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The Origins of RAW and a Lost Lynch is Discovered

This is John and I'm flying solo this week, as Frank Santoro just got back from England, where he was attending the Lakes Festival. I'm sure he'll fill us in on all that next week, but in the meantime, you can check out the plans Frank has to create a brick and mortar school for cartooning HERE.  I know the fundraiser for the school is going strong and amazing premiums from famous cartoonists continue to come in.

As we said last week, the inaugural Cartoon Crossroads Columbus event (CXC), held mostly on the campus of Ohio State University in early October, was a terrific time and one that gave historians of the field ample material to digest. This week we will focus on the keynote event of CXC, a panel in which the co-founders of the influential RAW magazine-- cartoonist Art Spiegelman and his wife, The New Yorker Art Editor Françoise Mouly--discussed the early days of the magazine with cartoonist Jeff Smith.

The sprawling discussion ranged from Spiegelman's involvement with Arcade, the comix magazine he co-edited with Bill Griffith in the mid-1970s, to Mouly's various temp jobs and attempts to broaden her command of the English language via reading comic book, to Spiegelman's friendship with comic artist and historian Woody Gelman while employed at the Topps bubblegum card company, to his early attempts at creating what would eventually lead to MAUS, his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, as seen in the video below:

In the clip below, Spiegelman and Mouly explain what they were looking for when they assembled the artists that appeared in the first issue of RAW:

Mouly described how her interest in the printing process--and dissatisfaction with commercial printers--eventually led her to acquire her own printing press, which was used to self-publish early issues of RAW and other projects. The printing press, a giant AM Multilith machine, needed to be lifted to get it in to their illegal SoHo loft, which, since their building had no elevator, was not an easy job.

Mouly explained that the early projects created with her printing press included local business street maps/guides that she and Spiegelman made in effort to make some money, as well as stickers, postcards and other small projects for their cartoonist friends.

zscopefront

One of the first of these was a Zippy-Scope (above), an ambitious spooled-reel toy of sorts that took 287 wordless panels of Bill Griffith's famous Zippy character (from a tale called "The Enigmatic Donut") and placed them in a printed cardboard viewing contraption that looks a bit like the cheap disposable cameras of the 1990s. A total of 100 signed copies were created and you could view the Zippy strip by turning the device's handle counterclockwise to see the panels one at a time through a clear plastic window. In the clip below, they discuss the process of naming RAW, as well as how the Zippy-Scope was constructed.

In an email, Bill Griffith explains, "The drawings in the Zippy-Scope are taken from the center spread of my comic, YOW #2 [Last Gasp, 1979]. In the comic, it's called 'The Centerspread Caper,' 280 little panels in all, across two pages. Art and Françoise were impressed by the craziness of this piece and came up with the idea to make it into the Zippy-Scope. Françoise printed all 280 little panels (plus seven more for 'front matter') in sequence on two long turning spools inside a box,
viewable one at a time through a little plastic window. Now who's crazy? Art and Françoise made a few for themselves and I got five 'artist's proofs,' of which I still have two. I also did a flyer which was mailed out to potential buyers."

Copies of the rare item have been listed for up to $1,200.

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Lost Jay Lynch Painting Featured on Roadside Antiques

Lost Jay Lynch Painting Featured on Roadside Antiques

Lost Jay Lynch Painting Featured on Roadside Antiques

The other underground comix creator that we will check in on this week is Jay Lynch, who was in the news thanks to the discovery of a "lost" early painting he created in the mid-1960s. This week's episode of the PBS program Roadside Antiques ran a segment in which an appraiser examined a painting by Lynch and concluded that given the work's condition--it has "a couple of little punctures and tears" in it--it was worth between $5,000 and $7,000.  The painting, described as "trippy" on the program, was created as a class assignment when Lynch was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago and features a happy family scene in which some members hold up a sign with the letters "ILA" on it. The program concludes that, given the psychedelic paisley swirls that mark the image, the lettering is shorthand for "I Like Acid" and says that Lynch was "perhaps under the influence" when he painted it.

Well... I asked Lynch about the painting.

"I think I did this in '65 or '66... before the Summer of Love," Lynch says. "I don't think there was any LSD art [back then], but there was LSD. But I didn't take it at school. I took it at home, but it stayed with you, the memory of it, you know?"

Lynch says that while he was a student at the Art Institute in the mid-'60s, there was a billboard across the street from the school that advertised the political campaign for a local sheriff. "It showed this guy and his wife and like eight kids. And the kids were holding a sign that said 'Woods For Sheriff' and you could see the billboard outside the window of the art class. So I painted it. But then I got carried away. I was just trying to kill time really, and I painted it for months.  After a while you put it up in front of the class and the teacher critiques it. And so the teacher says, 'Well, what were you thinking when you did this?' And I gave this sort of long-winded speech about when certain things affect the brain it allows you to see the plasticity of your environment, blah, blah. After I got done with that, he said, 'Oh thank God. I thought you were taking LSD or something' and that got a big laugh."

