FF1972: The Guardsmen of Infinity Portfolio

The Guardsmen of Infinity Portfolio by Carter Scholz and Jim Wilson.

This is the second publication from what one might call Fantagraphics’ prehistory. Publisher Groth was a teenager at the time, and I’m going to guess that everybody else involved was, too.

You have to love the self confidence displayed in that introduction up there. Better than Star Trek! At its best!

Good lord! *choke*

Scholz would go on to become a writer for The Comics Journal, and I wasn’t aware that he was an artist at all.

Which, er, uhm, I’m still not. I mean, you shouldn’t rag on comics produced by teenagers like fifty years ago, and by “you” I mean “I”. But c’mon.

I’m guessing that this is the introduction to the project that they determined to be not good enough so they abandoned it? It’s just a handful of pages that don’t lead anywhere.

The rest of this 16 page magazine sized (printed on thick unglossy paper) object is filled with character er studies like the ones above. Which explains the “portfolio” in the title.

It’s nicely printed, though.

Yeah, sure. Why not.

Hey! A Fantagraphics logo! Rad.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1976: Always Comes Twilight

Always Comes Twilight edited by Dave Dapkewicz.

Concluding our look at Fantagraphics’ prehistory, here’s Always Comes Twilight, a 48 page magazine sized… thing… printed on nice thick paper.

The editor explains what this thing is: It’s a fanzine, and that he’s grown out of comics fandom and will never read a comic again. Which is fair, I guess, but it’s a somewhat strange thing to start off a comics fanzine with.

The bulk of the book is taken up by lightly illustrated short sci-fi stories. I’m guessing everybody involved are teenagers, and I have to admit that I stopped reading every story after a paragraph or two.

Hey, they’re probably better stories than what I wrote when I was a teenager, so who am I to judge.

There’s one long comic in here, and it’s drawn by Karl Kesel, who would later become kinda a big deal.

His talents are not obvious here.

The illustrations aren’t that bad, really. Here’s Steve Leialoha.

Race Hardun. *snicker*

It should be!

I quite like Jan Strnad’s writing, so I had some hopes for this story, but…

Oh, well.

OK, that’s it: The first three things Gary Groth published under the “Fantagraphics” name. At least I think they are.

While Fantagraphics would come to be perhaps the most important publisher of American comics ever, there’s not really much in these three publications that’d make you guess what’s to come, except perhaps display Groth’s tenacity and ability to make publications happen. And an attention to quality printing.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1971: A Selection of Fictional Narratives

A Selection of Fictional Narratives by Dennis Fujitake.

A couple of years ago I read all the floppies that Fantagraphics had published. It was a pretty random thing to do, but it turned out to be a fun little project.

I used comics.org to get a list of the comics to read, and at the time, the first three things Fantagraphics had published wasn’t in that database.

But now they are, and I’ve bought those three things, and now I’m going to read them.

The first of these magazine sized comics is by Dennis Fujitake . I really love the style he developed later, which is totally unique. He can draw any kind of outlandish cartoonish alien and make it look totally natural.

Here he’s doing a totally derivative early-70s underground fantasy style with more than a touch of Jeff Jones about it. In this slender 16 page package (very nicely printed and on shiny paper) he does two stories, and they’re both, well, pretty lame. Gary Groth was born in 1954, so after getting my slide rule out, I’ve determined that he must have been, like, 17 when he published this. That explains the taste level, but I’m wondering where he got the money to do so.

The first story is just hard to make out what’s going on: Fujitake would later become a brilliant storyteller with pages that are a joy to read, but he’s not there yet.

The second story reads marginally better. Both stories have the required O. Henry endings, but the second story has a more amusing one.

The back cover has an er stark design? Yeah, let’s go with that. Stark design.

