EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay by Phawker almnus Elizabeth Fiend [pictured below] about her early days as a weirdo punk rocker/comic strip artist is included in THE BOOK OF WEIRDO just published by Last Gasp. Legendary in alt-comic book circles, Weirdo was a comics anthology created by R. Crumb in 1981 and ran until 1993. THE BOOK OF WEIRDO includes a comprehensive history of the publication, interviews with its three editors — R.Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Peter Bagge (of Hate fame) — and testimonials from artists that contributed over the years, including Miss Fiend, hence this essay. Robert Aline Crumb will be at the Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University on Monday October 28th from 6PM-9PM for a discussion about the history of Weirdo and the work it published.
ELIZABETH FIEND: My first comic was three frames. A cop says “nice ass” to a punk. She kicks him in the groin; he says “I won’t be able to get it up for a week.” She reaches into her leather; pulls a gun; shoots him, remarking “You’ll never get it up again.” A few months later Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with killing police officer William Faulkner. Philly 1981, was a time and place where a cop could be threatening to arrest you and checking out your legs — at the same time.
Employment for punks was scarce and I spent a lot of time drawing. I took a pen name, Luna Ticks, and named my comic strip The Young and The Frustrated: A Continuing Strip Tease. I distributing Xerox’s at punk shows. I gauged success by how many sheets littered the ground at the end of the show – many. My housemates were a dwarf, a black woman, a gay Mexican American, and the son of a police chief, along with my husband. The cop’s son stole our rent money and we were evicted. At times like this there’s only one thing to do. We started a band.
In the punk sea of non-conformity we were the weirdos. Five color hair; a silver space suit; pink floral over-top polka dots. We had a big presence. We walked everywhere because we had no money, paying for a bus would have been an extravagance that would never have occurred to us. Our style was so new and so alienating, once a man jumped out of his car in the middle of an intersection and start beating on us. A reporter described my appearance as having “both a sense of atmosphere, the bizarre and an inexplicable range of covertness.” I continued drawing, a lot. I got heavily into the fanzine scene which was bursting to an unprecedented size not seen since the ‘60’s. My characters were punks, set in a future-now world. They were raw and gritty, evoked strong emotion – mostly anger. I thought I was Anais Nin drawing feminist-erotica. The public thought I was a pornographer.
I got a job in a TV Script Archive. Twenty hours a week I read prime time TV scripts and analyzed them for content. That’s a job? Yes, it’s called academia. It afforded me plenty of free time, I spent a lot of that writing letters, my mailbox was jam-packed. I was printed in hundreds and hundreds of issues of mostly mail order fanzines. I was getting good reviews “Luna Ticks eroticus maximus make GREAT bedtime reading, informal, nasty artwork including barbecued men’s testicles, don’t miss out” [Hardcore Fanzine, SF Punkland]. And “Not merely crude, but always thought provoking.”
I was a woman in a man’s world. I was popular with prisoners – guys who maybe pulled armed robbery to get money for heroin – they wanted to be pen pals and asked for free copies of my self-printed mini-comic books. I always obliged. A lot of crazy people wrote to me. They sent multi-page letters in crayon detailing how they knew I was speaking directly to them via the comics, and ‘thanks.’ It was getting a little scary. A ‘fan’ sent me bits of dead animals. I received a baggie of assorted moss. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: Q&A W/ Weirdo Editors Aline & Robert Crumb