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Vaughn Bodé Collection

An inventory of his collection at the Syracuse University Archives

Finding aid created by: Steffi Chappell
Date: 2014


Vaughn Bode

Vaughn Bodé (1941-1975) was an American cartoonist and illustrator who graduated from Syracuse University in 1970.

Vaughn Bodé was born on July 22, 1941, in Syracuse, New York. His early life was one of hardship and instability, and in 1957 at the age of seventeen he dropped out of high school to join the United States Army. He left the military less than two years later and returned to Central New York. On November 4, 1961, Bodé married Barbara Hawkins. The couple had one son, Mark, born in 1963.

Bodé was young when he realized he had artistic talent, and he began drawing cartoons when he was just five years old. Eventually Bodé realized that drawing was something with which he might make a career. He began attending Syracuse University in the fall of 1964 as an illustration student on a scholarship through the G.I. Bill and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1970. While attending SU, Bodé worked as a commercial artist and illustrator and also published his cartoons in many Syracuse University publications.

Bodé began to gain fame while a student at Syracuse University due in large part to the cartoons published by the Daily Orange. The student newspaper first published The Man, one of Bodé’s most popular characters, in 1965. Students and professors alike fell in love with The Man, a comic strip about a caveman who made philosophical observations about the world around him. The Daily Orange is also responsible for first publishing Cheech Wizard, perhaps the cartoon for which Bodé is most famous. Bodé developed Cheech Wizard in 1956, yet it was not until April of 1966 that the cartoon first saw publication. The cartoon debuted with a series of strips titled “The Race to the Moon.” The star of the comic strip, Cheech Wizard himself, was a little man wearing a large yellow wizard’s hat that covered most of his body, from his head to his waist. All viewers ever saw of Cheech Wizard were his red legs. Eventually National Lampoon picked up Cheech Wizard and began running the cartoons in February of 1972. During Bodé’s time at SU he also published other comic strips and illustrations in the Daily Orange, Syracuse 10 (the University’s literary magazine), the Syracuse New Times, and underground publications Vintage and the Sword of Damocles.

Bodé signed his earliest cartoons as "Von," a shortened version of his first name. In 1966 Richard Wilson, director of the Syracuse University News Bureau, for whom Bodé worked on occasion, brought the artist’s illustrations to the attention of American cartoonist Milton Caniff. Caniff recommended that Bodé sign his actual name to his artwork in order to more easily receive recognition for his work, a suggestion Bodé accepted. From then on his full name accompanied any published cartoon.

While a student at Syracuse University, Bodé also worked as a commercial illustrator. In 1966 he was named art director of Frank Burgmeier Co., a public relations firm in Syracuse. In this position he published a short comic book for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. In the comic book, a power mower salesman transforms into the superhero Powermowerman and works to prevent accidents caused by the misuse of power mowers. Bodé also produced illustrations for science fiction magazines such as Galaxy Magazine.

In 1969 Bodé began to gain more fame in the world of underground comics. Early in the year he helped to found Gothic Blimp Works, thought to be the first underground publication consisting entirely of comics. Bodé served as editor for the first two issues, and then he resigned from the position. The magazine Cavalier also began publishing Bodé's cartoons in 1969. He first debuted with a reprint of a strip of The Man in the April 1969 issue, and then in the May issue Deadbone premiered, a strip set millions of years in the past about the residents of a remote mountain. The Deadbone strip was a regular feature in Cavalier until 1975.

In 1972 Bodé developed his Cartoon Concert, a live act he would perform at college campuses and comic conventions in the United States and Europe. Bodé would project slides of his cartoons onto a screen without the typical speech bubbles and then voice the parts of the individual characters. He also used a myriad of sound effects in order to give the audience a complete experience. The Cartoon Concert was wildly popular: Bodé gave over fifty performances, including one at the Louvre in Paris.

Bodé received many awards over the course of his life. In 1966 he won second place in the annual Society of Illustrators national competition for college cartoonists due to his Cheech Wizard series of “The Race to the Moon.” Bodé won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist in 1969 at the World Science Fiction Convention. In 1974 he won the Yellow Kid Award at the International Comics Congress in Lucca, Italy, for his performances of the Cartoon Concert in Europe.

Vaughn Bodé died on July 19, 1975 in San Francisco.

Scope and Content Note

The Vaughn Bodé Collection is divided into four series: Biographical Materials, Correspondence, Original Artwork and Performances, and Published Artwork.

The Biographical Materials series contains information about Bodé’s life and career as a cartoonist and illustrator. These include clippings and Syracuse University press releases.

The Correspondence series contains letters written by Richard Wilson, director of the Syracuse University News Bureau, to various people in which he draws Bodé’s artwork to their attention. The series also contains letters from Leslie Hudson looking for information on Bodé from University faculty and staff.

The Original Artwork and Performances series contains a small number of original works of art produced by Bodé, as well as two recordings of a Cartoon Concert performance. This particular Cartoon Concert was performed by Bodé’s brother at Syracuse University in December 1975, after the artist’s death.

The Published Artwork series makes up the bulk of the collection, and contains many original copies of publications in which Bodé’s cartoons and illustrations were printed. The series also contains photocopies of some of Bodé’s work, including those cartoons published in the Daily Orange.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from the Syracuse University Archives and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

In addition to this collection, the Syracuse University Archives holds a clippings file and a portrait file on Vaughn Bodé, and the Student Publications Reference Collection in the Archives contains copies of publications with Bodé's artwork, including the Daily Orange, Syracuse 10, Vintage, and the Sword of Damocles.

The Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University also holds Bodé materials. Please visit their finding aid for the Vaughn Bodé Collection for more details.

Selected Search Terms


Bodé, Vaughn, 1941-1975.
Syracuse University -- Alumni and alumnae.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.



Types of Material

Drawings (visual works)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Vaughn Bodé Collection,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

A number of different people donated the materials in the Vaughn Bodé Collection to the Syracuse University Archives over a course of many years. Mainly between 1976 and 1993 the Archives received donations from Dr. David Tatham, Amy S. Doherty, Richard Wilson, Bruce McCardy, David Johnson, Marc Von Arx, and Richard Gruender.

Processing Information

The materials have been processed and placed in acid-free folders and boxes.


The items are arranged in alphabetical order.

Table of Contents

Biographical materials


Original artwork and performances

Published artwork