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Monday, February 21, 2011

A HISTORY OF THE WHITE BUFFALO GAZETTE, Pt.3


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.  PART TWO of this history is an interview with Max, and can be found here.

After Max published WBG for a few years, editorship of the zine switched hands every now and then, beginning with Edward Bolman and Cat Noel.
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EDWARD BOLMAN and CAT NOEL are longtime artists and writers.  They took over editorship of the White Buffalo Gazette in 1996.



JOHN PORCELLINO: You took over the editing/publishing reins from Max, is that correct? When you did, did he provide any advice or suggestions on how to go about it, or did he pretty much just hand things over and let you run with it?

EDWARD BOLMAN: Max handed over it to Cat and me and we ran with it. I hope his trust was not misplaced.

CAT NOEL: As far as I know, he handed it over cartes blanches. Hopefully he didn't regret that.

JP: How many issues of WBG did you edit, and when were they published?

CN: Wow, I am so not the historian on this one, but I believe I had a hand in it for two years - '96 through '98. There may have been 24 issues, give or take 24 issues.

Cover: Max Traffic, 3/97
EB: We published 24, from 11/96 to 12/98. I encouraged the readers to publish their own issues, as well. By my estimation the Gazette has had twelve publishers: Bruce Chrislip, Steve Willis, Maximum Traffic, Edward Bolman, Cat Noel, Steve Skeates, Delaine, Carol Pond, Geoff Hamerlinck, Morgan Parducci, Jeff Zenick, and Larned Justin. My apologies if I forgot anyone. I prepared a bibliography, which can be viewed here:

http://www.poopsheetfoundation.com/mini-comics-history/publishers/91-white-buffalo-gazette-bibliography-1996-2007-bolmannoel-run

JP: How would you describe the contents of the issues you produced? What artists were involved at the time?

CN: I just wanted a place for anything I thought was funny. Edward helped keep it focused on comics. I tend to get very ADD and I would throw in the kitchen sink and goat rape if it made me laugh. The artists I remember were Max Traffic, delaine, Carol Pond, Edward Bolman (of course) and Yul Tolbert, who I believe was obsessed with Esperanto. And oh my god.... and T.R. Miller, who brought us the amazing Luhey Dog. I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of people. Sorry lots of people.

EB: We tried to balance the Steve Willis writing intensive style and the Max Traffic psychedelic collage style. Contributors include: Mark Campos, Delaine, Clark Dissmeyer, David K. Farley, Matt Feazell, Clay Geerdes, Geoff Hamerlinck, Sam Henderson, Carrie McNinch, John Miller, T. R. Miller, Jeff Nicholson, Morgan Parducci, Mike Roden, Eric Schaller, Jim Siergey, Steve Skeates, Bruce Stengl, Yul Tolbert, Max Traffic, Steve Willis, Blair Wilson, Chad Woody, Jeff Zenick, Jenny Zervakis

Cover: Eric Schaller, 5/97

JP: How did you approach editing the magazine? How do you think your issues compared and contrasted with the others?

CN: No clue. Edward did all the hard stuff. I just came up with jokes. I'm fairly useless. We didn't number our issues. We had confusing titles for them. Our issues also smelled nice. But I'm guessing, because I've never seen WBG by anyone else.

EB: You should have been in there at some point, but we were too Obscuro to solicit contributions.

JP: When you were done, I believe Jeff Zenick took over. What made you decide to cease publishing your run?

EB: Monthly, for two years, was enough. We published the final issue simultaneously with the issue after the final issue, as a gesture of optimism.

CN: My publicist released a statement at the time. WBG ended due to "a combination of exhaustion and dehydration, but Edward and Cat remain the best of friends." (Actually, I think we just felt like it was time to hand it off).



JP: Any thoughts on the City Limits/White Buffalo Gazette lineage reaching the 30 year mark?

EB: A gesture of optimism leads to fruition.

CN: I think an ice cream cake is in order.

JP: Any other thoughts/comments/digressions?

EB: I started drawing again recently, have nine comic books out, and may yet do another WBG.

CN: My background is not in comics. It's something I wish I could do, but I can't. I really admire all the WBG artists and appreciate everyone who sent us submissions. Our reign was weird, a bit disjointed, but a lot of fun. And now I feel like ice cream cake, and I hate that stuff.

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The legendary JEFF ZENICK took over the Gazette after Cat and Ed completed their run. As Max mentioned previously, many people consider the Zenick-edited era to be the "Golden Age" of the publication. Jeff brought his amazing sense of wholeness and humanity to every page of the Gazette during his tenure.  For an in-depth look at one of Jeff's issues, click here.


JOHN PORCELLINO:  When did you take over the reins of the WBG? How many issues and for how long did you edit it?  How did it come about that you took over from Max for awhile?

JEFF ZENICK:  I put out issues of WBG for about 2 years, in 1999 and 2000, I don't remember if I put out any in 2001. I'm not sure how many issues I edited, at least a dozen, maybe as many as 17 or 18, I dunno. When Ed and Cat said they were ending their WBG run, I felt a strong impulse to keep it going. I wrote Max Traffic and told him I was thinking of editing some WBG's and he encouraged me.

