It was either Art School or This…

COMICS-HEADcustomize-van-detBack when I was pondering what I wanted to do with my life, the fast growing/big money world of van customization beckoned to me like a siren singing a sweet song from the rocks.

customize-van-det2I could have been gleefully ignoring the copyrights of famous fantasy artists and reproducing their works on the side of Econoline Vans or, like, painting some awesome skulls on a motorcycle’s gas tank. Then when I had finally milked Frank Frazetta’s portfolio dry, I could try to talk customers into paying for original work — my own fantastic creations furiously wrought on the side of some tricked out van for all of the mother-lovin’ motorin’ world to friggin’ see. I’d be, like, famous.


“I want you to paint me and my old lady like that Conan paintin’ on the tank of my bike, and I need it tomorrow!” said the scary biker gang guy who wasn’t going to accept “no” as an answer. And he doesn’t want to pay cash. He wants to barter โ€“ payment would be in the form of a van full of fireworks and/or bootleg cigarettes from down south.

customize-vanThen there was the whole upholstery, install a waterbed, put in a moon-roof sort of thing that I didn’t think I’d really be in to. I just wanted to paint some boss art. I didn’t want to fix the vinyl captain’s chairs on an old Dodge.

Nope, art school was theย  prudent investment!

Defenders-26Now that you’re done laughing, I can tell you that the ad appeared in The Defenders No. 26 published by Marvel Comics in 1975 โ€“ the heyday of van customization.

The Defenders was supposed to be a super-hero team that acted like they weren’t a team and felt more like a group therapy session that decided to suit up and fight evil in between bouts of angst and self-doubt. It was the malaise of the 1970s printed in four colors on newsprint. The Defenders featured the Hulk who was quickly becoming a tedious, tantrumming man-child back then, Dr. Strange who was lost without his creator Steve Ditko and a revolving reserve of second and third string characters. The lady with the Veronica Lake hair is Valkyrie, and the guy with the silly mask is Batman stand-in Nighthawk.

This issue features The Guardians of the Galaxy which is why I ran with this cover. I’m not above trying to ride the coattails of MARVEL/DISNEY’s hype machine.

Hey, where’s the raccoon?

Sorry, different guys with the same name. This is an earlier incarnation of that group. Hey, if you have a good, alliterative title, you stick with it!

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3 Responses to It was either Art School or This…

  1. Old NFO says:

    LOL, I was stationed in California, I know folks that DID do that and made a lot of money… And promptly got out of the business soon thereafter! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. There are a lot of people that owe Frazetta a lot of money. lol Some of those carnival t-shirt places rip of his work too.

  3. Joe_Williams says:

    Thank you, Old NFO! Thank you, Dragon Lady!!

    Ripping off better artists seemed to be a cottage industry that nobody cracked down on back in the ’70s. Frank Frazetta. Don Martin. And what carnival would have been complete without bootleg Snoopy dogs?

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