Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Max's Kansas City Funnies of Shari Szaba, from 1981-82

Text and images (c) Shari Szaba / FFanzeen, 1980-81, 2015
Introductory text (c) Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015

Lord knows there was a lot of good reason to go to Max's, such as the bands and strange food, communal tables, and second floor ambience. But it was an extra special extra when Shari Szaba's Max's Comics were available. I still have most of them, and even reprinted (with permission) a couple in the pages of my fanzine, FFanzeen (published 1977-88). Every character in the strips is based on a real, specific person. Shari was and continues to be an excellent artist whose work over the years is worth checking out.

The text below is Shari's description taken (again, with permission) from her comments on Facebook. - RBF, 2015

With all the buzz on Facebook about the upcoming Max's Kansas City 50th Anniversary reunion and music festival coming in June, it seemed like a good time for me to dig out these old comic strips that I created for Max's back in 1980-81, when I was a waitress upstairs where the bands played. I was also a student at the School of Visual Arts at the time, and a teacher of mine had just hired me to work on the album cover art he'd been commissioned to create for KISS (the album w...as KISS Unmasked). I happened to show some photos of the artwork I was doing for that to Peter Crowley, and to my bosses, Tommy and Laura Dean.

They liked it so much that they suggested I create my own comic strip about the crazy, nightly goings-on upstairs at Max's. The idea being that it could be a free handout at the door of the club and posted around the East Village for people to read and enjoy. They paid me $40-a-piece for them. I was given creative freedom to write and draw whatever I wanted, and of course I'd run each issue by them for approval. I think they printed 100 copies of each strip. There were only 7 of these unfortunately, because my workload began to pick up, and it was too hard to juggle full time college, daily homework, my freelance jobs, and my nightly job at Max's, too! So this is all there is.

Years later, when I reconnected on Facebook with friends I hadn't seen in decades from the old Max's days, I found out that a few folks had kept these comics over the years, which was amazing to me. I even found one of the Xeroxed strips selling on eBay for 80 bucks! And in 2010, I was thrilled when a few of these strips were included in the widely publicized Max's Kansas City exhibit at the Steven Kasher Gallery in NYC, thanks to my friend, musician and pop culture collector Howie Pyro, who submitted them as memorabilia.

These first 5 are the best ones. They're just a silly vignette of a short period of time. There are so many other Max's people and situations I would've liked to have portrayed but the strips were a short-lived project. They will probably make little sense to anyone who didn't play or hang out there at the time because they were never intended for a wide audience, and there are some in-jokes that you probably had to have been there to really get. But those of you who were there at the time, or who know or remember some of these characters, you may enjoy seeing these again.

The images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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