When people who are into sequential art, comics, and illustration history (an increasingly intersecting set on the venn-diagram, I am happy to report) talk about the science fiction and fantasy pulp of the seventies, ninety percent of the bandwidth usually gets taken up with discussion of Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal) magazine, and it’s superstars like Corben, Moebius, Loustal, Bilal, Crepax and Giordano.
But it wasn’t just Marvel and DC who responded to the massive interest in (proven market-segment for) science fiction with their own publications – there was a ton of other lesser-known stuff on the stands, much of it with a similar anthology format, so one would find work by several different artists and writers in every issue, and stumble into new favourites all the time.
I first came across the work of Vaughan Bode in a Williams publication science fiction magazine, and started looking for him everywhere after that – the guy was prolific and kept up many serials simultaneously for different publications, as well as producing tons of often hilarious satyrical one-offs and personal projects.
He was a pal of Bakshi, Crumb, Spain and company in the New York and San Francisco underground comic scene, and is “Credited with influencing” Bakshi’s film Wizards. I have to pause here and say, that phrase, “Crediting with influencing” is awfully obnoxious to me, and becoming more so each time I encounter it – what is almost always meant when we see it is – stolen wholesale from the intellectual property of (artist’s name here) – without having been successfully sued by them, subsequently.
We might also say that just as neither ‘the Fifth Element’ or ‘Stargate’ could have been created without the informing influence of the work of Moebius, so, without Bode’s style, there would be nothing left of Wizards but Bakshi’s punchline. Even granting that it is an exceedingly good punchline (memorable, four decades later) we are strongly reminded that artists have long been exploited – shamelessly, at that.
And then there’s this other very strange double-whammy to consider. The poor fellow died extremely young (age 33) but at just the right time in street-art history to become an iconic art-martyr theme, woven into seventies graffiti-art culture, where his style has remained a ‘classic’ touchstone ever since.
That is – gone much too soon, but never for so much as a minute since forgotten.
In the case of this particular stylist, I have to assume they are a fan of the original creator himself – that Cheech-wizard is too right-on, to be simply handed down by rumour and tradition. And I must sincerely tip my hat to them, for respectful, enduring, and very much deserved artistic tribute.
Relentlessly Inspiring Pieces. Best RIP I can think of.