MARK BODE´ INTERVIEW
About your father…
When you were a child were you aware that writers in New York (and after in the rest of the world) have painted many characters from your father’s comics?
My father and I rode the subways in the early 70s but we never took notice of graffiti as it was still in its early stage of tagging. My father had no idea of the underground art of graffiti or his influence that was to come from his characters and bubble lettering style. He had no idea of the influence his work would have on the spray can culture worldwide.
What do you think about Vaughn Bode’s inspiration in graffiti art and subway art?
It’s simply amazing that I could be witness to a new field of art in which my father’s art was a foundry of the imagery! WOW who would think that that could happen? Often I feel I am seeing this for him. Like a ghost seeing a tribute from another world. Ill see a dedication to Bode in a graffiti production and I am still alive, and I know it’s a tribute to Vaughn but it feels like I’m seeing for him, or I’m seeing a dedication to me from beyond the grave. I am proud, as the Bode art has survived; his art has stood the test of time and lives on in another art form, the art form of Spraycan Art. A complete new field of art outside of the Underground Comics field, which was my father’s field of choice while, he was alive. The Influence of graffiti has given the Bode worlds a life outside of comics and in that way very few comic book creators that have died can compare to the power of Vaughn’s work and his growing legend. It helps to have a son that continues the art on different levels, it preserves the art and makes it grow to have “new art” being created and updated, this is essential to a dead artist that wants to keep working.
In this way my father’s characters defy death. And I’m prouder and prouder of my father as I develop my own art and continue his unfinished works and breath life into his unfinished worlds.
Do you know why Cheech and many characters from your father’s creation have influenced many writers in New York during early seventies?
My fathers comics were unavoidable in the 70s in New York City, as our family was based in upstate New York and my fathers publishers were in New York as well .He worked very hard to be published not only in comics but in Science Fiction publications and in street newspapers. So any head shop or comics shop that had underground comics in NYC in the 70s would have had his comics for sale. So the early NYC writers would’ve had access to his comics. His stories were deep and soulful and reflected our own lives here on earth. The characters and their tragic, and sometimes happy little lives are like a mirror to our own lives in the streets. So to put a Bode character next to a graff piece is to make the piece as deep as our worlds, and as “street” as our worlds. At least that is my take on why the characters are so popular. They also are just very cool characters in design, and the thickness in line of the Bode style is bold and very easily done with a Spraycan. My dad was a one of a kind idea man and a true artists artist …
Do you think that your father would’ve become a writer himself?
This is an answer I am sure of; he would never have picked up a spray can. I saw him one time with a spray can around 1970 he was painting his office desk flat black with a Krylon can, I watched him and asked if I could paint too and he was afraid of drips so he said it was best he did it. And he didn’t like the smell and wanted me far away as possible. The reason I say he would of never picked up a can to paint a mural is that he kept his hands VERY clean, his hands were sacred element of his art and he always worked on his comic pages with a white cloth glove. He never even looked under the hood of a car, as it would dirty his precious hands with engine oil. So when his car stopped working he would call a tow truck even if it just needed a battery jump or some oil. Getting paint on his hands would of never happened even with gloves, he would of got paint on his arms, or his clothes, and would of said “this is not for me.” I’m sure of that, Vaughn would of never been a graffiti writer like I am, and even in that sense I do not consider myself a writer either, I consider myself a spray can artist that does murals, I don’t find a thrill in getting my name up, but love to do the visuals and backgrounds and the Bode characters with a can. I leave the wild style lettering to the masters of that art form if I do letters its always bubble style Bode letters I paint. If that is considered writing too, then yes, I am a writer and a spray can artist, Vaughn was not.
Can you speak about your father’s work? Did he study in artistic school? Where was he from?
Vaughn started very young, he created hundreds of worlds and universes at a very young age. Cheech Wizard his most well known icon was created at the age of 15 in 1957. His Lizards came a few years later in 1959. He attended high school in Utica New York, and college at Syracuse University in the mid 60s and graduated as a fine art major. He had bad commercial jobs for awhile which he hated and he put all his energy into being his own artist whether people liked his art or not he was going to do it his way, he was very stubborn like that. DC comics turned him down and said come back when you learn to draw. He was so angry he went home and burned most of his art up to that point and vowed to do it his way or no way. A true master arouse from the horrible let down that DC inflicted on his ego. His style became even stronger and he refused to let anyone own his characters except himself. He was the first cartoonist to hold his copyrights and turn down jobs if the publisher wanted the rights. My dad even turned down a Bode strip in Playboy for the same reason. A true fighter for Artists rights years before anyone had thought of such a thing.
You are an illustrator and comic book writer like him. In a certain way do you think that he’s your spiritual father in art?
