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Ralph Steadman’s grotesquely brilliant illustrations for Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’
06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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George Orwell had difficulty in getting Animal Farm published in the 1940s. His satirical fable about a farm being taken over by a cowardly, power-mad pig was seen as an undisguised and rather offensive attack on Soviet Russia and its leader Joseph Stalin. As Orwell later explained in his introduction to the book, it was not considered the done thing in 1940s Britain to criticize their war ally Russia and especially its leader Stalin in any way. (Sidebar: Orwell’s introduction was not included in the book on its first publication and is still missing from most editions today.)

Due to the war, any criticism of Uncle Joe was not tolerated—even if there was ample evidence that things might not be as jolly as the Russians liked to pretend. The media (including the BBC) and its allies in left-wing intelligentsia swallowed wholeheartedly every piece of propaganda issued by the U.S.S.R. which was then spewed out as fact.  But Orwell was never one to be swayed by the heady eau de cologne of fashionable politics. Orwell actually believed in a practical socialism—not one that resulted in the oppression of the majority by a tiny minority as was the case with Stalin, whose dictatorship had murdered up to 60 million.

Eventually, after a series of surprising knockbacks from British and American publishers (including one from T. S. Eliot at Faber & Faber), Orwell’s tale was successfully published by Secker & Warburg in August 1945 and has never been out of print since. However, its release was not well received. Certain critics tried to damn the book with faint praise or dismiss it as “clumsy” and “dull.” Now, clumsy and dull are not the kind of words I would ever associate with Orwell’s fastidious writing or with this allegorical masterpiece.

Orwell first had the idea for Animal Farm after seeing a small boy whipping a horse:

“...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

Orwell wrote Animal Farm between 1943 and 1944, during the height of the Second World War. He also added in some of his own personal experience of having witnessed firsthand the Communist purges during the Spanish Civil War which revealed to him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.” Orwell intended his novella as a warning and a condemnation of Stalin’s vicious dictatorship and his corruption of socialist ideals.

Political cartoonist David Low was the man who first illustrated Orwell’s political parable. While Low’s work was satirical and well-matched to Orwell’s prose, his illustrations pale when compared to the scabrous beauty of Ralph Steadman’s grotesque scratchings. Steadman provided illustrations for the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm in 1995.

I’d be hard put to think of any other artist who so effectively depicts the grim satire at the heart of Orwell’s tale. Steadman’s drawings seem to be on the verge of exploding with fury at the raw injustice of life or, in this case, the political allegory of the endless brutal horror of Animal Farm.
 
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See more of Ralph Steadman’s gonzo illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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‘I’m Always Thinking of You’: The Bruce Conner occult greeting card
06.16.2017
08:34 am
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‘I’m Always Thinking of You,’ greeting card by Bruce Conner, c. 1957 (via Dust-to-Digital)
 
Dust-to-Digital, the excellent reissue label behind last year’s Music of Morocco: Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959, has reprinted this greeting card drawn by Bruce Conner some 60 years ago. It costs $5.

Like Harry Smith, Conner was employed by a bohemian greeting card company called Inkweed Studios (later The Haunted Inkbottle) during the ‘50s. Lionel and Joanne Ziprin—he a poet and Kabbalist, she a dancer, illustrator, and model—were its founders. The notes from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller’s 2011 exhibition of material from the Inkweed archives are full of fascinating details about the Ziprins, the artists they worked with, and the businesses they ran. While they do not seem to have made much of a dent in Hallmark’s monopoly, they gave Bruce Conner and other artists the greatest gift of all: cash.

Inkweed offered itself as a launching pad for a handful of equally ambitious and talented artists, several of whom found their first paying commercial jobs with the company. These include polymath artists Harry Smith and Jordan Belson, painter and filmmaker Bruce Conner, and illustrators Barbara Remington and William Mohr. Smith’s instantly recognizable geometric designs were used for a series of hand screened Christmas cards, which echoed the artist’s famed series of drawings and collotypes inspired by Kabbalistic themes. Their most prodigious collaborator, however, was Conner, who met the Ziprins on a visit to New York in 1951. While studying art at Wichita University and the University of Nebraska, Conner regularly sent The Ziprins card concepts, alongside completed linoleum cuts and meticulous printing instructions. Conner’s work for the Ziprins—inspired by the two-dimensional, alien forms of painter Paul Klee and the absurdum ad infinitum ethos of Dada and Beat—infused Inkweed with a heavy dose of subversive wit and black humor. Conner’s vision inspired the Ziprins to take greater risk in their own designs, expanding the parameters of what the company could and would soon become.

