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“I don’t have any problem being seen as a pervert,” Tom Crites says in response to knee-jerk reactions to the deviant content of his social-transgression graphics mag, Malefact. Such statements always come with qualifications: “I’m a very civilized human being….I’m not on the verge of molesting people or animals.”

Crites’ own graphic work—finely rendered, obsessively symmetrical designs loaded with detail—sets the tone of the ‘zine with references to Satanism, Polynesian tattoo, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos, genital piercings, mass murder, and the sex and death connections made by French theorist and novelist Georges Bataille. Crites’ mature style is complemented in Malefact No. 3 by the design and draftsmanship of Trevor Brown’s take on Japanese sadistic pornography (Brown is a self-described “U.K. refugee now resident in Tokyo”) and Chicago resident D.B. Velveeda’s hyperbolic sex scenes featuring she-males, pharaohs, devils, and copious cum shots. The styles, tones, and subject matter of the other artists vary wildly—a female E.T. dies slowly by evisceration, surreal monsters pose during gruesome feasts, and a snuff film channel is postulated in other works. On top of that, Ed Gein, Jeff Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and John Wayne Gacy make more or less humorous appearances, depending on your stomach for the blackest of comedy.

The most recent issue covers the most stylistic ground of any, with the low point being First Amendment-rights poster-boy Mike Diana, whose crude style is matched only by the endless inventiveness of his theater of sexual cruelty. Florida’s insane interest in punishing “obscenity” was the best thing that ever happened to Diana, whose work, like that of 2 Live Crew’s Luke Skyywalker, gained undeserved attention in the small press back in the early ’90s. Without such trials, Malefact has collected glowing praise from Factsheet Five and Screw, but hardly public notoriety or awareness. Crites breaks up the graphic onslaught with pork-rind reviews (“We can’t find enough new brands for No. 4”) and a long, rambling interview with Antiseen, the possum-eating, white-trash cousins to GG Allin’s antisocial punk. While the interview mostly catalogs the booze given to the band by the editors and the subsequent drunken rambling about pro wrestling, it does help define the personal fetish culture presented more viscerally by the graphics.

Prior to jumping into Malefact, Crites put out six issues of Jesus Piñata, first in his native California and then in Gaithersburg. He didn’t attach his name to that publication because of obscenity litigation worries. But now he’s less concerned on that front: “I think I can explain just about everything we publish. A lot of this stuff has a definite value. It’s an art form because you have to have a unique and intriguing style, and it’s exciting because it’s a catharsis, and for scientific value, it gives people something to study.” Still, his female partner and co-editor prefers to remain anonymous, although her presence helps Crites answer accusations of misogyny in their pages: “She enjoys the work as art, and through corresponding with the artists knows they’re not trying to degrade the female sex.” The sole woman contributor, Australian Antoinette Rydyr, certainly indulges in a twisted “beauty and the beast” theme—particularly in the debut issue. But even Crites has trouble accounting for these tastes: “It’s hard to articulate personal preference for monsters chewing up naked ladies, but looking back at ’50s magazines, that image is very titillating.”—Jeff Bagato

Malefact No. 3 is $5 postpaid from P.O. Box 464, Alexandria, VA 22313. Include an age statement.