Yes, I feel his presence in dreams all the time and sometimes I feel him over my shoulder whispering ideas in my ear when I draw. I often will have him look at my art in my dreams and he gives me encouragement or tells me to do something else with my art or keep up the good work. Most of the time he is very positive and smiles proudly and gives me a hug. Very rare that anyone is so close in death to a parent, I am lucky to have such a strong spirit watching over me and pulling strings for me and making magic things happen in my career.
How old are you? When did you first start to draw comic’s book? And Tattoo?
I am 47 years old I started doing comics when I was 15 professionally when i was hired to color my fathers art for Heavy Metal magazine in 1978. I was encouraged by my father at the age of 3 or 4 years old to do strips and my dad would give me 25 cents a strip to do work for him, I would do 4 strips and get a DOLLAR! Big money when you’re a little kid. I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and he knew that I had the ability to be an artist in my own right. Even as a small childI showed great ability and he would often take my ideas and use them in his own comics like The Frankenstein Lizard in the Cheech Wizard story was my idea. I often made monsters out of lizards and he loved my ideas and used them more then a few times. I broke into my own comics in the early 80s and made a very good living and never had to have a straight job as each project i was involved with had a market thanks to my father. It was never easy but I didn’t have to try or work as hard as my father to make the money as I hada legacy to follow because of him. I worked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a short time in the 90s and was one of the original 8 artists that did the original TMNT comics. Once that began to beless lucrative I started tattooing for more ways to use my art abilities, so I began tattooing in 1994 and added that to what I was doing in comics and continued to make a good living. Being versatile was key to my families’ survival.
When did you first start bombing?
My first piece in 1986 was printed in Spraycan Art a book by Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff. I was a bit of a curiosity back then as Vaughn’s characters had already become Icons and there I was following my fathers foot steps with a spray can. So for that reason I ended up in that book and not because I was amazing with a can, only because of my family name in the graph community. So 1986 is when I started bombing with a can.
Why did you start, did you have friends writing at that time or you met some after that?
I met Dondi around the same time but we didn’t paint together we just would hang out at my mother in laws Bodega store in Brooklyn and draw in each others sketch books and talk about my dad while we drew. I later met San Francisco bay area writers like Razor, Shadow, and Rayvyn, and Ham2, Thorn, and Crayone those were the artists that were encouraging me when I first started in 86. A few years later I met Dr. Revolt and Zephyr and Seen in NYC. Revolt became my teacher in the graph world and has thought me can control and technique over the years. I hired Revolt to help me color “The Lizard of OZ” book I did in 2000 with Fantagraphics publishing where I revived Cheech as the “Wizard” of OZ.
How were you connected to the graffiti and why did you choose to practice this art?
Every time I saw a Bode character in a graffiti piece I felt I should be able to do that. And I was not going to be happy till I could paint like that with a can. So every chance I got to paint I would, but I didn’t do it enough to be good .Its only in the last 5 years after I moved from back east to San Francisco that I “got it” as I was given so many spots to paint that I could hardly keep up with the requests. Now with the new Alien paint by Montana and painting for hundreds of hours I finally am happy with my can control and I love the medium and will never leave it till I cant climb a ladder anymore. I feel Graff has opened my mind to huge paintings and I am able to do art that no one has seen from the Bodes, The best is yet to come from me in that field. I LOVE Spray can art especially now that I don’t suck! LOL!
Who did you meet among first writers in New York?
I can’t remember everyone I met. But I met them roughly in this order: Dondi, Revolt, Zephyr, Mare, Kel, Seen were among the first. I’m leaving out too many that I met later they know who they are, and I have respect for all of them.
Have you met writers using Bode’s characters from other countries?
I have painted with the Bandits Crew in Barcelona Spain, and I painted Bode productions in London multiple times. We also did a Bode production in Berlin at YAAM club that Overkill shop set in motion. I meet too many artists to mention, I fear naming a few as to not insult the others, which are all incredible. I’m very lucky to have so many artist friends abroad.
With which writers from old school generation have you painted?
Revolt is the one I painted with the most, Sket, and Med, and Kel come to mind as well. I have done lots of painting with Stan 153, Seen and I have worked on projects like The Bode Broad vinyl toy together but we haven’t painted yet, soon we paint I hope.
Have you painted on subway cars?
No I have not on the subway, but I have done Cobalt 60 burners on freight cars over the years. I am too old to out run the police! So I pick legal spots and paying gigs to do my pieces for the most part.
Can you speak about your Cheech Wizard’s 3D animation project?
