RIP: Spain Rodriguez, Underground Cartoonist and Bernal Heights Neighbor

Bernal Heights just lost one of its creative greats. Underground artist Spain Rodriguez died yesterday at his home just off Precita Park.

Here’s the lede from the SF Chronicle’s obituary:

Hard-charging biker. Class warfare revolutionary. Pioneering underground cartoonist.

Loving family man.

That was Spain Rodriguez.

From his role as one of the original Zap Comix artists with Robert Crumb, to his work as a founder of the Mission District murals movement in San Francisco, Rodriguez influenced generations of cartoonists and illustrators with a gritty, in-your-face approach to urban life.

He continued to do so until his death Wednesday at his San Francisco home – inking a poster printed this week for a concert honoring the labor movement and Woody Guthrie.

Mr. Rodriguez was 72, and had battled cancer for six years.

“He was an archetypal character, somewhere between crazy artist crossed with left-wing radical crossed with working-class Latino hood,” Crumb, who lives in France, said in a documentary made this year by Mr. Rodriguez’s wife, journalist and filmmaker Susan Stern. “He had a big influence on me through his artwork.

Laughing Squid carried this statement from Last Gasp founder Ron Turner about Spain’s death:

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing this morning of Spain Rodriguez. He passed at home with his daughter and wife at his bedside at about 7 this morning. He had been fighting cancer for a long time. He was a wonderful father, husband, and friend. His art challenged, changed and enlightened and entertained us for over five decades. His passing coincided with the penumbra eclipse of the moon, like Spain’s shadow from the outer edge of the art world’s face. Services are pending, please give the family some time.

You can listen to Art Spiegelman talk about Spain’s significance.

On Our Backs co-founder Susie Bright, Spain’s former neighbor in Bernal Heights, has written a wonderfully vivid remembrance of him.

She also points us toward the abovementioned documentary about Spain’s work, created by his wife Susan Stern:

Finally, here’s a drawing Neighbor Spain did of Sutrito Tower (long before we decided to rename it that). He will be missed:

Sutrito Tower, by Spain Rodriguez

PHOTOS: Top, Spain Rodriguez, via The Beat. Bottom, Sutrito Tower drawing by Spain Rodriguez, via “San Francisco’s Bernal Heights” by the Bernal History Project.

7 thoughts on “RIP: Spain Rodriguez, Underground Cartoonist and Bernal Heights Neighbor

  1. Oh no, so sorry to hear that. I got hold of his “Trashman” comic as a 13 year old, growing up in germany, and was very impressed. Helped me through my teenage years, along with Crumb and Vaughn Bode. Even now, more than 30 years later, I hold him in great regards. I never had a chance to meet him, even though I walk my dog in Precita park almost every day.

  2. Had the pleasure of knowing him back in the glory days at Rip Off Press. He was a fine fellow, a boon companion, and a hero of the revolution.

  3. Pingback: My last Imaging Session featured in our local Newspaper/Blog.

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