After the jump. Conner’s video for “Mea Culpa” from Brian Eno and David Byrne’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’...

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.16.2017
08:34 am
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War Games: A 15th-century guide to violent combat
06.15.2017
09:58 am
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So, you want to learn how to fight like one of the world’s great duelists? Or maybe like a warrior from Game of Thrones? How about Jaime Lannister? Or, Brienne of Tarth? Or, maybe Bron or Ser Arthur Dayne, or even like the “Hound” Sandor Clegane? Well, you could do no better than seek some useful advice from one of the world’s oldest fencing manuals Flower of Battle (Fior di Battaglia, Flos Duellatorum) published in 1409 and written by the legendary Italian fencing master Fiore Furlano de Cividale d’Austria, delli Liberi da Premariacco or Fiore dei Liberi for short.

Del Liberi was an itinerant knight of the late 14th and early 15th-centuries, a man of action, an occasional diplomat, and a highly respected fencing master. He traveled across Italy, France and Germany training young condottieri in the art of swordsmanship and dueling. He was very particular in his choice of pupils and only taught those he considered to be worthy of his knowledge. On at least five separate occasions he fought duels of honor against those he refused to teach. Unsurprisingly, he always won. Though I’m sure his opponents would have picked up a few tricks from their humiliation.

It is not known when exactly del Liberi was born, though an estimate suggests he was born in Italy circa 1350. This is solely based on his introduction to the Flower of Battle where stated he had been training as a swordsman for “forty years or more.” As most swordsmen started learning their craft around the age of ten, this would make del Liberi in his fifties when he first started work on his combat manual Flower of Battle in the early 1400s.

Flower of Battle is a beautifully illustrated guide book split into several different sections explaining the intricacies of combat. These include top tips on wrestling, defenses against an enemy using a dagger, fighting with daggers (and not getting stabbed), fighting with a one-handed sword (and not getting killed), fighting with a two-handed sword (and not getting a hernia), as well as fighting in armor (without falling over), how to use a poleax (and win!), fighting with a longsword (and verily smite your enemies), and jousting and combat with a lance and spear (without falling off your horse). The teacher is identified with a gold crown on his head. The first set of illustrations in each section shows how to attack, the second how to defend.

The manual is believed to have been written for the wealthy nobleman Niccolò III d’Este who wanted his sons schooled in the art of combat—something that was essential for maintaining power in the tumultuous 15th-century. Only four editions of del Liberi’s Flower of Battle are known to exist. This one (in the public domain) is kept at the Getty where a full English translation of the book can also be found. Now that Canada has made dueling legal once again, it may be time to learn how to duel like the Italian master Fiore dei Liberi or at least like Jon Snow or Arya Stark.
 
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Hone up on your combat skills, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.15.2017
09:58 am
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Tijuana Bibles: Cheap, nasty, porno comic books featuring Mickey, Donald, Popeye, & more (Very NSFW)
06.06.2017
10:24 am
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Tijuana Bibles were eight-page, hand-sized comic books featuring well-known cartoon characters, sporting heroes, and Hollywood film stars in a sequence of hardcore sexual shenanigans. They first appeared sometime in the 1920s as illustrated dirty jokes featuring squeaky clean comic strip characters like Tillie the Toiler and Jiggs and Maggie from “Bringing Up Baby.” The more straightlaced the character, the more outrageous the smut.

Their instant success led to far more explicit hardcore tales featuring famous movie stars like Mae West, Robert Mitchum, Dorothy Lamour, Greta Garbo, even Laurel & Hardy, alongside such well-loved cartoon figures as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Popeye and Betty Boop porking the fuck out of everything that moved. They were cheap titillation intended to arouse and (in their own way) educate the virginal. They were subversive and offensively humorous.

The name “Tijuana Bible” came from the mistaken belief these comics were produced south of the border and smuggled into the USA. They were actually produced and printed in the States by local artists and independent businesses who hid behind fake publishing titles like “London Press” and “Tobasco Publishing Co.” They were sold under-the-counter in tobacco shops, bars, barbers and bowling alleys at 25 cents a pop. Their greatest popularity was during the Depression of the 1930s, eventually petering out with the arrival of real porn mags in the 1950s. Tijuana Bibles are now considered by many comic book historians to be among the very first underground comix. More importantly, these cheaply produced comic books helped unfetter sex and sexuality from the weight of societal and religious strictures of guilt and taboo by making sex seem fun, natural, and something to be greatly enjoyed.

