Saturday, December 5, 2009

David Aaron Clark: 1960 - 2009

I knew Dave Clark when he was an editor at SCREW, which would've been from early in 1990 to sometime in 1995 or 1996, (I'm navigating from memory here, so my dates may be a bit off). I thought he was a talented writer, he thought I was a talented cartoonist, and we shared a lot of common interests, so we hit it off almost immediately after we first met.

The aspect of Dave's personality that I remember most clearly is that he was incredibly witty, perhaps the wittiest person I've ever known. He often said things that were devastatingly funny, he had a comedian's sense of timing, and he knew how to put you in your place gently but firmly whenever the situation required it. He was also a voracious consumer of alternative culture. If you'd just discovered something weird and fascinating, the chances were pretty good that Dave already knew about it, and had moved on to something even weirder and more obscure. This was a very hip guy.

During the five years I knew him, Dave Clark underwent something of a metamorphosis. When we first met, he appeared to me to be a shy, smarter-than-average nerd, someone who wouldn't look out of place at a comic book convention. Before too long, Clark had reinvented himself as a tattooed, black leather clad denizen of the underworld, with a personal life so edgy, so tumultuous, his misadventures occasionally made the papers.

Around 1995 or 1996, Dave left his SCREW gig to relocate to the West Coast, and I lost touch with him. We had a few friends in common, from whom I learned that Clark was now directing artsy porn videos in LA. Only in this last year did I finally manage to reconnect with him on Facebook, where I was delighted to exchange a few quips with my old friend.

Dave Clark's appetites signaled that he was unlikely ever to occupy an old age home, yet I was shocked and saddened to learn that we lost him on November 28th, 2009, one year shy of Fifty. Filmmaker Charles Pinion, (a former SCREW staffer and close friend of Clark's) tells me the cause of death was a "pulmonary embolism." Whatever that is, I hope it was quick and relatively painless.

More than a few SCREW cover concepts were fed to me by the always-imaginative Clark, (including the Coffin Joe cover I posted on June 26th at Dave's request). I may post more of those later, but what I'd like to post now are two SCREW covers I drew in the early 1990s that featured likenesses of Dave Clark.

The first is an Easter cover dated April 16th, 1990. The idea here, (and I can't remember who came up with this idea) was to show Christ at the Last Supper, with SCREW's editorial staff cast in the roles of the Twelve Apostles, (although I only count nine apostles in this drawing). The folks depicted in this drawing are, left to right: (top row) Managing Editor Manny Neuhaus, Lennie Mace, publisher Al Goldstein, JC, John Walsh, David Aaron Clark, Charles Pinion, (bottom row) Art Director Kevin Hein, Keri Rosebraugh, and Cheryl Giordano.

The second cover, dated February 24, 1992, recreates an evening I spent accompanying Dave and SCREW Editor Eric Danville on their mission to a strip club in Rego Park, Queens, where we watched a porn starlet dance, (inadequate porn scholar that I am, I can't remember this gal's name). Clark and Danville are shown at the lower left, (the rest of the audience members are imaginary miscreants).

*ADDENDUM: the more-than-adequate porn scholar Eric Danville informs me that the dancing starlet in this drawing is none other than Madison. Upon viewing this illo, those of you who are familiar with Madison may exclaim, "that doesn't look like Madison!" In my defense, I will say that in 1992, as a newcomer to the ways of caricature, my efforts in this area could be counted on to fail as often as they succeeded. It is with deep humility that I now offer to Madison, (and to Mr. Danville, who some of you know to be far cuter than he appears in this drawing) my sincerest apologies.

Rest in peace, Dave.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cover Art for SCREW #1024, featuring cover artist Robert Crumb

What can I say about Robert Crumb? He invented underground comix, and after forty years, he remains the towering figure in that scene. His is a household name, spoken reverently by cartoonists and aging hippies, but also familiar to many who've never seen one of his comic books, (thanks largely to filmmaker Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary).

The first time I remember seeing a Crumb drawing was when I was six or seven. During a walk down Jackson Heights' commercial drag 82nd Street, I spied Crumb's unforgettable "Stoned Agin" poster in the window of a head shop. The classic poster's fascinating, frightening sequence of images stuck with me. Growing up in the Seventies, one couldn't help but catch glimpses of Crumb's work here and there out of the corner of one's eye, whether it was a "Keep On Truckin'" sticker speeding away on the bumper of a VW Beetle, or the wonderful, short-lived Mr. Natural Strip that Crumb drew for the Village Voice. Like his less-interesting contemporary Peter Max, R. Crumb contributed an essential component to that decade's esthetic; something floating in the air that inevitably seeped into everyone's skulls.

