The Vasquez Rocks of Comics

Even if you don’t recognize the name “Vasquez Rocks,” you’ve likely seen the rocks themselves. The Vasquez Rocks are a group of distinctively-shaped rock formations outside of Los Angles that have appeared in many, many T.V. shows and movies–from Westerns like Bonanza (and Blazing Saddles!) through to relatively modern films like Little Miss Sunshine and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. If, though, like me, you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ll know these rocks from many, many appearances in the franchise–both in its film and T.V. versions–beginning with the TOS episode, Arena, in which Kirk famously fights the Gorn:

So, do we have a Vazquez Rocks of comics?

Now, when I say, “the Vasquez Rocks of comics,” I’m not meaning literal appearances of the Vasquez Rocks in comics–although, that has happened. Here, for example, French cartoonist Christophe Blain has inserted them in his most recent Gus adventure. The rocks are only one of many, many references in the book to old American Westerns–including, coincidentally, a cameo by Star Trek’s DeForest Kelley (who was also in numerous Westerns).

No, when I say “Vasquez Rocks of comics,” what I’m getting at are locations that appear in different comics repeatedly because of the ubiquity of a particular reference image that turns up in images searches! I first noticed this phenomenon when working on the very first story in Four-Fisted Tales, a story that takes place during the battle of Verdun in WWI. Here’s a panel from the story:

Months after drawing that panel, though, I happened upon a review of this comic–which also deals with the battle of Verdun:

I knew immediately what the story here was. If you do a Google image search for “battle of Verdun” this will appear on about the eighth or ninth row in the results:

This artist and I had both done the same Google image search and both decided to incorporate the same image into our comics (for obvious reasons–it’s a pretty striking image). Once this phenomenon came to my attention, though, I started keeping an eye out for it.

Here’s another one. This image is from Trench Dogs (another coincidence: it’s published by Dead Reckoning, who also will be publishing Four-Fisted Tales). It’s the interior of a submarine. 

When I saw this page, it looked familiar… because I’d seen the photo ref image that I’m certain it was based on. It turned up via Google image search both when I was researching subs for my previous book, Oyster War, and for a story with a submarine in Four-Fisted Tales. While not nabbed quite as whole-hog as the Verdun example, you can see elements of the photo incorporated into the Trench Dogs page–even down to the wheel/chain thing in the very last panel. 

I did a similar thing with it in Four-Fisted Tales: just grabbed elements here and there (although, most of this image is based on a more modern bit of photo ref, since it’s a WWII sub):

So, I hereby decree that henceforth, this phenomenon of cartoonists swiping from the same photo ref image be referred to as “Vasquez rocking.” 

Note: I will update this post as I catalog more images of comics Vasquez rocking… and of course, if you spot any such Vasquez rocking out in the wild, leave a comment or hit me up on twitter!

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