Since 1986 Chicagoan Monte Beauchamp has been corralling eclectic groups of artists in Blab!, an anthology of deft illustration and discourse that recently received the comics industry’s most prestigious honor, the Harvey Award, named after the late Harvey Kurtzman, creator of Mad.

“My idea was to do a one-shot publication focused on comics with a historical bent,” he says. “I was hugely affected by the old E.C. Comics and Mad when I was a kid and was curious to find out if any other illustrators were influenced by them as well.”

The first Blab! was primarily a collection of essays on comix, with such influential artists as S. Clay Wilson, Bill Griffith, and Robert Williams discussing their methods and inspirations. “The response was amazing,” says Beauchamp, who works a day job as an art director at an ad agency. “I was getting fan mail from all over the world–the U.S., Japan, Europe. I figured I must be doing something right.” Beauchamp self-published another issue, with comics by Dan Clowes and XNO. It so impressed publisher Denis Kitchen that his Kitchen Sink Press offered to publish Blab! regularly.

Once under the Kitchen Sink banner, Beauchamp filled the zine with lavishly illustrated stories. He found many enthusiastic contributors willing to “launch this big party on paper,” even though he says the pay will only buy two large pizzas.

“The way I work as an editor, I think, brings out the best in an artist,” he says. “Instead of dictating what I want and having them execute it, we work together on the concepts and throughout the whole production process.” Drew Friedman, an illustrator known for his pointillist drawings in Spy, has been a longtime contributor to Blab! “What I love about working on Blab! is the creative freedom,” Friedman says. “Monte is the dream editor, really the best editor I’ve ever worked for. The only problem is that he doesn’t have any money.”

The latest issue of Blab! includes color work by Chicago’s Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan) and Archer Prewitt (Sof’Boy), an article on the history of Chicago’s famous ghost hauntings, and a piece featuring the labels of a defunct cosmetic company.

Beauchamp says he wants Blab! to eventually become an entertainment magazine, something he envisions as “the illustrated version of Vanity Fair.”

Beauchamp and Ware will sign copies of Blab! Tuesday, October 17, at Quimby’s Queer Store, 1328 N. Damen, from 6 to 8 PM. They’ll be joined by fellow contributors Prewitt, Gary Lieb, Terry Laban, and Jeffrey Steele. Following the signing, a party celebrating Blab! number eight will be held at Myopic Books, 1728 W. Division, 8 PM to midnight. For more information, call Quimby’s at 342-0910 or Myopic at 862-4882.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Randy Tunnell.