Wednesday, November 28, 2007
FELCHING WITH THE UNDERGROUND MASTER: A TRUE TALE OF ADOLESCENT CORRUPTION AND AN AUDIENCE WITH S. CLAY WILSON
Westport, Ct. 1979. A place and time of wonder and nostalgia for your favorite Bunche...not!
Back then I was but a callow student at Long Lots junior high school — it's Kindergarten through 5th grade nowadays — who was hating life thanks to being stuck in an asylum disguised as a place of learning, a three-year purgatory in which I had to fend off sadistic bullies, battle with my own raging hormones among an army of uninterested, ripening young women, and somehow not flunk out from the sheer, crushing boredom of it all. It was a deadening existence, livened only by my mildly-thriving racket of shoplifting porn and selling it to my schoolmates for a handsome profit (of course there was a profit; when the items are pilfered they don't cost the the pilferer a cent, so it was all gravy), and my not-terribly-unrelated interest in underground comic books.
Y'see, there was this used book store in the neighboring town of Fairfield called the Book Finder, a tiny hole in the wall that went unnoticed unless one knew it was there, and it had an amazing array of musty old paperbacks and hardcovers, as well as a massive selection of back issue comics at very cheap prices. Also among the treasures found there were assorted undergound comics such as ZAP COMICS, THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS, JIZ COMICS, BIZARRE SEX, and many, many others, all of which the proprietor of the place was more than willing to sell to underage kids provided the kids had the scratch. Thanks to this questionable kindness I amassed an impressive library of the genre's classics, none of which raised suspicion in my house because they were "merely" comic books, and via them my adolescent mind was expanded in many none-too-wholesome ways.
As previously stated I was no stranger to pornography, so the sometimes crude doodlings of grotesquely exaggerated genitalia and impossibly-graphic acts of coupling between just about every type of imaginable character and an equally broad range of animals and objects didn't necessarily shock my young mind. Quite the opposite, in fact; I longed to experience the sweaty, fleshy arabesques that writhed on the black-and-white pages, two-dimensional acid-fueled fantasies drawn and extrapolated from what the creators must have gone through in real life to some small degree. I figured if anybody could depict greasy-looking penises plumbing the depths of cavernous vaginal expanses the way these guys did, images so utterly rife with detail that you'd swear you could smell the effluvium, there had to be some kind of truth behind all of it. But sometimes such imagery could prove problematic as the creators allowed their darker, more violent and misogynistic imaginings free rein, and one could often find images of rape and torture that were intended to be simultaneously titillating and humorous, a blend that I found frankly repulsive and that continued to survive well into the 1990's at least (HORNY BIKER SLUT, anyone?).
However, there were two artists whose work I enjoyed so much that in their cases I was willing to overlook the nastier aspects of their output. One was Robert Crumb, the underground realm's equivalent to Jack Kirby or Will Eisner in terms of his impact on the medium, and I honestly consider him to be one of the greatest cartoonists and social satirists of the past half-century (or ever for that matter). The other is less well known to those who've never dabbled in undergrounds, and that man is S. Clay Wilson, creator of some of the most disgusting and offensive comics ever committed to paper, and cited by Crumb himself as being a major liberating influence on his own work.
Wilson's comics are no holds barred, balls-out exercises in filth and depravity, seasoned with liberal lashings of lovingly-depicted ultra-violence of the sort guaranteed to piss off most women, even some of the more ribald and twisted females that I'm proud to associate with, and that's saying something. Wilson's work is unrepentantly offensive and even somewhat ugly, but its ugliness is actually a huge part of its appeal for me. His characters all look to be sorely in need of a bath and a shave — both the men and the women — and the landscapes in which they get up to no good brings to mind a twentieth century Hieronymus Bosch, dosed out of his fucking mind on homemade mescaline and airplane glue.
Stuffed to the gills with pirates, dykes, demons, and all manner of lowlife scum, Wilson's stuff was quite an eye-opener for me, and if I had to single out only one of his works as my favorite it'd have to be the vile stuff he spewed onto the pages of 1975's Chernobyl of bad taste, FELCH CUMICS #1.
When I first got my hands on this scatalogical masterpiece I was very much aware of what most sex acts were (in theory if not actual practice), but I had no idea what "felching" was. That question was answered by the image found on the cover, and also on damned near every interior page. In case you somehow made it to the stage in life where you actively read a blog like this one and have no clue as to what felching is, please allow me to enlighten you: felching is when a guy fucks someone in the ass, blows his load, and then sucks his own population paste from the receiver's now glazed butthole. In other words, as stated on the cover, felching is "a retrieval system," and every story in FELCH CUMICS #1 illustrates that as graphically and offensively as humanly possible. The whole thing is utterly foul and mostly hilarious — if you go in for this sort of humor, that is — but the prize for the most outrageous story goes to Wilson's "The Holy Virgin Mary Meets the Felching Vampires," in which the Blessed Virgin — you may have heard of her at one time or another — is assaulted by two incongruously erudite nosferatu who feast upon her blood and anally rape and impregnate her, thereby assuring that she gives birth to Jesus Christ via her tortured butthole, thus preserving her status as a virgin. This fantastic bit of blasphemy is illustrated with an image of a zonked-out-looking Mary rectally launching the Savior, umbilical cord and all, covered in shit, onto the manger floor. The story continues with the grownup Jesus's miracles being attributed to the fact that he's got felching vampire powers, but seriously, how do you top the image of Mary literally shitting out baby Jesus? Answer: you don't.
