1981 | Chicago Reader at Forty | Chicago Reader


The year in Chicago history via the pages of the Reader

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Weird Laughs

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When 28 years later, the Chicago Humanities Festival decided to schedule a panel on the decline of alternative comics, a Reader editor—myself—was asked to moderate. Thumb through the issues of 1981 and you'll see why. The Reader's burgeoning classifieds section was being garnished with one off-center strip or panel after another: Jay Lynch and Gary Whitney's Phoebe & the Pigeon People, Matt Freedman's Free Associates, Walter Gurbo's Drawing Room, John Glashan's Genius, Pete Mueller's P.S. Mueller, Heather McAdams's Heather McAdams.

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And just then coming into her own was the Reader discovery and dead-cert genius—Lynda J. Barry, who wrote, drew, and lived Ernie Pook's Comeek.

Just ahead in the Reader, Matt Groening's Life in Hell and Bill Griffith's Zippy. Still years down the road, Chris Ware. When their natural habitat, the classifieds, abruptly disappeared in the 2000s, so did most of the comics. Barry, Groening, Ware, and Jules Feiffer were all on that 2009 panel, laughing the blues away.

December 4, 1981

Arms and the Woman

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"No one ever raped a .38."

– poster cited by Marcia Froelke Coburn in

"Arms and the Woman," December 4.


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