The first time I drew Jimbo … I knew I would always draw him. I do not know why.
– Gary Panter
Jimbo was born in 1974, two years before Gary Panter moved to Los Angeles from Texas. He’s a combination, says Panter, his younger brother; his friend Jay Cotton; comic boxing champ Joe Palooka; Dennis the threat; and Magnus, the tunic-clad robotic fighter in Russ Manning’s mid-century comic; as well as being influenced by Panther’s Native American heritage (his grandmother was Choctaw). Panter called Jimbo his alter ego and the character’s most common nickname is “Punk Everyman”.
According to Panter, he didn’t want to create Jimbo, “he just appeared.” Jimbo first appeared publicly in punk magazine slash 1977 and his cover debut two years later. His pug mug moved to Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman’s radical art comic anthology Raw 1981; Some of Jimbo’s stories there made up the first Raw one-shot, a spin-off from the magazine, the following year. He joined an ensemble that was occupied by Panter Cola Madnes, Written in 1983 but not published until 2000, and landed his first full-length book, Jimbo: Adventure in Paradise1988, published by Raw and Pantheon. Jimbo has since starred in four issues of a self-titled comic published by Zongo in the 1990s, and stood up for Dante in two illuminated manuscripts of comics: Jimbo in purgatory (2004) and Jimbo’s Inferno (2006). As you read these words, Panter’s passionate imagination and tireless pen set him on new adventures.
Gary Brad Panter was born in Durant, Oklahoma, in 1950 (the local newspaper intentionally misspelled his middle name as “Bard” in its birth announcement). His family moved to Brownsville, Texas, in 1954, and four years later to Sulfur Springs, where Panter would stay until 1969 when he went to college twenty miles away in Commerce. In Brownsville, the family home was across from a drive-in theater, and the glowing screen was visible from the front yard. He saw fantasy there and The animalworld, a 1956 documentary with an extended stop-motion animation sequence of dinosaur fights, created by Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien. Panter saw his first monster film in the city’s theater, The country unknown (on a double invoice with The curse of Frankenstein, both 1957), about an expedition party who accidentally ended up in a prehistoric jungle in Antarctica. He still remembers the primitive special effects: actors in monster suits and monitor lizards that represent living dinosaurs. Panther’s father, an amateur painter of Western pictures, ran two dime shops, Wunderlands with dinosaur figures, toys, and comics such as Donald Duck, Mighty mouse, and Turok, son of stone.
Given the sprawling Texan landscape, these first encounters with visual culture – both the shabby otherworldly on-screen and the growing pop detritus of the dime store – form the foundation of Panter’s art. It is overlaid with the teachings of the Church of Christ of his youth and his later break with religion and his first encounter with the hippie culture, which in Panter’s tale is almost mystical:
It was the summer of 1968. We decided to drive our old station wagon from Sulfur Springs to Mount Shasta, California to visit our cousins … [My cousin] Hotrod was in high school driving me around town … He drove us past where the hippies in town lived in a ranch style house. The yard was three feet high and a car was parked on blocks in the side yard.
The [head] Shop was dark and smelled of BO, incense, patchouli. Cloth was draped over tables, and the counters were draped or had stickers on the wood. There were flyers in the window. The place was small. There weren’t many goods. No bongs or manufactured stuff. A girl dressed like a hippie seventh a version of the famous Mindbenders poster [by Wes Wilson]. And there were flutes, leatherwork, stone pipes, a water pipe, pottery, beadwork, and pearls in vials for sale. And a small loom. God’s eyes made of yarn. Maybe there are four people hippies there. Psychedelic posters, essences, underground newspapers … This is how a hippie hut should be. It was strange Satyricon is strange.
