(1989-1995) ~Taboo

TABOO

 

All following introductions written by Stephen R. Bissette for Tundra Publishing & Kitchen Sink Press, Inc.’s TABOO anthology (© 1989/2009, Stephen R. Bissette). All following Rick Grimes stories for TABOO can be read here: Art/Taboo Issues may sometimes still turn up for sale at http://srbissette.com/store/

 

TABOO #2 (1989)

 

Taboo #2 - cropTABOO #2: Rick Grimes, John Totleben, Charles Lang, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell, Stephen R. Bissette, Clive Barker, Paul Chadwick, S. Clay Wilson, Richard Sala, Michael Zulli, Bernie Mireault, Tom Marnick, Mark Askwith & Rick Taylor, and many more.

“Once, delivering groceries to a nursing home, I stumbled into a mealtime scene that made me quite uncomfortable. The tenants were seated at the table, bitching at each other, understandably unhappy with the food, present company, and their lots in life. One old man, wearing a prosthetic nose (cancer?), was being particularly abrasive to an old woman sitting across from him, her chin flat to her chest (her neck muscles had collapsed), her sad eyes hunting the room for an escape from the verbal abuse. The sad, grotesque, weirdly comical, and utterly human tableau fell into the recesses of my memory… until “Numbleschitz” brought it all back.

Welcome dear “Numbleschitz” reader, to the world of Rick Grimes.

Grimes’ stories are peopled with characters who certainly don’t look human. And their monikers are as alien as their appearances: Weird Dick, Puz Fundles, Meemo, Sicky Claus, Nudolph the Naked Reindeer, the Poodle-Walkie Brothers, Stinely Stellwick, etc. But there is something all too familiar and identifiable about their insane actions and over-reactions to the circumstances that confront, confuse, or destroy them. It is as if their emotional aberrations have distorted flesh itself, or animated inanimate material, and so given form and breath to weird beings who play out their roles in utterly ordinary dwellings.

Scrupulously based on real places, these locals, like Grimes’ characters, are prone to erupting, dissolving, transmuting, or even spawning still more bizarre lifeforms (as in ‘sick animal’) to dream-logic rhythms. Grimes will occasionally pour his personal universe into traditional story-telling devices or genres with unsettling results: “Hell’s Toupee'” (sic) may be rooted in the formulaic conventions of EC Comics and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but it goes to surreal and organic extremes they wouldn’t have dreamed of.

No doubt about it, Rick Grimes is an original. His primal approach to comics echoes the work of other ‘naive’ cartoonists, like Hank Fletcher (a.k.a. Barclay Flagg, Fletcher Hanks, and Hank Christy; creator of “Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle” in the 1940s), Rory Hayes, or Mark Beyer, but his vision belongs to no movement. And although he describes himself as “Walt Kelly {with} adenoids” and enjoys Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”, Ogden Whitney’s “Herbie”, Robert Hutton movies like The Slime People, and the work of Boody Rogers, his work is unlike any other cartoonist’s; his writing approach is informed by the poetry of Captain Beefheart lyrics.

Also note that the demonic sandwich-maker on page fifty-four may resemble Clive Barker’s demon in Taboo 1, but neither artist was aware of the other’s drawing; Grimes’ illustration originally appeared as the back cover of Parade of Gore #1 in 1977.” — (©1989/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

TABOO #3 (1989)

 

Taboo #3 - cropTABOO #3: Rick Grimes, Michael Zulli, Simoneda Perica-Uth, Rolf Stark, Alan Moore, Tim Lucas & Mike Hoffman, Rolf Stark, Moebius, Rick Veitch & Jack Weiner, Glen Dakin & Phil Elliott, Jim Wheelock, Bernie Mireault, and more.

“Rick Grimes’s utterly bizarre comic universe must be experienced first hand — there is no way to describe it adequately. Those of us who know Rick or who have encountered his work in Dr. Wirtham’s Comix and Stories or Taboo 2, have already had the pleasure, and always look forward to his next creation.

Grimes usually avoids any discussion or analysis of his work, but for “Cactus Water” he has provided a few words of explanation. Many of Rick’s stories exist in disjointed (but linear) time and place, a deliberately ‘broken time’ that, Rick says, “Makes the story vulnerable to misperception”:

…”This approach is not just a disgruntled attempt to confuse readers or make a ‘show’ of indecision itself. Instead, it comes of a simple stream…

“Cactus Water” might seem to report or feign a dream. None of it was dreamed, (although) dreams and having had them may be its guiding force… (B)y now some of these techniques are familiar enough to me (through developing projects unseen as yet by others*) that there was no particular strain involved or any desire to ‘fake it’. Just a chain of reveries, compounded without forcing all logic on them, or cropping all extrusions into line.”