I had subscribed to Steve Willis' City Limits Gazette, which was an absolutely wonderful publication, with a sensibility that is hard to describe. It had a kind of unselfishness about it, like, this isn't about me, it is about all of us. There was a feeling in CLG that the work we were doing had worth, that expressing ourselves through our comics and art had a value in itself, outside of all commercial interests. I think CLG was the first place I saw Max Traffic's work. Max spoke up against wrongheadedness while making wonderful psychedelic art. There is something alive, joyful and full of wonder in Max's work.

Max Traffic started WBG after City Limits Gazette ended it's run. Max's WBG carried on in the spirit of CLG while adding a happy-to-be-alive enthusiasm, and a kind of independent spiritual dimension. Max printed more art in WBG than Steve did in CLG.

Millennium Issue; cover by John Miller
JP:  What was your thinking in terms of editing the zine? Was it kind of a free for all, or how much consideration did you put into what went in/ where etc. I guess I'm curious about how you approached editing WBG philosophically.

JZ:  In the issues of WBG that I edited, I tried to carry on the same spirit that Max had fostered in WBG, to make a zine that had heart, that spoke what was true, that wanted to get out the word that a lot of people were doing meaningful, or at least interesting work, and of course, a sense that we all are connected. Like Max and Steve, I had a feeling of doing this as a kind of service to the community that I was a part of.

Most of the time that I was editing WBG, I was at the same time working out of a Labor Pool, up on a roof, sorting at the recycling center, digging ditches, shoveling shit at the sewage treatment center, [He's not kidding, ed.] whatever. Working there allowed me to take off days or weeks once I had made this month's rent, so I had quite a bit of time to edit WBG. I was also writing many long letters at the time, and some of the responses to my letters, I published in WBG. I didn't publish all the work people sent, but I did publish at least some work from everyone who sent in work. I wanted people to feel included. Many times I prefered the spirit of "spur of the moment" sketches to more polished work. I liked to include people's artwork or comics that were done spontaneously, with heart. I liked to include everyday experiences that many of us shared.

Jeff Zenick artwork, Millennium issue.

Sasa Rakezic's reports from Yugoslavia during NATO's bombing of Serbia, which were forwarded to me from Ed Bolman, were perhaps the part of the WBG's that I edited that stand out most in my mind. John Miller's comics and letters which contained his schizophrenic musings brought me more of an understanding and a warmth towards the crazy (I mean crazy in a good kind of way). Joel Orff's Great Moments In Rock & Roll showed me how much all of our lives overlap. Jim Conatser, Jerome Feller, Joseph Shea's and Erik Kaye's letters and art helped sustain me. Steve Willis' Morty comics of portraits in various states of mind, Max's Psychedelic work, Ed Bolman's absurd intelligent heartful comics, Delaine's comics, Clark Dissameyer's work, Chad Woody's drawings and comics, Claudio Parentela's art, these all were joy for me to read, look at, and think about. And there were so many others that contributed worthy work that have slipped my mind at this writing.

What other people got out of the WBG's that I edited and what stayed in their minds, I mostly don't know.

JP:  When you finshed your run, what went into that decision?

JZ:  I don't remember specifically why I stopped publishing WBG. I started to lose interest in doing it, I guess,

JP:  Was it Larned Justin who took over after you?

JZ:  After I stopped editing WBG, Larned Justin felt a strong pull to edit WBG, so he put out issues regularly for a good while.

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Cartoonist LARNED JUSTIN edited the Gazette for one year, after Zenick.  Justin looks back fondly on his run, but acknowledges that it was one marked by some controversy.


JOHN PORCELLINO: When did you take over the reins of editing WBG? Was your turn following Jeff Zenick's run?

LARNED JUSTIN: Yes, Jeff and I had corresponded before he took over the WBG. I had always wanted to publish something monthly, but never had enough material to do it. When Jeff said he could no longer publish the White Buffalo Gazette, I jumped at the chance to do it.

I must have written Ed Bolman, telling him that I was going to take it over. I can remember Ed writing me and saying don't do it. He said "no one will subscribe, and you will wind up spending all your own money trying to publish it." Of course for the most part Ed was right, although some people sent stamps and a few bucks here and there. But I have never regretted doing it, it was a blast to go to the PO Box and see what people sent in, I loved it!

Cover: Dale Martin, 6/01
JP: How did you approach editing WBG, philosophically? Was it kind of a free for all, or were you more particular about the way you approached it?

LJ: Jeff wrote a great deal of his WBG's by hand. I knew that I would not be able to continue that, although that was one of the things that I liked about the WBG. So I bought a copy of Microsoft publisher, changed the size from half legal to digest size, and tried to make it look like a standard zine. One of the things I did was to reserve the center fold for a two page spread of Joel Orff's "Great Moments in Rock and Roll." Every issue I did featured Joel in the middle.

JP: How long and for how many issues did you edit the zine?

LJ: I think I did it for close to a full year, Monthly Digest size, and 32 pages.

JP: What were some of the artists involved in the WBG during your tenure?

