Blue Heron in flight

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spain Rodriguez

Somehow I missed the fact that the underground artist Spain Rodriguez died late last year. He was 72 and had fought a long bout with cancer.  He was a very nice man.

Spain was a pioneer underground artist who worked at the East Village Other for many years. I think that I first was introduced to him through his excellent Insect Fear comic book, which was a favorite of my older sister Liz.

Spain was from Buffalo and used to hang out with a biker gang called the Road Vultures. Here is a picture I took of him with fellow Buffaloan Phil Olson at the Rick Griffin retrospective at the Laguna Beach Museum.

Spain was the most blatantly left wing and political of all the Zap artists. I also think that it would be fair to say that he was the most down to earth and humble. Not necessarily gifted with the most artistic chops, he got all he could out of his talent.

I first met him in the mid seventies, at the con. He did a drawing on a cast I was wearing on my leg that year. Kirby drew on it too and Clay Wilson added a checkered demon. I should have kept it but it was frankly starting to stink.

He drew this page for me, in black ink, and colored it up a year later.

My late friend Kelly Moorehead was a huge fan of Manual "Spain" Rodriguez' main protagonist of the working class, Trashman, Agent of the Sixth International. Trashman could change his molecular structure and shapeshift, the first lefty comic anti hero. I loved Trashman a lot but I always think of Kelly when I see Spain's work.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was accompanying Rick Griffin and his freshly inked artwork to Spain's house in San Francisco and spending a day with them, as well as Moscoso, S. Clay.Wilson, Crumb, Williams (maybe, don't remember) and a bunch of other great artists. I think that Alton Kelly and Mouse may have stopped by that trip as well. We laid out Zap comix # 13 and I brought up Griffin's Arthur Pendragon sheets.

Spain was so sweet and cordial, just the most gracious guy you could ever imagine. Wilson on the other hand, might bite your head off on occasion. Spain had a very adroit and sharp pen, one of his stories had a line about waiting for the deaths of the "last politician and priest."

A cool dude, an accomplished and quite graphic, graphic artist, a man who lived his politics and never really got the acclaim he deserved. Long live Spain! Long live Trashman!


Rich said...

Very cool! Love that early Spain from the East Village Other. Thx!

Anonymous said...

But a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw great design and style.