Taking a page from yesterday’s post about the first issue of Juxtapoz, which featured an article on Zap Comix 13, I wanted to make a hopefully timely post about underground comix artist S. Clay Wilson.
Wilson is a cartoonist and comics artist whose work is rude, crude and full of atti-tude to the point where words like “offensive, politically incorrect, objectionable, demeaning to women, violent, sexually explicit, not safe for work, over the top, graphic, intense, obscene, dangerous, bloody, and shocking” have always seemed a bit tame and inadequate to the descriptive task. Of course, that’s exactly why some people, myself included, hold it in high regard.
Wilson was a regular contributor to Robert Crumb’s ground breaking Zap Comix in the late 1960’s. His characters like the Checkered Demon, Ruby the Dyke, Star-Eyed Stella, and others whose very names were offensive, romped, gamboled, swilled Tree-Frog beer and fought and sliced their way across panoramas of unbelievable carnage, comically exaggerated sexual violence and dementedly bloodthirsty absurdity in the pages of the independently distributed counter cultural comix. (My favorite was the Checkered Demon “…nice day for somethin’…”)
Wilson himself rampaged slashing and burning through the conventions of decency where others only tiptoed, and opened eyes and minds to the examination of those conventions in the process.
Robert Crumb said the it was S. Clay Wilson who opened his eyes to the notion that absolutely nothing was off limits, and made way for unthought of possibilities of expression and the defiance of taboos.
In the process Wilson could be wildly, dementedly funny. If you weren’t the type to take offense to his deliberate offensiveness, and could see the absurdity underlying it, his very degree of excess, and the apparent glee with which his pen wallowed in it, were agonizingly hilarious.
Of course, in our uptight, politically correct, oh-so-ready-to-take-offense society people have actually been arrested for selling material containing his work. He is exactly the kind of cultural buccaneer that keeps thing shook up, something society desperately needs at times.
I can’t point you to a repository of Wilson’s work, I had trouble finding images I could show in polite company (image above via P.J. Donovan), but I’ll try to provide a few links.
There are some collections of his work, like The Art of S. Clay Wilson and Collected Checkered Demon and he has illustrated books of fairy tales (notably Grimm’s, couldn’t find a link) in his own inimitable style. You can also find his work in back issues of Zap Comix and other underground comix if you’re lucky enough to come across copies.
I mention that I hope this post it timely because Wilson recently suffered a grave injury, and as an independent outsider cartoonist, is in need of assistance to pay large medical bills. Some friends, family and supporters are putting on some benefits to help raise the needed funds.
S. Clay Wilson Noise Benefit, January 11, 2009 Hemlock Tavern in SanFrancisco, CA.
Mojo Lounge Benefit, January 24th, 2009 at Mojo Lounge in Fremont, CA.
There is also an address where donations can be sent directly:
P.O. Box 14854
San Francisco, CA 94114
There are columns in the Oregonian in which Steve Duin is covering the story.
Note: links here, and all references to and material by S. Clay Wilson should be considered NSFW and not suitable for children; as well as not suitable for adults who take offense easily, Concerned Citizens for Decency, and all others not inclined to celebrate the destruction of the fabric of mainstream society.
Bio on Lambiek.net
Interview on The Comics Journal
Interview on Goblin Archives
Bio on Wikipedia
2 Replies to “S. Clay Wilson”
If nothing else S Clay Wilsons warped and twisted art from the 60’s is a prediction of Frisco daily life today. A city where the norm is Ruby the Dyke, Star Eyed Stella,and bizarre sexual fantasies. I’m sure the Checkered Demon is there too. I just haven’t ran into him.
He’s out back, waiting to collect his free tumblers (grin).
Thanks for the comment.
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