It was in the early 1980s, (my High School years) when I really jumped into Crumb's work with both feet. I started with all the issues of ZAP and ARCADE I could lay my hands on at Forbidden Planet, SoHo Zat, and other long-forgotten Downtown Manhattan comics shops. When I exhausted the local supply, I was forced to seek out overseas sources, namely the excellent hardbound Crumb sketchbooks published in 1981 by German imprint Zweitausendeins.

Needless to say, I'm a hopeless Crumb fiend. and I'm sure that I speak for most cartoonists when I say that Crumb's work changed the way I thought about comics. Like some powerful hallucinogen, Crumb's comics stripped away the cornball conventions we'd acquired while reading mainstream comics, leaving the doors of perception squeaky-clean and wide open to....what?

Let's leave that question mark dangling while we skip forward a few years to 1988. Al Goldstein visited R. Crumb at his home in Encinitas, CA to interview the cartoonist for SCREW's notorious leased access cable TV series Midnight Blue. A transcript of the Crumb Q&A transcript ran in two or three issues of SCREW, and Crumb supplied drawings for the covers of those issues.

Famous for turning down high-paying illustration gigs out of some fear of "selling out," Crumb certainly couldn't have been tempted by the pay SCREW was offering for covers in those days, (I think it was $200 for cover art at that point?). More likely, Crumb saw Goldstein as a kindred soul, another grizzled survivor of the Sixties' underground hippie papers.

This issue is dated October 17, 1988. To the best of my knowledge, there are three SCREW covers with art by Robert Crumb. One is a detailed close-up portrait of Goldstein, (commissioned by Al himself, of course). The other two would appear to be drawings pulled from Crumb's sketchbooks, and #1024 is one of those. I'm not sure who did the color separations for this one. It may have been Crumb, (who certainly knew his way around a color sep), but more likely, it was someone in SCREW's art department, (I say this because in a few months, I would be tapped to provide color seps for another Crumb cover).

For those of you who started drooling at the thought that there's a Goldstein/Crumb interview out there somewhere in videoland, you can find it right here at William Lustig's Blue Underground, (box art by yours truly).

Cover Art for SCREW #1026, featuring cover artist Robert Schneck

Here's a scan of SCREW #1026, with a cover drawing by frequent contributor Robert Schneck. A talented, versatile illustrator, Schneck drew LOTS of excellent SCREW covers in the late '80's and throughout the '90's, (making him a contemporary of mine). Unfortunately, he blipped off of art director Kevin Hein's radar as we entered the Twenty First Century, and as a result, we are deprived of any Robert Schneck SCREW covers during the paper's Hindenburg-esque death-dive.

I wish I had more information to offer about Robert Schneck the illustrator. A few minutes spent on Google provides me with plenty of info on Robert Schneck the writer on paranormal subjects, and photos of Robert Schneck the writer look like they COULD be the fellow I remember meeting once or twice in SCREW's art department. Then again, they might NOT be the same person, in which case I'd hate to heap slander upon this innocent writer by accusing him of drawing cartoons for a filthy magazine. Perhaps in time, mysterious figures will emerge from the hollow Earth to shed some much-needed ethereal light upon this mystery...?

For the moment, let's just say that Robert Schneck drew some damned fine SCREW covers. I'm not sure how many of them found their way into my archives, but here's a good one. It's SCREW's twentieth anniversary cover, and it features a dead-on likeness of publisher Al Goldstein in the role of a blind newsdealer hawking a braille edition of SCREW, (a porn mag for the blind? That's actually funny!). Schneck, who typically made SCREW's limited color palette sing, gives us a fairly restrained color separation this time around, using pure blue and red nearly everywhere except on Goldstein himself. The issue date is October 31, 1988.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cover Art for SCREW #506, featuring cover artist Spain Rodriguez

Spain Rodriguez has been one of my all-time underground comix faves since I picked up my first ZAP Comix reprint in the very early 80s. Whether it's his iconic antihero Trashman, his femme fatale Big Bitch, his excellent historical pieces, or his autobiographical coming-of-age motorcycle gang tales, I'm always happy to sit down and spend some time with a Spain strip.

Besides being one of the founding fathers of Underground Comix, Spain was also standing in the delivery room when the East Village Other and similar 1960s hippie papers were born. As you may already know, that's the same grimy gene pool from which SCREW first crawled in 1968. I imagine that Spain began contributing art to SCREW pretty early in the paper's run, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are many more Spain SCREW covers than are collected in my insufficient archive.

