“The only through-line that unites every single person in this book is that they drew, published, or distributed what the mores of their time considered dirty pictures.”
Author Brian Doherty joins the show to celebrate his fantastic & important new book, Dirty Pictures: How an Underground Network of Nerds, Feminists, Misfits, Geniuses, Bikers, Potheads, Printers, Intellectuals, and Art School Rebels Revolutionized Art and Invented Comix (Abrams). We get into the history of underground comix, the twin poles of R. Crumb & Art Spiegelman, the long-lasting influence of the undergrounds on American (and global) culture, the importance of seeing the undergrounds in their historical context, and the question of whether these artists were “just in the right place & the right time”. We also talk about comics and libertarianism, the controversy over Crumb’s work today, how the pandemic curtailed his research for the book, who came up with that book title (& subtitle), the artist who he most enjoyed interviewing, the people he wishes he could have interviewed, and the one person he wishes hadn’t given up cartooning. Give it a listen! And go read Dirty Pictures!
“The cultural story is the important one. All this crazy, weird shit from 1968-1975 is what wound up making comics respectable.”
“They were ‘underground’ for a reason.”
About our Guest
Brian Doherty is a senior editor at Reason magazine and is the author of This Is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground (Little, Brown, 2004). His reporting, essays, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and Fantagraphics’ The Best American Comics Criticism, among others. He has also served as a judge for the comics industry’s Eisner Awards. His new book is Dirty Pictures.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Brian by someone else. It’s on my instagram.