Underground comics trailblazer, Zap Comix stalwart, and graphic novelist, Spain Rodriguez, died at 7 AM this morning of cancer. He was 72.
Spain leaves behind a wife and daughter as well as numerous friends, colleagues, and fans, who will all mourn his passing.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Rodriguez studied at the Silvermine Guild Art School in New Caanan, Connecticut. In New York City, during the late 1960s, he became a contributor to the East Village Other, which published his own comics tabloid, Zodiac Mindwarp (1968).
A founder of the United Cartoon Workers of America, he contributed to numerous underground comics and also drew Salon’s continuing graphic story, The Dark Hotel.
Strongly influenced by 1950s EC comic book illustrator Wally Wood, Spain pushed Wood’s sharp, crisp black shadows and hard-edged black outlines into a more simplified, stylized direction. His work also extended the eroticism of Wood’s female characters. In such classics as Mean Bitch Thrills, Spain’s ladies were raunchy, explicitly sexual and sometimes incorporated macho sadomasochistic themes [sic].
His more recent work is an illustrated biography of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Che: A Graphic Biography (2009). Published in several different languages, it was described by comics artist Art Spiegelman as “brilliant and radical.”
“His [Spain’s] genuine belief in a kind of crazed left-wing revolution was really part of that Zeitgeist [that produced Zap Comix and other first-generation underground publications] and is presented with fervor and humour, and his work has a kind of synthesis of the stuff that he’d been growing up with, that first era of comic books that got burned and censored in the fifties as part of the cleanup of the medium, and Spain vehemently and courageously and continually refused to be cleaned up.”
— Art Speigelman, in conversation with Colin Dabkowski,
The Gusto Blog at The Buffalo News, 28 November 2012
And now, in tribute to Spain, RCN is pleased to present (along with the images of Trashman that bookend this post) the artist’s two-page profile of Ukrainian anarcho-communist revolutionary, Nestor Makhno, as it appeared in Anarchy #1 way back in 1976:
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]
“I don’t want to be a mainstream cartoonist. I don’t want to have to be a mouthpiece for what I consider unjust. I’ll do commercial work to make bread, but the great thing about doing underground comics is the fact that we can just say it as we see it.”
— Spain Rodriguez, in conversation with Gary Groth,
The Comics Journal #204 (May 1998)
Ragged Claws Network > Look Here, Read: “Binbo Johnnie” by Spain
Ragged Claws Network > Look Here: “An Average Day on Mission Street” by Spain Rodriguez
Ragged Claws Network > Look Here, Read: “Stalin” by Spain Rodriguez
— via —
TCJ.com > Spain Rodriguez Fought the Good Fight by Patrick Rosenkranz. Here’s an excerpt:
Spain Rodriguez brought a unique perspective to comic art – a hard-edged outlaw’s attitude coupled with a voluptuous sensuality that also espoused class struggle and a universal quest for human dignity. His characters were die-hard individuals who ceaselessly fought the oppressor, powerful women who demanded respect – by force if necessary, and many of the real people who inhabited his life. He excelled at science fiction fantasy, gender warfare, heroic tall tales, and the dramatization of his own experiences. He also created many non-fiction works on historical figures and events, including Joseph Stalin, Che Guevara, and Lily Litvak, the Rose of Stalingrad. He was a genuine Marxist who fought fairly and with club spirit.
He had a lot of stories left to tell, he said in a recent interview for his autobiographical collection, Cruisin’ With the Hound [Fantagraphics, 2011].
“If I live long enough, I’ll do stuff about other periods, like here in San Francisco when I first got here and on the Lower East Side. They were replete with many adventures.”
Now it’s too late. Those stories went with him.
Susie Bright’s Journal > In Memory of Spain Rodriguez: March 22, 1940 – November 28th, 2012
“Spain’s my buddy, my old pal, one of my best friends. I’ve learned a lot from Spain. I greatly admire his artwork. He is such a strong, committed, communist, left-wing guy. I know I can always count on him to give me a clear, concise Marxist theory or reaction or viewpoint on whatever’s going on in the world, which I appreciate very much actually.”
— Robert Crumb, “Crumb on Others, Part Two”
[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]