S. Clay Wilson

Bob Levin interviews S. Clay Wilson at The Comics Journal:


S. Clay Wilson has been termed “The Legendary Underground Cartoonist” so often it seems part of his name the way “The Last of the Red-Hot Mamas” was part of Sophie Tucker’s. He was born in 1941 in Lincoln, Neb. The state university schooled him in anthropology and art. The Unites States Army trained him as a medic. In 1968, following a brief stint in New York City and a longer, more formative one in Lawrence, Kan., he moved permanently to San Francisco.

Upon his arrival, Charles Plymell, a poet he knew from Lawrence, introduced Wilson to Robert Crumb. Crumb, who was in the process of publishing Zap #1, which is generally regarded as one of the pads from which all of underground comix launched, invited him to contribute to Zap #2. His comic sex-and-violence extravaganzas, featuring a repertoire company of demons, pirates, bikers and dykes, executed in a style that combined the details of a master etching with the energy of an abstract expressionist, have been in every issue since, as well as in a variety of publications ranging from those (Playboy, The Realist) substantial enough to have helped bedrock American popular culture, to others (Barbarian Women, Maggotzine) whose lifespans paled beside that of the mayfly. He has written and drawn several solo comix. He has illustrated work by Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs and the Brothers Grimm. He has drawn album covers and book jackets and matchbooks for a Chicago bar. His work has been praised by Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Harvey Kurtzman and Terry Southern. It has been exhibited at museums and galleries in Los Angeles, New York City, Rotterdam, San Francisco and Zurich. In recent years, he has concentrated on commissioned drawings — rotting zombies playing baseball, dykes ravishing nuns, demons beheading ogres — which have sold for prices in five figures.


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