Tuesday, March 27, 2007


The first underground comic I owned (bought by my mother, cuz the head shop guy wouldn't sell it to a kid!) was Mr. Natural by R. Crumb, published by Apex Novelties...I wouldn't have guessed back then that I would become a co-publisher at that fine imprint!!

Fast forward...

Back in the late 80's I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Don Donahue. The first publisher of Robert Crumbs ZAP Comix. Donahue's "Apex Novelties" is the oldest underground comix publisher and distributor.

I have been living in a very small room in a boarding house on Dwight Way in Berkeley, when I was luckily offered Dori Seda's past loft space in the famous Scooby Toys warehouse. It was a great place. Like minds and lots of fun. One evening Don and I started talking about the French print makers. Their work was brilliant. We both decided that we could do just as well, even though our experience at the time wasn't vast, but we both were smart and equally hardworking.

We, of course thought we would start at the top...Don contacted Crumb and asked permission to do a serigraph of his HUP#3 cover art. The next step was to setup a studio space. We went down in the basement of the warehouse and overtook a room. Built a table, grabbed a registration bar, set up a drying rack of sorts and got to work. I cut all the separations, while Don cut paper. We both mixed inks and started work. The first thing on our list was the blue fade background...man was that a chore! We mixed three different blues and started the "pulls"...after about six or seven pulls on test paper, the ink finally mixed correctly and we jammed our good paper in and ran about five before the blue dropped too far. We cleaned everything up, and started this process over again...after about two long weeks of this we had our 100, plus about another 100 for any and all "fuck ups", our print run was 100. We knew that all wouldn't be right, so we always doubled our run so we would get our edition. After the fade runs, the rest seemed easy!

The last chore was the rosy cheeks of the buxxom German gal...we tried a few techniques, but all failed until we decided just to hand paint them in...which Don did a splendid job with! Wala! we were finished! We packed up Don's little VW and headed off to Winters California to have Robert sign them...that was a treat. I have met Robert in passing a few times, but this was the first time I really got to spend time with him. His house was full of brilliant old furniture and Aline was very kind hostess! Even though she bitched about yet another book of Robert's art from a publisher greeted her at the mailbox...Robert just grinned as he led us to his studio just off the side of the house. The place was filled with stacks of 78's and a small drawing table with some works in progress. Robert crouched on the floor and started to sign. It was a thrilling day. We went to grab a bite to eat after, then packed up and went back to Berkeley. The print had a small role in Terry Zwigoff's movie "CRUMB".

The next project was S. Clay Wilson...He was getting ready for a show in LA at Billy Shire's La Luz De Jesus...we had only two weeks to turn this puppy out and the god damn thing was 26 colors! I don't know how we did it, but we did. We took a short trip over the bridge and Wilson signed them. A couple days later we were on our way to LA for the opening. It was great to see the print among all the other art hanging. I still have nightmares about printing that fucking puppie! which is appropriate for the imagery and Wilson!

We took a short break before we started the next print...Compared to the last two the next one by KAZ was easy...we had our shit together and for some reason that serigraph went without a hitch, as I remember. We had fun with his colors and the image still cracks me up to this day.

The next I have to say wasn't so much fun...I love Mark Beyer dearly, as an artist and personally...we have had some great talks and meetings in the past, and have worked on many projects together. I think he is one of the best artists ever. But, there is an energy that surrounds the poor guy that brings bad things his way...we had nothing but trouble with his print...the inks wouldn't dry, the registration was a bitch, just all in all it was a pain in the ass. The final outcome was great though...it is still one of my favorites! (If you read this Mark! Damn it, email me! it has been a few years man!) Anyway, onward and upward!

The next in our series is the man...Art Spiegelman! Don and I both decided on a little piece Art did in Raw called the couple...a cubist version of Betty Boop and Dick Tracy...this was a fun piece to produce, the colors were brilliant and all in all a pretty easy piece. The timing was very nice too. The same week we finished his print, Art won the Pulitzer Prize for his long years producing and drawing Maus, 'a surivors tale'. Art was in San Francisco, we caught up with him at his hotel to have him sign the prints, then spent a pleasent evening hanging out in North Beach. It's nice to hang out with someone who smokes as much as I do!

The next and as it turned out the last was a great image from the great Charles Burns, it was a portrait of William S. Burroughs... with such clean lines and such, we had a blast, although it was tough especially with a huge amount of black coverage and the metallic ink we used on the gun.

It was great series of serigraphs, ones I will always treasure! Kaz, Beyer, spiegelman and S. Clay Wilson serigraphs are still available through my website, click here.

postscript: Oct 27, 2010 Don Donahue passed into the great underground in the sky! Dance a dance with Dori, my friend!

AN OPEN OFFER: I would like to extend to comix artist throughout the world an offer of producing their serigraphs. No money down! Email me at mail@flatwurks.com for current address or send low res art for consideration! All prints will be produced on archival paper and produced in small print runs within a small format (for easily affordability) all production costs will be my responsibility and the artist(s) will receive 15% of the total sale price per serigraph, plus artists proofs. I'm serious! Have at it kids!



stephanie said...

You have done some amazing work and met some amazing artists! I hope you are contacted re: your offer here.


stephanie said...

I got the labels!!! Very cool! Thank you thank you!

Greg wants some info on you doing some printed stuff, he emailed you but may have gotten that wrong, did you get something from him??


Ralph DeLuca said...

I have been a big fan of underground comix ever since I discovered them in the 1980's. I think Crumb comics are genius and also enjoy many other artists and writers from the period. I still collect underground comix and original art, they are way cool.

Ralph DeLuca
Madison, NJ

Ari Kitti said...

Mark Beyer is my favorite cartoonist, i'd love to talk to you & ask about any prints you may still have, please email me. igloop815@live.com

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