Interview with Mark Bode
By: Myth Master

'Mark Bode with swimming pool art--Mass., 2004'

Hey, guys and gals, it's the Myth Master here with a very special guest to share with you this month. To go along with the Tribute to Vaughn Bode in this issue of 'The World of Myth', we have with us today writer and artist, Mark Bode, son of the late cartoon master, Vaughn Bode. Mark has generously given up some of his valuable time to answer a few questions for us, so let's get started.

M.M. Mr. Bode--Mark, if I may--I know that you are extremely busy with convention appearances and merchandise meetings and your travels take you all over the world. Can you give us some idea as to what you might be working on now and if there are any new projects coming in the near future?

M.B. At the moment, I have just finished designing the first 13" 'Bode Broad' vinyl toy, which Albert Luk and Co. is producing in Hong Kong. I am also self producing a small run of the same statuette in bronze. And Puma (the sports shoe company) is doing a limited edition of Cheech Wizard suede running shoes, all to come out this year.

As far as comics go, I am formulating two books and maybe a third. The first book is a collection of my "Bode Otherground" strips and Bode pinups in color that I've done over the last four years for various graffiti magazines.

'Mark Bode graffiti--Queens, New York, 1999'

Second is a comic book called "516", which is a history of my mother-in-law's brickstone in Brooklyn, New York. The house has a history which began as a carriage house for horses in the 1800s and later became a gambling joint run by the mob and then my mother-in-law's bodega, where I met Dondi White (famous graffiti pioneer). Now where the house stands is a tattoo shop and apartments which house artists Adam Gould, Sophie Crumb--who learned to tattoo there--and Greg Theakston, who is a publisher/artist and is known for finding Betty Page after her forty years in hiding. The book will be illustrated by the people I mentioned, while I will be drawing the initial story of the house.

Third is a Mossy Wood Forest Book, which will feature a fairy/nymph and her poetic and tragic story. This one has been on my mind for a while and will be a labor of love. I haven't started writing this yet, but it's almost there, in me head.

M.M. That all sounds great. I especially want to know when the Bode toys and statuettes become available. Now, this may be a difficult question to answer, but Vaughn Bode was the quintessential young artist of the 1970s; somewhat estranged from general society, rebelling against 'normal' convention and mores and definitely not following the path of least resistance. What was it like for you, growing up in that situation?

M.B. It wasn't as hard for me as it was for my mother, Barbara. She supported him through his years of struggle as an artist going against the grain. It wasn't easy when he would say "No" to big money deals when we were living day to day. For my mom it took incredible patience. He didn't really start making good money until the last three or four years of his life and during that point he had divorced my mom and moved to San Francisco, California.

I had a harder time with Vaughn's way of dress. We would get mocked by teenagers and locals in upstate New York whenever we went out in public. As a nine year old, I couldn't understand why people didn't think he was cool, like I did. His female side was disturbing to folks who didn't know him. The people who knew him were taken by his charisma and his wit and loved him dearly, as I did. He was twenty-plus years ahead of his time and living in Utica, New York, where people were still sporting boufonts and aqua velvet. Imagine the singer Prince dressed up and going shopping during the 1950s in some hick town--those were the kinds of looks we would get. It was hard at times and embarrassing at times, yes.

M.M. Having such an amazingly creative father must have been somewhat of a blessing for you, as well as possibly a curse. In case some of our readers are not aware of this, they should know that you are an accomplished artist in your own right. When did you first start drawing and when did you know that you wanted to be an artist?

M.B. Well, first, there is a strange thing that happens when someone dies before their time and they burn so brightly. Vaughn entered the legendary status of the period like Jimi (Hendrix) and Janis (Joplin) and for me to try to compete with that is a waste of time, because mortals are just that--mortals. He is legendary and I have received fame and fortune with and without the help of his works. We collaborate and I love keeping him alive like that and playing in the great sandbox which is the Bode universe.

I always wanted to draw with my dad. Since I was five or even younger, he encouraged me to draw (cartoon) strips for twenty five cents a strip and that kept me out of his hair while he worked. I often made one or two dollars a sitting and that helped to spur me on. It was only a matter of me getting older and gaining control of my hand and eye that would keep us from actually doing projects together as Bode and son.

