Quite a few remembrances of underground pioneer Spain Rodriguez, including this round-up of reactions from his peers at TCJ. Here’s Gary Panter’s imagined history:
SPAIN looked to be exploring edgy scenes and choosing to do bad things and hang out with violent sociopathic folk in his comics and past at least–people that did BAAAAADD things!!! And also he was some kind of ultra left revolutionary–a bit intimidating. I was trying to be good. SPAIN was marching into bars breaking bottles over bozos. His style was Kirby-like but really only Spain-like. The other guys in ZAP were more anal. SPAIN’s style was anal and precise. Yet the other guy’s were even crazier than SPAIN. They made the motorcycle gang member into ‘the nice one’ with their tight anal approaches to putting it to the man. The other guys finished their stuff right out to the edge or the nth degree, and one got the feeling, true or not, that SPAIN might be hatching knit hose onto a hard calf or a hard center shadow onto a breast when he would drop the pen, get up, go outside, go down to the garage, grab a brew out of the fridge, get on a hawg and fuck the comics blast off down to Berdoo then come back four days later after cracking a few heads and get back to it the shadow. This is a fan’s concoction–babble.
And a profile by underground historian Patrick Rozenkrantz:
He was recently honored with a lifetime retrospective art show at Buffalo State College’s Burchfield Penny Art Center, Spain: Rock Roll Rumbles Rebels & Revolution. It was a struggle for him to attend the event since he was weakened by his ongoing battle with cancer but it brought him a lot of satisfaction to see his whole career fully displayed in the place where it all began. It gave him hope that his work would continue to be read and appreciated by future fans.
“I get satisfaction knowing that stuff is going to be out there. Ramses the Second built these four gigantic statues to himself. One of the faces is still intact. The impulse of art is the impulse of immortality, just like those guys in the caves. At some point it must have occurred to them this stuff is going to be around. Today we have a different strategy. We can’t call upon the resources of the state to tell our tale. You do these highly vulnerable books on this paper that’s prone to rot and you hope that in time some of these will survive. You have these periods in history of outbursts of creativity and people telling the tales that would otherwise not be told. This is a factor. I think as it goes out there, somebody is going to hang onto this stuff. Someone is going to say, this is great.”
The longing to be remembered in the above quote is particularly poignant. Rozenkrantz recently profiled another underground great, S. Clay Wilson, whose brain injury several years ago has left him an invalid:
“He’s more tender and sensitive and loving now and more demonstrative than he was before,” she says. “I make sure he knows that I love him. I try to make him laugh. It’s my goal every morning at breakfast to crack him up, or tell him an interesting story about something, or read him poems, postcards or emails people have sent. It’s one of the times of day I try to engage him and make him feel happy and get his brain going, make him feel good.”
Thinking of the above, I recalled a Big Apple con in November of 2005 where the two had appeared as guests. (Those Big Apple cons often had some amazing guests tucked away in the back!) I snapped some photos of them, Wilson still being a bad boy, Spain being a grandmaster.
Hold on to the memories.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.