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Monday, February 28, 2011

THE EVOLUTION OF A DRAWING

Ahem, ahem, in case you didn't know, in addition to my comics (ahem) I support (???)  myself (hint) by doing commissioned artwork for people (among other sundry jobs).  I thought it might be interesting to show the evolution of a drawing I made recently.


King-Cat reader Marguerite Insolia (she's an actress--  hire her!) asked me to do a portrait of her and her cat Mija, based on the photograph above.

Here's my first rendering:


Turns out she was looking for something more in my "King-Cat"-y drawing style, so I sent her the sketch below, which she approved, asking just that the cat be colored black.


And here's the final drawing:


For what it's worth.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL


I don't know exactly what you'd call my politics, but I have to think that capitalism has failed us when our national government, mass media, and even our health care systems have become nothing more that corporate fronts.

There are people in this country who would want you to believe that our teachers are lazy and privileged.  Well, I know plenty of teachers and in my experience they are neither.

Those people want to divide us, and they want to keep us uneducated.  They want us doped with sex, TV, and bad food.  The truth is right in front of us!

I am SICK AND TIRED of corporations in this country being treated better than HUMAN BEINGS.

 

Monday, February 21, 2011

WHITE BUFFALO GAZETTE: THE MILLENNIUM ISSUE


This post is just kind of an adjunct to my recent three part history of the the long-running Obscuro Art zine The White Buffalo Gazette (see below for links).  In 2000 AD, editor Jeff Zenick published his last Gazette, one of the most lovingly produced zines I've ever seen.  It included hand-silkscreened covers (featuring the artwork of the great John Miller), hand-embellished back covers, unique hand-glued found imagery, and, of course, the art, writing, and comix of dozens upon dozens of underground artists (all in alphabetical order!).

I recently pulled my copy out and thought I'd include some snapshots of it.  This isn't of course every page from the issue, but should give you a good idea of what a Zenick-edited issue of White Buffalo Gazette was like.  In my opinion, this issue was the crowning achievement of 90's obscuro publishing.

(Clicking images will enlarge them.)


Cover by John Miller, with lettering by Jeff Zenick.

Inside front cover and page one of contributor's list.

The brilliant Jim Conatser.  I sure hope he's still making comics.

Delaine Derry-Green

Kevin Huizenga

Erik Kaye and Linda Hedges

Dave Kiersh and James Kochalka

David Lasky and Carrie McNinch

One of John Miller's amazing comix.

Andy Nukes

Joel Orff

John Porcellino

Mike Roden and Jerry Sims

Maximum Traffic

Steve Willis and Chad Woody

Jenny Zervakis

Jeff Zenick and Inside Back Cover

Hand-glued and embellished back cover; artwork by Eric Schaller.

* * *

A HISTORY OF THE WHITE BUFFALO GAZETTE:




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.
* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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!

* * *

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.

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.

* * *

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.



* * *


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.)


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A HISTORY OF THE WHITE BUFFALO GAZETTE, Pt. 1


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.

Max wrote:
"I have also spent a lot of thought over the years on the idea of a book that gave a serious overview of the obscuro era of small press comix. I am considering doing a book that chronicles the WBG network of artists. After 16 years, and numerous editors, there have been hundreds of people involved in it. Also, when I started WBG, I took over the mailing list from the City Limits Gazette from Steve Willis.....It was pointed out to me that this new issue of WBG is actually a 30th anniversary issue of the network of artists.
I would have called WBG the City Limits Gazette, but Bruce Chrislip, who started the title in 1980 said that he preferred that I start my own title. Not sure why, perhaps because I was a relative newcomer to the scene, perhaps because in my younger days I was too much of a provocateur. ( I did piss off a few people in my early days ...just too much of a wise ass, when I look back on it. Funny, but it was Jeff Zenick who first clued me into the fact that I was being kind of an asshole....and did so kindly.)"
I hadn't been aware of it before this statement, but the origins of the White Buffalo Gazette lie in the legendary small-press comix publication City Limits Gazette, which had begun publication in 1980, under editor Bruce Chrislip (and was later edited by Steve Willis).

