Royal Flush

I hate retrieving the mail every day, and it's all your fault. I'm looking at you, Miss Missie who placed my name on a list for multiple Spanish-language titles despite my NO HABLA ESPANOL entreaties. And you too, Mr. Man who sent over a heaping of publications along with the note "give me your informal thoughts!" (my new policy on this, effective immediately: I'll give you my informal thoughts if you give me your informal money). Seriously. It's a successful day here at Chateau Dobrow when the mailbox contents are limited to credit-card solicitations and weeks-early birthday wishes.

I'm incapable of ignoring anything sent my way, however, and every so often that deficient impulse control serves me well -- like late last week, when Royal Flush arrived on my doorstep with nary a hint of press-release bombast. I'd never heard of or seen the magazine before, nor did I know anybody else who'd heard of or seen it. And it's great.

I know, I know -- usually you get better adjectives for your Magazine-Rack buck. But that was my first thought upon paging through what Royal Flush calls "Book 4": this is f#@$in' great. A subversive mishmash of music, pop culture and underground art, Royal Flush displays more creativity in its first 25 pages than most publications do in a year.

Any conversation about Royal Flush should probably begin with the mag's design, which is rich with lavish illustration -- dig the stunning portraits ("portrait" is the appropriate word) of subjects as diverse as Hanoi Rocks and the Dresden Dolls, each as alluring and artful as the next. When the publication resorts to more conventional layouts, it has a knack for adding cool touches, like a circa-'70s concert bill featuring the New York Dolls and Rush. Some seriously talented folks are toiling here.

A major reason for my doing-backflips-of-mirth reaction to Royal Flush, of course, is that the mag's topical palette coincides with my own. Even though I'm not a comics guy, I dug all eight of Book 4's offerings owing to their anti-PC ferocity ("Hispanic Batman," "The Mitzvah Four"). The pop-culture coverage, which ranges from sarcastic bits on rock-and-roll stage etiquette to a Lee Marvin/Robert Mitchum showdown, similarly skewers everything in its path. It will make you laugh, especially in the "Manowards" listing of the "manliest brand names with the gayest overtones" and the "How to Make a Hate Sock" primer. It will not make you cry, unless you take offense at people asking you "how much you bench?" or get misty-eyed at the prospect of a withering Jimmy Fallon takedown. Speaking of which, if you're a Jimmy Fallon fan, stop reading. I don't want your kind here.

I also like how Royal Flush strives to get every little detail right, assuming you don't count spelling as a detail ("Springstein"? I've ended friendships for similar Offenses Against Bruce). Take the double-sided My Chemical Romance/Mastodon poster, which can be removed mangle-free thanks to the mag's decision to perforate the bottom of the page. Granted, the mag's "occasional" frequency makes it easier for the editors and production folks to obsess over such minutiae, but it's nice to see nonetheless.

What does Royal Flush do wrong? Not a whole lot. The Mad-meets-"Wonder Showzen" humor clearly isn't every reader's cup of tea. I'm not sure I understand the gambling motif (the title, "every story is a gamble" on the cover, section names like "The Loose Slots" and "Crappin' Out"), as most everything contained herein would seem to be too smart and nuanced for Vegas-worshipping boobs. Too, the reviews and relatively conventional interviews with acts like My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way and Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls don't measure up to similar pieces in other entertainment mags. That said, the fanboy-ish lines of interrogation (what are you listening to on the tour bus, etc.) feel much more genuine than the usual choreographed celeb drivel ("say, any ideas on how to save the planet?"). Call it a wash.

I'd write more, but I don't want to taint anybody's sense of discovery more than I already have. Let me just extend a warm thank-you to whoever it was that sent this my way. As for everybody else, treat yourself to a copy of Royal Flush, and enjoy a rare reminder of just how inventive, subversive and wonderfully strange this creaky old genre can be.

Published by: The #Number Foundation
Frequency: "Whenever we feel like it," sez the masthead -- so call it semi-annually
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