Jaxon on Crumb:

If you want the real rap on underground comics, you can find it in our own back yard. Jack Jackson, aka Jaxon, created one of the earliest underground books of the early Sixties, God Nose Comix, right here in Austin, he knew and collaborated with many of the most prominent artists of the period, such as Gilbert "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" Shelton, and he helped numerous other underground artists create their own books through his participation in the founding of Rip-Off Press, a cartoon-ists' co-op, in San Francisco in the late Sixties. One of the artists whose work was printed by Rip-Off was R. Crumb. Here are a few of Jaxon's recollections of the man who made Mr. Natural. - R.F.

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"I think Crumb's a genius. From the very first time I saw the his artwork, I thought he was one of the very best pen-and-ink artists of the 20th century. I ran into him for the first time in New York. I had just done God Nose Comix in... this must have been 1964. I had been hawking copies of it on the Drag and had made enough money on it to do the European tour. I was familiar with Crumb's work already, from a book that Harvey Kurtzman put out called Help! He was doing pieces for Kurtzman and he was going into the slums and doing these pen-and-ink sketches, which was pretty brave for a white boy in those days. I was quite disappointed when I met him. He's such a geek. Physically, he's a geek. He was emaciated. I mean, he's somebody Hitler would've put in one of his camps. I was never able to figure the sex appeal of the guy, but he had women coming onto him all the time. All these big-ass chicks were coming on to him because they knew he had a fetish for that, but I never really understood what they saw in him. Of course, the groupie mentality was so strong in those days.

"We met again a few years later in San Francisco. I was art director for the Family Dog, doing posters for the Avalon Ballroom shows. We were Bill Graham's competition. And I remember one day I was walking down the street and there was Crumb. He was hawking this Zap Comix just like I had been hawking God Nose back on the Drag. Now, I had been doing God Nose and, of course, Gilbert [Shelton] had been doing Feds 'n' Heads, so Crumb was not the one to start underground comix. Nonetheless, his material gave it the focus to generate a wider audience. Zap definitely brought it through to the mainstream.

"Now, the undergrounds were not intended to reach a mainstream audience. Basically, we were doing it to entertain ourselves. The whole idea was to keep the thing open and keep changing it in whatever way worked for you. And in a way if it became a success, you had failed, because we thought that true art was ahead of the public taste, and if it was a success, that meant the public liked something in it. Then you felt a need to keep in those things that the public liked, and you were obliged to continue this god-damned thing whether you wanted to or not.

"Rip-Off Press did Motor City Comix and Big Ass [for Crumb]. He'd bring in full books of material, and we'd print them."

Austin Chronicle: What would you think when he would bring you all this weird materal?

"We'd usually love it. But nobody would ever have dared to tell him you gotta tone this down. We believed that the artist should have full creative control over his material. We had no use for editors. You gotta remember, this was the Nixon/Reagan era. The whole idea was to outrage people."

AC: Was Crumb any more prolific than other artists?

"Much more so. And the strange thing about Crumb is that he just starts drawing. Most artists will break things down into panels and work out where the words go and pencil them in very carefully and everything. Crumb just starts in the upper left corner of the page and draws. I don't even think he does any preliminary pencils. It just boggles my mind. I've never seen any other artist work that way. The guy's really a genius. But there's no question about it; he's a geek. You see this guy shuffling along Sixth Street and you'd think he's a wino." -Jack Jackson

Jaxon's most recent projects include the books Comanche Moon and Quanah Parker and the forthcoming Threadgill's Comics. n

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