Editor Maggie Thompson was kind enough to offer us the cover of an issue to promote the book, but asked if Mr. Ditko would provide an original cover for CBG. As I recall, Gary Groth ran the idea by Ditko and, somewhat surprisingly, he was game. So, I mailed Mr. Ditko all of the appropriate specifications for creating an original CBG cover. A week or so later, I received the following postcard in the mail:
I have to say, getting a postcard in the mail from Steve Ditko was just about the coolest thing ever. I was jazzed. I of course promptly wrote him back with enthusiasm, hoping to cement our acquaintanceship, telling him that I looked forward to the piece.
Soon thereafter, as promised, Ditko delivered the cover, and it was great -- a beautiful, greytoned wash illustration tying into the new series.
And here's where I made my mistake. As I recall, I wrote him back even more enthusiastically, thanking him for the piece. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, and since we still had some time before CBG's deadline, I reminded him (in case he hadn't seen an issue recently) that CBG had just switched from a B&W newspaper format to a tabloid format with color covers , and so color did remain an option if he was so inclined -- I just wanted to make sure he wasn't limiting himself to B&W because he thought he had to.
Anyway, a week or so later I got this postcard:
Reading the card now, I'm not even sure if he was actually that upset. I mean, he still sent his "regards," so maybe he was just trying to be as clear as possible, but at the time, I was convinced I'd royally pissed him off and felt terrible about it. I still do. Shortly after this, Ditko quit the series over other disagreements with Gary Groth, and only the first issue was published. So I never got the chance to prove to Mr. Ditko that I wasn't a moron.
I suppose, given Mr. Ditko's philosophical worldview, I never should have doubted that B&W cover. Maybe it was the shades of grey that threw me off. Either way, the pure white, economic postcards should have been a reminder that Mr. Ditko knew exactly what he was doing and I never should have questioned him.
Bottomless Belly Button is a comedy-drama that follows the dysfunctional adventures of the Loony Family.
After 40-some years of marriage, Maggie and David Loony shock their children with their announcement of a planned divorce. But the reason for splitting isn't itself shocking: they’re "just not in love any more." The announcement sparks a week long Loony family reunion at Maggie and David's creepy (and possibly haunted) beach house.
The eldest child, Dennis, struggles with his parents' decision while facing difficulties of his own in his recent marriage. Believing that his parents are hiding the true reasons behind their estrangement, Dennis embarks on a quest to discover the truth and searches through clues, trap doors, and secret tunnels in attempt to find an answer. Claire, the middle child, is a single mother whose 16-year-old daughter, Jill, is apathetic to the divorce but confounded by Claire and troubled by her own "mannish" appearance. The youngest child, Peter, is a hack filmmaker suffering from paralyzing insecurities who establishes an unorthodox romance with a mysterious day care counselor at the beach.
In a six-day period rich with atmospheric sequences, these characters stumble blindly around one another, often ignoring their surroundings and consumed by their own daily conflicts. Visually, Shaw employs a leisurely storytelling pace that allows room for exploring the interconnecting relationships among the characters and plays to his strength as a cartoonist — small gestural details and nuanced expressions that bring the characters to vivid and intimate life.
If the controversial R.D. Laing wrote an episode of The Simpsons, it might read something like Bottomless Belly Button.
(This book is available with two different covers. When ordering, please indicate your preference for "Mom" or "Dad.")
Now available in a newly designed and affordable softcover edition! This is a provocative chronicle of the guerilla art movement that changed comics forever. This comprehensive book follows the movements of 50 artists from 1967 to 1972, the heyday of the underground comix movement. Through interviews with the participants and other materials, Rebel Visions is the most intimate look ever at the people and events that forged the phenomenon known as underground comix, from New York to San Francisco, from the corn belt to deep in the heart of Texas, beginning that day in 1968 when R. Crumb debuted ZAP #1 from a baby carriage on Haight Ashbury Street. Rosenkranz has spent over 30 years researching this book and acquiring the cooperation of every significant underground cartoonist who worked throughout this period, including Crumb, Gilbert (Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) Shelton, Bill (Zippy) Griffith, Art (Maus) Spiegelman, Jack Jackson, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, and many more. The book is illustrated with many never-before-seen drawings by all of the underground cartoonists and exclusive photographs.
The book is centered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, where Crumb and the rest of his Zap cronies commingled with the rest of the city’s counter-cultural scene, notably musicians like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. The counterculture was omnipresent in San Francisco for those few years, with underground tabloids like Yellow Dog and the San Francisco Oracle steering the zeitgeist out-of-control, along with the music, political, and psychedelic drug scenes, all of which found a group of unlikely revolutionaries who drew cartoons right at the epicenter. This is the definitive book on a memorable and historic era, available for the first time in paperback in this newly designed, expanded and revised edition.
If you weren't able to make it to Larry Reid's slide lecture "Weirdos: Seattle’s Alternative Comics Culture in the Context of R. Crumb’s Underground" at the Frye Art Museum last month, or if you were and want to re-live it, we are very pleased to present it here on the website in a nifty interactive format. Stream or download the MP3 audio and follow along with the slides at the "ding," just like back in grade school! (You can also read the text of the lecture and browse the slides at your own pace, if you prefer.) Larry's speech is informative, entertaining and opinionated as always, and the slideshow includes a wealth of seldom-seen imagery like the Rocket cover by the Brothers Hernandez pictured above. Click here to dive on in!
Media Release Contacts: Marshall Reid
MANIK SKATEBOARDS PRESENTS ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE PETER BAGGE Launch Party on Saturday, May 17 at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
Seattle-based Manik Skateboards continues its innovative artist-in-residence approach to skateboarding culture with the release of a new line of skate decks and related merchandise by acclaimed local cartoonist Peter Bagge. The launch of this new product line begins with a display and reception for the artist on Saturday, May 17 from 6:00 - 9:00 PM at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Georgetown.
Now in it 6th year of operation, Manik Skateboards instituted their artist-in-residence program in 2004. Past participants have included accomplished artists in a variety of media including Maya Hayuk, Andrew Pommier, Charles Peterson, Craig Wetherby, and Jeff Proctor, among many others. Peter Bagge continues this tradition of provocative graphic design with a regional flavor.
Seattle's Peter Bagge is one of the most influential and admired cartoonists in the world. His grunge-era imagery is ideally suited to the skateboarding subculture. At once hilarious and poignant, Bagge's work of this era went beyond satire, and helped fashion both the attitudes and aesthetics of Seattle's only significant indigenous youth movement. Manik partner and designer Nhon "Nin" Truong explains, "Since our inception, Manik has been devoted to preserving our region's cultural heritage. From the anachronistic architectural anomalies of the ‘Aurora Avenue' series, to the jazz and blues legends of the ‘Jackson Street' edition, we've made an effort to expose a new generation to Seattle's cultural legacy. Like Charles Peterson's photographic series of skateboards, Peter Bagge represents an amazing era in our history." Manik partner and promotions director Marshall "Stack" Reid" (a former staffer at Fantagraphics) adds, "I was exposed to Bagge's comics at a very early age, and this series is like reliving my childhood."
The launch party is open to the public of all ages. The artist will be available to sign boards and books. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S.) in Seattle's lively Georgetown district. Phone 206.658.0110.
A selection of images in a variety of formats is available for publication. For additional information, feel free to contact Nin Truong or Marshall Reid at numbers above.
Listing Information Manik Skateboards Peter Bagge series launch party Saturday, May 17, 6:00 - 9:00 PM Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St., Seattle (206) 658-0110 Admission free. All ages.