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family dog poster
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 5
total score 10
Rick Griffin's The Family Dog Poster

1st Printing / October, 1967 / The Family Dog

Compared to college humor magazines, comic fanzines, or underground newspapers, rock concert posters in the mid to late 1960s were not as influential on the birth or creative development of underground comic books. But they were an important, influential art movement in their own right, and one poster did have a direct influence on a handful of key contributors to the comic book revolution. And like underground comics, the heart and soul of the rock concert poster culture was San Francisco, where they were as common as rolling papers or Beatles records.

Rock concert posters were produced for hundreds of concerts at dozens of venues in San Francisco, but the two venues most famously advertised were Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and the Family Dog's Avalon Ballroom. At the peak of the era, there were rock concerts every week at both venues. The concerts weren't just forums for the music, but elaborate and sometimes all-night social events for hippies, with dancing, illicit drugs and psychedelic light shows.

The Family Dog was managed by Chet Helms, who began commissioning posters to advertise Avalon concerts beginning in 1966. The posters, with their psychedelic graphic and colors, hippie-culture references, and highly decorative lettering, grew so popular that they were soon produced and sold for profit. Wes Wilson, Stanley "Mouse" Miller, Alton Kelley and Victor Moscoso were four early pioneers who set the creative direction for American posters. Rick Griffin came along at the end of 1966 (from Southern California and Surfer magazine) and brought his own flair to poster design, fitting in seamlessly with the first four. By 1967, Griffin had joined the pioneers and they were known collectively as "the Big Five."

In the fall of 1967, Griffin produced a Family Dog poster for an October concert featuring Quicksilver Messenger Services, Sons of Champlin, and Taj Mahal & the Blue Flames. The poster was unlike any that had been created before it, with its "Sunday Funnies" layout, panels of surreal cartoons and talk balloons with mostly nonsensical, abstract lettering. When Moscoso saw it, he said he'd been developing a poster with a very similar concept, so he and Griffin began collaborating on subsequent posters in the same vein.

Robert Crumb saw Griffin's poster in a store window at the same time he was working on the first issue of Zap Comix in 1967. Crumb said the poster inspired him to look at comics in a new way, leading him to create "Abstract Expressionist Ultra Super Modernistic Comics," which featured surreal cartoons in oddly jagged panels with abstract lettering. The three-page series later appeared in Zap Comix #1. Shortly thereafter, Crumb dropped by Griffin's house and invited him to join Crumb and S. Clay Wilson for the next issue of Zap, and Griffin brought Moscoso along to join the group.

As the '60s morphed into the '70s, rock concert posters evolved into more of a commercial business and the original venues and creators closed up shop or moved on. However, for a period of time they were an uncensored creative outlet and source of income for many artists who worked in underground comics, including Jack Jackson (who also organized and managed most of Family Dog's poster business), Griffin, Moscoso, John Thompson, Greg Irons, Gilbert Shelton and Jim Franklin (in Texas) and Jay Lynch (in Chicago).

There are two official printings of Rick Griffin's The Family Dog poster. The 1st printing was printed before the concert and measures 14 3/16" x 20". The 2nd printing was printed after the concert and measures 14" x 20 15/16".

Rick Griffin
Alton Kelley
Victor Moscoso
Stanley Mouse
Wes Wilson

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