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 Vaughn Bode  (1941 - 1975)

About: Vaughn Bode


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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: underground comic strips, graffic design, graffiti

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BIOGRAPHY for Vaughn Bode
1941 (Utica, New York)
1975 (San Francisco, California)

New York/California

Self portrait - Self-portrait

Often Known For
underground comic strips, graffic design, graffiti

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Vaughn Bodé was an artist involved in underground comics, graphic design and graffiti.He is perhaps best-known for his comic strip character Cheech Wizard and artwork depicting voluptuous women.  His works are noted for their psychedelic look and feel.  He was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame for comics artists in 2006.

Bodé was born in Utica, New York, and started drawing as a way of escaping an unhappy childhood.

In 1968, Bodé moved to Manhattan and joined the staff of the underground newspaper the East Village Other.  It was here that Bodé met Spain Rodriguez, Robert Crumb and other founders of the quickly-expanding underground comics world. At EVO, he introduced Gothic Blimp Works, a comics supplement to the magazine, which ran for eight issues, the first two edited by Bodé.

Bodé’s most famous comic creation is the Cheech Wizard, a wizard whose large yellow hat, covered with black and red stars covers his entire body except his legs, and big red feet. He is usually depicted without arms.  Cheech Wizard is constantly in search of a good party, cold beer, and attractive women.  It is never actually revealed what Cheech Wizard looks like under the hat, or exactly what kind of creature he is. Characters pressing the issue generally are rewarded with a swift kick to the groin by Cheech.

In an early comic, Captured by Morton Frog, 1967, Cheech takes off his hat for a police officer, a priest and a political leader.  You can clearly see him holding his hat in his hands, away from the rest of his body.  The face is hidden by the speech balloon, but you can see glimpses of hair on top.  All three persons witnessing his face fall into cataleptic states forever. Cheech walks away from their fortress claiming that "Their primitive minds couldn't accept da truth".  In a later comic, Who is C.W.? (1974), one of Cheech's lovers insists on seeing his true face.  Cheech claims that she will die instantly, or go insane.  After having her sign a waiver freeing him of legal responsibilities, he agrees to take off his hat.  The comic ends abruptly at mid-page with Cheech saying "Okay! Here goes, but I bet you go blind!", followed by a blank (white-out) panel.

The post-apocalyptic sci-fi action series Cobalt 60 presented an anti-hero named Cobalt 60 who wandered in a devastated post-nuclear land, seeking to avenge the murder of his parents.
Other Bodé creations include Deadbone (the first testament of Cheech Wizard, the cartoon messiah), the adventures of the inhabitants of a solitary mountain a billion years in the past; and War Lizards, a look at the Vietnam War reflecting the hostile stance of the period's counterculture.  It is told with anthropomorphic reptiles instead of people.

Common themes in Bodé’s works include the use of lizard-like creatures as stand-ins for "real" humans (though most of his female characters are "quite" human) and the use of urban dialects and slang for the speech of the inhabitants of his cartoon worlds.  Like those of other underground cartoonists, Bodé’s comics illustrate many aspects of the counterculture, such as sexual experimentation, drug use, and an overall relaxing of social taboos.

Towards the end of his life, Vaughn Bodé toured with a show called the Cartoon Concert, that featured him vocalizing his characters while their depictions were presented on a screen behind him via a slide projector.  The first of these was presented at Phil Seuling's convention on the July 4th weekend at the N.Y.C. Comic Con in 1972.  Obsererving the crowd reaction, The Bantam Lecture Company immediately signed him on.  This show became very popular on the college lecture circuit, beginning with his debut at the Bowling Green University, in Ohio.  He considered it his "good-luck charm" for the rest of his life.  He eventually performed his Cartoon Concert at several Comic book conventions, culminating in a show at The Louvre, in Paris.  At this time, Bodé's career was managed by David Ferguson. Ferguson was represented in his client's cartoons as Rumplebucks, Cheech Wizard's manager, a lizard with an ever-present dollar sign above his head.  Bodé dedicated his final cartoon, which appeared in National Lampoon, to Ferguson.[citation needed]

Bodé's death was due to autoerotic asphyxiation, or perhaps the use of asphyxia as a meditation aid: his last words (to his son) were, "Mark, I've seen God four times, and I'm going to see him again soon."  He left behind a library of sketchbooks, journals, finished and unfinished works, paintings, and comic strips.  Most of his art has since been published in a variety of collections, most from Fantagraphics.

His son Mark Bodé (born 1963) is also an artist, often producing works similar to the elder Bodé’s style.  Recently Mark completed one of his father’s unfinished works, The Lizard of Oz, a send-up of The Wizard of Oz, starring Cheech Wizard one more time.


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