My latest piece is up at:
The next time someone asks, “What comic strip would you most like to see reprinted?” your answer can no longer be “Shary Flenniken’s ‘Trots and Bonnie.’” New York Review Comics has taken care of that.
“It wasn’t what I was planning to have inscribed on my tombstone,” I said, “but I may have to go with what the universe has dealt me.”
“So how does it feel to be called ‘the underground-comics aficianado Bob Levin’?” my friend Marty had asked, referencing my designation in the NYT that morning, quoting me in its obit of the great cartoonist/artist S. Clay Wilson. “Note,” Marty’d gone on, “they said the, not an.”
Marty was not the first to have noted my celebrity. I had already heard from more people than usually acknowledge my blogs. The most surprising was a young fellow – well, not so young any more – I had not heard from in 45 years when a dog had bitten off a piece of his nose.
The Times’s pigeonhole coincided with me already stepping away from the path of my “own” books. I had accepted an invitation from the editor of the on-line Comics Journal to review Drawn and Quarterly’s publication of the collected King-Cat Comics, by John Porcelino, about which and whom I knew virtually nothing, and I had asked the same editor if I could review New York Review Classics publication of the collected “Trots and Bonnie,” by Shary Flenniken, about which and whom I knew somewhat more.
In responding, the editor let slip that I might hear from NYRC about its republishing my book about the Air Pirates, of which Flenniken had been a founding member. Now, this would be a kick – but I had heard the same thing several years ago – and not a word more – about NYRC republishing The Best Ride to New York after the Daily News had called that baby a “lost classic.” (“It’s not ‘lost,’” I’d said, “I have boxes in my basement.”)
Maybe they’ll go for a two-fer, I thought. Slip-cased. Or printed together, like those old sci-fi paperbacks. Read one; turn it over and upside-down; read the other. You can’t say I haven’t had an eclectic run.
For those who might be interested the Journal has posted my career-spanning (his) interview of Wilson here: http://www.tcj.com/the-s-clay-wilson-interview/
Three books sold.
The buyer of “The Pirates and the Mouse,” “Outlaws, Rebels…,” and “Most Outrageous” was a fellow in a small (pop. 40,000) town in Utah, where, I wouldn’t be surprised if, he was the only person to own any of them. When I asked what had led him to me and my books, he replied that he had recently become interested in underground comix, and had read me praised in an article by comics historian/scholar Dan Nadel.
Soon after this, I received an e-mail from an archivist in the mid-west, who, while sorting through the papers of the late below-the-UG cartoonist B.N. Duncan, had come across a booklet/zine about the equally sub-stratified Maxon Crumb, authored by Duncan and me. He wondered from when it dated.
I had profiled Duncan for “The Comics Journal,” and he, having arranged an interview of Maxon for the sidewalk outside Cody’s Books, on Telegraph, where Duncan regularly sold his self-published books but unsure if he could carry it off himself, invited me to join him. Our mostly-Duncan’s interview and my profile of Maxon appeared together in the “Journal.” Duncan photocopied and stapled together our combined pages and added the resultant booklet to his wares. “1999,” I said. (No, I did not receive royalties.)
The archivist went on to ask if I knew anyone who might be interested in seeing Duncan’s voluminous correspondence with Robert Crumb.
Indeed, I did, for Dan Nadel (See above) was engaged in writing Crumb’s bio. So when I thanked Dan for leading the fellow in Utah to me, I told him about the availability of this correspondence for which he thanked me.
It all comes around.
In other news…
1.) It does not directly concern me, but, in April, NYRB will be publishing a collection of Shary Flenniken’s “Trots and Bonnie.” When people are asked what strips they would most like to see collected, this is always among them, and Shary had previously, it seemed, resisted. I had interviewed her when I wrote my book on the Air Pirates, and she had seemed a delightful person and this seems a great – and well-deserved – honor. I’m hoping to review the book which does not yet seem available for ordering, but keep your eyes open for it.