In November, Fantagraphics releases HYSTERIA IN REMISSION: THE COMIX & DRAWINGS OF ROBERT WILLIAMS, an overdue compendium of the celebrated painter’s graphic work. Since the mid-’90s, Williams has been justly celebrated for his remarkable accomplishments as a fine artist and champion of outsider art. His large-scale gallery paintings, depicting with surreal clarity such things as hot-rod wrecks, mystical visions, and gang fights, have been correctly identified as expressions of the poetry and strangeness of the culture of Southern California, and are much sought after by wealthy Angelino art collectors. He also publishes a magazine, JUXTAPOZ, devoted to outsider art, such as custom cars and folk art. All of this has meant a crucial element of William’s long career has gone largely undocumented.
Robert Williams began his career designing advertisements for Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s crazy tee shirts in the pages of HOT ROD magazine, and went on, shortly thereafter, to become one of the godfathers of underground comix, his work first appearing in ZAP #4. From the beginning, Williams’ tremendous gifts as a draftsman and psychedelic visualizer mark his work. Reading his stories requires more time than reading those of his contemporaries, simply because he packs so much visual information into each panel. In addition, his mastery of analytic anatomy leads in surprising directions, from the erotic power of the female forms he incorporates and distorts to the deconstruction and re-assembly of invented creatures such as his Coochy Cooty.