This past November I ran into Marty Jimenez at the preview opening of the Skateboard: Evolution & Art in California exhibition in Santa Monica, CA. Now unfortunately for Marty, he knows that every single time I run into him I'm going to ask if he's unearthed his board collection yet. It was, after all, one of the few I never managed to document despite badgering him to no end over the course of putting both Disposable books together. He has a reason—a very good one at that—for not letting me have a photographic crack at his archives, and even though I have no plans for any future books I'm still curious as to what he may have squirreled away during his time at the epicenter of Orange County skateboard production in the '80s.
God help me but shit like this keeps me up late at night.
Anyway, Marty apologized once again for not being able to spring his boards in a timely manner (in a referential way they really are the equivalent to James Cameron's ridiculously named "Unobtanium" from Avatar, tree of life and all), but then went on to say that he had recently stumbled upon something of interest in his art archives: a Xerox copy of what appeared to be the inspiration behind Mark Gonzales's original pro model graphic on Vision by Andy Takakjian. I said I was definitely interested in seeing this and, lo and behold, just the other day a shot of it finally appeared in my inbox from Marty.
Immediately after receiving the image I zipped it on over to Andy—whom I finally had the chance to meet for the first time several months ago when he showed up out of the blue at a book release party for The Disposable Skateboard Bible held at the HUF store in Los Angeles—to see if he could shed some historical light on its background.
"Wow, there's a relic from the ark of the unknown martyr!" he wrote back, "Yeah, that would be a phase of genesis, as I loosely recall that was a sort of prelim for a cheesy little self promotional postcard series I ran off back in 1985. I believe it was an amalgam of linoleum cut and Zip-A-Tone scraps. I didn't get any particular direction from Vision, so I used it to fill space on the Gonz deck in between the 'Vision' and 'Mark Gonzales' names. Of course it required some 'editing' to fill the deck space correctly.
"I had no idea anyone would like it in any way. I thought it would be a genuine reject and I would have to think up something else. In fact, I really just tossed it together to be something to show 'til I could think of something better. With the lack of direction given I reckoned I would be groping through quite a few generations 'til something clicked. Well, as they say, who knew?! It was a one hit wonder!"
Wonder indeed. Released in 1985, the Mark Gonzales graphic was one of a distinct handful, including the first Mark "Gator" Rogowski, Psycho Stick, and Guardian models, that artistically defined Vision as a company throughout the '80s, and it was kept in production all the way up through 1989. The board went through various low-key changes along the way, but somehow managed to retain its overall basic shape*—probably because the other more "current" Gonzales boards fulfilled the innovative edge, whereas this one just continued to sell on the merits of its legacy alone.
The first-run Gonzales boards from 1985 are distinguished by having both front and rear wheel wells [the black and white boards shown above at left], and from what I've seen came in black, white, gray, yellow and, possibly, blue dips. However, in a quote he supplied for The Disposable Skateboard Bible, Mark claimed to have forced Vision to add the half-circular shape on the nose soon after the board was already in production. To date I have not run across any boards missing this graphic element, but it certainly does add a trivial level of mystery to the model. Anyway, the rear wheel wells were eventually dropped, but the pop-outs still remained in the graphic where they once resided [the black and yellow examples above].
In 1986, Vision added trademark insignias and copyright information to the graphic. (By the way, is it just me or is it weird for them to have trademarked Mark Gonzales' actual name? Even Powell-Peralta, a company that was near religious when it came to trademarking their property in the '80s, never once laid claim to its riders' names.) The artwork was also modified so that the missing rear wheel wells were no longer so boldly indicated [the stained board shown above at far right]. Soon thereafter, however, the front wheel wells disappeared, too, and the board was produced in a very wide variety of stains and paints [five examples shown below].
It wasn't until the kick-nose revolution came about in skateboarding, circa 1988 (or 1989 in the late case of Powell-Peralta), that the original Gonzales model received its first and only serious alteration: a slightly longer and significantly more upturned nose [four examples shown below].
Now for all I know this particular graphic may not have been formally retired from production until Mark quit Vision in '89, but he later appropriated it in 1993 for a somewhat controversial use at ATM Click and then much later on at Deluxe for a Real Skateboards series and Krooked model. Vision did resurface in 2002, though, with its first line of reissues, of which included the Gonzales graphic—albeit without his "trademarked" name (the words "the" and "original" were substituted in its rectangular places).
* The first Vision ad to announce the Mark Gonzales model, which appeared in the June 1985 issue of Thrasher, depicted a mock-up of the graphic on an incorrect board shape.