Ode To Underground Cartoonist Vaughn Bode

Comic Book Superstar, Animation Inspiration, Godfather of Graffiti Art.

Paco Taylor
Jul 25, 2019 · 7 min read
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Graphic: Paco Taylor (STP Design)

The Birth of Cheech Wizard

Vaughn Frederic Bode was born in Utica, NY on July 22, 1941. From a very early age, the young Bode displayed an uncanny tenacity for drawing and for the combining of words with pictures. It was an extraordinary gift that helped to lay the foundation for a fantastic world of cartoon characters that would set the imaginations of millions ablaze.

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Cheech Wizard, Schizophrenia #1 (1973)
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Top: Old school ‘window-down’ graffiti burner by Seen & PJ featuring characters from Vaughn Bode’s Cheech Wizard strip “Lord of da’ Bees”, 1980 (Credit: Henry Chalfant) • Middle: Vaughn Bode’s ’Tibbits’ character by Blade 127 (Credit: Henry Chalfant) & original Tibbits drawing from Bode’s Junkwaffel, 1981 • Original panel from Cheech Wizard strip “Lord of da’ Bees” • Bottom: Original Brother Victory & Parker Percolator characters from Deadbone & whole-car graffiti burner by the late artist Dondi, 1980 (Credit: Henry Chalfant)

War & Peace 99

The desire to reinterpret Vaughn Bode’s distinctive cartoon style was hardly limited to the underground realms of graffiti. In 1977, Bode’s work also inspired the production of the animated fantasy film Wizards, directed by Lord of the Rings animator Ralph Bakshi. Six years before, Bakshi garnered scads of lowbrow notoriety for bringing the adults only creation of cartoonist R. Crumb to life with the animated film Fritz the Cat (1971). Just over a decade later, Bakshi also produced the collaborative effort Fire and Ice (1982) with veteran comic book artist and master fantasy painter Frank Frazetta. But in sharp contrast to the collaborative efforts behind the creation of Fritz the Cat (a film which R. Crumb ultimately grew to despise) and Fire and Ice, the production of Bakshi’s Wizards feature was a completely selfish pursuit.

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Ralph Baski’s Wizards, One-Sheet Movie Poster (1977)

The Lizard of Oz

In 1969, at the 27th World Science Fiction Convention (aka St. Louiscon), Bode was awarded a Hugo, the science fiction industry’s highest award, in recognition of the distinctive fantasy works for which he’d become known. In Lucca Italy six years later, he was also bestowed one of the cartoon industry’s highest awards, the Yellow Kid (1975). But the latter would be the last mark of recognition that Bode would receive during his lifetime. On July 18th 1975, Vaughn Bode became the self-induced victim of an accidental death: strangulation by autoerotic asphyxiation. He was 34.

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Cobalt 60 (1968)
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Junkwaffel #2 (1972)

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

During his extraordinary life, Vaughn Bode would bestow upon his endlessly evolving self a variety of mysticism-inspired titles like ‘da Cartoon Messiah,’ ‘Western BodeSattva,’ ‘Tao-Toon Fool’ and ‘Pop-Mystic Transvestite’ (the artist had seriously considered sexual reassignment but reconsidered when the female hormones he’d been taking destroyed his libido). To family, friends and fans, this complex comix creator was all that and much more.

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“Da Cartoon Messiah” • Credit: Barbara & Mark Bode

Paco Taylor

Written by

Writes about Eastern and Western pop culture, history and art | Bylines @ Nextshark, G-Fan Magazine, FanSided & CBR (Comic Book Resources) | stpaco@gmail.com

Paco Taylor

Written by

Writes about Eastern and Western pop culture, history and art | Bylines @ Nextshark, G-Fan Magazine, FanSided & CBR (Comic Book Resources) | stpaco@gmail.com

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