Monday, August 22, 2005

JUSTIN GREEN

Do you know Justin Green? Along with Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Spain, Trina, Jay Lynch and Dan O'Neill, Green was one of the pioneering writer/artists of "Underground Comix." If you're under a certain age, you've probably never even seen an Underground. Born in the early sixties, they flourished briefly a decade later, not just pushing the envelope on subject matter but tearing that envelope open, chewing it up and setting the leftover bits on fire! The sex probably shocked Larry Flynt, the violence perhaps curdled the stomach of Charles Manson and the political sentiments were decidely left-wing, much to the chagrin of the Republicans in power at the time! The undergrounds also invented the autobiographical comic. You know, the type that wins all the awards these days and gets reviewed in TIME. Justin Green's BINKY BROWN MEETS THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY was easily the most prominent and influential of these. Based on his Catholic upbringing, it remained in print from Last Gasp for many years, more recently collected as a graphic novel itself along with some of the artist's other works.

Last year, at the bookstore where I worked, we got a call from a "Justin Green" asking us to stock his latest book. It turned out to be THE Justin Green, a spectacularly modest , soft spoken white haired man who, along with his wife, artist Carol Tyler, now (or at least then) lives in Cincinnati and makes his living doing (I believe) freelance design work for businesses--signs. When he came in to autograph some books, we spoke for quite awhile. This was a man whose work I had discovered in THE BEST OF BIJOU FUNNIES back when I was still too young to legally read it. He is a living legend, featured in last years NEW SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF COMICS (along with his wife!) and even cited by reluctant media darling Crumb in a recent interview as an influence! He even invited me to see his studio but I was too awed to take him up on that.

This book is, itself, enjoyably sensationalistic. Collecting a series of one page biographical strips on music stars from rock and country to swing and ragtime, his use of design is better than ever and the added color in some strips is uniquely and amazingly applied. A self-deprecating introduction tells us that he didn't think the finished material was all that good and that it was often a struggle to complete but he did so and comics and music fans alike should enjoy this great collection, still in print and available through your local bookstore, comics shop or Amazon.

When I told one local comic shop owner who had run his store for more than fifteen years that Justin Green lived nearby, he had no idea who I was talking about. Mention of BINKY BROWN or INSECT FEAR brought blank stares. Surely comic shop owners should KNOW living legends in the field!! Kirby's gone, Kane's gone, Eisner's gone, Ditko's...well... but Justin Green deserves to be celebrated because he started something new and did it better than just about anyone...and he's still here! Thank you, Mr. Green!

1 comment:

Jarred Mabey said...

Well, that could be true.