'Gentles Tripout' (The East Village Other #16, 15 July 1966).

Nancy Kalish-Burton, who used the pseudonyms "Panzika" and "Hurricane Nancy", is an American underground comix artist. She published several comics in the mid-1960s, including the feature 'Gentles Tripout' (1966) in The East Village Other. Kalish also contributed to the first all-female underground comic book 'It Ain't Me, Babe' (1970).

Early life
Nancy Kalish was born in 1941 in Manhattan, New York. Until she was four, she was raised in Bronx, after which she spent the rest of her childhood in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York. The last name Kalish was given to her father's family at Ellis Island when they emigrated to the USA from Lithuania in 1917. Interviewed by Alex Dueben for The Comics Journal (18 August 2016), she said that her father was part of a union and held left-wing opinions. As such, she grew up in a socially conscious environment and often joined demonstrations. She protested for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Kalish already enjoyed drawing in school. She went to Buffalo State Teachers College, where she attened a few art classes. Among her graphic influences were abstract-expressionism, art nouveau, Native American totem pole art, Gustav Klimt, Mark Rothko, Alphonse Mucha, Hieronymus Bosch and John Stanley's 'Little Lulu' stories.

In adulthood, she married a poet named Russell Panzika (who later changed his name to Krystian) and joined him on a backpacking trip through Europe between 1963 and 1964. In Hamburg, Germany, Kalish worked in a pudding factory alongside Turkish migrants. The couple even visited Hungary in the Eastern Bloc, which opened her eyes about the harsh realities of Communist regimes. While in Spain, they also crossed the Mediterranean to visit Morocco for a month.

'Gentles Tripout' (The East Village Other #9, 1-15 April 1966).

Gentles Tripout
Back in New York City, Nancy Kalish made a psychedelic comic strip titled 'Gentles Tripout' (1966). She simply stepped into the office of the underground comix magazine The East Village Other, and received permission to publish it in its pages without payment or contract. Rather than sign it with her own name, she used her husband's last name as a pseudonym: Panzika. The main character in 'Gentles Tripout' was based on Jesus Christ, depicted as a gentle alien. Her message was: "Have adventures and find your own truth." The series ran for a few months on a regular basis, starting in issue #9 of 1 April 1966. After a new chief editor was put in charge, her comic was dropped. 'Gentles Tripout' left a strong impression on Trina Robbins who described it as a "psychedelically decorative strip in the style of Aubrey Beardsley". In Robbins' book 'Last Girl Standing' (Fantagraphics, 2017), she elaborated: "What impressed me the most was an abstract and designy full-page comic, called 'Gentles Tripout', signed Panzika. I suddenly realized: the little drawings of people on paper that I produced were actually comics. I could do comics like that!" Nevertheless, it took two years before she found out that Panzika was a woman!

'Busy Boxes' (from: Gothic Blimp Works #4).

Move to San Francisco
In 1967, Kalish felt frustrated about both her comics career and her marriage. Like many hippies she moved to San Francisco, where she enjoyed the freespirited atmosphere and attended the first rock festival in history: Monterey Pop. During the "Summer of Love" in 1967, she took on a new pseudonym: Hurricane Nancy. The name was inspired by a boxer named Hurricane Jackson, who used to train in her neighborhood when she was young. Kalish's work circulated in several underground publications in San Francisco and Los Angeles. One of them was the fourth issue of Gothic Blimp Works (1969), for whom she made a psychedelic comic titled 'Busy Boxes'.

It Ain't Me, Babe
In 1970, Trina Robbins asked Kalish to contribute a two-page story to 'It Ain't Me, Babe' (Last Gasp, July 1970), the first all-female underground comic. It Ain't Me, Babe came about as a feminist's answer to all the male-dominated mainstream and underground comics of the previous decades. Far too often female characters and artists had been regulated to stereotypical and women unfriendly roles. Since Robbins had followed and admired Kalish for several years now, she was naturally one of the first female comic artists she contacted. Robbins offered her complete creative freedom, so Kalish drew a two-page psychedelic comic. 

From: 'It Ain't Me, Babe' (1970).

Nevertheless, all their communication was done by mail, as Kalish confirmed in an interview with Alex Dueben for The Comics Journal (18 August 2016). She never met Robbins, nor any of her colleagues. Kalish is therefore the only contributor to It Ain't Me, Babe who doesn't appear in the group photo printed inside the comic, only on an inserted passport photo. Apart from her and Robbins, other artists who published in It Ain't Me, Babe were Carole, Lisa Lyons, Willy Mendes (Barbara Mendes), Michele Robinson and Meredith Kurtzman (daughter of Harvey Kurtzman). 

Some sources have mistakeningly claimed that Nancy Kalish was related to the It Ain't Me Babe contributor Carole, whose last name is lost in history. However, this is merely a result of confusion, presumably the result of both their comics being printed next to each other in the final pages of the comic. In an e-mail to our Comiclopedia team, sent on 24 September 2022, Nancy Kalish confirmed that she is not related to Carole and never met her either. 

Retirement and revival
Sadly enough, 'It Ain't Me, Babe' would be Kalish's final contribution to the comic world. Her personal life was troubled by drug abuse and a lack of real stability. For decades, she didn't make any drawings. In 2009 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but was declared cancer free a year later. During her treatment she had begun to draw again and kept doing this after she was cured. Finding a new spirit in life, Kalish decided to keep making new cartoons and paintings. She presents her artworks, nicknamed 'Krazi Kartoon', on her website hurricanenancy.com and her YouTube channel. In an official statement on her site she said: "After doing so many wonderful things over the past 40 years, I became re-interested in my ability to create relevant, valuable communication, and I found the increasing acceptance of commercialized art and the status quo infuriating. Underground Artists have the ability and position to take on politically incorrect to very incorrect subjects and get away with it, and I like that."

In 2021 Kalish contributed 65 of her drawings to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. 

'Food Fairies' (Krazi Kartoon).


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