And what happened to the painting?

"I gave it to some guy in 1966 and he gave it to his girlfriend in the '70s and then that's the last I saw of it," Lynch says. "Then this guy found it in a dumpster 15 years ago on the other side of town, so I don't know where it's been for the last 40 years. And then he called me before he went to the Roadshow thing and asked me what the deal was."

So, was Lynch in fact tripping when he did the painting?

"Uh, yeah. I was tripping... Not when I was doing the painting, but around that time, yeah. I was art school and this was before there were hippies... and they're not 'paisleys' that I drew [on the painting]. They're like vitreous humours, the things that float around in your eyes, or the spots when you look up at the sky. When I was a kid, there was an article about MAD in Pageant magazine in like 1955, and on another page there was an article called 'Pills Chase Away the Blues' and it was about LSD. I guess I read it when I was a kid. I tore out the Kurtzman part and I saved that. [The other article] said that if people take this thing called LSD, they see these two Disney dwarfs--a black dwarf and a white dwarf--fighting, and they spin around in a circle and they turn into a yin and yang. And that's what I saw, because I had read that, you know, 10 years before. So, it was a 'suggestion' [from the article]. An 'implant' is what Scientology calls it."

Lynch says he painted the image on a $5 piece of canvas that he stretched himself and nailed on to the frame.

“It’s an oil painting and it’s a linen canvas and it’s stretched. I bought pre-cut canvas and it cost me like $5 in 1965, but I had to gesso it myself. I had to paint white on it myself,” he says. “They disrespect these store-bought canvases because the store-bought canvases are cheap cotton canvases and this was a linen canvas, which cost $5, which was a lot of money back then. I looked up this canvas company—this is what canvases cost now—and a canvas this size, pre-stretched, a linen canvas—is now $500. So, I don’t know… I should get more now [for my art]. I must maximize my income. I’m still getting what I was getting in 1975 for these paintings. I never sold my paintings for a lot [of money] but the ones who sell my paintings get a lot."

Lynch added that at the time he did the painting, LSD was legal. You can view the episode HERE.

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7 Responses to The Origins of RAW and a Lost Lynch is Discovered

  1. Paul Tumey says:

    Greatly enjoyed this write up and the videos. Very glad that Ohio State University held this event. When a friend first described RAW to me in 1980 (he was my college English Lit teacher), he characterized it as comics printed on various kinds of papers, in different sizes and formats. That was the main selling point for us at first — not necessarily the comics or creators involved, though that came soon after. In those dreadfully moribund days of stale comics formats, this was like a lightning bolt out of the sky for us. Part of RAW’s power in my own life was that it demonstrated that comics need not be locked into a single format. It freed things up and created some spaciousness. A comic’s offerings are not limited to the art on the page, but also involves the paper (or whatever delivery vehicle is being used) page itself! The medium is the massage. Also, I really need a Zippy-Scope and that Jay Lynch painting!

  2. Neat piece. RAW remains seminal in showcasing what was possible to sell well beginning inside the Direct Market. My own Bay Area comic book store gig trip at the time ordered 100 copies initially. They sold out quickly and off we were scrounging for more.

    Disappointed though the writer did not think outside “the box” to expand the thought pattern regarding Arcade the Comics Revue at least being published by Print Mint who’s pioneering efforts summer of 1968 taking Zap Comics “national” was nexus point seminal towards creating what we came to call the Direct Market.

    Arcade is a direct line to Raw. It’s seven issues were published a bit before there were enough comic book stores to sustain such a mag. Bob and Peggy Rita mortgaged their house to keep it going. Dang near drove em bankrupt.

    I remember both Art and Bill coming thru my Telegraph Ave store asking how it was doing. What readers were saying about it. My reply was it is doing very well near UC-Berkeley. The puzzle to solve would be getting those then early comic book stores etc in the midwest to try it out.

    I have a lot more on Arcade The Comics Revue’s legacy seguing in to Raw in Comic Book Store Wars I have been working on again of late. Past decade or so I simply got side tracked with a multitude of medical issues of my own and inside my family. Oldest daughter is still plagued by a living nightmare we hope to resolve soon. Surgery #11 is coming shortly.

    Hopefully it be the final one then I can devote 110% finishing my tome to the myriad origins of the Direct Market while also chronicling the rise of the comic book store phenom I became an early participant in for such a long time.

