(Unique) Comics by Boody: Craig Yoe on Boody Rogers
Craig Yoe on Boody Rogers
Writer, editor, designer and publisher Craig Yoe befriended the retired artist after his retirement from comics, and working collaboration with Fantagraphics – who’ve recently graced the world with the overlooked formative comics of Fletcher Hanks and the artists in Greg Sadowski’s Supermen! – he’s collected some of Boody’s best comics into a single book, titled Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers.
With Boody hitting stories this month, Yoe found time to sit down with us to discuss the life and comics of Boody Rogers.
“Gee, I've always been involved in publishing; I started publishing comics fanzines when I was 15 years old, 43 years ago. So in all my collecting and research I've always had some publishing activity in the back of my mind. But when I got to be friends with Boody, and he started giving me fascinating rare art and information, a more concrete idea of doing a book started formulating in my little pea-brain,” Yoe explained, when I asked how long he’s had the idea of a book about Boody’s comics percolating. “But, to be honest, I always questioned if a book could be a reality, because Boody is such a ‘cult’ artist. But, happily, maybe, the market has changed with more and more people interested in the old-skool unknown cartoonist geniuses.”
In Fantagraphics’ solicitation of Boody, Rogers’ work is compared to the work of last year’s very popular Fletcher Hanks book, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!. Rogers is a legitimately good artist, and though his stories are outlandish, there’s a much stronger internal consistency than anything in Hanks’ work, so I didn’t see the comparison. “Well, I think there is a good comparison in that both cartoonists did far-out, wild and wooly works,” Yoe responded. “Hanks did nutty stories because he was, apparently, nuts. Boody achieved his nutty oeuvre because he just loved way out crazy funny stories This was probably from growing up in the last of the Old West in Texas (He was born in Oklahoma territory before it was a state!) and hearing the far-fetched yarns of cowboys gathered in his dad’s eateries. Boody developed his chops through hard work and training under some of the best cartoonists of the time, resulting in a fantastic ability to craft his comics. Boody went to Chicago and studied at the cartooning school of the Chicago Academy under Pulitzer Prize winner Carey Orr. And he hung out or met Chester Gould, Harold Gray, Bill Holman, Carl Ed, Reamer Keller and Milton Caniff. So, you see, he was in the right time and atmosphere for a talent like him to blossom.”
“Boody was there from the very beginning of what we think of the American comic book. He amazingly had work in what is said to be the first newsstand comic book with original material, The Funnies,” Yoe explained of Rogers’ early career. “Boody gave me a piece of original artwork from The Funnies that he hand colored that I treasure and share with the world in the book, Boody. He worked all the way into the 50s when the comic book industry started taking hits from zealot critics and the competition of TV.”
Though many early cartoonists fell into comics by accident and sought more “legitimate” work, Rogers didn’t resort to comics as a last resort. Yoe said, “The guy loved comics and was thrilled to be doing them and loved the fraternity of other cartoonists. Boody was great pals with many New York cartoonists when he lived here in the 40s. He took trips with the National Cartoonist Society and laid on the beach with Bill Holman of Smokey Stover helping think up puns for Smokey Stover (through Boody I later became friends with and interviewed Bill, he's the subject of a future book of mine). In short, Boody was living and breathing comics and loving every moment of it. I think you’ll agree that love abundantly shows in his work!”
Well, I do see it. Being a baseball fan, I was particularly impressed by the fun and craziness of Rogers’ Babe Boone stories. The strips are filled with bubbly fun, and Rogers seems to have a lot of fun playing with the dialects.
In the Sparky Watts comics, which often feature the title character shrinking to microscopic sizes and encountering bizarre creatures and astounding societies (years and years before the Fantastic Four entered the Microverse), Rogers seemed to have a great time designing all the creatures Sparky meets when he shrinks down. Between the creature designs, the curvy women and the outrageous scenarios, I asked Yoe if he’d ever discussed Rogers’ favorite aspect of cartooning.
“I don’t know that I ever asked him that directly, but he obviously loved those wild creatures,” Yoe answered. “There is a famous entomologist I know of that collects Boody’s comics with all those nutty bugs in the stories. And Boody obviously did have a great affection for drawing cute sexy chicks, or ‘de-icers’ as he and Zack Mosley used to call them. Boody assisted on Smilin’ Jack during what what I want to say are the best years of that classic strip.”
After leaving comics, “Boody opened a couple of art supply stores in Arizona – Gus Arriola of Gordo used to come in for art supplies. Boody made enough to retire to a small town in Texas. He gathered with old farts there every day for coffee at the drug store and swapped stories. Boody had a wonderful sweet wife, Mary, and his daughter and granddaughters whom he absolutely adored. I had lost contact with his daughter but was thrilled last week when she had contacted me after hearing about the book,” Yoe concluded.
“Boody's daughter, and I bet fans like Art Spiegelman, Robert Williams, the sensational blogger ‘Pappy’ and Johnny Ryan, can’t wait to see and dive into the awesome comics in Boody ourselves when it finally comes out – at least speaking for myself!”