How did a nervous, creative kid from a normal family in Nebraska grow up to make some of the most outrageous, transgressive, Id-ful comics ever put to paper? You'll find the answer — and the comics — in Pirates in the Heartland, the first book in our 3-volume biography and retrospective of S. Clay Wilson by Patrick Rosenkranz. Wilson, of course, is a member of the Zap Comix collective and creator of the Checkered Demon; Rosenkranz is one of the preeminent authorities on underground comix and the author of the definitive history of the genre, Rebel Visions. Their mighty powers combine in this essential series that takes an unflinching look at the man and his work.
In our downloadable excerpt, read about Wilson's childhood in the heartland, see some of his youthful artwork, and read some of his earliest underground comix stories with, yes, pirates. Expected availability is in about 8 weeks, give or take;pre-sale is on now!
The man. His work. They coexist on the cover and in the pages of Pirates in the Heartland: The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 1, compiling Wilson's seminal underground comix work along with the first part of Patrick Rosenkranz's authoritative biography. Wilson unleashed a cannon barrage on the boundaries of the comics art form and rushed through, flintlocks blazing, cutlass in teeth, and fly open, taking no prisoners with his outrageous output. This book, combined with its two forthcoming sequels, will be the last word and the ultimate collection of a comics legend. Look for more previews between now and its release this summer.
And for lots more insight into the cover design, art director Jacob Covey wrote these notes on his personal Facebook page, re-presented here with his kind permission:
Here's the cover design for the new Fantagraphics book from Patrick Rosenkranz, The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson, Volume One: Pirates In the Heartland. This is the result of more comps than I have ever produced before and I figured I'd write about it to get at some idea of why.
For one thing, I went into this project with little enthusiasm. Wilson is a pioneering Underground Comix artist who inspired R. Crumb to let loose his id, to break comics wide open for self-expression. But Wilson on the surface -- and after forty years of being built upon (back to before I was born) -- lacks the contrasting dignity of Crumb's linework and his compositions are DENSE. Wilson art is recognizable: His line, and his humor, is crass; there is no white space and there are no taboos.
There are artists you have to recalibrate for and, for me, Wilson turns out to be one of those. It took a lot of sitting with the stories to let down my guard and enjoy how powerful the work is. A lot of artists talk about wanting to get back to creating like a kid again. Wilson manages to remain as unfiltered as an adolescent in detention. His is not the art of an innocent kindergartner who draws fanciful anatomy in a surreal landscape but that of the self-realizing, hormone-raging, unclean middle-beast that is boys who are becoming men. He still draws like a kid, just not the kid we romanticize about. At a time when most of us become self-conscious and begin self-censoring Wilson did not.
That accomplishment in itself is remarkable but his relentless creating is the application that makes him genius. Wilson seems to exist solely to get his sprawling imagination down on paper. His prolific output is that of the consummate artist. That it is also very graphic, violent, and offensive to most all social norms takes a little adjusting to.
So all of this is what I had to assimilate just to start my job. To feel like I had enough grasp on Wilson to "brand" his life by designing this cover to (volume one of) his biography. My first attempts weren't about Wilson but associations with his Underground brethren and the psychedelia connected to the period. Pinks, Cyans, solid clashing color. All completely missing the character of Wilson. Wilson was (is) certainly a drug user but of the escapist, rebellious variety, not the trippy, feel-good variety. He's a meat-and-potatoes guy who creates fevered worlds, including his own. Hence the title "The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson" -- a smart nuance on the part of Rosenkranz.
In publishing, one has to approach a cover with the information of an expert and the ignorance of a browser. In biographies, a photo of the subject is generally employed for good reason: The viewer immediately knows this is a book about a person. (Hence the trend in fiction of generally cropping off the heads of models or having them looking away -- this is not about THEM.) But Wilson is recognizable only by his artwork, so a photo alone isn't enough information. Ultimately, my solution is a kind of psychedelia but a practical one: Pirate art (a favorite theme of Wilson) overlaying a mythic portrait of young Wilson. Creation and creator in color overlays that force your eye to try to unhook one from the other.
