A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike King

If you’ve browsed our collection of Pacific Northwest concert posters from the 1980s and 1990s, you’ve seen the name Mike King. If you’ve never known about him or his work, let’s do a deep dive in.

A sampling of what we have in our vast collection of Pacific Northwest posters.

King came from the Portland, OR area. He played in bands in the 1980s and made posters for shows in exchange for admission to them. At a time when people who put on small shows with local and national bands had zero access to high-end materials to make the kind of posters the big concerts could, they did things themselves with whatever was available for cheap or for free. With copy machines becoming more accessible each year, now there was no excuse not to make something. By default, designing posters this way had its own aesthetic.

Designing more posters year after year, King made a living as a poster designer, as well as designing album covers, T-shirts, and advertising campaigns. If a band was on the radar of the hip college rock station or zine, chances are good King designed a poster for them.

From the Afghan Whigs to John Lee Hooker to Nirvana to Slayer to Sun Ra to ZZ Top, King continues to turn out roughly 100 posters a year, now as a resident of Brooklyn. He’s made over 5,000 posters in his career with no signs of slowing down.

His work has been featured in the Experience Music Project in Seattle, the Museum of Design in Atlanta, the Bold Hype Gallery in New York City, and Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. You can see more of his work in Maximum Plunder, a hardcover coffee table book which contains images of over 1,000 poster designs of his. You can see more of his work online through his website, Crash America.

Let’s take a look at some of his posters, specifically ones that will be in our April 4-5 auction.

Here’s a document of thrash metal history: a poster for the Seattle and Portland shows on Slayer’s Reign In Blood tour.

They were the first two shows of this tour, so the Halloween show at the Moore Theatre in Seattle is known for the live debuts of multiple songs from the classic LP, like “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death.” The peace signs in the bottom left and right corners were a way to call for less violence and more happiness by the local promoters for shows like this one. This copy has signatures on both the front and verso from King in pencil.

Black Flag was a mainstay of the American hardcore underground throughout the early- to mid-’80s. But things came to an end not long after this show in Portland.

The band finished their tour in Detroit in June and founding guitarist Greg Ginn called frontman Henry Rollins and said he was quitting Black Flag. Black Flag was Ginn’s band as he was the sole original member, so that was the end of the band until reuniting many years later. For this show, Painted Willie and Gone (which also featured Ginn) were both on Ginn’s label, SST Records. Poster is signed in the bottom right corner by King.

A poster for two Pacific Northwest shows for the former frontman of the Misfits and Samhain.

In between Danzig and Danzig II: Lucifuge, the band played Portland at the Pine St. Theatre with Indigo Zeros as the support act, and then Seattle at the Underground with Mudhoney as the support act in early January 1989. Signed in the bottom right corner by King.

Having just come from Japan, Manchester, England’s Oasis went everywhere to promote their game-changing debut album, Definitely Maybe. For this show in Portland at the tiny Satyricon, it was the second date of their first full US tour.

It was still the original lineup, as drummer Tony McCarroll was sacked the following year, prior to recording their blockbuster second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Only a couple of days after this show, the seeds of why Noel Gallagher will never reunite with his brother Liam were born. Their show in Los Angeles at the famed Whisky A Go Go was disastrous due to drug use. Noel would later go AWOL and eventually return to the group.

Two posters for two different shows, together in this lot.

Both are offset printed. First, an 11″ x 17″ poster (with a rare printer’s goof where the Monqui Presents/Doc Martens logo is cut off halfway) for a show on Thursday, February 25, 1999 at La Luna. In Near Mint condition. Second, an 11″ x 17″ poster (with Mike King’s signature in pencil in the bottom right corner on the front) from a show at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday, June 3, 2000. Two years later, Smith was found dead from self-inflicted stab wounds to the heart.

A poster for Sunny Day Real Estate’s headlining set at Paradigm with San Diego’s No Knife opening.

Sunny Day Real Estate had released The Rising Tide two months prior. The Seattle emo legends were touring as a five-piece, adding Greg Suran on keyboards and guitar and Nic Macri on bass. At the end of the tour, the band called it quits again because of ongoing tension with guitarist Dan Hoerner. Offset printed. Signed in the bottom right corner by Mike King in pencil.

Posted by Eric Grubbs

Heritage Auctions Entertainment Cataloger

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