Today on the site, the great Bob Levin delves into the history and legalities around Mike Diana’s career.
Diana liked The Three Stooges. He liked Tales from the Crypt, “old, bloody, gory, religious art,” and the underground comics of S. Clay Wilson, Greg Irons, Rory Hayes. He had few friends. His only pet was a tarantula, to which he fed lizards and crickets. When it died, he cried for days. His father had taken over a fruit and vegetable store, which sold beer and cigarettes, cheap. Diana worked the register, drinking himself to better engage the customers.
He received “A”s in art and failed or barely passed everything else. Creating art, he felt, gave him the chance to be who he was meant to be. As part of this art, he made videos featuring himself as a slasher film-like killer. His mask was a money bag, which he had found in a dumpster and cut eye holes into. The “blood” he splattered came from corn syrup and food dye. Once he performed, masked, wearing all black, at a “night happening,” while a duo played electric guitar and bass. On his belt was an 18-inch dildo, which penetrated a baby doll, from which he had removed the stuffing, and whose head he had filled with heavy cream, which spurted from the eyes and mouth at each dildo thrust.
The crowd was “indifferent.” And his car was towed, costing him $300.
Diana created his first comic at 13. The cover depicted an eyeball dangling from a skull. On the second, a creature munched on a baby’s skull. In 1988, with a friend, he created his first zine, meaninglessly entitled HVUYIM. In 1989, he launched Angelfuck. Then came Boiled Angel.
It ran from 30 to 86 black-and-white pages, duplicated it on the photocopying machine of the high school at which he was a janitor. He wanted Angel “as shocking as possible.” He wanted it “more extreme” than the UG cartoonists he admired. When #6 was found in the possession of a fellow busted for marijuana in San Francisco, the police sent it to law enforcement authorities in Florida, and Diana was asked to give a DNA sample to prove himself not the person who had killed five college coeds in Gainesville.