A short, 2-page strip called "Sebastian Spinks" appeared in the student publication Syracuse 10' in January 1966. It was accompanied by a short bio on Vaughn and some spot drawings. You'll notice Bode's Machines make their first published appearance here, too.
"The Man was dreamed up on a windy summer day in Utica, New York, on June 5, 1964 when I was high up in a swaying tree. As usual, I was my creation. I was primitive, brooding and alienated. With The Man cartoon I went down to primal bone to create a little creature that would appeal to almost everyone.
The page of spot cartoons of The Man first appeared in The Sword of Damocles; it later ran for 13 weeks from October 1, 1965 through February 18, 1966 in The Daily Orange, the Syracuse University newspaper.
Later, The Man was printed in paperback form by Syracuse University by the Office of Student Publications, then in underground newspapers, then syndicated to college newspapers, then translated for Linus magazine in Italy, and finally published as an underground comic by The Print Mint in 1972. The Man continues to this day to be one of my most sensitive and haunting cartoons."
- Vaughn Bodē Index, George Beahm, 1976
Vaughn Bodē created the character known only as "Man" in 1963, around the same time he produced Das Kampf in Utica, New York. At the time, he and his wife Barbara were living on welfare in a tiny apartment. Bodé drew 17 pages of comics featuring Man, but figured nobody would really like it, so he shelved the project. Two years later, Bodé enrolled in Syracuse University and become their resident superstar cartoonist. His "Man" first appeared in the Sword of Damocles as a single page of vignettes featuring the title character. The Man then ran as a weekly comic strip in the campus newspaper, The Daily Orange, from October 1, 1965 to February 18, 1966. In May, the university's Office of Student Publications compiled The Man into a book (with a print-run of close to 2,000 copies) which was sold on and off campus. It was one of the first commercially produced underground comics. At some point, the originals were ruined in a flood. In 1972, the strip was reproduced from the Syracuse book, with a new full color cover, by the Print Mint in California. This second printing had a run of 20,000 copies, followed by another 10,000 copies three years later.
The Man is about a simple-minded caveman who possesses the power of language but not much else in the way of advanced intellect. Man leads an ordinary caveman life of hunting, killing, eating and sleeping. He does not have any companions or friends, but he is very fond of his lone weapon, a spear, which he named "Stick." He calls Stick his friend and has one-sided conversations with it. Without any human companionship or interactions, Man struggles to contemplate what his life means. He tries to formulate deeper thoughts about his empty stomach or a night sky filled with stars, but he can't articulate what he is feeling.
Via Dan Steffan at the Yahoo! Bode fan mailing list: "I once owned one of the originals illustrations from 'Base Ten' but had to sell it in one of those sad, 70s poverty purges. *sigh* But I do own the original art for 'The Man' that Vaughn gave to Richard Wilson. I bought it from a dealer who got it, I believe, from Wilson's estate. Shortly after Bode gave the strip to Wilson there was a flood in Vaughn's basement that destroyed all the other originals for the strip, except one page that wasn't in continuity format. The Wilson page is the only surviving example of one of Vaughn's most important works. It is one of my prized possessions."
The biography of Greg Kurma in the collected edition, though dated, is illuminating:
Von, or Vaughn Bode as he is known to insurance men and the U.S. Government, has been the cartoon conscience of Syracuse University since September, 1965. The Man, a series of most aptly described as comic in its conception and epic in its approach, represents his most thematically realized composition. At twenty-four, Von has been two years in the Army, three years in commercial art, and is presently an illustration major at Syracuse University. His three year old son is said to be 'spoiled completely with stories of bears and Indians.' But bears and Indians aren't the only characters in Von's world. Like Cecil B. DeMille panorama, a cast of thousands of unique characters lies behind his pen waiting to be born.
"I used the pen name 'Von' throughout the first 19 years I drew. From 5 to 24 years old, I never signed my entire real-time name; not until 1962 when Dave Breger and especially Milton Caniff encouraged me to use my own name which they insisted was quite artistic in sound and design." - Vaughn Bode
Vaughn took over cartooning duties at his college newspaper The Daily Orange from 1965-1966, and his strips appeared every week day. These included "Orange Ivy" rendered with ink and zip-a-tone; "The Man" rendered in ink; and Cheech Wizard's "Race to the Moon" rendered with ink and zip-a-tone.
