In April of 1973, a bunch of young entrepreneurs hosted a convention focused on underground comix, with a lineup that included just about all the stars of that scene.
The Berkeley Comix Convention, or Berkeley Con, was held at Pauley Ballroom at the University of California. It drew national media coverage to a side of comics publishing that still seemed to be in its ascendancy.
Today, I’m going to focus on the program book, a work of art all its own, and the drawings of Jim Pinkoski.
He was a young employee at Comics & Comix, the chain of comic shops, and he was a talented artist.
The book includes an ad for Comics & Comix, and a Little Nemo pastiche, both by Jim.
Here is the cover, with art by Rick Griffin, followed by the table of contents. Take a good look at some of those names.
Right before the convention, Jim did the cover for the San Francisco Phoenix, an underground newspaper that was doing a special issue about comix. The cropped illustration is at the top of this post. Here is the uncropped version:
I asked Jim about how he came to work at the Comics & Comix, and this was his response, via email.
I recall walking along Telegraph Avenue in what I thought was 1971, and seeing the Comics & Comix store there for the first time. It had been open just a week or so. The first guy they hired was a fellow with long straight blonde hair, and I can’t recall his name, but I was the second person they hired!
I think I worked there straight through — 1971 to 1976 — started at the Berkeley shop, then filled in for several months at the S.F. store. It was time consuming to commute across the Bay, but was neat to walk right along the base of the huge Transamerica Pyramid each day! (And then I recall doing the commute while sick with the flu once that was no fun.) Then in 1975-1976 they opened a shop in San Jose and I moved into it to manage it. Brent Anderson and Frank Cirocco were there and we painted the comic characters on the front windows.
Some notes: The store opened in 1972, not ’71. Also, the San Jose store was getting remodeled in 1975, as opposed to opening for the first time.
About the Berkeley Con, his memory is foggy.
I remember next to nothing about that 1973 Berkeley underground comix con. I recall that I thought the building was “too clean” for something like an underground comix con. It really should have been held in an old broken down rave warehouse somewhere!
One of his few clear memories, aided by photographic evidence, is that he was taking shots of the guests using his Nimslo 3-D camera. Among the photos was the following salute from Spain Rodriguez and S. Clay Wilson.
[Correction: A reader tells me that this photo wasn’t from 1973, noting that Wilson’s hair wasn’t this gray until the mid-1980s. I think the reader is correct, based on this photo that also was taken at the 1973 show. I followed up with Jim Pinkoski and he said he still thinks the photo is from ’73 but is not absolutely sure. Either way, cool photo.]
Below is Trina Robbins on the Pauley’s center’s balcony. [If the Spain and Wilson photo is not from ’73, then it’s reasonable to ask if this one is as well. If I get any other information, I’ll update here.]
Comics & Comix, initially called the Berkeley Comic Art Shop, was started by John Barrett, Robert Beerbohm and Bud Plant, some of the same people who organized the Berkeley Con.
Here, from 1975 or so are Barrett (left) and Pinkoski.
They did the grunt work themselves to remodel the San Jose shop. And yes, the Brent Anderson from Comics & Comix is the same guy who has spent the last few decades drawing comics for major publishers.
Once at a Comics & Comix warehouse party, Jim played the drums and Jim Steranko played guitar.
Jim Pinkoski continued to do ads for Comics & Comics, such as this one from 1975:
He now lives in Tennessee with his wife Sandra, pictured below. You can see what he’s been up to since leaving California by going to his website.
Thank you to Jim for sharing all the photos and stories. I got in touch with him after he reached out to Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics, so thanks to Joe as well.
One more thing: I want to read an oral history of that 1973 Berkeley Con. Some of the best books about the undergrounds, such as Rebel Visions by Patrick Rosenkranz, do not have much about what must have been an off-the-hook weekend.
****** UPDATE 12/15/17: I added several photos, and removed an illustration of Bud Plant. I’ll be posting that illustration in an upcoming post.
****** UPDATE 12/20/17: I added a correction to the Spain and Wilson photo based on evidence that it was not taken in 1973. I also added a note above the Robbins photo.