Justin Green’s Underground Cartooning Course

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Justin Green is my favorite cartoonists of what we might as well call the 1st wave of underground cartoonists (late 60’s / early 70’s). He is often credited (blamed?) with inventing / setting the tone for autobiographical comics with his book “Binky Brown Meets the Virgin Mary”. Buuuuut his books rule over all other neurotic obsessive autobiographical comics that would follow (and I realize that it was Crumb’s birthday yesterday).

Anyway he’s my favorite, and I always look for newly available stuff by him, so I was delighted when he put up on his Etsy site this minicomic from 1972, called “‘Jud’ Green’s Underground Cartooning Course”. I immediately went in.

justin green

This is the second in a series of 7 cent comics he made, and by anyone’s research, it’s the 2nd minicomic ever made. That’s reason enough to get it, but I was more psyched on the content- it’s a farcical lesson in how to make it big in the underground comics scene (of the 60’s and 70’s). It’s an attempt to canonize a set of practices in such a way that people would feel embarrassed for doing them. I’m not going to scan the whole book, because it’s still available on Green’s Etsy site, but I can’t resist putting a page up:

justin green 1

Here’s a quote from Green’s description:

Since the late ‘60s, I was one of the most prolific S.F. Underground Press contributors. It was not censorship and persecution of the “head-shops” which caused the ultimate demise of the movement. It was sheer mediocrity. By Fall of ’72, there were simply too many bad titles by neophyte (and slap-dash) artists which glutted the stands. There seemed to be no standards of workmanship, so the titles showed a wildly divergent range of craftsmanship, wit and intelligence; though most shared the same price. I felt like a Revolutionary-era pamphleteer who was warning my artistic community of the imminent threat of its demise from within. There is a tongue-in-cheek spirit to the Course that pointed out the many earmarks of the movement’s decline.

If this sounds crazy to you, that mediocrity killed the scene, bear in mind that this was years and years ago, and history is subject to survivor bias. We can only think of all the talent spinning around at the time, and do not know who he is talking about, because no one cared about their books at the time, no one reprinted them later, and despite being rare artifacts of a famed era, no one is seeking them out now. Their circumstances have left them unknown to us.

Recently I had the good fortune to paw through a great collection of original 60’s and 70’s underground comics. Amazingly, it all fell neatly into three distinct piles (listed here by size, from miniscule to glut): genuinely weird; good stuff that you know about; weak rip-off bullshit. This was simultaneously mindblowing, disappointing, and reassuring– by an overwhelming margin (though not totally), the stuff I had never seen or heard about was worthless unoriginal dreck. Posterity works! Of course, Green’s book points out something else, that posterity needs time to work, and a glut of miserable ephemera can really mess things up before it sinks. This is a good thing to remember, ye current round of biters, ye cowardly rip-offs, ye regional-versions-of-your-favorite-cartoonists/bands/artists: outside of an immediate circle of people who are not yet aware of your primary source (with whom you will have an instant, immediate, and temporary success), no one will care. Or rather, people will care a lot, in the same way they care about mosquitos, weeds, mold, and mites.

This book takes its form from Flaubert’s “Dictionary of Accepted Ideas”, a “a dictionary of automatic thoughts and platitudes, self-contradictory and insipid” … “lampooning the clichés endemic to French society under the Second French Empire” (wikipedia), which is similarly a great read. Flaubert: “[I would hope that] after reading the book, one would be afraid to talk, for fear of using one of the phrases in it.”. It seems that Flaubert was pretty successful in his act- I’ve never heard most of these platitudes, although now I want to bring them back… a lot of them seem like just regular good jokes (albeit in a dad comedy way) now…

  • ABSINTHE. Extra-violent poison: one glass and you’re dead. Newspapermen drink it as they write their copy. Has killed more soldiers than the Bedouin.
  • ARCHIMEDES. On hearing his name, shout “Eureka!” Or else: “Give me a fulcrum and I will move the world.” There is also Archimedes’ screw, but you are not expected to know what it is.
  • FEUDALISM. No need to have one single precise notion about it: thunder against.
  • OMEGA. Second letter of the Greek alphabet.
  • THIRTEEN. Avoid being thirteen at table; it brings bad luck. The sceptics should not fail to crack jokes: “What is the difference? I’ll eat enough for two!” Or again, if there are ladies, ask if any is pregnant.
  • WALTZ. Wax indignant about. A lascivious, impure dance that should only be danced by old ladies.

