Victor Moscoso

Victor Moscoso was born in Spain in 1936, in the Northwestern area called the Province of Galicia. His family lived in a farming area, though his father was a painter and his mother a seamstress. Moscoso was born during the second week of the Spanish Civil War, which meant his young life in Spain was filled with murder and destruction. His father was involved in the war, and although he was an American citizen, he left Moscoso and his mother to flee to avoid being killed by the Spanish government. Moscoso moved to the United States at the age of three and a half, right after the Spanish Civil War was ending and WWII was beginning. He recounts in an interview that “the roads were paved in gold” and his family traveled for opportunity after the war in Spain had left them with little. He learned to speak fluent English within a year in school, and even developed a Brooklyn accent that never went away. He described that he missed the greenery from Spain when he lived in the city, and mentioned he saw the final development of Brooklyn from farming land to straight, industrial structures. He became streetwise growing up in Brooklyn, and recalls many incidents where he had to become tough and extroverted to avoid conflict. Moscoso work at an advertising company, where he airbrushed “SALE” signs and lettered on store names in mass quantities. This job motivated him to get out and study art in college. He studied at Cooper Union in New York City as well as Yale University. After his years at these two schools, Moscoso moved to San Francisco in 1959, where he attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he later became an instructor.

San Francisco also allowed him to become the first rock poster artist of the 1960s with formal academic training. The hippie-rock scene in San Francisco was booming at the time, and Moscoso created vibrant, engaging, and fresh posters for the dance halls and clubs scattered around the city. His work was influenced by painter Josef Albers, who used vibrating colors to create simple, yet intriguing compositions. This, combined with photocollage (Moscoso was the first of the rock poster artists to use photocollage) allowed his posters to be uniquely his style. His posters for the Family Dog dance-concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and his Neon Rose posters for the Matrix allowed him to gain international attention during the 1967 Summer of Love. Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when around 100,000 mainly young people dressed in hippie fashions converged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. This pronounced hippie culture in San Francisco is what allowed Moscoso to fully explore his creative potential and display his works to an open minded audience. The Haight-Asbury neighborhood, which he lived near, was the cultural epicenter for the counterculture scene in the late 60s. Many hippies migrated to the neighborhood in search of homogeneity and like-mindedness, which allowed for Moscoso’s art to have a more unified and agreeable reception. His posters seemed to mimic the effects of LSD that fueled the streets of Haight-Asbury, with his use of vibrating colors and abstract, funky imagery that echoed the imagery of the streets at the time.

Moscoso started out with extensive work in the music industry as an album cover artist. He worked with Herbie Hancock, Jerry Garcia, Steve Miller Band, Bob Weir, David Grisman, and more. His most popular album cover was for Herbie Hancock for the album Headhunters, which sold more than one million copies. Moscoso did not let the music he designed for play an active part in his design, although he would allow his unconscious to feel the music and the music inadvertently would influence his conscious decisions. Moscoso was a rather heavy drug user in his peak time, mostly smoking marijuana and taking LSD. Moscoso claimed his mind was opened by doing these drugs, and that it allowed him to rewire himself from the formal art school training he had been hardwired to for years. This work from musical artists was also translated over to his work for ballrooms in the form of event posters. One of his most famous works, The Man with Spiral Eyes, was an instant success, and he found that he could sell these posters and make a decent profit. He opened his own company, Neon Rose, where he could have complete control over the sales of his works, from commissioning to shipping. He made deals with ballrooms to make these posters happen in order for him to turn a profit. Soon after his poster work, he became interested in cheap ways of distributing this style of art, and turned to underground comix.

His culmination of music work and work on ballroom posters resulted in his involvement in underground comix, where art held the balance between being decorative while still holding a message. Underground comix were very small comic publications that were known for being satirical or culturally relevant. They differed from regular comics of the time because of their use of banned content, such as drugs, sexuality and violence. These comics, like the rock posters, were popular with the hippie counterculture scene. His work for Zap Comix received national attention again in 1968. These comics brought to light the social justice issues that were the backbone of the hippie movement, where sex, drugs, and music were the icing on the top of the cake that comprised of community efforts and direct action to further social justice. In mid-century America, the rise of censorship saw that many works in film and print were banned in areas by individuals in power that thought that media should be tightly regulated by committees and government organizations. Because newspapers and comics could be printed in low volumes at relatively inexpensive costs, underground comix (specifically Zap Comix) were spread through local networks that didn’t care about censorship in the media. Moscoso recounts, “Zap #4 got busted everywhere. It sold out in a couple months. It was the biggest selling Zap Comix that we had done, and probably did.” Moscoso, Williams and Griffin wanted to also transcend traditional comic book story structure and approach the comic as visual art rather than literature. Moscoso’s partner, Williams, said that “they were more expressing a revolutionary insanity, a psychosis, than they were expressing a literal story structure.” Moscoso added onto this to say, “Our stories had no beginnings, no middles, and no ends; a non-linear story. That’s interesting. And not only is it interesting, it’s more lifelike.” These Zap Comix were a very influential and important part of Moscoso’s career as a political pop-culture artist. Moscoso was not interested in business, but manage to make Zap comix a lucrative enough project for living. Eventually, the popularity of the Haight-Asbury neighborhood ended the counterculture movement, as too many people in one area becomes anarchy rather than peaceful rebellion. Stores were robbed and people were killed, and that slowly ended the movement of trippy art and wacky lifestyles. Moscoso, after the fall of counterculture, practiced line drawings and animation styles, both of which he found some success in, but were not on the same level of cultural or personal significance as the vibrating color art he had done for the hippie masses in the 60s.



Victor Moscoso >> About the Artist, Victor Moscoso, 2008,

Groth, Gary. “An Interview with Victor Moscoso.” The Comics Journal, 9 Feb. 2011,

Eden, Caroline. “San Francisco, 50 Years on from the Summer of Love.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 3 June 2017,

Rosenkranz, Patrick. “Zap: Censorship and Suppression.” The Comics Journal, 10 Nov. 2014,