Justin Green, Gentleman Cartoonist

Green became known for a personal warmth that seemed at odds with the angst he would spill across a page. “I think he helped people so much partly because it helped him to forget his own anxiety,” said daughter Julia Green.

A trio of Justin Green obituaries have been published recently.

Justin Green, a Chicago native whose early underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s influenced several generations of artists to adapt their most painful personal experiences into comics, died recently.

From The Chicago Tribune:

He was born in July, 1945 and grew up rich and painfully polite in Highland Park, though his signature comic was “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” a transgressive work full of graphic sexual imagery and angst drawn from his childhood.

He grew up with servants and cooks, the son of a successful industrial realtor. He was a nervous kid. His father would send him into businesses in the Loop to collect back rent. On his first day of school in Highland Park, his mother dressed him a Brooks Brothers suit, and the teacher sent him home with a note: “Your son is hopelessly overdressed.”

Green would often wave off the claims that he pioneered the most contemporary and prolific genre of adult comics. He would point out that he had been just as influenced himself by Philip Roth, James T. Farrell’s “Studs Lonigan” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” But he was flattered by his place in the medium that dominated his childhood.


From The New York Times:

Justin Green, a star of underground comics in the 1970s who channeled his Catholic guilt and childhood neuroses into “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” a raw and intimate confessional epic that inspired cartoonists … to explore autobiographical subjects, died on April 23 in Cincinnati. He was 76.

The first page of Mr. Green’s book shows Binky naked, his hands bound and his feet shackled, confessing: “O, my readers, the saga of Binky Brown is not intended solely for your entertainment, but also to purge myself of the compulsive neurosis which I have serviced since I officially left Catholicism on Halloween, 1958.”

Binky’s misadventures begin when, as a boy, he breaks a statue of the Virgin Mary while playing baseball inside his house. The book takes him through young manhood, as he deals with bullies, nuns (“fascistic penguins,” in his words), priests, fears stoked by supernatural church doctrines that are “asserted as empirical fact,” his impure thoughts and his sexuality.


Justin Considine Green was born on July 27, 1945, in Boston and raised in Chicago. His father, John, worked in real estate, and his mother, Julia (Gleason) Green, known as Claire, was a homemaker. Like Binky’s parents, Justin’s father was Jewish and his mother was Roman Catholic.

Mr. Green attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied painting, but he did not graduate. He felt a calling to join the underground comics movement in San Francisco, lured by the texture of Mr. Crumb’s comics, “packed with harsh drawing stuffed into crookedly drawn panels,” he was quoted as saying in Patrick Rosenkranz in “Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution, 1963-1975” (2008).

But by the mid-1970s, with a daughter to support, Mr. Green had turned to sign painting as his primary occupation, although he continued to contribute to comic anthologies like Weirdo, Raw and Arcade.


A very private person and a modest artist, Green made his living primarily as a sign painter for the past several decades. He was one of the original cartoonists of the underground movement that changed comics forever in the 1960s and 1970s.

Underground comix historian Patrick Rosenkranz profile/obituary for The Comics Journal:

Green described the workings of underground comix art in 1973. “It was a loose community of artists devoted to revitalizing a humble art form, though not all spirits were kindred. Like any movement, there were cliques and warring factions, but all held to the ideal of reaching a common audience while reinventing the formal boundaries that had defined the medium. Like any utopian experiment, ideals were challenged and rewritten in the face of the daily grind. It was a harsh life lesson for me, but there were lots of laughs and some beautiful times, too.”

His solo comic work included Sacred and Profane, Show + Tell Comics, and Justin Green’s Spare Comic, which initiated the mini-comic genre, along with “Jud” Green’s Underground Cartooning Course. He also contributed strips to Arcade, the Comics Revue, Bijou Funnies, Comix Book, Insect Fear, Laugh in the Dark, Raw, Tales of Sex and Death, San Francisco Comic Book, Snarf, Two Fools, Weirdo, and Young Lust.

The underground comix movement peaked with the publication of Arcade magazine in the mid 1970s and Green switched careers to commercial sign painting. He continued to draw two regular comic strips, “Musical Legends of America” for Pulse, the magazine of the Tower Records/Video chain, and “Sign Game” for the trade journal Signs of the Times. He also appeared in Print, National Lampoon, Apple Pie, Harpoon, Heavy Metal, the New Yorker, and the Sacramento Bee.

all art © Justin Green


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