In the 1970s, Rey was a dropout from Neil Armstrong High School in Plymouth, with a goal of staying as stoned as humanly possible. At 15, he began hitting clubs and dealing pot, "not to make money," he says, "but just to keep myself in pot." He went to shows by the Hypstrz, the Suicide Commandos, the Suburbs, and other legendary local bands at the Longhorn, and he remains friends with Hypstrz singer Bill Batson to this day. Listen closely to Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert, the first release from Twin/Tone Records, and you'll hear Rey screaming, "Commandos are God!" between tracks on side two. "I was a blasphemist even then," he says.
At age 27, Rey's pot cloud lifted, and he wondered where his life had gone. Without skills or education, he began examining his lifelong obsession with comic books to see if it might yield a meaningful job. Having given up drawing as a kid, he started from scratch. "I basically had to relearn to draw," he says.
While working a warehouse job and keeping a paper route, Rey labored on art for 30 hours a week—a habit he kept up for years. He eventually grew confident enough to produce his own DIY comics, publishing family-friendly superhero and fantasy titles on his Kidgang Comics line. After Big Monster Fight (priced at $2.50) sold poorly in the mid-'90s, he introduced Minneapolis Free Comic in 1999, which pitted Santa against a space pirate. "Mr. Gnirk!" cried St. Nick, objecting to an outburst of @*%#. "It's that kind of language that sullies the reputation of all sailors!!" (Years later, Santa would be ejaculating snowflakes on the Crimson Gash's face.)
Desperate for paying work in comic books, Rey eventually sent a sample to Eros with a note offering to do sex comics, something he'd never tried before. Two years later, he got a call from an editor. He's been drawing smut ever since, appearing at comics conventions in the wrestling mask he dons in his stories when erasing the fourth wall. (Though hardly bashful, he prefers anonymity—or at least "deniability.") By coincidence, he took "Sandez Rey" as a pseudonym before getting into porn, after discovering that another artist who shares his real name was drawing comics with fuzzy creatures having sex. "What kind of introverted 300-pound guy sitting in his mother's basement reads porn with furry animals?" says Rey.
Rey's wife doesn't read his comics, and never has. "She and I are not exactly a matched set of twins," says Rey. "She's black, I'm white. She's from St. Paul, I'm from Minneapolis. She has a responsible job for the city that you can't mention. I have always eschewed responsible jobs."
His kids haven't seen his work, either. "My room has a lock on it, and I work on it after they go to bed," says Rey. "My rule of thumb is that they will have to wait until they're 18 to see it. I know full well that they'll find some way of sneaking a look before then. But the great thing about this rule is I won't have to talk to them about it when they do."
According to Rey, his sister is an acclaimed maker of Catholic art, and he also has a close family member who is gay. Which makes you wonder what either would think of comics such as 2003's Rear Entry #2, in which Jesus and the Holy Ghost ("H.G.") urge wholesome, clean-talking Santa to sodomize the Crimson Gash, as God spaketh, "Just don't wear a condom. I hate that." (For balance, Rey has also rendered the Gash giving Satan head, an occasion that prompts the heroine to ask: "Did I put a tape in for Smackdown? I think so. I need beer...and gas.")
Rey says he is a Lutheran-raised atheist, but extols the focusing virtues of prayer, and joins in when his wife and kids say grace at the table. His religious irreverence might express the same spirit that possesses him to defrock, say, a stand-in for Mary Poppins: He's messing with Jesus because it's another icon that begs to be messed with. "Your dick in my mouth?" demands Summer, Gash's sidekick, when she meets the Son of God in person. "Yes or no, hippie?" (As she goes down, Jesus hilariously thinks to himself, "Don't read her mind don't read her mind don't read her mind.")
Usually, when Rey's comics express an opinion, it's with deflating self-mockery, as when the Gash confronts anti-porn picketers: "'Pornography is violence against women'—my ass!" she cries, before committing violence against women. Rather than signaling some political view, Rey's "Mayor" of Minneapolis (a recurring Gash character) is a perma-drunk tribute to The Dean Martin Show. His ethnic slur of an opposing candidate during a debate lacks any real sting:
"You are a 'Mick.' Or do you prefer to be called a 'Patrick'?"
"Are ye making fun of me, then?"
"Now, ye drunken bastard!!"
"I can't now. I've got this debate."
Rey calls his art "a mess," and has the evident impulse to overwrite. His dense texts are like roadblocks in the middle of ostensibly utilitarian, fetish-themed Eros stroke-books such as Head, Rear Entry, Dildo, and Pee Soup. (These group compilations are uniformly black and white except Pee Soup, which contains splashes of yellow.) The clean lines of Rey's drawings, and his loving eye for detail, recall the busy sleaze of '60s underground hero Spain Rodriguez. But Rey's flair for the surreal and iconic reminds me of punk-associated artists such as Robert Williams and Raymond Pettibon. And Rey's drawing room is filled with clues to other influences: original art on the wall by Flash Gordon master Bob Fuji and local cartoonist Chaz Truog, stacks of Mexican sex comics, a Polaroid of Rey with wrestler Rob Van Dam.