"L.S.D." (little sadistic dramas) ran in April 1966, and was printed in two colors, black and orange, for 13 four-panel ink strips. Another regular strip, printed toward the end of his run in September and October 1966, was "Scratch 22."
"U-22" (a.k.a. Larry Stickletodd) ran only for one week, in 1967, rendered in color felts. "Old Man Jones" (a.k.a. U23), an illustrated prose story, ran for a week; rendered in ink. George Beahm's Index says that, later, "The Rudolf" and "War Lizard" each ran for a week, rendered in pencil. Perhaps this was in 1968, when those particular stories were drawn: in that case, "War Lizard" may have ran for two weeks, not just one, since its 10 segments fit with the Monday to Friday printing schedule in the Orange. If you have any further information please let me know!
The "Orange Bodé" catalog reprinted Bob Coughlin's collection of Daily Orange tabloids from Syracuse University. Many pieces of art were re-shot several times to improve the original, cheaply produced images. For those places where the artwork is messy or extremely faint, these are problems that were not corrected during the original D.O. printings.
Cuyler "Ned" Brooks journeyed to Atlanta from Virginia to read through the collection, and he passed on the following tale: supposedly, Vaughn (after turning pro) went back to Syracuse and destroyed this early work. Interestingly, the Daily Orange online archives at Syracuse University are missing almost all of its newspapers from the time Vaughn was working on it. The following scans were done by Brendan Hunt using a personal copy of the book (snagged one for $50 so I thought I'd share the love).
The Masked Lizard: saw print as a heavily detailed 6-page cartoon done with rapidograph pens and India Ink. The strip originally appeared in the Syracuse University sponsored Sword of Damocles magazine in December 1964. It was re-printed in Wonder Wart-Hog, Captain Crud, and Other Super Stuff, edited by Chuck Alverson; Fawcett, 1967. Later, "The Masked Lizard" appeared in Anomaly #2 and Vaughn's self-published Junkwaffel comic series (1972).
Vaughn: "I created the Masked Lizard on December 5, 1963; he was the first lizard to be characterized with a name and superhero drag. The Masked Lizard is also important because he became not only my first published cartoon story (6 pages plus a color cover for the off-campus Syracuse University magazine, The Sword of Damocles, but the first lizard to find his way into a national publication, the paperback Wonder Wart-Hog, Captain Crud, and Other Super Stuff). Little did I know then that lizards were to become the staple Bode characters in the first decade of my cartoon work."
Das Kampf, German for "the struggle" or "the fight," was self-published by Vaughn Bode in May, 1963, while he lived with his wife Barbara and newborn son Mark in a $20-a-month apartment in Utica, New York. He had not yet applied to Syracuse University, but had spent a year in the Army in the late '50s before receiving an honorable discharge.
This experience may have inspired him to produce Das Kampf, a war-themed spoof on Charles Schulz's 1962 book Happiness is a Warm Puppy. Instead of defining what "happiness is" the way Schulz did in his quaint little book, Vaughn defines what "war is" in 100 cartoons. Each cartoon was captioned with a specific definition of war, such as "war is doing something real stupid and not being able to complain afterwards cause you get killed," or, "war is marching all day and all night in the wrong direction." Vaughn borrowed money from his brother Vincent to mimeograph 100 copies of the book, and he then tried to sell them, but sales in Utica were quite poor...
Fourteen years later (and two years after Bodé's death), his former wife Barbara teamed up with Walter Bachner and Bagginer Productions to publish the second edition of Das Kampf. Bodé's good friend Larry Todd helped out with lettering and layout of the book. Das Kampf is quite clever and insightful about many aspects of war, despite the fact that America was not at war when Bodé wrote it (the military escalation in Vietnam was just beginning to ramp up).
However, the military tension at the Bay of Pigs had recently scared the crap out of America, so Bodé's focus on the Russians in his cartoons is not surprising. Not only is the writing quite good, but Vaughn's illustration skills prove to be solid, especially considering the fact that he was only 21 years old when he drew these cartoons. The first printing of Das Kampf, from May 1963, is an exceedingly rare underground comic, printed on a Gestetner mimeo machine by "Von," his early pen name. The bound book was 5 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches, and a set of captions (printed via spirit duplication) were also part of this set. A reworking of the war theme, with anthropomorphic lizards instead of men, became a recurring element throughout Vaughn's canon of work). The following 1977 reprint of Das Kampf was a comic book-sized edition of 3000 copies ($2.50 each). Lettering done by Larry Todd.
Read the complete Das Kampf here: