When I was thirteen years old, I started my first successful business venture? selling vintage Marvel comics out of my bedroom at home. My first catalog listing all the comics I sold came out on January 1st, 1971. Over the next four years, I had a most wonderful time going to comic book and science fiction conventions in that golden era.
I met the best comic book artists of the day in those innocent times: Jim Steranko, Jeff Jones, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, and Jack Kirby. At the science-fiction conventions I met Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, David Gerrold ? even R.A. Lafferty passed out in our suite one fine evening at the World Science Fiction convention in Washington, D.C. Sept. 2, 1974.
At the World Science Fiction Conventions of 1973 and 1974, in Toronto and Washington D.C., respectively, I was mesmerized by a slide show presented by a wizard of a man whose smile and joie de vivre lit up the crowded rooms.
He was Vaughn Bode, whose enigmatic cartoon character Cheech Wizard was at the back of every issue of National Lampoon magazine, the greatest counterculture satire magazine of its time from 1970?1975. P.J. O’Rourke, Harold Ramis, Jeff Jones, and Sherri Flenniken established themselves in that magazine.
Cheech Wizard was a pot-smoking, pot-inspired, hedonistic mystic with an earthy libido for voluptuous babes. It was a funny and sexy cartoon. Bode put out two collections of Cheech Wizard, four issues of Junkwaffel, and appeared in numerous other visual media in the early 70’s. At both Torcon2 (1973) and WorldCon (1974), Vaughn wove magic with his remarkable cartoon characters.
“90 minutes long, it consisted of a slide show of his cartoons, with him standing to one side, in full make-up, his hair loose to his shoulders, dressed in a body suit and leather bellbottoms, wearing several rings, necklaces of bone and sharks’ teeth, and assuming the personality of and providing the voice for each character.”
– Donald Phelps, The Comics Journal Women were crazy about Vaughn Bode.
My good friend Toni Lauriston accompanied me to both conventions, and as a young woman of 23, she thought Vaughn was the most handsome, beautiful man alive, with long shimmering curly hair, a bright smile, dazzling eyes, and a perfect complexion. He was lithe and cat-like. She talked of him constantly, and I knew she had a major crush on him. As a young male fan of 15, I recognized that Vaughn Bode had serious sex appeal to women. His work exuded sexuality, mischief, fun, and altered consciousness ? just as he did.
Then, on July 18th, 1975 at the age of 33, Vaughn Bode died from asphyxiation during a complicated sexual act that went wrong. My dear lady friend Toni cried and cried, for three straight days, and I’m sure she wasn’t alone. Cheech Wizard & his creator Vaughn Bode were gone.
Many years later, the cycle comes full circle, right here in Cannabis Culture. Thirty years after his very untimely death, the sexy consciousness and life that pulsed through Vaughn Bode and his characters is reincarnated ? channeled, if you will ? through Vaughn Bode’s son Mark Bode.
On this anniversary of his father’s passing, I asked Mark Bode if he could assemble a few pieces of his father’s best work, with a completely new narrative especially drawn for CC readers.
Mark was eager to contribute! Accompanying each page of comics by Vaughn are cartoons sharing Mark’s insight into his father’s life and finest accomplishments.
Mark Bode was born in Utica, New York February 18, 1963. His first professional job was for Heavy Metal Magazine, when he was asked to color his fathers’ black and white strip, Zooks: The First Lizard in Orbit when he was fifteen.
His publications include Gyro comics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cobalt 60 graphic novels. Mark’s work has also appeared in Penthouse, Hot Talk, Hustler comics, Gwar comics, Gauntlet magazine, While You Were Sleeping, and Graphotism. Mark’s artwork was exhibited in Picturing the Modern Amazon at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Fantagraphics will be publishing The Lizard of Oz, the graphic novel featuring Cheech Wizard.
A full retrospective on Vaughn Bode is in The Comics Journal, 2005 Special Edition, Vol. 5 www.tcj.com For more artwork and information visit: www.markbode.com For the latest news on Mark Bode’s upcoming slide show presentation email: [email protected]