John Lucero: “It was gonna get made, but last-minute Pushead fever hit”

lucero_portrait1

Do you respect paper? If so, you’ll prefer to see what this page actually looked like in the mag.

John Lucero and board graphics go way baaack, before even he started Lucero Limited, that was going to become Black Label. Before even team-hoping through the ’80s between G&S, Variflex (twice), Zorlac, Santa Cruz, Madrid and Schmitt Stix, the eminent member of the La Mirada Rad Cats -the local crew complete with a logo arranged a la Dogtown cross- was already drawing logos on stickers in high school for his imaginary board companies such as Hot Sticks, sometimes handing them to pros at contests, only to see them displayed under their boards in magazines.
The real deal came later, when Lucero started skating for Madrid and got a job screen-printing decks at their warehouse. “They had this tiny factory,” he remembers, “the guys were like, we’re silk screening Suicidal Skates today. When I lifted that screen, it felt so cool. I actually stashed one away and kept it.” Besides, whose art got more tattoed on skaters’ skins in the past 25 years? And so on.
There could be a million other examples to illustrate a very simple point: street-skating pioneer John Lucero and memorable board graphics just go hand in hand. Here are only five from the boxes and boxes he had to pile up on the Black labels’ warehouse floor to do this thing.

DSC_6709Variflex Skull and Bat Wings board (1983)
Art by John Lucero

“This one is a prototype, it never came out. I hand drew and painted five of them, two which I kept, and three of them went to trade shows for Variflex to show. There weren’t a lot of skull graphics at the time yet, but I guess for this particular trade show Pushead had drawn some graphics for Zorlac, the John Gibson graphic, and it became all the rage.

When the Variflex dudes came back, they said, ‘Pushead graphics are what we need.’ I knew Pushead, so I called him and asked him if he wanted to do my board, but he couldn’t cause he was doing all the stuff for Zorlac. He gave me his buddy XNO’s number though, which led to my actual first pro-model, the Bondage Chick board.

It’s funny to think that if they hadn’t seen the Pushead stuff at this tradeshow they probably would have gone with this one. It was gonna get made, but last-minute Pushead fever hit. I really thought after that that my graphics weren’t good enough to be on skateboards.”

DSC_6711Variflex Bondage Chick board (1984)
Art by XNO

“When Pushead told me he couldn’t do my board, he was like ‘You know what though? I have a friend in Tennesse named XNO, he can draw some of the craziest graphics for you.’ He gave me his number, Chet Darmstadtler is his name, and he sent me a bunch of comic books and zines that he was doing. When I got them I was blown away.

I sent him a template of the board with where the holes for the trucks are, he drew all this kinda punk bondage, really weird dark stuff, always guys chained down. I said, ‘Hey man, I like what you do, how about a bondage chick on top of this guy?’ He just came up with it and it looked awesome.

Variflex went for it, they made about 200 of the first round and sent them out. A lot of the stores sent them right back. They said it was the most disgusting graphic they’ve ever seen, please take it back. That was that, probably only 400 of them were done.”

DSC_6713Madrid Jester board (1984)
Art by John Lucero

“At the Huntington beach contest that year, I got third place and ran into Jerry Madrid, he knew us cause he grew up pretty much in the same town I grew up in. He was down to make me the board that Santa Cruz, where I went after Variflex, never would. This one is the first production board that I got to draw my own graphics for.

At the time, I was influenced mainly by punk music, and always liked just demonic kinda joker guys. The only thing that didn’t come out the way I wanted on it is that I wanted a fluorescent pink board. And Jerry couldn’t quite get it to work. He came up with the bright green board, which worked, then we got a few runs of this lavender purple color.

I wanted fluorescent real bad cause it was the ’80s and I’d shop in Hollywood and buy fluoresecnt socks. All the stuff that was coming out of England, they had this stores called Posers and Let It Rock. It was awful shit too, man, but it was something different. Check me out, I’m glowing, you know what I mean?”