The White Buffalo Gazette itself has gone through several different editors and runs: After Max's original stint as editor, Ed Bolman and Cat Noel took over for a few years, followed by Jeff Zenick, Larned Justin, and then back to Max in the early-2000's.

As I began compiling this information, it occurred to me: let's talk to as many people as possible and get a sense of three decades of small press publishing. So over the past month or so I conducted email interviews with Max Traffic, Bruce Chrislip, Steve Willis, Larned Justin, Jeff Zenick, Edward Bolman, and Cat Noel.

What follows is sort of an "oral history" of the White Buffalo Gazette, Part One (of Three): "City Limits Gazette."

* * *

BRUCE CHRISLIP is the founder and original editor of the City Limits Gazette, an offshoot of his earlier underground publication City Limits Comix.



JOHN PORCELLINO:  You began City Limits Comix in 1979? Where did City Limits Gazette come from? Was CLC more comics, and CLG more networking/news etc? Were they published concurrently?

BRUCE CHRISLIP: To begin before the beginning, I graduated from high school in 1973 and enrolled at Youngstown (Ohio) State University the next fall. I quickly fell in with a group of cartoonists and, before I knew it, we were publishing comix and holding comic book club meetings and putting on comic book conventions. I met cartoonist Topper Helmers and we both saw a minicomic on the YSU campus about October 1973 that fellow student Joe Zabel had produced. (Yes, the same Joe Zabel that later drew many of Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor comix.) The minicomic was called Tales of the Enemy and on the back cover there was a blurb about how cheap it was to produce a minicomic. Much enthused, we got in touch with Joe and he showed us how to do our own comic.

That Christmas break, Topper and I set to work on Fresh Comix - a semi-underground comic that debuted in the spring of 1974. Fresh Comix was half-legal size and had been drawn in the paper master offset process.* It was great getting our work out in front of other art students. They thought it was a big deal that we had produced our own comic book. Other cartoonists I met over the next few years included Daryll Collins, Rick Magyar and Bud Perkins. Some of them ended up being in City Limits Comix.


City Limits Comix #1 came out in February 1979. It was a digest-size comic and the intent was to publish cartoonists from my local area (Youngstown, Ohio). I moved down to Cincinnati, Ohio before the second issue was published in the spring of 1980 – so it featured Cincinnati artists and cartoonists from around the country. There wasn’t to be another issue of City Limits Comix until #3 came out in November 1989 (ten years after the first issue). I wrote a fairly extensive article about City Limits Comix that can be found on Richard Krauss’ Midnight Fiction website:


The City Limits Gazette came along in November 1980. It was a 4-page digest and was strictly an attempt to promote/publicize my own work and that of a few friends – like Joe Zabel and Michael Roden. I moved from Cincinnati to Seattle right before the second issue was published. (Notice a pattern here of moving between issues?) CLG quickly expanded, issues got bigger, and I was soon covering the underground and newave comix world in more depth.

JP: For how many issues and for how long did you publish CLG?

BC: The City Limits Gazette was published from November 1980 to 1986. There were fifteen issues. I published about three more City Limits Gazette newsletters in the next few years but they were all 4-page digests – sort of going back to where I had started. Unfortunately, I never managed to produce another full-size issue of CLG. So there was a gap before Steve Willis started publishing his version of the City Limits Gazette.


JP: Can you describe what you were doing with CLG, what it was like? Did you intend it to serve kind of the same purpose that Factsheet Five later did? As a resource/connecting place for those making/interested in self-published comics?

BC: I’ll answer your last two questions first. Yes, it was a resource/connecting place for comix/minicomix. It was similar to the later Factsheet Five in that we reviewed and listed a lot of comix but we also featured news, interviews, letter columns and articles about the comix world.

