First – a little music…
My love of comics is matched by my love of punk. I especially love it when I find a wonderful marriage of the two. Fair go, all of the below Top 5 could be quantified as Zine’sters BUT they are very much cartoonists who love punk and those were the only two prerequisites I had for the list.
So, without any further ado, here’s a handy list of the most gnarly punk rock cartoonists! Get 'em up ya!
5. Ben Snakepit
Ben Snakepit provided the soundtrack to my summer in 2010 and 2011. His autobiographical My Life in a Jugular Vein is a rock and roll diary consisting of Ben’s Snakepit Comics telling 3 panel stories of Ben’s day to day in Austin, Texas, with each daily strip accompanied by a track that Ben was listening to while drawing. The collected editions turn into encyclopedia of punk, with amazing tracks from The Fleshies, This Bike is Pipe Bomb, J-church and heaps more. My Life in a Jugular Vein even comes with a CD soundtrack, which has to rate as one of the best underground punk rock compilations of all time! Ben has also been a Razorcake contributor for some time; the American punk rock zine has many cartoonists grace it’s pages over the years, so have two other people on this list. This next lady in particular has featured heavily in punk zines and record cover art for years...
4. Liz Prince
Liz Prince is a true comic book sweetheart. She brings out great personal stories and hilarious strips about life, her life mainly revolving around The Descendents, The Ramones, relationships and her cats. She won an Ignatz award for her collection of strips Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed? and won hearts with her follow up Delayed Replays. On her livejournal Liz posts new work incredibly regularly and it is infectious. You will find yourself "checking in" with Liz at least once a week. Liz shares earnest stories about hanging out in Boston, going to shows and sickeningly romantic moments with her boyfriend (which are always heartwarming) but her ability to play with emotive themes is not limited to sickly sweet lovey-dovey moments, her piece from the day after her father died was incredibly raw and moving. Her artwork graces the covers of EP’s from Masked Intruder, a cassette cover for band NOT YET! and much like Mitch Clem, Liz has done countless posters, flyers and band ads. Amongst the Boston Punk scene her work is more than prolific. I imagine one day the city of Boston will erect a statue of Liz outside the library she used to work at but, until then, her LiveJournal will have to do as so far as a testament to her amazing work. AND, kids, Liz Prince has done work in Adventure Time, so, you know.
3. Rick Chesshire
Chesshire is a mystery, an enigma whose work exists in fairly few places. In trying to write about him in this article several websites were visited, all of which have since stopped being updated ages ago. The last piece of online work of his is this sloth animation from March this year. The magazines he has been printed in have now gone tits up and disappeared. But Rick Chesshire has put out some incredible comic strips. If you are ever in a zine or small press shop, keep an eye out for Fried Cat Comix, a small mini anthology comic from Geelong, Victoria. He’s also been in the much-missed Punk mag Unbelievably Bad and has done dozens of posters for bands like Six Ft Hick and Hard Ons. The very fact that Chesshire’s work is so hard to find, therefore exclusive, makes it like finding a small pressing EP. Just try looking for more information on him, it’s a maze full of dead ends. Just like any good underground punk band, you’ll just have to make the effort to find his work based on practically no information. But the reward if you ever do is worth all the effort. Part-Crumb and reminiscent of Viz Magazine's Simon Donald, I'm not altogether sure how Chesshire's work isn't more readily available. You can see his work here but can someone publish him again please? Cheers.
2. Fred Negro
Fred Negro is an Australian punk institution. He was the drummer/singer in seminal Melbourne punk bands I Spit on Your Gravy and The Fuck Fucks but is probably more well known for being the degenerate who draws the weekly Pub Strip in Melbourne’s street press. In the strip, Fred talks about his encounters with Melbourne rock 'n roll royalty plus other assorted drunk regulars while propping up the bar in the Espy or the Greyhound Hotel. He’s a gnarly punk rock relic that has never lost a shred of the pure punk attitude he possessed while seeing off every musical trend to pass through the Greyhound band room. He’s no stranger to controversy, never holds back, hates censorship, and loves music. He’s given his life to entertaining the Melbourne public through playing in bands or through the beloved Pub Strip. It’s a wonder he’s still alive to be honest, especially if his drink and drug intake as depicted in the Pub Strips are anything to go by. He should be studied by our leading scientific minds, for within Fred Negro lies the secret to eternal youth.
1. Mitch Clem
Mitch Clem was co-writing (with punk writer/blogger Joe Briggs) and drawing THE punk rock comic strip Nothing Nice to Say for years. Years and years. NN2S was a webcomic (since collected by Dark Horse) that followed two roommates/bandmates/idiots and riffed on the tropes of punk fandom. Imagine Portlandia in comic book format years before Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein thought it was funny to make fun of posers and hipsters. Mitch Clem was throwing the cynicism back in the faces of punk rock tragics and the fanboys on PunkNews.org messageboards before it was cool. He has since retired NN2S and sporadically posts his autobiographical My Stupid Life and released a short run of his newest effort Turnstile Comix, the first issue being out of print but the second available here. Turnstile Comix comes with a limited vinyl pressing and can probably be considered the most legit effort to crossover comics and punk rock.
Mitch, like Ben Snakepit, is really frank about his struggles as a cartoonist - juggling a day job he hates and trying draw for a living. It’s easily relatable, from his stresses over getting sick without health insurance to putting band members of “cool” bands up on pedestals. His life echos that of a lot of people who want to make a living doing what they love but have to bite the bullet and work "regular" jobs to pay the bills. His art has graced more EP covers, gig flyers and posters for local shows than possibly anyone else in his part of the world. He’s a fan at his very core, who once got to fruitlessly pitch to DC, a real shame because he would have brought some great indie cred to a sadly more and more factory line appearing publisher. I’m a big fan, even if he was a bit snarky about playing Words with Friends with people he doesn’t know but who cares because I’m totally over it.