“OMEGA. Second letter of the Greek alphabet” is especially rich, instructive even. relevant to the topic at hand even. Maybe right now somewhere someone’s reading this, thinking about the closet-eyes gag for the first time, like “Ohhhh… That’s good…”.

More about Justin Green: his cousin is William Friedkin, whose movie adaptation of The Exorcist hit theatres just one year after Green’s “Binky Brown Meets the Virgin Mary”. Coincidence? Two foundational Catholic guilt horrors from the same family in a few short months?

Green’s website is: http://justingreencartoonart.blogspot.com/
His Etsy page, where you can order this book ($20) is: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ScribeArt
Binky Brown Meets the Virgin Mary was reprinted (by Mcsweeney’s) in 2009 in an insane, precious, oversize hardcover “original art” version, but the thrifty reader would be well suited with this 1995 Last Gasp collection that has that story and more. Also Last Gasp is cooler than McSweeney’s, and this collection is more respectful of the limitations of a bookshelf.

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mothers mailbag: asuna!!!!!!!

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just got a nice package of items from the only mothers news subscriber in japan– asuna! a bunch of cds, a weird book, some flyers for his 3″ cd label aotoao (3″ cds only!) and a package of whistle candies! here’s some scans of just a couple items or pieces of the packaging. thanks asuna!!!

asuna  2

some nice tape that was on the packaging
asuna  3

a piece of a magazine

asuna  4

colors stand for different things in different contexts. i’m fascinated by the way these meanings connect. in a plastic bag, the color pink means “static free”!

asuna  5

these life-saver-looking candies are also whistles!!!! they make a very high pitched sound, real cool and annoying

asuna  1

flyer for the casiotone comp that asuna puts out through aotoao. me n sakiko’s band PLASMA TV has a track on one of these comps, it’s our only recording to date- 1 minute on a 3″ cd comp you can only get in japan!!!! pretty cult!!!


love this mail style. also, the 500 japanese money unit stamp is a juggalo?????? i’m into it…

asuna played here in providence last year, or maybe 2 years ago, it was incredible!!!! here’s a vid of a tokyo show from around then… sometimes you see a band set up so much cool or weird equipment beforehand that you feel they can’t possibly do anything other than just wave this cool stuff around… i was pretty psyched to see a great set featuring tons of cool little toys!

check out aotoao – asuna’s 3″ cd label


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MN archive now online

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OK! rather than dripping all the back issues out once a week like i said i was going to, we decided to release them all at once in a lump. and they’re all up now!

the Mothers News collection on archive.org – reload this if nothing shows up, the archive.org search engine is kind of wonky.

here’s links to all the individual pages:
Mothers News 2013 07
Mothers News 2013 06
Mothers News 2013 05
Mothers News 2013 03
Mothers News 2013 02
Mothers News 2013 01
Mothers News 2012 12
Mothers News 2012 10
Mothers News 2012 09
Mothers News 2012 08
Mothers News 2012 07
Mothers News 2012 05
Mothers News 2012 04
Mothers News 2012 03
Mothers News 2012 02
Mothers News 2012 01
Mothers News 2011 12
Mothers News 2011 11
Mothers News 2011 10
Mothers News 2011 09
Mothers News 2011 08
Mothers News 2011 07
Mothers News 2011 06
Mothers News 2011 04
Mothers News 2011 03
Mothers News 2011 02
Mothers News 2011 01
Mothers News 2010 12
Mothers News 2010 11
Mothers News 2010 10
Mothers News 2010 09
Mothers News 2010 08
Mothers News 2010 07
Mothers News 2010 06
Mothers News 2010 05

read online via the archive.org reader, or download, or try to read the terrible OCR textfile versions. link, screencap, repost, tag, discuss, be the first to write a review.