A man called Quinn has scanned a whole selection of these “politically incorrect literary gems” which can be viewed here.
 
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More examples of Tijuana Bibles, after the jump..

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.06.2017
10:24 am
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Skeletal remains: The first accurate representation of ‘The Anatomy of Bones’ from 1733
06.05.2017
10:43 am
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Bones. This is what we come to once we’re dead and the soft tissue has gone. Bones. The sturdy architecture that shapes and protects our bodies. Most of us will end up as dust or ashes, or if very, very lucky, may one day become fossilized and exhibited in a museum as an example of a dumb 21st-century Homosapien. There’s nothing else once we’re dead. No seventy-two virgins (or is it dried fruit?), no Alleluia chorus, no wings and no harp, just the remnants of a structure that once held us together.

Humans are born with 270 bones which gradually fuse during childhood to become the 206 individual bones of adulthood. Bones are damned amazing things. They are tough, flexible, and protective. They are made of a composite of materials including collagen fibers and calcium phosphate. In 1733, William Cheselden (1688-1752) published his Osteographia or The Anatomy of Bones—a lavish and beautifully illustrated book of human and comparative osteology. It was the first fully accurate description of the human skeletal system. Cheselden was already renowned for his previous volume The Anatomy of the Human Body (1713) and now hoped to do for bones what he had done for the flesh.

Cheselden was a surgeon and teacher based in London. He was appointed surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1720 and then at St George’s Hospital in 1733. His specialty was in the removal of bladder stones, though he later became far better known for his work in eye surgery, especially the removal of cataracts. He was also surgeon to Queen Caroline. As a teacher, Cheselden wanted to share as much of his medical knowledge and experience as possible.

For the Osteographia, Cheselden employed two artists, Gerard Vandergucht and Jacob Schijnvoet, to illustrate the anatomy of bones. To ensure accuracy in the illustrations, Cheselden made use of a camera obscura which transposed the image of each bone onto paper for the artists to copy. However, many of the skeletons were presented in strange so-called realistic positions—for example the skeleton of a cat arching its back at the sight of an approaching dog, or a man kneeling down praying. This was achieved by wiring the skeletons into position, which more often than not detracted from any attempt at factual representation. Thus the book proved to be a failure, though today Cheselden’s Osteographia is considered one of the great historical works of art and science.

Those with an interest can view the whole book here.
 
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More of dem bones, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.05.2017
10:43 am
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The strange allure of PAN Books: Vintage cult film, TV tie-in and fab fiction book covers

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Shelflife. The books you keep tell the story of your own life.

Clearing out boxes of books and personal belongings of lives once lived, I unpacked a whole bookshelf’s worth of Pan paperbacks neatly stored by their author and genre. I could recall the where and when of each book’s purchase and first reading, and of the best could well remember their stories back to front. There were a few of the books I read before age thirteen or so when I had a passion for picking up movie tie-in books and novels that had made thrilling and sometimes controversial films. These were bought new, most secondhand. Some were chosen solely because a favorite actor had starred in the film and was featured on the cover (the usual suspects of Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Sean Connery, and Michael Caine), or because they were dark tales of nightmarish horror or strange speculative science-fiction. No matter the reason, these books were keys to new worlds and passions.

Everyone knows Penguin. They publish classic lit and high-end middle-class novels about those things people discuss over lattes. Pan books were thrillers, pulp novels, movie and TV tie-ins, romances, some classics (Bronte, Trollope, Dickens), and best of all the dare to read alone horrors. Everyone read Pan. Because Pan books were always a guaranteed great read.

After Enid Blyton, Capt. W. E. Johns and Geoffrey Willans, the author I probably read most, until I got hip to Ian Fleming, Ted Lewis, and Algernon Blackwood, was probably John Burke. He was the guy who wrote all the big movie tie-ins like A Hard Day’s Night, The System, and the fine set of stories that started me off seeking out his books The Hammer Horror Omnibus with its tales of The Gorgon, The Revenge of Frankenstein and The Curse from the Mummy’s Tomb.

Pan Books was started by a former World War One flying ace, Alan Bott in 1944. Bott believed in enjoyable reads available for all. He focussed on paperback books the public would enjoy which might bring them back to the brand for more. Pan had an impressive roster of authors. It ranged from Agatha Christie to Leslie Charteris, Edgar Wallace to Jack Kerouac, Anthony Burgess to Nell Dunn, and so on. If it was a good and entertaining read then any author could end up inside of a Pan cover—which is not a bad quality control.

