Sunday, January 26, 2014

Grim Wit #2

Grim Wit #2 (On Sale: 1973) has a nice cover by Richard Corben featuring Den and this book's host, Horrilor. The book was published by Last Gasp Eco Funnies and carries the "Adults Only" disclaimer on the cover.

A small digression if you please: In this blog I want to cover all the great comic books that I have enjoyed over the years. That will mostly limit us to DC and Marvels and a few from other mainstream companies, like Charlton, Tower, EC, Pacific, First, Comico and such. But that will also include some undergrounds from Last Gasp, Rip Off Press and Kitchen Sink. These are not the standard comic books you are used to, but so what? A great comic book is a great comic book no matter who published it or what the subject matter. End of digression.

The inside front cover features our host, Horrilor, enticing you with Excitement and adventure (tattooed around her nipples), and other goodies (she turns around and shows you her ass and vagina). She also lets us know that this is a special dragon issue. The page is by Richard Corben in his wonderful black and white air brushiest.

Jack (Jaxon) Jackson
Unlike most underground comics, the insides of Grim Wit are in glorious color. I say glorious because it looks like most the color work was done by Richard Corben.

Our first story is not by Corben but by Jack Jackson, otherwise known as Jaxon. You may not know of this man, you may not know his work, but Jackson was a pioneer in the world of underground comics (or comix). In 1964, Jaxon self-published God Nose, which is considered by many to be the first underground comic. In 1969, he co-founded Rip Off Press, one of the first independent publishers of underground comix.

Jaxon's work combined humor, graphic violence, sexual titillation and a bit of historical truth. His was a unique voice in comics, one that we are better off for there having been.  According to Wikipedia, Jackson died in Stockdale, Texas on June 8, 2006, in an apparent suicide after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Like I said, Jaxon was known for the historical aspects of his work and that shows up here in our first story "Death Rattle," which tells the tale of a Chichimec tribe taken captive by the Toltecs. The Chichimeca  are to be used a human sacrifices to the Toltec god, the sun. The injured captives are slaughtered on site by the priest Xibalba, who cuts out their beating hearts in sacred offering. When they find a beautiful, large-breasted woman, Citla, among the Chichimeca, Xibalba claims her as a bridal offering to Tezcatlipoca, much to the consternation of the horny Toltec warriors.

The captives are taken to the Toltec city and there Xibalba offers any warrior among them the chance of a warrior's death, rather than a knife in the heart. Only Zipacna takes the challenge. While his fellow Chichimeca are sacrificed throughout the day, Zipacna is adorned for battle, his face and body painted to please the sun god.

The crowd gathers around the circular alter of ritual combat as Zipacna is lead in. The first champion is no match for Zipacna who splatters the alter with his brains. The second fairs no better, his head cleaved in two by Zipacna's war club. When the city's true champion enter the ring ("Lay--dees and gentlemen...Presenting in the final bout, the greatest living practitioner of the ancient school of Olmec fisticuffs, the invincible, the unconquerable, Baby-Faced Zapote!") he sees that Zipacna's war club is broken and moves in for the kill. Zipacna however trips Zapote and runs him through with the handle of his club. By tradition, Zipacna is taken to the outskirts of town and released, his freedom won.

Later that night in Xibalba's temple, they are preparing the beautiful Citla in Tezcatlipoca's bridal suite. Xibalba leaves but before he does he opens a gate to let in the bridegroom, Tezcatlipoca, a giant snake. Just then Zipacna  shows up to rescue Citla. Xibalba tries to stop them and as Zipacna attacks him Zipacna falls back into the "bridal suite" and is bitten by Tezcatlipoca and Xibalba realizes that the snake god goes both ways and perhaps he has been cranky because Xibalba  has only brought him "dames."

A lot of story for only eight pages.

Richard Corben
Next is the 15-page "Den" by Richard Corben. Now maybe you remember Den from Heavy Metal or from the book Neverwhere; this is the same Den. However, this is Den's first foray into comics. Corben created the character in the short film Neverwhere in 1968 while working at Calvin Studios, an animation company in Kansas City. Actually the Den in the movie, is the Uncle of the Den in the comic books.

As with most of Richard Corben's work, the story is secondary to the artwork, particularly Corben's amazing enhanced color work and his introduction of the air brush to comics. On top of that, Corben's style is uniquely his own and so his work is immediately recognizable as that of a true original.