I generally consider it a failure when cover design requires a band of color upon which to set the type. In this case, it allowed for the art to be the primary feature, to be a bit uncontrolled, while the type treatment is an anchor that harkens classic album design. This kind of visual messaging is trying to align Wilson with rebels and rockstars without making false promises. The trickiest part was simply finding Wilson art that had ANY white space so his portrait could connect with the viewer. The dual function of his artwork blowing the brains out, simultaneously, of Wilson and another of Wilson's creation was too wonderful to pass up but I'm going to leave the symbology of such things to the viewer.
224-page color/black & white 7.5" x 11" hardcover • $34.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-747-5
This is the definitive account of the boldest and most audacious of the legendary underground cartoonists: the taboo busting, eyeball blistering S. Clay Wilson. This first volume contains all of his underground comic stories from ZAP Comix, Snatch, Gothic Blimp Works, Bogeyman, Felch, Insect Fear, Pork, Tales of Sex and Death, and Arcade magazine as well as the many adventures of the Checkered Demon, Star-Eyed Stella, and Captain Pissgums, and even his earliest collaborations with William Burroughs. Also: selections from his teenaged and college years, both in comics and painting form. First person accounts from his peers, as well as Wilson’s own words, offer a revealing portrait of the artist who hid his shyness behind brash behavior and bluster. This first of a three-volume biography and retrospective gets to the heart and soul of an artist who lived his dreams and his nightmares.
160-page full-color 9" x 12" hardcover • $34.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-731-4
Featuring approximately 75 full-color portraits of the pioneering legends of American comic books, including publishers, editors, and artists from the industry's birth in the '30s, through the brilliant artists and writers behind EC Comics in the ’50s. All lovingly rendered and chosen by Drew Friedman, a cartooning legend in his own right. Featuring subjects popular and obscure, men and women, as well as several pioneering African-American artists. Each subject features a short essay by Friedman, who grew up knowing many of the subjects included (as the son of writer Bruce Jay Friedman), including Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Mort Drucker, Al Jaffee, Jack Davis, Will Elder, and Bill Gaines. More names you might recognize: Barks, Crumb, Wood, Wolverton, Frazetta, Siegel & Shuster, Kirby, Cole, Ditko, Wertham... it’s a Hall of Fame of comic book history from the man Boing Boing calls "America’s greatest living portrait artist!"
(Note that the final cover art will feature Drew's portrait of Jack Kirby, rather than Siegel & Shuster as shown here.)
Holy comicsolly! Here's photos from the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, OR. Dash Shaw was in attendance with New School, which flew off the table. WHY THE WAIT on pictures? We forgot our own con rules. To remain human you must 5-2-1-I: At least 5 hours of sleep, 2 meals a day, 1 shower and Ibuprofen at night. Four hours of sleep one night wrecked this gal and boy, did she pay for it.
Lots of our Fantastaff came to the show since it was so close! Me, Designer Emory Liu, PR Director Jacq Cohen, Dash and Office Manager Steph Rivers.
Patrick Rosenkranz held some long, lovely conversations with fans of comics history and his book Rebel Visions. Patrick also led a Spain Rodriguez tribute panel, if you can ever take a class by him bring a recorder!
Dash talks to fans, cartoonists and the awesome Ming Doyle (who is both).
Portland is awesome because there are cartoonists everywhere. And by everywhere I mean at bars or restaurants. We ran in to Greg Means, Alec Longstreth and Claire Sanders at the Red Flag on the way to the Top Shelf party.
Having the warehouse van proved useful driving home slightly drinky cartoonists. James Kochalka, Rachel Foss and Dash Shaw hold court in the back.
ACCESSORIES. We saw quite a bit. Ed Luce rocked some additional tags.
Dash signed the Stumptown sketch poster HIS WAY.
Patrick Yurick had the best NEW comics-related tattoo. It even has the Wattersonesque dropped panel borders for that comic beat.
Speaking of PANELS: Dash tickled the audience with this animation and comic panel. He's got comedic timing DOWN.