So imagine being a fourteen-year-old me and getting caught with this virtually radioactive piece of smut by my junior high school's dreaded vice-principal, Mr. Sullivan, a perpetually irate disciplinarian who many of us students figured would have greatly benefited from a couple of tabs of strong acid. Sullivan, a Catholic, was especially outraged by FELCH CUMICS's Virgin Mary story, and he was about to suspend me from school until I talked my way out of the situation by citing the works of William S. Burroughs and the allegedly offensive imagery contained therein. He was stunned by my argument since most of the kids in my school were still struggling with TOM SAWYER, and he eventually calmed down long enough to let me off the hook provided I never brought such "filthy material" to school again. I agreed and he confiscated the offending literature, probably to take home and whack off over while dressed in a nun's togs. I considered it a small price to pay to avoid suspension and the far more horrible threat of the wrath of my psychotically-menopausal mother, but what I didn't know was that I would never find another copy of FELCH CUMICS #1 for nearly thirty years, it being one of the harder-to-find examples of the more extreme underground comic books.
Skip ahead to the recent NYC comic book convention, and yours truly wandering the Penn Plaza Pavilion's second floor — and consequently mostly second tier — "Artists' Alley." For those of you who don't go to the unwashed geekfests that are comics conventions, Artists' Alley is where all of the attending luminaries of the comics biz are situated for signings, sketches, and the shilling of whatever they may have available for sale, and the "name" cartoonists are given the better locations. The second tier creators, some of whom may actually be A-listers but couldn't get squeezed in with the star group, usually find themselves relegated to some obscure corner of the convention hall, sometimes on a different floor altogether. The B-listers usually consist of bright-eyed amateur kids displaying their DIY comics without a hint of the weary bitterness found on the faces of the veterans who've been kicked in the mouth by the steel-toed boot of the biz, representatives of the steadily-dwindling survivors of the Golden and Silver age, the occasional writer or editor whose name is familiar from the credits, many of my former peers who are the inking and penciling cogs without whom deadlines would never be met, and maybe one or two "outsider" artists.
As I walked about on the glutted second floor, my delightful pal Jill at my side, I scanned the tables for familiar faces and former colleagues, saying "hi" here and there, before noticing a section populated by a bunch of funky-looking old geezers who seemed somewhat familiar. I soon realized one of them was an aged Spain Rodriguez, best known as the creator of leather-clad underground Chicano hero Trashman, and another was Kim Deitch, an underground comics legend and son of animator Gene Deitch, the guy responsible for some of the worst TOM & JERRY cartoons ever made (not meant as a swipe, but as a statement of fact because everyone I know who's ever seen any of them holds the same opinion as I do). And sandwiched between the two was a white-haired codger in shades and a leather beret, busily sketching on a piece of looseleaf note paper while engaging in curmudgeonly discourse for anyone willing to listen. I asked myself "Who the fuck is this guy?" and looked at the comics he had spread out in front of him in hopes of unloading them. As my eyes focused on the haphazardly strewn pile, I snapped to attention when I recognized copies of JIZ and PORK in terrific condition, and I plucked them up for careful inspection under my collector's gaze. But then my eyes nearly exploded out of their sockets, for there, lying on this humble and neglected table at a rinky-dink comic book convention, was a mint condition copy of FELCH CUMICS #1.
And the icing on the cake was that it was being offered for sale by none other than S.Clay Wilson himself.
Not since meeting Jack Kirby was I so overwhelmed with fanboyish happiness, and when I introduced myself I must have come off like a gushing idiot. I blathered to Wilson about how he was something of a "filth elder" or "smut mentor" to me, and that it was a debt I could never hope to repay, and I think he was genuinely touched. I also told him the story of my junior high brush with suspension for having FELCH CUMICS in my possession, and he beamed when he heard that his hideous influence had ruined yet another once-innocent youth. And when I asked him exactly how the fuck he and the other contributors decided to come up with a comic book solely devoted to the act of felching in the first place, he told me that they were inspired by a pal of theirs who was living in France at the time who filled them in regarding that most odious form of osculation. Wilson grinned like a Jack O'Lantern, rotting teeth in full display, and said his friend described felching as "when the buggerer cums inside the buggeree, then stoops to suck his own cum out of the buggeree's arse. It's a retrieval system!" Surprisingly, this was the only time I'd ever heard an American use the terms "buggerer," "buggeree," and "arse" at all, much less in the same sentence.
I swear to the gods I felt like I was listening to wisdom imparted by Obi-Wan Kenobi, only of a considerably more base variety than what that wussy Luke Skywalker ever heard. I was deeply honored.
Pleased as punch to talk with a fan who knew and loved his work, Wilson signed my copies of his work — which I'd just bought for $25 apiece; a bit of a gouge, but when would I ever find this stuff again, and much less be able to have it signed by one of my vileness idols? — and posed for a picture, taken by Jill, in which I got to simulate felching him.
So remember, dear readers, that senior citizens are a national treasure, and many of them may be a fuckload filthier than you think. And thank you, S. Clay Wilson. Thank you from the bottom of my raunchy little heart.