Call me a creative stick in the mud, but I've always been a big fan of graphic continuity. Not only does it make for a nice wall display many years later (okay, that's in extreme hindsight), but it primarily gives the pro rider a sense of place in skateboarding's geo-graphical landscape. For example, would Steve Caballero be what he is today without his staunch dragon lineage of the '80s? Or how about Tony Hawk without his forever screaming chicken skulls over two decades later? What if Jim Phillips had opted to render a pastoral Midwestern barnyard scene for Rob Roskopp's second pro model on Santa Cruz instead of further deconstructing the original bull's eye? And can you even begin to imagine a Dogtown without the iconic Cross emblem as its premier representative of hardcore family values?
I mean all you really have to do is witness what transpired in the '90s, as skateboard graphics went into maximum overdrive with imagery that became increasingly diverse and scattered as companies frantically chased sales instead of steadfastly tending to their visual mythology*. Almost everyone lost their identity on the racks amid a deluge of identically shaped popsicle products that either screamed in dissonance or fell into step-and-repeat patterns of hit-or-miss graphic series, and that's why boards from the '80s will always command much more sentimental respect than those of the latter day '90s ... all of which leads me to this second increasingly random retrospective look at the first few Vision board graphics of Mark "Gator" Rogowski.
For the moment, allow me to adopt the role of Uatu the Watcher (for those of you that may have spent a lot more time outside the house than I did as a kid, Uatu would be the big-headed, bald, extra-terrestrial dude in a toga created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the hey-day of Marvel Comics history) and play the What If...? game. So, on that foreboding note, what if Brad Dorfman, Greg Evans, and the entire Vision art department had simply chucked the swirl from Gator's first model to run with an altogether different graphic theme, maybe something even so base as a literal translation of his famous nickname? Would his board sales ultimately have suffered? Would Vision Street Wear not have become the insatiable monster that would eventually eat itself in a fit of overexposed, overblown, over everything rage? Would it have altered the very course of Gator's tragic history as we now know it? The world may never know—well, I mean, it won't, obviously, unless you want to get all Stephen Hawking about it—but it would make for a damn good episode of The Twilight Zone (for those of you that may have spent a lot more time in the mall than I have as an adult, The Twilight Zone is not to be confused with Hot Topic).
Anyway, fate and random pop-culture references of the ages be damned, Gator stuck to his rudimentary op-art origins at Vision with but a slight fractal twist, keeping his model and name readily identifiable on the shop racks and walls. This second Vision Gator deck was released in mid-1986 with one of its first production appearances on what would appear to be one of the earlier (if not earliest) Vision Street Wear advertisements placed in the October/November issue of Thrasher Magazine. The original version of this model features front wheel wells (on both dipped and stained boards) just before the little drum-sanded divots were phased out of popular manufacturing practice. This time around, however, the graphic was adjusted to fill the resulting void.
And it just wouldn't be a historical ode to Vision without a few colorful castaways from the screen shop, so here are two for good one-off measure [the reptilian and "scratch" models shown below].
* Inside joke.