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When Overground Cartoonists Went Underground

The late 1960s to the mid 1970s was the height of the underground comix, and the creators and producers of those comix enjoyed a brief time of being joined by some old masters of the cartooning art.


Historian Brian Doherty has a new book, Dirty Pictures, coming out this Spring about Underground Comix. One chapter about the relationship of the young new breed of cartoonists with the old establishment cartoonist was cut from the book for space reasons. Luckily Brian has allowed The Comics Journal to post the deleted chapter in a revised edition.

[Denis] Kitchen met Eisner in 1971 at a New York comic book convention run by Phil Seuling…

“Eisner reached out through an intermediary and I met him in a hotel room. I had no idea why he wanted to meet me, but turned out he had heard about underground comix and Will, as I learned later, was an insatiably curious guy, especially when it came to new comics business models. He just peppered me with questions and then he confessed that he had never really seen any underground comix. And he was curious to see some, and so I said, well, sure, you know, Phil Seuling at that time had at least two full tables covered with every underground that was available.

“My intention was to curate it and to pick two or three examples to introduce him. He was older and I didn’t want to pick the most X-rated ones, but before I could do that, he impulsively just reached down and he picked up what I believe was Zap #2.

“He opened it up and there was a page where a pirate has cut off the tip of somebody’s dick [and eats it]. And he says the tip tastes best or something like that. Will looks at that and I thought his eyes are gonna leave his head and he put it down I started to try to explain that well…. he already knew they were uncensored, but I said, ‘You know, you picked up kind of an extreme version of what the genre offers.’

“And Will said, ‘Yes, I guess I did.’ I could tell he was, although liberal, upset by it.”


Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Wally Wood, Basil Wolverton meet
Denis Kitchen, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Jay Lynch, Glenn Bray.

Read the excised chapter at The Comics Journal.

Then order Dirty Pictures from Abram Books.


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