  3. Jeffrey Goodman says:

    Beerbohm: “I remember both Art and Bill coming thru my Telegraph Ave store asking how it was doing. What readers were saying about it. My reply was it is doing very well near UC-Berkeley. The puzzle to solve would be getting those then early comic book stores etc in the midwest to try it out. ”

    Bought my copies of Arcade and virtually all undergrounds at Monkey’s Retreat near the OSU campus in Columbus from about the mid-1970’s on. Before that my Mom bought me UG at head shops on High St. (yes, that’s still the name of the road!) like the late Waterbeds N Stuff and a few others. Lots of interesting titles back then. We were indeed quite ‘keen’ about such comix in the Midwest!

  4. Jeffrey Goodman says:

    Oh..and I also bought my copies of Raw at Monkey’s, too!

  5. John Kelly says:

    Here’s a clip on RAW’s size that I left out: https://vimeo.com/143295681

  6. That’s cool. I remember Monkey’s Retreat near OSU being a very progressive funny book emporium. One store mentioned. So that store was covering how many hundreds of thousands of square miles?

    That said, Arcade the Comics Revue was meant to be a safer version of alternative comix which were originally distributed by “underground” methods which we came to call the Direct Market.

    Circa June 22 1973 was a seminal turning point when the Zap 4 case hit SCOTUS (mainly cuz of Crumb’s Joe Blow story) thereby establishing “local community standards”

    Zap Comics, Freak Bros, Doctor Atomic, et al were busted all over the country especially the midwest. The “secret” for such success by “law” enforcement coming at the “head” shops was said locations would carry stuff to smoke weed etc and the UG comix were viewed as “instruction” manuals.

    One could safely carry one or the other, but not both. This is why many a head shop converted over to being a comic book store as the stuff was selling better than the bongs, black light posters, incense, etc etc

    Having been selling comics caravaning the country with other lost souls 1970 71 72 we met a lot of guys trying to open comic book stores who would not carry UG comix stuff for the very real fear of being closed down, taken to jail, your pic in the paper and even local TV news where yer mom would see your glory all splashed around

    Art has been a long time good friend who lives & breathes comics like so many of us do and who may speak all he wishes to on Arcade. He and Bill G put a ton of effort in to putting each ish together to be sure.

    My “data” came (comes) from Bob and Peggy Rita who bankrupted themselves publishing and distributing as Print Mint. Their HQ on Folger was a bit over a mile away or so from that first Comics & Comix store.

    It was Don Shenker who gathered the artist’s work together. It was Bob Rita who went out on the road to “sell” the stuff in to outlets across the country.

    Bob Rita is an almost forgotten hero of the comix and is some one I also spent many hours talking with as I came thru almost weekly there for a long time restocking Zap Comics etc. He was the one who was saying to me sales (as a publisher distributor) were pretty good on the east and west coasts but almost non-existence in the “middle” of the country.

    RAW did not debut until 1980. A lot of comic book store wars were fought prior to getting to that year.

  7. John, I watched this new addition as well as it appears a few more clips. See, where I am truly focused right now is gathering my data writing sections of Comic Book Store Wars of the transition from the alternative underground-distributed comix, the SCOTUS ruling which brought on some 80+ busts nationwide shortly there-after – in addition to the many prior to which stretched back to 1969. Print Mint would be included in most ALL of these busts as their wares crossed state lines.

    Moe Moskowitz kept his friend(s) afloat feeling partially responsible for having funded both the Plymell & Donahue editions, the #0 Donahue began printing, then fronting$20K when he came to Print Mint for them to publish and distribute.

    Same time Seuling added in Code comics to this same mix late 73 following the June 73 SCOTUS thing which saw Phil and a few others taken away at one of his Monthly Manhattan comics gigs

    So much of comics history keeps the two segments apart. UGs 1967-1974 and then the mysterious start up of “independent alternative” B&W supposedly beginning with Cerebus, Elfquest, some include Star*Reach, maybe even The First Kingdom I handled launching inside Comics & Comix. Jack Katz called me most every day there for duration until I sold out from C&C early 1975.

    Arcade The Comics Revue was Print Mint funding attempting to launching an “UG”-akin comix-zine plus try for ID distribution even nationwide. I got Oakland’s Gilboy to place a thousand copies out in the their news stands.

    In retro-thought pattern here I sort of apologize using the word “disappointed” re the funding behind scenes stuff seeking to become better known by comics historians. Part of the mental disconnect with so many in comics fandom is because of what is included in Overstreet – or not

    Back in the 70s coming in to the early 80s there were many a “heated debate” all over how come the (then mainly) Bay Area output – or Kitchen & crew’s Krupp stuff out of Wisc, etc not being in Overstreet which for many legitimized what was “real” – or not.

    Honestly, if any one thinks I have any of the above thread thoughts wrong, please chime in with your interpretations of what why you think came down during that transition period as our comics world began a quantum leap growth spurt.

    So much so by summer 79 SDCC Marvel called a special meeting of some 60-70 of us who were deep in to growing what we were just beginning to call a “direct” market. Fun heady times they were – mostly fond memories.

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