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    From Comic Art to Cosmic Jazz: 11 Books for Subculture Vultures

    Carlo McCormick rounds up the latest volumes on skateboard graphics, street art, street style, and more

    The coffee-table books that work well as statements of identity in the home and office are absurdly heavy to travel with and just don’t look right on the beach, by the swimming hole, or in the benign chaos of the summer rental. Here, then, are some more appropriate picks, lighter in weight and substance, fresh as the ocean spray in your face or the smell of your neighbor’s newly cut lawn, and well, fun, as summer is supposed to be.

    Agents Provocateurs: The 100 Most Subversive Skateboard Graphics of All Time
    By Seb Carayol
    Gingko Press


    Skateboards from Agents Provocateurs: 100 Subversive Skateboard Graphics. COURTESY GINKO PRESS.

    Skateboards from Agents Provocateurs: The 100 Most Subversive Skateboard Graphics of All Time by Seb Carayol.

    Tracking the skateboard graphics of the ’90s, after the collapse of the skateboard industry in the ’80s sent the movement back underground into the youth culture realm of DIY, Agents Provocateurs compiles some of the rudest eye-popping visual assaults of this silver age when gnarly and rad turned into something far more subversive. It’s irreverent, politically incorrect in ways that can make you flinch, and funny enough to make most parents deeply concerned. If you never looked under a kid’s board in this era, we can promise you that you’ve never seen anything like this.

    DON1, The King From Queens: The Life and Photos of a NYC Transit Master
    By Louie “KR.ONE” Gasparro
    Schiffer Publishing


    Don 1, Super Style Madness. COURTESY DON 1.

    DON1, Super Style Madness.

    DON1 was a writer’s writer, profoundly influential as an early style master on the New York City transit system of the mid-’70s, but his legacy has been neglected in the history of graffiti art. Perhaps it was because he worked in Queens, which was hardly a hotbed for graffiti, or because his heyday was just before the first significant documentations of the movement came out. He was also a formidable photographer, taking some of the most artful and articulate pictures of this emerging medium, including his own work and the work of many others. A great historical catch and corrective, this volume will not only set the record straight on DON1’s importance, it will offer readers a taste of the wild flavor of New York City at its economic nadir.

    By Bubi Canal
    Actividad Contemporánea


    Bubi Canal, Chrystelle III, 2013, Lambda print. ©BUBI CANAL.

    Bubi Canal, Chrystelle III, 2013, Lambda print.

    A book so sensational and full of unexpected delight that you probably should be eight or nine years old to truly appreciate it, Dreamtime is Spanish photographer Bubi Canal’s pictorial ode to the joyful magic of innocence and imagination. Combining fantastical costumes, whimsical gestures, and absurdist assemblage, Canal’s work is full of wonder, all about play, and contains some of the most endearingly optimistic images you’ll ever fall in love with.

    Hiroshi Fujiwara
    Contribution by Sarah Lerfel and Ino Hidefumi Rizzoli



    Image from Hiroshi Fujiwara.

    A self-described cultural DJ and the undisputed godfather of Tokyo’s hip Harajuku neighborhood, Fujiwara pioneered style through street fashion in ways that have altered the global landscape. After early apprenticeship with provocateurs Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood in London and a deep immersion in the street culture of New York, Fujiwara became the H of Nike’s HTM line, along with Tinker Hatfield, designer of the original Air Jordan, and Mark Parker, the esthetic maven and CEO of Nike. Fujiwara’s work as a designer not only defined the look of a subculture, it simultaneously changed the language of haute couture and urban youth and spawned a kind of product fetish that would make even the most avid art collectors blush. The book includes texts by Takashi Murakami, Eric Clapton, Mark Parker, Colette founder Sarah Andelman, Supreme’s James Jebbia, and Jun Takahashi of Undercover.

    Hell on Wheels: An Illustrated History of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs
    By Bill Hayes


    Cover art for Inside Outside Baseball. COURTESY RAYMOND PETTIBON AND ANDREW POPE.

    Cover art for Inside Outside Baseball by Andrew Pope and Raymond Pettibon.

    The ultimate in collectible fetish is the zine, the degenerate cousin of the copy-machine fanzines of yore. Few artists in this medium are more beloved than Raymond Pettibon, whose deft drawing style, starkly poetic language, and acerbic world view make his missives unlike anything else that makes it to the page. Here Pettibon invests his own cultural capital into promoting the work of a fellow draftsman of exceptional talent and remarkable obscurity. Andrew Pope is a master of existential doubt, alienation, and mordant humor—a perfect companion to Pettibon’s asocial savant—and the master himself not only delivers some great work but also provides multiple examples of the drawings he did as a little kid. With only a hundred copies produced, this rare gem is bound to become a cherished relic for those who aspire to hold a definitive collection.

