Crazy Bob, or Bob, as everyone calls him, talks to his appliances, his car, his furniture, even his food. And they talk back. It's an uneasy relationship at best, but one we can all relate to. Right? Hey, I wasn't talking to you!
Ok, I admit it: Crazy Bob is autobiographical. Though I don't actually hear voices, I am convinced that machines, plants and assorted consumer goods conspire to make life on Earth frustrating. If there's another explanation for The Way Things Won't Work, I'd like to hear it.
That is the foundation of Crazy Bob. The first Bob cartoon formed in my sketchbook about 1975, as a single panel gag, simply a picture of a wild-eyed guy in his living room with his furniture taunting him. Subsequent short cartoons were not too different, until I realized that a hamburger would scream if you bit into it; this opened the door to much richer humor. But as a dumb little teenager, my life experience was largely confined to furniture and food and school, and the Bob well seemed to run dry pretty quick.
Many years later, as I shopped my portfolio of cartoons around, it was always Bob that got the biggest laughs; it seemed everybody could identify with Bob's paranoia. But I resisted the suggestion that more strips should be created, because I couldn't find more angles on the theme and hate cartoonists who tell the same joke over and over and over (are you reading this, Jim Davis?). It turned out that I just needed a few more years experience to visualize the rich tapestry of aggravation, frustration and inability to control one's destiny that IS life.
Writing Bobs is still not easy; it helps to have recently experienced some sort of equipment or lifestyle failure. There IS an internal logic to Bob; I won't just stick in random word balloons with insults, the voices are intelligent and try to lure Bob into making bad judgments or taunt him when he's cranky or sleepy. You will never see an appliance ask Bob "hey, who farted?". That's Disney's job. There are rules in Bob's world about what talks and what doesn't, but laying them out would spoil many of the punch lines of the longer stories. In addition, I think it should be up to the reader to decide for themselves whether the voices are real or imagined by Bob. I KNOW what I think, but for the comic to work properly, this issue will never be resolved in print.
The greatest compliment ever paid to me about Bob was by Ken Donnell, who said that Bob could be "our generation's Charlie Brown". I had not seen the connection until he mentioned it. But looking back at the early Peanuts, where Charlie is often referred to as failure-face, and is constantly harassed by kite-eating-trees and footballs, I understood the comparison and felt doubly honored. There is a long tradition in comedy of Decent Guys Who Can't Get A Break, from Charlie Chaplin to Charlie Brown and I like to think of Bob as a modern world addition to the lineup, incorporating the paranoia, isolationism and frustration with technology that the last twenty years have brought us.
The Crazy Bob comic sold so poorly--both due to bad distribution and the proliferation of anatomically impossible superheroes--that no Bob strip had been created since their publication. Last year, and very briefly, Brian Bollom offered to host a Crazy bob website and I heartily agreed. I created the first new Bob cartoon in years, in the computer of all things. It's available, along with other clips, in the gallery that follows. Brians Crazy Bob site has since disappeared, but the work he encouraged lives on...
Writing this latest strip brought to my attention a new problem that I have to try to work around when conceiving Bobs, and it's a toughie. In the past ten years, appliances have actually begun to talk. My mac never shuts up, and there exists in the market today talking coffee makers, giggling Elmos and singing potted plants. This is only going to get worse. In another ten years, someone who announces "my refrigerator called me a sadistic butcher this morning" may not even raise an eyebrow. The attempts of comics syndicates to create toons for tech-heads has resulted in plenty of strips about computers with personalities and voices, so don't expect a Crazy Bob computer cartoon any time soon.