What was Weirdo?
Jon B. Cooke’s The Guide of Weirdo (Last Gasp) brings the legacy of the various comics anthology founded by Robert Crumb to the fore. Beginning in 1981, Crumb edited the journal, revealed by Final Gasp, for 9 points. Peter Bagge assumed editorial duties for the following eight issues, and then Aline Kominsky-Crumb served as editor via the collection’ initial conclusion in 1990. Kominsky-Crumb edited a remaining, farewell twenty-eighth situation in 1993 featuring a mixture of American artists and European contributors she had encountered after the Crumbs relocated to Sauve, France.
Cooke’s book-length love letter to Weirdo, more than a decade in the making, options long interviews with the magazine’s three editors and more than 100 testimonials from all but a handful of the magazine’s surviving contributors. The guide additionally consists of biographies of those contributors who at the moment are deceased and individual sidebars addressing specific subjects referring to the magazine. The publication of Cooke’s hefty tome is presently being supported by a collection of occasions across North America featuring numerous Weirdo contributors in conversation about the journal and its legacy. On June 6, 2019, a gaggle of New York Metropolis-area contributors joined Cooke at the Society of Illustrators for one such dialog. At the Society, Cooke was joined by Kim Deitch, Drew Friedman (who offered the guide’s cowl paintings), Glenn Head, John Holmstrom, Mark Newgarden, and Artwork Spiegelman for a wide-ranging conversation. The hour-long chatty trade pursued numerous tangents, which at their most illuminating instructed the worth of understanding Weirdo in terms of the context of its period.
So what was Weirdo? What area did it uniquely occupy in the landscape of various comics within which it was revealed, and what place does it occupy inside a broader aesthetic historical past? It stays tempting to describe Weirdo in relation to different tasks. A sidebar in Cooke’s guide notes a notion of Weirdo as the “anti-RAW,” given the two tasks’ differing sensibilities and near-contemporaneous publication. Whereas the two magazines definitely introduced comics in markedly distinct codecs and aesthetic contexts, such a view is difficult by the cohort of artists (more than eighteen by Cooke’s rely) who contributed to each publications (together with editors Spiegelman and Crumb). Weirdo may additionally be seen extra simply as a continuation of the ethos of underground comix within which Crumb had been a foundational figure (and from which RAW quite consciously departed). And Crumb’s covers for Weirdo, which mimic the cover design of Harvey Kurtzman’s Humbug, place Weirdo in continuity with the traditionally vital adult satire magazines edited by Crumb’s avowed position mannequin and mentor.
All of this triangulation begins to recommend the area Weirdo occupied. But what was it particularly?
Of the cohort of artists assembled at the Society of Illustrators, very few contributed to Weirdo commonly. Head, Newgarden, and Spiegelman each appeared in its pages solely as soon as, and Holmstrom made three contributions to the journal (one of which was a reprint of materials from his Punk magazine). They have been all concerned with other anthology tasks and spoke, primarily, as both insiders and outsiders to Weirdo. Friedman was a more frequent contributor to the journal, though his work simultaneously appeared commonly in Raw. Kim Deitch was, in line with Cooke, Weirdo’s third most prolific artist on the foundation of sheer page rely. And whereas Deitch’s presence in the magazine highlighted its connection to Crumb’s underground roots, Deitch provided helpful perspective on the qualities that made Weirdo unique.
Deitch believes that one necessary inspiration for Crumb’s Weirdo was the late Bruce N. Duncan’s The Tele Occasions, a zine that coated tradition and road life in Berkeley, California, including the perspectives of homeless individuals (alongside materials reflecting Duncan’s interest in S&M tradition). The truth is, Deitch first heard about Crumb’s plans to publish a brand new anthology from Duncan: “I was living in Berkeley at the time. I was working behind the counter briefly at a comic book store, where I ran into Bruce. And he was a real crackpot, but boy he was an interesting guy and we became friends. And so at a certain point… Crumb hadn’t told me about Weirdo, but he’d gotten in touch with Bruce and he definitely was one of the first people that he was buttonholing to be in the magazine.”
Deitch believed that the specific aesthetics and outsider voice of The Tele Occasions helped inspire the formulation of Weirdo. “I once said to Crumb, I said, come on now, this magazine is inspired by Bruce Duncan, right? And he gave me a funny look and he didn’t say no. And I think my supposition is not completely incorrect… It was fascinating for me to see: Bruce, shunned by everyone and lifted up and valiantly put forward by Crumb.”
