Way back when I started this site in early 1996, it had a link to the Church of the SubGenius. (Their slogans include “Pull The Wool Over Your Own Eyes and Relax In The Safety Of Your Own Delusions,” and “I Don�t Practice What I Preach, Because I�m Not The Kind Of Person I�m Preaching To.”) The church didn’t even have it’s own site back then; it was hosted at http://sunsite.unc.edu/subgenius/.
The site (SubGenius, not this one) was put together very convincingly as the rantings of a lunatic (or a pack of them) with a sense of humor; even the web design showed it with its giant fonts, centered text and excessive exclamation points! There’s too much odd stuff there to ever finish it, but it was worth an occasionally visit to try to figure out both it and the many related sites that it spawned. I never did learn much about what was behind the site, probably because I was searching the wrong way.
A recent article explains a little about one of the church’s main contributors, Hal Robins. Reading that of course led me to another article and another, and I soon realized how vast the conspiracy was.
It turns out that Robins was the the fellow that did Weirdo comics in the ’80s. The very long but interesting look at this guy in the SF Weekly article led me to the next SubGenii contributor: Paul Mavrides. He is one of the three people that worked on The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and semi-recently did the pencil-in-the-ear cover for the Butthole Surfers album Electriclarryland. In an interview, he says Ivan Stang (aka Doug Smith) was the main “spiritual funnel” for SubGenius.
Probably the best descriptions of SubGenius are in one of Stang’s interviews here or here. Along with Stang, the other founder is Dr. Philo Drummond — I’m guessing he’s not out of the closet yet because there isn’t any info available on him.
Here’s an interview excerpt showing some of who’s behind the curtain:
GA: Who are some of the more prestigious SubGenius Members?
IS: Our idea of prestige, or Theirs? … Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO is probably the most famous frequent SubGenius collaborator. One of my partners and practically a co-founder, Paul Mavrides, has lately been starting to get the recognition he deserves. He designs our books, does some of the best art, co-writes, and generally polices my tendency to get all sappy and sentimental. He�s best known for comics like The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Anarchy, but his paintings and “serious” art are getting more and more attention. Other artists and weirdos who are famous and happen to also be SubGenius ministers include the painters Robert Williams and Gary Panter; cartoonists R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, the late Rick Griffin, and many more; movie directors Jonathan Demme and Mike “Wizard of Speed and Time” Jittlov; counterculture heroes Ken Kesey, Pee Wee Herman and Timothy Leary; philosopher Robert Anton Wilson, and “cyberpunk” writers like Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, and Lewis Shiner; David Ossman of The Firesign Theater… A lot of the SubGenius “celebs” are secretly famous � that is, they�re worshipped in their odd field: Michael Peppe the performance artist, for instance, or Winston Smith the collage guy.
But not everyone likes SubGenius. While trying to find info on one of the early artists, John Hagen-Brenner, I discovered a feud. Did Hagen-Brenner really try to bomb Bob Black? Or is this just more of the joke? That rant did show me that a lot of the early creative stuff I saw on the Web was by people that knew each other.