Typical of Grimes’ invented realities, “Cactus Water” is “… an exercise in how pleasure is often lost (or) strangled in waves of pain” Of his lead characters disturbing predicaments, Grimes says:

…”Maybe his behavior demonstrates a form of survival in (the) raw, unreliable world… (of) this story’s confines (but implying a Broader Flood of which he and his plagues are only part). Shorn of any grounded reality, he bobs… (between the) most memorable or knowable or comforting… moments of any crisis… (All) pleasures (are sloughed off) as each new moment degrades then further.

“Perhaps more revealing are the many elements of masochism versus a mysterious and higher tendency to disassemble and dissolve all self-contempt. In any case, “Cactus Water” is more than a random, tossed-off display or a spasmodic, centerless croaking.” — (©1989/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

TABOO #4 (1990)

 

Taboo #4 - cropTABOO #4: Rick Grimes, Moebius & Alejandro Jodorowsky, Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Elaine Lee & Charles Vess, Mark Askwith & Rick Taylor, Tim Lucas & Steven Blue, and many more.

“‘The Battle of the Sexes’ has fueled every genre of every medium and art form for centuries. Comics have thrived on the classic struggle, too, from Charles Dana Gibson’s turn of the century illustrations to the droll slapstick of George MacManus’ “Bringing Up Father” and James Thurber’s “The War Between Men and Women” (Men, Women and Dogs, 1943), or the wilder fantasies of superheroic Amazons like Wonder Woman.

More relevant here are the darker strains of the sadistic Pre-Code EC Comics’ shock soap operas, Bruce Jones and Richard Corben’s extraordinary collaborations in the 1970’s Warren magazines Creepy and Eerie, or Howard Chaykin’s notorious Black Kiss (Vortex, 1988-1989), the comic book equivalent of Russ Meyer’s bawdy sex ‘n’ violence adult film extravaganzas.

Horror stories have been a particular virulent haven for countless variations on the theme, fueled by some of the nastiest sexist and misogynist extremes imaginable (from the viewpoint of both genders).

Rick Grimes unapologetically offers the following tour of a number of such battle grounds. Though Grimes’ universe usually thrives upon a surreal, asexual, almost innocent dream logic, or, at best, sexually subliminated into a masturbatory masochism, he has occasionally ventured into the warzone in order to parody its attributes and conventions (see “Hell’s Toupee” in Taboo 2).

For all its willful grotesqueries, “These Things Happen” seems closer to Thurber (or vintage John Waters movies) than the Old Witch of EC. The characters, male, female, and post-op, are a typically hideous but oddly familiar lot, indulging in an ever-escalating black comedy of no-manners.

Watch out for those flying ‘pucks of spaghetti’, though. Never seen anything like them.” — (©1990/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

TABOO #5 (1991)

 

Taboo #5 - cropTABOO #5: Rick Grimes, Jeff Jones, Michael Zulli, Melinda Gebbie & Rolf Stark, Douglas E. Winter & Clive Barker, Jeff Nicholson, Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell, Tom Marnick & Dennis Ellefson, P.J. Kenyon, S. Clay Wilson, Matt Howarth, and more.

“I object to the love of ready-made images in place of images to be made.” — poet Paul Eluard, Comme deux gouttes d’eau.

There is nothing accessibly “ready-made” about Rick Grimes unique comics. Though the lines are finished and printed on the page, the stories driven by their own sometimes elusive internal logic, Rick forces your complicity in their completion within the gray matter between your ears.

“Akimbo” was begun in 1987, the first in a series of stories Grimes was percolating on a backburner. Unlike the comparatively straight forward black comedy of “Numbleschitz” (Taboo 2) and “These Things Happen” (Taboo 4) or the mesmerizing “trance” narratives of “sick animal” (Taboo 4) and “Cactus Water” (Taboo 3), “Akimbo” establishes its own staccato cross-cutting between the actions of its apparently imprisoned primitives and their possible captors. As it was conceived before Grimes’ previous Taboo contributions, its almost pre-verbal minimalism should not be considered an abandonment of Grimes’ Captain Beefheartian prose, but rather a predecessor. Grimes worries that “it is simply too dreary”, though the tale flows with perfect lucidity and an absolute sense of real time, even as it defies literal or linear analysis of its interplay between “the melancholy of prey and predator”.

Grimes universe is rich with its own peculiar ecologies and rhythms, oneiric beings, and erotic grotesques, comparable to those of Alfred Jarry, Samuel Beckett, Mark Beyer, or Jim Woodring. “Akimbo”, however, seems closer in syntax and spirit to Max Ernst’s amusingly enigmatic collage novels La Femme 100 Tetes (1929), Reve d’une Petite Fille Qui Voulut Entrer au Carmel (1930), and Une Semaine de Bonte (1934), emulating their insular but evocative primal urgency.

For the benefit of indiscriminating readers, the creator also wishes you to know that “the falling piss is, yes, piss, not semen.”

