Thursday, 21 January 2016
Vaughn Bode: " I set up the Cobalt 60 strip and found myself uneasy, restless and wandering toward fluttering creative excitements. It's flowing out of me again like water...I can really identify with the dusty future of Earth... where I will be part of the quiet hissing afternoon dust..."
Cobalt 60 is one of the darkest, if not THE darkest, projects in Vaughn Bode's work. A post-apocalypse punch in the face, it's grim, ultra-violent and despairing, and comes with a killer ending that, like Bode's earlier The Man, shows The Cartoon Gooroo's mastery at delinating big themes with a minimum of words. He was an artist who wrote, rather than a writer who drew, and that's never clearer than here.
Vaughn originally created Cobalt 60 in 1959, but the death dealing mutant didn't see print until 1968, in the above issue of Wally Wood's Witzend, in the process winning him the Hugo award for Best Fanzine Artist of that year.
He created a whole world for Cobalt to move around in, along with a full cast of characters, but ultimately found the series too depressing to continue with and abandoned the idea. It was also a major 'influence' on Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, a film Bode was reportedly none too happy about.
As nice an idea as Bode in animation is, his work kind of doesn't need it, being the closest thing to 'static' animation there is, and Cobalt 60, in particular, is a strip that could only be in presented in black & white anyway. Here it is:
Vaughn did try one more time with Cobalt 60, with this unfinished piece posthumously published in Junkwaffel #4. This one is even darker and more uncompromising than it's predecessor, and you do get the feeling that even Vaughn felt he'd written himself into a corner.
Which is presumably why, when son Mark Bode took up the character in 1984 for a new series in Epic Illustrated, he went in a completely different direction. We'll get to that series, of course, but here's the original.