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Home arrow Going underground

Going underground

The Optimist
The Optimist

However, subversion comes down to definitions, and it could equally be argued that the comix were part of the counterculture, which was 'what it said it was': a movement which offered an alternative to mainstream culture based on libertarian and Utopian ideals. In the words of philosopher David Bouchier, the counterculture rejected 'the very forms of thought and existence which have been created by advanced industrial societies. It was the most fundamental and original kind of challenge to industrial capitalism, and potentially the most subversive.'
If one accepts this line of thought, then the underground could not be anything less than revolutionary: a tool of the counterculture, and as coherent or incoherent as the counterculture's wider aims. Indeed, if nothing else, the many police raids, court actions and so on that were undertaken against the comix suggest that the establishment considered them to be a real threat. Of course, the establishment won in the end: this was the result of being both strong enough to fight off the attack, and flexible enough to co-opt and legitimize what was once regarded as outrageous. But ultimately, does the underground's failure make it any less subversive? The answer has to be in the negative.
Knockabout
Page from Knockabout (Knockabout, 1981). Art/script: Graham Manley. A title that continued the British underground tradition into the 1980s.
Knockabout
Page from Knockabout (Knockabout, 1981). Art/script: Paul Bignell. By this time, punk was having an influence on art style.
 Large Cow Comix
Large Cow Comix, Knockabout (Knockabout, 1981) by Hunt Emerson. Emerson's fluid line and upbeat stories made him a perennial favourite.