War Stories


cover by David Chelsea

Going into the planning of this project, I knew only one thing about underground cartoonists  – that they were published in the underground press. That’s about it.

My assumption was that they were willingly published by the underground press. Former underground cartoonist and about-to-be UNDERGROUND USA speaker, David Chelsea dispatched that notion.

My own experience was typical. I was a staff illustrator, patiently accepting every editorial assignment drawing heroic freedom fighters and evil CIA agents, while lobbying for a continuing strip of my own. Finally, the editors gave in…..

Who knew?! To a reader, the Scribe seemed all of one motley piece. To the contributors, a different story. Each issue was a battlefield. Once printed, it was a scorecard. Who made it in? Who was left on the sidelines?  This ritualized battle of wills did a great job of preparing David for his career as a commercial illustrator in New York – I passed his work on the newsstands everyday, his celebrity caricatures beaming from the front page of the New York Observer.

At UNDERGROUND USA, perhaps David’s recollection can be matched against that of Maurice Isserman, who edited, as well as wrote for, the Scribe. How does Maurice remember it? Maurice’s credentials are dual: he is both newspaperman (he proofread for the Oregonian at the same time as he was writing and editing the Scribe), and historian, the James L. Ferguson Professor of History at Hamilton College.


UNDERGROUND USA is a public history/art education event made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. It is presented by Oregon Cartoon Institute in partnership with UO Comics & Cartooning Studies and PSU Comic Studies, with support from Oregon Historical Society and McMenamins.

Comic City USA, the first exhibit to look at Oregon print cartooning history, is at Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue, through Jan. 31, 2017.

“People who read them when they first came out remember the initial impact — like getting whacked in the head with a two by four.” Patrick Rosenkranz, on underground comics


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