Happy birthday to Mark Bode

I found out, courtesy of the Grand Comics Database (special thanks to my Facebook pal Steve Chung for pointing it out), that today is the birthday of artist Mark Bode.  I thought it might be nice to briefly spotlight some of his work. Mark is the son of legendary underground cartoonist Vaughn Bode, who passed away at the much too young age of 33 back in 1975.  Mark followed on in his father’s footsteps, working in a wacky, sexy, cartoony style that I’ve always found appealing.  In the 1980s, Mark collaborated with Larry Todd to revive and complete Cobalt 60, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series conceived by his father.

Cobalt 60

Among his numerous other credits, Mark Bode has worked on The Lizard of Oz and Miami Mice, as well as issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It was via Eastman & Laird’s quartet of martial arts reptiles that I first discovered Bode’s work.  In the 1990s, back during my high school & college days, I was almost exclusively into mainstream superhero stuff, i.e. Marvel, DC, Image.  TMNT was one of my few forays into “alternative” material (I preferred the Mirage issues to the all-ages Archie Comics title, but I did follow both).  And it was through those comics that I was first exposed to the work of a number of independent creators, among them Michael Zulli, Rick Veitch, Mark Martin, Rich Hedden, Tom McWeeney and, of course, Mark Bode.  I really enjoyed Bode’s TMNT issues.  He had a very distinctive sense of humor to his work.  And I was especially impressed by how he drew these cute, curvy women.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 32

I remember that I met Bode in the late 1990s at one of the Big Apple comic cons, and I asked him if he’d do a sketch for me.  I was secretly hoping for one of his sexy gals.  Well, I should have been more specific, because what I got was a picture of a funny hat with a pair of legs sticking out from it.  I had no idea what it was supposed to be.  Now, obviously, a few years later, once I became more familiar with Bode’s work, I realized that he had drawn Cheech Wizard, one of his father’s signature characters.  Well, it was a free sketch, so I had no reason to complain.  Hey, at least I got one of his TMNT issues signed by him.

Fast forward to 2009.  My girlfriend Michele and I were at another NYC convention.  Mark Bode was one of the guests.  Michele is a big fan of Vaughn & Mark Bode’s work.  She was thrilled to meet Mark, and got several books autographed.  Anyway, I had my Beautiful Dreamer theme sketchbook with me, but I wasn’t sure who I was going to try to ask to draw something in it.  Michele absolutely insisted that I ask Bode if he would do a Beautiful Dreamer piece for me. As I said before, I love Mark’s sexy, big-eyed, voluptuous women.  So I thought this was a great idea, but I honestly didn’t know if he’d want to draw a Jack Kirby character he was unfamiliar with.  The whole Cheech Wizard incident must have been doing a re-run in the back of my mind!  But Michele persisted, and I finally asked Bode.  Fortunately he kindly agreed and, well, the results were absolutely amazing.  I should point out that Bode’s sketch rates were very reasonable, and I also think he drew me an illustration that was worth much more than what I paid him.  It’s definitely one of the best pieces in my Beautiful Dreamer book.

Mark Bode shows off his Beautiful Dreamer drawing

In addition to drawing comic books and graphic novels, Bode has also been working as a tattoo artist for nearly twenty years.  I’ve seen photos of his work on his Facebook page, and it looks great.  As you can imagine, he tattoos really fantastic  pin-up girls.  Oh, yeah, when it comes to painting murals, he slings a mean can of spray paint.

So, a very happy birthday to Mark Bode, who turns 50 years old today.  Hope there’s many more to come.

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