At the Art School of East Texas State University Panter was introduced to the writings of Marshall McLuhan and Burroughs by John Cage by his professor Bruce Tibbetts silence and Stravinsky’s remarks on the composition and music of Frank Zappa. Robert Smithson attended school and showed his film Spiral bridge (1970), a portrait of the earthworks that the artist imagined crossing time and connecting the earthly and heavenly spheres. Panter consumed arts and culture extensively and freely, and the collision of different elements produced Dal Tokyo around 1972, a futuristic Martian city where many of Panter’s comics are set. The name merges Dallas and TokyoThis not only reflects the here and the other for an art school kid from East Texas, but also the origin of the fictional land itself: a city terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers and populated by a multitude of aliens. The influences on the founding of Dal Tokyo are Legion: J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Burroughs, and Anthony Burgess; Charles Fort, Immanuel Velikovsky and books on UFOs; Alice in Wonderland and Oz; Donald Barthelme and The rainbow of gravity;; Cowboy, monster and hercules films; Slot Racing and Marx-branded playsets (Civil War, Spaceman, Romans); modern art, hippie art, and the Sears Christmas catalog. As a “cultural and temporal collision,” says Panter, it appears to be taking Smithson’s desire for a “map showing the prehistoric world as coextensive with the world I lived in” as a guideline. It is a world with almost limitless storytelling possibilities, a cultural amalgamation so complete that it creates a whole new world that is large enough and flexible enough to meet the unique needs of each Panter comic.
Punk hadn’t infiltrated Texas as far as Panter knew, but his artistic endeavors – particularly the devo-esque art group Apeweek that tried to penetrate and twist the media – predicted the improvisational and rebellious spirit he would find in the punk atmosphere would find in LA. Apeweek, consisting of Panters and friends of the art school (and later) Pee-Wees Playhouse Collaborators) Jay Cotton and Ric Heitzman made puppet shows, videos for Dallas public television, art installations, and performances in 1974 and 1975. Says panther. The group’s provocations matched those of contemporary Ann Arbor art noise collective Destroy All Monsters, and helped spawn the Church of the SubGenius in North Texas, a legendary Huckster cult founded in 1978 that used the language of evangelism – religious and commercial – to an outrageous and absurd battle to wage against the “conspiracy of normality”.
Panter took this disruptive, indigenous approach to LA in 1976, where he discovered a forward-looking, if not strictly punk, atmosphere. Although he noted that “no one took Dubuffet, Jack Kirby and David Hockney and put them together with Peter Saul, the Hairy Who and Fahlstrom,” he found diverse models and like-minded people for his burgeoning form of formality hybridization and cultural synthesis. He looked up the illustrators Cal Schenkel and Jan Van Hamersveld and visited Kirby at his home in Thousand Oaks. He befriended Ed and Paul Ruscha after knocking on the door of Ed’s studio on Western Avenue. He met Mike Kelley through Claude Bessy (a.k.a. Kickboy Face), an editor of slash. Leonard Koren liked his portfolio and let him advise on a topic WetKoren later introduced him to a young cartoonist named Matt Groening, whose strips Life in hell made his debut in Wet in 1978.
During this time Panter formulated the concept of Rozz-Tox. The Rozz Tox Manifesto ran in the L. A. Reader 1979 as a series of personal ads, but the idea for it had started in 1976 and was an extension of the drawings he had done in college. The name comes from the etching series “Pox” by his teacher Lee Baxter Davis and from the term rozzeswhat ‘police’ means in Burgess’ A clockwork orange. The xAnd zFor Panter this means something futuristic and his original idea was to think about what comes after rock and roll. “Everything dies as a fad and a cultural trend,” he says, “so I imagined some kind of loud technological modern music.” Inspired by Panter’s reading of various manifestos and reports on modern art, Rozz-Tox evolved into a fake art movement that not only described the end of modernity, but also anticipated the type of postmodern art that would prevail in the 1980s: art that The subject turned out to be such, and sometimes its medium, advertising and consumer culture that imitate it in order to criticize it – for example the photographic appropriations of the generation of images and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s palimpsestical paintings. “We were ashamed of our own creations,” wrote Panter in the manifesto. “To teach us that the hand and opinion of the individual is not as legitimate as that of opinion, which is transformed and inflated by broadcasting … Capitalism, good or bad, is the flow in which we sink or swim. Inspiration has always come from recombination. “
The Rozz Tox Manifesto also encouraged finding alternative ways of making and locating art in the capitalist world – advice that has become increasingly urgent over time. It cautions against relying on the “aesthetic” media to point you in the direction that is good and worthy in art and culture. The individual should follow their own instincts, their own tastes. In other words, great art doesn’t just exist on the pages of glossy magazines.
