If you’re googling for emerging underground comics these days, the Happiness tumblr is a good place to start. I’m biased because I know founder Leah Wishnia from art school, but based on a recent phone call for this piece, Brooklyn’s main art comic dealer Desert Island thinks so, too. In the few years that she’s been self-publishing her biannual anthology, she’s been hitting the road, collaborating, kicking ass, and taking names; trolling Happiness will lead you through a wormhole of BK comic makers (my former self included), local collectives (Dimensions, Jeans, Chromazoid), and international artists.
Several pages throw back to some of Wishnia’s own influences, the grungier 70s-90s underground comix magazines Zap!, Weirdo, Short Order (guys like Crumb, Kuchar, S. Clay Wilson). Max Clotfelter’s “Randy and Travis’ Class Collision” especially recalls the beloved pimply hick archetype who’s come to represent class critique that’s now so ingrained in the medium. Others, like Sophia Foster Dimino (by day, a Google doodler), seem to come more from the syndicated strip tradition of Gasoline Alley; the smooth, graphic scenes have the slow, telescopic feel of a Chris Ware comic.
Wishnia also makes a point of including people who don’t necessarily have a comics background, like painters Kim Westfall and Peter Shear. “I just happen to know a lot of really fucking talented artists who don't usually work in comics, but I know that they have the right mind and skill set to make a damn good one,” she told me yesterday.
The next Happiness comes out August 2013, with a cover by Chromazoid’s Lale Westvind; Wishnia’s also at work on two new publications by Zach Hazard Vaupen and Andrew Bell.
So, you ask, are they damn good or what? See for yourself:
You can find Happiness online and at Desert Island, Nobrow in London, Quimby's and Chicago comics in Chicago, and Floating World in Portland. Happiness does not accept cold submissions, but inquiries and links to websites are welcome.