If you're a fan of underground comics from the '60s and '70s and alternative comics of the '80s and haven't read an issue of Mineshaft yet, simply find the "buy it now" link in this review and thank me later. The zine is one of the few remaining links to new work by the cartoonists of those eras, thanks to the fact that their preferred method (comic book periodical) has been all but phased out at every significant publisher. Editors/publishers Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieiri simply print what is most interesting to them: poetry, short stories (another art form with limited venues of distribution), illustrations, reviews, and of course comics. The best known quality of the zine is the editor's close relationship to Robert Crumb, which results in all sorts of interesting features from him.
Since the magazine went to its expanded, 50 page+ page count, Rand has been able to squeeze in a couple of more major features per issue in addition to shorter pieces. The latest issue features four such longer pieces, starting with five pages of linocuts from artist Rika Deryckere. These are angular, shadowy, and distorted renderings of various figures engaged in everything from simple debauchery to despair. The second big feature is four pages of drawings from R.Crumb's sketchbook, printed on orange paper. These are from 2010 sketchbooks, and they're very funny drawings, even though they depict misery and pain. The third major feature is "Icon Soup"--portraits commissioned from '80s stalwart Jim Blanchard. As Drew Friedman did in his early work, Blanchard employs a stippled, ultra-realistic style that nonetheless employs a slightly rubbery technique to give each portrait a bizarre, dreamy quality, as though the reader was seeing these people at dusk.
My favorite feature was the fourth: a series of drawings of Emily Dickinson and an accompanying essay by Peter Poplaski. These drawings were commissioned by Denis Kitchen for possible use in merchandising. Specifically, for a coffee cup. Poplaski goes to town and does drawings in the style of Picasso, Modigliani, David Levine, Ernie Bushmiller ,and Al Hirschfeld. The final image is of a modern Dickinson whose graphic novel biography has been optioned for a film and who sells a fragrance called "Poetry", by Emily D. This is both an interesting look at a working illustrator's working methods and an amusing meditation on the meaning of images and how they can be adapted and appropriated.
The rest of the issue contains the usual collection of odd comics and reviews. Rand continues to provide a venue for Eastern European artists like Aleksandar Zograf and Nina Bunjevac. The latter's "Alone In The Crowd" is a hilarious juxtaposition of longing love letter with her striking cartoon/stipple style while depicting a sordid scene in a strip club. German artist Christoph Mueller contributes his usual array of delicately-rendered sketchbook drawings and accompanying commentary. The debt he owes to Crumb is obvious (especially in his cross-hatching and lettering), but his own voice is worth listening to on its own terms. Other worthwhile features include another stunning drawing by William Crook, Jr (this time of a building that in his hands almost looks alive), a review of Joyce Farmer's Special Exits by friend Mary Fleener (who makes a point of praising the clarity of the art, the intensity of her detailing, and the way she fleshes out her characters through deliberate pacing and flashbacks), and a new installment of R.Crumb's dream journal column, which gives an interesting peek into his mind. Mineshaft isn't a nostalgia trip, but rather a vital journal of new work by artists who may no longer be in the public eye or might never have been there in the first place.