By R. Crumb, Peter Bagge, et al.
I’m a touch embarrassed to admit that, until my recent interview with Kim Deitch, I had never heard of Mineshaft. The artist mentioned the publication in reference to his brother Simon’s work, which had appeared in the magazine in prose form. While Simon is credited as a contributor for number 19, the only other place his name appears in the issue is at the end of a message in the letters section, in which the writer apologizes for having added an extra zero to the end of the price for the monster suit in his piece on The Creature from the Black Lagoon (that’s $20,000, not $200,000, for those keeping track), and then proceeds to launch into a note explaining how much he enjoyed the other contributions to said issue.
As I was handed 19, last weekend at MoCCA, it was explained to me that Kim (who was standing over my shoulder, as I spoke to the man behind the Mineshaft table–whether it was one of the two publishers, I can’t honestly tell you) was also sadly absent from this issue, for the first time in recent memory, which is reason to dock it a point, right off the bat. However, any publication that features dual covers Peter Bagge (front) and Robert Crumb (back) can’t be all bad, right?
Right. In fact, I consider my first issue of Mineshaft to be something of a revelation. It’s the first time that I’ve realized that work of this nature can exist outside of reissues and hardbound compilations. To suggest, however, that this ‘zine is something of a time capsule, is to miss the point completely. Mineshaft is proof that the scene that gave birth to the independent comics movement, which exists to this day, still has a pulse that is capable of beating, even outside of scene that it begat.
Mineshaft is not a stuffy retrospective, and it’s certainly not a “best of.” Instead, it’s a collection of contemporary works by classic artists that demonstrates their ability to continue to explore beyond their own self-imposed boundaries. When, for example, was the last time you saw a non-Zippy cartoon from Bill Griffith, something non-Jesus related by Frank Stack, or anything by Spain Rodriguez, within the confines of a contemporary compilation?
While Bagge’s contributions to the book are sadly limited to the front cover, the first several pages are devoted to Crumb pieces that span the last decade, including a handful of sketchbook drawings and a couple of paneled pages that read like bad acid flashbacks. R. Crumb & His Li’l Pal Prufrock Piggy is particularly interesting, combining the realism of Crumb’s last few decades with his early funny animal drawings, to recount a largely nonsensical conversation about squandering God’s great gifts.
Jay Lynch and Ed Piskor’s Dead Rat is the most entertaining piece of the bunch, telling the story of Lynch’s meeting with fellow underground cartoonist Skip Williamson in the slums of Chicago in 1967. The relatively unknown Aaron Lang offers an amusing glimpse in the series of contradictions that was the life of his grandfather, a German WWII vet, while Penny Van Horn gives an goofy reinterpretation of the American icon that was Fred Rogers. Even the magazine’s sporadic one-page ads are entertaining.
Upon discovering Mineshaft, I feel a bit silly for not having picked up the book before—it’s a testament to the continuing vitality of the forefathers of alternative comics and the longevity of the scene they helped pioneer.