70 million rats
Paul Daniel Lyon, a.k.a. Vickers Gringo (1978-2010), was a multi-media and performance artist in New York City. “Vics,” as he came to be called by friends, worked in an artistic integration of media, including video, graphic art, cartooning, animation, and music. Vickers named his professional website www.70millionrats.com, after the title of his comic series "70 Million Rats," which he began drawing and publishing in 1998. That site will soon be defunct, replaced here by www.seventymillionrats.com as a tribute to and also continuation of Vickers' enormous life passion and artistic work. Regular updates about shows, availability of art and ecordings, and the Alfred University endowed art scholarship in his name will be posted on the News and other pages on this site, which has been developed by the Paul "Vickers" Lyon Art Estate, his family and friends.
"Vics" was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to parents who were writers and academics. His parents would divorce, and he would be raised by his mother first in the San Francisco Bay Area, and then New York City, where the family moved when he was 13. He also spent a year living in Paris and Brittany with his mother (a college professor) in 1990, where he first studied art and toured archeological sites. These adolescent travels and much time spent in the Louvre and other Parisian museums helped develop the Vic's love of art history as well as the making of art.
From the time the young Paul Daniel held a pencil, he was drawing exquisite and philosophically intriguing comics. Some of his extant juvenilia includes a series entitled "Man Was Better Off Furry," from 1992 (when he was in middle school), and the earlier "book" (unpublished," entitled "Sea-Cowboy," whose Chapter 1 was called "Born as a Boy, Raised like a Fish"). He amused, engaged, impressed and illuminated friends, parents, and extended family with his original and often radical visions of the world set forth through comic characters, including a toad named Morgan, and a later series based on Morgan's exploits entitled "Toads in Space." Some of these works are available in the Vickers Archive and continue to delight people who pour through this gifted child's work.
Vickers also sang with his musical family members, studied Suzuki violin at 9, impressing audiences at school and community events in Palo Alto, California where he lived from age 7 to 13, with his perfect pitch and talents. By the time he was 15, and living in New York, Vickers taught himself to play guitar. He never read music, but he had perfect pitch as a singer from a very young age. By late 1992 and then residing in NYC-Manhattan for over a year, he was accepted to LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts in both music and visual art. He would then continue his multi-media art studies on a scholarship at 18, at the Alfred University School of Art and Design.
It was in the early years at Alfred that he invented the "Vickers" cartoon character, inventing a bizarrely humorous alter-ego identity. This character would come to dominate his artist books and comic narratives alike. While in art school, however, he studied multi-media visual art forms in general, focusing on the video arts under Professor Peer Bode, as well as sound design under Professor Andrew Deutch. Vickers flourished as an artist in the tight-knit if bohemian arts community of Alfred, with its rambling studios in remote Upstate New York that allowed him to explore the plastic as well as multi-media electronic arts with top-notch artist-faculty. Competing against some of the best young artists in many media in the state of New York, Vickers would win the faculty juried Alfred Senior Art Award when he graduated with a B.A. in Art in 2000.
Under the pseudonym “Vickers Gringo,” he began publishing his cartoon series “70 Million Rats” while he still a college art student. He would become a regular cover artist for The New York Waste, the East Village monthly targeting the edgy arts and music scene in the Downtown and greater New York City region. “Vickers” became a regular cover artist for and contributor to The Waste during the next decade. An anthology, The Best of 70 Million Rats, was published by Zaza Graphics.
Paul “Vickers” Lyon, as he came to call himself professionally, was an accomplished rock musician as well as cartoon artist, who worked as a video editor as a living. As a rock musician, Vickers first founded a band called The Original Tough Guy Syndrome while still a college student at Alfred. This performance rock group critiqued as well as re-incorporated forms of cultural masculinity into its stage routines, and for a time was renamed The Bronze before permanently called The Deuce & a Quarter (named for a grandfather’s Buick). In various group incarnations and for more than a decade, Vickers performed in The Deuce & a Quarter as lead guitarist, vocalist, as well as its lead songwriter. Taking a break from The Deuce in 2006-2008, Vickers was part of a two-man duo with singer-keyboardist Dr. Rosen Rosen, called The Handsome Public (2005-2008), which toured Iceland as part of the Icelandic Airwaves Festival and the U.K. in 2008.
Vickers' video art became a mainstay to any "Vics’" musical performances, several of which are available on this website though YouTube. And Vickers’s narrative video short features have been featured in a number of New York area film festivals. Performing main characters in his own zany art-video scripts, Vickers would become sought out as an actor. Some of his best acting work was achieved with directors Raygun Thomas and Bob Giraldi. Vickers also edited music videos for other rock bands that appear on MTV and YouTube, and occasionally performed in these videos, as in the Hatebreed’s “Thirsty and Miserable” video, in which he represents the band as a disenfranchised corporate employee kicking off for the day and having a wild time.
Vickers last music video, “Big Rig,” made for The Deuce & a Quarter, was completed by band members and the video-editor and musician Ian Hudgins. It is available on YouTube and is featured here (ABOVE) along with other videos and images from that band.
Vickers passed away suddenly from undiagnosed heart disease in his Brooklyn, NY, apartment on August 8, 2010, and was buried in the Woodstock, New York, historic artist's cemetery, where many other gifted musicians, writers, and visual artists have been laid to rest. His copious video and other art works have been preserved in the Vickers Archive, a 10 x 10 cedar-wood structure in the forest of Woodstock, which is both a shrine surrounded by beautiful summer gardens and an active working studio open by appointment to those interested in further exploring Vic's work (see contact page). A scholarship recently endowed in his honor has been established at the Alfred School of Art and Design, and which will be distributed to a deserving multi-media art student beginning fall of 2016.