Ralph Steadman

I start with today’s Doonesbury (a replay from some years ago), continuing the story of Duke’s coming out of a drug coma:


In the previous installment, Duke was hallucinating a talking lizard (right out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which is where his cartoon character originates). Now he’s playing on the name of that book: Fear and Loathing at Macy’s Men’s Wear.

Time for some words on the amazing F&L and on its illustrator (the lizard source) Ralph Steadman.

On the book (from Wikipedia):

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. The book is a roman à clef, rooted in autobiographical incidents. The story follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American Dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s countercultural movement. The work is Thompson’s most famous, and is noted for its lurid descriptions of illegal drug use, its early retrospective on the culture of the 1960s, and its popularization of Thompson’s highly-subjective blend of fact and fiction that has become known as gonzo journalism. The novel first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, was printed as a book in 1972, and was later adapted into a film of the same name in 1998 by Terry Gilliam, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro who portrayed Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, respectively.

Here’s Steadman’s depiction of lizard Gonzo:


and of a whole lizard lounge in Las Vegas:


(Steadman’s work is often described as “savage” or “grotesque”; he was a good match for Thompson.)

A digression on the name of F&L (more from Wikipedia):

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is Thompson’s most famous work, and is known as “Fear and Loathing” for short; however, he later used the phrase “Fear and Loathing” in the titles of other books, essays, and magazine articles.

Moreover, “Fear and Loathing”, as a phrase, has been used by many writers, the first (possibly) being Friedrich Nietzsche in The Antichrist. In a Rolling Stone magazine interview, Thompson said: “It came out of my own sense of fear, and [is] a perfect description of that situation to me, however, I have been accused of stealing it from Nietzsche or Kafka or something. It seemed like a natural thing.”

He first used the phrase in a letter to a friend written after the Kennedy assassination, describing how he felt about whoever had shot President John F. Kennedy. In “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”, he used the phrase to describe how people regarded Ralph Steadman upon seeing his caricatures of them.

Jann Wenner [of Rolling Stone] claims that the title came from Thomas Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock.

No doubt there are now other plays on the model Fear and Loathing in …

About Steadman, who we saw on this blog on 10/04/10 in “Steadman’s boids”, with drawings of extinct and imaginary birds (playful relatives of the threatening lizards above). From this posting:

Steadman is yet another artist most often labeled as a cartoonist, but who’s also a caricaturist, illustrator, and writer — in his case, with an audience of both children and (for his editorial cartoons and in his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson) adults. In the company of Maurice Sendak, Raymond Briggs, Ronald Searle, and Saul Steinberg.

The larger history, from Wikiupedia:

Ralph Steadman (born 15 May 1936) is a British cartoonist best known for his work with American author Hunter S. Thompson.

… As well as writing and illustrating his own books and Thompson’s, Steadman has worked with writers including Ted Hughes, Adrian Mitchell and Brian Patten, and also illustrated editions of Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Animal Farm, the English translation of Flann O’Brien’s Gaelic-language classic The Poor Mouth, and … Fahrenheit 451.

Among the British public, Steadman is well known for his illustrations for the catalogues of the off-licence chain Oddbins and he designed a set of four British postage stamps to commemorate the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1985. He also designed the labels for Flying Dog beer and Cardinal “Spiced” Zin’ wine, which was banned in Ohio for Steadman’s “disturbing” interpretation of a Catholic cardinal on its label.

So in addition to his roles as cartoonist and illustrator, in the service of (among others) the Bonny Doon vineyard (which specializes in jokey names and labels) he’s a graphic designer:


And of course he’s a wicked caricaturist. Here’s his Richard Nixon, warts and all:


2 Responses to “Ralph Steadman”

  1. thnidu Says:

    «The larger history, from Wikipedia:»

    Wikipedia is not a nomad’s temporary lodge

  2. Peter Mendelsund | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] blog, having to do with the way the (unmodified) term art is used in artistic circles. Consider this posting of 6/6/14 on Ralph Steadman, referred to as a cartoonist, illustrator, graphic designer, and […]

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