Monsters are always among our top-selling designs. Not so much your typical horror movie monsters, but the Rat Fink style monsters made famous by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
You never heard of Ed Roth or Rat Fink? That's a big surprise if you are into the Hot Rod/Kustom Motorcycle Kulture scene. I guess it's time to school you folks. We here at Lethal Threat are happy to provide you this brief biography of a towering pop art genius often overlooked by the mainstream media.
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was an artist, cartoonist, illustrator and custom car designer and builder in Southern California who created the hot rod icon Rat Fink and other monster characters. During the late 1950s, with the increasing worldwide popularity of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom, Ed Roth saw that things were not so wonderful for everybody in the U.S. as Disney's funny and fun-loving characters may have suggested. The depiction of a perfect life and happy family enjoying all things Disney inspired Roth to come up with his anti-hero to Mickey Mouse, Rat Fink.
If you were born on the wrong side of the tracks and life was not a bowl of cherries, Rat Fink, was for you. Rat Fink is usually portrayed as either green or gray, comically grotesque and depraved-looking.
This large, overweight rat has bulging, bloodshot eyes and an oversized mouth lined with sharp narrow teeth. He is wearing red overalls with the initials "R.F." on them. He is often depicted as driving cars or motorcycles.
In the late 1950s, Roth began airbrushing and selling weirdo T-shirts at car events across California. Along with Rat Fink, Roth created a series of other weirdo style monsters that became popular in the Hot Rod scene.
All these years later, Roth's designs and influence are still here today in the Hot Rod and Kustom Kulture world. Big Daddy died in 2001, leaving the rights to his famous characters and creations to his last wife.
Since Ed's death, an annual Big Daddy Roth open house has been held at Manti, Utah, on a day near the anniversary of his death. A museum his wife created hosts the party as a tribute to her late husband and his amazing artwork.
Now you know the story of Big Daddy Roth and the fabulous creatures he created. It is part of Big Daddy's creative genius that these outlandish, colorful critters are intimidating yet somehow reassuring at the same time. They are creepy yet funny and fun at the same time.
When you see a Rat Fink motorcycle decal or hot rod design detail, take a moment to think about Big Daddy and his creative contributions to the Kustom Kulture and Hot Rod lifestyle. You will also notice designs inspired by Big Daddy's original ways in patches, on T-shirts and many other media. Many artists today owe a debt to this pioneer of offbeat art.
Big Daddy's genius will be sorely missed, but his art will live forever or for as long as his fans respect and appreciate his contributions to pop culture. In his way, Big Daddy was as much of a giant of the art scene as Andy Warhol and other pop art artists.
At our Lethal Threat office, we have a collection of all things Rat Fink. Check out our embroidered monster work shirts and decals inspired by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.