Hm… come to think about it — this publication is kinda prescient. One thing Fantagraphics has done really well over the years is to recognise creators that show promise and stick by them for many years while they progress. And Fujitake is one of these, I guess: They published a lot of spot illos by him in The Comics Journal, and by the time they published Dalgoda, he’d really blossomed.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

Hard Boiled Monster Comics

When I started the Fantagraphics re-reading project, I wasn’t really aware of the Monster and Hard-Boiled imprints. So when I bought a bunch of these comics and had a peek at them, I quickly decided to limit the project to “main-line Fantagraphics” only. It was spiralling out of control, anyway, so any way of limiting it seemed like an advantage.

But now I’ve finally read the little stack of Monster/Hard Boiled comics, so I might as well write a tiny bit about them…

First, some context: Apparently, around this time Fantagraphics had major economic problems, so they were trying to figure out how to get more money in. Their first idea was to sell porn, so they started Eros Comix, which is still going today. (Albeit greatly reduced now.)

Their second idea was to start some imprints for other genres, so they decided on “Monster Comics” for fantasy/sci-fi/horror, and Hard Boiled Comics for crime. (No, I have no idea, either, why they thought the latter would bring in any money.)

Metacops (by Link Yaco and John Heebink) reads as if it’s a collection of shorter pieces previously published in a fanzine somewhere.

The artwork’s fine, although the anatomy is a bit on the, er, expressive side now and then. The stories are unreadable, though, and I could only make it through an issue and a half before I had to surrender.

Cadavera (by John Michael McCarthy) is, again, unreadable, but the art’s nice.

It reads very much like a random comic from the black-and-white boom in the 80s, where everybody published anything that anybody sent them.

At this point, I should probably say that it feels kinda stupid to be writing about these comics at all. “A comic book was published 25 years ago! It wasn’t good! THE OUTRAGE!” So: Sorry! But I’m just kinda looking into the Fantagraphics situation, not really the individual comics, if that makes sense.

No? OK.

King Kong (by Donald Simpson and an impressive number of cover artists, including William Stout, Al Williamson and Dave Stevens) is an adaptation of the ’30s novel (not the movie, which the indicia points out repeatedly (so perhaps the rights for the movie was owned by somebody while the novel is in the public domain?)).

The first issue is quite wordy and sets up the thing…

The subsequent four issues are lighter on plot.

But there’s a lot of pages of Kong fighting various monsters with lightly clad people clambering around the foregrounds. It’s not exactly the best comic ever, but it’s readable.

And you could have gotten this $100 limited edition print of the Dave Stevens cover!

The Mummy (by Scott Baederstadt) is barely readable, but I made it through all four issues.

I wonder whether he used duotone paper for the artwork? It looks pretty awful and muddy, anyway…

And… well.

Mike Regan (by Gene Hughes and John R. Luciano) is a pastiche of 40s crime comics.

Replete with sadistic Chinese and all the usual stuff.

It’s not good.

Finally, we have Holo Bros by Jim Rohn. It’s the odd one out here in most ways. It’s a continuation of a story published by Fantagraphics “proper” (in Threat), and it’s the only one of these comics I could see somebody reading voluntarily. (Well, OK, the King Kong had its charms, too)

It’s a sci-fi/action/humour kind of thing, and it’s told with a great deal of charm and inventiveness.

It’s also visually pretty neat. Rohn loves geometry and patterns and mayhem.

Although sometimes I guess you could make a case for why you shouldn’t go overboard into this much abstraction, but I think it’s fun.

The only way that Holo Bros fits into the “shovel out WHATEVER and let the money roll in” apparent ethos of Monster/Hard Boiled is that there’s fewer story pages per issue than normal: Just 18 a $2.25 pop.

The Monster/Hard Boiled lines didn’t last more than a couple of years, so I would guess they proved not to be as lucrative as they had hoped.

Being mercenary is hard, I guess.

I have heard rumours that Monster did publish one thing that’s worth checking out: Freaks by Jim Woodring, F. Solano Lopez and Sam Kieth. That does sound rather spiffy, but I haven’t read it myself, and I don’t think it’s been reprinted.

