:::::::::: HEADTRIP 01 cover, 1989 :::::::::: found image — (HT 02) :::::::::: detail of Editor's Note — (HT 01) :::::::::: detail of poem by Mark Laliberte — (HT 01) :::::::::: artwork by Mike Diana — (HT 01) :::::::::: panel from 'Peenutz' strip by Mark Laliberte — (HT 03) ::::::::::  David Paul Japuka art exhibition review, accompanying graphic — (HT 01)   :::::::::: 'Momus' album review by Mark Laliberte — (HT 03) :::::::::: Fields of the Nephilim concert listing — (HT 01) :::::::::: artwork by Marc Ngui — (HT02) :::::::::: Conspiracy Theory: Universal Product Code — (HT 03) :::::::::: correspondence with Headtrip contributor Mike Diana :::::::::: panel from 'Blood and Salt' strip by Mike Diana — (HT 02) :::::::::: HEADTRIP 03 cover, 1990

The Headtrip Scandal (1989-92)

Headtrip (subtitled For The Tainted Intellectual) was a 20+ page photocopied zine which focused in on all of my interests as an 18-year old: bizarre forms of music, comics, movies and art. I published the first issue in September 1989 in Windsor, ON, Canada, and with it, I established myself rather quickly within the small press community that was developing internationally, anchored around the zine/DIY networking publication, Factsheet Five. The zine was made available locally in stores (largely on a consignment basis), yet the majority of copies were distributed through the mail to interested parties worldwide. New issues came out periodically, and were generally met with a positive response.

In June 1990, however, while I was off at (high)school, my parent's home was raided by a special division of the Windsor Police due to my involvement with publishing this project. Large amounts of my personal belongings (library, notebooks, artwork, etc) were confiscated, and what was left behind was scattered about the floor of the room; it was a sorry sight to say the least. Apparently, a local Windsorite had filed a complaint when she found a copy of the magazine amongst her troubled son's various possessions. It sparked some negative attention and things were rolling. The detective in charge of the investigation, who had no formal training in interpreting obscenity laws, prepared a report about his thoughts on the magazine. Though he had never dealt with a case of this nature, he stated himself strongly: "...these publications appear to be material directed to the teenage anti-establishment crowd; ie., skinheads, punk rockers, ghoulies (kids dressed in black) and satanists."

Within a month charges were laid. Five counts, as follows: (i) making use of the mails for transmitting obscene matter; (ii) selling obscene matter; (iii) possession of obscene matter for the purpose of sale; (iv) making obscene matter; (v) possession of obscene matter for the purpose of distribution. Clearly, what was in question the definition of 'obscene matter' at it related to some of my comic work (a rather unprofound parody of Charles Schulz' exceptional "Peanuts" strip) and a 3-page comic, "Blood And Salt", that I had published by a young Florida zinester named Mike Diana (who later faced similar charges and an obscenity case of his own for his Boiled Angel zine; in 1996, he was found guilty on 3 counts of obscenity — becoming the first artist ever to receive a criminal conviction for obscenity for artwork in the United States.)


:::::::::: Random envelope :::::::::: correspondence with the creator of FRANK'S ZINE :::::::::: untrained officer making decisions about "cultural value" :::::::::: Evidence Tag Exhibit 6 :::::::::: correspondence with Mike Gunderloy of FACTSHEET FIVE :::::::::: cover of THE COMICS JOURNAL 145 and accompanying article :::::::::: Defense expert Mark Askwith :::::::::: Picasso's Minotaur caressing a sleeping woman (June 1933)

I accessed Legal Aid, and had a local lawyer provided to me. After discussing the merits of the case, he concluded that he didn't have the body of knowledge to win a case of this nature, but dutifully located a more suitable lawyer named Dan Brodsky, who resided in Toronto.

Mr. Brodsky proved to be a godsend, and it is ultimately to him that I owe so much. He took 'The Headtrip Scandal' on as a special interest case — meaning that he would defend me at a Legal Aid rate, way below his usual fee; it should be noted that he is the same lawyer who cleared the Canadian punk band Dayglo Abortions of their similar problem years earlier (in 1988, a Nepean, ON police officer instigated a criminal investigation of the Dayglos after his daughter brought home a copy of Here Today, Guano Tomorrow) and he has proven to be a man with a genuine concern for freedom of expression in this country.

I'll spare you the slow-moving details of what occured over the next two and a half years, but suffice it to say that in the end I came out on top. I'll skim the courtroom drama over and explain the basic defense strategy:

(i) the first thing we had to do was educate the judge, to let him know exactly what was commonly accessible to the average person in Canada; we provided him with a whole array of visual material to skim through, everything from comic books such as Faust or Heavy Metal, to samples of the Eros Comics line, to Picasso's erotic 'Minotaur' works
(ii) the next thing we had to do was to provide an 'expert' of some sorts. Mark Askwith, a comics writer and the producer of the television show Prisoners of Gravity (a show about pop culture) came in at this point; he provided the judge with a detailed presentation on the history of comic books, asserting that they could be a legitimate adult art form, and also stated that in his professional opinion Headtrip did not step over the boundries of community standards
(iii) the final thing we had to do was show some form of community support; many comic shop owners testified on my behalf, including a representative from The Beguiling (Toronto's best comic book store) — commenting positively on my fanzine, and the role of fanzines in relation to alternative culture in general.

The Crown Attorney provided equally damning evidence about the project and its effect on society in general. It was a game of point/counterpoint at the sake of taxpayers money.

After over a year of postponements, deliberation and research, the day came when the whole thing finally came to a fitting conclusion. On May 29, 1992, in a 41-page written decision, Judge Saul Nosanchuk stated his many reasons for finding me not guilty of all charges — and in doing so, my remarkably tiny zine project set a weighty historical precident for future obscenity cases throughout all of Canada.

:::::::::: 41 page document 'Reasons for Judgment' :::::::::: Judge Nosanchuk, as captured by court room artist   :::::::::: NOW Magazine coverage of victory (detail) :::::::::: Windsor Star coverage of victory :::::::::: Artist and Attorney on CBC News :::::::::: HEADTRIP graphic :::::::::: HEADTRIP 'Neutrality' logo


• For a summary of the verdict, see: R. vs Laliberte [1992] O.J. No. 1346

• Watch pre-trial news coverage (9MB / 1m09s .mov) here
• Watch the post-trial news coverage (8.7MB / 2m49s .mov) here

• Read the Comics Journal #145 article here
• Read the Globe & Mail article here
• Read the Now Magazine article here
• Read the Windsor Star articles here