Bob Burden is one of the masters of surreal comics as the creator of the Flaming Carrot and the Mystery Men, the subject of the cult 1999 superhero film with Ben Stiller and William H. Macy, along with his award-winning writing on Gumby. Now he’s taking a look back at his work with Thrilling Visions Vol.2: Pandemoniu Blvd., a compilation of sketches, doodles, illustrations and more from throughout his career, along with personal anecdotes and recollections from this time. You can check out some of the preview drawings from the book on this blog, or watch a video of its 15 weirdest drawings on YouTube.
The hardcover collection, which featureds a unique jam cover by Burden and the late great Dave Stevens, creator of The Rocketeer, is being funded through a campaign on Kickstarter, which has already surpassed its initial goals. With the Kickstarter almost over, Burden spoke with us for a quick interview about what makes his project unique, the story behind its Dave Stevens cover, and more.
Newsarama: Bob, tell us a bit about Thrilling Visions Vol.2: Pandemonium Blvd. On the Kickstarter page, you talk about the book as an art-book and memoir, rather than a sketchbook. How is the format unique?
Bob Burden:This will have early stuff, and drawings all the way up to this decade. The first volume was a start and this will round it out. There’ll be never before new characters and comic ideas, a lot of surreal drawings, some hot chicks.
This book is about creativity. Surrealism. It’s about having fun. There’s memoirs. Anecdotes. Tutorials. Reflections. Epiphanies. All one or two pages, here and there. Just like in the first book.
I like to think of Pandemonium Blvd. as an art gallery showing inside a book – an art gallery with drawing rather than paintings and sculptures. Or, a gallery of artworks with the artist’s comments, descriptions and illuminations.
I think that my being a writer/artist is a major factor in how this book has turned out. It’s like a sketchbook, yes, in a way, but most sketchbooks have a lot of cool unfinished pencil drawings and doodles – from preliminary studies to later finished works of art. But for me, the sketches and doodles can be the finished work of art.
For me, the idea is as prominent as the drafting skills that are displayed. I propose that a doodle or sketch could easily be considered a finished work of art. Picasso’s art often had a sketchy, unfinished quality to it and that is true all the way up to someone like.
It’s not revolutionary. I based the format of my first book on the Szukalski art-books that Glen Bray published. He has a picture on one side and a drawing on the other.
Nrama:Why did you decide to fund this through Kickstarter?
Burden:Kickstarter is a real good system for me. Well, I can reach readers directly. They get the books directly from me and I think they like that. It’s efficiency of scale rather than economy of scale.
Kickstarter gives me a chance to reach my readers and fans directly, and that’s great. It delivers me the money I need to publish and produce more books a lot quicker. Also, I’m getting a lot of my old, cool stuff out there to the people with the incentives. I can give good deals to people, make them happy and till get more, with less trouble than if I put it on eBay.
By getting the money up front, I can put out a better product at a better price. It makes for a whole different ball game. And later on, I can sell it at shows and through Diamond. But without Kickstarter, there’d be nothing at shows.
I always liked the small press limited signed-and-numbered deal kind of format. The first Flaming Carrot #1 was serial-numbered – all 6,500 of them. But now, in the digital age with ebooks, it’s more relevant than ever. I’m saying that books will never go away – they are evolving, maybe. I love books. And it’s fun and easy to read on an IPad.
Nrama: You've reached your initial goals on Kickstarter, but do you have any particular plans for a stretch goal? What are some of the benefits of the book receiving additional funding?
Burden: Actually, I need all the money I can get. I have enough to publish Pandemonium, but also, right now I’m financing my dream project. Hit Man for the Dead. Check it out at www.hitmanforthedead.com. That site quick-links to a neat, little video we threw together before San Diego Comic-Con. I have Andrew Robinson working on it, and I’m bankrolling his art out of my own pocket.
Nrama:One of the big things of the book is the lost Dave Stevens cover – a great artist and a great guy, and someone whose work and characters have received renewed respect since his passing. Tell us a bit about this cover and how it came about -- and possibly share a story about Dave if you can.
Burden: I think it was at Dallas or San Diego Comic-Con. Well, Dave and I and Bob Chapman of Graphitti Designs and John Koukasakis were sitting around in the bar after the show that day. I think we were waiting for someone to come down, and we were all going go out and eat dinner. I was drawing up some art for the next day – to sell at the show, ya know – and Dave’s sitting there, and I drew a real hot space lady, rocketship girl. And I put the works into it. I was going to impress Dave, I guess.
So I show it to him: “Dave, whaddaya think? How ‘bout that?” And he smiled and grabbed it out of my hand, and began tweaking it. Now, I’d spent about 10 or 12 minutes on it, myself. But about a minute later, Dave hands it back to me and – wow – this thing looks great. Un- efffing- believable. I mean I could have worked on that drawing for the rest of the night, and it would have never looked that good. It was like watching Zorro or Bruce Lee. That guy was good. That was a Salieri moment for me, and it was like seeing Wolfgant Amadeus Mozart at work.
Nrama: So, how did you get started with all this weirdness?
Burden: I’ve always loved comics storytelling. It’s the hottest medium. It’s the most immediate medium. You can get an idea, and, boom – as a cartoonist, it’s down on a napkin ten seconds later. Whereas, a movie might take a year, or a book six months to get it across.
I was a comic book fanatic as a kid, but also cartoons fascinated me. Yes. But don’t get me wrong: I loved comics too. They were my first love. I still have runs of Plastic Man, Popeye and Captain Marvel Adventures from the ‘40s and 5’0s. Kirby’s Fighting American I still have the first Spider-Man appearance in Amazing Fantasy #5 I bought off the stands as a kid. But the gag writers I liked were Gahan Wilson, Charles Addams, George Price and a guy named T. S. Sullivant. When I was really young I went on a Dennis The Menace kick and had about ten paperback collections of his cartoons.”
And from there, I started drawing.You just want to say “hey, here I am!” or “I was here!” When I was like five, I wrote my name on my parent’s bedroom furniture. And Zorro too. I caught hell for that. (laughs)
Support Bob Burden’s Thrilling Visions as his Kickstarter campaign comes to a close.