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

Posted by on November 23rd, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Interview by Kim Munson

Part one ♦ Part two ♦ Part three


©1984 Barbara and Mark Bodé.


MUNSON: I’m sorry I missed the Cartoon Concert on the closing night of the Wizards, Lizards & Broads show at the 1:AM Gallery. I’ve never seen you do one, can you talk a little bit about that?

BODÉ: Well, this is another concept of my father’s, In 1971, he had invented this pictography format. The pictography format was the panel with the balloons separate, so that the balloons never invaded or cluttered up the panels. That format was designed for the slideshow Bodé’s Cartoon Concert, where my father would read the voices for his characters. Much like Winsor McCay did with Gertie the Dinosaur, where he would stand behind the screen, and did his first animations. McCay actually invented it. It was way 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?

BODÉ: 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 Bodé’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.

BODÉ: 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 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 “Bodé! 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.


Photo courtesy of Mark Bodé.


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.

BODÉ: 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 house paint.

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, bitch.”

This is going on while we were painting, and I was painting faster and faster. And I was saying to myself, “Please just let me get through this.”

The next day I was finishing, and I heard a woman talking in Spanish, and I thought, “Oh no, I’m going to get panhandled.”

But I looked over and she was on her knees praying and crying, and then she realized that we didn’t speak Spanish. She said, “I come down this alley every day, and there are such horrible things happening here and I pray that He’s come to make it better.” And I was starting to choke up myself, and then I realized that I really didn’t have anything to do with this. There’s something else that’s happening here, and I’m just a tool to get this done. And it actually did clean the alley up. Nobody has tagged it. Lots of photographers come in there now to take pictures. So the riffraff had to move to a darker alley, and we breathed some light into that area. The murals, the power of art is amazing. You can wave the magic sword and make things nice. From darkness and gloom, you can make nice things in the city. So I got kind of addicted to it, the giving to the city thing. It’s a very rewarding and a lot of different ways. I try to keep myself busy doing murals all year round, since the weather is decent here, you get the rainy season in the Bay Area, but I’m pretty much busy all year round.



Next: the conclusion of our three-part interview with Mark Bodé.


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