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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 9
San Francisco Comic Book 1 _ San Francisco Comic Book 2 _ San Francisco Comic Book 3
S.F. Comic Book #1
S.F. Comic Book #2
S.F. Comic Book #3
San Francisco Comic Book 4 _ San Francisco Comic Book 5 _ San Francisco Comic Book 6 _ San Francisco Comic Book 7
S.F. Comic Book #4
S.F. Comic Book #5
S.F. Comic Book #6
S.F. Comic Book #7
San Francisco Comic Book

1971-1972 / S.F. Comic Book Co. - The Print Mint - Last Gasp
Gary Arlington was about 30 years old when he opened his 200-square-foot comic-book store in 1968 at 3339 23rd Street in the low-rent Mission District of San Francisco. With a charismatic lack of flair, Arlington dubbed his store The San Francisco Comic Book Company, which rapidly became a virtual headquarters for local underground artists, including Robert Crumb, Rick Griffin and John Thompson (among many others). Arlington's store wasn't just the first underground comix shop, it was probably the first comic-book-only store in the history of the world.

As legend has it, Arlington's obsession with comic books began when he was a mere lad of six years old. His dad brought home a handful of comic books and Arlington fell in love with the funny animal comics (hell, the kid was six!). But just a few years later, Arlington became an avid collector of EC comics, which he bought off the newstand as they were issued, gradually building a massive collection of minty fresh Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, Two-Fisted Tales, Weird Science and The Haunt of Fear.

Not long after his shop became the hanging ground for local underground comic creators, Arlington got the itch to be more than just a comic-book retailer. In late 1968, he put up the money to publish the marvelous Bogeyman #1, an entire comic book featuring an unknown teenager named Rory Hayes. A few months later, Arlington published the flower-powered Ric Sloane Comics by the virtually unknown 20-year-old Ric (R.K.) Sloane. These two comics launched celebrated cartoonist careers for both artists.

By the fall of 1969 the publishing bug had seized Arlington and he boldly pushed forward with his own underground comix anthology, just like Apex Novelties had with Zap Comix and The Print Mint had with Yellow Dog. Arlington had already befriended Don Donahue, the founder of Apex Novelties, and enlisted his help editing and producing his anthology's inaugural issue. Arlington and Donahue recruited other artists to pitch in on the project and gave each of them an editing credit for their help in recruiting even more artists.

By the time San Francisco Comic Book #1 hit the presses, Arlington had contributions from five of the seven artists who were members of the legendary Zap collective, plus Jack Jackson, Dan O'Neill, Willy Murphy, Rory Hayes, Ric Sloane, Jim Osborne, Dave Sheridan and Leonard Rifas. Geez, you think San Francisco Comic Book had a solid foundation or what?

The first issue featured front and back cover artwork by Rory Hayes and a slew of terrific yet often juvenile underground comics that remind me of the raw cartoons in the early editions of Yellow Dog. Mixed within these formative scrawlings are groundbreaking and sometimes brilliant work by Murphy, Crumb, Wilson, and Osborne. The second issue came just a few months later and featured a splendid wraparound cover from Greg Irons, several more terrific comics and the addition of Trina Robbins. It was around this time that Arlington and Donahue were joining forces to launch the popular Mr. Natural comic book serial with Robert Crumb.

San Francisco Comic Book
was intended to be a monthly comic, but after the first two issues came out three months apart, the series stalled as each subsequent issue took longer and longer to publish. The Print Mint took over publication of the title with the second issue. After a six-year gap in the middle of the run, the title ended up publishing only seven issues in thirteen years, with Last Gasp publishing the final two issues. But despite its erratic publishing schedule, the series was consistently strong and finished with a great flourish with the 6th and 7th issues before retiring.

Arlington's legend, though still undervalued, has only grown throughout the decades that followed his pet project. In failing health at 75 years old, he now lives in the Mission Creek Senior Community, an apartment complex reserved for low-income or disabled seniors. His enormous contribution to the comic book industry, from the golden age to today's alternative comics, has yet to be commemorated with a proper acknowledgment in printed media.