The Complete Zap Comix is a five-volume hardcover box set containing 920 pages of underground comic history. Featuring the work of R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Paul Mavrides, Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Williams, and S. Clay Wilson.
How did the idea for Beneath the Streets come about?
Matt Litwack: During my high school days, I would explore the NYC subway tunnels. I became fascinated with the graffiti, the history, and the general danger of the underground. JURNE and I wanted to create a book that was able to examine the subway system from a sociological, historical, and artistic perspective. We wanted people to be able to see what it’s like for graffiti artists to explore these environments.
Jurne: We’ve been drawn to these hidden or tucked-away city environments for nearly 2 decades, exploring and painting them. The New York City subway tunnel system is one of the most expansive and oldest public transportation systems in the world. With that comes a lot of history, and a lot of potential stories to tell about experiences inside the subway tunnels. There’s a tradition of folklore or story telling that goes hand in hand with graffiti writing. Capturing this story of the New York city subway tunnels, exploration, and graffiti writing inside them was something that Matt and I talked about doing for a long time.
Can you describe your first journey underground into the subway tunnels?
Jurne: I remember stepping off the platform into the dark tunnel, and feeling like I was crossing a threshold into a dangerous place, with dim red light illuminating the 3rd rail, and the slow hiss of air coming from pipes over head. It was pretty terrifying. I was immediately fascinated.
Matt Litwack: The first time I ventured underground was with a much older, established and experienced individual. I was fortunate to have someone with such knowledge show me the ropes. Regardless, I was still terrified and didn’t know what to expect or what I might encounter.
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