Review: Newave!: The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s


Newave!: The Underground
Mini Comix of the 1980s

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I wanted to like Newave!: The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s (Fantagraphics, 2010). Part of me actually wanted to love it. Taken as a book that records a history, it’s pretty awesome. But as a book that’s supposed to entertain or inspire, it missed its mark for me.

Collecting mini comics from the 1970s to the early 1990s (despite what the subtitle says), editor Michael Dowers certainly had an aesthetic in mind. So mostly, this book is full of post-Robert Crumb-inspired art by adolescent males (even if it’s they’re just “adolescent” in terms of mindset and not actually age). There’s plenty of graphic sex and graphic violence, mostly done in a tittering kind of “ha ha, look at how shocking we are!!” kind of way.

I completely understand that most of this book just doesn’t appeal to me. I didn’t feel particularly offended by any of it (although there are some disturbing things) but just bored. There are only so many drawings of women with grotesquely large breasts I can look at before I lose interest. You, of course, may be different.

There were some really lovely things I did like, though, such as William Clark and Mary Fleener‘s “Dead Girl” with its high-contrast, stylized art, Tom Christopher’s pop-art inspired “Vivian” and Molly Kiely‘s dreamy “Lulu.”

It’s only coincidence that two of pieces that stuck out for me were by/co-created by women. But it is worth noting that these seem to be the only two female creators featured in this book. I understand that comics — even underground ones — have always been male-dominated, but I’m also pretty sure that women were making minicomics in the ’80s.

But I think that may go back to the issue of the aesthetic choices of this book — Dowers was including the comics he was interested in and liked, and those aren’t necessarily the ones I am interested in or like.

Still, I think that does make Newave! feel less like an overview of minicomics and more like selections from one guy’s collection.

Newave! does include essays about minicomics and interviews with some of the creators. These are fun and provide a great look at how all of this came about. The chunky shape and size of the book is also fun (it’s only slightly larger than a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 paper folded in quarters, evoking the size these comics originally appeared in).

I’m disappointed this book didn’t excite me more — I love minicomics and I enjoyed learning a little bit of the history of them (at least, a certain type of them). But ultimately, this book isn’t really for me and it’s not something I’m going to revisit.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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3 comments

  1. [...] Girl From Mars. Loving words are to be found from: Steampunk Willy’s Mad Comix Ride podcast, Comicsgirl, Publisher’s Weekly, Mania, and the Comics [...]

  2. I took a chance on this a little while ago with some store credit, and had the same reaction. I would love to see a more wide-ranging collection!

  3. comicsgirl says:

    Yeah. It’s not that I thought it was a bad collection — it’s certainly a neat compilation. I was just disappointed there wasn’t much I wanted to revisit.

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