February's installment featured my Brand New Hero, Attaboy of Yumfactory, cartoonist, Keith Knight of The K Chronicles and underground culture un-journalist, V. Vale of RE/search. These three gentlemen kindly shared their trails and trials of successful self publishing.
Attaboy's journey began with designing toys for Milton Bradley (now owned by Hasbro). Faced one day with a stack of aimless and unused sketches, he assembled a coloring book which he then sold back to the people who worked there. He has since published Gush Poems and Pictures, and an un-comic comic book called I Hate Cartoons. His stylized form of cartoonesque artwork is both inviting and disturbing while chock full of sticky, sweet, gooey fright. I love it. He's also a dynamic and eloquent speaker possessed with the uncanny talent of turning a word into a manuscript. I recommend buying all of his stuff twice.
Keith Knight is an African-American cartoonist/illustrator who says he lacks sufficient basketball and rap skills to earn a living in those fields. The important thing is that he has something to say and enough fire inside of him to say it. The K Chronicles is a weekly comic strip based on his life. He offers fresh, humorous advice and practical tips for amusing oneself during life's otherwise mundane activities and irritations. Keith's strip can be found in a variety of publications around the nation. Ironically, he has encountered more censorship from San Francisco and Marin than any other city. Keith has also published a single panel comic strip called (Th)ink and a collection of The K Chronicles entitled "What a Long Strange Strip it's Been."
The most inspirational and interesting speaker was V. Vale. Vale began his self publishing career in the late 70's while working for City Lights Bookstore. He claims to have been hired due to a rare form of nepotism because his father was one of the few Asian-Americans to grace the San Francisco Beat Scene. At that time he fell in love with punk. Angered by the lies and misinformation he felt ass-kissing journalists were paid and told to write, he endeavored to accurately chronicle San Francisco's budding punk culture with his own fanzine. Fueled with a couple of hundred dollars invested by Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Vale published, edited and distributed Search and Destroy. Although his efforts failed to sufficiently feed him, they did attract some impressive fans. Vale related a brief tale of Devo spending the night on his living room floor atop back issues of Search and Destroy. Inspired by Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, Vale realized his dream of "putting out slick, large format books with uncompromising, high-quality 'underground' content" by publishing RE/search in 1980 while running his own typesetting business. Maiden issues featured William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, J.G. Ballard, Incredibly Strange Films, Pranks and the best-selling Modern Primitives, which Vale reports to be the reason your waiter-of-today is adorned with face piercings and tattoos.
I am personally fond of Volumes I and II of Vale's V/search publication, Zines. Presented in the same style and format as RE/search, Zines offers interviews with independent zine publishers ranging from San Francisco native Al Hoff - Thrift SCORE--the zine about thriftin', to John Marr - Murder Can Be Fun--a death and disaster journal. Volume I includes a History of Zines written by former San Francisco Comical staff writer, Stephen Schwartz. And each volume offers a relatively comprehensive Directory of Zines. One of my favorite featured zines is Housewife Turned Assassin, published by co-founders of the Revolution Rising collective, Sisi and Dani, who just write whenever they feel inspired--when something pisses them off, or when they want to say something. I love zines.
You can't find this stuff at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. So if you're interested, buy direct from the artists or from your local independent bookseller. Take a walk around, people.
In the meantime, this workshop series is a rare and wonderful opportunity to learn from and interface with local underground culture mavericks and upstarts. If you live around here and don't take advantage of it you're not a true-blue San Francisco Bay Arean, you're just another Tool of The Man. As for the rest of you, support the Arts for Pete's sake!