about the archive
we decided to use archive.org, which seemed like the best, widest, and longest-term option. unfortunately their search function kind of sucks, and occasionally conks out, and there isn’t a good mechanism for grouping a collection of texts (the texts section is more oriented towards books than periodicals). hence the above list, which is a temporary solution- i’ll make a nicer online archive page later. other caveats: the pdfs themselves are huge- the largest in nearly 60mb. the entire set is 870mb, that’s bigger than a reasonably compressed illegally downloaded blockbuster movie! hopefully this isn’t too much of a problem. but let me know if it is, i’ll try to come up with a solution. if you read them online via their special book reader, they all load pretty fast. although the book reader has its own problems.

the reason the files are so big is because i uploaded the same PDFs that i sent to the printer. original, professional-grade PDFs. no watermarks. if you wanted to, and you had a printer that could handle 22×17, you could print out your own reasonable bootlegs. is this weird? or a security flaw? i did it this way because it was easier for me. if you link to these issues, please link to the archive.org page, and not the individual PDFs- blindly linking to a PDF is a poor security practice.

the colors are off for the first year’s worth– our first year was printed in a color, never black on white paper. but i didn’t want to scan each of the first 12 issues just to get the colors right, and i figured that black on white is the easiest to read on the computer. but sometimes the color is kind of important to the theme– the january 2011 issue has a lot that refers to the particular shade of blue (our printer was very precise about matching YKB, as close as tolerances would allow). anyway i scanned in pieces of those issues and made this quick reference chart:
newspaper colors

also the first issue of Monsters News (october 2010), each issue had a weird green stain on it. but since this stain occurred after the paper came back from the press, it is not represented in the PDF. the rest of the issues were printed on newsprint, with the background being light grey, the blacks being not entirely black, and all the greys halftoned.


i have a lot more thoughts on archiving these digitally, but those will wait until i have some more time to mull over ramifications and observe effects. comments requested.

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MN back issues starting to be more put online

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Picture 27

ok, this is the test upload of the new method of putting back issues online, it’s the this is the September 2010 edition. how does it look? it’s here: https://archive.org/details/201009. you can read it online, download it, read the almost useless text file.

the OCR is pretty messed up, on account of our proclivity to put stray lines and weird shapes under a text block:

stridus, simultanjeqitsly^po^ky aricKhur^uring, and you can run j

entral to her art. Specifically the
t-withbut-her-demons frencn-

as^xtremely imqfoft&nt to her,


also it’s in black and white, when the original was in dark purple on robin’s egg blue. is that a problem? it would be nicer if i fixed that. pretend i fixed that, OR give me a good argument for just black and white.

also i uploaded the same files we sent to the printer, so if you download the file rather than view it with the online reader, it’s huge (4.4mb). is THAT a problem? is it a security issue somehow?- should i not be releasing the print files for some reason?

let me know if it’s nice, i’ll put up a new (old) one every week.


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RISD museum reportback

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my week of curated events at the RISD museum was pretty good! i didn’t tape anything or get any pictures, or myself or anyone! whoops… hollis got some snaps tho…




rephotographed still from Katrina Clark’s party video


Mickey Zacchilli as “Dungeon Broads”


Carlos Gonzales introduces his film

photos via the risd museum instagram feed

i purposefully didn’t film or record my talk because that would’ve made me anxious. but it went good! it was about the source wall…

source wall

hopefully my lack of documentation will not preclude other museums from booking me in the future.