What I was trying to do with the City Limits Gazette was express myself and my interests in comix. I liked Harvey Pekar’s work – so I interviewed him in CLG #7 way back in the spring of 1983. Other interview subjects included Wayne Gibson, Gary Larson (“The Far Side”), Jim Valentino and Joe Zabel.

What was the City Limits Gazette like? It was sort of like Artie Romero’s Cascade Comix Monthly except that I interviewed minicomix artists in addition to underground cartoonists and generally gave as much (or more) space to the small press as I did to underground comix. Before and after Jay Kennedy’s The Official Underground and Newave Comix Price Guide came out in the summer of 1982, I published letters from Jay discussing the Guide. Other readers and cartoonists also offered their insights.

Cartoonists would send me their new comix for review and send along news about their upcoming projects. It all went into the City Limits Gazette. When Peter Bagge moved to Seattle in 1984, I met him a few weeks later and interviewed him for CLG on the same day. (I remember asking for permission to print a news item about his then-upcoming comic book Neat Stuff.) People like Denis Kitchen and Jay Lynch would send me letters and news items. I sent copies to R. Crumb, too. It was all great fun and for a while it felt like I was at the center of the comix network.

JP: How would you describe the evolution from the classic UG comics of the 60's-70's to what you and your peers were doing in the late 70's early 80's?

BC: It was all part of the same thing, more of a continuation than an evolution. George Erling, Grass Green, Doug Hansen and Jim Valentino all appeared in underground comix. Robert Crumb, Howard Cruse, Denis Kitchen, Jay Lynch, Bil Stout, John Thompson and many other underground cartoonists had art in our minicomix and digest comix. Later on in the 1980s, there was a similar cross-pollination in the pages of Weirdo – underground comix people and newave comix people all mixed in together. Artie Romero published a nice line of minicomix and he also published underground comix like Animal Bite.

We were doing all those minicomix because there wasn’t much of an underground comix scene left to break into after about 1973. Most of us were trying to “break into” undergrounds at the time. We were later surprised to find out that nobody ever made much money in underground comix. Beginning in the early 1970s, most of the underground cartoonists were trying to break out into bigger markets – like mass circulation magazines. So at the same time us minicomix guys were trying to break in, they were trying to break out!


JP: Can you name some of the artists involved in CLC/CLG?

BC: We’ll start with City Limits Comix. Joe Zabel drew the covers for the first two issues. As mentioned, Joe later spent a ten-year stint working with Harvey Pekar as one of the American Splendor artists. The cover to City Limits Comix #2 was pencilled by Joe and inked by his friend, the great William Messner-Loebs. It’s a beautiful drawing and I still have the original art. Others who contributed to City Limits Comix included the late Jamie Alder (Tales Too Tough for TV), Daryll Collins (nowadays a very busy advertising cartoonist), the late Grass Green, Rick McCollum (who went on to draw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Dave Patterson, Bud Perkins, Jim Valentino (one of the founders of Image Comics), Bob Vojtko (great gag cartoonist and minicomix guy, too) and Gary Wray.

Artists who contributed to City Limits Gazette include most of the people I already named plus Chester Brown, Don Donahue, George Erling, Matt Feazell, Brad Foster, Wayne Gibson, Brian Horst, Tom Holtkamp, Jack Jaxon, Jeff Kipper, Steve Lafler, George Metzger, David Miller, Clifford Neal, the late (and great) Michael Roden, Alan Rose, Mike Streff, J.R. Williams and Steve Willis.

JP: What made you decide to hand over the reins to Steve Willis in 1991?

BC: It was Steve’s idea. Actually, it was a zine exchange program. I had taken over the Outside In mini series from Edd Vick in 1990. There had been a series of revolving editors/publishers of Outside In since Steve had originated the title back in 1983. Outside In was this great self-portrait gallery in minicomix form. Most of the contributors were newave minicomix people but there were also underground cartoonists, other artists, poets, writers, bon vivants.

