Exhibit shines light on comic books from the counter-culture movement
Feb 02, 2013 (Ames Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
About 100 different comic books and publications from the late 1960s and into the 1970s are part of a new exhibit at the Iowa State's College of Design building. However, these aren't your traditional superhero comics. These are from the underground.
Published as part of the counter-culture movement, these comix were released without the oversight of the Comics Code Authority, which regulated the industry to ensure comic books were safe for all ages and promoted good values.
"Legion of Indecency: The Golden Age of Underground Comix, 1968-1975," the exhibit currently at the College of Design, runs through Feb. 10. It's an exhibit for adults, not children.
"These comix are full of Woodstock values -- environmental protection, gender equity, feminism, and often breaking a lot of taboos," said John Cunnally, curator of the exhibit and associate professor of integrated studio arts at Iowa State University. Cunnally also teaches a class on the history of comics.
"These comix are quite violent and sexually explicit."
At the time, comics included many still familiar names such as Batman and Superman from DC Comics and Iron Man, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four from Marvel.
These comix still include superheroes but from the counter-culture perspective.
"'Spider-Man's' Peter Parker good, clean cut kid, who studies to become a scientist. But make an underground version of Parker and he smokes pot, grows his hair out, is a hippie and would stand up against the police and authority," Cunnally said.
Despite the nontraditional superheroes and anti-Comics Code values, many of these writers still enjoyed the iconic superheroes, Cunnally said.
"There was Trashman, who goes around fighting police and corrupt politicians in a dystopian future. Gilbert Shelton created Wonder Wart-Hog," he said.
Companies of the time included Zap, Arcade, Wimmen's Comix and Kitchen Sink, which operated out of Wisconsin unlike most that were centered in San Francisco and New York City. The top creators included Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson, Trina Robbins and Lee Marrs.
Several of the comix were meant to reflect the 1950s when some were darker and more gory but had disappeared when the Comics Code Authority was introduced in 1954.
"The graphic design is experimental. It's abstract and has a lot of psychedelic stuff and plenty of unusual ad design," Cunnally said. "All of these art styles would have been impossible at Marvel and DC."
Cunnally said some of the comix are dated -- specifically some of the feminist material -- but just as many still hold up today, especially the material from Freak Brothers and Robert Krum.
And while the writers didn't hold to the tradition beliefs on moral or philosophical matters, they wrote about it plenty.
"They really did a lot of representations of it in their work, especially religious material," Cunnally said. "A lot of these people came from Catholic families and religious educations."
Comix met their end in the mid 1970s when authorities began to crack down on head shops. Comix were unable to be sold through the mail, drug stores and other traditional markets, so many publishers closed during the next couple years.
"No one got rich off making comix," Cunnally said, though a few would find success afterward. "Many wanted to do this and be a part of the social revolution that was underway. ... They wanted and believed they needed to do it even if people weren't reading them."
"Legion of Indecency: The Golden Age of Underground Comix, 1968-1975"
When: through Feb. 10
Where: Gallery 181, College of Design Building, ISU campus
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
___ (c)2013 the Ames Tribune, Iowa Visit the Ames Tribune, Iowa at
www.amestrib.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]