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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 10
gothic blimp works _ not available _ gothic blimp works 3 _ Gothic Blimp Works 4
Gothic Blimp Works #1
Gothic Blimp Works #2
Gothic Blimp Works #3
Gothic Blimp Works #4
REVIEW SCORE: 10
REVIEW SCORE: ?
REVIEW SCORE: 9
REVIEW SCORE: 10
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gothic blimp works 5 _ gothic blimp works 6 _ Gothic Blimp Works 7 _ not available
Gothic Blimp Works #5
Gothic Blimp Works #6
Gothic Blimp Works #7
Gothic Blimp Works #8
REVIEW SCORE: 9
REVIEW SCORE: 8
REVIEW SCORE: 8
REVIEW SCORE: ?
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keyline
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Gothic Blimp Works
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1969 / The East Village Other and Peter Leggieri

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When 1968 rolled into 1969, the underground comix revolution was well underway, but had not yet exploded. The epicenter of the movement was emerging in San Francisco, but in early 1969 New York City was still the place to be if a radical cartoonist wanted to get published. The East Village Other (EVO) had already been publishing works by future underground comic book creators Trina Robbins, Spain Rodriguez, Kim Deitch and Robert Crumb for a couple of years, and sales were booming (60,000+ units every week).

By 1969, the publishers of EVO had launched sister publications Kiss, Gay Power and Aquarian Agent, and had also published several all-comics special issues of EVO, which were best sellers. Joel Fabricant, who began working as EVO's quasi-business manager and publisher after two of the original founders had left the paper, came up with the idea to launch an all-comics publication. After much internal wrangling about the format and title of the new enterprise, Gothic Blimp Works was launched in the spring of 1969. Despite the desire of most of the contributors, who wanted to make it a comic book, Gothic Blimp Works was produced as an all-newsprint tabloid.

Gothic Blimp Works was officially published by 27-year-old Peter Leggieri and billed as "the first Sunday underground comic paper," even though it only came out monthly. Vaughn Bodé—who finalized the name of the tabloid—was the founding editor, but by the second issue he abdicated his role and Kim Deitch took over. Deitch lasted until issue seven, when he split with Trina Robbins and Gilbert Shelton to head to San Francisco. Van Howell and Joe Schenkman co-edited the eighth and final issue of Gothic Blimp Works.

During its eight-issue run, Gothic Blimp Works provided many of the best comic creators in the underground with much-needed exposure, including Roger Brand, Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Joel Beck, Jay Lynch, Trina Robbins, Spain Rodriguez, Barbara "Willy" Mendes, Art Spiegelman, John Thompson, Willy Murphy, Larry Todd and S. Clay Wilson. Each issue (except the last) featured full-color comic pages along with the standard black-and-white comics. But the publication was troubled from the beginning, as Leggieri provided weak leadership and Fabricant was universally dismissed as a blowhard by the contributors. It also didn't help that San Francisco became the mecca for underground comic creators. At the beginning of 1969, the underground movement was just gathering steam, but by the end of the year it had taken on a robust life of its own, and that life was based in San Francisco. Virtually every important creator wanted to be part of it, and those who lived in New York began a mass migration to the Pacific Coast.

Even prior to the exodus, by the middle of 1969 it was obvious that comic books had trumped comic tabloids, and everyone was shifting to the new paradigm. The San Francisco-based tabloid Yellow Dog wisely converted to a comic book format early in the year, and hundreds of other underground comic books would be published in the early '70s, compared to zero new underground comic tabloids. Whether it was Bodé, Leggieri or Fabricant who decided to make Gothic Blimp Works a tabloid, it was a fatal decision. But it's likely nothing could have saved Gothic Blimp Works from its demise. The city of New York, which helped birth the underground press and underground comics, was virtually abandoned by underground comic creators in the early '70s. Even EVO went out of business in 1972.

But that doesn't make Gothic Blimp Works any less of an achievement from an historical or an artistic perspective. Hidden within its fragile newsprint sheets is a gold mine of early underground work, leaping off the gigantic pages with energy and spirit. The large format of the tabloid adds visual excitement to any study of its content, making one feel like they are viewing an art gallery display instead of flipping through pages in a comic book.

Gothic Blimp Works may have been doomed from its inception, but I wish it had managed to survive for a few more years, delivering its opulent compositions from the masterminds of the underground revolution.