There are too many classic Pan covers to share, so I stuck with the ones from the box I had opened, which will probably tell you enough about me…
 
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More Pan covers for Kerouac, Burgess, Fleming and more, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.31.2017
11:30 am
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Immerse yourself in the very strange world of wonderfully weird (and rare) records
05.31.2017
09:02 am
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Feel the Music
 
For decades, Paul Major has been collecting and selling the strangest records ever pressed on vinyl. Much of what was initially known about many a wonderfully weird LP was due to his mail order catalogs, in which he described the obscure garage rock, psych, and often beyond-classification albums he had for sale. He’s tracked down many of the outsiders who made singularly great, private (a/k/a vanity) pressings, leading to authorized reissues.

Anthology Editions has just released Feel The Music: The Psychedelic Worlds Of Paul Major. The book contains images from his ‘zine-like catalogs, vintage flyers, photos, as well as album art and his assessments of those way-offbeat LPs, many of which are quite rare. Major has loads of great stories, including accounts of meeting some of the eccentrics behind his favorite records.

We’ve put together a collection of tunes and cover art from twelve oddball albums, with Major’s commentary from the pages of Feel The Music.
 
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Jr. and His Soulettes – ‘Psychodelic Sounds’ (HMM Records, 1971)

A pinch-yourself, this-record-can’t-really-exist level of amazing. An 11-year-old guitarist and his three sisters who are even younger grooving it out with funky swirling go-go organs, primordial drums and titles like “Thing, Do the Creep” and “Mama Love Tequila.” They’re so tight and loose they sound like they’ve been playing together for decades!

 
Much much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.31.2017
09:02 am
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Spanker’s Delight: The vintage erotica of Chéri Hérouard (NSFW)
05.30.2017
10:23 am
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Chéri Hérouard (1881-1961) was an artist best known for his illustrative work for French magazines like the Catholic girls’ journal La Semaine de Suzette and the gentlemen’s’ weekly La Vie Parisienne for which he supplied the cover art for over forty years. His eye-catching illustrations were highly popular and reflected the noteworthy changes in art from Art Nouveau through Art Deco to pioneering the more modern graphic art/comic book style of the 1940s and 1950s. La Vie Parisienne was the magazine best associated with Hérouard’s artwork. This society weekly featured risque erotica alongside stories and features on art, theater, film, literature, and fashion. It was kind of like Esquire magazine or a classier Playboy without the naked flesh.

Hérouard was born Chéri-Louis-Marie-Aime Haumé into a reasonably well-to-do family that lived in the fortified city of Rocroi in the Ardennes district of France. His father died from a freak riding accident just days before his birth. His mother remarried into the Hérouard family—from whom Chéri took his surname. His mother and stepfather thought Chéri was best suited for a career in the military—but their son had a very different idea of what he should be. Hérouard wanted to be an artist. He submitted a portfolio of his work on spec to the magazine Le Journal de la Jeunesse. The editor was so impressed by Hérouard’s draughtsmanship, he bought a selection of drawings for publication in 1902. Like most of his work, these drawings mixed fantasy and fetishism—women as fairies or nymphs, or later, movie stars (like Louise Brooks, above) as desirable fantasies. His distinctive style led Chéri to be soon hired as one of the main artists supplying work for La Vie Parisienne which he joined in 1907.

Providing the covers for a hugely popular magazine was enough to ensure Chéri Hérouard’s reputation as an artist. But he also had a secret life as an illustrator of erotica under the pseudonym “Herric.” As Herric, Chéri illustrated several erotic books, most notably the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, the Kama Sutra, and a series of “spanking novels” like Leurs pantalons (1927) by Jacques Mauvain, Matée par le fouet (1930) by Jean Martinet, Cinglants châtiments (1932) by Walter Flog, Pantalons sans défense (1938) by Jean Claqueret, and L’écrin du rubis (1939) by Liane Delorys. What we learn from such erotica is that the so-called “sexual revolution” didn’t really start in the swinging sixties—there was always a thriving world of sex and sexual experimentation enjoyed by both men and women long before the advent of Playboy, porn, and the contraceptive pill. This secret history is evinced through the diverse artwork of dozens if not hundreds of artists like Hérouard, Suzanne Ballivet, Bernard Montorgueil, and Luc Lafnet, among many others. These artists (many anonymous) produced erotic illustrations from the 18th-century on, and their work documented the growth of interest in fetishism, S&M, role-play, and gender fluidity long before it was deemed fashionable.
 
