Changes... you start noticing them more as you grow older, the little signs that time is passing and some day, time will pass you over! Meaning: Death... yes, the "D" word! the end! finito!
But what's that got to do with comic books?...nothing I suppose, except that Manuel "Spain" Rodriguez died during the week and that means one of the greats of underground comics has turned in his last page.
Rodriguez was from the original Zap comics team, the legends who practically invented underground comix but now that he's gone, I realised that I knew very little of "Spain"...(as he was nicknamed already in childhood, growing up in a racially mixed neighborhood), I had often mistaken his drawings for those of S. Clay Wilson, and had previously deemed these to be "below par" when compared to my underground hero: R.Crumb.
What I'd missed out on, was that Spain's art represented the real modern art of the late twentieth century. Art not dealing with the absurdities of (high brow) modern art formalism (the surfaces people paint and draw on are flat, so it's s like...an illusion, dig?..dig?..) instead, his was an art exploring the seedy and violent life at the lower levels of industrial-age metropolises, or chronicling the adventures of Spain's character Thrashman, a Marxist super hero! fighting the oppressor by treating KKKapitalists as they should be treated: with a dose of hot lead from his squad machine gun!
Now that he's dead, Spain Rodriguez sadly turns out to have been my kind of artist! drawing sexy women in high heels and tight leather, patrolling steamy garbage stewn streets! Spain filled his panels with powerful motorcycles, roaring through industrial wastelands at night, ridden by nihilistic freedom loving outsider biker/ revolutionaries, blasting machine guns on their journey to Hell, or Nirvana!
Well...I guess that's what you get for not being born in a cultural hot spot like the good ol' USA...important things happen that you only discover forty years later...but I'm making good on that now, because not all of market capitalism is bad, there are good companies, like beautiful Fantagraphics who've devoted their efforts not at making profits marketing stuff they know is garbage, but by putting out cool shit! and who naturally published the collected Trashman stories as Trashman Lives! back in 1989. This also means it's long out of print, so I'm buying it over the internet, from a second-hand bookseller in Germany...
So, it's like this: "Spain" Rodriguez is dead, but his art lives on...because it was done in the democratic media of the mass produced comic book. I don't need to go to a big, expensively built, art museum to see it, or be a wealthy private collector owning the actual pages he drew. I can pick his art up at a reasonable price, as a printed copy, no different from thousands of other similar copies. Take it to my home and read it, enjoy it, learn from it, share it with others.
Yep, "Spain" Rodriguez is dead. No way to change that. But his art lives on, through the Internet, through publishing, through printing, paper, mass production, commerce, inspiration, hard work, black ink, white paper, grey pencils.
"Spain" Rodriguez is dead