Which sounds rather weird, but then again, I’ve never understood anything about publishing. And speaking of reprints, if Fantagraphics were to create a “Eros Comix that didn’t suck” line of reprints, I think that’s something that would be appreciated.

It might be a rather small line of reprints, though.

Fantagraphics Floppies Redux


_1320185Perhaps I should just leave it at that, but I feel like bloviating a bit. (“NO!  REALLY?”) But at the end of this post, there’ll be an index. Feel free to skip to it if you’re the index reading kind of person.

(The following should probably be read in the voice of Comic Book Guy.)

Last winter, I decided I had to re-read all of Love and Rockets, because… it’s Love and Rockets. And I had finally (sort of) gotten the comics sorted after being stashed in various places for decades, so it seemed like the time.

But then while doing all this arduous sorting, I was happening onto other comics that were singing a sirens’ song. Like… DalgodaJourneyPrime Cuts! I MUST RE-READ ALL THESE COMICS!

And, besides, it sounded like a fun project to chase down the comics I hadn’t bought at the time. (This part turned out to take more time than I had imagined: Of the comics I read for this project, I would guess that about one tenth were newly acquired. Thank you, Mile High Comics, Ebay and (*phooey*) Amazon.)

My original idea was to re-read everything Fantagraphics had published. Then I took a look at the comics.org listing for Fantagraphics, and then I thought… “well, OK, just the comic books. The floppies. The pamphlets”. And then I though “OK, dump Eros Comix, too. And Monster. And Hard-Boiled. And Ignatz?”

I used comics.org to source the list of Fantagraphics comics, and scribbled something to filter out the imprints. I think the final list should be pretty complete, but it’s probably not. And I’m not going back to fill in anything I missed.

So for this most nerdy of nerdy projects, I ended up with a list of *gulp* 231 comic series.


I almost stopped then and there, but now I had invested all this time (several minutes at least) into the project, so it was obviously too late to abandon it.

And it’s been fun, mostly. I did re-read Love and Rockets, and it was amazing, and I did discover new old comics that were really good, like Art d’Ecco. But there was a lot of stuff that I had forgotten about, or never had known about, that didn’t exactly set my couch on fire. Where my time would probably have been spent more productively doing something else than reading these comics.

OK, let’s establish a baseline here. Eddie Campbell makes the point (I think) that it’s unfair to compare comics to literature because most comics suck. (Is that a fair summary?) Instead we should be content to enjoy sucky comics because it’s fun to read comics.

So instead of determining whether it’s worth spending time on these comics by, say, imagining that I’m re-reading Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf instead, let’s benchmark to a slightly humbler work. Something that’s unassuming, not generally thought of as a masterwork, but is still something that apparently sane people spend time with and get some enjoyment out of.

Let’s use Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson.

The question then becomes: Would I (and therefore everybody else since my taste level is impeccable) rather be reading this Fantagraphics comic than Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?

I think Fantagraphics starts off pretty well, roundly winning on the USG scale with comics like Love & Rockets, Neat Stuff, Usagi Yojimbo, Captain Jack, Sinner, and on and on and on. But when you get to the 90s, things get rather dicey.

While Fantagraphics had published comics with money in mind in the 80s (Doomsday Squad, Thun’da Tales, Anything Goes!), they seemed to stop doing that in their main imprint in the 90s. Instead they started publishing porn under their Eros Comix imprint, which should perhaps have enabled them to be more discerning for their main line. But things seemed to go in the opposite direction, and this is during a time when publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Tragedy Strikes kept their lineups impeccable.

Looking over the Fantagraphics 90s lineup, I’d say that more than a quarter of the comics fail the USG test. On an issue-by-issue basis, the ratio looks much better, because most of the worst series were cancelled pretty quickly, and the best series (Eightball, Hate, Naughty Bits, The ACME Novelty Library) went on for quite a while.

