For those who have been Blab! fans for many years, this “Premiere Issue” may seem oddly named.
Blab! was an anthology edited by Monte Beauchamp for over 20 years that featured a mixture of alternative comics and illustrated features.
The first two issues (1986–1987) were published by Beauchamp’s own imprint, Monte Comix. In 1988 Kitchen Sink Press took over the title, publishing issues 3–8 as well as printing new editions of issues 1 and 2. Issues 9–18 were published annually by Fantagraphics between 1997 and 2007 in a 120-page, 10″ x 10″ square format featuring both black-and-white and color art. In 2010 Last Gasp revived the series for two issues under the title Blab World. It has definitely been a major cog in the wheel of comics life.
In 2003, Chronicle Books released the collection New & Used Blab! As of May 2023 the magazine’s next iteration will launch with Yoe Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics. I spoke with Beauchamp about the resurrection and the light of Blab!
What makes this recent incarnation of Blab! different from those that came before?
In the beginning, I was flying by the seat of my pants. With that first manifestation, I had never produced a publication before. I’d select a theme that was exciting to me and just run with it. And fortunately those themes were of interest to artists whose work I found exciting. Spain Rodriguez, Kim Deitch and Frank Stack of underground comix fame climbed onboard, along with up-and-coming talents such as Dan Clowes, Richard Sala, Terry LaBan, XNO, Joe Coleman, Charles Burns, Chris Ware, Drew Friedman, Mary Fleener, Doug Allen and Gary Leib. Thanks to their interest in Blab!—and Blab!’s interest in them—we created something very special. By issue 7, Blab! was presented with the coveted Harvey Award for Best Comics Anthology of the year.
Thanks to that early experience, I now know every aspect of producing a publication—from editorial, to design, to art direction, to typography, to prepping files for production. That’s why I’m stoked about this new iteration of Blab!—I actually now know what I’m doing. Yet, had I had an inkling of what I was getting into, I may have never even started.
For the benefit of your readers, I’d like to present a brief trajectory of Blab!’s long and winding career. It started as a Midwestern fanzine, morphed into a square-bound digest distributed on a national level, and was revamped into an LP-sized format beginning with No. 8. I abandoned its comic book roots in favor of a mix of vintage ephemera, contemporary art and illustration, and some comic art. Contributors that helped shape its voice were Sue Coe, Mark Ryden, Greg Clarke, Gary Baseman, Christian Northeast, Rob and Christian Clayton, Peter and Maria Hoey, Gary Taxali, Camille Rose Garcia, etc., many of whom would abandon their illustration careers to join the lowbrow Pop Surrealism movement. It was a very exciting time for Blab!—and it was that very embodiment that led to our annual Los Angeles–based gallery show. This, in turn, led to yet another restyling titled Blab World.
What is the editorial (and/or philosophical) goal of this book-a-zine?
To produce an actual magazine with a linear editorial stance. I’d been surfing Blab!’s non-liner waves for quite some time and wanted to try something different, something fresh.
You’ve got an eclectic mix of themes, from Beatrix Potter to a history of mammoth gorillas in graphics. It’s this range that excites the ephemera lover in me. What does it do for you?
The exact same thing. I love orchestrating a magazine with subject matter such as this. It’s an editorial vision that requires a lot of visual excavation in order to discover that special “something” from the past to merge with special talent from the present. I’m thrilled to be working with new talent such as Noah Van Sciver, Sasha Velour and Giselle Potter, and others, along with Blab! stalwarts such as Ryan Heshka and Greg Clarke.
I can see this as an endless repository of stuff, but there must be limits. What are your parameters?
It all begins with either a YES or a NO. Does the work move me? It must. Yet even a NO can lead to a YES. Moving within these parameters is what spurs me onward. And when I discover a living talent whose work I find exciting, I seek out a topic that is thrilling to both of us and from there, I prefer that they go straight to finish. I know that’s a risk, but being that it’s Blab! does give them a solid parameter. And once I have our contributors lined up, I fill in the blanks with an eclectic mix of vintage material. I love combining work of the present with that of the past.
Monte, is all this material drawn from your own vast collection?
I wish! Most is discovered during “ephemeralogical” digs, which require a vast amount of patience. It takes time to find that perfect past image that resonates with the contemporary work being created for Blab!
Can you give us a peek at what you are thinking up next?
Working in editorial, I learned the hard way that it’s not wise to let the cat out of the bag. Lots of poachers in publishing are lurking out there. However, I will say that the follow-up issue contains more illustrated biographical stories along with articles showcasing compelling vintage visuals from the first half of the 20th century.