March 2, 1940
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Died||November 28, 2012 (aged 72)|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Awards||2013 Will Eisner Hall of Fame Award|
Manuel Rodriguez (March 2, 1940 – November 28, 2012), better known as Spain or Spain Rodriguez, was an American underground cartoonist who created the character Trashman. His experiences on the road with the motorcycle club, the Road Vultures M.C., provided inspiration for his work, as did his left-wing politics. Strongly influenced by 1950s EC Comics illustrator Wally Wood, Spain pushed Wood's sharp, crisp black shadows and hard-edged black outlines into a more simplified, stylized direction. His work also extended the eroticism of Wood's female characters.
Manuel Rodriguez was born March 2, 1940, in Buffalo, New York. He picked up the nickname Spain as a child, when he heard some kids in the neighborhood bragging about their Irish ancestry, and he defiantly claimed Spain was just as good as Ireland. Rodriguez studied at the Silvermine Guild Art School in New Canaan, Connecticut alongside cartoonist M.K. Brown.
In New York City, during the late 1960s, he became a contributor to the underground newspaper the East Village Other, which published his own comics tabloid, Zodiac Mindwarp (1968). He covered the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a reporter for the East Village Other, adventures which were chronicled in My True Story (Fantagraphics Books, 1994). One of his earliest strips, "Manning," featured a hard-boiled, over-the-top cop and was later cited as an influence on the British comic Judge Dredd.
A co-founder (with Robert Crumb) of the United Cartoon Workers of America, Spain contributed to numerous underground comics in the 1960s–2000s, including San Francisco Comic Book, Young Lust, Arcade, Bijou Funnies, Weirdo, and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. Spain joined the Zap Comix collective in issue #4 (August 1969), and contributed stories to every issue from then until the comic's demise in 2005. In such classics as Spain's Mean Bitch Thrills (Print Mint, 1971), Spain's women are raunchy, explicitly sexual, and sometimes incorporated macho sadomasochistic themes.
Trashman's first appearance was as a full-page serial in the East Village Other. After moving from New York City to San Francisco in 1970, Spain's Subvert Comics series (1970–1976) featured "three full length Trashman: Agent of the Sixth International stories." Trashman later appeared in such publications as High Times, Heavy Metal, Weirdo, San Francisco magazine, Zap #11-13, and the Fantagraphics anthology Zero Zero #2.
Spain drew Salon's continuing graphic story, The Dark Hotel, which ran on the website in 1998–1999. His starkly forceful, naturalistic style perfectly matched Conan Doyle's eerie stories in Sherlock Holmes' Strangest Cases (Word Play Publications, 2001).
Spain's later work included an illustrated biography of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Che: A Graphic Biography (Verso Books, 2008). Published in several different languages, it was described by cartoonist Art Spiegelman as "brilliant and radical." His history of the California farmworker movement, Farmworker Comix was published posthumously in 2014 by the California Federation of Teachers.
Rodriguez died at his home in San Francisco on November 28, 2012, after battling cancer for six years.
In July 2013, during the San Diego Comic-Con, Rodriguez was one of six inductees into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The award was presented posthumously by Mad magazine cartoonist and Groo the Wanderer creator Sergio Aragonés. The other inductees were Lee Falk, Al Jaffee, Mort Meskin, Joe Sinnott, and Trina Robbins.