Den awakens, completely naked, in a strange desert landscape. He doesn't know where he is or who he is. Even his body seems strange to him. He sees a structure in the distance and decides to make that his destination. As he walks he begins to hunger and finds, kills and eats a snake finding that his body seem to work on instincts he does not recall ever learning. At dusk he finds an oasis with a fountain.

He sates his hunger on the abundant fruit and his thirst with the cool water. He hides in some rock near the oasis to sleep. He dreads of a boy in a room with a book and sheet of paper and then as the scene shifts the boy is building something,something incomprehensible to Den. He awakes to see a lizard-man drinking at the fountain. After the lizard-man leaves Den is about to go down for a morning drink when he hears something, a "Cha ching, cha ching, cha ching." Den watches as a beautiful Indian woman walks across the desert and drinks at the fountain. She is naked save for a headdress and anklets that jingle as she walks.

Once she leave, Den decides to follow her. He is fascinated and aroused by her and he cannot understand why a sane person would travel in this hostile land wearing noisy ornaments. Den notices that the lizard-man is following her as well and Den gets behind him and follows them both to some strange complex of buildings. Once inside the lizard-man draws his sword and advances toward the woman. Den leaps out at him and slams a large rock into his head. As they fight each other, the woman looks on impassively. Once again Den's body seems to respond on its own with skill he did not know he possessed, but even that skill is not enough to overcome the huge lizard-man,and Den is knocked unconscious and thrown into a pit.

There he dreams once more, of how he, David Ellis Norman found a note in a book of his recently deceased Uncle that explained how his uncle had been dying, but found in a new world a new body and was going to go there permanently. Included was a schematic for a strange little machine. David built one and when he turned it on and electric field had been generated and how, like his uncle before him, he stepped into the filed and awoke in an unfamiliar desert, in an unfamiliar body.

When he awoke this time he crawled out of the pit to the sounds of screaming and rendering of flesh. From out of a building came a huge dragon, chewing on the remains of the lizard-man. Sitting atop the dragon was the girl and Den realized that they had a symbiotic relationship. The girl lured victims to the dragon. As they walk away, Den begins to ponder. Did he create the machine correctly? Would he find his uncle? Will he ever get back home?

Next is the six-page "Damsel in Dragon Dress" by Doug Moench and Richard Corben in one of his more cartoony styles, signing the work as Gore (besides Corben and Gore, Richard occasionally signed his work Darvc, which I always took to stand for Da Artist Richard Vance Corben).

Doug Moench
Moench had been working for Warren and Skywald on their black and white horror books for a few years. This might be his only underground work. 1973 was also the year that Doug started at Marvel, working first on their black and white titles before moving into color comics. While at marvel Doug would co-create Moon Knight, Werewolf by Night, Weirdworld and Deathlok, but is probably best remembered for his loong stint of Master of Kung Fu. In the 1980s Moench moved on to DC where he wrote for a number of years  He and artist Don Newton produced the story in which Jason Todd replaces Dick Grayson as Robin in Batman #368.

A vile villain has chained up a beautiful damsel and is pondering the ways in which he will violate her when a dragon appears and fries him to a crisp. Thought thankful for being saved, the damsel explains that she was hoping to be saved by a virile young knight. The dragon explains that he just happens to be such a knight and was only turned into a dragon by an ill-tempered wizard. Thinking that a kiss will revert the spell, the damsel is shocked to learn that it instead turned her into a dragon as well. They take off in search of a wizard who might released them from the spell, but the first guy they find is part dragon himself.

The wizard says he knows a spell that can send them to another world where they will be with their own kind and sends them to a land filled with dragons. There they find a half-naked hippie girl wearing orange-tinted glasses and blue beads, who says she is a witch ("most Scorpios are you know!") and says she can break the spell by kissing them both.

A hippie guy wakes up from a drug-induced sleep and looks for his girl friend. He can't find her anywhere and wonders about her stuffed animals. He is sure she had two teddy bears but now there are three stuffed dragons on her blanket, one of which is wearing orange-tinted glasses and blue beads.

The book ends with two pages of cartoons about dragons by Dave Holman, who worked on the Neverwhere movie with Corben, a one-page illustration by Corben and Jaxon featuring Horrilor and Horrilor's closing of the book by Corben.. The back cover is an illustration by Jaxon.

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