The Last Estate

FORBIDDEN AURA – The Last Estate


A review of FREAK BUCK


Artwork by Igor Hofbauer

A man gets a prostitute who is half skeleton. He takes her to a seedy room where they commence to have sex that is shown in cutaway so you can see his penis graphically represented inside her. Shown from multiple angles, they fuck with pistols in their hands and, right at the moment of simultaneous orgasm, they blow each other’s brains out. 


Artwork by Igor Hofbauer

All this is told in a vivid colorful illustration that is without panels yet still has a multidirectional sequential flow as your eyes scan to all the corners of the page and gather visual information. The artist is Igor Hofbauer, and his art seems to all have the printmaker’s eye for bold colors and fields. Research shows Hofbauer is from Croatia, and his artwork is some of the best in the new anthology of comics and illustration known as Freak Buck, oozed out from Providence, RI publishers Pig Roast Publishing.


The anthology is 250 pages long, and even if you hadn’t flipped through it to get a quick voyeur’s look at the pages, you would quickly get the picture: this is a hallucinatory, colorful, racy, grindy collection of comics from international sources that you could say is for kids if the kids were the kind to hang out huffing paint thinner in a filthy alleyway in Mexico City post nuclear strike.


I’ve been away from reading underground comics for years. It’s such a suck on the wallet. But for a while I dabbled in reading the classic shit like Bijou Funnies, Zap Comix, Robert Williams’ own technically proficient and damned comics, Skip Williamson’s stoner countercultural cartoons, and others. There’s nothing like the forbidden, retina-robbing visuals of underground comics, the stories and subject matter your mind recoils from in fascinated, ambivalent horror, and with this collection, publisher Jeff Schneider and editor Alexi Zeren have put together a kinetic, sinful, diverse collection.


Artwork by Sylvain Labourayre

The book, along with Schneider’s raucous, hilarious band memoir Psychiatric Tissues and other Pig Roast Publishing productions, showed up at my PO box one day not too long ago after being bought and paid for by shadowy benefactors at the Last Estate, and it had that mystical, forbidden aura which is the miasma of something truly underground. You can tell by the wavy lines of illness and authenticity coming off the pages that there’s something not right about it, and it’s not right in all the right ways. As with much of what Pig Roast Publishing gets involved with, the underground pedigree and resources of everything to be found in the pages of Freak Buck are thick—it’s refreshing to see, on paper, the bugs squirming under the rock you feel that you helped overturn, as opposed to online where it’s all quickly overturned rocks and there’s a blurred, overwhelming lack of distinction to the insectile life that’s everywhere you look. Online, searching through online stores in some sectors, everything can come to have that underground feeling, therefore nothing’s truly underground anymore.  


There’s a nostalgic dimension to this feeling of discovery of hidden treasure; as a Generation X throwback, whose patterns of consumption were set in crystal before the Internet came about and made the satisfying ease of consumption only one frictionless click away, I place a high value on the experience of finding the gold bullion in the wreckage of the derelict galleon on the seafloor. I remember as a kid looking through the back pages of my brother’s Thrasher magazines at the music catalogs where you could order 7” records of DRI, Rudimentary Peni, Dead Kennedys, Stormtroopers of Death. Used bookstores where you could find that rare volume did not disappear with the advent of the Internet, of course, and neither did the music shop where your fingers went on glorious muscle-memory autopilot flipping through the bins of physical media—but it may as well all be gone. It’s not physical anymore, not in the same way. Somebody has been summoned into motion by the guilty click of your Internet shopping, to traipse down the aisles of sorted books or CDs and find your selection and package it for you, or a print-on-demand robot has been awakened to unholy life to spit out that one copy of your book. It’s not physically demanding in that fun hunter-gatherer way. That era, for most of us, is dead. But some analogues can be found. The throwback aesthetic of Pig Roast Publishing’s product, the comics zine texture, the DIY work ethic, and the questing curation of content evident on each page, make it a special artifact that feels “out of time”: not in a “time’s up” way but in an “Ark of the Covenant relic that belongs in a museum” way. Treasure hunters sit up and pay attention.




But what about the book? Freak Buck is truly psychotic, and as someone with a diagnosis I use such language very sparingly and only when I feel like it is the only available descriptor. But it’s really a rip. The book can be plotted along the extrapolated lay line of the Zap Comix of old: underground comics that not only push the envelope of good taste but run it through the shredder and burn the remains in a furnace a la publishers like Last Gasp and Fantagraphics. 


Artwork by Marti. [Editor’s note: Only one third of the Last Estate editorial team felt it was appropriate to include this image, so we’re only including one third of the image.]

The endpapers reveal that part of the book was originally published in Barcelona, Spain by Ediciones La Cúpula, an international comics publisher which in addition to a plethora of Spanish comics takes on Spanish editions of Charles Burns’ Black Hole and the Fabulous Freak Brothers. These sections were, according to Schneider, the ones drawn by Spanish cartoonist Marti, and had to be translated into English by Luis Roldan Torquemada, exclusively for Freak Buck. Marti’s comics are as fucking dirty as a down-and-out Barcelona hooker’s mattress and insane: one draws heavily from Lynch’s disturbing industrial landscapes in Eraserhead and the other, “The Son of El Cid,” is a nasty chronicle of the citizens of a Spanish town, including a perverse patriarch who forces the mother of his child to give birth in a bullring so that the blood of the afterbirth will mix with the sand. Schneider: “[Marti] did a wonderful comic named The Cabbie that was published by the famous Fantagraphics and was in RAW a magazine edited by Art Speigelman (Maus etc.)  We obtained the rights to some of Marti’s comics and translated it for the first time in English.”


