Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez, an influential indie comics artist who, along with R. Crumb and Robert Williams, was one of the original contributors to Zap Comix, has died at age 72 after a six-year battle with cancer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. He was also a founding member of the mural movement in San Francisco’s mural movement, and remained active until his death at his S.F. home on Wednesday — he put the finishing touches on a poster for a Woodie Guthrie tribute concert honoring the labor movement this weekend.
Though he’s long been known as a West Coast artist, Rodriguez was born in Buffalo and studied at Connecticut’s Silvermine Guild Art School before dropping out and moving to New York, where he began to get noticed for his unique style of comics — which appeared in publications including Salon, the East Village Other — and especially for his mock-tabloid “Zodiac Mindwarp.”
Much of his work is politically charged and left-leaning, and this extended beyond his comics — he was a founder of the United Cartoon Workers of America labor group. One of his best-known books is his 2009 biography of Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara, “Che: A Graphic Biography.”
“He was an archetypal character, somewhere between crazy artist crossed with left-wing radical crossed with working-class Latino hood,” Crumb said in a recent documentary by journalist Susan Stern, Rodriguez’s wife. “He had a big influence on me through his artwork. He was top-of-the-line in that generation of underground, breakaway cartoonists.”
“It was kind of astounding to see this street guy come into his own — everything from a family man and a community artist to a well-grounded revolutionary,” Art Spiegelman told the Chronicle. “He’s the real thing, a great artist.”
— Benjamin Sutton
(Image via Wikipedia.)