By Frank Stack (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-780-3 (TPB)
One of the earliest exponents of the US counter-culture, at least in terms of his contributions to Underground Comix, Frank (Foolbert Sturgeon) Stack has sadly missed out on the benefits of fame and notoriety of such contemporaries as Gilbert Shelton and Robert Crumb.
He may well be the perpetrator of the first ever Underground Commix (a split decision with the late Jack Jackson, both of whom released work in 1964 – although a collection of Stack’s delirious doodles was compiled and Xeroxed by Shelton in 1962-3 as “The Adventures of Jesus”) but I’m sure he’s not that bothered.
What is important is that these throwaway scribbles by all these weirdo drop-out freaks changed the nature of comics and did a huge amount to reshape the society they came from and operated within – a bit like old JC himself, in fact…
Stack’s weapon of choice was the divine redeemer Jesus Christ, whom he made the star of an occasional series of strips satirising America. These intermittently appeared between 1964 and (since there’s new material in this collection) the present day.
A lot of the bite may seem dissipated by time, but that simply shows how effective and successful they were – and actually still are. Many people have pondered on what the Messiah would do if he came back today (sadly not enough of them people in power…), but no-one else could deliver the gentle, telling punches of ‘The Dog Messiah’, ‘Jesus Meets the Armed Services’ (released at the height of the Vietnam War, remember, and more pertinent than ever as America and Russia spar to see who’s best at being World Police), ‘Jesus Joins the Academic Community’ or ‘Jesus on Ice’.
In this collected epistle – available in traditional print and the miracle of digital formatting – those fables and parables are supplemented with the all-new ‘Jesus Meets Intellectual Property Rights’ which shows there’s room – and still a crying need for – Stack’s style of commentary.
This collection is extensive, informative (as well as a commentary from Stack, there are pieces from both Crumb and Shelton) but above all fun to read. You might not get Saved but you will get your money’s worth in entertainment, and if you have a soul it will be blessed and maybe even sanctified…
Text & art © 2006 Frank Stack. All Rights Reserved. This edition © 2006 Fantagraphics Books.