Steve published the first fourteen issues of Outside In, then Michael Dowers took over for the next eight issues. Edd Vick and Hal Hargit published nine issues up to #31 and then the title languished for awhile. I took it over in the summer of 1990. So Steve figured that if I was now doing his old zine, maybe he could take over my old zine. The wackiness of the idea appealed to me so I gave him the go ahead and was amazed at how many issues he produced (on a twice a month schedule). There were way more issues in the Steve Willis era of City Limits Gazette (starting in February 1991) than the fifteen I published.

JP: How do you feel about the way the spirit of CLG/WBG has continued on to today?

BC: It’s a joy and a delight. It’s very gratifying to think that I have influenced or inspired the White Buffalo Gazette in any way. I have the greatest respect and admiration for past publishers Jeff Zenick and Ted Bolman. The White Buffalo Gazette kind of combines the best aspects of my City Limits Gazette and the Steve Willis City Limits Gazette while adding a lot of great touches. It’s the place to see some of the finest and most interesting comix art and artists. Current publisher Max Traffic is a great artist as well and I hope I get to finally meet him at SPACE this year. I’m also looking forward to seeing the new issue of White Buffalo Gazette.

JP: Any other thoughts or comments would be great to hear! And again, if this is just annoying, please let me know!

BC: On the contrary, I enjoyed doing this interview and had fun looking back over my stack of old minicomix to put it together.

Everybody reading this, please come to SPACE in Columbus on March 19 and 20! Minicomix are a great medium and this will be your chance to spend an afternoon with a lot of great, creative cartoonists and see lots of great comix, too.

* * *

STEVE WILLIS is an underground comics legend. His iconic Morty the Dog has been a mainstay of the comix world for decades. Steve was also the second editor of City Limits Gazette, the pre-cursor to the White Buffalo Gazette.



JOHN PORCELLINO: Bruce Chrislip founded the City Lights Gazette in 1980, and you took it over in 1991... is that correct? What were the circumstances of you taking over publishing it?

STEVE WILLIS: Bruce had taken over a minicomic series I had started in 1983 called Outside In, I believe he was the 4th and last editor. So I felt he should let me revive his moribund CLG, since I had been bugging him about bringing it back.

Header of CLG # "Mermaid, mermaid, have you ever seen blood? (9/92) by Chad Woody

JP: Can you describe what you were doing with CLG under your tenure? What was a typical issue like? How often and for how long did you publish it?

SW: It was published every two weeks, without fail, from Feb. 1991 to Sept. 29, 1993. I knew it would be one of the last of the networking tools in hardcopy. I wanted to make it a freewheeling place for obscuro comix artists to talk, promote, vent, make deals, argue, pass along the news. Always in folded legal size, the publication grew into a monster, with interviews and feature articles. It was all hammered out on my electric typewriter.

JP: Who were some of the artists involved in CLG during those days?

