Underground Comix

60s Psychedelic Poster Artists Illuminate A Decade

To explore famous rock posters in detail you may have a hard time separating them from the works of the 60s psychedelic poster artists. There are many reasons for this.

60s Psychedelic Poster Artists - Victor Moscoso
The Blues Project by Victor Moscoso

The “rock” poster was invented to advertise events both musical and social that were growing larger and larger in the San Francisco area. The seeds of the counterculture (or hippie movement) were coming of age. This movement was bound to remove itself from the ideals and rigidness of the 1950s. Creating a new culture, with its own ideals, experiences, music, fashion and sustainability.

The 60s psychedelic poster artists were very much a part of this experimentation.  The three martini lunch was out! LSD and marijuana would take its place in the new counterculture. It was as much a rebellion as it was a mind expanding new frontier.

What was black-and-white in the 1950s was now bright and vibrant colors in the 1960s. The light switch had been turned on. Experimentation in all types of media would push the limits of good taste in order to be different or original. But then, bad taste could be good taste in these newfound freedoms of expression.

Whatever the case, there was much art being created around this time. Some hang in museums and some were swept away as trash. I’m speaking particularly about rock posters and handbills made usually for concerts at ballrooms and auditoriums.

The music drove the 60s psychedelic poster artists to aspire to what they did. Mostly commissioned to do concerts rock concerts, but, many would create the posters and put the shows on themselves. A good example of that would be the Pinnacle Rock Concerts that were put on in LA.  (See Pinnacle Concerts posts on this site)

Although we concentrate mainly on the art, artists and famous rock posters of the 1960s–many great changes in our country were made because of the ideals and grasp for a better world from the counterculture.

Links of Interest:

The New Acid Tests – Current LSD Study and Timothy Leary

60s psychedelic poster artists Biographies

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Where Did Underground Cartoonist Spain Rodriguez Get His Start?

Dateline: Wedesnday November 28, 2012

Regrettably, another one of the great innovators and truly original icons of the 60s has died. Underground cartoonist Spain Rodriguez was instrumental and influential in the rise of underground comic’s.

When one reads of his childhood in Buffalo New York, you will find he (like so many of us) was engrossed with comic books. Reading, collecting, trading and trying to copy and draw all the superheroes and villains.  Underground Cartoonist Spain Rodriguez

My best guess is Spain Rodriguez started his particular revolutionary comic art style when there was a censorship of comics in the late 1950s. (He was working at EC Comics for Bill Gaines at that time). I believe his anger at the establishment never left him. Illustrating tales of revolutionaries taking back the streets violently from situations of repression and corruption.

Then again, this may have started way before that. Born (Manuel Rodriguez) in Buffalo March 2, 1940, “Spain” got his name from defending his heritage in many school fights. Young Spain was a juvenile delinquent of sorts. Getting into trouble and stealing cars.

But, he had a very curious mind and was drawing comic strips from a very early age. He mentioned one time that his best art education came from working at the Western Electric Plant where he drew workers and machinery. So, we get a snapshot of the blue-collar working class background of the artist. Quoted many times and in many ways saying “I don’t know why, I just didn’t like rich people”

I believe that the most pure and best creativity comes from extreme emotions like love, hate, anger,fear and envy. As an underground cartoonist Spain Rodriguez exorcised these feelings into a new bold, bombastic and cataclysmic art form the underground comix.

After working for Bill Gaines (Mad Magazine) it didn’t hurt to have friends like underground artist Art Spiegelman and rock stars like Jerry Garcia to help his career. He would be included in the innovator’s and wave of artists like R. Crumb, S.Clay Wilson and Bill Griffith who established the irreverent, profane, highly sexed, antiwar, anti-capitalists spirit.  Things very dear to underground cartoonist Spain Rodriguez.  We salute you and miss you, sir.

Relevant links:

Spain At Home-Babylon Falling

Spain Rodriquez Fought The Good Fight – The Comics Journal

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When Did Moscosos Comic Books Begin?

Moscosos Comic Books - Zap Comix #1
Issue #1 Zap Comix

When Did Moscosos Comic Books Begin?
With our theme on psychedelic artistes, it is noteworthy that Victor Moscoso’s (famous rock posters artist) streetwise upbringing in Brooklyn gave him a no-nonsense type of approach to art and art projects. He takes a very practical view of commissioned assignments and personal projects.  Lucky for us! I believe this led to many projects and encompassed a wide range of work he may have not discovered. This may include (but not limited to) his work and leadership at Zap Comix and other Moscosos comic books.

This image to the left is the very first Zap Comix Book. Launch date was March 1968 and the brain child of legendary underground comics artist Robert Crumb (R.Crumb).  Crumb would recruit other artists S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, “Spain” Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin to collaborate with him.  The latter two with reputations as psychedelic poster designers, in their own right. They would all come on board as the new roster of artists for Zap Comix.

Moscoso and Griffin worked well as partners on many poster designs and projects.  Griffin had actually made his bones doing a surfer comic strip “Murphy” in 1961 and started germinating the idea of doing comics with Moscoso, before Zap was published.

It is claimed that the term “comiX” (with an X) refers to the traditional comic book style of Zap, and its mixture of dirty jokes and story-lines.  Moscosos comic books (Zap Comix included), were more of an an illusory / optical type of art.  But, “Crumb and Griffin took the taboos straight on” as Moscoso puts it.   The comic books were labeled “Fair Warning: For Adult Intellectuals Only”.  This was soon to be taken very literally, as this obviously was not a kiddies comic book. So bad, that in some places you could not buy this over the counter.  This made the comic even more coveted and wildly popular.

Zap#4 was most infamous as it depicted an R. Crumb story “Joe Blow”.  It was about a incestuous All-American nuclear family . Their motto being “the family that lays together stays together”. Numerous “community standards” obscenity busts and court cases were brought against the publisher Print Mint. This was actually was banned in New York from over the counter sales.

Moscosos Comic Books partner Rick Griffin poster
Family Dog #89

According to Moscoso – R. Crumb had been a super fan of he and Rick Griffin and after seeing poster Family Dog #89 an imitation of the Sunday Chronicle pages. After seeing that he went home and created Zap Comix. They were in essence his heros.

That is actually a very interesting time line and important info.  All of these guys were so famous, many times you dont know who came first.  But, to answer the question to our post – When Did Moscosos Comic Books Begin?  I would have to say not in the FIRST issue of Zap Comix.  But, as we revealed earlier, obviusly a Moscoso/Griffin poster was the inspiration.  It would probably be the second issue moving forward to this day.  Moscoso was heavily involved in the comic even in distribution and management. He was instrumental (IMHO) in making Zap Comix the phenomenon that it is.

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