Lookout belohhhhhh!” — (©1991/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

TE.jpg booze
TABOO ESPECIAL (1991)

 

TABOO ESPECIAL: Rick Grimes, J. K. Potter, Philip Nutman/Howard Cruse, Mark Martin, Steve Bissette, Eddie Campbell, Glenn L. Barr, Wendy Snow-Lang, Jeff Nicholson, Rick McCollum, Mark Bode, Scott McCloud, Dick Foreman/Pete Williamson, Noel Tuazon, Jussi Tuomola, and S. Clay Wilson.

“Welcome to the completely fucked up universe of cartoonist extraordinaire Rick Grimes. It’s unlikely that you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Piggy, Bluehaired Bif, Matronfish, or Rabbity before, but don’t fret.

You’re about to.” — (©1991/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

Taboo – 6.JPG red toothy thing in blue water
TABOO #6 (1992)

 

TABOO #6: Rick Grimes, Cru Zen, Mark Martin, Charles Burns, Neil Gaiman & Nancy O’Connor, Holly Gaiman, Michael Zulli, S. Clay Wilson, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell, Alan Moore & Melissa Gebbie, Jeff Nicholson, and more.

“While many humor cartoonists refer to themselves as “bigfoot” cartoonists, Rick Grimes considers himself an alumni of “the crotchless Porky school”. One could argue with Rick, given the exposed genitalia and bizarre sexual activities evident (and sometimes abundant) in his earlier work (see Taboo 2 and up), or as evidenced in the following inverted situational comedy. Understand then, that Rick is referring to “family” as opposed to sexual, particularly the bizarre family units that inhabit American animated cartoons and their comicbook derivations.

The domestic bliss of “Dolly & Withtina” derives from the roots of “distant relative”-ism and subliminated sex via the “nephews only” of Uncle Scrooge and Pogo, as Rick describes it. “The Choplocks family is not a real one. Dolly is no more their offspring than they are man and wife.” There is a small comfort in this as Rick finds that “their uncloaked carnality repels me.” He adds, “at first I thought they had no redeeming qualities, but there are a few… if you look.”

Dolly herself is Grimes’ virulent take on “perennial brats” like Little Lulu, Little Iodine, or Harvey’s Little Audrey, transmuted through some of the artist’s all-time favorite celluloid lepers, including, he tells us, “Anthony Zerbe in Papillon, Martin Landau in The Outer Limits [episode entitled, “The Man Who Was Never Born”], and Ben Hur’s mommy.” Of course, this leprosy angle suggests another whole level to “the crotchless Porky school” Grimes aligns himself with… but I promised him I wouldn’t go reading too much into his story this time.

Crotchless Porky, in a pig’s eye, I say.” — (©1992/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

T7.JPG Joe Coleman couple
TABOO #7 (1992)

 

TABOO #7: Rick Grimes, Joe Coleman, Brian Sendelbach, Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell, Alan Moore & Melissa Gebbie, Jeff Nicholson, Kenneth Smith, Jack Butterworth & Eric Vincent, David Thorpe & Aidan Potts’, P. Foerster, and more.

“In I were in a perverse and pretentious enough frame of mind, I’d go on and on about how “Breathing Is For Sissies” is Rick Grimes’ version of the Jewish Golem tale with all kinds of rich religious subtexts buried within it, and I would then launch into a remarkably exhaustive (for one page, anyway) analysis of the Golem myth and all it’s incarnations, from German Paul Wegener’s two silent movies to the Czechoslovakian movie whose Golem even looks a little like Grimes’ character except you couldn’t see his pecker, right on up to and including Paul Chadwick’s Concrete (Dark Horse, 1986-present — see, I can’t help myself), whose pecker you never see either, all of which is really a pretty tentative link to make, but sort of ties together the Golem and Grimes’ story, which has nothing but the most superficial similarities with either the Golem or Concrete (and I would then parenthetically and pathetically remind you that Concrete made a cameo appearance in Taboo 2 but no one cared, least of all Concrete fans, which would be incredibly trivial and self-servingly fanboyish of me to whine about) though I could probably justify it in any case by ranting about the “breath of life” alchemically instilled in the Golem, if I were in the mood to, so it’s goddamned lucky for you I’m not, because I could, mind you.

The truth is, the following was inspired by a Three Stooges short in which Curly gets covered with cement or glue or something, and Grimes offered to research which Stooges short it was, but that would be really anal of us, like, if I’m not going to dredge up all that horseshit about the Golem, no sense telling you exactly which Stooges short inspired the following, because really what’s important is Rick Grimes did this story, and though a lot of you just don’t seem to seem to know what the hell to make of Grimes, I don’t a good rat’s ass and still think it’s some of the most unsettling and amusing stuff I’ve ever read in my life.

My God, I think I’m getting altogether too much oxygen — or too little —“ — (©1992/2009, Stephen R. Bissette).

 

eight and nine <<<<<<      [no intros anymore, but add covers & contributors]

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