Rob reviews issue #24 of the underground grab-bag, MINESHAFT.
It never fails to amaze me just how much editors Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri are able to pack into every issue of MINESHAFT. The covers alone are often worth the price, and this issue's delightfully bizarre Mary Fleener cover is no exception. She's seen all too infrequently in comics these days, but MINESHAFT has been one of her more regular outlets as of late. Of course, MINESHAFT is about all of the odd and overlooked corners of our culture, from the poems of the Brutalists to photographs from the "Cabinet of Curiosities" (lots and lots of conjoined twin remains) to a bracing feature on the death of newspapers framed by the mastheads of dozens of dead and dying papers. The Brutalist poems fit right into the underground aesthetic of the zine, detailing the day-to-day life of the working class in an unflinching manner. Adelle Stripe's stream-of-consciousness memories about her awakening sexuality were particularly memorable.
The big draws in this issue were assorted odds and ends from legends R.Crumb and Skip Williamson. Williamson contributed some pages from his sketchbook, including a stunning likeness of Harvey Kurtzman. Williamson is clearly an artist that's had a big impact on today's cartoonists, yet he's not as widely discussed as his contemporaries. Crumb contributed the back cover, a five-page letter to Rand that's endlessly fascinating (noting that he voted for Barack Obama--and that this was the first time he had ever voted for president), and several pages from his dream diary. It's clear that Crumb and Rand have a close relationship, and that shows in the intimacy of Crumb's correspondence and the sheer volume of material he's contributed over the years. Rand's tastes and passion for underground comics and culture has acted as a magnet of sorts, as countless veterans of the scene have flocked to contribute.
At the same time, it's not so much about an era as it is about a certain aesthetic for Rand, and so he's given room to younger artists like Ed Piskor (drawing a truly demented story by Sarah Sveda) and Joseph Remnant. Every issue seems to draw in another veteran; this time around, it was David Collier contributing a strip in exchange for a subscription. The ultimate expression of Rand's interests came in the form of a book review about Charles Bukowski, written by Dennis Eichorn and drawn by Pat Moriarity. That's a remarkable convergence, one that resulted in a clever and elegant essay that blended Bukowski's poems, Eichorn's commentary and Moriarity's inventive page design. The Eichorn piece is an example of a tiny story nugget that otherwise would not have had an appropriate home, while the assorted sketches from legendary artists are even rawer examples of this. MINESHAFT isn't truly an anthology, but rather a sampling of undiscovered and unpublished obscurities whose existence is simply a delight for a comics fan.