An Underground Comix Godfather: Gary Arlington

Health by Mulele Jarvis

Health by Mulele Jarvis

It seems that I’ve misinterpreted Dale’s intentions with this site, I thought we were to put up content more to entertain than to inform. I’ve been corrected but only after my first post. The idea being that there aren’t enough “indie comics” guys talking behind-the-scenes.

So maybe a bit more on my background is in order:
I’ve never really considered myself an indie-comic artist as much as a comic artist who hadn’t hit yet. But let’s not kid ourselves, here. I’ve not had any interest in drawing mainstream American comics since I picked up my first erotic European comic in junior-high.

I grew up in San Francisco and went to Horace Mann Middle School, now a K-8th grade school. Whatever. The coolest part of my childhood were the 2 comic shops across the street from my school.

One of them was S.F. Comics, owned and operated by Gary Arlington. I had no idea who this man was, beyond being my comic dealer at the time and if you don’t know about him, you should read up. His contribution to comics, indie or otherwise, is immeasurable.

For starters, he opened one of the first comic shops in the U.S. According to Lambiek, “As guru and ‘godfather’ of underground comics, he encouraged and directed many artists on their path to publication. His tiny 200-square-foot store became the underground nexus where artists met, discussed projects and exchanged ideas. He also published several series of early comix, namely Skull Comics, Slow Death Comics and, of course, San Francisco Comic Book (issue no. 1 of this series is very rare and has become much sought after by comix collectors).”

Gary’s comic shop was a hole in the wall filled with comics floor to ceiling with absolutely no discernible order but some how Gary always knew where the comic you were looking for was, typically under 3 feet of other comics.

“Artists published by Arlington included Joel Beck, Roger Brand, John Burnham, Melinda Gebbie, Justin Green, Rory Hayes, Hank Kingfish, Chris Mettz, Larry Rippee, Dori Seda, Barry Siegel, Bruce Simon, Spain, Ron Turner and S. Clay Wilson. Employees at Arlington’s store included Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes and Flo Steinberg (, 2012).”

I was able to find a blog (Photographer Gabriella Hasbun) with a picture of Gary circa 2002 standing in the middle of his shop with no front teeth. It’s about the 6th picture in on the Mission Street Series.

It was at this store that I decided to become a comic artist.

It was at this store that I discovered Heavy Metal Magazine, Epic Magazine, Bill Sienkiewicz, Moebius, Leiji Matsumoto, Tezuka Osamu, Peter Hsu’s Quadrant, Robert Crumb and many others, I’m sure, that I can’t recall at 1 in the morning.

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