Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spain Rodriguez's "Manning"

Very sad news regarding Spain Rodriguez's passing. I discovered his work through reference books about comics (most probably Toutain's Historia de los Comics), at an age in which I wasn't supposed to read underground comics. Nevertheless, being a big fan of Harvey Kurtzman's MAD, it wasn't a big surprise that I ended up being an enthusiastic reader of underground comics as well, most definitely including Spain Rodriguez's work.

I was able to track down Spain's work thanks to Fantagraphics' reprint volumes (part of their quixotic attempt to reprint the work of several underground comix artists during a period in which there wasn't a bookstore market for comics like these): 1989's Trashman Lives! and 1994's My True Story, a book that collected his autobiographical and non-fiction stories, a body of work that probably showed Spain at his best.

The following is just a minor footnote in his career, but it is a somewhat unexpected example of Spain's influence and may be of interest for those who (like me) enjoy comics trivia.

A few months ago comics writer Pat Mills started posting on his blog a series of articles about the creation of Judge Dredd. Back in September he wrote the following:

With the prospect of a better and fairer future ahead of us, John [Wagner] and I enthusiastically talked about his idea for a cop of the future. We were both impressed by a one page American underground strip called Mannix that was reprinted in Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, by Les Daniels. It featured a ruthless cop who shoots a fleeing criminal in the back and was obviously satirising dirty cops some years before the Clint Eastwood films appeared. We were also impressed by a story in American magazine Weird and Eerie where a science fiction cop pursues a criminal through a futuristic city and executes him. We then discover the perp’s crime – he was carrying a copy of a sick and seditious magazine, Weird and Eerie!

We also rated science fiction movies like Fahrenheit 451 where cops burn books, Logan’s Run where cops shoot old people, Death Race 2000 where crazy drivers run over pedestrians in legalised death races, and Rollerball where death is turned into a sport. Against this background, John suggested to me, “What about a future New York cop who executes people for the smallest infraction of the law, such as dropping litter?”

The comic Pat Mills is referring to isn't Mannix, but Manning, Spain's violent and energetically-drawn parody of cop movies. Here is the page (scanned from Les Daniels's Comix) that impressed Wagner and Mills and ended up being one of the inspirations for Judge Dredd (click on the image to see it at a larger size):

Thanks to Tom Spurgeon, we already knew that before "Before Watchmen" there was Spain Rodriguez. It turns out that before 2000 AD and Judge Dredd there also was Spain Rodriguez.


Robert Beerbohm said...

Yo Rod, Thanks for posting the link to this blog post re Spain. I never knew the watchmen and/or Judge Dredd influence connections before I read it form you first. Am always appreciative when i learn some thing "new" in the world of comics.

I knew Spain first during my days fo daZe running comic book stores in the San Fran Bay Area 1972-1994. Once upon a time way back when i bought all the art to Subvert #2 from him. I treasured them for many years. The final "Steranko" effect pages i finally had to let go of o cover family medical expenses including my own, but I digress....

Started carrying 2000 AD with Prog 47, so was well acquainted with Dredd early on. Always "felt" a Trashman type of connection ala Spain to Dredd - thanks again for posting this. Best, Robert Beerbohm

Robert Beerbohm said...
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