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RISD oneroom schedule, MN affiliates

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all shows start at noon and last less than an hour. at the RISD museum, 20 North Main St (also enter on 224 Benefit Street) Providence, RI 02903. the museum is free on Sundays. otherwise:: Adults: $12; Senior citizens (age 62+): $10; Youths (ages 5–18): $3; Children under 5: free; College students with valid ID: $5; Staff, faculty, and students of RISD or member institutions (with valid ID): free.

(some) more info here

Tuesday August 6th – Joe Buzzell

A feature of selections from Joseph Buzzell’s newest album, “anhedonia”. Approximately 40 minutes of music followed by a question and answer session.

Wednesday August 7th – Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez screens a fragment of a new home video project about a ‘western’ dentist.

Thursday August 8th – Jacob Berendes, Mothers News- “Stochastic Processes in Contemporary Publishing and the Other Kind”
Mothers News is known for its award-winning writing and artwork, but these things are not rare — awards for interestingness are given out many times a day around the globe. One thing that separates Mothers News from the pack is that it also features the antipode of intelligent writing and interesting artwork — it’s the only publication in history that regularly publishes blocks of truly random alphanumeric strings derived from atmospheric noise. In this brief talk we will examine what “true” randomness is, the implications thereof, the benefit to the consumer, and the inherent sacredness of neglected spaces. Also noise, failure, malevolence, and the myth of chaotic neutrality. This is an all-ages event, although the talk will most likely be sprinkled with f-bombs. There will be very little math involved.

Friday August 9th – Mickey Zacchilli
to be ripping a set for 15 minute to 1/2 hour, or whatever allotted time is. set shall include singing, ideally won’t disappoint.

Saturday August 10th – Katrina Clark
A short video/animation projection (time yet to be determined) with accompanying self-created audio, themed around a sense of place in Providence, involving historic buildings, homes of friends, development, loss, and the future.

Sunday August 11th – Scott Reber
1hr long sound installation/performance.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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RISD Museum Assembly: Non-Fine Arts

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photo by Real News, Marfa TX

i’ll be delivering a lecture at the RISD Museum in Providence RI, on August 8th, as part of their “Locally Made” exhibition.

this will be part of a week of activities i was asked to curate, that also includes performances / events by Joe Buzzell on the 6th, Carlos Gonzales (Russian Tsarlag) on the 7th, Mickey Zacchilli on the 9th, Katrina Silander Clark on the 10th, and Scott Reber (Work/Death) on the 11th. all performances will start at 12 noon, and will last less than an hour. the performances are free with museum admission, which is to say they are $12 (free to most area college students). the exception is sunday (Work/Death), when the museum is free to everyone.

dealing with a pro-art organization is funny, and i have mixed feelings about this– i like the people who are curating the performance part of the exhibit, they’re nice and they’re excited about their work, and i’m really happy to be included. but noon on a weekday plus $12 admission… woof!

here’s my official spiel regarding my week of events:

Non-Fine Arts presents a collection of artists who do not prioritize display in museum or gallery settings, but prefer to make art directly in and for their communities. while their mechanisms and formats may be non-standard in formal arts institutions, these artists utilize extremely standard methods of information interaction- email, newspapers, comic books, dance parties, pop songs, horror movies, noise. In most cases these decisions are both ideological and practical.

and here’s re: my lecture:

8/8: Jacob Berendes, Mothers News: “Stochastic Processes in Contemporary Publishing and the Other Kind”

Mothers News is known for its award-winning writing and artwork, but these things are not rare — awards for interestingness are given out many times a day around the globe. One thing that separates Mothers News from the pack is that it also features the antipode of intelligent writing and interesting artwork — it’s the only publication in history that regularly publishes blocks of truly random alphanumeric strings derived from atmospheric noise. In this brief talk we will examine what “true” randomness is, the implications thereof, the benefit to the consumer, and the inherent sacredness of neglected spaces. Also noise, failure, malevolence, and the myth of chaotic neutrality. This is an all-ages event, although the talk will most likely be sprinkled with f-bombs. There will be very little math involved.

