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.
"Glenn's fabulous collection and the stories that go with it is the kinda stuff you can't make up." – Jaime Hernandez
"The Bray Collection is a national treasure, a Fort Knox of astounding pop-culture holdings compiled with uncanny prescience and a singular, infallible eye for both the unassailably great and the otherwise overlooked. Bray and Zwalve have assembled a sum that is possibly greater even than its magnificent parts, and to experience the body of work in its entirety — finding connections, noting omissions, succumbing to the perfection of the vision — is to understand the visual world in a whole new way." – Daniel Clowes
"Glenn Bray is the Great Curator of brilliant, overlooked pop culture, and this wild book is an eye-popping art treasure for us all." – Matt Groening
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.)
We're reminding you to check out The Art Institute of Chicago's exhibition entitled Rarely Seen: Contemporary Works on Paper, that is up from now until January 13, 2012. Organized by the Prints and Drawings Department of the museum, the show also includes comics from the Ryerson Library collection including Blexbolex, Mat Brinkman, Charles Burns, R. Crumb (Zap and Weirdo), Hairy Who, Humbug magazine, Al Jaffee, Rory Hayes, Jay Lynch, David Sandlin, Art Spiegelman, S Clay Wilson (Zap), and issues from Raw magazine.
The non-comics but still amazing part of the show includes artists such as Ed Ruscha, Martin Kippenberger, Carrol Dunham, Jim Nutt, and Romare Bearden and the whole show is located in Galleries 124–127.
"Whether centuries old or the latest contemporary creations, works on paper are extremely light sensitive and can only be displayed in the galleries for short and infrequent periods of time before they must be returned to the safety of the dark, climate-controlled vault."
So jump on the chance, Chicago, to see some brilliant works on paper in THIS lifetime. The museum is open daily from 10:30am-5pm, open late until 8 on Wednesdays. Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents the first and second Wednesdays of every month.
"Andrew Edlin Gallery is pleased to present Zap: Masters of Psychedelic Art, 1965-74, curated by Gary Panter and Chris Byrne. The exhibition will include works by the seven artists from the original Zap lineup: Robert Crumb, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, S. Clay Wilson, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez and Robert Williams. The focus of the show is the early days of Zap, when these artists begat their visionary deconstruction of the comic book with remarkable innovations in storytelling and drawing. An accompanying catalogue is being published by the gallery."