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"Rude Interlude" strip

"Mickey Rat for President" pin

As he never wrote under his own name, it's not well known that Chester Crill was involved with the underground comics scene of the 70s. Fact is he wrote the first two issues of "Mickey Rat" (illustrated by Robert Armstrong) & also wrote for the "Yellow Dog" series. In this excerpt from a Pulsating Dream interview (8/02) Chester talks a bit about his experiences in the realm of underground comics.

"I only wrote the first two issues. Mickey Rat came from L.A. Comix #1, which preceeded Mickey Rat. Mickey Rat was initially a t-shirt that Robert Armstrong drew. We sold a lot of those t-shirts. I was in the t-shirt business until about '74. And then I said one day, 'Well, you know, Crumb is blah blah blah... Let's make some comics.' We did. Robert's one of the leading underground comic artists. So I decided to become a comic writer and maybe '70-'71 that's what I did. But I couldn't get the artists to work fast enough - or even remotely fast enough. I mean, 'Well here's a whole comic I've written, when can I have it?' 'Oh, in three years.'

"I was heavy into comics for a long time. And dealt them as a comic dealer. I had a friend who was into Marvel Comics and I was kind of like auditioning to become a writer for Marvel. But when I saw the amount of money involved I just blew that right off. After Mickey Rat I did a couple. The comic I'm proudest of is Yellow Dog, which was a comic from Berkeley. It was an omnibus comic. There's one issue, which I think is #22. I wrote almost all of it. When it started it was a like a newspaper tabloid. Like the East Village Other had - The Gothic Blimp Works was the name of theirs. That’s how Yellow Dog started, but it ended up a comic like other underground comics. I had about five artists that I wrote for, but I never used my own name. And I almost never signed anything that I did.

"I'll tell you the funniest story. This is after the fact. And Armstrong and I are pretty well estranged for different reasons but he phoned me up - I think it was in '71. He said 'Have you still got connections in the music world?' I said 'Yeah, yeah, I know some guys.' He was hooked up with Robert Crumb's band. And he said 'Well, you're the guy that we're going to have represent us to the record industry and try to get us going in that direction.' And I said 'Robert Crumb?' He said 'Yes' and I said 'Well, now, if that includes some art work I'll do that.' He said 'Yes, it does.'

"So I phoned up - after a bunch of other stuff I got to the guy at CBS and I said 'Well what would you do - because they'd just come out of that thing we're they'd done the Big Brother album - what would you do if I gave you Robert Crumb's band?' And he said 'Does it come with the art work?' I said 'Yes.' He didn't even ask me what kind of a band it was - he didn't give a dog shit. He said 'We'll give you a million bucks up front.' And I was going to get a 15% commission. So that sounded good to me. And I got back to Armstrong and I said 'It's all set, everything is ready to go.' And he said 'Well, there's one more thing I didn't tell you.' I said 'What's that?' He said 'Crumb only wants to issue 78s.' I don't know if you ever saw Amos 'n' Andy but when Kingfish would have that balloon with the dollar flying away over his head…

"So, I said 'Well, you know, I can probably arrange that, but I don't think I can arrange that with Columbia Records.' I couldn't arrange it with doodle dogshit. But I found a guy in town who was a comic mogul and he said 'I'll put out the 78.' So I produced Crumb's first 78. They made a series of them. Until they had lost everybody's money connected to them making these 78s, they were going to keep doing 'em. The first one was called Armstrong's Pasadenans. I produced it and I played piano on the flip side, on 'Missouri Waltz.' And Crumb & I - talk about it wasn't going to work. It didn't work.. He told me 'What is wrong with you? You play like a professional.' And I said 'All right, that's that.' Everybody I connected to to do this little thing lost every dime."