The death of S. Clay Wilson is being widely reported.
Violent, obscene and scatological, Mr. Wilson’s hyperbolic stories — full of corny puns and incongruously decorous dialogue, and populated by such unsavory, anatomically distorted characters as the Checkered Demon, Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates, the Hog Riding Fools and Ruby the Dyke — are all but indescribable in this newspaper.
But J. Hoberman, at the NYTimes, gives it his best shot.
If you can’t get through there, The Antelope Valley Press carries it.
S. Clay Wilson, an underground cartoonist whose unabashedly violent, sexually exuberant and savagely funny artwork burst out of the pages of Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix series in the late 1960s, helping to usher in a new taboo-breaking era in American cartooning, died Feb. 7 at his home in San Francisco. He was 79.
Mr. Wilson populated his work with a deranged cast of demons, lowlifes, barkeepers, ghouls, drunks, bikers, prostitutes and — though he grew up in Nebraska — pirates, drawing richly detailed panels that drew comparisons to the nightmarish paintings of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch.
At the Washington Post Harrison Smith does his best to describe S. Clay’s work in a family newspaper.
In 1968, S. Clay Wilson settled in San Francisco and began contributing his savage, sexually charged, often hilarious cartoons to the underground Zap Comix. In doing so, Wilson, who died Sunday at age 79, became the most noted and provocative artist to come from Lincoln in the last 50 years.
Wilson’s work was marketed as “depraved, lurid, coarse, vulgar, manic, offensive, violent, degenerate, lewd, obnoxious, pornographic, adolescent, raw” by the publisher of his book “The Art of S. Clay Wilson.”
The Journal Star in Wilson’s childhood home of Lincoln, notes his passing.
Back in the maximum-outrage years of underground comix in the 1970s, S. Clay Wilson was known for the Checkered Demon, a short and stubby antihero who wore checkered pants as he busted the heads of bikers, pirates and lowlifes, to the delight of readers of Zap, Yellow Dog, Arcade and other anthologies.
A uniquely San Francisco character and brilliant illustrator, Wilson had a long career using Dicks Bar in the Castro as his mailing address, message center and appointment place. Wilson outlasted Dicks, and he outlasted underground comix before finally dying, on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 7, at his home on 16th Street, half a block from the Dicks location.
In S. Clay’s second hometown of San Francisco The Chronicle notes that it was there Wilson started his underground career, and Sam Whiting shares more of the early career with readers.
While R. Crumb pounded on the doors of propriety, it was Wilson who ripped off their hinges, set them afire, and pissed on the ashes.
It is appropriate that the foremost underground newspaper of the time should remember the most underground comix artist of the time. R. C. Baker, for The Village Voice pays tribute.
Beyond print the internet took note.
To say that Wilson’s cartoons were outrageous is a gargantuan understatement. To say they were indescribable would be accurate. Like Crumb, he was often accused of being sexist, but the truth is, Wilson really spared no gender or social moral to depict his mind-boggling detailed illustrations of perverse — but humorous — stories of bikers, pirate-women, zombies, vampires, and his most famous character, The Checkered Demon.
World of Monsters (reproducing Zap #2)
Wilson is best known for his work on Zap Comix, which led to Wilson’s own series, The Checkered Demon, and helped contribute to multiple obscenity lawsuits and a landmark Supreme Court case that effectively destroyed underground comix as a major form of comic book media in the 1970s.
The problem for Wilson is that his work was so controversial that local communities kept trying to put Zap Comix out of business by charging the publishers with publishing pornography.
Brian Cronin for Comic Book Resources
Wilson was among an ever-dwindling band of rebellious counter–Comics Code comix artists whose X-rated strips liberated the genre and its audience from censorious repression.
Wilson’s intricate pen-and-ink work work spread like mold on newsprint pages. When he began publishing lengthy stories in the era-defining “Adults Only” Zap2 comics and most issues thereafter, his work was so irrepressibly and preternaturally vulgar that it met with incredulity even from his fellow artists.
all art © the Estate of S. Clay Wilson