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Monday, February 14, 2011

A HISTORY OF THE WHITE BUFFALO GAZETTE, Pt. 2



The White Buffalo Gazette is long-running, very obscure, underground comics and art zine that's been published intermittently since 1994. I've been corresponding with its founder Max Traffic for many years now, and recently he mentioned that the upcoming new issue would mark 30 years of small-press momentum.

The WBG lineage began in 1980, when cartoonist Bruce Chrislip founded the City Limits Gazette, a kind of pre-internet gathering place for obscuro comix artists.  Part One of this history features in-depth interviews with Bruce, and the CLG's second editor, Steve Willis.  It can be found here.  After Steve Willis ceased publishing CLG in 1993, Max Traffic took over the mailing list and founded the White Buffalo Gazette.

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MAXIMUM TRAFFIC is the founder of the White Buffalo Gazette. He currently works and publishes under the nom de plume BUZZ BUZZIZYK. When Steve Willis ceased publishing the City Limits Gazette, he handed over the mailing list to Max, who used that to found White Buffalo.



JOHN PORCELLINO: So, the chronology is Bruce Chrislip created City Limits Gazette in 1980, and then Steve Willis took it over afterwards. He then handed the reins over to you, but Bruce objected to you using the name? What year was your first issue of WBG?

BUZZ BUZZIZYK: Correct, but CLG wasn't exactly just pre-WBG. It was it's own thing, and it was more like there were a lot of cross overs. Willis did send me the mailing list from CLG, but not everyone stayed with it, most did though.

The very first issue of the White Buffalo Gazette was Sept. 1994, number "wigglin' heaps of toxic debris." Steve Willis was a co-editor for a while, doing a column of comix listings and also continuing the notorious Bil Keane Watch, which humorously de-constructed the Family Circus comic strip. It was in the early days much like the old City Limits Gazette, with the notable exception that I used full page art for the covers, and included pages of art sampled from the comix I was sent. That first issue had the iconic 'fish with a gun' drawn by Chad Woody for the cover art.

A funny thing was the cover art for the second issue, drawn by Steve Willis...it depicted a smiling man holding a handsaw, having just sawn off the top of his head...which had grown a face of it's own. It was from a mini comic he had just done, and it seemed very obvious to me to be an unintentional metaphor for his considerable relief giving up doing the CLG twice a month for years. ...freeing up his head from all that whirlwind of creative energy he had gathered around him.


Regarding, the use of the name, City Limits Gazette.....I think that Bruce just didn't know me very well at that time.....and thought I should strike out on my own. I'm kind of glad that he did....made a clear break with the newave era.

JP: Can you describe the City Limits Gazette?

BB: Shew, hard to describe Steve Willis's CLG. It was a scruffy hand typed listing of any and all mini comix that came his way, just a sheet or two of typing with a scrap of tossed off artwork as a front page header done by any reader who sent one in.

He sometimes included a mini comic of his own as an insert, but for the most part, it was a packed scrawl of tiny typed notes. He posted notice of all new subscribers, and it was amazing how quickly the word got out. He never intended to make a big deal of it, but in no time at all he was stuck printing and mailing out piles of the thing. He stuck it out for years, keeping to his twice monthly schedule, which was just crazy considering the people he had on the line in CLG. The letters, commentary, rants. and of course the astonishing Bil Keane Watch, must have kept his mind reeling at night. For some reason, the readers kept a constant stream of comix and mail and wisecracks filling his mail box. I recall feeling like every issue was the most fun, and interesting mail that ever came my way. I was wildly compelled to send him new comix as fast as I could invent them, and to add to the various streams of reader commentary. He really fired up a lot of us, including a whole set of younger guys just starting out.

It was the first time I really spoke out as "Maximum Traffic", and it was liberating to have that disconnect of a pen name. I have to admit, it made me a little crazier than my usual self. At that time I delighted in tweaking anyone that seemed pretentious or striving for fame and fortune. We referred to them as "giant cartoon heads". Of course big egos abounded among artists, and I have to admit mine was sizeable too. I met a lot of artists as a subscriber to CLG, and many of them are still friends.

Final Bil Keane Watch, from the first WBG.

