Comic pusher: Tha Funky Worm

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Intern Sam Devine slips between the photocopied covers ....

Down by Union Square tourists clog the streets like automatons bent on material satisfaction. You can almost hear their thoughts humming beneath their skulls like the cable car cord beneath the road.

“mmm…Neiman Marcus…bzzit…shoe sale… must…buy…”

What you can hear – all too often – are the guys who ask for change:
“Spare change?” “Help the homeless, tonight!” “Street Sheet, Street Sheet.” “Would you like to buy a comic book, sir?”

Wait: what?

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Thom creates beautiful art, as honest and brutal as the life he leads. You can find him pushing his photocopied mini-comics next to the Street Sheet sellers on O’Farrell and Powell. If he sounds familiar, you probably used to see him at 16th and Valencia hawking “Mission Mini-Comix.”

I picked up three of his little books the other week on St. Patty’s day: Burritos are the Best, The Sun Also Sets, and Tha Funky Worm – “You know,” said Thom in his West Coast stoner drawl, surrounded by the green, white and orange mayhem of the afternoon. “Like that Ohio Players cut.”

Tha Funky Worm seems to be his newest, and wackiest book. Whilst reading it, one learns of the little-known fact that the artichoke was actually invented by George Washington in a lab in Fresno during 1992. He set his creation free with only bus fare and the command to spread hope. When the artichoke was boiled and eaten only days later, Washington shed a single tear. Who knew?

Thom’s (he insists his name should be spelled this way – still short for Thomas) books are filled with absurdity like this. There’s also plenty of blasphemy (“The truth behind the death of Jesus,” reads one panel in Burritos are the Best, “is that he table-scored a burrito that turned out to be Suge Knight’s unfinished lunch.”), poignant insight, humor, and street smarts. He often takes time to glorify the City, the place he loves to hate.

While his black and white drawings are often crude, they never fail to get the message across. And his books – like anything worth the price of admission – are somehow more than the sum of their parts – although certainly not for the faint of heart.

Just imagine the reaction of the automatons when they read: “While you rush home to watch ‘Friends’, I starve in the cold.”

Got to love an artist that continually assaults his own audience.