Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Hey! I KNOW That Aardvark!

Hi, Everybody!

And welcome to the first entry in AMOC's newest semi-regular feature: Hey! I KNOW that aardvark!

Today's entry: Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson

It's for sale if you're interested...
So, I reached out to Mr. Robinson with my questions, and it went like this:
AMOC: Why THIS aardvark? 
Alex Robinson: I'm not really sure what this one means. If it helps, I also liked the aardvark in those "Ant & the Aardvark" cartoons.
Box Office Poison Page 11 (Now I want a Cerebus head shirt...)
AMOC: How did you first find our aardvark?
Alex Robinson: I'd been reading superhero comics for a few years and was starting to expand my horizons and explore "indy"comics, as they were known at the time. I read an article about Cerebus in a short-lived magazine called "Comics Collector," which was I believe put out by Don & Maggie from the CBG, and it sounded intriguing. My first issue was #65, which was also Gerhard's first issue and features the title "Anything Done for the First Time Unleashes a Demon," appropriately. This would've been 1983 or 84 I'm guessing. 
Box Office Poison page 51 (Cerebus behind Stephen. Best costume at the party, hands down.)
AMOC: Thoughts on Dave or the series?
Alex Robinson: The series is brilliant, at least the first two thirds of it. It's such a strange, unique work that it's worth checking out just for that, but the cartooning is fantastic and had a huge impact on my own work. Even the parts that aren't "good" are at least weird enough to be interesting. I think it kind of runs off the rails as it goes on and Dave Sim's politics and personal interests start taking precedence over compelling storytelling or characterization but up until the end he and Gerhard continued to push the envelope in terms of cartooning. 
I've met Dave Sim a few times over the decades and he was always decent to me and his encouragement meant a lot of me during my own early years of bitter struggle. I disagree with a lot of his opinions but it's his life. I have a hard time being critical of him because he was such an important figure to me when I was a teenager, almost an absentee mentor. One irony is that the first time I read issue #186, the proverbial smoking gun of Dave Sim's misogyny, I didn't even notice it because the text pieces had gotten so dense and esoteric that I'd started skimming them. Since this was before the internet I only learned about it months later. I guess I'm tolerant of his views because they're so extreme (women can read minds, the ongoing struggle between God and YooHoo, for instance) that even most hardcore misogynists would find them puzzling. Plus, he's so marginalized at this point that it's hard to see his views as any kind of threat. 
It's sad that his illnesses have stopped him from being able to draw anymore. 
Box Office Poison page 58 (Elrod and Lord Julius? Best. Party. Ever!)
AMOC: Would you still use Cerebus if you were doing the work for the first time, now?
Alex Robinson:  I'll still work Cerebus into a drawing occasionally. As time has gone on I've generally put less jokey gags in the backgrounds so that's probably a bigger factor in not putting him in than anything else. I still doodle Cerebus all the time. The other day actually, it occurred to me that I've probably drawn him more than any other character I didn't create and probably more than many I did create. I picked up the habit in high school and he's still my absent-minded doodle of choice. 

Box Office Poison page 229 (Now we know what happened to Cerebus' sword after Reads...)
AMOC: Jaka or Sophia?
Alex Robinson:  Sophia. For one thing, Sophia was a prominent character when I first started reading so she'll always have a special place in my heart. Also, I never really liked Jaka as a character. Her early appearances worked because she was almost more of a symbol than a genuine character--she would show up, there would be feelings and she'd leave. I was fascinated by the fact that Dave Sim seems to have put her in the book in the last third because it was what the audience and Cerebus wanted. I found it interesting because Dave Sim was famous for his stubborn independence so why is he suddenly letting us (and Cerebus) call the shots? Also, since she didn't really have much of an established character she took on all the aspects of womanhood that Dave Sim had contempt for--shallow, self-centered, etc. which made it less fun to read.
Box Office Poison page 526, (Check out the second guy from the left in the last row.)
AMOC: Thanks for answering. Wait, that’s not a question…
Alex Robinson:  Let me know if you have any other questions!
Box Office Poison page 325 (No Aardvark, I know, but I do own the original of this page, and wanna brag...)
So there you have it.

I'd like to extend a HUGE thanks to Alex Robinson for taking the time to answer my stupid questions, and for letting me run images from Box Office Poison, THANKS ALEX!

If you've read Box Office Poison, or if you're gonna read Box Office Poison, don't be surprised if you find yourself saying, "Hey! I KNOW that aardvark!"

If you've found our Aardvark in a comic, send a message to momentofcerebus@gmail.com, and you might get credited in a future installment of: Hey! I KNOW that aardvark!

Next time: Images of Cerebus, I almost guarantee it...


Carson Grubaugh said...

This is a great feature!

Anonymous said...

I agree, nicely done. It's good to hear other comic professionals discuss the comic.

A Fake Name

David Birdsong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Dunlop said...

Well, the question was "Thoughts on Dave or the series?" Since sex/gender issues are a major theme of the whole thing, especially the last half, I don't see how someone could answer that without at least mentioning Dave's views. Lots of people find those views repellent, and there's nothing wrong with their saying so.

Jeff said...

Thank you, David. I would have said it, but I probably would have been censored by the high muckety-muck who still lurks here, somewhere.