S. Clay Wilson Update
Posted by Steve Duin, The Oregonian
November 10, 2008
S. Clay Wilson's condition has not improved significantly, Lorraine
Chamberlain said Monday night, but she assures us the "ol' blues
hound" is definitely listening to the most therapeutic music.
"Today, it was Junior Wells, Oscar Brown Jr. and Iris DeMent," said
Chamberlain, Wilson's long-time partner. "Tomorrow, it will be John
Lee Hooker and B.B. King. A little 'Muddy Waters.' We can't wait for
him to wake up and yell, 'Turn it up!'"
Wilson, one of early revolutionaries in the underground comix scene,
was seriously injured last Saturday night (Nov. 1) when he either
fell or was mugged while returning home from a bar near his San
Francisco home. In his ongoing bout with pneumonia, Chamberlain said
Wilson's fever went down "a little" Monday and doctors at San
Francisco General removed his ice blanket.
Wilson also opened his eyes when he was taken off sedation,
Chamberlain said, "but he's not speaking. He was put on a new
antibiotic and that worked. His vital signs are much more stable, but
we don't know what's going on with his brain injury yet. That's why I
want to be back there tomorrow to see if he's really seeing me."
In the meantime, Chamberlain said, hospital officials have given her
a small boom box so she can serenade Wilson with the blues: "I'd hate
to think what would happen if they kept piping Top 40 in here and he
found himself walking around next week singing a Justin Timberlake song."
A Few Snapshots of S. Clay Wilson
Posted by Steve Duin, The Oregonian
November 15, 2008
I'll check in with Lorraine Chamberlain Sunday to get an update on
the injured cartoonist, but here's a few memories of the man from
David Scroggy, vice president of product development at Dark Horse:
While I wasn't as good a friend of his as some of the other
underground guys, we were acquainted, and even corresponded a bit
back in the day ...
I will never forget when my wife Rosemary first met him. Rosemary
isn't a particularly rabid comics fan, but sometimes when she meets
one of the artists, if she likes them, she'll ask me to give her some
of their work.
This was the case with Wilson. It was an early Comic-Con (not sure
which year, but pre-1980), and we went into the bar at the U.S. Grant
hotel. We saw Robert and Suzanne Williams, Wilson, and someone else
sitting in a banquette. They were drinking expensive champagne (it
was like 5:30 pm). We squeezed in and joined them.
Wilson was at his cordial, funniest best. I have seen him drunk and
surly like one of his hog-ridin' characters on several occasions, but
when he felt like it he could be personable and charming. This was
one of those times.
After we'd left, Rosemary asked me, "What does that man draw? He's so
funny and nice ..." When I told her it was Wilson, who she actually
HAD heard of since I'd shown her some of his work previously as an
example of how extreme underground comix could be, she was
flabbergasted. "You mean HE drew THOSE !?!?" Yup.
I worked with him once when we put together what I still think of as
my most satisfying comics project, which was the Portfolio of
Underground Art, published by Schanes & Schanes in 1980. There were
13 plates, each done expressly for the project and signed and
numbered by the artist: Rick Griffin, R. Crumb, Robert Williams,
Spain, Jaxon, S.Clay Wilson, Rand Holmes, Greg Irons, Dan O'Neill,
Gary Hallgren, Rory Hayes, Guy Colwell, Larry Todd. Five of those
guys are now passed on.
Wilson hated the paper stock of the plates, although it was of high
quality. He almost wouldn't sign them, but he did it anyway.
During this time, he sent me a post card. It was an old novelty
black-and-white photo of a giant rabbit with a cowboy riding it and
waving his Stetson, Wilson had pasted on a word balloon and lettered
it" "Comics? Yup! Never read 'em."
I remember one of my old-days Comic-Con room parties. A year earlier,
I had made a real effort to contact as many underground artists as
possible, and let them know that they were indeed welcome at
Comic-Con. They were under the impression that Comic-Con was just
about Spider-man or something, and I wanted them to know that we
embraced all types of comic art, not just superheroes. So I went up
to this Berkeley Con one-day event that they had back then.
Gratifyingly, a whole bunch of them responded by attending, and they
were a part of the show ever since. Wilson was one of the first to
come, along with Spain, Williams, Gilbert Shelton, Dave Sheridan and
quite a few others.
I saw a lot of Wilson and Spain that year. I guess we generally had
beer in my room. This particular party lasted until dawn. I had at
some point realized that we would run out of beer, so I stashed one
in the medicine cabinet for later. I wound up sharing it with Wilson
as the sun cracked through the fog.
He often had a dealer's table. One year he and Williams shared one.
They made up a whole slew of these little dadaist art prints called
"Fanny Grams". They were pretty goofy, but I bought a couple. I also
bought his hand-lettered sign with Checkered Demon and the words
"S.Clay Wilson Originals For Sale". I was passing by during tear-down
as they were packing up and offered him five bucks for it.
In more recent times, he brought a whole footlocker full of his art
drawn in junior high school, and was selling it. His sister had found
it back in Kansas. It was hundreds and hundreds of pages of notebook
paper with his crude comics on them. While they weren't as sexual as
his adult work, they were just as violent. He's have pictures of Army
men getting shot, bayonetted, eaten alive, etc. I asked him if his
parents were at all concerned about the subject matter. He said he
was raised by his single Mom, who worked hard as a waitress to make
ends meet. He said she was so happy that he was doing something
constructive instead of getting into trouble that it didn't matter
what the nature of his stories were. It was fascinating to see, as
you could certainly see the Wilson that would come later in his work
as a child.
I was the lucky recipient of a very handsome rendering of Checkered
Demon and a nice inscription in a hardcover Checkered Demon
collection that Last Gasp published a few years ago.
It is hard to overstate Wilson's influence on underground comix. He
certainly influenced Crumb, and really was a seminal figure for the
genre as a whole. I hope he gets through this.