It’s Friday once again. Yay! And it’s time for a brand spanking new (or is that old?) RETRO REVIEW, for your pleasure. This week I think its once again time for an independent comic book, so I thought long and hard and decided to feature an underground comic book. And the comic I’ve chosen is The Collected Cheech Wizard # 1, published in 1972, by Company & Sons.
The character, Cheech Wizard is the creation of the late, great artist, Vaughn Bode, who passed away back in 1973, at a way to young age of thirty-three (33) years old. He was a talented cartoonist and an interesting individual, to say the least.
But I’m here to talk about the comic, rather than the man who created the comic. So, let’s start off with just a little bit of history. Some references say Bode created Cheech Wizard, as far back as 1957, but his character never saw the light of day, at least in publication, until 1967. And at that time, Bode published a self-published Cheech Wizard # 1, maybe while at Syracuse University. The character appeared in various other publications from that point on, including the East Village Other newspaper and the National Lampoon magazine.
But in 1972, Company & Sons published this reprint collection of earlier strips. The comic itself is dedicated to Dan O’Neal & the Air Pirates. The original printing sold for fifty (50) cents and was quickly reprinted with a price of seventy-five (75) cents, later in the same year (1972). The copy I own is actually the second printing, or as some people refer to it as issue 1b.
Here is the cover to that first issue:
Hopefully, I am not offending anyone’s sensibilities by showing the cover in full, without any censorship. If I did, then I apologize, but personally I do not find it offensive, it is art!
The comic first reprints the thirteen (13) page strip, written and drawn by Bode, entitled: “The Race To The Moon”. This story tells the tale of a Russian communist military person, of some sort, challenging the Cheech Wizard to a race to the moon. But I guess you might be able to get that from the story’s title alone, eh? A pretty good story, all in all, and one that ends with a message that we all could take to heart, even today, forty-five (45) years later.
Next up is a sixteen (16) page story, simply entitled; “Cheech Wizard”, which begins … “Once upon a time, at 2:30 in the afternoon, on the enchanted island of York, lived a wizard … A mild-mannered, lovable wizard who wore a big hat to mask his true identity”. It’s possible that this is the first Cheech Wizard story, but I do not know for sure. And if it was, why did Campany & Sons decide to run in second? Does anyone know?
Here’s the fist page of the second story:
Anyway, this second story revolves around Cheech Wizard’s encounter with Morton Frog’s “graft-ridden” cops. And of course, the cops are frogs in uniform. The end of the story has the Wizard doffing his hat to reveal what’s hidden underneath. Of course, Bode chooses not to show his readers, only the other characters, who immediately fall into a “deep state of shock”, as their “primitive minds couldn’t accept the truth”. And Cheech leaves the jailhouse and walks back home to the forest.
The remainder of the comic includes a short two (2) page strip and two (2), one (1) page stories printed on the inside front and back covers.
All of the art within the comic is on newsprint and printed in black and white . The only Color is one the front and back covers. So, is the comic worth seeking out and adding to your collection? In my opinion, yes. Bode is a unique talent and his characters are generally fun and their stories told with “tongue firmly in cheek” some of the time.
I’m sure his outlook on the world will not be to everyone’s liking, but his strips are generally a fun read, with cute artwork. But you’ll have to be the final judge.
And before I sign off, here is a picture of Vaughn Bode, I found on the internet. Take a look at the “Cartoon Guroo”, himself:
That’s all, folks. A tip of the hat to Vaughn and to you, as well, my readers. Please return next week for a new Fabulous Find, and again in two weeks for a new RETRO REVIEW. Good night, world … be seeing you …
the first Cheech Wizard comic strip appeared in the Daily Orange (Syracuse University) Newspaper in April of 1966 under the story tile Cheech Wizard “the Race to the Moon” by VON – just to let you know –
Thanks, Rob for the information!