Greg Irons

Patrick Rosenkranz joined the inkstuds(for this installment, the Inkstuds consisted of myself and Robin Bougie, author of Cinema Sewer and editor of Sleazy Slice) for a discussion of the work of Greg Irons. Patrick authored the wonderful collection for Fantagraphics, You Call This Art?! A Greg Irons Retrospective. Greg was an accomplished creator in the classic underground scene, whose knack for finding the underlying filth was unmatched by his contemporaries. Greg was a bit of an outsider in the comix scene, and created some masterful work in the process. His psychedelic San Fransisco concert posters have left an emblematic legacy of stepping beyond the standard poster concepts. In his later life, he became a famous tattooist, use his own illustration techniques in this new artistic venture.

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6 Responses to Greg Irons

  1. Sid Clark says:

    Most of the interviews with secondary people such as publishers and authors of books about comix tend to be pretty boring but this one is an exception. Rosenkranz is a real pleasure to listen to, truly a witty raconteur, no joke.

    I’ve read both his book and the Estrin book. I’m an old fart myself and I eagerly ordered the Estrin book when it was first published. I remember being hugely disappointed, both by the weak content and the crappy glue binding that immediately broke when I first opened it. The best thing about the Estrin book was the Rand Holmes cover.

    I only fairly-recently bought the Rebel Visions book. It was nice but it couldn’t really be any meatier than the original comix themselves which were, in retrospect, pretty thin. I had a huge comix collection back in the seventies, literally hundreds. Going back over them 15 years later I had to admit that I must have had to be stoned to have spent so much time reading and re-reading these. The Kitchen Sink stuff is especially dull and flat. I recently bought the Best of Bijou/Apex Novelty collection and it was just so dull and blah.

    They were right in this interview to describe Crumb’s later work as a boring and talky. He started that boring talky stuff back in the ’70s and that’s when I stopped reading him. They describe Crumb’s best period to be his Weirdo years and that’s the same as saying he was best as an editor and cover illustrator. He is definitely best at big, one-panel extravaganzas. But give Crumb his due, that soft, rounded style was very warm and appealing. I see that kind of thing in Dave Cooper, too. Cooper’s much better than Crumb, overall.

    As for Irons himself, he didn’t grab me that much back in the ’70s. His style was so sloppy, ugly and freakish. Jack Jackson was like that, too. As for the famous castration story at the end of Deviant Slice #2, I just don’t understand why people gush about that. It’s so obviously such simple-minded shock. And to project this kind of behavior on a Black woman as a form of racial revenge is ridiculous. I bought and enjoyed Deviant Slice #1 when it came out but I browsed #2 and didn’t bother to buy it. I paid $10 for #2 on Amazon recently and regretted it. It’s a pity Irons died so young but his work isn’t more than a footnote to a footnote. Rosenkranz himself admits at the beginning of the interview that re-publishing Irons was kind of a ridiculous project. And finally, I guess my favorite story by Irons was The Monster of Bolinas Bay, an ecological revenge story.

    Rebel Visions is kind of a pompous title. There’s nothing rebellious about drawing comix, unless you’re defacing something in a public place, and that’s pretty weak, too. Bad Dreams would be a better title.

    Be nice to see a Jim Osborne retrospective. I’d like to see the Irons book but it costs too much. I’d love to see Rosenkranz’s Rand Holmes retrospective, as well. Holmes was excellent.

    Anyway, “Defecatio In Os” is my motto. This was the caption to an underground comix index of perversions, I forget who by or where published. This sums up my attitude to all arts and culture, all second-hand life.

  2. Sid Clark says:

    and furthermore…

    Rich Corben is dumped on in passing in this interview as being a purveyor of quasi-homo-erotica. He was one of my favorite comic artists so I feel compelled to defend him.

    Yes, his unnaturally smooth and hyper-pneumatic male and female physiques did get tiresome. I’d certainly love to hear Inkstuds interview him.

    Corben’s underground phase didn’t last that long, I guess. I guess he spent most of his career doing fairly mainstream fantasy comics. Usually pretty color-saturated for some reason.

    Some artists are so intent on the narrative they skimp on the graphics. Corben’s graphics were always gorgeous. I never had a problem with stopping at many panels to soak in the wonder. The narratives tended to be fairly simple-minded adventure/fantasy and were secondary to the art. That didn’t bother me much.

    Corben deserves to be remembered for 3 of his underground stories.

    1) How Howie Made It in the Real World
    2) Mangus, Robot Mangler
    3) To Meet the Faces You Meet

    The first two are downright prophetic, especially the first one that shows a world of the future where everyone is on psychoactive drugs and has to be nice and happy all the time and sitting in front of a screen all day is the common employment. Howie awakes out of this narcotized cocoon in a much more brutal and believable way than in that Matrix movie.

    Mangus was a take-off on a comic book with a similar name. The symbolism is very harsh and heavy-handed but nonetheless accurate. Man’s own creations will end up brutally mutilating and emasculating him.

    The third story is more melancholy and existential, even. It captures the modern mode of life where one drifts through emptiness from one empty encounter to another. I think it was in “Fever Dreams”. The last line, “let’s go somewhere”, is so memorable. And of course, the title is taken from a T.S.Eliot poem about the emptiness of modern life. Pretty classy, no?

    I can still sit down and enjoy the art in a Corben or Jim Osborne(RIP) comic whereas I really wouldn’t bother with most of the others from that era. Oh, and S.Clay Wilson’s art is gorgeous, but kind of repetitive. And Justin Green’s neurotic comics were fascinating for the character depictions, if not the art.

    I currently maintain a fairly popular porn blog on tumblr and I post mostly cartoons. Cartoons are so much warmer and realer than photos. Photos are so cold (natch) and empty and washed out. Part of it’s the crappy lighting but a big part is just all the extraneous detail and the half-assed tableaus. Photos may be OK for scientific and documentation purposes but they rarely make interesting art, culture or erotica.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents on that.

  3. Fuckin’ A! Osborne, the Black Prince of the Underground!

    • Dimestoreman says:

      Hey Patrick,

      Being a huge fan of Osborne’s work as collected in DOA Comics, I’ve wondered about his other contibutions to comix anthologies. Could you suggest some comix containing Osborne stories?

      I really love the books of yours that Fantagraphics has published, by the way. I was very glad to see Irons and Holmes get their due, and Rebel Visions is a sort of Bible for me. I spent the summer of 2008 just marveling at the paperback edition when it came out.

  4. Sid Clark says:

    I was just thinking of Osborne’s Gilles de Rais full-page today. I don’t remember what comic is was included in. Maybe it wasn’t Gilles de Rais, it was the patriarch of some old-time degenerate cannibal clan that would waylay passers-by and eat them.

    And Rosencranz has a dynamite voice and personality. He should do his own podcasts.

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