1. Mark Bode: Wizards, Lizards and Broads - Interview by Kim Munson
Originally posted in three parts on the Comics Journal blog, November 22nd, 2010 at
Mark Bode stands in front of a mural he painted in San Francisco’s North Beach district,
celebrating the Giants World Series win. Photo courtesy of Bode.
Comics, mural and tattoo artist Mark Bode has been busy lately: doing
mural work all over the SF Bay Area and developing a live-action Colbalt 60
film with director Zack Snyder. At the time of this interview, he had just
closed his latest show, “Wizards, Lizards, and Broads” at the 1:AM Gallery in
San Francisco and was preparing to show his art, and his father’s (legendary
underground cartoonist Vaughn Bode) at the Biennial Arts Le Havre in
KIM MUNSON: It was great to see such a wide range of your work in
the 1:AM show, along with some pieces of your father’s. Do people
come that don’t know about your family history and get confused
about your dad’s work, your work and work you did together?
MARK BODE: Oh yeah, there’s three different groups of people that
encompass the Bode worlds, and it’s people who know my father, and hardly
know me and my work, and then there’s people who know me, and hardly
know my father, or there are people who are just into both.
4. before my father. My dad started doing that on the road, and one of the last
times he did it was at the Louvre in Paris. He packed the ballroom there. He
had arrived. I think he was the last artist to do a lecture like that at the
Louvre, they stopped doing it after that. Anyway, he packed the ballroom
there and Moebius was there, a lot of the Who’s Who of the comics field
went to that show, and it changed their lives. Moebius said it changed him
dramatically, to where he was going to be doing more graphic storytelling
without the captions. It changed a lot of people and inspired them. Anyway
he’d done it at colleges mainly in comics conventions. I think the last one he
did was at the Phil Seuling convention in New York City in 1975 where he did
the Lizard of Oz painting.
MUNSON: Do you do it very often yourself?
BODE: I realize that my show was very shocking. When he did it, it was
different. You could do an R-rated show, and it was funny, and it was edgy.
But nowadays, you have to go to the next level. I’ve done a lot of stuff in
Cherry Pop Tart, and I put that stuff in there, and I did all the sound effects,
and it’s very funny. But it’s shock stuff. And I’m kind of over that, I’ve kind
of realized that it doesn’t really turn into money. It’s just momentarily kind
of entertaining. So I stopped because I really need to take it digital if I’m
going to keep going. And I need to do more material too, since I haven’t
been doing underground comix for a while. I just do it once in awhile. Just
pull it out of the bag. Just give it a run around the block. You know, it’s like
taking an old car out for a spin; it’s not something that I’m pursuing.
But I can do the voices, he used to practice in front of me. I have exactly the
same vocal cords that he did genetically, so I can pretty much come up with
the same voices. You can see this stuff online, just type Bode’s Cartoon
Concert into YouTube, and you can see him doing it, and then the Comic
Concert Two has me doing Cheech Wizard.
It’s a fun show. Probably the biggest show I did was in Atlanta and I opened
for GWAR, you know?
MUNSON: Yeah, yeah.
BODE: Well, I was never so scared in my life, I went up in front of a few
thousand people and they’re all chanting “GWAR! GWAR! GWAR!” And
there’s me, with a slide projector [laughs] and a remote. I was gonna die.
And I opened with Burpie Pussy Fart, the thing I did for Cherry, where
Barbie and Cherry get it on, Barbie’s got a smoker’s voice, and she’s heavily
smoking and she’s vomiting constantly. But getting into this strip saved my
life, because it was so shock-value underground comix style, that it tamed
5. the crowd immediately and people started yelling, “Hey, you’re sick! He’s
sick!” and pretty soon people are laughing. And whenever I got to my
father’s strips, I’d start losing the crowd. I could hear the murmuring
starting, and then more and more murmuring, and then I get to one of my
shocking strips again, and I’d have them again, and they’d laugh. So I was
just sweating through my father’s material and wishing that I had a
computer right there so I read the crowd and choose the pieces I needed.
And that’s where it has to go if I’m going to continue. It has to go digital,
where I can pick and choose the strips that I want to read. But at the end of
the show, the lights flash over my head, and Techno Destructo is there with
steam shooting out of his suit and he’s like “Bode! You plagiarized
everyone!” And he’s staring at me, and you know, there’s that need to run.
