The wonderful cartoonist, artist, and story teller, Spain Rodriguez, passed away Wednesday morning of complications of cancer. He passed at the same time the prenumbral eclipse was happening, and like the earth’s shadow on the edges of the moon, his shadow was at the edges of the art world for over five decades.
Although he first gained notoriety as a part of the 60′s underground comix scene, Spain defied singular categorization. He was widely regarded as equal parts 50′s greaser shit-kicker, family man, revolutionary, and phenomenal artist.
In Spain’s youth he joined a storied motorcycle club called the Road Vultures in Buffalo. That club became a Hell’s Angels chapter. He drew many stories about times with that club, most which seemed almost absurd, but they were true to every detail.
Spain’s first major art exhibit is currently on display at the Burchfield Penney Museum in Buffalo New York through January 20th, 2013. This selection of work highlights the best of Spain’s 43-year career as a graphic artist, underground comix pioneer, illustrator, graphic novelist, and biographer. Last Gasp published the catalog: Spain: Rock Roll Rumbles Rebels & Revolution to accompany the exhibit.
Spain’s wife, filmmaker Susan Stern, has recently finished a 15-minute documentary about Spain called Trashman: The Art of Spain Rodriguez. It’s an excellent story of art, sex, violence, greasers, class war, and other things that make life worthwhile and part of what makes Spain’s art so great.
In the days since his passing, remembrances have poured in from all corners of the internet. The Comics Journal has posted an obituary by Patrick Rosenkranz, an in-depth 1998 interview by Gary Groth, and many other tributes. Other farewells to Spain can be found in the New York Times, SF Chronicle, the National Enquirer, Vice Magazine, Buffalo News, The Beat, Comics Reporter, Washington Post, Salon, Justin Green’s blog, The Daily Heller, Art Forum, among other places. A fantastic collection of Spain images, as well as an interview from a studio visit last year, can be found on Sean Stewart’s tumblr, Babylon’s Falling.
Baba Ron Turner has this to say about his departed friend:
“I looked over Spain’s drawing table. He passed so quickly, he left what appeared to be a great story of a puppet master arguing in front of a judge with a hand up Moses’ robe, half drawn, with the details being worked out as he did so cleverly, drawing you in to the vast world that was his minds eye. Next to them were small, small paint brushes and lead soldiers that he was painting with perfect detail. He would correct the colors and the kind of cut on the jackets or the stripes on the pants to conform to the reality of history for dozens of ancient armies he had in his collection. He was a wonderful father to Nora and husband to wife Susan. He never backed down from convictions and always weighed his responses to questions. I will miss not seeing his next sketch, comix or poster and especially all the stories of Buffalo,and snooping out the flea markets and toy shows and comic conventions. Our daughters were born eight days apart and bound our families together as the girls became lifelong best friends. A friend saw Spain giggling as he drew a sexy girl on our warehouse pillar at last years burritos, beer and cheer party. That ink has faded. I think Spain’s legacy shall never fade.”
Spain changed and challenged the art and social world as we know it. He will be dearly missed.