Mark Bodé: Wizards, Lizards and Broads, Part Three of Three

Posted by on November 24th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Interview by Kim Munson

Part onePart two ♦ Part three


©2004 Mark Bodé and the Bodé Estate.


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 that?

MARK BODÉ: 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. museums.

BODÉ: 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.

BODÉ: Jean-Marc Thévenet (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 most?

BODÉ: 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 nice.

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 with the artist’s drawings, which were animated on a computer. It told this little visual story. There were no words, it just kinda went from one theme to another, as this woman played piano to it. So there we all were in this little tiny cramped theater in undersized chairs. You just felt very intimate with what you were watching.


Click image for larger version.
Left: Christophe Blanc, Je suis la fin ces haricots, serigraph, 62 x 40 cm, ©2009 Christophe Blanc. Right: Poster for Mark’s next show, Monterey Pop Art in January, 2011.


MUNSON: Where was the main exhibition?

BODÉ: the main show was actually in a big warehouse down by the piers, that was where most of the artists displayed their works. There was a little animated cartoon of this guy whose character is called “Super.”

MUNSON: That was by Christophe Blanc; they used his character on the show poster.

BODÉ: His character is extremely funny. When I saw it animated, I realized what he was doing. And it was basically a superhero that screws up everything when he shows up. For example, there’s a couple fighting, and he sees it as this guy strangling this woman. And he’ll come to the rescue and pulverize the male and all of a sudden she looks at the bloody mess, and she goes, “That’s my boyfriend!” And you see him get this look on his face like “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 like?

BODÉ: 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?

BODÉ: 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 Bodé 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 Concert. [See part 2 of this interview.]

BODÉ: 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 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 Bodé 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.

BODÉ: 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.


One of the Bodé tribute murals, painted outside the Le Havre Maritime Museum. Photo by Mark Bodé.


MUNSON: You also worked with a group of French spray-can artists — Jace, Konu, Diksa Nefason and others — on a series of Bodé tribute murals, didn’t you?

BODÉ: During the weekend of October 1, we did a Bodé 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 her butt.

MUNSON: Similar to the design you used for the jigsaw puzzle that just came out?

BODÉ: 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.


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2 Responses to “Mark Bodé: Wizards, Lizards and Broads, Part Three of Three”

  1. comicsprof says:

    Great interview, Kim! Mark is such a wonderful person. A couple thoughts: I’ve read interviews and seen video of Vaughn talking about how he wanted his cartooning to be a family business, Bode’ and Son. So Vaughn would kvell at Mark’s recent achievements.
    Finally, I know this might not be practical, but wouldn’t it be great if the images in this article had rounded corners?

  2. kim_munson says:

    Thanks for the compliment Diana! Mark told me some great stories about how Vaughn taught him to draw and think like the characters. Mark has also been making a serious effort to buy back most of his father’s work so he can study and build on it. He has an amazing archive of his father’s notebooks and sketchpads.

    Ha! Rounded corners would be fun. I’ll keep that it mind next time I write about Mark!