Sunday, May 29, 2011
Don't Tell Grandma Sunday May 29, 2011 (80)
There is also a story. This is my Vaughan Bode story...
I became a fan of Vaughan Bode when I saw "The Masked Lizard" published in a paperback book called "Wonder Warthog, Captain
Crud and Other Super Stuff" somewhere around 1967 or 68. I began seeing his stuff in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine and
really fell for the comic "Sunpot". I once had a softcover book of "Deadbone" that was a collection of the pencil toned comics Vaughan did for Cavalier. This book had a self portrait of Vaughan, circa 1971. This self portrait eventually allowed me to identify him when we met.
My friends Dave Ferrari and Greg Wallace and I went to Phil Seuling's 1972 New York Comic Convention during the first week in July. Toward the evening, Wally and I were in the hallway heading for our suite when we saw a man sitting on the floor drawing a picture in a sketchbook. If my memory is still OK, he was wearing a black turtleneck sweater and purple bell bottom jeans. He had a leather bag that he wore around his waist, like a belt. But we kept walking. When we got to the room I told Wally that the man sure looked like the drawing of Vaughan Bode in the Deadbone book.
About an hour later, we headed downstairs toward the all-night movies and the man was still there. I snuck a peek at the drawing and confirmed this was indeed Vaughan Bode. I grew roots. We began talking about nearly everything you can imagine. For the next three and a half hours, we were literally best friends. Vaughan told me about buying an orange Opal that he had no idea how he was going to pay for, then he received several checks for Junkwaffel comics. He seemed to be in a spiritual mood and talked about God being a process. He told me about a fifteen year old guru that was then in New York City. I was doing a comic strip in college newspapers called "Sydney of the Sewers" a superhero farce.
While we were there in the hall, a fellow introduced himslf as Denis Kitchen, who was beginning to publish undergrounds under the Krupp Comix imprint. Denis asked if he was Vaughan Bo-day. I think Vaughan gave Denis his contact information and Denis left. Vaughan advised me to always draw comics but to avoid drawing for work for hire companies. He may have been, in a polite way encouraging me to keep this as a hobby. He instilled in me the avoidance of pandering.
Before we parted, Vaughan wrote out his address and phone number. He shook my hand and looked me in the eye while doing so. He finished the handshake by saying, "I WILL see you again". Sadly, that reunion never happened. The next month Vaughan's toons in Cavalier had his orange Opal and the following month there was a character swimming out of a toilet, saying I see the truth...and light. I always thought that one was directed at me (Sydney of the Sewers).
Back in those days news didn't travel very fast. I was in a record store in Charleston, West Virginia and the store owner had just got his subscription copy of a comics newsletter and broke the news to me that Vaughan had recently died. I was pretty low for quite a while.
In 1976, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Charles Law, Vaughan's publisher who ran Northern Comfort Communications in Vancouver, B.C. Turns out that he was from West Virginia and was visiting. He came to my house and we had an enjoyable chat. He told me that I should get to know a fellow Bode fan named David Rains. David an I exchanged letters and he sent me some photos and some xerox copies of stuff from when he visited Barbara and a very young Mark Bode in california, He sent photos of clay figures Vaughan had made of some lizards and a lot of sketchbook stuff in the Junkwaffel vein.
If only he had enjoyed a longer career, Vaughan Bode would day be a very mainstream figure. To my knowledge, only Winsor McKay and Vaughan Bode were successful in transforming comics into a performance art. Bode's Cartoon Concert was well regarded. His cartoon art was perfect of projecting on a screen because the balloons were outside of the panels. Vaughan was one of the few artists to work in full color without touching a brush.
He worked on three-ply bristol board using a fine point Flair brand felt tip pen and the color was from AD Markers. I think he drew preliminary drawings in Flair and traced these onto the bristol board. It is kind of hard to work in full color on paper that you have erased the surface.
It looks like he sometimes used a bit of chalk on the drawings.
Let's just say that Vaughan Bode was a completely original comics creator who cannot be imitated. Believe me... I've tried.