Here's a nice Spain SCREW cover from November 1978, featuring a subtle flash on a NYC subway car. Spain turned in some of the most stupefyingly complex color separations I've ever seen, but this one is fairly simple. It's a strong cover, one of many from Spain Rodriguez that I hope to post in the weeks to come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

SCREW #1339: At His Satanic Majesty's Request

For those of you who may have been wondering, "when's Hellman gonna post one of his own covers?," here's one of mine. While I don't want this blog to degenerate into my own personal egomaniacal thrill ride, I will occasionally weaken and post my own work, especially when requested to do so by a reader. In this instance, that reader is none other than former SCREW editor, the notorious David Aaron Clark.

I spent innumerable hours up at SCREW's office during the'90s shooting the shit with Dave Clark, gassing about movies, comics, and just plain gossiping. I did more than a few freebie drawings for Clark's numerous extracurricular projects, including posters for his band False Virgins.

I'll never forget the sight of Clark and his colleague, SCREW editor John Walsh rolling around on the office floor, wrestling. I'm not sure what inspired the impromptu bout, (most likely a disagreement over punctuation) but the moment was charged with the same blistering sensuality that made Ken Russell's film "Women In Love" a classic in the annals of erotic cinema.

I also fondly remember a bit of graffiti scrawled on the wall in SCREW's tiny elevator vestibule that read "Dave Clark eats turds." Shortly after the graffiti appeared, the clever SCREW editor deftly altered it to read, "Dave Clark Five beats The Byrds." Surely that took some kind of genius...?

Mr. Clark has long since moved far away to the West Coast to toil in the adult film industry, but a small piece of Dave still remains in my heart, leaving me with just one question: can anyone out there recommend a good cardiac surgeon?

SCREW #1339's cover features a drawing of Brazilian horror filmmaker & star José Mojica Marins, aka "Coffin Joe." I'm ashamed to admit that I have yet to make it all the way through any of Marins' films, but Clark is a Coffin Joe fan, hence his request to see this cover posted.

I can't say whether or not this drawing captures the vibe of Marins' films. I will say that, as Danny Hellman SCREW covers go, it's one of middling quality. Not a half-assed hack job, (of which there were many), but not one of my personal favorites, either. My attitude towards devil worship is one of sneering disdain, and I think the drawing's goofy depiction of Satanists reflects that. The color separation is adequate but not spectacular, and the registration on the red plate is clearly off. Possibly a treat for Coffin Joe fans, but not my proudest achievement by a long shot. Enjoy, Dave.

Cover Art for SCREW #1412, featuring cover artist Natpink (?)

Earlier this week, I received an email from a reader of this blog, asking if I could help him track down an issue of SCREW that featured a Li'l Abner parody, (as listed in some Denis Kitchen publication). I immediately remembered the issue, mainly because the Li'l Abner cover and accompanying interior strip had been so well drawn. However, I couldn't recall the artist's name, nor did I believe that I had the issue in my archives.

After a quick rummage through my stack, I was pleased to discover that I do indeed have the cover, (although tragically, I failed to save the strip). I now post that cover in the hope that it will at least partially satisfy the reader's quest. Not only don't I have the accompanying strip, but I can't issue a firm ruling on whether or not the signature "Natpink" indicates a pseudonym, (which I suspect is the case) or the talented artist's real name. What I can say for sure is that the issue dates from March 25th, 1996.

While Issue #1412's cover is fairly tame in the titillation department, it more than makes up for this shortfall with dazzling drawing chops, as well as dead-on stylistic mimicry of well-known syndicated cartoon characters. "Natpink" also makes skillful use of SCREW's classic limited palette, (two colors plus black would be the norm for SCREW until the Fall of 1996, when the paper went full color). Apart from one or two murky spots, (an inevitability when working with newsprint) the colors are varied and well-chosen.

It's a nice one. I just wish I knew who drew it.

(ADDENDUM on 7/16/09: the same reader who initially asked about this cover has done some research, and now tells me that the drawing is most likely the work of cartoonist Pat McKeown. I'm not familiar with Pat McKeown's work, but if he drew this cover, he's damned talented).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cover Art for SCREW #1716, featuring cover artist Hawk Krall

Here's a late issue of SCREW drawn by Philly cartoonist & chef Hawk Krall. At least I assume that the issue dates from the paper's waning months, since Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes is being chastised in the cover lines. It was Hynes who prosecuted the employee harassment case against Goldstein that drove the final stake into the bloated pornographer's black heart.

