It’s time for some ‘Pop Culture Shock Therapy’
By Andrew Segedin / Reporter
(Dec. 2, 2010) — There’s an inebriated Jiminy Cricket, Aquaman being given a Viking’s funeral in a toilet bowl, and Hobbes of Calvin and Hobbes depicted as a throw rug under an adult Calvin’s feet. These are three examples of the unique, off-beat, and, yes, sometimes crude humor of cartoonist Doug Bratton who exhibits hundreds more in his new book “The Deranged Stalker’s Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy.” The book is a collection of some of his favorite works from his popular web-comic.
First introduced to comics as a young boy, reading about and drawing characters from his older brother’s superhero comics — Bratton became increasingly interested in comic strips such as “Calvin and Hobbes,” “Bloom County” and “The Far Side” — many of which he lampoons to this day in his panels.
“I don’t do it out of disrespect,” he said while crediting cartoonists such as Bill Watterson and Gary Larson for having a large impact in his life. “The same way I would poke fun at a friend, I poke fun at these comics.”
While comics and illustrating were always among Bratton’s interests, he admits it was never anything he pursued in college or something he thought of as a career path. “I figured it’d be something I’d do after I retired,” he said. “But then I started thinking ‘Why wait?’ ”
Bratton began developing comic ideas and applied for jobs at various publications before conceiving “Pop Culture Shock Therapy” in December of 2002.
“It occurred to me that I, and really anybody else applying for these jobs, were applying for a job that we’ve never done before,” he said.
So he decided to do it himself — holding to his own daily deadline. First, he tried to compile all the movie, TV, comic and pop music references he could think of (he, an admitted pop-culture junkie, came up with more than 2,000). Then he began churning out daily installments of his one-panel comics. “Single panels just fit me more,” he explained while crediting Larson for popularizing what was once a style unique to magazines. “I like to go for the gut — no set of recurring characters.”
The New Jersey resident’s original goal was to compose 200 comics — enough to publish a collection. A year later he had already exceeded that amount and was approached by The Daily Targum, Rutgers University’s daily newspaper. Today, “Pop Culture Shock Therapy,” in addition to being published daily online, appears in more than 60 college papers and alternative weeklies.
Bratton now finds himself among some of his idols. He is currently featured in New York’s Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art and “The Deranged Stalker’s Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy” was published under Andrews McMeel — the same publisher as “Calvin and Hobbes,” Bratton’s boyhood favorite.
“I was really excited when I found out that Andrews and McMeel wanted to do this book,” Bratton recalled, but his agent let it be known that the publisher wanted to stay away from a typical comic collection — that’s when the idea of the fictional stalker came into play.
“They didn’t want to do a standard collection. They wanted to do something creative and package it differently. I was out to dinner with my friend Dan (Andriulli) and he said ‘Why not make it like your sketch book, only you’re crazy?’ I really liked the idea of writing like a madman, so we changed it a little and made it about some guy who collects the comics and stalks me,” explained Bratton. “Since the book’s come out I’ve had about six friends and family members call me thinking that I was really stalked.”
The book is formatted like an actual lined journal, with Bratton’s comics taped in on the inside and the stalker (also written by Bratton) commenting in between. As a nod to that fateful dinner, the stalker’s name and resemblance is that of Andriulli who also serves as “Pop Culture Shock Therapy’s” Web designer.
“I love this,” Bratton said smiling, opening up to the goofy picture of Andriulli toward the back of the book.
Bratton has a lot to smile about these days. With his book out and “Shock Therapy” featured in more and more publications, his dreams are coming to fruition decades earlier than he had planned.
“The Deranged Stalker’s Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy” is now available in stores and online. To follow Bratton’s work, visit popculturecomics.com.
E-mail ASegedin@ LeaderNewspapers.net