"They were all there, the pimps, the fags, the whores, the curious, the alcoholic, the weird of the late ’50s... blues lovers, Canadian bikers, thrill seekers, junkies, insomniacs, hepcats...” So begins “Down at the Kitty Kat,” one of the 20-plus never-before-collected memoirs and yarns by Spain Rodriguez, one of the original gang of Zap Comix provocateurs.
Although he’s best known for his two-fisted tales of the chopper-riding Trashman, Spain’s blunt graphic style and uncompromising gift for caricature, rendered in eye-punishing slabs of black and white, work equally well for more subtle fare — such as these memoirs of his misspent youth.
Cruisin’ with the Hound ranges from Spain’s days as an innocent young churchgoer to his time as a member of the Road Vultures motorcycle gang, with stops along the way for his discoveries of science fiction and other, more adult pursuits (“The Birth of Porn”) — as well as the “The Education of an Underground Cartoonist,” describing his journey from a pimply Captain Marvel-reading scribbler to his arrival as a professional artist.
But the heart of this collection is a cycle of stories (originally published in the acclaimed Blab! magazine) set during Spain’s teenage days in the 1950s, often featuring the doomed, dot-eyed Fred Tooté, a wild, flaky character in whose company some of his wildest escapades occurred.
Raunchy, hilarious, and often violent as hell, Cruisin’ with the Hound is an unsentimentally nostalgic trip to half a century ago — the anti-Happy Days, set to a true rock ’n’ roll beat.