Friday, 29 November 2013

UNDERGROUND, OVERGROUND - BUT NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WOMBLES...



I have to be honest and say that I'm not really a fan of underground
comics, the only one I ever purchased being COMIX BOOK #1 back in
1974 or '75.  I'm unable to give the precise year due to the fact that, as U.S.
comics and mags came over here as ballast on ships, sometimes they could
lie around in warehouses for months - if not years.  (Although, on occasion,
they reached newsagents' spinner-racks on or around the actual month on
the cover - don't ask me how.)  I don't suppose it much matters to you,
but as I tend to use comics as a calendar to chart my life, I prefer to
be able to pinpoint events with unerring accuracy.

I yet recall the long-gone little newsagent's shop on the far reaches of
my home town's old village quarter where I bought the above periodical -
as well as quite a few other fondly-remembered comicbooks and magazines.
I browsed through it and saw that it had a STAN LEE connection, 'though,
truth to tell, I wasn't too impressed by it.  It was a 'compromise' comic - in
that it didn't really feature the same kind of content as 'real' underground
comics (or 'comix' as they're usually called), but it looked like one
even if it didn't quite read like one.


I bought it mainly because it was a first issue, but I soon decided to
ditch it, first extracting the only strip I considered worth keeping - the
four-page ALICE In WATERGATELAND - which you can read below
as I was savvy enough to hang onto it for those 38-plus years.  Just as well
I did, because it's not featured in the new tome, The BEST Of COMIX
BOOK, a collection of the 'best' strips from the five issue run of the '70s
mag - the first three of which were published by Marvel.  I only ever
saw #1, not knowing that there were others until fairly recently.

If you're into underground comix, then you'll more than likely
enjoy this little piece of history.  I bought it because I wanted to see
the cover again, the better to lose myself in memories of yesteryear, and
a much-missed shop that could always be relied upon to provide me with
some four-colour treasures in which I could lose myself in the magical
realms of fantasy for a few fanciful hours.  However, I plan on actually
reading the stories contained within this handsome volume, just to
see what I missed all those many years ago.
  




And below is the cover of the new book, featuring the work of ART
SPIEGELMANJUSTIN GREEN, ALEX TOTHMICHAEL PLOOG,
S. CLAY WILSONHOWARD CRUSE, HARVEY PEKAR,  TRINA
ROBBINSBASIL WOLVERTON - and many more!

9 comments:

Rip Jagger said...

I likely will let this one go by. I stumbled across the debut issue some years ago in an antique shop (magazines were an afterthought in this place) and bought for more than I should've. It was okay, an interesting bit of Marvel lore more than a really interesting comic in its own right.

Like you, I find Underground Comix a bit underwhelming most of the time. The rebellion evident in most of them has been washed away with the years and they are more interesting as a concept than most are as actual comics. I find I like reading about them and their creators more than I actually like reading the books themselves.

Rip Off

TwoHeadedBoy said...

I'm intrigued and curious - how can something as big as Marvel "go underground"?

It'd be like U2 trying to play a pub gig, surely?

Just had a little read about it in Dez Skinn's "Comix: The Underground Revolution" - says here it's like Disney doing Resevoir Dogs. Too sanitized and wholesome to be an underground comic, too whacky to be a Marvel comic. Strange, then. I'd still like to see more of it one day.

Kid said...

Indeed, Rip. There's a chapter by James Vance called 'The Birth, Death and Afterlife of Comix Book' which, so far, has been more interesting than any of the strips I've read.

******

THB, I think Stan was trying to capitalise on the 'college crowd' market who were into such publications, but while it went 'farther' than an ordinary Marvel mag in terms of content, it was far less outrageous than a 'real' underground comic.

Mr Straightman said...

Apparently, Richard Nixon was the single most ubiquitous 'character' in the first wave of underground comics, even moreso than Don Dohler's Projunior.

Kid said...

I'm wondering if they missed out this strip from the book because they considered it dated, but, to me, it's very clever and still works on a satirical level about ALL politicians.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I was not a fan at all of that book although I do recall picking up all 3 (Marvel) issues in the Virgin store (not the mega store the first incarnation in Argyle At Glasgow) The book was published between late 1974- 1976 with 5 issues , the last 2 issues being published not by Marvel but by Kitchen Sink - I never saw issues 4 and 5 (only 1-3) so assume that these contained the work of Alex Toth and Mike Ploog (2 of my all time favourite artists) as I cant recall them in the first 3 issues so will need to check the reprint book out now . Surprised to hear it was available in shops / newsagents. It was not a great advert for undergrounds at all , I agree not the best genre but it does have some great talents like Vaughn Bode (who I know Stan Lee wanted at Marvel) and (some) Robert Crumb - best sticking to the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers though. McScotty-

Kid said...

Y'know, McScotty, it's funny you should be surprised at it being on sale in a newsagents because, even 'though I now only remember the cover, the intro page and the Alice tale, so was I when I bought it. Even 'though it was nowhere near as explicit or outrageous as 'real' underground comics, there must've been enough of a whiff of the naughty about it to make me think it was a bit out of place on the rack of comicbooks.

I'm glad I held on to the Alice pages, but I wish I hadn't cut up the first issue.

John Pitt said...

Kid, - spinner racks? - I can't for the life of me remember what used to be what used to be on the top half of the racks above the comics , can you remember?

Kid said...

If I recall correctly, JP ('cos I never paid too much attention), it was women's romance titles, men's detective titles, black & white magazines for older readers - that sort of thing. There might also be Warren mags, horror titles, etc.

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