The ToonSeum is pleased to present Alt-Weekly Comics, a historical retrospective dedicated to the comics of the alternative weekly newspaper world, running January 30th through April 10th in the Lou Scheimer Gallery. While alternative weekly newspapers have their roots in the immediate post-war period, the format exploded in the 1980s and ’90s. Covering issues relevant to their local communities, alternative weekly newspapers across North America expressed political and cultural points of view underrepresented in the mainstream press, and served as a platform for a dizzying array of comic strips that brought alternative expressions of the form into contact with local audiences. The Alt-Weekly Exhibit was curated by Warren Bernard and Bill Kartalopoulos, and is presented by the courtesy of The Society of Illustrators and SPX: The Small Press Expo. This exhibit is comprised of original artwork, artifacts and ephemera that reveal the diversity of artistic and storytelling styles of this important and influential genre.
The exhibit will trace the history of the form from its acknowledged inception with Jules Feiffer’s groundbreaking comic strip for The Village Voice in 1956, through the underground comix movement of the 1960s and ’70s with works by Kim Deitch, Denis Kitchen, and others. The focus of the exhibit will be the artists who worked in the blossoming of alt-weekly papers that began in the late 1970’s and created a network for the independent syndication of vital comic strips. This exhibit presents a rare opportunity to see original art from the two germinal series of the alt-weekly comics genre: Matt Groening’s Life In Hell and Lynda Barry’s Ernie Pook’s Comeek which, in many ways, provided both the aesthetic and the economic models for many of the artists who followed. The works on show range from Mark Newgarden's reconstruction of the comics form to the postmodern politics of Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World; from the seedy punk gags of Kaz’s Underworld to the everyday lives of the queer community in Alison Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For, and far beyond.
Other alt-weekly creators represented at the ToonSeum will include Marc Bell, Mark Beyer, Ruben Bolling, Derf, Ellen Forney, Ben Katchor, Keith Knight, Michael Kupperman, Carol Lay, Tony Millionaire, Mark Newgarden, Stan Mack, Mark Zingarelli, Wayno, Jen Sorensen, Mark Alan Stamaty, Karl Stevens, Shannon Wheeler and more.
Displays of other work by Alt Weekly artists and events will take place at The ToonSeum throughout the winter and spring, cumulating with a talk by Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith in April as part of the ToonSeum’s sponsorship of the Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo (PIX), which will be held on the South Side on April 2nd. Griffith’s Zippy strip is the only Alt Weekly comic to have migrated to daily newspaper syndication and has been running in papers for more than 30 years.
Fear of A Black Marker: Cartoons by Keith Knight, Gentleman Cartoonist
Keith Knight is many things to many people – rapper, social activist, father and educator among them. He’s also one of the funniest and most highly regarded cartoonists in America, and the creator of three popular comic strips: The Knight Life, (th)ink, and The K Chronicles. For nearly two decades, this multi-award-winning artist has brought the funny back to the funny pages with a uniquely personal style that’s a cross between Calvin & Hobbes, MAD, and underground comix.
Keith Knight is part of a generation of African-American artists who were raised on hip-hop, and infuse their work with urgency, edge, humor, satire, politics and race. His art has appeared in various publications worldwide, including the Washington Post, Daily KOS, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, Ebony, ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, MAD Magazine, and the Funny Times . His comic musings on race have garnered accolades and stirred controversies, prompting CNN to tap him to “grade America” on its progress concerning issues of race.
Keith Knight has been doing an illustrated running commentary on his own life for decades. His weekly strip, The K Chronicles, has appeared in alternative weeklies since the mid-’90s. In 2008, The Believer, a San Francisco-based arts and culture magazine, described the strip as drawn in a “loose, noodling style” that “riffs on a variety of topics: family relationships, life on the road with his “semiconscious” hip-hop band, the Marginal Prophets, observational humor, and politics.”
The magazine goes on to describe Knight’s full body of work. “Taken together, the strips form something of a memoir-on-the-fly, though a deliberately suspect one. While there are real incidents and real characters (Keith’s wife, Kerstin, and his dad make regular appearances), there are also fictional characters (a lunkheaded ex-roommate named Gunther, for one), and events that deliriously skitter far outside the zone of plausibility. He’s less interested in the unvarnished “truth” of life than in the humor of it—he raids his own experience with the giddy zeal of a stand-up comic or an inveterate fibber.”