A few years ago, the late Alvin Buenaventura told me at a comic fair that I should go to Charles Burns's signing line and ask me if he's "got any free shit" - I had just bought a bunch of rare books from his table, and perhaps as bit of book-collecting lagniappe he gave me this password. I'm really not the kind to do this but as Burns was signing some old book for me I gave him Alvin's magic words. "You want some free shit?" he asked me, and dug around into his bag and found a ziploc pouch full of little blue mini-comics. Hilariously, Burns has a secret handmade series called Free Shit that he gives out at fairs to the well-informed. He gave me issue #14, with an early blue Nitnit on the cover and a sexy demon centerfold.
Now, Burns has compiled the first twenty-two issues into a single pocket-sized volume, published in an edition of 1000 by Le Dernier Cri. Each cover is silkscreened (mine's unfortunately a little scuffed). Burns had a table at Comics Arts Brooklyn last weekend where he was selling these - like the grabby fan I am, I already bought one that was sent over from France. Oops.
But he signed my copy and gave me issue #23 of Free Shit. The front of both are above, the back of each is below (absolutely love that bouquet and don't know what's going on with "The Brainless Glob"):
Here's the signed title page of Free Shit and the cover of Issue #23:
Despite being extremely tightly bound, the book is gorgeous and it's wild to see how motifs and characters have evolved over the years. One of the hive mothers in the Last Look Nitnit trilogy even appears in an early issue:
..and I believe these bootleg cryptic covers showed up later in a portfolio published by Galerie Martel.
It's such a great piece and while the minis are fun, they're much better produced here in this format. Check out Le Dernier Cri to buy! I'll post more Charles Burns stuff later on this year, as I've picked up a few really special pieces that I'm excited to share.
Float by Anne Carson
Currently listening to:
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Skeleton Tree"