Comics, Illustration, Notebook

Raw re-visited

Notebook: 11 August 2017 | ILLUSTRATION | COMICS

I have a collection of old copies of the dazzling Raw magazine and their spin-offs – the Raw One-Shots. They were published by Raw Books and Graphics who were established in Manhattan in the late 1970s by New York artist and designer Art Spiegelman (who later went on to create Maus) and his French partner Francoise Mouly (now long-time art editor of The New Yorker magazine) and Raw magazine was a showcase for some of the best alternative illustrators and comic book artists of the time and it featured and brought well-deserved attention to artists such as Gary Panter, Mark Beyer, Charles Burns, Sue Coe, Jerry Moriarty and of course Spiegelman himself.

The first eight issues (Volume 1) were large format and mainly black and white but with richly coloured card covers and often some sections on different paper stocks. The last three issues (Volume 2) were much smaller in size but a lot thicker and published by Penguin. I have every issue apart from the very first. The Raw One-shots focussed on just one illustrator and were a collection of their strips or in some cases a complete graphic novel.

Here’s my Raw Books and Graphics collection in all its glory – grouped into Raw volumes 1 and 2, Raw One-Shots and other Raw publications, all in chronological order and illustrated with the cover of each publication and a selection of my favourite artists strips:

Raw Magazine Volume 1

Raw Vol.1 No.2: The Graphix Magazine for Damned Intellectuals 1980: Cover by Joost Swarte. The highlight for me from Raw No.2 was Jack Survives – a comic strip that appeared on the inside front cover. It was, I think, the first of a brilliant ongoing strip drawn by Jerry Moriarty that captured the banal but captivating everyday moments in the life of a middle-aged and miserable character called Jack. This second issue of Raw carried a ‘tipped-in’ copy of Chapter One of Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (which was later published by Penguin as a complete book and went on to win the Pulitzer prize– see below. Maus tells the story of Spiegelman’s father who was a Polish Holocaust survivor) and later chapters were bound in to subsequent issues of Raw. Attached into the centre of Raw No.2 was a pack of five (?) City of Terror bubblegum cards by the artist Mark Beyer which accompanied his strip of the same name.

Raw Vol.1 No.3: The Graphix Magazine that Lost its Faith in Nihilism 1981: Cover by Gary Panter. Dog Boy on the inside back cover was my first taster of the dark but exquisitely drawn work of Charles Burns.

Raw Vol.1 No.4: The Graphix Magazine for Your Bomb Shelter’s Coffee Table 1982: The black and white cover, drawn by Charles Burns, has cut-out holes through which you glimpse parts of the full page and full colour illustration by Burns on p3. A flexi-disc ‘sound-collage’ entitled Reagan speaks for himself was bound in to the middle.

Raw Vol.1 N0.5: The Graphix Magazine of Abstract Depressionism 1983: Issue 5 with cover by Ever Meulen, carried a colour section printed on old style comic book newsprint which featured a luminous strip from 1940 called Stardust in tribute to the unrecognised genius of its creator Fletcher Hanks. One of my favourite Jerry Moriarty Jack Survives strips (pictured above) appeared on p45 of this issue.

Raw Vol.1 No.6: The Graphix Magazine that Overestimates the Taste of the American Public 1984: Cover by Mark Beyer.

Raw Vol.1  No.7: The Torn-Again Graphix Mag 1985: This issue featured the top right corner of the cover torn away with a random piece from another cover taped inside. I wonder who has my piece?!

Raw Vol.1 No.8: The Graphic Aspirin for War Fever 1986: This was the fattest (but last) of the large format issues and was perfect bound – the previous issues had all been stapled. The cover was by Kaz. This spot orange and green/grey drawing is a page from the Jimbo strip by Gary Panter.

Raw One-Shots

Raw One-Shot #1: Jimbo 1982: The first of the Raw spin-offs was the story of Jimbo drawn by Gary Panter. The punk character Jimbo had first appeared in the LA fanzine Slash in the late 1970s. The publication was printed on newsprint but had a striking corrugated card cover.

