Friday, April 03, 2020

Comics in Film: Panic in Needle Park, Al Pacino and Bijou Funnies

by BK Munn

Comics in Film: Panic in Needle Park (1971). A heroin junkie reads a copy of Bijou Funnies #4 in a room full of addicts, including on the bed next to her, Bobby, played by Al Pacino. The film documents the doomed love affair between small-time hustler, dealer, and addict Bobby and struggling artist Helen (Kitty Winn). Panic was filmed on the streets of New York, with many glimpses into the culture of the day, including this comic, typical reading material for young people like Bobby and Helen, we are given to believe. Edited by cartoonist Jay Lynch, Bijou Funnies was one of the premiere Underground Comix anthologies of the early-70s. Lynch transformed his own Chicago Mirror newspaper into a MAD Magazine-styled comic after seeing Robert Crumb's Zap, and issues of Bijou included a Who's Who of comics, including Crumb. Bijou #4, published in June 1970 by the Berkeley-based Print Mint, featured a cover by Crumb and comics by Crumb, Lynch, Skip Williamson, Kim Deitch, Jay Kinney, Daniel Clyne, and Justin Green. There's not much drug-themed content, outside of the drug-fueled nature of the work itself: the hallucinogenic characters and plots, and the hip milieu of the stories. The cover feature is a classic Crumb 5-pager starring Projunior, in which the characters Honeybunch Kaminski and Mr. Man get stoned on dope for a few panels, flopping-out in a daze like the characters in Pacino's room. And like Bobby and Helen in the film, Projunior and Honeybunch will not be long-separated by "the Establishment." The back cover of the comic features another drug reference, a full-colour cut-out "Speed Freak Mask" by Lynch.

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