There was rampant fragmentation and recombination in Punk’s entourage, and Panter’s manifesto, playful and exaggerated, flourished in this broad “post-punk” era. Simon Reynolds’ description of the period from 1978 to 1984 also sums up what Panter had planned up to then:
[Those years] saw the systematic search of 20th century modernist art and literature. The entire post-punk era seems to be an attempt to reproduce practically all major modernist themes and techniques through the medium of pop music. The copywriters have taken up the radical science fiction of William S. Burroughs, J. G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick, and techniques of collage and cut-up have been implanted in the music.
When John Lydon, Reynolds reports, left the role of Johnny Rotten in 1978 and founded Public Image Ltd (whose name was partly taken from a Muriel Spark novel), he viewed the group not only as a band but also as a “communications company,” one that would encroach on other areas of the media to demystify the music business and rethink what it could produce. At the same time, the California Rozz Tox Manifesto stated, “If you want better media, do it.”
Panter moved to New York in 1986. Before leaving LA, he designed the sets and dolls for Paul Reubens’ Pee-Wee Herman stage show. In New York, Rubens asked him to do the same for his new television show to air on CBS. Panters designs for Pee-Wees Playhouse The atomic aesthetic of LA coffee shops of the 1950s was imbued with Dubuffer’s aesthetic agnosticism and the vibrant, mass media-inspired British pop art that Panter admired, especially Eduardo Paolozzi. “We brought art history to the whole show,” he said. Jimbo: Adventure in Paradise contains the same kind of recombination: a collage of styles depicting Panter’s thorough absorption of visual culture. It looks and reads as if it was composed by an otherworldly visitor who had access to all of human civilization (at least until the end of the eighties).
Adventure in paradise collected comics slash and Raw, along with new footage and a handful of Panter’s “William and Percy” strips that appeared in the L. A. Reader in the early eighties. The work was produced over a decade from 1978 to 1988 (most are from the late seventies and early eighties, and the opening and closing sections were the last to be done), but the sequences are not in chronological order. Instead, Panter organized them to create what he has termed “broad coherence”. The mode of the book is disjunction and unmaking – formally in Salmagundi of page layouts and drawing styles (effortlessly switching between Cubism, Neo-Expressionism, Kirby, Chicago figuration of the 60s, ukiyo-e woodcuts and George Harriman); narrative, when the story jumps, stumbles (including a very funny jump cut) and eventually explodes; and sonically, from punk nonsense to romance, caricature crime to downright atrocity.
Taking place in Dal Tokyo, the company-run Martian city, in the near future, it shows Panter’s approach to play: all the toys and cartoon characters, punks, madmen and aliens set in motion in a giant sandpit. He titled the book Jimbo: Adventure in Paradiseeven though he hadn’t read Dante and the book had nothing to do with him Paradiso. (Still, Dante’s heavenly theology is arguably no less a radical sci-fi vision of the vastness of the universe than Panther’s sociocultural stew bubbling on Mars.) In his very early career, Panter said, “In a way, you accept your vision or you You don’t and I keep getting more and more visions and just move on to the next one to see how far I can go. “It’s a fitting description of Adventure in paradise, to.
The book begins with a monologue from Jimbo making his way across town to a neighborhood Feedomat, a fast food place where commands are passed through thoughts to robots (this is the main surveillance capitalism):
Have you ever had a dream where you knew you were dreaming but it was so real that you don’t trust your judgment? And you thought, “Well, maybe it got that bad, but it got bad so quickly and so differently!” Then you thought, “No! It’s just a dream. It’s not that bad yet! “When suddenly everything seemed feasible again … And as boring and normal – convincing – as on any other day.
