Thursday, July 17, 2014

...still taking the Mickey...

Germaine Greer, in a Guardian article written 2007, on projected making of movie adapted from Richard Neville's memoir Hippie Hippie Shake, comments --
  "As one of the least talented people on the London scene in the 60s, it was probably inevitable that Neville would be constantly revisiting it in search of the fame and fortune that continue to elude him. Felix Dennis, being now worth something like £385m, doesn't find it necessary to remind people at every turn that he was one of the heroes of the Oz trial a third of a century ago. He is also far too smart to let Neville [...] exploit his hippie past, and they wouldn't try. The real geniuses being dead, deranged or sunk in obscurity, the attentions of the flesh-eating bacteria turn to me."
Howard Jacobson's recent television documentary Rebels of Oz celebrates with affection sheer Aussie brilliance of imports Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Clive James and the late Robert Hughes. Oz magazine enjoys only brief cameo appearance.
At a July 14th event in the British Library (BL supported on this occasion by Eccles Centre for American Studies); and as part of its ongoing Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK exhibition; public debate was organised on Monday night by the show's curators; ostensibly to spotlight 'Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and Friends: From the Comics Underground to the Courtroom' --  discussing influence and use of American counterculture in British comics during the early Seventies.
Self-proclaimed cultural infidel Charles Shaar Murray -- a 'Schoolkids Issue' Oz veteran himself -- mc'd Comics Unmasked's 'Underground' evening (his website post as host is here with filmed documentation of the evening*).

Reprinting of Shelton and Crumb drawings in Nasty Tales number one provoked a second high-profile obscenity trial, two years after Oz found itself in the dock at the Old Bailey for publishing Crumb's cartoons. For sensitive little hippy souls growing up with Rupert Bear stories, there was always ambivalence in 'Schoolkids Issue' montage of Alfred Bestall's representational détournment as collaged wirh US underground cartoonist R.Crumb's drawing (Robert Hughes celebrates Crumb's genius in 2005 Guardian article here). Comics Unmasked's most critical detractor, the celebrated arts writer, critic, and broadcaster Waldemar Januszczak, writing for the Sunday Times (mirror blog here), is perhaps the only contrarian among UK liberal arts media commentariat.

Cultural ambivalence has not gone away. It is possible to argue a passing of forty-five years has not reduced the juxtapositional impact of satirical North American adult comix form with traditional Rupert Bear iconography. Small girls and grown women (including former English hippy chicks of the 1960s and early '70's - now grandmothers themselves) have always enjoyed a particular asexual engagement with Rupert Bear and chums. These anthropomorphic children's icons from "Nutwood" are perennial. Represented in newer media formats and seemingly just as popular with new generations of young not-so-sensitive male geeks. 
With "Nutwood'"s visual culture globalized in moving image through 1990's Canadian animation company Nelvana's North American produced telecasts; its earlier vibrant paraliterary form as print, is reproduced here by graphics Eye journal through a 1959 Rupert Bear page unit analysis. Providing evidence of early modernist mass visual culture in the UK. Side-stepping "art and anarchy" in a dance of water colour illustration.

The imagery has raced into social media and 21st century podcast locations -- a cartoon secondary world speeds even further away from Sixties, Seventies & Eighties (Oz magazine & Nasty Tales' loan of R. Crumb's hippie hippie shake comix; Beatle Paul McCartney's and Python Terry Jones's nostalgic enthusiasms) - through the Nineties, Noughties and Twentyteens (Crumb holds-and-folds copy of 'Schoolkids Issue' Oz in a British museum 2014) -- flying into timeless working class picture-pastorals. When We Were Very Young at Disneyland. Winnie the Pooh in Latin. Black magic grimoire spells of John Dee and Aleister Crowley. White magic words and pictures of Milne and Shepard. Pretend poetry. Poetry betrayed every day.
* Extended British Library footage, including Shaar Murray's interviews with cartoonists Crumb and Shelton, is available here. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Taking the Mickey

Poster by Jordan Bolton  Tom Jenks