This Writing Life (5.)

We were talking about Red Panda. The NBA’s greatest halftime act.
“When I see something like this,” I said, “I always wonder what her parents said when she told them she wasn’t going to med school but balance bowls she kicked onto her head while riding a giant unicycle.”
“That’s an excellent question,” Eric said, “but you have to appreciate that she is the best in the world at what she does. When I ask myself what I am best in the world at, all I can come up with is that, after years of going to Washington Bullets games, I could get out of the Capitol Centre parking lot, onto the Beltway Parkway, faster than any other person.”
I let that sink in. “S. Clay Wilson once told me that I had written the best article anyone ever had about him – and invited me up to a hotel room to get stoned.”
“But how many could there have been?” Inner Daphne asked. “Six? Eight? A dozen?”
“It’s possible Bob is the best unsung writer in America,” Budd said, springing to my defense.
“I want him out of the ‘unsung’ category,” the other Bob said, “so I can be a contenda.”
“The problem is,” Large Victor said, “ at the annual convention, no one shows up for the awards ceremony because accepting one means being disqualified from membership.”

Season of Giving

S. Clay Wilson, the legendary and highly influential underground cartoonist, who created Cap’n Pissgums, Star-Eyed Stella, Ruby the Dyke, and — shilling for this very web site — the Checkered Demon, remains disabled from a traumatic brain injury suffered 12-years-ago. He and his wife are dependent on SSI and contributions to the S. Clay Wilson Special Needs Trust, 3434-16 St., SF, CA 94114. Why not send one?

Approaching Wilson

My latest piece is up at

It begins:

“Belgian Lace From Hell,” the third and final volume of Patrick Rosenkranz’s “The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson,” has landed.
Rosenkranz is our leading historian of underground comics. His “Pirates in the Heartland”(Fantagraphics. 2014), took Wilson from his birth in 1941, through his ground-breaking, taboo-shattering work in the glory years of the UG. His second, “Devils and Angels,” (2015) carried the narrative from 1977 into 1989. Now “Lace” brings readers to Wilson’s diminished present, in which a traumatic brain injury has left the once charismatic, Hell-rattling artist unable to care for himself.
The book is generous in its display of Wilson’s art. It is rich with quotes from past interviews of Wilson, who was among the most engaging interviewees known to man. It is replete with anecdotes from his friends, fellow cartoonists, and women that capture his color and complexity, his genius and his impossibilities. It features a tender, brilliant, heart-breaking introduction from his wife, the unsinkable Lorraine Chamberlain, and extracts from a journal (or diary) she kept that honestly, bravely, painfully details the quality of their post-injury life. “Lace” is, at once, rewarding, both in the comic and the tragic sense.
And it left me often feeling like a crabby shit.

My latest…

…is up at
(Again I apologize for not being able to post a link that can be directly clicked on.)

Anyway, it begins…

The perfect gift for the man who has everything, provided his possessions include an X-rated sense of humor, has arrived: Wilson’s ABC, “an audacious, illustrated alphabet,” from Wordplay, edited and annotated by Malcolm Whyte.
S. Clay Wilson, along with Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin, was one of the original cartoonists invited by Robert Crumb to join him in ZAP. ZAP, which is generally credited with transforming comics into a vehicle for adult artistic expression, and thereby liberating all of graphic art, was one of the most influential publications of the second half of the 20th century; and Wilson, whose uncensored id-to-ink renderings of laugh-out-loud sex-and-violence blew what restraints remained upon his already freewheeling colleagues, was among its most influential artists.

My Latest

Fantagraphics has just published The Zap Interviews, a collection of conversations with the contributing artists to that culture-changing comic. I conducted one of those, with the incomparable S. Clay Wilson. (Well, he would concede that maybe Breughel compares.) I was also asked to write the Introduction, a request which made me proud. It begins:

Draw, Write, Talk
In his book “Writers’ Fighters,” the celebrated sportswriter John Schulian explains his – and other authors – attraction to practitioners of The Sweet Science. “Boxers,” Schulian writes, “not only lead more interesting lives than any other athletes, they are more willing to talk about them too.” I feel similarly about underground cartoonists. I have found them to be bright, witty, uninhibited conversationalists; and since they came of age in the 1960s, a time when, it seemed, all apples presented were to be bitten, the only commandment was to break commandments, and the golden rule was to do to yourself what you wished others would do with you, preferably in a hot tub while slugging Red Mountain wine, their conversations had much to draw from.