But if you stumble on to a 90s Fantagraphics series you haven’t heard of before, it’s likely to not be USG worthy. There isn’t a lost treasure trove of Fantagraphics gems. There are publishers that have almost perfect track records (Vortex, Tragedy Strikes, Black Eye, Uncivilized and the ever-lovable Drawn & Quarterly (at least I think so, perhaps I should re-read all their comics? (NOOO!)))), but Fantagraphics isn’t one of these publishers. And I had forgotten.

The past couple of days, I’ve also read We Told You So, the Fantagraphics hagiography, I mean oral history. I learned a lot about crazy interns, but very little about the comics they published or why they published them. I didn’t really expect to find any explanation for WTF-ey items like Butt Biscuit, but there was very little discussion about their publishing, er, strategy in the 90s at all.

The closest I got was a sentence by Kim Thompson saying that he would agree to publish things in the hope that the next thing they made would be better, and that that usually didn’t work out. So it’s more of a “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” kinda strategy. (That they had no money probably didn’t help much.)

That approach worked great for Fantagraphics in the 80s. Artists like Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring and Joe Sacco weren’t critically and/or commercially successful when Fantagraphics started publishing them, but they stuck by them and they turned into critically and/or commercially successful artists after some years. (All those artists, and more, then left Fantagraphics for greener pastures, and published their most significant works (critically and/or commercially) with other publishers. Except the Hernandezes. And a couple have returned this year.)

Perhaps the strategy didn’t work very well in the 90s because the most talented artists went with other publishers? Reading interviews (and That Book), there seemed to be a general feeling that Fantagraphics didn’t do publicity for any of their creators other than their top five artists. And their publici_1320186st seems to confirm that rather bluntly in The Book.

(And to digress a bit: We Told You So is a frustrating reading experience. The cut-up “oral history” style sometimes devolves into an American TV documentary style with a sentence from one person, then a paragraph from another, then back to a sentence from the first person. If you want to be really mean about it, reading it is like watching a forty-six hour segment from 60 Minutes, with the narrator’s voice edited out. What is the audience for this book?)


And perhaps the explanation for the less stellar comics is simpler than all of this: Many of the books were created by coworkers and pals from Seattle, and they thought “hey, why not”.

But the 90s aren’t all dire. There are things that pass the USG test with flying colours, like Carol Swain, Renée French, Al Columbia and Dave Cooper. And as the 90s waned, so did the shit deluge. (OK, now I’m overstating the case: There’s little that’s actually crap. Deluge of mediocrity? That doesn’t have the same zing to it.) In the next decade Fantagraphics got their, er, shit together, and these days most of what they publish is, again, pretty spiffy.

I don’t mean to sound so down. Fantagraphics is a very important comics company, and comics history would have looked very different without it.

But in conclusion: If you ever feel like replicating this reading project… don’t. Just read the good comics they’ve published instead, and you know which ones they are.

And then you can decide whether to read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl afterwards or not.



I’ve grouped the comics lightly. It’s not by “genre”, but by… er… grouping… Yes! I’ve grouped them by grouping.

The ones marked with ★ pass the USG test, I think.


The Adventures of Mr. Pyridine ★ (1989), Flash Marks ★ (1989), The Librarian ★ (1992), Way Out Strips ★ (1994), Empty Skull Comics ★ (1996), Ape ★ (2003), Worn Tuff Elbow ★ (2004), Holy Moly ★ (2004)

