|Born||Gary Edson Arlington
October 7, 1938
San Jose, California
|Died||January 16, 2014
San Francisco, California
|Area(s)||publisher, retailer, artist|
|San Francisco Comic Book Company
San Francisco Comic Book
Gary Edson Arlington (October 7, 1938 – January 16, 2014) was an American retailer, artist, editor, and publisher, who became a key figure in the underground comix movement of the 1960s and 1970s. As owner of America's first comic book store, the San Francisco Comic Book Company, located in San Francisco's Mission District, Arlington's establishment became a focal point for the Bay Area's underground artists. Cartoonist Robert Crumb has noted, "Gary made a cultural contribution in San Francisco in the late '60s, through the '70s, '80s & '90s that was more significant than he realizes."
Julian Guthrie, in the San Francisco Chronicle, described the youthful Arlington's art interests:
- The fascination with comic books began when Arlington was six years old. His father, who worked at a lumberyard in Hayward, stopped at a store on Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland and bought ten comic books. There were funny-looking animals, men who looked like melting monsters, and women who were distressed and barely dressed. "I remember the funny animals," he said. "And I remember my mother taking me to a theater where I saw an animated Superman. My mother was really good to me."
San Francisco Comic Book Company
In 1968, Arlington was down on his luck, penniless and essentially homeless. The closure of his parents' house forced him to sell his extensive personal comics collection, which included many rare comics from the era's Golden Age and after. Arlington opened the San Francisco Comic Book Company, located in San Francisco's Mission District at 3339 23rd Street. It soon became a focal point for the Bay Area's underground artists. Lambiek's Comiclopedia offers this description of the artistic avenues provided by Arlington:
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.
Arlington 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).
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.
Arlington lived in an apartment at 225 Berry Street in San Francisco before moving to the Mission Creek Senior Community apartment complex for low-income or disabled seniors.
On January 17, 2014, Arlington's death was announced on the San Francisco Bay Guardian Online website. He was 75 years old and died "from complications of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and [a previously] crushed leg. Ron Turner, founder of Last Gasp Press talked about his death, his ailing health, and how "The comic community will remember Gary as founding the first comic book store in America, on 23rd st. in the Mission."
Books and exhibitions
Arlington's art was exhibited in Art Almighty, a group exhibition at the 111 Minna Gallery in March–April 2011.
Arlington's artwork was collected in the book I Am Not of This Planet: The Art of Gary Edson Arlington, published by Last Gasp in 2011.
- Yardley, William. "Gary Arlington, a Force in Underground Comic Books, Is Dead at 75," New York Times (Jan. 30, 2014).
- Guthrie, Julian. "Gary Arlington a superhero in S.F. comix culture". San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2012.
- "Underground Comix and the Underground Press," Lambiek Comics History. Accessed Feb. 22, 2014.
- Rosenkranz, Patrick. "No Longer of This Planet: Gary Arlington (1938-2014)," The Comics Journal (Jan. 21, 2014).
- B. Marke. "RIP Gary Arlington, underground comix hero." San Francisco Bay Guardian Online, January 17, 2014.
- Art Almighty