Jay Lynch, underground comics creator, dies at 72

NEW YORK — Jay Lynch, an artist, writer, and satirist who was a central figure in the underground comics revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, died March 5 at his home in Candor, N.Y. He was 72.

His cousin Valerie Snowden said the cause was lung cancer.


Mr. Lynch, who had a wry, deadpan sense of humor, held strong views about the importance of underground comics, which differentiated themselves from the mainstream through raunchy and grotesque depictions of sex, drugs, and violence.

“Underground comix were the most important art movement of the 20th century,” he wrote, using the “comics” spelling preferred by underground cartoonists, in the introduction to “Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics Into Comix” (2009), by Denis Kitchen and James Danky.

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“Copies of many of the early books sell to collectors for many thousands of dollars,” he continued. “It’s all quite ironic: Rebellious cartoonists mocking consumer culture were inadvertently producing collectible artifacts for the same consumer culture 40 years down the road.”

Mr. Lynch played several roles in the underground comics world. Using a retro style with a tight crosshatching technique, he created comics like “Nard n’ Pat,” about a conservative man who bickers with a hip cat.

“It was sweetly rooted in the past,” cartoonist Art Spiegelman said in an interview. “Two characters who oddly refracted the themes of old comic strips but now they surrealistically dealt with sex, drugs, and cheap thrills.”


Mr. Lynch founded Bijou Funnies with his fellow cartoonist Skip Williamson to publish his work and that of other artists, and acted as a publicist for the loosely defined industry.

“He put people together,” said Patrick Rosenkranz, who is writing a biography of Mr. Lynch. “He publicized what was going on. In the back of Bijou, he had small free ads for other underground comics. He was a crossroads figure.”

But his most significant role might have been as an archivist of underground comics history. He kept nearly everything from his teenage years on: letters, original art, comics, fan magazines, merchandise, and publicity campaigns. He donated it all to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University.

“We have letters between 14-year-old Art Spiegelman and 17-year-old Jay talking about their favorite EC Comics and Mad magazines — and about reading the first issue of Spider-Man,” said Caitlin McGurk, the museum’s associate curator.

Mr. Lynch’s early life was a bit unconventional. Jay Patrick Lynch was born in Orange, N.J., in 1945, and grew up in Belmar. His father, William, and his mother, the former Alice Mangan, divorced when he was young, and he was raised in his grandmother’s house, surrounded by aunts, uncles, his cousin Snowden, and his grandfather.

At 11, he moved with his family to Miami, where he focused on his artwork, painting murals for neighbors’ homes and stage sets for school productions. He later moved to Chicago, where he attended the Art Institute.

The education that pointed him to his future in underground comics was provided by Mad magazine, whose editorial mastermind was Harvey Kurtzman, and The Realist, a satirical political journal.

“After reading my first issue of The Realist, I was in a daze which almost bordered on frenzied religious ecstasy,” Mr. Lynch was quoted as saying in Rosenkranz’s book “Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution” (2008).

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