Here I am looking goofy alongside some of the smarter people in comics on a submissions panel: Allison Baker of MonkeyBrain Comics, Jamie S. Rich (talking about old Oni days), Bob Schreck and Sina Grace of Image and Skybound. Panel photo by Glenn Peters.
Our Kristy Valenti, Patrick Rosenkranz and Tom Spurgeon gave a beautiful Spain Rodriguez tribute panel. Photo by someone who still rocks a flash.
INTERN POWER. We had several interns tabling with their own comics. Low-res intern Kevin Uehlein and Ben Horak on the edges of a beautiful comics table, Beth Hetland and Pat Barrett in the middle. Ben's shy so all you get is his sideburns.
Intern Nomi Kane and her comic spread. The Back of Ben Horak.
Our artists will be partaking in programming throughout the weekend, so check out their panels!
Saturday, April 27th
12:00-12:45 pm // Meathaus Reunion: Becky Cloonan, Brandon Graham, Farel Dalrymple and Dash Shaw: A reflective spotlight on Meathaus luminaries, Becky Cloonan, Brandon Graham, Farel Dalrymple and Dash Shaw whose work has appeared in various Meathaus anthologies since 2002. These artists have each maintained their own strong modern stylistic identity receiving both critical and commercial acclaim. Marc Arsenault (Alternative Comics) will introduce the panel with a look at the SVA art groups and graduates that led to the creation of the Meathaus comics collective. (Room B114)
1:00-1:45 pm // Angels and Demons: The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson: Mythology may be the key to understanding the work of highly influential underground cartoonist S. Clay Wilson, from the self-mythology that Wilson invented and polished over the years as a dashing and dangerous figure, to his personal inner landscape where his archetypal characters dwell when they arena gracing the pages of Zap Comix, Thrilling Murder, or Insect Fear, to the body of language and lore passed down from his hillbilly ancestors. With Patrick Rosenkranz. (Room B117)
2:00-2:45 pm // Two-Faced Artist Lives Double Life in Single Body!: The joys and perils of straddling the worlds of fine art and comics with cartoonists Jon McNaught, Julia Gfrörer, and Daniel Duford, moderated by Chloe Eudaly. Join us for a conversation with our panel of artists, each of whom are experienced in the realms of fine art and comics. We'll explore how they came to work in two seemingly disparate mediums, how their work in each converges with, diverges from, and influences the other, and the the sometimes arbitrary or artificial distinction between the two. (Room B117)
5:00-5:45 pm // Dylan Williams Tribute Panel: Share some time with the friends and colleagues of comics' best friend as we all recount our favorite stories about the late Sparkplug publisher's life and celebrate his philosophy and work as an artist, scholar and publisher. Time permitting, we will also attempt to make sense of his passion for unsettling any and everyone who dared point a camera at him at festivals like this one. Panelists include: T Edward Bak, Julia Gfrörer, Tim Goodyear, David Lasky, Tom Neely; moderated by Milo George. (Room B114)
Sunday, April 28th
1:00-1:45 pm // Submissions Do's and Don'ts: Jen Vaughn (Fantagraphics), Jamie Rich (formerly Oni Press), Bob Schreck (Legendary Comics), Allison Baker (Monkeybrains Comics), and Sina Grace (Image/Skybound) will share their experiences slogging through the submissions pile, everything from finding a diamond in the rough to bartering with the mailman to stop delivering submissions. Your questions? Answered! Your comics published? We'll see. (Room B114)
2:00-2:45 pm // Dash Shaw's New School: Dash Shaw is a cartoonist and animator whose graphic novel New School debuts at Stumptown from Fantagraphics Books. In this spotlight presentation, he will screen and discuss his animations, including his Sigur Ros video and Sundance short Seraph, and show slides of the process behind creating New School as well as some of his other comics. Moderated by Fantagraphics' Jen Vaughn. (Room B111)
4:00-4:45 pm // DIY Publishing: For many micropublishers, making good books is easy; it's the marketing and the selling that's hard. Panelists Tom Kaczynski (Uncivilized Books), Zack Soto (Study Group), Chloe Eudaly (Reading Frenzy), Jason Leivian (Floating World Comics), Keenan Keller (Drippy Bone), and moderator Milo George will look at different printing processes and their costs and compare notes on production/distribution issues including pricing and sustainability. (Room B111)
5:00-5:45 pm // Spain Tribute Panel: Spain Rodriguez, legendary underground cartoonist, tore his way into hearts of readers like the beloved motorcycles that grace the pages of his comics. Patrick Rosenkranz, Jen Vaughn, Eric Reynolds, and Charles Brownstein take you though the wild days of Spain's work from his groundbreaking ZAP anthology contributions to adapting the life of Che Guevara. Get acquainted with this revolutionary cartoonist and his award-winning work. (Room B117)
So, stop by the Fantagraphics Booth this weekend at Stumptown, Booth Q1 right down the aisle when you first walk in!
