Spain Rodriguez

Today’s Zippy, a grieving death notice:

From the San Francisco Chronicle‘s obit¬†(by Kevin Fagin):

Hard-charging biker. Class warfare revolutionary. Pioneering underground cartoonist.

Loving family man.

That was Spain Rodriguez.

From his role as one of the original Zap Comix artists with Robert Crumb, to his work as a founder of the Mission District murals movement in San Francisco, Rodriguez influenced generations of cartoonists and illustrators with a gritty, in-your-face approach to urban life.

He continued to do so until his death Wednesday at his San Francisco home – inking a poster printed this week for a concert honoring the labor movement and Woody Guthrie.

… “He was an archetypal character, somewhere between crazy artist crossed with left-wing radical crossed with working-class Latino hood,” Crumb, who lives in France, said in a documentary made this year by Mr. Rodriguez’s wife, journalist and filmmaker Susan Stern. “He had a big influence on me through his artwork.

“He was top-of-the-line in that generation of underground, breakaway cartoonists,” Crumb said.

Engagingly witty, Mr. Rodriguez met Crumb, Art Spiegelman and other seminally lefty artists in the late 1960s in New York, where they were all creating the new cartoon art form that became known as underground comics.

Mr. Rodriguez had recently dropped out of the Silvermine Guild School of Art in Connecticut and created Zodiac Mindwarp, the first underground comics tabloid, when Spiegelman got his first dose of the man in 1967.

“I met him in some sort of street demonstration, and he sort of scared me because he looked like the kind of person who would beat me up instead of showing me how to draw a hand better,” Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the graphic novel “Maus,” said with a chuckle. “But over the years he mellowed out more and more.

… Among the nationally published cartoon characters Mr. Rodriguez created were Trashman, a street fighter against oppression of the wealthy class, and Big Bitch, a sort of sexually charged female counterpart.

In addition to Zap Comix, he contributed work to the New York Times, Mother Jones and Hustler. His books include “Che: A Graphic Biography,” and “Dark Hotel,” one of the first online graphic novels. At the time of his death, Mr. Rodriguez was working on a graphic history of the 2004 San Francisco hotel workers strike.

Passionate about his Latino heritage, he helped found the movement that created murals with Crumb and others throughout the Mission District in the late 1960s and ’70s. Mr. Rodriguez also created props and sets for Ralph Bakshi’s movie “Cool World,” staring Kim Basinger, as well as posters for the San Francisco Mime Troupe and work for Frank Zappa and Charles Bukowski.

Trashman and the Bitch, clearing the mean streets of America:

The Chron’s matter-of-fact note, “In addition to Zap Comix, he contributed work to the New York Times, Mother Jones and Hustler”, beginning with the NYT and ending with Hustler, is just wonderful.



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