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  Expanding the Marketplace for
Underground and Alternative Comics
  books and magazines
This section of the Comixjoint archives is the most diverse of the four categories I defined for review and evaluation. It includes not only a wide array of comic magazines and graphic novels, but books and magazines related to fine art, comic book history, price guides and assorted other topics. Publications selected for review include what I have in my archives that I believe would be of interest to fans of underground, alternative and/or small press comics and zines. Of course, they represent a tiny fraction of what is available in the marketplace.

Comic Magazines Support and Inspire Comic Creators
Back in the early 1960s, many magazines provided either direct inspiration or a source of income for one or more underground comic book pioneers, including several college humor mags and John Severson's Surfer, William Gaines' Mad, Harvey Kurtzman's Help! and Pete Millar's Drag Cartoons. Comixjoint does not have an exhaustive inventory of these magazines (except for Mad, but I'm currently reviewing only the first 25 issues), but at least one issue of each magazine is provided in this section for review purposes.

Many of the more modern magazines reviewed in this section are commonly available (via eBay) publications that were originally sold through book store chains, comic book shops, internet companies, or subscriptions. Because most of them were published by major publishing companies, which are typically more risk averse than small presses or comic book publishers, they often feature well-established comic creators.

However, many magazines feature comic art by relatively unknown creators. These were produced by publishers willing to assume some risk (financial or otherwise) to provide an audience for creators who the publishers felt were deserving of such exposure. This type of risk-taking is a venerable tradition, exemplified by the 1960s-era Help! magazine. Smaller circulation magazines like Raw, Artpolice, Hyena, Taboo, Prime Cuts, and Pictopia sustained that tradition in the '80s and '90s, though several were short-lived. The tradition continues today with fine-art-leaning magazines like Robert Williams' Juxtapoz, comics and literary magazine Mineshaft, and erotic comics anthologies like Sizzle.

Larger circulation magazines also introduced new or underexposed talent to their audiences throughout the latter half of the 20th century, including magazines like Heavy Metal and National Lampoon. Of course, several of these types of magazines have ceased publication over the years while others have shifted to primarily online content.

Comic Art Books and Graphic Novels
When it comes to underground and alternative comic creators, the emergence of hardbound and softcover books, compilations and graphic novels began in the 1980s, though there were several predecessors (Wonder Wart-Hog, Apex Treasury, et al). Today, there are thousands of books on the market that feature underground and, especially, alternative comics creators, most of which are not reviewed here (for lack of budget and time).

Despite the limited number of these types of books in this section, the ones that are reviewed are those that appealed to me and I hope that you also find them interesting. Several books feature luxurious production values or very out-of-the-mainstream comic creators, while others are more standard compilations. There are also many books about the history of comic book genres and comic creators, which often present fascinating peeks "behind-the-scenes" and rare comic art.

The past decade has seen a trend in which a lot of comic artwork has become exclusively available through hardbound and softcover books, as opposed to traditional comic books. One example of this trend is Charles Burns' books like Big Baby, el Borbah, Skin Deep and X'ed Out, which are published in hardcover format followed by a softcover book a few years later. I expect this trend will only grow stronger, as traditional comic books have limited distribution potential compared to the popularity of national book store chains and outlets like Amazon.

News, Reviews, Critiques, Values and What-Not
There's no shortage of publications that provide comic book news and other industry-related information, though only a few gave much attention to underground and alternative comics. Increasingly, even those sources have moved to primarily online formats, but a lot of content from printed publications may never become available online. Funnyworld, Cascade Comix Monthly and other older publications put out some terrific stuff, and Comixjoint provides at least a few slices of that within our sample pages.

Some of the publications reviewed in the Books and Magazines section (Cascade Comix Monthly being a good example) also appear in the Small Press section. As stated on my Guide to Browsing page, I want you find what you're looking for in the place you think it should be rather than force you to conduct a search for it.