I was twelve when he passed. I was fifteen when I started coloring his strip, "Zooks", for Heavy Metal magazine in 1978. I went on to work for Marvel's, "Epic Illustrated", doing the extended story of "Cobalt 60" when I was twenty. By 1985, I created a comic called, "Miami Mice", which sold 180,000 copies in just a year's time--the highest print run of a Bode book, to date. Not satisfied, I moved on and joined "The Mutant Ninja Turtle" creators and began working with them on my own issues of the original 'TMNT' line and then moved back into more Bode concepts, where I am today, twenty-seven years after my career began. My last project was "The Lizard of Oz", where I revived Cheech Wizard for a romp through the land of Oz.

Panel from "The Lizard of Oz"

M.M. This may be a silly question to ask, but how did your father's art influence you and your own work?

M.B. He made me believe as a child that his characters were real and that they lived over the hill from our projects in upstate New York. This gave me the imagination to visualize in his style. It's not an effort, it's natural, so his line work and his vision are on hand if I need the look. Often, when I do art or tattooing, my own style is stronger in most cases. You can tell us apart, then.

M.M. I see. I know that you have worked on a number of projects that Vaughn Bode left unfinished--'The Lizard of Oz', for instance. Can we expect to see anything else coming from you along those lines?

M.B. For now, I will work on the projects I mentioned earlier in this interview and maybe revive some of the older, lesser known characters, like the Masked Lizard--a hapless lizard that fights gangsters--or the Lone Lizard, about a cowboy and his ride, a Bodeish looking raptor. I'm not sure yet on this.

M.M. Vaughn Bode had a 'cult' following, I suppose you could call it, in the 1970s--of which, I can proudly say I was a member. Why do you think his art and his vision are still so popular today, thirty years after his death?

M.B. He was a very influential artist. All the strong ones have a certain amount of staying power as they fade slowly into history. Thirty years was not so long ago and it helps to have me carry on with new material, as well as compiling reprints and new material from the Vaughn archives. That way, no one ever really stops talking about "The Bodes", whether dead or alive. You see, I work for him and he works for me. We keep the name alive and well, in life and death.

M.M. Aside from your web site, where can our readers see and possibly obtain some of your art work and/or comics?

M.B. Other than major comic stores, go to Ebay and punch in 'Bode' and my stuff is almost always coming up on that site. and are good ones, too.

M.M. You mentioned that you are working on a collection of statuettes and a series of toys based on the cartoon characters created by Vaughn Bode. What can you tell us about this project and where can we find them?

M.B. The whole cast of 'Lizard of Oz' is coming out in vinyl by Toytokyo, in New York City and Mikecompany in Japan and Kidrobot has also done toys with us. I am just getting started in that medium and we have thousands of characters, possibly even more than Pokemon --no shit--so, we are not done here.

M.M. Terrific! While there is a tribute to Vaughn Bode in this issue of 'The World of Myth', would you like to share anything about your father that may not be known to the general public?

M.B. He is currently working on a story he wants to tell through me. He has let me know through dreams that he is working hard on it, but it is not yet ready to be shown to me. When he is not zooming around the universe, going to cool parties and events, he still works on other planes. He always dresses like a cosmic cowboy and has a few women in his arms when he appears to me. He is waiting patiently for me to join him, one day.

M.M. Well, speaking for all of your fans, I certainly hope that day is still far in the future. And now, I really want to thank you for taking the time to visit with us, today. Before we go, is there anything we didn't cover that you would like to share with our readers?

M.B. If you want to make it in the arts, as I have, it will take more than a comic messiah father or a sexy broad drawing or a stupid looking lizard character. It takes diversity in art to make a living in art. Do it all--sculpt, draw, etch, paint, illustrate, spray paint, tattoo, animate, play music. If you do all of that and if you have your heart in it and you do it for yourself, when all else fails, you will notice the money start to flow and lil' by lil', you will arrive where you want: A legend in your own time.

Folks, the best is yet to come.
Mark Bode
San Francisco, California
June, 2005

M.M. Thank you, again, Mark, for your time and also for sharing with us the art work that went along with this interview, as well as that attached to the Vaughn Bode Tribute. I wish you all the best and continued success with your work.

All right, gang, that's it from the Myth Master for this month. I really want to thank Mark Bode for sharing so much of his time with us. Until we meet again...

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