OK, definitely do not feel bad if you can’t come to this! but if you want to, and you can get to downtown providence on august 8th, at noon, tell me and i’ll guest list / deputize / tambourine you. if i could only get to one performance, i’d go to scott’s show on sunday– he’s a great composer / performer, and this is a rare chance to see him in public, and not in the middle of the night. not to undermine everyone else, everyone’s great. but scott’s day is also free. also the museum is fun to look around in, their collection is really great, recommended. oh, and again, free admission for students or staff of Brown University, Bryant College, Community College of Rhode Island, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, or RISD.


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ant colony comics

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michael deforge’s newish book “ant colony” available for preorder! this entire work is online here. tom bubul notes the change from “ant comic”.

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hi everyone, Mothers News has changed its distribution schema- from now on, boxes of each new issue of the paper will be sold to distributors, who are allowed to give them away for free, sell them at $.50 each, or sell them at $1 each, and keep the money.

it is our belief that by providing our individual distributors with an incentive to distribute (beyond scene points and good vibes), the paper will spread farther and wider, and weird stuff will happen.

all businesses or groups that advertise with us (at the commercial rate) are entitled to a free box of 100 per month, which they can sell (at $.50 or $1 each) to completely or partially recoup their investment. distributors who choose not to advertise can buy a box of 30 papers for $10, or a box of 100 for $20.

it’s up to the individual distributor to decide if they’re going to give the paper away, sell it for $.50, or sell if for $1. for the time being, we will disallow prices higher than $1.

all new issues will ship out on the monday closest to the 1st of the month. for the june issue that means it will ship out on the 3rd. all boxes of papers will ship out by USPS Priority Mail.

to order a box of the next issue or read more about this decision, please see http://www.mothersnews.net/distribution.php.

to place an ad in the june issue, please see http://www.mothersnews.net/advertise.php.

mothers news will remain free (meaning- illegal to sell) in providence.

further questions please write mn@mothersnews.net

thank you

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Mothers News distribution poll

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animated news

UPDATE: we decided to do this. please see: http://rf5.org/blog/?p=331. we’ve made the poll results public, for no reason. please bear in mind that the poll was up for a brief time only, and the sample field was very small (only 83 voters).

hey everyone, we’re going to be changing the way Mothers News is distributed (outside of Rhode Island), so if you’re an MN reader and/or fan outside of Rhode Island ORRRRRR you are / are interested in being an official distributor in your town or city or whatever, pleeeeeease take a sec to fill out one (or both, if applicable) of these polls. it’s anonymous and it would really help us make a decision. and if there’s a better way to do distribution, or some factor i’m overlooking, leave a comment on this post, or email me- mn@mothersnews.net.

oh! and realness is appreciated! thankssss

for readers (choose one):

  • i'd pay a dollar per issue because Mothers News is worth it (61%, 33 Votes)
  • i'd pay a dollar per issue because fifty cents and a dollar are basically the same thing to me (19%, 10 Votes)
  • i'd only get it if it was free. (13%, 7 Votes)
  • i would pay fifty cents per issue for Mothers News, but NOT a dollar. (7%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 54

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for distributors or future distributors (potentially anyone) (choose as many as apply):

  • i'd buy a bunch (30 or 100) just to give them away to friends / strangers (59%, 17 Votes)
  • i'd take out a 2" ad ($40) and get a box of 100, that's great (34%, 10 Votes)
  • i'd be interested in buying a box of 100 for $20, to resell them (31%, 9 Votes)
  • fifty cents is ok / cute (17%, 5 Votes)
  • i'd probably buy a box (of 30 or 100) to resell every month (17%, 5 Votes)
  • i'd take some on consignment, otherwise nope (10%, 3 Votes)
  • i have a band, i'd buy a box and sell them at shows (10%, 3 Votes)
  • $20 is too much, but i'm interested in buying a box of 30 for $10, to resell them (7%, 2 Votes)
  • i'd only be interested if i could sell them for a dollar- fifty cents isn't worth it (7%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 29

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