Episode 516 – Drew Friedman

Virtual Memories Show 516:
Drew Friedman

“The underground cartoonists are not serious people, which is appealing. You want to be around people who are funny.”

Artist Drew Friedman rejoins the show to celebrate his wonderful new book, Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix (Fantagraphics). We talk about his mind-blowing portraits of the legends of the Underground era, how he pared his list of subjects to 100 (from ~3000), why he decided to paint everyone in their prime years rather than present-day old (and the good stuff his subjects have said about their portraits), the research that went into writing biographical sketches of his subjects (and the challenges in getting photo reference for some of them), this book’s departure from his Heroes of the Comics and Old Jewish Comedians paintings, and why he’s not planning to do another book about Alt-comics artists of the ’80s & ’90s. We get into how Robert Crumb convinced him to draw people he doesn’t like, the griping Marc Maron made about writing the foreword, how he came around on certain artists while working on the book, and his complaints about having to paint so many men with ’70s era long hair and shaggy beards (and why he wants his next book to be all bald men). We also discuss how painting changed him as an artist, how he wound up recreating his early stippling effect with the brush, his realization that he was over a lot of his youthful grudges and resentments, his bucket list of people he hasn’t gotten around to drawing, why Harvey Kurtzman is his most controversial subject in the book, and a LOT more. Give it a listen! And go read Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix!

(And go listen to my 2013 and 2014 conversations with Drew!) (While you’re at it, you should also listen to my episodes with his brothers, Josh Alan and Kipp, and my conversation with their dad, the late, great Bruce Jay Friedman)

“I don’t like drawing foreheads, because they’re mostly the same. Except for old people. Old people are interesting because you see the history of their lives etched into their faces.”

“I wanted to be a Mad magazine contributor. I wanted to work for Topps. I accomplished both of those goals. But the underground comics just threw me for a loop.”

“Crumb reminds me of Chaplin. When talkies came in, and everybody switched over to making talking pictures, Chaplin continued to make silent films. Crumb was the same: underground comix were over, but he continued to put them out.”

“Art Spiegelman thinks I’ve mellowed. I just think I don’t have an agenda anymore. If I have grudges against anybody, I’ve forgotten them.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Drew Friedman’s comics and illustrations have appeared in Raw, Weirdo, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon, Spy, Mad, The New Yorker, The New York Observer, Snarf, Honk!, Blab!, Bad News, Mineshaft, Air Mail, and many other publications that no longer exist. In his New York Times review of Drew’s Old Jewish Comedians, Steven Heller wrote, “A festival of drawing virtuosity and fabulous craggy faces. Drew Friedman might very well be the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt.” The Society of Illustrators hosted a main gallery showing of Friedman’s Old Jewish Comedians portraits in 2014. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University held a major exhibition of his All The Presidents portraits in the fall of 2019.

Drew and his wife Kathy Bidus live in semi-seclusion with their retired AKC grand champion beagle, Dela.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Drew’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Drew from a screen cap of a documentary on Jared Kushner. Artwork by Drew Friedman (pencils & then completed paintings of Art Spiegelman and Skip Williamson), from this article on The Comics Journal. Photo of R. Crumb holding Drew’s book by Pete Poplaski, also from that TCJ article. Photo of Dela by me. It’s on my instagram.

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