Q: Do you have any information about the cartoonists who appeared in NatLamp during the seventies—Bode, London. et al. Is there a site that displays their talents? How did NL find these artists? Were they paid very well for their creations? I’d like to find out more about the relationships between them and the magazine. It seemed to be a crucial aspect of NatLamp. One I remember seemed to have a penchant for talking gloved hands. What has happened to these artists?
A: Bobby London, of course, did the comic “Dirty Duck” which ran from 1972 to 1976 (when he was “dumped,” according to London). Dirty Duck still runs in Playboy magazine.
London was part of a group called Air Pirates (1971), a project led and instigated by comic artist Dan O’Neill. There was also an Air Pirates Defense Fund which toured comic book conventions (according to London, O’Neill used the proceeds to buy marijuana). Other Air Pirates were: Gary Hallgren (O’Neill’s art assistant), Ted Richards, Shary Flenniken, Larry Todd (Vaughan Bode’s assistant) and the late Willy Murphy. The Air Pirates were sued by Disney over a comic called “Mouse Liberation Front Comics” for $150,000. The Air Pirates violated the court injunction by reforming as the “MLF” without London and Murphy. By 1979, London was drawing for the New York Times and Playboy. His parents incorporated briefly that year to protect him from the MLF.
He also did syndicated Popeye comics in daily newspapers for several years during the ’80s.
There was a Dirty Duck movie created in the ’70s featuring Flo and Eddie on the soundtrack. In fact there was a Dirty Duck movie made in 1975 (check it out), but it had nothing to do with Bobby London’s characters nor was it authorized by him. According to London (I haven’t seen the movie) the plot was swiped from “Fritz The Cat.” The late Grateful Dead artist Rick Griffin was used to draw a cigar-smoking duck surrounded by bikini-clad babes strictly for poster art and publicity (there was no cigar-smoking duck in the movie).
London and his wife (from 1971-1977) Shary Flenniken (creator of “Trots & Bonnie”) were brought in by NL editor Michel Choquette. Bobby was from New York and Shary was from Seattle.
Vaughn Bode’s connection with NatLamp could have been to do with his having been editor of an all-comic tabloid published by the East Village Other, also former home of Michael O’Donoghue one of NatLamp‘s original editors.
Bode, who did “Cheech Wizard,” died of accidental strangulation in 1975 at the age of 33.
According to Bobby London, a lot of the artists “discovered” by National Lampoon were popular enough at the time to be considered assets rather than discoveries. The page rate was good for the time and fantastic compared to comic books. Virtually all the “underground” cartoonists in San Francisco turned National Lampoon down, vilifying London for joining them—“working for the establishment,” “selling out”—and fell over themselves to fill his spot when he was gone.
Finally, you are not hallucinating—the mystery cartoonist was M.K. Brown, who often featured talking appliances, unidentifiable animals and some characters (species unknown) which looked liked hand puppets, but without the puppet. Very strange (and funny). There is an official M. K. Brown website at mkbrown.net.