For those not in the know, Mineshaft is one of the last great comics and culture zines. It's one of the last bastions for the underground cartoonists of the 60s and 70s , as well as the next generation of the 80s and several young cartoonists in that style as well. Thanks to the friendship between editor/publisher Everett Rand and Robert Crumb, the latter contributes drawings, entries from his dream journals and other ephemera in every issue. This, the 15th anniversary issue, is especially Crumb-heavy. He contributes sketchbook material for both the front and back covers as well as some especially weird (astral projection, flying saucers) dreams from his journal, complete with illustrations. Brilliant young cartoonist Christoph Mueller did an autobio strip about Crumb, his inspiration and mentor. The young crosshatch king's strip is hilarious, as a letter that Crumb wrote him praising him to the heavens naturally has the effect of paralyzing him at the drawing board. Mueller also selected a number of drawings and strips from Crumb's sketchbook to close ou the issue, and it features Crumb's neuroses at their most focused. Needless to say, Mineshaft is a must for fans of Crumb.
The beauty of Mineshaft, however, is that there are always other surprises. For example, I was stunned to see five pages of new autobio comics from the legendary Justin Green. Green is better than ever, combining his restless intellectual curiosity regarding small details with fighting off his well-documented anxiety and OCD. Following the work of that veteran is a harrowing excerpt from "Dark Ground", a story by younger cartoonist Elizabeth Koenig. Koenig works in Green's tradition (indeed, her figurework and line is similar to Green's, if considerably less polished) and the story of a young runaway thinking back to emotional and physical abuse as a new world beckons to her is compelling.
Other interesting work includes Mary Fleener's political cartoons for her local newspaper, an amazing Jay Lynch drawing that includes a who's-who of underground characters, and several autobiographical strips from Zippy by Bill Griffith. On the slightly odder front is an illustrated essay by another master craftsman, William Crook, Jr. It's pen and ink drawings of various old sights from Route 66 in Illinois, including a restaurant that had a huge windmill blades and beautiful signs in front of other destinations. His two page drawing of Chicago is a marvel to behold. While some issues of Mineshaft veer harder into alternative cultures of the past and present, this one will be of special interest to comics fans. It acts as a place for cartoonists who don't have an active publishing outlet or who only tend to publish longer works to disseminate their comics for an appreciative audience, one that is eager to see new work rather than simply wax nostalgic about their older comics.