Several of the panelists agreed that Weirdo’s embrace of outsider cartoonists — “outsider” even in the context of underground and various comics — was amongst the magazine’s unique and memorable characteristics. “What I always really dug about Weirdo was that it had this unvarnished kind of originality,” Head stated. “So there could be this work like Eugene Teal’s ‘Sunday Frog Funnie’ or the Elinore Norflus stuff, where it really looked like the artist doing the work was completely untutored in art as well as comics. They just didn’t even have a background in it. So you could put Crumb’s work up against it, and a lot of artists’ work up against it, and it was like there was different work from different universes all mixed up in Weirdo. So I was really into that.” Newgarden agreed that among the journal’s three successive editors, “Crumb tended to go for more what he considered primitive.” When choosing artists to portray on the ebook’s cowl, Friedman was aware not to only embrace the magazine’s most well-known contributors. “Weirdo was all about the lesser-known contributors and the fringe artists and the social misfits who contributed to the magazine,” he stated. “Weirdo gave guys like Bruce [Duncan] a chance to be published and be seen,” Deitch affirmed. In a sense, Crumb’s openness to inventive outsiders in Weirdo sits in continuity together with his embrace of the underground comix work of Rory Hayes, who was very much an artist’s artist during his life.
Weirdo’s expanded vary was facilitated by Crumb’s personal personal accessibility. Newgarden recalled making an early submission to Weirdo. “My introduction to Weirdo was picking it up, looking at it, wondering how this magazine could exist. Immediately thinking, well, I should send them something. Which I did. It was a page that had been rejected by RAW. And I was rejected by Weirdo! … I got a really nice little postcard from Crumb, with tiny little lettering explaining everything he loved about the page and then included, ‘But I’m not gonna run it.’” Peter Bagge later ran Newgarden’s work in Weirdo, compiling a variety of materials Newgarden had produced for various weekly newspapers.
“When [Crumb] started his magazine,” Friedman recalled, “it was like, OK, he’s accessible, you can actually write him, and he was open to receiving comics from people he had never heard of… I sent him some samples assuming he would not be receptive, he wouldn’t like my style, for whatever reason, because I was doing the stipple work, maybe he wouldn’t like that. But he was receptive and he asked me to do work. So I think he was just really looking for things that he wasn’t aware of that were out there. And he was open to it… And also, he was just very gracious about responding to everything he got, which was amazing… he would always take the time to answer everybody, even if it was something he hated. He was just so generous with his time. I picked up on that early on, and I think he’s still like that.”
Spiegelman instructed that RAW and Weirdo have been both “weird DNA mutants splitting off of Arcade in different directions,” referring to the underground-era anthology journal Spiegelman co-edited with Bill Griffith (and for which Crumb offered most of the covers). “But they both represented different tendencies.” Like Arcade, Weirdo was more intentionally structured than most underground comix anthologies had been, with editorials, letters pages, historic reprints, and textual content pieces. And Weirdo ran new work by many underground cartoonists who had been featured in Arcade. However Crumb, in his interview with Cooke in the guide, additionally differentiated Wierdo, calling Arcade “too fussy… And I consciously avoided the fussy level that they had done with Arcade.” Crumb, like Spiegelman, discovered editorial lessons from Harvey Kurtzman’s numerous magazines (MAD, Trump, Humbug, Help) that influenced both publications. Arcade first introduced that degree of editorial sophistication to underground comics publishing, even if Crumb subsequently sought to attenuate the laborious rigor behind Arcade in his personal anthology.
Whatever the journal shared with Arcade, it’s also attainable to see Weirdo as a direct reaction to Crumb’s experiences with Zap, the 1968 comedian e-book collection that he was most intently associated with and that did much to encourage the underground comix movement that adopted. With Zap’s second concern, Crumb started inviting other artists to contribute, and by Zap #4 the line-up had coalesced around a core group of seven regular artists. Collectively run, a majority of the seven contributors agreed that no other artists can be invited to take part in Zap, a choice that Crumb disagreed with but acquiesced to. Crumb ran Weirdo in a different way. “He didn’t want it to be a closed door like Zap,” Friedman stated. “He hated that. In fact, he was always resistant to continuing to work for Zap, and they kind of bulldozed him into: ‘You started it, you have to be in there.’ He didn’t want Weirdo to have that vibe. It’s open to whoever wants to send in work.”