We didn’t rehearse this, but I knew he was going to blood bag me and kill
me and drag me off stage. It’s all fun and games until you see the guy ready
to kill you, and steam is shooting out of his suit! It was frightening, and my
adrenaline was going, and he hit me over the head and he dragged me off
the stage, and the crowd went crazy and rushed the stage. That was
probably the hardest Cartoon Concert I ever had to do, but GWAR said I
survived better than almost any opening band they’d ever had. They said I’d
actually tamed the crowd, and they were very impressed with that. So yeah,
I just did it recently and I might do it in Australia next year, I’m supposed to
be doing a gallery show in Melbourne and in Sydney, and I’m going to do the
slideshows as well.
MUNSON: That must have been quite an experience. I was curious,
since I’ve just seen your studio and how carefully you’ve archived
everything, it must be strange for you that the spray art you’ve been
doing isn’t permanent. You did that great mural outside the 1:AM
gallery, and I took pictures of it the last day of the show, and a few
days later, someone is out there painting over it.
BODE: It’s about the photographs. I’ve done a lot of murals. Now I’m just
on fire with it. I’m actually so driven, probably more than anything else right
now. I’m working on Cobalt 60, the next story for Cobalt 60, I’m up to page
55 on that, I’m penciling. I’ve been working on it since the movie script
started. While everything has been going, I figured I’d better get on it and
make more stories with Cobalt 60. But actually what’s dominating my stuff
right now is the mural work around San Francisco. I’m working on a huge,
huge mural, I’m going to start this weekend in West Oakland. It’s a recycling
plant called CASS, and it’s between 26th and 27th on Peralta in West
Oakland. And it’s huge; it’s the size of a football field. It’s three stories high,
and may be 200, 300 feet long. I’ll be using a cherry-picker and all that and
6. Photo courtesy of Mark Bode.
And then I painted a church, I never thought I was going to do that. That
story was a painful one, because I was invited to do the main characters on
the side of a church that was on a very bad alley in the Mission at 14th and
Caledonia. There were all these homeless people shooting up, and they were
using it as a public bathroom, and I’m up there… I couldn’t sleep because I
was like, “How am I going to not make fun of the main icon?” If I put a
cartoony face on him, people are going to think I’m mocking the church, so I
came up with the idea of taking a stencil of Jesus’ face, a classic… actually, I
took it from Rick Griffin’s book. I took the classic Jesus face ink drawing that
he did, copied the face and blew it up to about the size it was supposed to
be and cut it out of cardboard, so I had Jesus’ face in less than three
seconds (laughs). Instant Jesus! As I’m painting, there’s this lady saying,
“Get the hell out of my alley! This is my alley. Get the fuck out of here!”
And we’re like, “Lady we’re trying to do something good here,” and then,
“Lady! Oh, no don’t take a piss there!” And we’d have to scramble down the
ladder and get our paint out of the way of the urine.
It was horrible, and she was trying to score some crack from a guy that has
a window right there. And he’s like, “Get the hell away from my window,
8. KIM MUNSON: Mark, You were just returned from the Biennale of
Contemporary Art Le Havre (Oct. 1–31, 2010), a major exhibition in
France that featured your work and your father’s. Can you talk about
MARK BODE: I was contacted by them because they wanted to display my
father’s work. I said, “I don’t send my father’s stuff anywhere, through the
mail or anything. I come with it. Also, I’ve been doing all this other stuff.”
Then I sent them stuff and they said, “Well, we’d love to have you too.” So,
we have a father-and-son show, and that’s how it got going. They’re making
the cross between contemporary art and comics bringing the two together.
MUNSON: I’m sure they’ll do a better job than a lot of the U.S.
BODE: You know, in France, they take their comics very seriously. Not like
over here, where you tell somebody you are a comics artist and they think
you’re a rodeo clown or a pie-pan twirler [laughs]. “Really? You make a
living at that?” You get used to it.
MUNSON: Tell me about the show.
BODE: Jean-Marc Thevenet (Commissioner General) and Linda Morren
(Artistic Director) put together a show of illustrators and comic-book
storytellers — people who tell stories with visuals. And it was spread out
over all of the city of Le Havre. We were on the bus from Paris with all the
press. It was very stormy and rainy when we got there. We got a private
showing the day before it officially opened. We went from event to event,
getting a private tour by Jean-Marc and his wife. Because of the rain, it was
hard to fully absorb it all. But the production they did, was all over the town
in maybe eight different locations at the same time.