JP: So CLG was more of a straight listing of recent obscuro publications, with addresses, and later included letters, correspondence, news etc?

BB: Correct, except that it mushroomed into a free falling kind of craziness. There was just something about the vibe that got the readers totally involved. One example was a guy calling himself Ricardo Nancy McJacksonstein...who accused me of having sex with insects....then went on to "follow my example" and claimed to have his penis surgically reduced to microscopic proportions so he could also procreate with insects. ( I was actually reproducing insects on a xerox machine for my xerographic artwork at the time....not as he claimed , reproducing with insects. ) The obscuro era came into being with Steve's hand on the wheel at CLG. The old calling of underground comix in the classic sense seemed to morph into a new thing...a more unlimited thing.


JP: How did you decide on the name "White Buffalo Gazette"?

BB: Well, I was stuck looking for a title when I decided to take over Willis's mailing list from CLG, and just at that time the news broke about the white buffalo being born, and I learned about the Native American legend of the white buffalo woman. I was deeply affected by the concept of a prophecy that foretold the eventual reunification and harmony of all the races of mankind. It occurred to me that our little network of artists was a microcosm of that concept...all artists were welcome, and treated as equals, no matter what your skills were, or what background you were from, we made a point of just introducing new artists without reviews or criticism.....to be encouraging and open. Let all voices be heard.


JP: You mention that you were kind of a provocateur... do you have any stories about that that you feel comfortable sharing?

BB: No, that's water under the bridge. I pissed off some people just for the sake of amusement. As I said, I had a big mouth back in my younger days, big ego. In my younger days we thought we were so clever dripping with sarcasm, but now, sarcasm, even if it gets a big laugh, just seems like a type of petty cruelty. You know, scoring off somebody. I was an unenlightened soul, and to be honest, I still feel far from enlightened....but at least I try not to indulge in petty cruelty. Having children left a mark on me...I could see them developing my sarcastic tongue. Not flattering.

JP: Can you give me a breakdown of the various editors and their timeframes WBG has gone through? How many issues have been published over the years? I seem to remember reading somewhere that anyone could edit an issue of WBG if they wanted to. Did people take you up on that, or was it a more formal editorial lineage?

BB: I did WBG for a couple years every month. Then Edward Bolman and his wife Cat did it for a couple years...they re- created it in a very amusing way. Cat Noel was a wild card, she was a really funny and free spirited soul. I think that their issues had more humor in them than any of the others. Catherine and Edward both have a crazy and unusual sense of humor. When a new WBG came from them, you never knew what to expect, but you were going to have a good laugh. Then Jeff Zenick did it for a long stretch. A lot of us feel that the Zenick issues were the golden years. Jeff has a presence that was very open and honest and WBG seemed to expand under his hand.

Jeff Zenick artwork, from an early WBG.
It was the policy, from the start, that any of the readers could do their own issue, and I am not sure how many of those one-shot issues were done...maybe a dozen. After Zenick let it go, a newcomer, Larned Justin, asked me if he could take over as editor. I didn't know him very well, but he was so enthusiastic that I said OK, and sent him the mailing list. He did a decent job of it and kept it alive for about a year, and then I wrote to him to let him know that I had decided to start publishing it again. Larned had ticked off some of the old timers by issuing a set of censorship rules. I think he was a bit swept up in the paranoia after the twin towers attack. I decided that the best thing to do was just to take over the reins again.

Eventually I took it over again and did another long stretch of regular issues, that became more and more infrequent. I am not sure how many were done, I think that maybe around a hundred issues. It would be a job to track them down....It has been 16 years since the first one.

JP: The issues were never numbered, is that correct? Also, I'm curious about your use of various aliases/nom de plumes over the years. What went into these decisions?

BB: Nope, Willis started the tradition of naming each issue instead of numbering them. Just a little bit of extra fun. I was thinking of naming this upcoming issue of WBG, # "sarah palin induced erectile dysfunction"....but I probably won't be so nasty.

Jeez, I have no idea what the deal is with my pseudonyms. Maximum Traffic was an environmental concept that I felt very compelled to propagandize. You know, seeing everything go to shit because the human race wants too much of everything, and how it may bring about total extinction through greed. Buzz Buzzizyk....I did a comic once about a Polish blues insect.... and it stuck. ?

