Sunday, December 29, 2013

ED "BIG DADDY" ROTH'S RAT FINK TURNS 50


It's hard to believe that it was 50 years ago when I was plastering water-slide decals of an ugly little critter called the "Rat Fink" all over my bicycle and whatever other surface they would stick to. The Rat Fink became the 60's adopted mascot for goofball kids (teenagers included) who loved monsters and hot rods, not necessarily in that order. Other characters followed -- like Mr. Gasser -- and the sub-culture grew to include yet another craze of the 60's -- surfing -- all creating a pop culture melange that evolved into a kind of pre-Vietnam War subversion led by America's youth. In fact, the Rat Fink can be viewed as the antithesis to another, more cuddly but no less lovable (some will claim) rodent who goes by the name of Mickey. Rat Fink, on the other hand, became the symbol of an idealized middle finger that "flipped the bird" at the Establishment, albeit in a less violent and malicious way than later efforts by more extreme causes.

So, who started all this? Most people turn there hillbilly-hatted heads to a man who went by the name of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Roth was born in Beverly Hills, CA, on 4 March 1932. He was a cartoonist and custom car designer who, with his talent, furthered the "SoCal" mystique of sun, fun, and more fun, a segment of which would quickly become known as "Kustom Kulture", and almost single-handedly created an industry around kids, cars and cartoon monsters. Roth died 4 April 2001, but he left behind a legacy that influenced many other artists with his indelible mark of wild hot rods and the kooky kreatures that were depicted driving them, always hinting at the "weird oh" that secretly lurked in all of us when we were young.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth with his weapon of choice -- an airbrush.

The following is an interview with another counter-culture cartoonist and illustrator, Robert Williams. Williams began his career drawing comic strips for Robert Crumb's underground publication, ZAP COMIX, and is well known for his contributions to the surreal and psychedelic side of graphic arts. It appeared in the April 12, 2012 (#135) edition of the magazine he publishes, JUXTAPOZ.








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