Slipping between dream, nightmare and reality is a hallmark of Adventure in paradisethat grazes and sometimes vacillates between different states of reality, some of which are believed and some of which are not. It’s ancient and outrageous, a gathering of childhood miracles that might convince us that “dreams are toys,” as Antigonus argues in The winter fairy tale. Despite his punk origins, Jimbo is not a nihilist, not an anarchist. He has more in common with a boy from a small town in Texas who gazes ecstatically at the glowing screen of a drive-in theater. He is a sensitive and enthusiastic observer like his creator. “I never jumped into the mosh pit,” says Panter. “I stood in the back or on the sides or even backstage and watched.” When Jimbo goes to a show at the beginning of the book, he complains about fashion – the rubber pants are too tight and he can’t afford the wrong scars that everyone wears. And Panter pulls him right to the edge of the overcrowded pit and notices the fight, but does not join it. At the end of the book, however, the dream falls away. Panter depicts a reality so nightmarish that it might not be true, but it is.
Jimbo’s adventure takes him from his villa up a green hill, “gigantic but doomed” (a decayed Eden not far from it) Paradiso After all) to a crowded, kaleidoscopic music show that unfolds in a hallucinogenic miracle when it drops acid. Cracks tear on the panels and side gutters, nebulous shapes that reproduce the way shapes dissolve into one another during an acid journey, but also portals that open to parallel planes of existence. He meets Smoggo, the smog monster, and falls in love with his unwavering sister Judy, the unsung heroine of the book, who, when kidnapped by cockroaches, declares, “Jimbo, it won’t break my heart if I have to save me! “(She does too.) In the meantime, King Ducko and his cockroach lackeys want the Radioactive Planetoid Burger Bar Corp. plans – or whatever. There are strange interludes in this main story with Rat Boy, Nancy and Sluggo and Jimbo Erectus and one (Self-) critical fable about the exploitation and humiliation of the Native Americans by the USA.
The book is coherent because it doesn’t try. It is based on artistic adrenaline, unalloyed energy and the joy of drawing. Its breaks and tangents embody the social upheaval of the late seventies and eighties Adventure in paradisePerhaps more than any other Panter (or anyone) comic, avant-garde and popular culture are inextricably linked with a single work full of feelings and ideas. It runs hot like a punk song and yet its hero is a sensitive hippie. “It was rude and so weird and illegible – all of the things that made comics narrative readable are part of the sabotage Jimbo“Spiegelman recalls the reception of the comic among general readers. For all the fragmentation of the book, Jimbo is fully alive as a character. As Smoggo tells him,” You are literature, mate. “
When Panter wrote about his memory of visiting the hippie hut in California in 2014, he remembered the aura of activity in the place. This “proof of doing”, as he calls it, connects the manufacturing process with the body itself. When he thinks about this experience, he realizes that the work of HC Westermann “exudes a strong mood of being intensely touched and refined “. He also comments on “the ears of Peter Saul’s ghost, the craft of Nutt and Wirsum”. For Panter, markmaking (or objectmaking) is a process that combines knowledge or emotion and physicality. “Drawing is one way of controlling your world when you can control your hand,” he said. His love for films in which special effects are made visible by people is expressed in his unpolished, shabby line – his unmistakable drawing style, which proves his own craftsmanship.
in the Adventure in paradiseHe dedicates a 1979 story to “the guards of the Ratty Line who bring them to their right place in society” – including Matt Groening, Edwin Pouncey (a.k.a. Savage Pencil), Cal Schenkel and Jeffrey Vallance. The camaraderie reminds me of Bernard Sumner’s first impression of the Sex Pistols: “I saw the Sex Pistols. You were terrible. I thought it was great. I wanted to get up and be terrible too. “Looking back on RawIn the publication of Panter’s Jimbo Comics, Spiegelman said, “There is a separate moment in comic evolution that indicates a new sensibility. Gary was the clearest version of what that could be, apart from what I’d previously known about this point in Underground Comix. “Mouly saw in work a“ sense of what could happen now and what could be the future of comics. ”Panter, always striving to see what came next, had created the next.