This is definitely a pre-bankruptcy issue, published while Goldstein was still in charge, (SCREW #1804 being the first issue of SCREW's brief post-bankruptcy, post-Goldstein period, roughly December 2005-November 2006). I'm guessing that this is a Fourth of July cover, seeing as there's a bigass flag waving proudly behind the big asses.

Dating this issue is pretty much impossible for me, since this cover comes, not from my own moldering archives, but from Hawk's personal collection of SCREW covers. Hawk contributed a wonderful strip to my recent book TYPHON Vol.1, (available here). At a recent TYPHON event, Hawk was kind enough to hand me a disc containing scans of several of his own excellent SCREW covers, as well as some choice selections from SCREW's bygone days. And so, SCREW #1716 is just one of several covers I'll be offering from the Hawk Krall collection in the weeks to come. When you're done looking at SCREW #1716, why not check out Hawk Krall's website? I'm sure you'll enjoy the visit.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SCREW Cover #502, featuring cover artist Paul Kirchner

The name "Paul Kirchner" will be familiar to those of us who read HEAVY METAL during the 1980's, where his surreal, immaculately-drawn strip "The Bus" ran for what seemed like forever. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that Kirchner also drew a strip for HIGH TIMES titled "Dope Rider," and also that he worked for Wally Wood as an assistant. What Wikipedia fails to mention is that Kirchner, (using the flimsy pseudonym "Kurt Schnurr") drew a shitload of SCREW covers, (quite possibly more SCREW covers than anyone else).

Fortunately for us, his SCREW covers are very good, displaying excellent draftsmanship, masterful use of SCREW's limited color palette, clever concepts, and lovely ladies. I have quite a few Paul Kirchner SCREW covers in my archive, and I hope to post them all in time, but here's a nice one to get us started.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SCREW Issue #491, featuring cover artist Wallace Wood

Before I get any deeper into my stack of old SCREW covers, I should explain exactly how I came by that stack.

In late 2003, with bankruptcy looming, Al Goldstein's days as SCREW's publisher were drawing to a close. SCREW's offices, (which were stuffed full of Goldstein's personal possessions, as well as bound volumes of the SCREW archives) would soon be padlocked by the authorities. I had groused loudly about how SCREW's imminent bankruptcy would likely mean the loss of the archives, and now I was tipped off that if I didn't get my ass up to the SCREW offices right away, I'd miss my last chance to grab a stack of moldy old covers.

I arrived at SCREW's offices and witnessed a depressing scene of various Goldstein staffers scrounging through dusty cartons, heaps of clothes and other miscellaneous items. I found my way to the SCREW archives, and with my trusty utility knife, began hacking away at the bound volumes, freeing as many choice covers as I could. There was no time to do this systematically; I merely sliced out every SCREW cover that I deemed worthy of salvage, without stopping to take note of the issue dates. As a result, I've got a lot of choice SCREW covers, but when it comes to assigning dates, you're just going to get approximate guesses from me. If anyone has more precise information about any of the art you'll see on this blog, I implore you to share that info.

I should also point out that, while I managed to grab a sizable stack of choice SCREW covers, I'm sure there are many other nice ones that I missed. Again, if anyone has material that they'd like to add, I encourage you to send it my way.

SCREW #491, featuring cover art by legendary EC artist Wally Wood, is one of many covers which I can't date precisely. My best guess is that this cover dates from 1978 or slightly later, mainly owing to the cover line that reads "Hottest Porno '73-'78." Certainly this cover was drawn no later than 1981, when Wood killed himself.

This cover is typical of several SCREW covers Wood drew in this period. Far from his best work, the consummate draftsman Wood would appear to be hacking it out for a quick buck. Still, they're fun, and even bad Wally Wood art is still better than art by almost everyone else. I have at least one or two more Wood SCREW covers in my stack, and I'll post them at a later date.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

SCREW Issue #1330, featuring cover artist Guy Gonzales

For our inaugural SCREW Magazine Cover Art post, let's check out Issue #1330, which features a delightful Times Square drawing by longtime SCREW contributor & living legend Guy Gonzales, (in this instance, using the cute pseudonym "Dan Johnson, Jr.").

I don't know exactly how many covers Guy drew for SCREW over the years, but he's certainly on the short list of most frequently-used cover artists, (along with Robert Schneck, Jim "Hak" Hopkins, Kaz, Ken Weiner-Avidor, Paul Kirchner, and myself).

Besides his considerable drawing talents, Guy brought his intimate knowledge of the old Times Square's inner workings to the cover of SCREW. There are lots of wonderful details here, which must've made for a dizzyingly complex color separation, (yep, we did 'em by hand in those days). My best guess is that this cover dates from the mid-1990s, but I could be off by a few years in either direction.