Another comic by Abraham Diaz is clever in that you need to piece together the interlacing jigsaw sequence of the panels, which isn’t immediately clear, and once you do the thing comes together. Jake Pyne (Cumpug) has a whole layout which is just mainly line drawings of dudes blowing each other. The general tone of the entire book veers well into the pornographic territory at times.


Artwork by Emily V. Brown [Editor’s note: Is that you, Josh?]

It’s not all perfect. Some of the art is less driven than the other more narrative features in the book, kind

of shapeless and flat as illustrations that don’t rise above the typical garden variety Juxtapoz illustrations (Juxtapoz the magazine started by underground painter/comics artist Robert Williams). The level of technical skill widely varies: some comics or drawings are polished and refined while other work, like Emily V. Brown’s, looks primitive and earnest and done with a rich palette of recklessly stolen markers, like something the clever but troubled girl who stays after school to hang out in the art room might draw. Sandwiched in the middle of the book is a lengthy interview with “Longmont Potion Castle” which is the moniker of a sound artist/cartoonist who has an ironclad underground following. He did intricate prank calls, “phonework,” that sounded full of psychopathic derring-do including calling the late Alex Trebek’s home phone number.


I asked Schneider some questions about the book and about Pig Roast Publishing overall.


JH: How old is Pig Roast Publishing and what was the impulse to start a press, where did that come from?


JS: I started the press in 2017. I published a book I liked titled A Little Privacy, Please by a gent named Christopher Feltner. He had spent many years documenting “bathroom graffiti” and we turned this into a nice coffee table art book. Then I did the Kickstarter campaign for my memoir Psychiatric Tissues about my band Arab On Radar. The impulse was to transition out of music and into literature for better or worse. I think Rock n Roll lived from 1959 until 2009 and the project completed. This pisses people off, but I think Rock music is dead for the most part…what followed is larping as Rock more as a simulation than authentic.


JH: Do you have other comics publications on the horizon, would you do it again? In other words, would you make this a regular thing?


JS: I am attempting to solicit a book with the reclusive and mysterious Al Columbia but for various reasons that hasn’t materialized yet. He is an amazing artist. I hope it happens some day…The Al Columbia thing is very tentative and probably (because of his personality) would scare him away. I don’t have him under contract or anything. Perhaps it could be phrased better as a wish and something I’d like to publish if he would do it. That is more accurate to the reality of that situation…But overall [comics] will not be regular, my next two contracted books coming up are novels.


Artwork by Sylvain Labourayre

JH: Where have you been promoting the book, who are you talking to in order to try to promote it?


JS: I am DiY and do ads on social media but haven’t had luck with promotion and I ask a lot of people for help, few respond….When Alexi and I both met up [at the Philly Comics Expo] a few weeks back we were lamenting the fact that it has gotten very little press or care from the usual people who review comics. It is quite a different scene from indie-lit (or whatever it is called now post Alt-Lit? lol) Fantagraphics is a total institution and seem to grab most new talent and publish books of the quality of Freak Buck. I think it was surprising to many in the comics community that this book was published in such hi quality, by an expensive pressing plant, Prolific, who are the best. I am not sure people wrap their head around that yet. Also, having multi-genre book, there is the Longmont interview which has nothing to do with comics. Also there is the coin art by Dylan Languell which is not comics obviously. Our hope was that people have an open enough mind and appreciation to pull them into cool stuff like that rather than a tight comics only book. I hope the smorgasbord approach works! lol But yeah, I hope people don’t think I am rich or anything, I just went crazy and cashed out my meager retirement stocks and put it all into this book because I felt it had to be made. Totally insane move, not advised, but I don’t regret it either. 


JH: Do you know any of the artists?


JS: I don’t know many. Alexi’s work and his partner Marina I know. I have known Corinne Halbert from back in the Arab On Radar days because she worked at Quimby’s in Chicago a great comics shop. I am on the same record label (Skin Graft Records) as Gregory Jacobsen who also is a musician in a great band (check ‘em out) named Lovely Little Girls. But I think that is all. I might meet Longmont Potion Castle but with him you never know!



Artwork by S. R. Arnold

Books are for shopping. Music is for shopping. T-shirts too. People are not for shopping. But the joy of discovering other real heads in this strange labyrinth of online literature (cyberwriting, indie lit, indie publishing, however you want to slice it), other people toiling in the underground, who with their work might invite you to other deeper levels through a hidden passageway—that pleasure of connection is something that echoes the furtive lost world of mail art and tape-trading and xerox-and-staple zines, before email and chat rooms and social media came along and flattened the world. Who knows who will write the microhistories of how we came to know each other, how we found each other in the dark and said, “Hey, you want to read something really underground?”


Jesse Hilson

Jesse Hilson is a trespasser on Last Estate grounds. He’s like that deranged fan who showed up unannounced at John Lennon’s house to grill him about Helter Skelter. He is a writer and a cartoonist.