At the end of Adventure in paradiseJimbo has to disarm an atomic bomb; he fails. The story is narrative and visually overloaded in one of the medium’s most masterful sequences. Panter composes each page in a different style, dematerializes and recombines in a new state, rearranging the atoms. He studied books on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and modeled the comic book from what he read. He has described the ending as a “histrionic but heartfelt” meditation on the Japanese bombings, as well as an attempt to address this “unresolved debt”. The nuclear threat was there when he drew these pages too: in 1979, just a few years before he composed the atomic sequences, the Three Mile Island facility in Pennsylvania melted down. In a strip earlier in the book, drawn at the same time as the Collapse, Panter adds a wink to the reader: “No patriotic American would be crazy if you, the vandals of our society, tossed a brick through your nearest business that strong invested in nuclear power. ”
The cubist shards, moody ink washes and spectacular arrangements of breathless line work describe a puncture in time, a fragmented moment in which the present instantly seems to leap forward. This existential fate is somehow elegant, like Smithson flying over his Spiral bridge hung up in the great salt lake, observed,
The flaming reflection indicated the ion source of a cyclotron expanding into a spiral of collapsed matter. Any sense of the energy acceleration turned into a rippling silence of reflected warmth. A fading light swallowed the spiral’s rocky particles as the helicopter gained altitude. All existence seemed temporary and stagnant. The sounds of the helicopter engine became an original groan that was reflected in faint aerial images. Was I just a shadow in a plastic bubble floating in a place outside of my body and mind?
Panther’s pen plunges in horror after horror before landing on the burned horse. Why a horse Panter recalled that his father “was sentimental about horses and dogs and hates Western novels in which the horse is killed. If something bad happens to a horse in the story, he throws the book away. “The destruction of a horse was perhaps the best portrayal of barbarism Panter could imagine. This final image, still and terrible: it evokes the obliterating silence that Dick describes in the novel Do androids dream of electric sheep?“The lungless, all-pervasive, masterful world silence.”
When Panter met Dick in LA in 1980, they exchanged stories of personal visions and the confusion that surrounded those visions. Panter told Dick about a bad trip he had in college, both foreboding and retrograde at the same time:
The images came at me at ten thousand a second and were all relative, personal, and fabricated. Many of them were in the style of my art and most of them were wrong. They also seemed forward-looking, and I felt that much of what happened on my acid journey was like an echo of what I might experience later. As if huge trauma memories from the future impressed both me and the past.
The leap in time in Panther’s hallucination, that the past presses forward and the future echoes backwards and both approaches the fleeting present, is a counterpart to Walter Benjamin’s terrible vision of the angel of history:
His face is turned to the past. Wherever we perceive a chain of events, he sees a single catastrophe that repeatedly piles rubble on rubble and hurls it at his feet. The angel wants to stay, raise the dead and make whole what has been smashed. But the storm blows from paradise; it is caught in its wings with such force that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly drives him into the future, which he has turned his back on as the heap of rubble grows into the sky in front of him. We call this storm progress.
Both visions come in the final picture from Adventure in paradise, in Jimbo – his horrific deed at the end, his head tilted back and away from the horse’s mutilated body, the day was over. Smoggo calls him “an unlikely steward for a living nuclear nightmare”. Jimbo would have liked to fix things but found the job impossible. He has turned to this moment from the first pages of the book, from a capitalist paradise, the world in tatters, and then what comes next.
Nicole Rudick is a critic and editor. She has written a lot on art, literature and comics for The New York Review of Books, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Artforum, the Poetry Foundation and elsewhere. She was editor-in-chief of The Paris Review for nearly a decade and edited two issues of the magazine as well The Author’s Chapbook: A Compendium of Facts, Opinions, Jokes and Advice from The Paris Review Interviews.
Excerpt from Jimbo: Adventure in Paradiseby Gary Panter, published this week by New York Review Comics. Copyright © 2021 by Nicole Rudick, courtesy New York Review Comics.