Alternative Comics

Love and Rockets ★ (1982), Mechanics ★ (1985), Street Music ★ (1988), Yahoo ★ (1988), Love and Rockets Bonanza! ★ (1989), Unsupervised Existence ★ (1989), Eightball ★ (1989), Hate ★ (1990), Laundryland ★ (1990), Naughty Bits ★ (1991), Kid Anarchy (1991), Cud ★ (1992), Ten Years of Love and Rockets ★ (1992), Brain Capers ★ (1993), Crap (1993), Acme Novelty Library ★ (1993), Meat Cake ★ (1993), Nurture the Devil ★ (1994), Doofus (1994), Minimum Wage (1995), New Love ★ (1996), Whoa, Nellie! ★ (1996), Rollercoaster ★ (1996), Trailer Trash (1996), Maggie and Hopey Color Special ★ (1997), Penny Century ★ (1997), Artbabe ★ (1997), Sight Unseen (1997), Luba ★ (1998), Black Hole ★ (1998), Hate Jamboree ★ (1998), Death & Candy ★ (1998), Top Notch Comics (1998), Pop Life ★ (1998), The Bradleys ★ (1999), Love and Rockets ★ (2000), Luba’s Comics and Stories ★ (2000), Junior ★ (2000), Hate Annual ★ (2001), La Perdida ★ (2001), Tales from Shock City ★ (2001), Raisin Pie ★ (2002), The Pogostick (2003), Monster Parade ★ (2006), Swamp Preacher ★ (2006), Uptight ★ (2006), Cosplayers ★ (2014), Blubber ★ (2015), Love and Rockets ★ (2016)

Squishy Comics

Jim ★ (1987), Jim ★ (1993), Grit Bath ★ (1993), The Biologic Show ★ (1994), Pressed Tongue ★ (1994), Jim Special #1: Frank’s Real Pa ★ (1995), Frank ★ (1996), Weasel ★ (1999)


Shadowland ★ (1989), The Natural Inquirer (1989), Amazons ★ (1990), The Fauna Rebellion (1990), Avenue D ★ (1991), Adventures on the Fringe (1992), The Boulevard of Broken Dreams ★ (1993), The Mishkin File ★ (1993), Waldo World ★ (1994), Guttersnipe Comics ★ (1994), Self-Loathing Comics ★ (1995), Art & Beauty Magazine (1996), Villa of the Mysteries ★ (1996), Mystic Funnies ★ (2001), Stuff of Dreams ★ (2002), Belly Button Comix ★ (2002), The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait ★ (2004)


Real Life ★ (1990), Real Stuff ★ (1990) (the post I wrote about this one apparently never got posted and is lost), The Dead Muse ★ (1990), It’s Only a Matter of Life and Death ★ (1990), Walking Wounded ★ (1990), Colin Upton’s Other Big Thing ★ (1991), Little Italy ★ (1991), Bleeding Heart ★ (1991), Jizz ★ (1991), True Confusions ★ (1991), The Cheque, Mate ★ (1992), Collier’s ★ (1992), Suburban Voodoo Comics (1992), In the Days of the Ace Rock’N’Roll Club ★ (1993), (You and Your) Big Mouth (1993), Wild Life ★ (1994), Life Under Sanctions ★ (1994), Psychonaut ★ (1996)


Neat Stuff ★ (1985), Lloyd Llewellyn ★ (1986), Good Girls ★ (1987), Lloyd Llewellyn Special ★ (1988), Blite (1989), The Eye of Mongombo ★ (1989), Pedestrian Vulgarity (1990), Har Har Comics ★ (1990), Lust of the Nazi Weasel Women ★ (1990), Art D’Ecco ★ (1990), Leather Underwear ★ (1990), Tales from the Outer Boroughs (1991), Test Dirt ★ (1991), Cultural Jet Lag (1991), I Before E (1991), Knuckles the Malevolent Nun (1991), Loose Teeth (1991), Check-Up (1991), Completely Bad Boys (1992), Zoot! ★ (1992), Griffith Observatory ★ (1993), Idiotland (1993), Bad Comics ★ (1994), Martini Baton! ★ (1994), Damnation! (1994), Whotnot ★ (1994), Spotlight on the Genius That Is Joe Sacco ★ (1994), Prick Comix ★ (1995), Bummer (1995), Sleepy: The Early Daze (1996), Primitive Cretin (1996), The Nimrod ★ (1998), Spicecapades (1999), Steven Comix #2: Steven at Sea (1999), Steven Presents Dumpy (1999), Goody Good Comics ★ (2000), Monkey Jank (2000), Angry Youth Comix ★ (2001), Trucker Fags in Denial ★ (2004), Tales Designed to Thrizzle ★ (2005), Runaway Comics ★ (2006)


