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Vaughn Bodé 1941-1975

Country : Utica, New York
Profession : Cartoonist
Date of birth : 1941-07-22
Date of death : 1975-07-18
Cause of Death : Accidental strangulation

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Vaughn Bodé (July 22, 1941 - July 18, 1975) was an influential artist involved in and inspirational to underground comics, graphic design, and graffiti. He is perhaps best-known for his comic strip character Cheech Wizard and artwork depicting voluptuous women. His works are noted for their psychedelic look and feel. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame for comics artists in 2006.


He was born in Utica, New York and started drawing as a way of escaping a less-than-happy childhood.

In 1969, he moved to Manhattan and joined the staff of the underground newspaper the East Village Other. It was here that Bodé met Spain Rodriguez, Robert Crumb and other founders of the quickly-expanding underground comics world. At EVO, he introduced Gothic Blimp Works, a comics supplement to the magazine, which ran for eight issues, the first two edited by Bodé.

Cheech Wizard

Bodé’s most famous comic creation is perhaps the Cheech Wizard, a wizard whose large yellow hat covers his entire body except his big red feet. Cheech Wizard is constantly in search of a good party, cold beer, and attractive women. It is never actually revealed what Cheech Wizard looks like under the hat, or exactly what kind of creature he is. Characters pressing the issue generally are rewarded with a swift kick to the groin by Cheech.

In an early comic, Captured by Morton Frog, 1967, Cheech takes off his hat for a police officer, a priest and a political leader. You can clearly see him holding his hat in his hands, away from the rest of his body. The face is hidden by the speech balloon, but you can see glimpses of hair on top. All three persons witnessing his face fall into cataleptic states forever. Cheech walks away from their fortress claiming that "Their primitive minds couldn't accept the truths". In a later comic, Who is C.W.?, 1974, One of Cheech's lovers insists on seeing his true face. Cheech claims that she will die instantly or go insane. After having her sign a waiver freeing him of legal responsibilities, he agrees to take off his hat. The comic ends abruptly at mid-page with Cheech screaming "Okay! Here goes, But I bet you go blind!"

Cobalt 60

The post-apocalyptic sci-fi action series Cobalt 60 presented an anti-hero named Cobalt 60 who wandered in a devastated post-nuclear land, seeking to avenge the murder of his parents.


Other Bodé creations include Deadbone (The first testament of Cheech Wizard the cartoon messiah.) the adventures of the inhabitants of a solitary mountain a billion years in the past; and War Lizards, a look at the Vietnam War reflecting the hostile stance of the period's counterculture. It is told with anthropomorphic reptiles instead of people.


Common themes in Bodé’s works include the use of lizard-like creatures as stand-ins for "real" humans (though most of his female characters are quite human) and the use of urban dialects and slang for the speech of the inhabitants of his cartoon worlds. Like those of other underground cartoonists, Bodé’s comics illustrate many aspects of the counterculture: sexual experimentation, drug use, and an overall relaxing of social taboos, just to name a few.


Towards the end of his life, Vaughn Bodé toured with a show that featured him impersonating his characters while their depictions were presented on a screen behind him. This show became very popular on the college lecture circuit. At this time, Bodé's career was managed by David Ferguson who assisted with the abortive negotiations for the movie that later became Wizards. Ferguson, himself, was represented in his client's cartoons as Rumplebucks, Cheech Wizard's manager, a lizard with an ever-present dollar sign above his head. Bodé dedicated his final cartoon, which appeared in National Lampoon, to Ferguson.


Though some sources list Bodé's death as caused by a motorcycle accident, his death was most likely due to an experiment in autoerotic asphyxiation, or perhaps the use of asphyxia as a meditation aid: his last words (to his son) were, "Mark, I've seen God four times, and I'm going to see him again soon." He left behind a library of sketchbooks, finished and unfinished works, paintings, and comic strips. Most of his art has since been published in a variety of collections.


Bodé's influence continues to be seen today in numerous graffiti artists copying his lizards, and tributes/ripoffs of his style in many 'rave' graphics and flyers.

Bodé has been credited as an influence on Ralph Bakshi's films Wizards and The Lord of the Rings.

His son Mark Bodé (born 1963) is an artist in his own right, often producing works similar to the elder Bodé’s style. Recently Mark completed one of his father’s unfinished works, The Lizard of Oz, a send-up of The Wizard of Oz, starring Cheech Wizard one more time.

Notable Publications

  • Das Kampf, self-published in 1963, considered to be one of the first underground comic books.
  • Deadbone appeared monthly in the science fiction magazine Galaxy from 1969 to 1971. << Though his artwork appeared in GALAXY and IF, "Deadbone" (a b&w strip) and "Deadbone Erotica" (a color strip) appeared in the men's magazine Cavalier. >>
  • Junkwaffel. Issues 1-4 first published by Print Mint from 1971 to 1974. The final issue, number 5, appeared in Last Gasp along with reprints of the first four.
  • Cheech Wizard ran monthly in National Lampoon from 1971-1975.
  • The Man, 1972, an independent comic about a cave man who accidentally made important observations about life.
  • Sunpot, appeared in fantasy/science fiction publication Heavy Metal magazine, April through July 1977.
  • Cobalt-60. Book one created by Vaughn Bodé, illustrated by Mark Bodé, written by Larry Todd. Northampton, Ma.: Tundra Publishing, 1992.
  • The Purple Pictography, with Bernie Wrightson

Reissue - The Complete Collection

13 volumes, among which:

  • Deadbone, Fantagraphics
  • Erotica 1, Fantagraphics
  • Erotica 2, Fantagraphics
  • Erotica 3, Fantagraphics
  • Erotica 4, Fantagraphics
  • Cheech Wizard 1, Fantagraphics
  • Cheech Wizard 2, Fantagraphics
  • JunkWaffel, Fantagraphics
  • Lizard Zen, Fantagraphics
  • Sketchbook 1,2,3
  • Poet Toons
  • Schizofrenia


The Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist was bestowed upon him in 1969, and he was nominated for Best Professional Artist the following year. He also won the Yellow Kid Award, Italy's award for illustration, in 1975. He was a finalist for induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame in 1998 and 2002.

Cultural References

Vaughn Bodé and Cheech Wizard are mentioned in the 1993 Beastie Boys song "Sure Shot".

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