Manchild: A Celebration of Twenty Years of Doodles: by Brian Walsby, 120 pgs By Jimmy

Mar 05, 2007

Once upon a time, there was a magazine called Flipside, which, in the early ‘80s, was about as important to your average L.A. punker as the bible is to our dickhead president. Before Al and Hud invested in computers, it was a glorious, sloppy read, with layouts that went every which-a-way, had interviews that ceased abruptly and continued sometimes in the middle of wholly unrelated interview, and was stuffed to the gills with live and record reviews and comics from the créme de la créme of punk rock artists, including Lee Ellingson, XNO, John Crawford, Gary Panter, Matt Groening, and, yes, even Pushead. At the time, art and comics was about as integral to punk as the music was, so many of those artists became just as well known as Jello Biafra or Henry Rollins. One particular drawing in the pages of Flipside caught my attention and remains etched in my memory as being one of the funniest things I’ve ever saw there: a series of punk’s luminaries re-imagined as Peanuts characters. Most of ’em looked like, well, Peanuts characters, but the one of Ian MacKaye, looking perplexed and screaming “Why does everyone look like me?!?” was spot-fucking-on, as was the one of Rodney Bingenheimer, and the memory of it still cracks me up (couldn’t resist, so I went through the tattered remains of my Flipside collection and found the drawing in the letters section of issue forty—right above a letter from Doc of the legendary F-Troop claiming Circle Jerks bassist Roger Rogerson stole one of their tunes—along with a more detailed drawing of a slam pit featuring Snoopy stage diving, Lucy skanking in the pit, Serena Dank [anyone remember her and her silly-ass “Parents of Punkers” support group?] hiding behind the band and a sign in the middle of the pit “reserved for Quincy”). That was my introduction to the art of Brian Walsby. While his comics were never as “professional” as Lee or Pushead, he compensated for crudeness with a barrel full of humor and an uncanny ability to point out what should be obvious and poke fun at it. Soon enough, his work was showing up on flyers, album covers (take a look at the original cover for 7 Seconds’ Walk Together or Brian’s own band, Scared Straight, for evidence) and other magazines—and then he just kinda dropped off my radar for a few years. I thought he had put his pens and paper away for most of the ‘90s until, lo and behold, this book comes into Razorcake. Naturally, I gleefully snatched it up and began poring through it in the same way one catches up with an old friend you haven’t seen in two decades. My initial reaction was, “Wow, he’s gotten really, really good,” and it’s nice to see that he still has that sense of humor I used to love back in the day. The second thing I thought was, “Wow there really ain’t all that much here from prior to 1990.” While this was a bit disappointing (and understandable, seeing as I figure he might not have kept copies of all the stuff he sent off to all them mags), what is here us more than worth the price of admission: assorted missives on his life, both personal and as a musician; assorted histories and homages to his favorite musicians (one particular drawing of Void was especially striking); ribbing of some of punk’s sacred cows; and some withering commentary on modern punk, life in North Carolina and American popular culture as a whole. Of course, there’s also some Peanuts re-imaginings in there somewhere as well. Some of Brian’s positions I can say that, as one of his peers (both of us being active in the same regional [Southern California] scene during the same period) I don’t exactly agree with, specifically his belief that punk was somehow better back then, but on the whole, I think he is as perceptive as he’s ever been, his voice and style remain fresh, and his sometimes withering honesty remains just as necessary as ever. True to punk form, Brian still calls ’em as he sees ’em and, in an era when some version of punk can be bought in the very malls that used to kick us out and bands actually get hurt feelings when you hurl abuse at them, people like him are needed to remind us that to be “punk” is to challenge the status quo, to skewer all sacred cows, and most importantly, to perpetually be the fly in society’s ointment. Glad to see you and your pens are still raising a ruckus, Brian. –Jimmy Alvarado (, [email protected])

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