Underground comics pioneer, Steve Clay Wilson, died on Sunday at the age of 79.
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.
Wilson was born in Nebraska in 1941. He was trained as a medic in the United States Army, which he later recalled gave him access to all sorts of medicine that he and his friends would use recreationally. In the late 1960s, Wilson moved to San Francisco where he saw the first issue of Zap Comix, an underground comic designed as a spotlight for the cartoonist, Robert Crumb. Wilson had previously done some comic work for the poetry journal, Grist, but he had no idea that there were avenues for his work out there like Zap. Wilson met with Charlie Plymell, he original publisher of Zap and Wilson was soon contributing to Zap from the second issue on. In Zap Comix #2, Wilson introduced his most famous creation, the Checkered Demon, a demon who would get into wild misadventures. Wilson's work was marked by its sheer lack of any sort of filter. He would later recall, "You can draw anything you want. Reach down and grab some in the murky recesses of your psyche, the dark side of your subconscious, the last rotting grandfather cell."
Wilson always had a special place in my heart because he was one of the artists I encountered in Zap Comix #3, the first underground comic I ever owned. At 16, this was real brain-frying high weirdness.
A few years later, living in a commune, we had a goat named Captain Pissgums (from Wilson's Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates). Our Captain was so-named because he liked to pee in his own face.
Thanks for the twisted memories, the brain rot, and the perfect goat name, Clay. Smooth sailing off of this stinkin' rock.