DSC_6718Schmitt Stix OG Bars board (1985)
Art by John Lucero

“After a while, there was no real reason to leave Madrid, but I just wanted to skate for Schmitt Stix. I got the opportunity and even got a job at the Vision art department, where I did my own graphics plus other skaters’, like the Baby Doll Blocks board for Jeff Grosso, or the Mad Scientist board for Kevin Staab, plus a lot of the Vision Blur ads.

Anyway, when time came to do my board on Schmitt Stix, I didn’t look much further than a sticker I had on that little drawer thing I had my TV on. When I was a kid I got it from a box of Trix breakfast cereals, it had this little guy behind bars and it said “dungeon”. I thought that that could look hot on a board. So I redrew it, it’s basically the same thing, and instead of “dungeon” I wrote my name.

People have made up all sort of interpretations of it but most of my graphics I do cause it looks cool, or fun, or funny and that’s it. Later on, I did a second version of this one, with the Joker coming out of the same bars. This one was a jab at Jerry Madrid cause the year after I left him, he redid my Joker board, but with “X Team rider” written instead of my name!”

DSC_6715Lucero Ltd Thumbhead board (1990)
Art by John Lucero

“I was at my friend’s John Grigley, and he had a postcard from this movie Children Of the Damned, there’s all these little kids with no eyes in it, right? And there’s four kids in this postcard, and this guy was in the back kinda, so he was on the top of the postcard and his head was cut off.

We just thought he was funny so we Xeroxed him a couple of times, it got kind of more blown-out like that, and then we just started drawing a bunch of different heads on him. Grigley drew a big, square head, I drew this one, the thumbhead ! Actually, he was on another board. Before he got his own board he was on the nose of a board with racing stripes I put out.”

9 Responses to “John Lucero: “It was gonna get made, but last-minute Pushead fever hit””


  1. 1 Garrett gallegos December 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    My first board was a shmitt stix. I could have sworn a Lucero deck. All it had was a big peace sign on the bottom. I can’t find it anywhere on the net. Please help

  2. 2 sebcarayol December 19, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I think you might be talking about this one?

  3. 3 RyGar March 21, 2010 at 6:48 am

    The prize piece in my (not so great) deck collection is a S.S. “OG Bars” Lucero model. I’m pretty sure that it was set-up and owned by him originally. The griptape has a painted version of the peace sign/flames logo that would come on his later model, and the word BEER. Also Vision Street Wear and Thunder trucks stickers on the top. The bottom graphic is mostly intact, due to the rails. There is some weird semi-circular grooving on the nose of the deck that seems intentional. Probably for better grip on nose grab variations. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to try and get Lucero to authenticate it as his own. Great site.

  4. 5 paintpyro April 16, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I went to La Mirada High School after John graduated and spent plenty of time silkscreening in the art room. One of the screens that we stored had a ghost image of the black outline from the Madrid Jester graphic. Always kept it stashed so it didnt get messed up. Not sure if it was one Lucero made in class or not.

  5. 6 SteveCain September 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I’m selling a purple Madrid Jester if anyone is looking.
    This isn’t a reissue, it isn’t an X-Teamrider, it’s the clasic 1984 model.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/170692611854?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

  6. 7 Steve December 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    I’ve been looking for a O G bars board for ever . I wish they would rerelease it. It was my first sk8 . It was purple and had the meanest tail. If u know of any where to get one let me know please. This board would sell more now than back in the 80s . I’m just saying ill take two one to sk8 one for the wall . Thanks mendo

    • 8 Rafael August 5, 2013 at 3:10 am

      Steve — I have an original purple OG with neon setup (on Trackers and Crossbones)! Let me know if you’re still interested in locating one.


  1. 1 JOHN LUCERO’S “JESTER” GRAPHIC SERIES | WeBringJustice's Blog Trackback on January 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

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Le boardnographe du phonographe

This is an archive for my eponymous monthly page in Skateboarder mag. Plus a few extras few and far between, whenever I get a chance...
Absolutely shameless, unrated boardnography, exposed! -minus the Ebay guilt. Enjoy the visite...

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Memory Screened Inc. and subsidiaries' CEO

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