EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay by former Phawker columnist Elizabeth Fiend [pictured below] about her early days as a weirdo punk rocker/comic strip artist will be included in THE BOOK OF WEIRDO when it published later this year by Last Gasp. Legendary in alt-comic book circles, Weirdo was a comics anthology created by R. Crumb in 1981 and ran until 1993. THE BOOK OF WEIRDO will include a comprehensive history of the publication, interviews with its three editors — R.Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Peter Bagge (of Hate fame) — and testimonials from artists that contributed over the years, hence this essay.
ELIZABETH FIEND: My first comic was three frames. A cop says “nice ass” to a punk. She kicks him in the groin; he says “I won’t be able to get it up for a week.” She reaches into her leather; pulls a gun; shoots him, remarking “You’ll never get it up again.” A few months later Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with killing police officer William Faulkner. Philly 1981, was a time and place where a cop could be threatening to arrest you and checking out your legs — at the same time.
Employment for punks was scarce and I spent a lot of time drawing. I took a pen name, Luna Ticks, and named my comic strip The Young and The Frustrated: A Continuing Strip Tease. I distributing Xerox’s at punk shows. I gauged success by how many sheets littered the ground at the end of the show – many. My housemates were a dwarf, a black woman, a gay Mexican American, and the son of a police chief, along with my husband. The cop’s son stole our rent money and we were evicted. At times like this there’s only one thing to do. We started a band.
In the punk sea of non-conformity we were the weirdos. Five color hair; a silver space suit; pink floral over-top polka dots. We had a big presence. We walked everywhere because we had no money, paying for a bus would have been an extravagance that would never have occurred to us. Our style was so new and so alienating, once a man jumped out of his car in the middle of an intersection and start beating on us. A reporter described my appearance as having “both a sense of atmosphere, the bizarre and an inexplicable range of covertness.” I continued drawing, a lot. I got heavily into the fanzine scene which was bursting to an unprecedented size not seen since the ‘60’s. My characters were punks, set in a future-now world. They were raw and gritty, evoked strong emotion – mostly anger. I thought I was Anais Nin drawing feminist-erotica. The public thought I was a pornographer.
I got a job in a TV Script Archive. Twenty hours a week I read prime time TV scripts and analyzed them for content. That’s a job? Yes, it’s called academia. It afforded me plenty of free time, I spent a lot of that writing letters, my mailbox was jam-packed. I was printed in hundreds and hundreds of issues of mostly mail order fanzines. I was getting good reviews “Luna Ticks eroticus maximus make GREAT bedtime reading, informal, nasty artwork including barbecued men’s testicles, don’t miss out” [Hardcore Fanzine, SF Punkland]. And “Not merely crude, but always thought provoking.”
I was a woman in a man’s world. I was popular with prisoners – guys who maybe pulled armed robbery to get money for heroin – they wanted to be pen pals and asked for free copies of my self-printed mini-comic books. I always obliged. A lot of crazy people wrote to me. They sent multi-page letters in crayon detailing how they knew I was speaking directly to them via the comics, and ‘thanks.’ It was getting a little scary. A ‘fan’ sent me bits of dead animals. I received a baggie of assorted moss. MORE