The Almighty & Insane: Chicago Gang Business Cards from the 1970s & 1980s by Brandon Johnson

Published by Zingmagazine Books (2017)
96 Pages, 14 x 21 cm, Hardcover

Featuring a selection of ‘compliment cards’ from Johnson’s personal collection, this book is a history of and ode to an idiosyncratic print subculture that arose in Chicago just prior to the digital era. Inspired by outlaw motorcycle clubs, street gangs in Chicago made business cards displaying their symbols, nicknames, territories, and enemies as a means to assert their pride, for recruitment, and to serve as general tokens of affiliation.

Less intentional, but perhaps more significant is the role of these cards as historical artefacts – not only documenting the specific histories of these gangs and their members, but also the larger social dynamics of a contentious time period in the city of Chicago. With enlarged reproductions of 60+ original cards, this book is an appreciation of Chicago gang ‘compliment cards’: their hand-drawn graphics, their blackletter typefaces, their outlandish names and clever slogans.