My longtime friend Bruce Pavitt has been contemplating purging himself of some material possessions for a few years now. (As an obsessive collector myself, I appreciate the impulse.) We recently concluded that the Charles Burns event on October 30 would provide an ideal opportunity to find new homes for a few of his amazing artifacts. As the founder of Seattle's storied Sub Pop record label, his collection is impressive, to say the least. You might want to shield your eyes to for protection from the brilliance that's below.
Many people are unaware that Bruce Pavitt created Subterranean Pop as a fanzine while an undergraduate at Evergreen State College in 1980. A year later he shortened the name to Sub Pop and released issue number 5 as a cassette and mini-zine so readers could hear the music being discussed. The dozen tracks included Steve Fisk, Pell Mell, Cool Rays (Calvin Johnson’s pre-Beat Happening project), and perhaps most interestingly, “Reagan Speaks for Himself” by Seattle sound artist Doug Kahn. Pavitt recruited Evergreen alum Charles Burns to do the cover. This issue of Sub Pop was the direct predecessor to the celebrated record label.
The original Charles Burns artwork for this cassette zine will be offered in a silent auction during the Burns exhibition with a reserve bid of $1,000. (The original Burns artwork for the Sub Pop 200 LP sold 8 years ago for several times this amount to EMP, the music museum founded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.) Bids will be accepted through the run of the Burns exhibition, October 30 through December 6.
Pavitt is also offering his collection of pristine copies of Art Spiegelman’s RAW magazine. These coveted oversize issues included bound-in copies of Maus and other extras, including the aforementioned Doug Kahn recording from Sub Pop 5 as a bound-in sound sheet (almost never found intact in RAW #4.) It’s worth noting that RAW #4 was delayed because the conservative owners of Eva-Tone Soundsheets, the only domestic publisher of flexi-discs, refused to press Kahn’s piece, and Speigelman was forced to press the disc in Holland.
As Pavitt was showing me this sterling stash of RAWs, out fluttered a long-forgotten letter. In it, Spiegelman compliments Pavitt on Sub Pop 5, mentions a Burns story in forthcoming RAW #4 — but fails to mention Burns’ die-cut cover — and informs him of Doug Kahn’s inclusion.
I found it fairly astonishing that these two visionaries were collaborating on this level as far back as 1981. Who would’ve thought that a decade later, Spiegelman would be honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Maus, forever altering the comix idiom, and Pavitt would launch the alternative rock genre, penetrating pop culture globally? I was sort of stunned by this document. And in the midst of all this we find Charles Burns.
The letter was penned on the back of a proof of Spiegelman’s art for the German edition of DEAD MEN ALL HAVE THE SAME SKIN, which I’d never seen. I find it somehow unsettling to see German language on Spiegelman’s work from this era, given the content of the contemporaneous MAUS.
All 8 near mint copies of the RAW, the Pavitt-Spiegelman document, RAW one shots by Sue Coe and Burns' BIG BABY: Curse of the Molemen, and related ephemera will also be offered at silent auction with a reserve bid of $1,000 through December 6. They will be on display at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery for the run of Charles Burns X’ED OUT exhibition October 30 – December 6.
(Click image to enlarge.)
For more information or to register bids on the framed Charles Burns original Sub Pop 5 illustration or the RAW magazine lot, call Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery curator Larry Reid at 206.658.0110 during business hours.
Charles Burns was among a trio of gifted cartoonists to emerge from The Evergreen State College in the mid-1970s. Together, Burns and fellow Evergreen alumni Matt Groening and Lynda Barry altered the course of contemporary comix and left an indelible mark on regional culture. Burns makes a rare return visit to his native Seattle on Saturday, October 30 to celebrate the publication of his amazing new graphic novel X'ED OUT with a slide talk, art exhibition, and book signing at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. His idiosyncratic horror-story sensibility is perfect for the Halloween-eve occasion.
