Some of our readers may recall that I promised to discuss S.P. Burke’s Oh Goodie! after meeting him at the Cincinnati Comic Expo about a month ago. He was kind enough to answer several questions I had about him and his work so we will actually have artist quotes today. So, pop in your Fugazi album paint your fingernails black and enjoy!
Now, I’m not about to pretend to be any sort of hipster or elitist. I enjoy a variety of music, but I have never benefited from living in a town with a large happenin’ music scene. Burke, while he may be no hipster either, has had the benefit of living in Chicagoland and experiencing the many great and wonderful things that city has to offer. One only has to read his currently unspooling rocktober sidetrack starring Eddie Van Helsing to see he’s got the pedigree.
Fortunately for us he is in the process of compiling that experience in comic form.
Or, as he put it, “I’ve been very involved with the local scenes around Chicago since I was in high school. I regularly check out local shows and am friends with a lot of independent musicians. I never had the confidence to get people together and do it myself. You could say ‘Oh Goodie!’ is kind of a way for me to express that fantasy wish fulfillment, in the least Mary Sue way I hope.”
The comic is about a guy in a band so clearly the music references abound. Aside from Burke’s love of Rush, I asked him if readers should be familiar with any particular bands in order to fully appreciate his work.
“I always imagined The Fairies as a cartoon version of Fugazi, so I recommend fans listen to them to get an idea. When it comes to their music, I imagine James as Guy Picciotto and Aiyeese like Ian MacKaye, since James is more wild and elliptical while Aiyeese is more mannered and melodic. I also recommend they listen to Rites of Spring and Minor Threat (the precursors to Fugazi).”
Burke has spent the last year introducing us to his main characters through a meticulous bit of character development. This all flows very naturally and draws you into the comic world of Glenwood, based on Dupage County, Ill. But suddenly the band, the Filthy F@#$ing Fairies, has to play a gig and needs to flesh out the instrumentation. So over the course of about three weeks we abruptly meet three new characters and watch as they try to put together enough songs for their first show. I’m sure over time we will get to know these guys intimately, with the possible exception of Maestro the bass player who hasn’t actually said anything yet, but it felt very rushed. Though to be fair, Burke did warn us he was going to do exactly that about a month prior.
Each of the regulars I have gotten to know I really like. The characters have been in development since Burke was in high school so they seem to be very fleshed out. And the best part is, none of them are based on stereotypes. Except maybe the Panda drummer, but that remains to be seen. Characters like Shira are fascinating in and of themselves without the need for stereotypes, which Burke says has been a welcome change for his fans. I certainly find it refreshing.
“One of my biggest irritations about most media that portrays gay people is that it begs us to be tolerant and accepting, but then lets any gay characters suffer and usually die. So anything oppressive or political I like to be very peripheral in my stories. I’ve actually gotten some compliments from lesbians about how I’m relentlessly positive with Shira and Koriko, which is how I like it. I like to portray them as sweet and bubbly and really smitten with each other, rather than shouted out and made miserable to teach us breeders a lesson about acceptance.”
Now, while the main characters are fleshed out and ripe for storytelling, again except for the band, some of the minor characters do little more than provide anecdotes and confuse me. There have been several comics where I have gotten Koriko confused with Shizuko. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that the comic is in gorgeous black and white and really the cat ears should give it away, but for some reason it doesn’t. After all, I didn’t notice that Aiyeese wasn’t white until the full color Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa comic. Perhaps overtime they will grow into the third dimension along with the band.
And lucky for us that character development goes hand in hand with some great drawing. The influence of Marjane Satrapi in Burke’s work is obvious for anyone who’s read Persepolis, but he is quick to point out that there is an homage to the punk rocking Hernandez Brothers most notable in the character’s faces and the women’s bust lines.
“I was a real late-comer when it came to the Hernandez Brothers, but their styles combined with Marjane Satrapi’s was a huge influence when I was developing my current style.”
The clean lines and simple coloring, well not coloring, shading?, make the images pop and allow you to focus on facial expressions and actions. For a reason I can’t quite put my finger on I just find black and white comics more believable and it works well for the introspective exposition. No need for big colorful explosions.
It is rare in the comic world to find a single artist capable of character development and the quality of art presented in Oh Goodie! especially one that consistently updates three days a week. The anarchist take on social issues keeps you on your toes and takes the comic beyond a bunch of self-involved artsy kids and allows it to challenge boundaries. Whether it’s on the B sides or in the main comic. The commentary, while blatant at times, is never oppressive and is offset by Burke’s sense of humor. After all, he’s a part-time stand up comic. “COVERED IN BEES!”
In addition to the main storyline Burke also takes time to celebrate holidays like many web comic artists, though which holiday kind of varies. For the entire month of October fans are being treated to Eddie Van Helsing, as I mentioned, which deviates from Burke’s usual style and doesn’t include any of the normal cast. It’s shaping up to be quite entertaining and I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks.
“Rocktober will definitely be an annual staple, but I don’t know if Eddie Van Helsing will be returning. Pretty much everything I’m including in the story this month came together pretty quickly and I worry I’d be stretching the premise after that. If it doesn’t come naturally I don’t want to do it. I already have a Halloween storied planned for next year involving the main ‘Oh Goodie!’ cast. I don’t want to give too much away, but a f***ton of zombies are involved.”
So there is plenty to look forward to in Oh Goodie! in the coming years. This excites me greatly.