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das kampf
excellent writing
skilled art
historical bonus 4total score 9
Das Kampf
2nd Printing / July, 1977 / 52 pages / Walter Bachner and Bagginer Productions
First Printing 1963
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Das Kampf (German for "the struggle" or "the fight") was originally self-published by Vaughn Bodé in 1963 while he lived with his wife Barbara and newborn son Mark in a shitty $20-a-month apartment in Utica, New York. Bodé had not yet even applied to Syracuse University, but he had spent a year in the Army in the late '50s (before going AWOL; he received an honorable discharge based on a pyschiatric diagnosis). His experience in the Army may have helped Bodé produce Das Kampf, a war-themed spoof on Charles Schulz's 1962 book Happiness is a Warm Puppy.

Instead of defining what "happiness is" they way Schulz did in his quaint little book, Bodé defined what "war is" in 100 cartoons. Each cartoon was captioned with a specific definition of war, such as "war is doing something real stupid and not being able to complain afterwards cause you get killed," or "war is marching all day and all night in the wrong direction." Bodé borrowed money from his brother Vincent to mimeograph 100 copies of the book and then tried to sell them, but sales in Utica were quite poor.

Fourteen years later (and two years after Bodé's death), his former wife Barbara teamed up with Walter Bachner and Bagginer Productions to publish the second edition of Das Kampf. Bodé's good friend Larry Todd helped out with lettering and layout of the book.

Das Kampf is quite clever and insightful about many aspects of war, despite the fact that America was not at war when Bodé wrote it (the military escalation in Vietnam was just beginning to ramp up). However, the military tension at the Bay of Pigs had recently scared the crap out of America, so Bodé's focus on the Russians in his cartoons is not surprising.

Not only is the writing quite good, but Bodé's illustration skills prove to be quite solid, especially considering the fact that he was only 21 years old when he drew these cartoons. The first printing of Das Kampf is an exceedingly rare underground comic, but the second printing offers everyone who's interested a chance to see some of the earliest comic work by Vaughn Bodé.

There are two printings of this comic book. The 1st printing (about 100 mimeographed unbound sets) was produced by Vaughn Bodé in 1963. The 2nd printing (3,000 copies) was published by Walter Bachner and Bagginer Productions in 1977 and had a $2.50 cover price. There is also a limited "Publisher's Edition" of the 2nd printing, which is comprised of 50 numbered and signed (by Walter Bachner) copies.

Vaughn Bode 1-52
Larry Todd (lettering and production)