S. Clay Wilson (born July 25, 1941) is an American underground cartoonist and central figure in the underground comix movement. Wilson is known for aggressively violent and sexually explicit panoramas of "lowlife," often depicting the wild escapades of pirates and bikers. He was an early contributor to Zap Comix, and Wilson's artistic audacity has been cited by R. Crumb as a liberating source of inspiration for Crumb's own work.Wils on was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and later attended the University of Nebraska. He was trained as a medic in the United States Army and held odd jobs before moving to San Francisco in 1968. He met up with Charles Plymell, who was publishing Robert Crumb's Zap Comix. Wilson had been drawing since he was 12, and needed little persuasion to contribute to Zap. His work was praised by such counterculture icons as William S. Burroughs and Terry Southern. A striking feature of S. Clay Wilson's work is the contrast between the literate way in which his characters spoke and thought and the depraved violence in which they engage. Wilson's later work became more ghoulish, featuring zombie pirates and visualizations of the Virgin of Guadalupe as a rotting vampire mother. In many respects, however, his work has remained consistent since his emergence in the 1960s. In contrast to the many countercultural figures who have moderated their more extreme tendencies and successfully assimilated into the mainstream of commercial culture, S. Clay Wilson's work has remained troubling to mainstream sensibilities and defiantly ill-mannered.
The main book collection of S. Clay Wilson's comics is the Checkered Demon Anthology Vol. 1 from Last Gasp. The Art of S. Clay Wilson, published in 2006 by Ten Speed Press, covers his prints and paintings as well as his comics work.
The last of the Zap artists to be anthologized, Wilson has always been the most extreme. His wild stories of pirates, bikers, and deviants, centering around the character of the Checkered Demon, have kept their humor and philosophical bent while keeping their author far from mainstream comics publishing. This is what the cognoscenti have to say about the latest wonder from Last Gasp: "I have always found Wilson's art hilarious, relevant, and timely. Should have been collected a long time ago!" - William S. Burroughs. "My fate sealed, doomed to subliminal exposure to S. Clay Wilson waves, I found myself immune to the sophomoric antics of Curious George or the coy alliteration of Cat in the Hat. Luckily, I outgrew the bed but, sadly, not before I developed dorsal spines on my penis." - Leonardo DiCaprio. "The Demon is an inspirational figure for poets and bikers alike. Wilson's creations are the heights of the underground." - Michael McClure. "The madness, villainy, and corruption let loose in Wilson's den of iniquity is as scarringly unforgettable as it is beyond all hope of redemption or exorcism." - Carlo McCormick