|Written by Kevin Johns|
|Wednesday, 30 April 2008 19:00|
Launched a mere nine months ago, Joshua Cicerone’s webcomic Bob Hates Andy has quickly become an internet sensation, so much so that Rolling Stone recently placed the comic as #6 on their top ten “best in TV, the web, books and beyond” list. The comic is presented in monthly “episodes” that feature conversations between music legend Bob Dylan and pop art phenomenon Andy Warhol. Cicerone uses the comics not only to send up these visionary artists’ public personas, but also to explore relevant issues in contemporary culture.
It is a work of contrasts. Dylan’s metaphysics smash up against Warhol’s realism, Dylan’s earthy sexuality with Warhol’s sterile modernity, Dylan’s timelessness with Warhol’s awareness of the here and now. Each episode gives the reader a unique opportunity to eavesdrop in on a conversation between these two mythic figures… and, oh yeah, it’s also hilarious. Joshua shared his thoughts on Bob, Andy and the comic itself with (Cult)ure’s Kevin Johns.
(Cult)ure: The lore regarding Dylan's use of a Warhol painting as a dart board and/or trading it away for a couch, as well as his belief that Warhol was in some way responsible for Edie Sedgwick’s drug use, is well known. Were those stories the origins of the strip?
There seems to be a real resurgence of interest in Bob Dylan as of late. With rave reviews for Dylan's Modern Times and Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, the Newport film The Other Side of the Mirror finally being released, and now your webcomic, it seems Dylan is everywhere… Why do you think that is?
He’s the man. He’s this true and timeless minstrel, yet he belongs to our time. I thought I’m Not There was a brilliant study of his mythology. He’s constantly relevant, mysterious and somehow above self-destruction. He is a living symbol of everything he’s created, and yet he stands defiantly outside of it all. America loves that.
Can you tell me a bit about your art style?
Are there graphic novelists or cartoonists that have influenced your BHA style?
Not really. I am a big fan of some old-school titles: Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Ted McKeever’s Metropol, but BHA was really a big accident.
Sure. Andy values fashion and friendship… he’s the life of the party. Bob is self-aware and cranky to a fault. In a way, they’re warring sides of my own psyche. I’m a cynical New Yorker. I’m lucky enough to attend all kinds of cool parties and events, and I’m the first one to be disgusted by all the self-promotion and pretense. Andy is like the average person in that he’s just living life without worrying too much about the philosophy of it all. Bob’s a curmudgeon, but he’s still going to the parties.
I can’t help but see these guys as towers of cultural significance. I love Dylan the musician. I live by Warhol’s conceptual revelations. But both artists transcended their craft. They’re modern archetypes of genius. I approach them as extreme models of the modern, liberal, volatile, urban intellectual perspective. I definitely look at them as cultural dialogues.
I knew I wanted to keep things simple. I started with the title font, “Cooper BlkHd BT”. Bob’s voice is in the same family, “Cooper Md BT”. It sets the bias. Andy had to have a total outsider’s voice. His font is “ArabBruD” and it reminds me of the handwritten letters from old Marvel comics. Come to think of it, it’s probably very similar to the font on a lot of Lichtenstein’s stuff.
I’ve only got two characters. Andy can’t be simple. He might be shallow or willfully ignorant, but he’s also wealthy and talented and having one hell of a time. Sometimes he makes a good point. All the more reason for Bob to hate him.
I have a small group of friends that are in on my process, and the first thing I say to them when I finish an episode is “Well, I don’t think it’s funny, but it’s done.” My own sense of humor is pretty dark. Anger, depression and pathos strike a chord for me, and I wasn’t ever sure that others would hear that. I’m finding out otherwise.
I can’t believe how many people never read Nine Stories! I’m 32. It’s not like I’m this old literary geezer, but I do feel connected to history through art and literature. Writing that first episode, I decided my audience would be people who got the Bananafish reference. But almost nobody did. Once I explained it, though, people got the joke. Eventually I realized that I could use the “Apropos” as tongue-in-cheek footnotes, a way to be obscure and inclusive at the same time.
I’ll keep it going as long as I can. I’m blown away by how many subscribers the site has. I’ll try going more absurd… I might do a few guest appearances (Nick Cave, Norman Mailer, Elvis Costello) or a political endorsement (Obama!). I’ve received dozens of merchandise requests. It’s all pretty fun. Sometime it’s hard to hold onto the little peeves that fuel the fire. You can’t hate everything.