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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 9
Mr. Natural #1
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1st Printing / August, 1970 / 28 pages / San Francisco Comic Book Co.
It is telling that the inaugural issue of Mr. Natural had already warranted the inclusion of "The Origins of Mr. Natural" story, evidence of his enormous popularity before this title ever launched. Robert Crumb's signature character had been featured in the sensational Zap Comix since 1968 and made appearances in the East Village Other, Bijou Funnies and Yellow Dog before earning his own comic book serial. And Mr. Natural's own comic book proved to be an instant best-seller, commanding reprints of 20,000 copies every three months to satisfy public demand in the first year.

The three-page, mostly text story of Mr. Natural's origin in this issue illuminates Crumb's thoughtful crafting of the character. Crumb bestowed his pseudo-guru with the birth name of Fred Natural and concocted an elaborate personal history that brilliantly establishes his backstory. Mr. Natural had been a popular jazz musician and faith healer in the 1920s before donating his personal fortune for charity and leading a life of poverty while traveling in Asia and working as a taxicab driver in Afghanistan. He came back to the states during the Beat era of the 1960s and was lured to San Francisco Bay area by the exploding counterculutre, which provided him with an endless parade of hippy hippie chicks and sycophants eager to buy into his extemporized spiritual pontification.

The origin of Mr. Natural provides a sublime background for the absurdity that pervades the rest of the book, as Mr. Natural successfully combats the onset of modern urban development, deflects racial animosity from himself to one of his followers (Shuman the Human), and nurtures an abandoned baby girl by allowing her to suck his dick. The latter triumph lands him in jail, but there's little doubt that Mr. Natural will vanquish his oppressors in the next chapter of his life.

Mr. Natural #1 follows in the footsteps of Crumb's efforts in Zap Comix, Motor City Comics and Big Ass Comics by opening the door to a diverse field of alternative objectives, perceptions and perversities, most of which linger quietly in some luxurious, reckless corner of our subconcious.
There are nine known printings of this comic book, published through a partnership of the San Francisco Comic Book Company (Gary Arlington) and Apex Novelties (Don Donahue). The first six printings all have 50-cent cover prices while subsequent printings all have higher prices. The 1st printing states "Printed by Apex Novelties and Published by the San Francisco Comic Book Company" on the inside front cover and can be identified by a cover tell on the front cover,
which features a slight fading of the artwork near the bottom of the cover, especially in the left sidebar graphic of star shapes, symbols and lightning bolts (this tell was first popularized by Comixjoint in 2007).
Subsequent printings eliminate this slight fade of the cover artwork. The 2nd printing states "Published by Apex Novelties in cooperation with the S.F. Comic Book Co." on the inside front cover. The 3rd printing reverts to the same publishing information as the 1st printing ("Printed by Apex Novelties and Published by the San Francisco Comic Book Company") but the back cover artwork has been enlarged from 5.5 inches to 6.25+ inches. The 4th printing repeats the same publishing information as the 1st and 3rd printings as well as the 6.25 inch back cover artwork, but the "1970" statement adjacent to R. Crumb's byline on the front cover has been removed.
The 5th printing looks like the 4th printing except it states "Published by Apex Novelties" on the inside front cover and features a small black-inked box on the right side of the copyright information. The 6th printing looks just like the 5th printing except the small black-inked box has been eliminated. The 7th printing has a 75-cent cover price. The 8th printing has a $1.00 cover price. The 9th printing has a $1.25 cover price.
Robert Crumb - 1-28
Mr. Natural 1 2nd _ Mr. Natural 1 7th
2nd Printing
States "Published by Apex Novelties" on IFC.
7th Printing
75-cent cover.