SW: Contributors included Bruce Chrislip, S. Minstrel, Jay Kennedy, Mark Campos, Dennis Pimple, Lynn Hansen, Wayno, Bruce Sweeney, Jerry Riddle, Randy Scott, Steve Lafler, Dan W. Taylor, Mike Culpepper, Bruce Bolinger, Michael Neno, Ted Bolman, Mel. White, Hank Arakelian, Troy Hickman, Matt Feazell, Jim Danky, Tim Ereneta, Clark Dissmeyer, Jeff Nicholson, Brian Rainville, Jamie Alder, Brad Foster, Maximum Traffic, Jim Ryan, Bob Vojtko, Chad Woody, Bob Richart, Nils Osmar, A.P. McQuiddy, Ted Delorme, Scott Johnson, Ryan Eifert, Randy Reynaldo, David Chrislip, Mike Lee, Ben Adams, Michael Stengl, William Dockery, Tristan Sill, Robin Coder, Jeffrey Kipper, Clay Geerdes, Mary Longo, Michael Dowers, Robert Lewis, Toivo Rovainen, Gary Usher, Jeff Snee, Ricardo Nancy McJacksonstein, Bill Donahue, Jeff Zenick, Edd Vick, Randy H. Crawford, Russell Rose, Bryan Willis, Kel Crum, Andrew Roller, Matt Love, Bruce Semans, Dusty Rhodes, Mary McLaughlin, Dave Szurek, Bob Moulton, Crad Kilodney, Jeremy Pinkham, Maurice Harter, R. Seth Friedman, Spaz, Asa Sparks, Ken Clinger, Greg Stomberg, Jacques Boivin, Peter Pavement, Lance Jacobs, Matthew Kelleigh, Michael Drummond, Sean Wilson, Bil Keane (I'm not kidding), Andrew M. Ford, Sasa Rakezic, Michael Vance, R.A. Jones, Mark Cunningham, David Lasky, Robert DuPree, Tommy Hojager Olesen, Bill Miller, Jonathan Tegnell, Randy Paske, Jenny Zervakis. There were many others, and quite a few print lurkers. The publication was much more text oriented than graphic.


JP: When you were done, you transferred the mailing list to Max, and he began publishing under the new name White Buffalo Gazette... Why did you decide to cease editing it yourself?

SW: I can't remember why I stopped. I think the title had grown to exceed room capacity and it was either invest more time or jump ship. Actually when CLG's final issue rolled out, there was no one waiting to take over. I think there was a bit of a short lag before Max started WBG.

JP: Did you give Max any advice or suggestions as to how to run things, or was it more just you gave him your blessing and let him roll?

SW: I probably told him he was going to have a blast and wished him well. At least I hope I did. Max has enough energy to light a city for a month. WBG was very different than CLG, it was more visual and wild. The fact that Max is totally insane does help.**


Final Willis-edited CLG, Sept. '93
JP: How do you feel about the fact that the CLG/WBG lineage has survived now for 30 years or so?

SW: Actually I saw myself continuing not only Bruce Chrislip's CLG, but also Clay Geerdes' Comix World/Wave, which started in the early 1970s. Yes, Clay was still publishing his newsletter in the early 1990s, but he was already withdrawing from the network. CLG was like a bigger and more interactive version of Clay's great networking publication. I was so happy he came out to play and joined us in CLG. Clay, Bruce, me, Max, we were passing the baton of the same universal desire for promoting a place for free expression, creativity and originality in comic art.

JP: Anything else you'd like to add?
SW: Thanks for the questions, John. Check out my website for more CLG info and Newave history, including the Newave Reader (a history I compiled in the 1990s):

http://www.mortythedog.com/  [Editor's note: this site is the absolute motherload!  Please be sure to spend some time checking it out!]

- - -

*I asked Bruce to explain this "paper master offset process," and here's what he said:

"Here's the paper master offset printing process in a nutshell.  Topper Helmers and I actually drew on the paper printing plates that were used to print Fresh Comix.  It was a waxy surface paper, legal size, and we used litho pencils and a special kind of litho pen to draw with.  Each sheet/plate consisted of two pages of our printed/folded comic book.  Topper drew the first half of the comic and I drew the second - so we drew our two parts on the same sheet.  For example, he drew the front cover on the right half of a sheet and I drew the back cover on the left half.  And so on.  The sheet was perforated and would attach to the printing press that way.

Joe Zabel used the same process on his Tales of the Enemy comics.  He was nice enough to supply us with the paper and put us in touch with his printer."

** Max Traffic responds:  

"Ha!  Imagine Willis calling me insane .  His cartoon dog talks to God, and is killed off by Willis with a clockwork regularity!   He invented floating baby heads with a theme song that borrows from an old Doors tune.   I could fill pages with his obscuro madness."