HellCar Comix 20 Years Later
HellCar Comix and it’s slogan, “Look Good. Kick Ass.” are 20 years young this year. When put into the context of the late 1990s and afterward, I’m pretty sure relevance was never a point. At least not at the time. For many of us who had been doing business throughout the Clinton era and had been steadily riding upward on the first wave of the internet, these were definitely hyacinth days. Politics were barely on the radar. Being well past the Reagan/Bush era and with Gore v Bush debacle still a few years away, what do you do when you still have lots of piss and vinegar left to lay on this world? I guess that is where our HellCar sweet spot lay. Still pretty angry but now willing to have some fun with it.
For milestones, perhaps we can claim to be the first professionally published underground comic in central NC. I have not yet found evidence to prove otherwise, but maybe Chapel Hill has a few hidden gems. There had been some homegrown capes and adventure comics found in local comic conventions, but besides some zines and our original genesis, the comic section in Alternating Crimes’ Scream Magazine (1985) dubbed “The Rollywood Funny Papers,” the Triangle area had not experienced much publishing output from the underground art scene. But by the mid-90s we were surrounded by like-minded DIY movements in our area.
Where’d we start?
The 90s was awash with creative experimentation on many fronts. Outsider art, music, film, multimedia, comics, even graphic design. Our area also seemed to be riding this creative and adventurous swell. Great local underground music was the most visible contributor. Some would try and call it the “Chapel Hill scene” but for the locals it seemed different. I felt at it’s heart, that the music scene was really expressing itself with many different and diverse sounds and voices. Which, in my opinion, really made it exciting.
Far stranger, were the beginnings of a very experimental mixed media movement that seemed to be spearheaded by the Wifflefist collective (http://www.wifflefist.com/). This was the first time I personally saw theatrics, film and noise played out on a local level and stage. I remember seeing Silica Gel, Beatless and Lasso Halo at the Brewery and those same boys at Pine Haus parties and being equally blown away as confused by their seemingly unconstructed work.
Fast forward a few years and the LUMP Gallery (http://teamlump.org/home.html) features experimental art, media and sounds with a great loose party atmosphere. Like Wifflefist, though unrelated, they seemed to also be feeding from a similar unstructured and raw muse. In fact we were fortunate to have the LUMP host our release party as one of their early shows.
For our own experimental efforts, our first issue (AC #2 the HellCar issue) had its semi-transparent multi-spot colored cover and all blue printing inside. By then my studio had also found some great design talent in Jeff Rooney, ready to cross pollinate with the wonderful Dale Flattum of Steel Pole Bathtub fame. As well as Jim Jackson doing a terrific Jesse Helms moment as a multi-layered back cover. Combine that with the humorous strips of Paul Friedrich’s Onion Head Monster and others and you had a fun unique package. Though later issues featured additional media like music CD compilations with some animation, as we found our more humorous niche, most of the experimenting went into the art and storytelling.
It was surprising how the unplanned convergence of talent in so many ways fueled the scene and each other in the Raleigh area at that time. In retrospect like many things that happen in tandem but are unplanned, these “happenings” or artistic moments didn’t draw enough strings to bring together to spark the media revolution all by itself, but looking at modern culture today it clearly played its roll by showing us what was possible.
Why HellCar Comix?
As for HellCar’s origins, after Russell Boone handed the reigns of Alternating Crimes Publishing over to me in the early 90s, I produced the first issue of Alternating Crimes Comix. It met with some modest success and got national distribution through Diamond Distribution so there was a want to continue to up our game.
In walks old friend and fellow cartoonist Paul Friedrich. We go way back to the paste eating days of 5th grade at Douglass Elementary. Even back them we were both dedicated artists. Truth be told we really didn’t know each other well despite being the same class. The only rumblings of acknowledgment came from rumors about comments made about my “Dansun” 007 gadget laden car drawings, which made me fire back on his early Zimmy character drawings. Kids. But through the years we crossed each other’s paths and became buds, culminating with sharing beers during our East Carolina University days.
I can’t remember who contacted who, but once we got together it seemed we were heading down some similar paths and began collaborating on editorial duties. When the whole package for AC #2 began coming together, it was clear that we had a real theme going on and set out to have some fun with it. Names are thrown and Paul nails HellCar pretty quickly I must say.
Fortunately have high quality digital files of the original issues now available for digital download. Visit the Alternating Crimes website for more of the story and to sample artwork. Each page dedicated to individual issues has more of the story and current links to many of it’s creators.