Raw One-Shot #2: How to Commit Suicide in South Africa 1983 by Sue Coe and Holly Metz. Coe was an English illustrator with a hard-hitting style and How to Commit Suicide in South Africa focused on the horrors of the apartheid regime in South Africa prior to majority rule. Words were by Holly Metz.

Raw One-Shot #3: Jack Survives 1984 by Jerry Moriarty. A collection of the Jack strips (see Raw No.2 above) in the same large format but with a special cover: the black line work was printed on an acetate wraparound with the colour work printed on the card cover beneath.

Raw One-Shot #4: Invasion of the Elvis Zombies 1984 by Gary Panter. A rural town is assaulted by a plague of dead Elvis Presleys! The format was much smaller and the cover was hardback with a cloth binding reminiscent of children’s books from the 40s and 50s. A flexi-disc with music from Panter was attached to the back cover.

Raw One-Shot #5: Big Baby: Curse of the Molemen 1986 by Charles Burns. I love Burns’ hard-edged retro style and his stories the are full of weird and creepy characters in suburban middle America. Big Baby tells the tale of Tony, an average American kid who spots strange goings on in the backyard next door…

Other Raw publications

Work and Turn 1979: A dinky sized booklet with drawings by Art Spiegelman and printed by Spiegelman and Mouly on their own press in their studio. This was my introduction to Raw – I picked this up during my travels around the USA in the summer of 1979 (more here). (I was so taken with it, that when I passed through New York, I tracked down the address which was printed on the back and knocked at the door hoping to speak to its creator – but there was no one at home.)

Dead Stories 1982 by Mark Beyer. Another Raw spin-off but not part of the One-Shot series.

Maus I – a collection of the Maus chapters 1-6 from Raw issues 2-7, was published by Pantheon Books in 1986, and then in 1987, Penguin published a UK and European version (pictured above). (Maus II brought together the last five chapters of Spiegelman’s epic Holocaust story)

Agony (1987 by Mark Beyer), Jimbo; Adventures in Paradise (1988 by Gary Panter) and Hard Boiled Defective Stories (1988 by Charles Burns) continued the Raw/Pantheon collaboration.

Raw Magazine Volume 2

Raw Vol.2 N0.1: Open Wounds from the Cutting Edge of Commix 1989: Cover by Gary Panter. After a couple of years break, Raw re-appeared (published by Penguin) in a smaller and thicker, ‘literary’ format with the focus more on longer stories rather than bold graphic experiments. This cover was by Gary Panter and the page of striking black and orange woodcuts are from a story called Wild Heart by David Holzman.

Raw Vol.2 No.2: Required Reading for the Post-Literate 1990: Cover by Joost Swarte

Raw Vol.2 No.3: High Culture for Low Brows 1991: With a cover by the 1960/70s underground comic artist Robert Crumb, this final issue of Raw ran to 228 pages. The magazine was put on hold to buy more time for Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly to work on other projects but then sadly, it never saw life again.

Raw Books and Graphics had re-invented the comic book as an art form, paved the way for the flourishing of the ‘graphic novel’, and provided an outlet for many talented but unknown illustrators. What happened to my two favourite Raw artists – Jerry Moriarty and Charles Burns? Moriarty had a series of illustrations published in Gin & Comix (1990), a large format Raw lookalike shown below (with cover illo by Philippe Lardy). He was born in 1938 so I guess he is now retired. Charles Burns went on to find greater fame with his book Black Hole (published by Pantheon in 2005), a creepy tale of teenagers growing up in a 1970s Seattle suburb.

Further reading: Eye magazine No.8 1993. Comics for damned intellectuals – a history of Raw by Steven Heller

Raw publications missing from my collection:

Breakdowns – an anthology of strips by Art Spiegelman 1977(?)
Raw No.1  The Graphix Magazine of Postponed Suicides
X – a paean to Malcolm X by Sue Coe 1986
Read Yourself Raw – an anthology of issues 1-3, published by Pantheon in 1987
Warts and All by Drew and Josh Friedman. Published by Penguin in 1990
Maus II
 published by Pantheon in 1992
The Narrative Corpse 1995