• Profile: Esteemed underground comix historian Patrick Rosenkranz at The Comics Journal: "Spain Rodriguez acknowledges that age hasn’t necessarily brought wisdom, but it does help him appreciate his youthful adventures more, especially the unique experience of growing up in Buffalo, New York in the 1950s, which he portrays in his latest book,Cruisin' with the Hound.... This new volume from Fantagraphics Books tells more about his childhood, the guys and girls in his neighborhood, early encounters with sex, religion, and science fiction, and the birth of rock and roll." Sample quote from Spain: "Each moment is unique. That’s the thing about comics. If affords you the potential to be able to capture that moment, probably more than anything else. It has certain objective and subjective potentiality. It’s something that nobody else can do. Each person is unique, each person sees things in their individual way and comics give you that opportunity."
• Review: "A book with 400 pages of Alex Toth comics is a dream come true. Toth is one of the early greats of comics. Many of the golden age and early silver age comic artists made drawings that were charmingly crude, but there were a few supergeniuses among them. Alex Toth's art is obviously a cut above a lot of his peers. His understanding of how to use areas of black is unequaled. Cartoonists like Frank Miller and Charles Burns, who really like to use as much black as possible, owe a lot to Toth as a guy who really broke new ground in blacking it up. If you want to learn something about shading and composition you go get this book [Setting the Standard] and just black out." – Nick Gazin, VICE
• Review: "I still like looking at Ditko's stuff and think his work is valid. He's not a great drawer but he is clearly full of intense feelings and a lot of rage. Although his actual rendering skills aren't as strong as someone like Toth his ideas, feelings, and visual concepts are strong. This book [Mysterious Traveler] collects various sci-fi and horror comics he drew that are all pretty fun to look at and have neat visual ideas littered throughout." – Nick Gazin, VICE
• Review: "[Glitz-2-Go] deals with feeling unattractive and dressing kinda like a drag queen and being dissatisfied with relationships. The Didi Glitz comics were produced at a time when doing art about the hidden perversions of the 50s was big. Pee Wee Herman, Blue Velvet, John Waters, a lot of stuff Devo did — it all fits in with this book." – Nick Gazin, VICE
• Interview: At PSFK, an excerpt of Rob Walker talking about Significant Objects in Need to Know Magazine: "People value and are attracted to stories, and this often plays out in the world of objects. What we tried to do is take that observation in a different direction. Instead of a traditional story ‘about an object’ (where it was made, why it’s so great, how it will make your life better), we wanted creative writers to invent stories inspired by objects, which can lead to all kinds of unpredictable results. And in this case, the results turned out to be strong enough that the stories stood on their own."
• Commentary: A Fletcher Hanks creation tops Pip Ury's list of "6 Great Old-Timey Comics for (Traumatizing) Kids" at Cracked: "Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle is often credited as the first comic book superheroine, debuting in early 1940 and predating Wonder Woman by almost two years. Whoever decided she counted as one, however, has an extremely loose definition of what superheroing entails -- for starters, as far as we know superheroes aren't meant to be mind-numbingly terrifying."
