Written by Ed Piskor and Patrick Rosenkranz
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Does anyone even know what underground comix (sic) are anymore? Or were?
If so, then the name of R. Crumb undoubtedly comes to mind. And perhaps no one else.
As much of a game changer as the original underground movement was, it surprisingly only lasted a relatively short time before its major artists spread out into the mainstream.
Crumb went from having his comix seized as obscene in cities all over the country to seeing that same artwork displayed in museums worldwide.
Which bring us to Jay Lynch, the Avis to Crumb’s Hertz when it comes to underground artists.
The two cartoonists both turned up in the early 1960s in the pages of Harvey Kurtzman’s Help! magazine. Each man started a title that would become one of the most successful and widest known titles in their “separate but equal” comic book field—Crumb with Zap and Lynch with Bijou Funnies.
Me, I admit that I always preferred Lynch. Like many of my age, I discovered both men in the pages of Les Daniels’ early ‘70s history book, Comix! Now comes a specific history book that covers the life and career of Jay Lynch!
Ink and Anguish—A Jay Lynch Anthology offers learned biographical info on the late artist from respected comix historian Patrick Rosenkranz but the meat of this volume, naturally, is its art and stories. More than 300 pages of them, in color and in black and white!
As Crumb was clearly influenced by the funny animal comic books he read as a kid, Lynch was similarly inspired obviously by the newspaper strips of his youth. Both filtered those influences through the counterculture of the time and its various mind-altering substances to come up with something new.
Lynch’s signature characters were Nard n’ Pat, a middle-aged man and his cat. They made an almost traditional comedy team for years of smoothly drawn conflicts that often included nudity, sex, cursing, and/or various bodily functions. Most (all?) of the usually wonderful Nard n’ Pat stories are included here.
Also included are Lynch’s other remaining pages and covers from Bijou as well as various additional comix, some much more explicit than others. There are a number of collaborations with the other giants from those days, too; not just Crumb but Kim Deitch, Rich Corben, Bill Griffith, Art Spiegelman, and Lynch’s contemporary, Skip Williamson. Even Harvey Kurtzman draws Nard n’ Pat at one point! Much later collaborative works with the innovative Ed Piskor are on view as well.
With undergrounds morphing into just plain “independent comics,” Lynch, like every other UG artist, had to find other outlets. He had always maintained one foot solidly in the mainstream, though, and was a major player in the popular Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids stickers. Playboy and various adult mags benefited from his work—also seen here—and he later took over the kitschy classic Bazooka Joe comics, as seen here, too.
I never met Jay Lynch but I did have a brief exchange of messages with him on Facebook not long before his death in 2017. I had found an old newspaper article about him and shared it and he wrote to thank me and add corrections to the original reporter’s piece.
It wasn’t much but I’m glad I got to interact with Lynch at all after nearly half a century as one of my favorite underground artists. Now that I’ve read and enjoyed the definitely NSFW Ink and Anguish, I feel as though I’ve gotten to know the man and his work much better.
If you’re a Jay Lynch fan or an underground fan in general, you probably already have this book. If not, you need it. If you’ve never heard of Lynch but you’re the open minded type and enjoy great cartooning, pick this up and you’ll be a fan long before the end of the book.