Manuel Rodriguez (March 2, 1940 – November 28, 2012), better known as Spain or Spain Rodriguez, was an American underground cartoonist who created the character Trashman. His experiences on the road with the motorcycle club, the Road Vultures M.C., provided inspiration for his work, as did his left-wing politics. Strongly influenced by 1950s EC Comics illustrator Wally Wood, Spain pushed Wood's sharp, crisp black shadows and hard-edged black outlines into a more simplified, stylized direction. His work also extended the eroticism of Wood's female characters.
Manuel Rodriguez was born March 2, 1940, in Buffalo, New York. He picked up the nickname Spain as a child, when he heard some kids in the neighborhood bragging about their Irish ancestry, and he defiantly claimed Spain was just as good as Ireland. Rodriguez studied at the Silvermine Guild Art School in New Canaan, Connecticut.
In New York City, during the late 1960s, he became a contributor to the East Village Other, which published his own comics tabloid, Zodiac Mindwarp (1968). He covered the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a reporter for the East Village Other, adventures which were chronicled in My True Story (Fantagraphics Books, 1994).
A co-founder (with Robert Crumb) of the United Cartoon Workers of America, he contributed to numerous underground comics in the 1960s–2000s, including Zap Comix, San Francisco Comic Book, Young Lust, Arcade, Bijou Funnies, Weirdo, and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. He also drew Salon's continuing graphic story, The Dark Hotel, which ran on the website in 1998–1999.
Spain's starkly forceful, naturalistic style perfectly matched Conan Doyle's eerie stories in Sherlock Holmes' Strangest Cases (Word Play Publications, 2001). In such classics as Mean Bitch Thrills (Print Mint, 1971), Spain’s women are raunchy, explicitly sexual, and sometimes incorporated macho sadomasochistic themes.
Spain's later work included an illustrated biography of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Che: A Graphic Biography (Verso, 2008). Published in several different languages, it was described by comics artist Art Spiegelman as "brilliant and radical."
Rodriguez died at his home in San Francisco on November 28, 2012, after battling cancer for six years.
In July 2013, during the San Diego Comic-Con, Rodriguez was one of six inductees into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The award was presented posthumously by Mad magazine cartoonist and Groo the Wanderer creator Sergio Aragonés. The other inductees were Lee Falk, Al Jaffee, Mort Meskin, Joe Sinnott, and Trina Robbins.
- 1988 (June 27–August 10) Galería Esquina de la Libertad (San Francisco) — "Spain : a View from the Bottom: Posters, Comic Strips, Caricatures and More"
- 2012 (September 14, 2012–January 13, 2013) Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College (Buffalo, NY) — "Spain: Rock, Roll, Rumbles, Rebels & Revolution"