Read and Destroy: A Look Back at Thrasher Comics
Greetings Strange Kids and Kiddies, and welcome to the underground. Down here, the good guys don’t always win. In fact, there aren’t necessarily any good guys to be found here. Freaks rule. The good is mixed with the bad and even our heroes are flawed. And sometimes we root for the bad guy, just for the hell of it. Sound like fun? All aboard! We’re going down…
In 1988, Thrasher Skateboard Magazine launched Thrasher Comics headlong into the spandex-laden, Marvel/DC superhero hegemony, reminding the world that there were other stories to be told. Stories not approved by the Comics Code Authority. Actually, Thrasher created their own code: the Society for Comics Underground Morality (SCUM). Though it didn’t exactly topple the Marvel/DC empire, Thrasher left a healthy scorch mark on the hull of those publishing juggernauts, heralding the inevitable rise of smaller, alternative, and underground comics that would buck the classic superhero formula in comics.
Each issue features a variety of unique artists and stories running the gamut from sci-fi/horror, to existential angst, to plain goofy, all with skateboards. Covers are full-color with pulpy, black and white pages inside, lending it a low-budget feel… but in a good way. Purveyors of underground comics will recognize the influence of 60’s and 70’s artists such as R. Crumb (American Splendor and too many to mention) and Ed Roth (Rat Fink). One particular Thrasher artist, Johnny Childish, is frequently mistaken for Pushead, illustrator of classic Metallica merchandise. There are a few stinkers in there, too, but the artwork is generally outstanding and a welcome departure from the mainstream.
In place of manicured heroes and muscle-bound role models you’ll meet unconventional characters such as Thrash Gordon, The Head, Granny McGurk, and Evol Baby. Thrash Gordon is the real stand-out of the series, with legit sci-fi storytelling, the best artwork you’ll see in Thrasher Comics, and just enough skateboard action to keep it relevant without overshadowing the story. Another personal favorite is issue #4’s When There’s No More Room in Hell… The Dead Will Skate the Earth!. Undead skaters rise from the grave to put a hurtin’ on some insensitive hillbillies. Great stuff. I used to draw panels from that one so often that I could do it from memory even with teachers babbling at the front of the room.
Sadly, Thrasher Comics was not long for this world, producing only 9 issues from 1988-1992. Even more unfortunately, there is a serious dearth of information available online. My research turned up almost nothing in the way of background on the series’ rise and fall, not even a Wikipedia entry. What I can tell you is that it opened my eyes to an entirely new world of comics, and I’ve still got issues 2-9. Whenever I start thinking too hard or getting too uptight, I open them up and take a little trip underground to restore my reverence for the weird, and remind myself that unless you’re Superman, life is messy, but also a lot of fun. In fact, I think I’ll stay down here a little longer. See you at the egress.