To commemorate the release of the new Comics Journal Library volume collecting Zap interviews, and the release of The Complete Zap, we are posting a lengthy, previously unpublished interview with late Spain Rodriguez, conducted by Patrick Rosenkranz in 1998. (It doesn’t appear in the Zap Interviews book.) Spain had some stories:
ROSENKRANZ: When did you realize there was such a thing as an underground press?
SPAIN: It was The Militant, which was a Trotskyite newspaper, which had been around. You could also pick up The Weekly People, which was on a lot of the corner sidewalk newsstands, which is the newspaper of the Socialist Labor Party, a real old party, a pre-Marxist Party that comes out of the 1800s. The layout of the newspaper was always great, because you could always get into an argument with somebody. The newspaper was about this big and with those big block letters and the arm and hammer, which is some association with Armand Hammer’s father, who was a socialist. There was a connection between that Arm & Hammer logo and the Socialist Labor Party, which is from the turn of the century. They had this great logo. You’d just sit over there with the newspaper and somebody would give you an argument about it.
ROSENKRANZ: Did you consider that an underground paper?
SPAIN: It was an alternative paper. It wasn’t really underground. The first underground newspaper in Buffalo, we did. We put out something called Pith. The guy who really got it together worked at some silkscreen place. It was a silkscreen newspaper that we put out that had all this wacky stuff in it. I don’t know where he got the title. It was a pithy title. He was a strange guy. A story that says everything about him is: One time he was going to New York. He was a strange-looking guy, even by today’s standards. He looked a little like Orson Welles. He had a beard and had loud rose-colored glasses and would wear this hat. It was a New Year’s hat and it was spray-painted black, with an Italian flag sticking up. He wasn’t Italian. He was a big guy. He had this sweater that hadn’t been washed in a long time and it had these little beads on it: these pants that came up to here and sandals.
Some guy like that, especially in 1965, would attract a lot of cop attention. It was about four o’clock in the morning we’re going through or around Schenectady, where the cops were known for being nasty. The cop pulls us over and sees him and … Hey, man! The head guys from every police department around there. Here would come the state cops and different cops. He had this way of talking. He would say this strange stuff but in a conversational tone. They started talking to him and he was saying all this weird stuff and after a while they just start walking away. He was the editor of Pith. His name was Gary Stevens. Unfortunately, he committed suicide. They entrapped him in some drug bust and he was facing time. The sad thing, in Buffalo — I wasn’t there at the time — I think if they had gotten enough community support behind him, they might have helped him to stave off that kind of depression about the jail time. Or brought him out here. He killed himself. He was a real strange guy.
—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Morton at the literary site The Millions has an interesting, ambivalent take on the Scott McCloud volume of Best American Comics, saying that comics have divorced themselves from irony.
Inés Estrada presents her idiosyncratic take on the year in comics.
Richard Metzger enthuses over The Complete Zap.
Robert Boyd reviews a bunch of minicomics he picked up at this year’s CAB.
Tim Callahan is excited about Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s Pax Americana.
Chris Arrant talks to Derf Backderf.
—Misc. Frank Young shares a bunch of one-page pantomime Little Lulu strips from John Stanley.
The PEN American Center is auctioning off classic or important books that have been annotated by the authors. One volume that may be of interest to our readers is a copy of David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik’s City of Glass.