Raw was a comics anthology edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly and published by Mouly from 1980 to 1991. It was a flagship publication of the 1980s alternative comics movement, serving as a more intellectual counterpoint to Robert Crumb's visceral Weirdo, which followed squarely in the underground tradition of Zap and Arcade. Along with the more genre-oriented Heavy Metal it was also one of the main venues for European comics in the United States in its day.
Cover to Raw volume 1, number 1 (July 1980).
Art by Art Spiegelman
|Publisher||Raw Books & Graphics (1980–1986)
Penguin Books (1989–1991)
|Publication date||Fall 1980 – 1991|
|No. of issues||11|
Spiegelman has often described the reasoning and process that led Mouly to start the magazine: after the demise of Arcade, the '70s underground comics anthology he co-edited with Bill Griffith, and the general waning of the underground scene, Spiegelman was despairing that comics for adults might fade away for good, but he had sworn not to work on another magazine where he would be editing his peers because of the tension and jealousies involved; however, Mouly had her own reasons for wanting to do just that. Having set up her small publishing company, Raw Books & Graphics, in 1977, she saw a magazine encompassing the range of her graphic and literary interests as a more attractive prospect than publishing a series of books. At the time, large-format, graphic punk and New Wave design magazines like Wet were distributed in independent bookstores. Mouly had earlier installed a printing press in their fourth floor walk-up Soho loft and experimented with different bindings and printing techniques. She and Spiegelman eventually settled on a very bold, large-scale and upscale package. Calling Raw a "graphix magazine", they hoped their unprecedented approach would bypass readers' prejudices against comics and force them to look at the work with new eyes.
Raw featured a mix of American and European contributors (including some of Spiegelman's students at the School of Visual Arts), as well as various contributors from other parts of the world, including the Argentine duo of José Muñoz and Carlos Sampayo, the Congolese painter Chéri Samba, and several Japanese cartoonists known for their work in Garo. Though comics were the main focus, many issues included galleries of non-comics illustration and illustrated prose or non-fiction pieces; for example, Raw Volume 2 Number 2 featured one of the earliest published articles on Henry Darger, complete with fold-out color reproductions of his paintings and diaries. Raw also frequently reprinted public domain works by cartoonists and illustrators of historical significance such as George Herriman, Gustave Doré, and Winsor McCay.
The most famous work to come from the pages of Raw is Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize–winning graphic novel Maus, which was published serially in Raw. Individual chapters were packaged as small comic books bound within each issue of Raw Volume 1, starting with Raw 2 (a few color comics, such as Spiegelman's "Two-Fisted Painters: The Matisse Falcon" and Yoshiharu Tsuge's "Red Flowers", were also packaged as inserts). By Volume 2 Raw's own dimensions had shrunk to match those of Maus.
The first eight issues of Raw (Volume 1), published by Mouly and co-edited by Mouly and Spiegelman, were printed in black-and-white in an enormous, doormat-sized magazine format with a stapled binding. These were usually hand-assembled by Mouly's and Spiegelman's friends, and often packaged very creatively. For example, one issue came with "City of Terror" trading cards and gum; another issue contained a flexi disc with a sound collage made from excerpts of Ronald Reagan's speeches; a third issue had a corner torn off the cover, with the missing corner from a different copy taped inside. In 1987 Pantheon Books published a book collection of pieces from the first three issues of the large-size Raw titled Read Yourself Raw.
The final three issues of Raw (Volume 2) were printed in a "digest" or "paperback" format with a mixture of full-color and black-and-white pages, some of which were printed on differing paper stock. They featured longer stories that focused more on narrative than bold graphic experiments. These issues were published by Penguin Books.
Several solo books by Raw contributors were published with the subtitle "A Raw One-Shot". Other solo books were labeled "A Raw Book".
In 2000 Mouly started a Raw Junior division and launched the Little Lit series. These hardcover anthologies of children's comics were published by HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler Books, and featured work by some of Raw's most famous contributors as well as established children's book artists such as Maurice Sendak and Ian Falconer.
In the spring of 2008, Mouly's Raw Junior division launched the first Toon Books. This collection of 6" × 9" hardcover comics for children represented the first time anyone had published comics specifically for young children learning to read, and brought Mouly (together with Spiegelman, who was an advisor) full-circle back to her roots as a small publisher, confirming her as one of comics' most persistent groundbreakers.
Notable Raw alumni include: