From the TCJ Archives

An Interview with Victor Moscoso


GROTH: Aside from the Zap guys, who did you enjoy being with socially, and whose work did you admire?

MOSCOSO: I enjoyed being together with them all, socially. I thought it was really far out. The artist I was closest to was Griffin, since we had already worked together, prior to that. We worked together in a way that was quite remarkable — just the two of us. That was in another field. When it got to Zap, things changed, of course. And also, he became a Christian. I’m an atheist. Well, we just didn’t talk about it. He dropped out for a while, ’cause we were the handmaidens of the Devil. He goes to Christ, you know, what’s he going to do? Draw for Zap Comix, the smut mongers? But what I loved about Zap: Griffin comes back after being out for about three issues and he does an issue where he’s featuring Jesus Christ, I think he might have Christ on a surfboard. It’s a real Christian story. And then in the same issue, there’s S. Clay Wilson, who does a story called, “Devils Tormenting Angels” dedicated to Mystic Rick. I think, fucking beautiful, man. Far out. Here you have a heartfelt Christian doing a story about Christ, and here you have a heartfelt heathen just socking it to him, under the same covers. I loved the variety in Zap Comix. Each artist seemed secure on their own turf. We were all the kings of our domains, whatever we had scratched out for ourselves, graphically speaking. As a result, we were all very secure. I mean, it was all right for Wilson to do “Devils Tormenting Angels” in the same issue with Rick. Rick didn’t get offended. That was all right. And to me that was like so far out. I remember once having an argument with Art Spiegelman at the School of Visual Arts, and he really put down Zap. I forget what he said about it, but he was quite insulting. I didn’t realize he cared so much. But, his main complaint was that Zap didn’t have an editorial policy. Which it doesn’t, a fact which I take pride in. He said, “Once you’re in the club, you’re in.” I said, “That’s right. We’re all equals.” And I said to him, “Who are you to tell Gary Panter or Charles Burns how to do their story?” Anyway, what a great fight! [Laughter.] I have it on tape somewhere. And what’s surprising is that here it is on his turf, the School of Visual Arts, and half the people are applauding for me, and half the people are applauding for him.

GROTH: That makes sense because Art’s, of course, a real control freak.

MOSCOSO: Of course.

GROTH: The editorial policy of Zap is basically that you have a set number of artists who are allowed to do exactly what they want to do.

MOSCOSO: Exactly. That was it. I remember Trina Robbins came up to me, and she said, “Hey, how come everybody else can’t get into Zap?” And I said, “How come everybody else can’t get into the Rolling Stones?” [Groth laughs.] “Then why did they stop at six or seven? Why not have everybody join?” Then you lose the integrity of the group. And I was one of the conservative guys. I wanted to keep it just the original first four, because that way we only slice the pie up four ways. But actually, it turned out better, because to have the other guys — Williams, Shelton, Spain — we covered everything. We had it all covered, from funny big-nosed humorous characters, as Gilbert Shelton describes it, to the Jesus Christ of Rick to the demonic side of Wilson to the bikers to the spaced-out Disneys of Griffin and Moscoso. I really liked it. I really liked the variety and the difference. Meanwhile, we’re able to get along.

GROTH: The important thing is to maintain the consistent quality. If you invited artists in who weren’t as good, then I could certainly see the complaint about the editorial anarchy being legitimate.

MOSCOSO: But that never happened. You can’t say any one artist is any better than any other artist, because every artist is doing his own thing. So that’s like comparing apples and oranges. Hey, it changes all the time, too. Right now, look at Williams. He’s still a Zap artist; I don’t care if he doesn’t put anything in it. Zap is still going; he’s still a Zap artist, and here he can make a gallery. He can put a gallery on the map. Wow! Isn’t that impressive? What other artist do you know that can do that?

GROTH: Maybe Art would have felt differently if he’d been in Zap.

MOSCOSO: I think so.

GROTH: Did you ever appear in Arcade, which he and Bill Griffith edited?

MOSCOSO: I did the first back cover to Arcade and I was never asked again.

GROTH: That’s interesting.


The back cover to <em>Arcade</em> #1, Moscoso’s only contribution to the series. ©1975 Victor Moscoso.

GROTH: Do you think you and Spiegelman have different aesthetic points of view?

MOSCOSO: If he believes that Gary Panter and Charles Burns, just to name a few, need him to write their stories, I would say we have very different ideas, because I respect Gary Panter, and I respect Charles Burns, and if I were giving them pages in my book, I would say, “Work out.” Who am I? See, it’s the typical New York snob trip, man. I’ve been there. I know. You know more than somebody else, including the author. So we would have differences. That was basically the difference we had at the School of Visual Arts.

GROTH: What was the context of that, by the way?

MOSCOSO: A panel on Censorship in comics. And they didn’t invite S. Clay Wilson. First thing I said is, “Hey, where’s S. Clay Wilson? He’s in town!”

GROTH: I’d love to hear that tape.

MOSCOSO: I’ll find it. I’m going through this thing, working on my book.

GROTH: I think what you need, having seen your studio, is an archivist.

MOSCOSO: I am. [Laughter.] What I’m doing, though, now — I’m wising up in my old age — is I go through boxes and write down what’s in the boxes and I paste it on the box, so at least I don’t have to open the box, and then I put it back where I found it. I don’t move them around. That’s where I fuck myself up. I’ve got my system going. I could even commit this to a computer. I wouldn’t do it, I got better things to do than that, but it could be committed to a computer because each box has a title: Moscoso Book ’02, yellow box “D.” And I’ve got them all in yellow boxes. I have brown portfolios. I got my own system.


GROTH: Did you work as a staff artist for Rolling Stone in the late ’60s?

MOSCOSO: No. Never worked as a staff artist. I was a freelance artist, and I did illustrations for Rolling Stone. They would call me up and say, “OK, we’re doing a story on nitrous oxide.” That was a good one. “Pays so-and-so, we need it by such a date.” And I said, “OK. By the way, think I can get some nitrous?”

GROTH: Tell me how you got involved in doing illustrations for Rolling Stone. They had a San Francisco office.

MOSCOSO: I met Jann Wenner through a friend of ours, on Petrero Hill. Wenner might have just started Rolling Stone, or was getting ready to start it. David Bushman was the friend we had in common. So, I knew him and he knew of my work, mainly through the posters. All the time, I’d be working for agencies, too. Although, not so much when I was doing posters. I would turn down the agency jobs. Later on, when the posters started to slow down I would pick up ad work. One of the jobs that I did was a lot of Levi’s work, both posters and storyboards, which unfortunately never get seen.

GROTH: Story boards for what? Commercials?

MOSCOSO: Commercials — live action and animation.

GROTH: Do those look Moscoso-esque?

MOSCOSO: Yes, they do, but they’re very rough. They’re very rough because they’re not to be shot. They’re for another artist to copy from.

GROTH: But they’re recognizably you?

MOSCOSO: Yeah, you can see my drawing arm. It looks like my work.

GROTH: That period when you did illustrations for Rolling Stone was when the magazine was at its best.

MOSCOSO: I think so, too. And my favorite issue is the one they did on the groupies. That was neat. That’s when they were cooking. They just started out; they were fresh. They weren’t establishment. When they moved to New York, I knew that was the end of it. That’s what the Jonestown people signal was for committing suicide: “Going to New York” meant “We’re going to kill ourselves.” And they’re right.

GROTH: Was that a good relationship with Rolling Stone?

MOSCOSO: Yeah. It wasn’t much of a relationship. The art director would call me up and say, “I got this job,” and I’d do the job and that was it. I didn’t hang out there. I didn’t hang out with them. I was not in the office. I’d come in, drop off the job and leave.

GROTH: Now, you also did illustrations for Playboy.

MOSCOSO: Yes. Same thing. Hang out with Hef, man. He never invited me down to the mansion. But he liked my work.