    Prophetika (Book One)
    By Sun Ra
    Kicks Books



    Image from Prophetika (Book One) by Sun Ra.

    From the book imprint of Norton Records, the fantastical home of the most obscure and mind-blowing oddities of popular music history, comes this collection of lost writings marking the centennial of the visionary genius of cosmic jazz. It’s a “hip pocket paperback,” perfect to take along hiking or camping. Like a feral voice in the wilderness of humanity, Sun Ra’s poetry and prose make for an apocalyptic clock ticking down our last desperate daze on earth.

    We Are FriendsWithYou
    By FriendsWithYou, Contribution by Pharrell Williams and Alejandro Jodorowsky, Introduction by Peter Doroshenko


    FWY-Cloudy copy

    Image from We Are FriendsWithYou by FriendsWithYou.

    Like a smiling little cloud in a perfect blue sky, or an impossibly blissful moment of peace and happiness that rises in your soul like some glorious dawn, nothing could make your summer more perfect than this delicious volume of art by FriendsWithYou, the two-man collective of ecstatic spiritual joy originally hailing from Miami and recently resettled in Los Angeles. With texts from Dallas Contemporary executive director Peter Doroshenko and the ultimate toy fan-boy and pop superstar Pharrell Williams as well as cult filmmaker, unashamed surrealist, and enigmatic shaman Alejandro Jodorowsky, this book will help you smile your way to enlightenment.

    By Wallace Wood
    Fantagraphics Books


    Cover of Witzend by Wallace Wood.

    Cover of Witzend, No. 10, 1976, by Wallace Wood.

    A widely revered veteran of comics from the ’50s and ’60s, Wallace “Wally” Wood defined Daredevil for Marvel’s silver age and was a pioneer at EC Comics with work including Weird Science, Two-Fisted Tales, and Tales from the Crypt. When the comics code forced such dangerous titles out of business, he helped create the game-changing Mad magazine. No stranger to trouble—like the widely bootlegged poster he did of a Disney orgy—and no fan of the self-censoring banality of the comics industry, Wood decided to publish his own comic, witzend, in 1966. Featuring his own work and that of friends who felt similarly shut out of the industry, the 13 issues included such superhero masters as Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, fantasy and sci-fi illustrator Frank Frazetta, Mad alums Harvey Kurtzman and Don Martin, underground stars Art Spiegelman and Vaughn Bode, and even the painter Ed Paschke. Boxed together in a deluxe two-volume set, here are the irascible voices of a medium far more outré than Hollywood blockbuster movies.

    Zombie Love
    By WON ABC
    Publikat Verlag


    Colour Kamikaze
    By WON ABC
    Artwaerts/Edition Kunst der Comics


    Detail from Adam McNatt Bad Babies deck by Sean Cliver/101 skateboards. COURTESY WON ABC.

    Detail from Adam McNatt Bad Babies deck by Sean Cliver/101 skateboards.

    Imagine that weird kid who just likes to draw and does it better than anyone you ever knew, then consider that he not only has a particularly dark and gruesome taste in comics but is also an habitual criminal of graffiti art, and you can get some sense of how beautiful and utterly indescribable this Munich-based artist’s work can be. The kind of hybrid that seems uncannily alien no matter how familiar its esthetic roots may be, WON ABC’s work is a rare and exotic breed unlike most anything else that grows in our urban gardens. While Zombie Love shows this epic storyteller at his best, there’s further cause for celebration since it has spirited along the republication of his long-lost classic Colour Kamikaze, from 2002.

    Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious Story of the World’s Most Famous Heroine
    By Tim Hanley
    Chicago Review Press


    1972 cover of Ms. Magazine.

    July 1972 cover of Ms. magazine.

    Not all of popular culture is worthy of academic inquiry, but in his scholarly text Tim Hanley informs us just why the iconic anomaly of Wonder Woman is such a compelling story. She became the quintessential cover girl for feminism when Gloria Steinem put her on the first cover of Ms. magazine in 1972, inspiring an ideal of costume play for little girls, a sure winner for drag queens, and the cheesy ’70s TV show. The Amazonian princess has been a much-reviled object of male fantasy ever since she crashed the boys club of superhero comics in the 1930s. She’s also been a contentious cultural barometer of gender politics for years. Relating the circuitous story of Wonder Woman’s evolution through the decades, Hanley also tells us something of her unlikely creator, William Moulton Marston, a man who earned three degrees from Harvard University in the teens (including doctorates in law and psychology) was a widely published author, created the polygraph machine and lie detector test, expressed his belief that women would soon rule our country, and was an outspoken supporter of women’s worth—and was, well, an aficionado of bondage. It’s not kid stuff for sure, but it’s surely as complex as Wonder Woman herself.

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