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excellent writing
masterpiece art
historical bonus 2
total score 9
Back Cover
Back Cover
(click for larger image)

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Tales from the Tube
1st Printing / February 1972 / 20 pages / Surfer Publications
Tales from the Tube was originally produced by Rick Griffin for Surfer magazine. The 20-page comic book was printed at magazine size and included as an insert in the February 1972 issue (some copies were also sold separately from the magazine). The following year Griffin added 12 more pages of content (including 10 of his own) and the Print Mint published a stand-alone 32-page version of the book. Griffin was the main contributor, but other artists included S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Jim Evans, Glenn Chase, Robert Crumb and Bill Ogden.

Both versions have almost the same cover and inside cover art (Griffin slightly modified the front cover art and switched the back cover photo for the Print Mint version). The front cover by Griffin features a pristine illustration of his signature character Murphy (popularized in earlier Surfer cartoons) riding inside the tube of a perfect wave. The inside covers feature one-page comic stories by Wilson and Crumb. Wilson depicts a sea captain surfing a plank from a blown-up ship and Crumb portrays a stereotypical black dude who wants to get himself a surfboard. They're solid stories, but they both seem a bit anomalous to the overall vibe of the book, which feels like a cartoon love letter to surfing and surf culture.

After the incongruous Wilson one-pager, Robert Williams gets Tales from the Tube off to its proper start with the four-page "The Tides That Bind!" It's about an anthropomorphic jar of "primeval plasma" called Fluid Floyd the Aqua-noid, a surfing fanatic whose mission in life is to seek and conquer "the next big wave." Williams shows Floyd fantasizing about greater and greater surfing challenges, until he imagines a feat so incredible that it would certainly mark his last conquest.

Griffin follows with a two-page tribute to Maui (not in the magazine insert) that highlights local icons and beautiful scenes of nature, demonstrating his love for the Hawaiian culture. Then Jim Evans provides a four-pager called "The Bushongo Brothers Match Wits with Mocambo the Mighty." The brothers are enjoying a perfect day of surfing when they are suddenly abducted by a flying machine (shaped like a crab) and taken to the secret hid-out of Mocambo, who rules over thousands of mechanical crabs. The Bushongo brothers easily escape Mocambo and return to the beach, but they haven't yet escaped the forces of the industrial age or cult worship. Throughout the story Evans makes effective use of the brothers recognizing they're cartoon characters and therefore able to leverage cartoon "magic" to change their environment.

Unique to the Print Mint version is a four-page insert at the center of the book that's printed on glossy paper stock, with the interior center spread printed in color. The color spread features a two-page story called "Murphy" in which Murphy dreams of surfing "at the heart of the eternal and central universe of universes." It's a bold and surreal adventure that leads Murphy to new heights of consciousness!

The two-page Griffin story that follows (one page on glossy paper and the second on newsprint) is called "Mexico" (not in the magazine insert version) and it's a pure surfing adventure that depicts five beach buddies driving a thousand miles south of the border though sweltering desert heat to find surfing Nirvana in Mazatlan. After several days of fun in the sun, the friends drive another couple hundred miles down to the remote town of San Blas, where they get in some more awesome surfing and, finally, contemplate a little spiritual symbolism. Griffin's low-key sermonizing at the end doesn't keep "Mexico" from demonstrating the joy to be found in crazy adventures with good friends.

Glenn Chase's "Cosmic Shangri-La" is a four-pager that shows surfers from Earth visiting one of the "seven cosmic shangri-la's" that is inhabited by "a mellow peace loving race of beings known as the Aqua Elves." The earthlings are welcomed by the King of the Aqua Elves and take part in a huge feast that evening. The next morning, the King heads out early to the beach and rides "the fastest known wave on the planet." His conquering of the wicked wave is witnessed by no one except "of course the ever present one." Like Griffin, Chase is an artist and a surfer who developed a revered reputation in surfer communities. He lives in La Jolla down San Diego way and I imagine Griffin met him through mutual surfer friends while living in L.A.

Griffin's two-pager "Murphy and his Pals Hit It!" (not in the magazine insert version) features Murphy and four buddies spending a whole day surfing at a "secret spot" called Red Dog. Panel after panel shows the boys cruising wave after wave until the sun finally sets and they head home praising the Lord for a good time.

The closing story is Griffin's "Surfing Movies," a four-pager that shows enthusiastic people packing an auditorium for the latest surfing film (which had its heyday in the '70s), which features the best 15 minutes from a variety of surf documentaries. The super-surfer star of the film rides some gnarly waves, but when he gets washed up on shore he finds himself outside the very auditorium where his film is being shown.

Tales from the Tube was produced after Griffin had begun his transition to his own form of Christianity, and it shows (especially in the later Print Mint version). Most of Griffin's stories have a spiritual aspect integrated with the primary plot, but they are by no means only stories meant for Christians. I'm not a Christian, but I'm betting I would've gotten along just fine with Rick Griffin, who seems to worship nature, beauty and fun as much as any deity.

For those pondering whether to get the first or second printing (neither is cheap), the second certainly offers a lot more content, and almost all of the extra content is really good stuff. The only disadvantage with the second printing is the smaller format of the book, but I think it's more than worth the sacrifice. Better yet, buy both!
There are two printings of this comic book. The 1st printing is from Surfer Publications and the 2nd is from the Print Mint. The 1st printing (unknown copies) is 20 pages produced in a magazine-size with no cover price. Some copies of the 1st printing were not inserted in Surfer magazine, but bound and sold separately. The 2nd printing (20,000 copies) is 32 pages, has a 50-cent cover price, and is comic size.
1st Printing (Surfer Mag)
Rick Griffin - 1, 15-18
S. Clay Wilson - 2
Robert Williams - 3-6
Jim Evans - 7-10
Glenn Chase - 11-14
Robert Crumb - 19
Bill Ogden 20 - (art)
Harold Ward - 20 (photo)
2nd Printing (Print Mint)
Rick Griffin - 1, 7-9, 15-19, 25-30
S. Clay Wilson - 2
Robert Williams - 3-6
Glenn Chase - 10, 20-24
Jim Evans - 11-14
Robert Crumb - 31
Bill Ogden 32 - (art)
Harold Ward - 32 (photo)
Tales from the Tube 2nd Printing
2nd Printing
Comic size, different cover art