JP: I think it's incredible that there have been 16 years of WBG history, and not a single issue was ever sold, only traded or given free. Can you talk about that at all?

BB:  One short-term editor tried to make WBG a product, but I put a stop to that. The whole idea that emerged during the years after the newave era of comics, was to create art and comix that had no target market, no limitations, no crawling for fame and fortune. I credit this largely to Steve Willis, who once said that "all artists should have real jobs", and that artists who didn't were "parasites on society." Perhaps the most extreme view of obscuro art, but commendable in it's demand for unfettered freedom of speech. The concept of "obscuro" comix is one of total freedom...very individual, wherever your twisted muse takes you is where you should go, and screw all the rest. Also, so far I don't think anyone would actually pay for a copy of WBG. I have sold reprints occasionally to collectors because it's a hassle to dig them out and print and mail. only a few here and there. This scene was always more about the art and comix, and the community of freaks involved, than about striving for any kind of success. This is not to say that none of these artists have serious ambitions with their art, some do, some have had some success, but that is in the outside world, not in our strange little obscure culture. Here we are brothers in total obscurity.

Cover art by Sasa Rakezic (with Carrie McNinch in the corner!)

JP: Can you describe the underground comix scene during the early years of WBG? I became marginally involved with it around 1987, but am curious about the earlier years. Did you feel what you were doing was a natural extension of the Classic Underground Comix years? How did people get in touch with each other, how was the network maintained back then? (Factsheet Five is often cited as the place to co-mingle in the scene, but that didn't begin until 1982, and didn't pick up steam 'til a few years later.)

BB: The self pub press comix scene exploded around the world with the advent of cheap photocopy shops, which sprouted up almost overnight. No more hassles going to a printer, using offset machines or crappy mimeographs. There was a universal appreciation of those crisp black ten cent copies that could be folded into quarters to make a little comic. I have collected thousands of them from far and wide. Many, many artists did only a few comics and then disappeared. It was very common in those days to include a list of contacts in your mini comic, so it was self perpetuating. There must have been a dozen or more comix network newsletters going at any one time. The UK had a very lively scene with Caption and Zum chronicling it. Factsheet Five, in the Gunderloy years was a great source of contacts.

Skip Williamson cover

Regarding the classic underground comics, I think that the Newave era was an extension of that comix ethic. Michael Dowers huge book on newave comics illustrates that pretty clearly.* A lot of the newave artists would have been famous, like R. Crumb and his fellow counter culture cartoonists, as underground artists if the lords of culture hadn't worked so tirelessly to exterminate that freak culture. But by the 1990's, the 1960's were very far removed from a lot of younger artists, and I think that the obscuro comics reflect a shift away from the somewhat reactive material of the old underground.

Content became more diverse, styles of drawing more varied. The anger at oppression had cooled. Rock and Roll became the dominate culture instead of the revolutionary one. A certain new kind of freedom seemed to pervade the free press of non mainstream comix. All directions now seemed open, instead of the focus of resistance to comix code puritanism and whitebread culture. I think that your own King-Cat Comix ** are an exceptional example of the new and divergent type of comic that made the break from newave style of comics. I find myself wondering if it is already passe, and if the digital age is in the process of making obscuro mini comix a thing of the past.

JP: Having been involved in small press and as you call it "obscuro-art" for over three decades, how have you seen things change? What things do you miss, what things do you hope for?

BB: I think I just answered that. what do I miss ? hmmmm not being tired ! Man, you're right, my first minicomic was done in 1979... titled " Rolling Papers."  Long strange trip it's been. My hopes ? .....that the dumb asses running the world will wake up and care about their fellow man, instead of robbing him and killing him, and that the white buffalo woman will return, so to speak. It could happen.



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NOTES:

*Michael Dowers: Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980's (Fantagraphics Books, 2010)

**Aw, shucks [ed.]

All pictures are from photocopies provided by Buzz.
(Cover art from top of post by Joel Orff.)


1 comment:

  1. Max is one of the Greats. May Dog bless him!

    ReplyDelete