'Stupid War', comic strip for the 'Sides 1-4' compilation album (1995).

Mark Fischer is an American cartoonist and music label owner, who co-founded the Chicago-based independent noise rock label SKiN GRAFT Records. The label's roots lay in the SKiN GRAFT Comix imprint that Fischer and fellow art student Rob Syers had set up in St. Louis as part of the punk subculture. By 1991, the comics they and other enthusiasts created were added as inserts within the sleeves of various musical singles and albums. Soon SKiN GRAFT became a "comic company that also produces music", as Fisher put it. He should not be confused with British punk music critic and writer Mark Fisher (1968-2017).

Early life
Born in 1969, Mark Fischer grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, where he enjoyed punk music and the comics of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Gilbert Shelton. While in high school in St. Charles, about 30 minutes west from downtown St. Louis, he took an independent art class in which the pupils could choose their own artistic assignment for one semester. Fischer and fellow students Rob Syers and Allen Goeddey made a punk comic book, called 'SKiN GRAFT Comix' (1986), which was printed by Fischer's grandfather. Since the latter knew somebody who still owed him a favor, he actually managed to print 500 copies. Fischer and Syers sold half of them to their fellow pupils. The rest were sold at comic stores, comic conventions and punk concerts.


Mini-comix by Mark Fischer.

SKiN GRAFT Comix
Encouraged by friends and other sympathizers, Fischer and Syers kept making new punk rock comics in the following years, publishing them in self-made fanzines under their SKiN GRAFT Comix imprint. Besides making new issues of 'SKiN GRAFT Comix', Fisher and Syers released new titles based on one or more characters. Fisher for instance created 'The Kidz', 'Happy-Pig Funnies', 'Saddam Hussein's Smooth Words' and 'Curious', while Syers' DIY comics included 'White Monkey God', 'Art Hetero', 'Confused' and 'Caffeine Uber Mensch', as well as the photo collage comix 'Motherfuckers' and 'Your Dicks Too Short To Fuck With God'. The SKiN GRAFT team was joined by several other artists, who all produced their own mini-comix, including Jeff Bentle, Paul Nitsche, Todd Fischer, Sonny Rosenberg and Los Bros Graft.

For their SKiN GRAFT Comix, Fischer and Syers also interviewed bands like The Accused and Fugazi. They additionally organized annual comic "jams", during which cartoonists made chain stories, each trying to continue a story from the point a previous artist had left it. In 1992, the professional comics publisher Caliber Press released a SKiN GRAFT comic book for worldwide distribution. The two issues produced became the best selling titles of Caliber's entire Iconografix line, and featured stories and art by Mark Fischer, Rob Syers, Jeff Bentle and Paul Nitsche.


'Dazzling Killmen's Medicine Me' by Mark Fischer (GR#03 Dazzling Killmen 7" & comic set, 1992).

Further education and working life
Mark Fischer later attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois. During his final year, Fischer was an intern at Touch and Go Records, and later worked for a couple of years as manager of the label's shipping department. During this period, he got acquainted with many people from the Chicago music industry. As part of a school project, he again tried to release a comic book, only this time as an insert to a 7'' music single. Finding a band was no problem. The summer before he had met his favorite punk group Dazzling Killmen, who actually approached him to make a comic for them. So by 1991, SKiN GRAFT Comix became SKiN GRAFT Records. The first release was the Split 7" Single, a joint release by Skin Graft and Sluggo Records, containing songs by both Dazzlig Killmen and Mother's Day. Their comic book for Dazzling Killmen's next single 'Medicine Me' (1993) contained four untitled pages drawn by Fischer, after which the stories 'Fall Down Stand Up' and 'Mourning Cloak' were done by Rob Syers and Paul Nitsche, respectively.


'Mama, I Can't Stop This Tick', comic strip by Mark Fischer for 'Horsedoctor' (1993) by Mama Tick.

SKiN GRAFT Records
During the 1990s, Mark Fischer was additionally an art teacher at the City of St. Charles School District, and a technical illustrator for General Motors. In the meantime, SKiN GRAFT Records brought out many singles and albums by punk, noise and experimental rock bands. Their catalogue included bands from both the USA (Mount Shasta, Fruitcake, Mama Tick, Brise-Glace, Shorty, Cheer-Accident, High On Fire, Ruins) and Japan (Melt-Banana, Space Streakings, Zeni Geva, UFO Or Die). Starting in 1995, they also released compilation albums with covers of AC/DC songs under the 'Sides' banner.

Since Fischer deemed comedy important he marketed the music on his label as "no wave", a pun on "new wave", but quite some music journalists took the term seriously. Fischer and his cartoonists were involved with most of the production and art design. Fischer designed the label's mascot, "Little Hot Satan". Many of the albums and singles released by SKiN GRAFT have mini-comic inserts. Besides Fischer and Syers, the contributing cartoonists to SKiN GRAFT Records releases were Todd Fischer, Los Bros Graft, Paul Nitsche, Kame Bazooka, Nobtack Koike, Haruo Ishihara, Dan Grzeca, Matt Taylor, Sonny Rosenberg, Jeff Bentle, Rich Bott, Bruce Adams, Mark Shippy, Kurt Kiesel, Yamatsuka Eye, Sears & Fish and Maximillion Koons. Comics by Fischer himself came with the Mount Shasta single 'Nodule' (1993), the Fruitcake EP 'Patty Lane/Story Of Life' (1993), Mama Tick's 'Horsedoctor' (1993), Zeni Geva's 'Autofuck' (1993), the EP 'In Sisters All and Felony' (1994) by Brise-Glace, the Space Streakings EP 'Taco Beya' (1996) and three of the 'Sides' compilations.

Later career
In 2000, Fischer got married and moved to live with his wife in Vienna, Austria. This prompted him to leave the U.S. branch of SKiN GRAFT Records to his business partner Brian Peterson; the label is now based in Saint Peter, Missouri. In Austria, Fischer has worked as an English teacher at MEC&T Language School and as Cultural Orientation teacher for U.S.-bound refugees at the HIAS Resettlement Support Center. Between 2004 and 2015, he was additionally a journalist and cartoonist for the Riverfront Times from St. Louis and The Chicago Reader, writing weekly previews of entertainment, political, music and art events. In 2005, he worked with Rob Syers again on writing and drawing a weekly color comic for The Chicago Reader starring Syers' signature character, 'Gumballhead the Cat'.


'Megomaniacal - Christmas with the Superheroes' (The Riverfront Times, 23 December 2011).

skingraftrecords.com

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