STEVE'S WAYBACK MACHINE
by Steve Willis
John E's decision to cut ties with comix due to spiritual conversion got me to recalling other episodes of cartoonists I enjoyed suddenly vanishing. Tom Brinkmann and his shock departure is probably the most well known case among this circle of CLG readers. One artist who wasn't so well known, but still clings to my cranium was Ronald Gabriel Vicens II, otherwise known as "Gato."
Gato was the Dylan Thomas of minicomix. Brilliant, original, primitive, fresh. And his output period was short. His work had expression and power.
He first wrote to me in Dec., 1982. My only contact up to that time from Hawaii. His first minicomic didn't appear until April, 1983, and then he pumped them out in rapid fire. But by the end of the year, he simply vanished.
In May, 1983 he invited me (and suspect some of you) to contribute to a comic called MOTEL MADNESS, but nothing came of it. His vision of what the comic would be was ambitious and creative.
In Nov., 1983, several of us who corresponded with Gato received strange letters in reply, all in the same form. A letter size page would have two lines creating four blank boxes. In each box was a word. My four words were "shoveling, sherry, sheen, shell." And that was it. He was gone.
I would periodically send him a MORTY COMIX, with no response. In 1988 I finally got a "Return to sender, no forwarding address" response from the P.O. His letters did betray a sense of being overwhelmed by mail, so maybe he just decided to cut out. Below is a bibliography of his work in the WSU comix collection.
• Boy's Night Out (Aug. 1983) 100 copies. Safety pin attached.
• Bride of Upchuck (July 1983) 200 copies.
• Diary of a Madman (Nov. 1983) 100 copies. Some captions handwritten.
• Geisha Secret (1983) 100 copies.
• Hand Jive Battles the Forces from Beyond : in 2-D (1983) 200 copies.
• Jojo's Xpiritual Con-fron-ta-tion (1983)
• La Historia Terminar : El Viaje Empieza (Nov. 1983) 100 copies. Fold-out mini.
• Mono B•zarro v. 1 #1 (Aug. 1983) 100 copies. Holes punched in margins.
• Plight of Mr. Wang (1983) 22 x 8 cm. + 1 set of chopsticks.
• Rellik X (1983)
• S.O.B. S.O.B. (July 1983) 130 copies.
• Upchuck : auto-bio of a neo-primitive (1983)
• Captain Saucer #8 (Letter to editor)
• Dog Boy #2 (Letter to editor)
• Outside In #6 (contributor)
• Starhead Comix #6 (contributor)
• Worker Poet #4, 6 (contributor)
12 minicomix in a mere 8 months, plus some contribs. And I probably didn't catch everything. Given the extreme intensity of his work, he has remained one of the most enigmatic cartoonists of the Newave era. His correspondence revealed a fear that he might be baring his soul too much, coming on too strong. For many readers, he might have been right. But his contribution to the world of minicomix contained the three elements of art I enjoy: creativity, originality, and expression. Thanks Gato, wherever you are.
[© Steve Willis. Originally published in City Limits Gazette #bézàngõ, March 1991. Republished with permission. Additions and corrections welcome.]
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