By Aaron Cometbus (Last Gasp)
Before the advent of computers and the internet gave everybody with a keyboard and an ounce of determination the ability to become writers and publishers, only those truly dedicated, driven or Full-On Compulsive individualists self-published.
…Or those with something to say.
Aaron Cometbus (not his real name: use your search engine if you absolutely must find out about the man, but the best route would be to read his wonderful work) has been a drummer, roadie, author, designer, traveller, raconteur, social historian, bookseller and cultural anthropologist of the American Punk movement from long before he began his hugely acclaimed and long-running ‘Zine Cometbus in 1981.
In the decades over which his hand-crafted publication has been released (as photocopy pamphlet, offset magazine and even audio-mag) his writing and art have covered every aspect of the life of the contemporary outsider from self-exploratory introspection, reportage, criticism, oral history, music journalism, philosophical discourse and even unalloyed fiction – from epigram to novella, news bulletin to chatty remembrance – usually in a distinctive hand-lettered style all his own, augmented by cartoons, photo-collage, comics and a dozen other monochrome techniques beloved of today’s art-house cognoscenti.
Cometbus tells stories and has been doing so since the first death of the Punk Rock movement at the end of the 1970s, but the material is and always has been about real, involved people, not trendy, commercialised bastardisations.
In 2002 Last Gasp released Despite Everything, a 600+ page Omnibus distillation of the best bits from the first 43 issues (and still available) and now, with the publication of Cometbus #54,a second compilation has been released.
Add Toner, which samples issues #44-46, 46½, and 47-48 is a far more comprehensive collection with stories, reminiscences, interviews, artworks and added features such as the novella ‘Lanky’ and a selection of previously withheld and self-censored pieces which simply captivate and enthral.
Particularly informative and moving for me are the collected illustrated interviews with the “staff” and patrons of punk watering hole and communal meeting space Dead End Café from #46 (gloriously redolent and evocative of my own art-school punk band hang-out The Horn of Plenty in St. Albans) and a fabulous three-chapter oral history examination of the post-hippie “Back to nature” movement divided into interviews with ‘The Kids’, ‘The Adults’ and an appreciation of ‘Back to the Land’: a fascinating period in American history neglected by just about everybody, probably since most of those flower-power Arcadians and disenchanted just-plain-folks grew more pot than potatoes…
With graphic contributions and supplementary interviews from Phil Lollar, Nate Powell, Katie Glicksberg, Idon, Lawrence Livermore & Michael Silverberg, this is a gloriously honest and seditiously entertaining view of life from the trenches: happy, sad, funny and shocking…
Eccentric, eclectic and essentially, magically picayune, Add Toner is a fabulous cultural doctorate from the Kerouac of m-m-my generation…
© Aaron Cometbus. All rights reserved.