• List:The Hooded Utilitarian, nearing the top of their results in their International Best Comics Poll, reveals George Herriman's Krazy Kat at #2, with a brief essay by Jeet Heer
• Review: "...The Comics Journal #301... is crammed with fantastic content. The volume's texture, heft, and text make it the readers' equivalent of a dense slab of chocolate cake.... In short, Gary Groth and his editorial team have produced a stellar contribution to comics history and scholarship. It is a feast for comics aficionados and neophytes alike. " – Casey Burchby, SF Weekly
• Plug: "I second Tom Spurgeon’s recommendation of Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe Back Home. I was amazed by how brutally frank the comics are, and how affecting. I actually prefer it to his WWII work — it’s even more impassioned, and the cartooning loosens enough to show off a really expressive, cutting line." – Dan Nadel, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "Alex Chun has a new volume available from Fantagraphics Books in his series which profiles the 'few dollars a drawing' gag writers who sold work to the Humorama line of digest publications during the 1950s and into the early 1970s. As I have been writing on the lesser known artists who contributed, with the scant information available...I eagerly await the book!" – Jim Linderman, Dull Tool Dim Bulb
• Analysis: At Entrecomics, Alberto Garcia examines the Steve Ditko influence/homages in some of Gilbert Hernandez's early work — even if you don't read Spanish, the images will have you going "ah-haaaa..."
• Lore:Kim Deitch's "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" column returns over at TCJ.com, with more on Elvis Presley and the early days of rock 'n' roll
... And by that, I mean, I had threeBurgerville Northwest Cherry Chocolate Milkshakes in the two days we were in Portland, Oregon for the 8th Annual Stumptown Comics Fest. They even put espresso shots in my milkshakes. God bless Burgerville.
The calm before the Stumptown storm!
So, WOW! Thank you so much to everyone who came by our booth at Stumptown this year! Mike and I had a blast! Hate Annual #9 flew off the racks, with Jason's latest Isle of 100,000 Graves also selling out quickly.
We were thrilled to be joined by editor Patrick Rosenkranz. While we weren't able to make his panel on the underground comix movement, we could tell from the fans attending his signing that it must've went great! One fellow came by with a huge stack of Zap Comix in hand, including a rare copy of the first printing of #1!
Speaking of successful panels, T. Edward Bak had several of his attendees dropping by the booth, grabbing fistfuls of Momes! Here he is, showing some of his original artwork. Mike pointed out that you can always tell which issues of Mome T. Edward is in by looking for the black pages on the fore edge! (And yes, we had to consult Google to figure out what the sides of a book are called.)
Mome contributor Jeffrey Brown was signing with our booth neighbors Top Shelf, and leaned over for a chat with T Edward. Note: this happened on the next day from the other picture posted above; it's not like T Edward brought two sets of clothes. He's not Lady Gaga.
[Speaking of Jeffrey, here's one of my favorite overheard quotes of the weekend -- girl, on cellphone: "Hello? Mom, I gotta call you back. I'm standing in front of Jeffrey Brown."]
[My second favorite overheard quote of Stumptown comes from our own Customer Service Representative Ian Burns, who was trying to unload his leftovers from lunch: "It is really hard to give away meat in Portland."]
Speaking of Mome, we're always delighted to have the multi-talented Andrice Arp join us. Not only was she signing copies of Mome (including Volume 15, which features her cover art), but she also brought mini-paintings and a totally awesome flip-book she designed, inspired by the A-ha video for "Take On Me." Yeah, that's right.
And finally, editor Jacques Boyreau joined us, engaging customers with his collection Portable Grindhouse. Jacques is always great to talk movies with, and a former French film critic even stopped by to discuss cult classics! And who's that to the left in the pic above? Why it's Monster Parade artist Ben Catmull!
Ben had his own table this year at Stumptown, featuring his award-winning 2001 comic Paper Theater, and some freakin' insane letterpress prints, both of which you can acquire straight from the gentleman himself.
The biggest buzz of the weekend was over the move from the old location (The Lloyd Center) to the much-larger Oregon Convention Center. And yes, while I missed the windows and nearby park of The Lloyd Center, I've really only got one word: Burgerville.
You can check out lots more pics from our Stumptown adventures on the Fantagraphics Flickr page here. And the fun don't stop, as Mike and I are now gearing up for TCAF! Hope to see you there!