Taking Asylum in Cartoons

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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That baby with the axe was designed by Brad Holland as the logo of our short-lived 1969 – 70 art scheme, The Asylum Press. I was a young lad and Holland was a few years older, when together with the underground comics artist Yossarian, we devised a plan to rule the alternative art and cartoon world with our wares.

In fact, Holland’s work already graced the pages of mainstream magazines and he was well on his way to earning his deserved reputation. Yossarian, who passed away earlier this year, was a hilariously dark comics creator, who eventually published a fetish zine for women who shaved their heads. I tried hard to balance on their shoulders, but found it too difficult, so I became an art director.

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The Asylum Press, aptly named because we rented (or rather inhabited without paying rent) an odd office that belonged to a “rag man” who sold fabric remnants, reminded one of a vintage intake station at an institution for neurotic, psychotic and panicked souls. We added Snail Studios to the name because it spoke to the lethargy that we actually did not have. We were uber motivated, yet didn’t mind frequently missing deadlines – and I liked the image of a snail.

The plan was to feed underground papers with our respective work. Brad’s drawings were already lifted by papers around the world. Yossarian enjoyed a modest fan base. I wanted some recognition for anything. We would sell subscriptions, much like the establishment cartoon and news syndicates, and send out packages (like the one below) on a weekly basis.

The first packet (below) was our loss-leader. We paid for the production and printing. Each of us pasted-up our own pages and Brad did the “corporate identity.” We made a few hundred of the first (and only) offering and sent it to every underground paper we could find. Then we waited for the landslide of return subscription cards (above) to arrive in the mails. And we waited . . .

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Nothing happens as planned. Brad’s work, predictably, was lifted, but more so than before. Indeed, who wouldn’t take the opportunity? It was like getting free food at a record label pub party. Yossarian’s didn’t move too much. Mine were ignored.

Still, I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world. I learned not to be an illustrator or a cartoonist – but never lost my love of illustration and cartoon. For a brief moment we were going to conquer the world with our wit, talent and tenacity, which is all anyone really wants – just that one glorious moment. (Or maybe the U.S. Postal Service was holding back the cards and jerking with our heads!?)

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