Spiegelman recalled one dialog with Crumb: “He said his first impulse when he was doing Weirdo, was he wanted to do a phone-book-sized magazine… and the idea was to not reject anything. And I thought that would be such a fantastic magazine. Talk about something that would age well! To have anything that came over the transom would get published, and it would be like a two, three, four-hundred page magazine, whatever it took… I’m sure Last Gasp didn’t subscribe to that as a publishing philosophy. But that would have been an amazing magazine. Now it’s been replaced by the internet.”
Regardless of the extent of their direct experience with Weirdo, all of the panelists have been artists who adopted the magazine as informed readers and friends, and lots of of them have been anthology editors themselves. “That was a decade of anthologies,” Newgarden stated. “RAW and Weirdo were sort of these two poles that held up a bigger tent of a lot of other anthologies that were coming out at the time.” In addition to showing in RAW and Weirdo, Newgarden co-edited Dangerous News with Paul Karasik. John Holmstrom co-founded PUNK magazine, and then co-edited Comical Funnies with Peter Bagge earlier than Bagge succeeded Crumb as editor of Weirdo. Spiegelman, of course, co-edited RAW with Françoise Mouly, and Glenn Head co-edited Snake Eyes with Kaz, who contributed to each RAW and Weirdo. “Like a lot of people reading comics then, I thought about what a good anthology might be,” Head stated. “So that was when I got hooked up with Kaz and did some issues of Snake Eyes. And it was really influenced by Weirdo in terms of that kind of lowbrow thing. It wasn’t very arty, but it was probably more polished than Weirdo. But it definitely grew out of that same kind of mindset.” Triangulation once more: more lowbrow than RAW, extra polished than Weirdo.
Over the course of the dialogue, a parallel portrait started to emerge of the various cartooning scene in New York in the early 1980s, through which the California-based Weirdo played a long-distance position. In addition to the anthologies noted above, Peter Kuper (who was in the audience at the Society of Illustrators) and Seth Tobocman launched World Struggle three Illustrated. Kuper, like Weirdo contributor Dan Clowes, attended Pratt Institute, but sat in on Artwork Spiegelman’s class at SVA. Friedman, Newgarden, and Holmstrom additionally attended SVA, the place Harvey Kurtzman and Will Eisner have been also educating at the time. Different SVA college students included Kaz and Peter Bagge. These artists, both as students and up to date graduates, contributed work to these anthologies — massive and small, durable and short-lived — and to different paying venues. “I mean Drew, you remember, we were selling our stuff all over New York,” Holmstrom recalled. “We were in Screw, we were in High Times, anybody who would pay us a buck.”
“Well, yeah, I was all over the map because I was doing work for Comical Funnies with you guys,” Friedman replied, “but I was also in RAW with Mark and Kaz, and we felt like we were big shots because we were still students in Visual Arts and all of a sudden Art and Françoise invited us to be in the first issue of RAW, and it was like, ‘Woah!’ And that was thrilling, and RAW paid twenty-five dollars a page, I remember that. And then Weirdo came along, and Robert was offering fifty dollars a page. So I was like, ‘Holy shit! My life is just made now! I don’t have to worry about anything!’ But reality struck and I had to pay a rent all of a sudden, I had to really look for actual income. But that was just a thrilling time, I think, to be around. There was just a lot happening in 1980.”
The essential which means of any comedian is just not situated in any particular person panel, but in their juxtaposition and in the collected meanings that emerge between and among them. The same is perhaps stated of an anthology: no single contributor solely defines an anthology challenge. Somewhat, its general character emerges from the juxtaposition and accumulation of particular person comics by many various artists. A single dialog, like the one that befell at the Society of Illustrators, can solely characterize a number of, fragmentary perspectives on its bigger general topic. Cooke’s The E-book of Weirdo attempts to go the distance by providing a discussion board for the voices of almost everyone involved. But a panel like this could model the interaction of subjective voices, which is precisely what a well-edited anthology constructs. Whereas it’s true that what Weirdo uniquely delivered to the fore in “a decade of anthologies” was the inclusion of so-called “outsider” artists like Bruce N. Duncan, Elinore Norflus, and Ace Backwords, Head is right in noting that what made this vital was their presence amongst rising artists like Kaz, Friedman, and Julie Doucet and extra established artists from the underground era together with Crumb, Deitch, and Kominsky-Crumb. “In looking back on it, it sort of held up better than I would have guessed,” Newgarden stated. “There’s a real vibe there that’s kind of gone now.” Weirdo’s dedicated eclecticism, filtered by way of the particular person perspectives of Crumb and the journal’s subsequent editors, make it an anthology that is still value speaking about immediately.