Burns began his career as a fine artist in Seattle while publishing illustrations and his "Big Baby" cartoon in The Rocket magazine, developing his signature stark-contrast rendering style. Burns also composed covers for Bruce Pavitt's seminal Sub Pop cassette fanzine, the forerunner to the celebrated record label. On a visit to New York, Burns came to the attention of cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who subsequently published his work in the influential anthology RAW. The rest, as they say, is history. Spiegelman published the collected BIG BABY on his RAW imprint, and Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics Books produced his influential BLACK HOLE serial, as well as graphic albums SKIN DEEP and EL BORBAH (in addition to reprinting BIG BABY.)
X'ED OUT continues the artist's examination of the furtive insecurities of adolescence becoming manifested in bizarre and horrific consequences. In a departure from Burns' prior work, the current graphic novel is presented in full color.
The reception at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale Street, will feature a brief slide talk and book signing. An exhibition of recent fine art prints will be complemented by Burns' original drawings and related Sub Pop ephemera courtesy of label co-founder Bruce Pavitt.
Please join us to celebrate the lasting legacy of Charles Burns on Seattle's civic culture and the debut of his graphic novel X'ED OUT on Saturday, October 30 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Spooky Halloween costumes are welcome but not required. All ages, free admission.
CHARLES BURNS: X'ED OUT Slide Talk, Print Exhibition and Book Signing Saturday, October 30, 6:00 to 9:00 PM
I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Charles Burns' amazing masterpiece X'ED OUT. As a fledgling art dealer 30 years ago, I mounted an exhibition of Burns' large-scale graphite drawings at my neo-Dada Rosco Louie gallery in Seattle. His imaginative portraits were strangely grotesque, yet sensuous and alluring. Burns' appeal has grown steadily from that point on, and he is rightfully considered a contemporary master of the comix medium.
I can hardly wait for his slide talk, art exhibition and book signing at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery on Saturday, October 30. His eerie iconography is perfect for the Halloween eve occasion. No costumes required! Simply come enjoy a beverage with one of the world's most revered alternative cartoonists.
Make plans to visit Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle this fall to catch up with the country's most challenging cartoonists, artists and writers. The coming weeks feature the some of the finest in the field.
This Saturday, September 11 finds Carol Tyler at the space for an art opening and book signing. On Saturday, October 9 we welcome the incomparable Dave Cooper for an exhibition of original art and book signing, joined by special guest Johnny Ryan. Saturday, October 30 features the triumphant return of Seattle native Charles Burns for a spooky Halloween reception celebrating his new book X'ed Out. Punk rock prevails on Saturday, November 13 as Zack Carlson signs copies of Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film. And mark your calendars for Saturday, December 11 for Fantagraphics Bookstore's festive fourth anniversary gala — always one of the best bashes of the holiday season.
Don't miss any of these exciting appearances at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale Street in the heart of Seattle's historic Georgetown industrial arts district. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM. Phone 206.658.0110. See you all soon.
I shot a photo & video preview of the 2009 first softcover edition of Charles Burns's Skin Deep last summer, but never had time to upload it, and it slipped through the cracks for many months — until now! You get to ogle this amazing book and I finally get to cross it off my to-do list. Click here if the embedded player isn't visible below or to enlarge it in a new window (recommended).
Hot Stuff by Jonathan Bennett Random Access by Charles Burns Anemone and Comics masthead by Lilli Carré Boy’s Club by Matt Furie Eric Gill’s Busy Day by Tom Gauld Giorgio & Dimitrius by Leif Goldberg I Have No Idea by Lisa Hanawalt Race Murdock by Eric Haven Sketchbook by Anders Nilsen Plut by Emelie Östergren Goof Ballz by Andrew Jeffrey Wright
Them's good comics. The issue is also the only place you'll find interviews with both Wallace Shawn and "Weird" Al Yankovic. Order it here and tell 'em we sent ya.