LJ: This is a great question, and I hope you don't mind a long answer. In my opinion we had some of the greatest artists that small press had, and still has to offer. Here is a short list, I know I will leave a bunch out, but here goes, in no particular order:

Steve Willis, Joel Orff, Delaine Derry-Green, Dan Dolt, Blair Wilson, Chad Woody, T. Motley, Joe Shea, Dave Kiersh, Bridget Reilly, Steve Skeates, John Miller, Claudio Parentela, Jaime Crespo, Yul Tolbert, Charles Baldock, Andy Nukes, Ben Steckler, H.L.Coats, Erik Kaye, Morgan Parducci, Jerome Feller, Mike Goetz, Jeff Zenick, Ed Bolman, Don Busky, Dale Martin, Max Ink, Elmore Buzzizyk (Max Traffic), and YOU! Just to name a few!!

Cover: Erik Kaye, 7/01
JP: Any other thoughts/comments/things you'd like to share?

LJ: Only that I must admit, I may not have understood some of the original intent of the WBG.  Right after 9/11, I published a statement in WBG, saying something like, "I will not publish derogatory statements about Muslims, or The United States." This infuriated Max Traffic,* and a few other folks [who viewed the policy as censorship, ed.]. In the end Elmore Buzzizyk (Max Traffic) asked that I not publish the title any more, and took the WBG back. He was right to do that, but I had a blast doing it while I did, and I sure made a lot of friends, many of whom I have met in person by attending S.P.A.C.E. in Columbus, OH.

*Buzz (interjecting): "Max Traffic was not "infuriated" by this, only disappointed. There were other reasons that did make me a bit cranky. But I am well known for being a crank. But hey, I'm mellowing."


* * *

WHITE BUFFALO GAZETTE IN THE 2000's:  After Justin's run, founder and original editor MAX TRAFFIC (AKA BUZZ BUZZIZYK) began publishing the title again.

Buzzizyk back cover, 8/01

JOHN PORCELLINO: After Larned Justin, you resumed editing WBG, but it's only been published somewhat sporadically since then. How many issues have been been released in the last decade? Didn't Mike Hill guest-edit an issue recently?

BUZZ BUZZIZYK:  Yes, Mike Hill did an excellent issue some years ago. After Larned Justin's stint I did WBG monthly or every two months for another year or so, not sure how many.... it would take some digging in my bulging file cabinets. I let it be for a while, but then cranked out an occasional issue. I did the all covers issue, which was all full page art including past work and some new pages. The beauty jam was a fairly recent issue that turned into a thing of its own... maybe the most poetic issue... one of the few with a theme. Every now and then I just get the bug to reconnect with all these comix friends.

JP:  Is the sporadic nature of the current WBG attributable to just getting old and slowing down?
BB:  Ha. Both, getting older and slowing down. Also, I think that the energy of the self pubbed comix thing has moved to the internet. With free email, who wants to do all that letter writing and pay for all that postage and printing?  Delaine Derry Green, the queen of the obscuro scene [and editor of Not My Small Diary, ed.], is probably one of the pioneers who took the obscuro networking to the internet. Now there is a wave of networking that is decidedly digital, including this project of yours.

JP:  What is the future of the White Buffalo Gazette?

BB:  Hmmmm, let me look into my obscuro crystal ball...... mmmmmmm... I see a new WBG being mailed out in a few days that has 160 pages of artwork and comix listings with over 40 artists included, and hoo daddy it is going to be a humdinger !

I think WBG may keep spontaneously erupting on the scene for a long time to come, like a case of acne.... just when you think your spots have cleared up... dang ! ...more spots. A new issue by Edward Bolman would be well received. A new issue by Jeff Zenick would be swell. I bet that if John Porcellino decided to do an issue, it would get a heap of support. You just never know. Mike Hill has often said that he would like to do another issue. I sometimes wonder if the first digital issue of WBG is going to emerge from the ether. Time will tell.

Thanks!

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My many thanks to Buzz Buzzizyk, Bruce Chrislip, Steve Willis, Cat Noel, Edward Bolman, Jeff Zenick, and Larned Justin for agreeing to share their thoughts for this history.  Thanks too to Richard Krause and Rick Bradford for providing additional images.  In this era of blogs, tweets, flickr, and facebook, the world of small press comics and zine publishing is still going strong ...   And as the White Buffalo Gazette has proved for over 16 years-- the underground beneath the underground is also alive and well.  Rock on.

John Porcellino, 2011
South Beloit, Ill.

2 comments:

  1. Jeff: Thank you so much for your kind summation of CLG at the time you signed on. And now that I finally get to see a photo of you, you have a face that matches your in-print humanity and incredible artsmanship. Best, SW

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  2. The new White Buffalo was mailed today. I will be interested to hear what you guys think about it. Jeff and Edward and Catherine and Steve, you are all responsible for this new issue ever happening. You took my scruffy little newsletter and created a serious body of work, and a long lived network of friends and artists. You all inspire me with your remarkable talents and
    your excellent humor and kindness. That goes for you too John...you shine a light.

    ReplyDelete