Well, that animation was done by a friend in his spare time by the name of Nigel Hendrickson out of NYC. He asked me if he did the animation for free would I do the voices and the music for the short animation? And I agreed. My dad created the voices for his Cartoon Concert slide show in the 70s and I have the same ability to do the voices he had, so I did my best to recreate the voices my father wished for his characters in that short animation by Nigel. Cheech needs to be done in cel animation and not done in computer and i have had companies approach me for an animated series with Cheech but they have all failed to become animated. Cheech will be animated one day he is too cool a character to not be animated, and it should be traditional Disney style animation when it happens as far as I am concerned. I have written out line stories for about 15 episodes for Cheech incase it does happen.
Could you please tell us about Cobalt 60 project? Without saying us too much, please could you give us some more info about the content? What kind of surprise?
Cobalt 60 is the only main character of my father’s that really needed more stories to bring it to its full potential. Writer and artist Larry Todd and I decided to expand on Cobalt 60 and make it into a 150 pages full color story. I started Cobalt in 1983 finished the whole story in 1993. I was happy with the amount of work that went into Cobalt and considered it a done deal; I was not going to keep going with Cobalt 60. That was until a few years ago when the Director Zack Snyder of Frank Millers “300″ called me and said I have dreamed of doing Cobalt 60 as a live action movie and now that I am a well known director I want to do it as a film with Universal studios.
I was in doubt that it would happen, I’ve been promised movie deals before and then they fizzled out. Then Zack invited my wife Molly and I to the set of the film “Watchmen” and treated my wife and I like royalty on the set. I realized then that he loved our work and this was going to be a magic combination, a culmination of all the right minds and abilities. Once again the Bode magic would surprise me again and hook me up with the ultimate Director for the project. We are now working the screenplay and it should go into pre production in 2011 but movies can take a long time! Meanwhile I am working on the next Cobalt 60 story which takes place after Cobalt’s son grows up to be a greedy power hungry prince and kills his own mother and must kill Cobalt to become king. I’m writing this time and drawing so this is a pure Bode production and it has a thrilling triple ending. Its not a happy ending story but thrilling and action packed. YES!
Lots of rumor told that you are coming in France for a great exhibition. Please tell us about that?
The first week of October in Le Havre France we are part of a comic book exhibition of Comic art in a mansion in Le Havre. The first floor of the exhibit is dedicated to the 60s and I will be displaying my fathers and my original art for the first time in France since 1975 when my father did his Cartoon Concert at the Ballroom in the Louvre in Paris. This is a must see show as my fathers originals are sensitive to light and we do not display his finished work very often because of the ink from the markers fades very easily when exposed to light. I will also be teaching graffiti character class during the week that I am there in Le Havre. You will have to do some research for the exact time and place, as it is too early for that info on my end. But I will be there with a Bode art show in hand to display for the people of France who want to see the original works.
Nowadays Bode’s artworks are more present worldwide. Have you felt this evolution during these last years?
It’s hard not too. The Bode work is like a bucket of water i put a few cups of water and when I come back to it the bucket is full. When I dump the water from the bucket into a sink I come back and the sink is full. It has its own life and when I’m gone I’m sure it will continue for decades into the future the worlds will continue to grow in different ways! Some artist not born yet will make a 3D Bode broad that sleeps in your bed for company the ultimate graffiti artist companion! I’m sure of this but it may be 50 years from now!!! By then I will be playing with Cheech and the gang out in the Bode Universe somewhere like heaven, but better.
You’re painting, doing tattoo, drawing comic’s book writing, bombing… Are you running after a shadow like many creators?
I believe I want my father alive, so I keep him alive by keeping the worlds alive he created… I believe I want my mother alive, so I see her in my drawings and she is alive then. I want to finish what we started here, and finish the dream before I am stardust and part of our gigantic Universe again, when I am gone from here. I want to finish what we started so I can share the excitement and wealth of it with my wife Molly, and my daughter Zara, and my friends and their friends, and the people that just love the work. The people that love the work are the ones that make it magic and really keep the bode work alive, every time they read or buy the books Cheech and the gang are alive again and that’s real magic! Something Vaughn taught us. That we can all share this place equally, if that is a shadow, lets live there.
What is your artistic desire now?
I want to design a Bode theme park BODE WORLD with erotic rides and X rated entertainment and gambling, drinking and prostitution for men and women and Smoking! An adult Disneyland! Cheech Wizard will be the barker “step right up for the best show on earth” “Ride the C cup!” “Loose your lunch on the Asstro Glide Ride!”
“Experience the Tunnel of Love” Bode style! “Kick the Lizard in Da Balls!” “And win a free blow job!”
That’s my desire all we need is 50 million dollars and about a thousand acres of land and ill draw the design for it in a few days and we can build it!
Interview by Vincent Pompetti
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