MUNSON: The various locations each featured work by different
artists-in-residence. Which were the ones that impressed you the
BODE: One was in the water, the artist did all her little stories on the sails of
little boats, the kind of little sailboats they rent to people when the weather’s
And then we went to a place where a guy was doing his art — he made his
own little theater. You have to crouch down and walk into this little tiny
theater and sit down on small chairs. They had a live piano player playing
10. “Eeeugh.” The humor of that character is really good. And there was 3-D
sculpture and some stuff like that.
MUNSON: Your work and your father’s work was somewhere else
wasn’t it? You mentioned an exhibition in a mansion. What was that
BODE: It’s a four-level mansion. The first floor was the art show. The
second floor was a restaurant, and the third and fourth floors are where the
owner and co-producer lives. His name is Ari Sebag (President of the
Association of the Biennale of Contemporary Art Le Havre and of the
Partouche Short Film Award). He lives all over the place and owns 10
casinos. He puts a million dollars into an exhibit every year in each town
where he has a casino. So this is a guy who makes things happen. He’s very,
very nice too. I really liked him a lot. Everybody was very pleasant. And to
walk into this mansion and see the ocean, and see the art, and the people. It
was a very, very beautiful place to have your art shown.
The press was there. And I did a reading of one of my father’s strips. Which
they all loved, and they clapped and everything. I was having some trouble,
because I had to have an interpreter, but people were generally very excited
to hear our stuff.
MUNSON: From my limited interpretation of the French press
materials it seems that they included your dad in the show as one of
the underground comix artists that broke through the perception
that comics were for kids. Is that right?
BODE: Yes. They had several events where they were talking about comics,
and my father and I just kept coming up and kept coming up, and I couldn’t
really tell what they were talking about. I’m going to have to polish up on
my French, to say the least. But it was a very big deal. The last time any of
the Bode material was in Paris or in France was in the 1970s, late ’74 when
my father did that Cartoon Concert…
MUNSON: Right, the show at the Louvre where he did the Cartoon
BODE: Well, that resonated over all these years. And then Jean-Marc said
he had big ideas in store for us and our work. We went to dinner and he
said, “I want to do an exhibition in a major museum in Paris. And it’s time.
Because your father is ground zero for all of the spray-can art that has come
since then. And before then, there was nothing but tags going on in New
York City at the time your father was alive. Like Taki, and there may be a
11. couple others, that were just doing tags. But once your father died,” he said,
he saw that “his bubble letters and his characters and all that inspired the
look of the first graffiti artists that ever did actual mural work with the can.”
He said, “In France, we consider your father ground zero for spray-can art.
Now it’s worldwide, and the idea that you have continued it — continued
your father’s comics and also the spray can art — that aspect is very
important to the French people, and we want to do a major exhibition in a
museum, in late 2011.”
And they’ll have a huge budget for installation, which I will design. You walk
into the environment of our strips and you walk through a column of Bode
Broads built into the wall, that kind of thing.
MUNSON: Wow, that’s great! I remember you were telling me about
that concept about having the Cheech Wizard Tunnel of Love? Maybe
you can talk them into that one.
BODE: That was the theme park. Yeah, maybe my goals are a little low. But
yeah, the theme park’s next.
I was aiming for “Oh maybe I can maybe get a gallery gig out of this,” you
know. But I did not expect the effort that I put into getting my father’s
original art up, and putting my art up, and making a presence out there,
would turn out with a major exhibition like this.
MUNSON: You also worked with a group of French spray-can artists
— Jace, Konu, Diksa Nefason and others — on a series of Bode
tribute murals, didn’t you?
BODE: During the weekend of October 1, we did a Bode tribute, which I’ve
done in many, many different places at this point, where graffiti artists show
up and they do their tribute to my father and the characters and this one
was the first French tribute to my father. About 15 artists showed up and we
covered about a 200-foot canvas that was laid outside of the main exhibition
hall. We did it outside, but it was blustery, raining on and off. We had an
overhang, so that made things a little bit better, but we did a huge
production. Anyway, I was planning on doing two or three different
characters, or two or three different sections of maybe 10×10 sections. The
weather was bad, so instead, I just did a French girl on a motorcycle, and
the motorcycle is all painted in the French flag with a little lizard riding on
12. One of the Bode tribute murals, painted outside the Le Havre Maritime Museum.
Photo by Mark Bode.
MUNSON: Similar to the design you used for the jigsaw puzzle that
just came out?
BODE: Yeah, exactly. So I did that one, and it was just so uncomfortable
and wet, I wanted to just do the one piece and get to a dry place. Whereas if
it had been nice, I would have spent all day and all night and part of the
next day painting with everybody. Because there were some amazing pieces
that came out of it, and just some great talent that’s in France.