Gary Panter

ralph records

self-portrait

Gary Panter (b. 1950) is an illustrator, designer, and part-time musician. Panter’s work is representative of the post-underground, new wave comics movement that began with the end of one periodical, ‘Arcade: The Comics Revue’ and the initiation of another, RAW, one of the second generation in American underground comix. Panter attended Texas A&M University where he studied under commercial illustrator, Jack Unruh.

He has published his work in various magazines and newspapers, including ‘Raw,’ ‘Time,’ and ‘Rolling Stone.’ He has exhibited widely, and won three Emmy awards for his set designs for ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.’ Prior to Panter’s work, kid shows had a more lulling aesthetic: everything was round, ‘cute,’ simplified, and pastel. His set design was the antithesis of pablum-art: it was dense as a jungle and jam-packed with surprises, often loud and abrasive ones.

His most notable works include ‘Jimbo,’ ‘Adventures in Paradise,’ ‘Jimbo’s Inferno’ and ‘Facetasm,’ which was created together with cartoonist, Charles Burns. Panter claims to have been influenced by among others, Frank Zappa’s art director Cal Schenkel. His comics are fast and hard and are drawn in an expressionistic manner. His works balance the worlds of painting, commercial art, illustration, cartoons, alternative comix, and music. Panter undertakes all of his projects with imaginative punk flair. As an early participant in the Los Angeles punk scene in the 1970s, Gary Panter defined the grungy style of the era with his drawings for ‘Slash’ magazine and numerous record covers. Some time around 1980, Panter’s ‘Rozz Tox Manifesto’ was published in the Ralph Records catalog, calling for artists to work within the capitalist system.

While doing illustration and set designs, Panter kept up an active career as a cartoonist. His work in comics includes contributions to the avant-garde comics magazines and the graphic novel ‘Cola Madness.’ Matt Groening, the creator of ‘The Simpsons,’ once noted that Panter ‘applied his fine-art training to the casualness of the comic strip, and the result was an explosive series of graphic experiments that are imitated in small doses all over the world today.’ Groening himself can be seen as an example of a cartoonist who has learned much from Panter. The jagged smashed-glass rawness of ‘The Simpsons’ (think of Lisa’s hair) can be traced back to the post-apocalyptic world that Panter was sketching in the early 1980s. ‘The Simpsons’ could be seen as mutant escapees from Panter’s early work.

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