“These places are real Mark, and when you read my comics, we can go there”. Vaughan Bode to his son Mark.
I’m in my zipcar driving over the bridge to meet Bode and finally check out a massive series of murals he’s been hooking up in an industrial part of Oakland. His 60′s Caddy is parked outside the local chicken and waffle joint. Several nearby blocks in the industrial district are surrounded by huge Bode murals. We sit down for plates of waffles, smothered in succulent fried chicken:
How much of your work is original and how much is family characters that you bring back?
I like to bring back old characters like old friends. I bring them back from the dead. It’s way I keep my Dad’s ideas alive.
¬†Your Dad helped pioneer an underground era when the comic art form turned more adult…more serious, but also funnier…
In 1963 my dad self published one of the first¬† underground comics in America called Das Kampf there were only 100 copies printed,¬† a mint copy of Das Kampf sells for 5 Gs¬† in todays market .¬† The Zap crew of artists , Crumb, and other peers were also coming, emerging from the era of sexual revolution and the Woodstock generation.¬† Later Vaughn was known for his sexual social satire work¬† in nudy mags and National lampoon Like Deadbode Erotica and Cheech Wizard.
At the same time he created a deeper dimension for comic protagonists. The cute Disney type character was faced with betrayal, death, taxes, more than the iconic work, to me was his influence and the underground attitude it represented, why did graffiti writers gravitate towards these psychologically realistic characters and adopt them?
Bode characters are easy to draw, and the spirit behind what they represented at the time, a certain realness, a deep intellectual nature, the ability to show other worldlyness¬† and experience life as metaphors for adult platforms showing that comics were¬† not just¬† kid stuff. .. the ability of comics to be complex and non commercial, that’s what my Dad helped to give. He gave up a lot of opportunities and big deal¬† offers in order to retain rights and control of the characters and their meaning and their integrity.
What was the inspiration for this magical yet very real world of underground “reality” comics?
My Dad faced a pretty harsh upbringing, my grandad was a drunken poet who would drink and beat the kids, beat the wife. The kids ran wild in the streets and stole; constantly in and out of juvy. My Dad created fictional universes to escape the real world. He created universes, he named the planets and the rivers and mountains, , cities, towns then he would inhabit his world with characters . Cheech is real Cheech wizard wears the hat, he is so close to the creator, in fact he is the creator and no one can see the light from the creator.¬† That why the characters go blind when he takes his hat off.. My Dad used imagination to transcend the harshnesses of his past, he cranked out universes and named them, the strip was just an extension, a small window into his universe. The characters were always the last thing he drew. He would say to me “these places are real Mark, and when you read my comics, we can go there”
So this shockingly lifelike Simpsons or South Park type humor might have attracted writers as well since it was new at the time?
Definetely, Dondi sought me out in 1985, my mother in law had a bodega on State and 3rd in Brooklyn and he was always popping in to meet me. Dondi and I drew together and he would ask lots of questions about my Dad.¬† Dondi, Mare, Kel, Seen and those early graffiti artists cemented the Bode character into the movement.
the end of the interview after the jump