Sad news for the rock, metal, biker, and comics communities, as S. Clay Wilson, the underground comix artist best known for his grotesque counterculture art, died this weekend on Saturday, February 7th. He was 79 years old.
Wilson’s death was confirmed by his wife Lorraine Chamberlain, who confirmed his death with a tweet reading, “S.Clay Wilson passed on yesterday at 4pm, in my arms, listening 2the Gyuto Monks chant Freedom at the Top of the World.His rebel friends Spain, Geiser &Riddell will greet him w/warm clothes, fuzzy slippers &art supplies, so they can draw on the heavenly walls w/out permission.”
In a similar class as artists like R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, William Stout, and Art Spiegelman, Wilson was known for adding intense realism and obscenity to the comics of his time. Not content to simply illustrate superheroes, monsters, or zany cartoon characters, he focused instead on the subcultures dwelling in San Francisco, where he moved in 1968. His focuses included queer and drag scenes, and most notably the booming biker scene, for whom he became an artist laureate of sorts, his illustrations tapping into both the road mythology behind the culture while depicting it at its most honesty.
Perhaps most popular among S. Clay Wilson’s creations is the Checkered Demon, an obscene, drunk, shirtless devil who was usually portrayed drinking beers and trying to get laid. The character was parodied if not entirely recreated in Rob Zombie’s video for his track “The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God,” in which he acts as a cartoonish Satan hanging out with Zombie’s Dia De Los Muertos-ified band.
A few years ago, a fund was set up to help Wilson with his medical expenses. His health was deteriorating rapidly due to a traumatic brain injury.
Everyone at The Pit sends their heart out to Wilson’s friends, family, fans and collaborators during this difficult time.
Words by Chris Krovatin