I’m not the only person who hates it when celebrities have kids. Millions of people the world over are forced to endure artless, excruciating vanity projects aimed at children from the fertile minds of such luminaries as Julianne Moore, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Madonna, Peyton Manning, Jeff Foxworthy, Jerry Seinfeld, Brooke Shields, and Tim McGraw.
Even dear old Woody Allen made his first (and so far only) foray into animation: Antz, a movie I honestly can’t remember a single thing about even though I know for a fact that I once watched it.
When celebrities attempt to warp the minds of future fans, they usually choose the format of the picture book. A great picture book can have more cultural significance than a novel: think Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon. These books enter our psyches when when we are very young and they never leave. The next time you look away from your computer screen, notice every adult around you. They all know these books, and probably more.
So when a celebrity wants to cash in and maybe extend their fame to the next generation, they look to the angelic faces of babies. Look at ’em. They don’t know the crass commercialism that exists in our world. They are empty receptacles into which we can pour whatever intellectual garbage we want.
I read this great article on the explosion of celebrity children’s books and couldn’t agree more. Here’s a choice quote (WARNING: he is British):
If my theory holds true, it is scary, because it suggests that celebrities believe the hype about their own abilities. Worse, it implies a depth of public obsession about the famous that is even more extreme than we realise. It is one thing to want to know which celebrity is sleeping with which, who has fallen out with whom, the stuff and nonsense of tabloid prurience. But to want to listen in to the most intimate bedtime stories told by a celebrity to her or his child, irrespective of their worth, is bordering on the weird.
This is a long wind-up to talk about a celebrity whose children’s project is nothing short of brilliant. It isn’t a book or an album of lullabies; it’s a guest appearance on one of the most delightful cartoons on TV: David Bowie on SpongeBob SquarePants.
Somehow this was always meant to be. The surreal adventures of a dish sponge meld perfectly with David Bowie’s odd sensibility. Together they created “Atlantis SquarePants,” one of my favorite SpongeBob episodes.
SpongeBob and his friends ride a magical bus (YES) to the lost city of Atlantis. Bowie plays Lord Royal Highness, Atlantian ruler and self-appointed tour guide. One of the funniest jokes in the episode is that, while each character gets a song, Bowie sings not one word.
Another nice touch is that Bowie’s character looks strikingly similar to the Blue Meanies of Yellow Submarine.In all, the episode is 42 minutes and 31 seconds of non-pandering fun. There is no Special Message, there is no Big Idea. Just a good episode of a show that already proved its worth long ago. The next time any of you megastar celebrities decide to create something “for the children,” take heed: this is how it’s done. Let Bowie be your compass.
What you see here is my haul from this year’s Stumptown Comics Fest, the best darn comics convention this side of the Sandy River. Stumptown is my favorite comics festival because last year it was the first in which I exhibited. This year I was back with my new book See America First! and my first foray into the Five-Page Folded Comic (titled “A Special Message from Ernesto and the Cookie Monster”).
Unlike today, the weekend’s weather was beautiful: perfect comics weather. I was so happy to see the good people of Portland (and beyond) come out to see the plethora of comics available.
Of course the show would not have been the same without my talented table-mate Kenan Rubenstein. Aided by Girl Cate, Kenan showed us on the West Coast how comics are done Brooklyn Style (lightly grilled on one side, then tossed with leafy greens and cumin). He will someday be my editor, adviser, manager, agent, and lawyer, but for now we just split tables at comic conventions. His work is nuanced and pure, his foldies just keep getting better and better. One day he’ll put them all together and it will take hundreds of folds to open completely.
Fortunately, the color schemes we each chose for our table halves match; we had a decidedly nifty-looking table. It’s hard to stand out in a crowded comics fest, especially when some of the comic creators are girls.
By now you’re probably wondering what to take away from the overflow of talent emanating from the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel. Locals included Reid Psaltis, whose foldies are superb and whose new comic Carry On, Carrion is a laugh-and-a-half about the death of a bird (no, seriously). Aron Nels Steinke, who turned me on to the good folks at Pinball Publishing, had his book Neptune as well as the addictive ongoing series Big Plans. Greg Means had his anthology series Papercutter, which never fails to impress (if Saturday Night Live had the guests Greg manages to get, it would be super-awesome instead of merely super). The impeccably-dressed Theo Ellsworth, who was responsible for this year’s Stumptown poster, had prints as well as the Secret Acres-published book Capacity.
What would Stumptown be if it were not for the out-of-towners? Neil Brideau, from Chicago, gave me a sad, beautiful story called “I am in Love with You.” We looked into each other’s eyes for a moment when our fingers touched, but totally not in a gay way. The living, beating heart of comics, Alec Longstreth, flew in from his current outpost in Vermont to bring Phase 7 (including the story of Basewood) to the yearning masses.
I consider all cartoonists my friend, but some of them may be slightly freaked out by that bit of intimacy. A few cartoonists I met at Stumptown of whose work I am staunchly a fan included Raina Telgemeier, Steve Lieber, Graham Annable, Craig Thompson, Scott C, and Joey Sayers (whose story about the strange and twisted life of a comic strip is brilliant – read it in Papercutter #12).
My big news was that I am now officially sold out of my very first Falling Rock collection, Owl and Other Comics. It seems there are a lot of fans of both owls and Allen Ginsberg. I have noted this for future reference. For those of you with copies, time to sell ’em on ebay and make a fortune. I updated my Buy Books page to reflect the change in status. From here on out my “first” Falling Rock collection will be the Great Wave of Falling Rock. The comics contained therein marked a transition of pens for me as well as a honing of the Falling Rock characters we all hold so dear.
I need to stop blogging now so I can read some comics, then I need to stop reading comics so I can draw comics!
The first review of See America First! has been published, by no less than the venerable AV Club: COMICS PANEL April 23, 2010 (scroll down to find it). This is my second Chicago connection in a matter of weeks; my stock in the Windy City is apparently on the rise.A full recap of Stumptown Comics Fest is on the way! Stay tuned.
Kenan and I are partying like it’s Table 99.
Directions and relevant information HERE.