WildB.R.A.T.S.: Bad Redundant Art Teams (1992), Verbatim (1993), Filibusting Comics ★ (1995)

“Funny” animal

Hugo ★ (1982), Hugo ★ (1984), The Adventures of Captain Jack ★ (1986), Usagi Yojimbo Summer Special ★ (1986), Myron Moose Funnies (1987), Dog Boy (1987), Usagi Yojimbo ★ (1987), Christmas with Superswine (1989), Grootlore (1989), Stinz ★ (1989), Usagi Yojimbo Color Special ★ (1989), Fission Chicken ★ (1990), A*K*Q*J ★ (1991), Aesop’s Fables (1991), Grootlore (1991), Omaha the Cat Dancer (1994), Poot ★ (1997), Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville ★ (2001)


Prime Cuts ★ (1986), Critters ★ (1986), Honk! ★ (1986), Anything Goes! (1986), Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy ★ (1987), Bad News ★ (1988), Critters Special ★ (1988), Itchy Planet ★ (1988), Graphic Story Monthly ★ (1989), Fox Comics Special ★ (1989), Fox Comics ★ (1989), Real Girl ★ (1990), Different Beat Comics ★ (1994), Girltalk ★ (1995), Zero Zero ★ (1995), Storylines: An Anthology of Emerging Cartoonists ★ (2003), Blood Orange ★ (2004), Bête Noire: The International Comic Art Quarterly ★ (2005)


Palestine ★ (1993)


Playgrounds (1991), S.O.S. (1992), The Cereal Killings (1992), Holy Cross (1993), Frederick & Eloise: A Love Story ★ (1993), Black Dogs ★ (1993), An Accidental Death (1993), Alex (1994), Insomnia (1994),

European and South American

Sinner ★ (1987), Perramus: Escape from the Past ★ (1991), Grenuord ★ (2005), DKW: Ditko Kirby Wood (2014),

Oldee Tymee Comics

Frank Frazetta’s Thun’da Tales (1987), Frank Frazetta’s Untamed Love (1987), Steve Ditko’s Strange Avenging Tales (1997), Mabel Normand and Her Funny Friends (2003), Fatty Arbuckle and His Funny Friends (2004)


The Flames of Gyro (1979), Gil Kane’s Savage (1982), Don Rosa’s Comics and Stories (1983), Journey ★ (1985), The Doomsday Squad (1986), The Miracle Squad (1986), Journey: Wardrums ★ (1987), Evil Eye ★ (1998)

Comics Aren’t Just For Adults Any More

Kaktus Valley ★ (1990), Measles ★ (1998)

Science Fiction

Dalgoda ★ (1984), Flesh and Bones ★ (1986), Threat (1986), The Wandering Stars ★ (1987), Keif Llama — Xeno-Tech ★ (1988), Neil and Buzz in Space and Time (1989)


Dinosaur Rex ★ (1987), Tatto Man Special (1991), Coventry (1996)

Literary Adaptations

The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories (1988), Kafka: The Execution ★ (1989), A Couple of Winos ★ (1991)


Stickboy (1988), Doofer: Pathway to McEarth ★ (1992), Schizo ★ (1995)

I Just Don’t Know

Crucial Fiction (1992), Sap Tunes (1992), Duplex Planet Illustrated (1993), A Vast Knowledge of General Subjects (1994)

What The Fuck

Teaser and the Blacksmith (1989), Butt Biscuit (1992)

Yes!  I’ve read them all this autumn!  All 1063!  And now I’m going to just read books for a couple of years.