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More of Herric’s spanking illustrations, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.30.2017
10:23 am
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Of Skinheads, Suedeheads and Knuckle Girls: The gritty novels of Richard Allen
05.25.2017
04:02 pm
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In the 1960s the New English Library, a British subsidiary of the New American Library, had been plodding along churning out westerns and science fiction novels, but after approximately 1970 the imprint stumbled on a new audience that would make it lots of money. For young men who grew up in Britain during the era, the New English Library was an endless source of high-octane pulp fiction about the rough and tumble of the urban street.

The name applied to the genre eventually came to be “bovver,” as in “bovver boys” or “bovver boots”—it was a corruption of “bother”—but many also simply think of them as the Skinhead books. They were geared toward a working-class youth audience and saw opportunities in the mostly white subcultures that were coming into being at the time, skinheads, punks, bikers, and mods, with attention also paid to girl gangs. Using photographic covers for automatic authenticity, the books crammed as much telltale detail of “the life” as possible. Many readers were certain that the author must be “one of them”—which was not really true.

As Harry Sword wrote in his memorable VICE story about the publishing company from 2014 “The New English Library was the maniacal king of pulp publishing in 1970s Britain.” “Maniacal” was an apt descriptor: One of the hallmarks of this new type of fiction was that books were churned out at an incredibly fast rate. Sword quotes Mark Howell, employed by “the NEL” in the early 1970s:
 

That damn delivery schedule was the most driving force I’ve ever met in publishing. You just had to get it out there—it was breakneck, insane. I started a series called Deathlands, and the first writer I gave it to had done a wonderful first story and was given the green light—and spent his entire advance on heroin, which, back in those days, was not unknown. It was crippling for some, but most of our writers were addicts of the typewriter, and one of the glories of this was that it was a conveyer belt—we thoroughly addicted our readers. It was endless repetition stemming from unresolved anomaly.

 
The most successful books of the NEL were the Skinhead series, which focused on a “misanthropic 16-year-old thug” named Joe Hawkins. The Skinhead books were incredibly violent and trafficked heavily in racism, rape, robbery, and gang beatings. To read one of the Richard Allen books was to enter a world of “cold rain, futility, bad sex, spilt blood and stale beer” set in an indistinguishable series of East London tenements.

The books were credited to “Richard Allen” but the identity of the author was actually James Moffat, a Canadian-born author who cold generate 10,000 words a day and published roughly 300 books over his long career. He died in 1993 at the age of 71.

As Howell says, “We had a market who were always hungry for more. The James Moffat Skinhead books sold in their millions.” The first novel of the Joe Hawkins series, Skinhead, was published in 1970. A year later the book Suedehead came out. Those two books as well as Skinhead Escapes were reprinted in 2015 by Dean Street Press.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.25.2017
04:02 pm
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John Thompson’s visionary artwork for Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Cosmic Trigger’
05.17.2017
03:25 pm
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John Coulthart has done us all a service by reminding us of the wonderful art that appears in Robert Anton Wilson’s mind-bending follow-up (and companion) to his well-known Illuminatus! Trilogy, which bore the memorable title Cosmic Trigger with the subtitle Final Secret of the Illuminati.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy introduced readers to an incredible stew of ideas and influences that included Adam Weishaupt, UFOs, Wilhelm Reich, the number 23, John Dillinger’s penis, Carlos Castaneda, tarot, LSD—and did it via an enjoyable sci-fi/thriller plot—but Cosmic Trigger, while doing nothing to “rein in” the scope of Wilson’s occult interests, helped put some of the fictional trilogy’s meat on the bone in a semi-autobiographical context. Wilson not only told his readers how to get to the front door of Chapel Perilous, he also explained the secret “knock” required for entrance and what happened to you when you went inside.

As brilliant as he was, even Bob Wilson benefited greatly from having his ideas visualized in such a simpatico manner. John Thompson, a noted figure from the San Francisco comix scene, and someone very interested in mysticism and spirituality, was the ideal person to bring the visionary material to life.

Coulthart points out that not all editions of Cosmic Trigger included Thompson’s memorable cover (above), but most retained his internal illustrations. Here are some of those followed by a few of his other illustrations, which are just as creative and stimulating as the Cosmic Trigger material.

Daisy Eris Campbell’s Cosmic Trigger: The Play is currently being staged at The Cockpit in London. Buy tickets here.
 

Above, Thompson’s portrait of the author
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.17.2017
03:25 pm
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