Artist, author, freak
If anyone could be summed up in those three words, it's Angus Oblong
. Nearly 30 now, and living somewhere in California
, Angus (not his real name), is as weird
as you can find outside of David Lynch
film festival. Although compared to Edward Gorey
, Tim Burton
and the creators of South Park
, Angus has his own unique flavour - somewhere between the sickly sweet of a moldy piece of bread left under the fridge for several weeks, and the rancid smell of mayonaise
4 months out of date. His art is not to be looked at and judged - but to be experienced.
"There's actually nothing risque about the characters. Limbless or conjoined people are a fact of life and shouldn't be hidden and denied as humans but rather they should be put on little stages dressed funny and pointed at."
Chief among his recognizable works is the short-lived animated series, The Oblongs, which follows the story of a not-so-normal family in their not-so-normal town. From the physical deformities of the majority of the characters, to the mental and emotional problems of the rest, this not-ready-for-prime-time show handles even the most sensitive of issues with a disturbing lack of concern for political correctness.
It's immediately apparent that the show, despite being his "greatest success," is also his greatest failure - through no fault of his own. From the very beginning, he had to fight just to keep his name on it - something he now perhaps regrets:
"Jace [Richdale] wrote the first script. The across-the-board rule in the [Writer's] Guild is that whomever wrote the first script gets the 'Created By' credit. It doesn't matter who actually created the show," Oblong said in an e-mail interview with Jes Lobdell. After involving lawyers, Oblong's name was secured alongside his namesakes as "Co-creator." Things didn't get much better from there. "To be honest, I was really shocked by the first episode," he said in an earlier interview. "I thought we were designing a dark, mesmerizing show, but it is so bright and colorful." At one point, the writers stopped listening to his ideas at all: "They treated me like a little brother who they had to drag along on a date even though I hired all of them. The feeling was pretty much, 'You can't possibly come up with a story line or a joke. You're not an established writer like us. Just go draw your little pictures.'" So he did - hanging out with the animators, who at least respected him for achieving "legitimacy" by producing a show of his own. Still, the show plodded on, it's edge fading by the episode, until it was cancelled with barely a season in the can. Ultimately, Oblong prefers to lay the blame at the feet of the network executives who chose to dumb it down for an audience they thought was still in love with shows like The Simpsons.
"Even though they said they wanted to shock and offend, when it came right down to it, the network toned the content way down. They were just scared."
While the show itself can be described as at best odd, and at worst demented, it is far from Angus' most unusual work. The show is actually a diluted mixture of characters from his first professionally published book, Creepy Susie and 13 Other Tragic Tales for Troubled Children. Milo, Susie, Helga, the Debbies, and Milo's Narcoleptic Scottie all originated in this book, which is aimed at adults in the guise of a children's book. Published by Ballantine, it's sold over 14,000 copies - and still going. A tribute to the human obsession of all things abnormal.
"I've always had a fascination with deformities. Anything that's different."
Among his other contributions to the twisted side of American subculture, Angus has been quite prolific - self-publishing 13 "books" about such characters as Crossdressing Charles, Flatulent Flavio, and Dead Doug. (Dead Doug is dead. So is his dead dog, Digby.) Hidden within each disturbing tale is an even more disturbing message - but that's all part of the charm.
Angus is described as an "underground San Francisco cartoonist," and guards his privacy very jealousy, from his real name to where he lives - even his own age ("I turned 87 in August! I am planning on dying soon. I plan to do it while driving." reads one of his bios.) "People wouldn't know who I was anyway," he adds. "I was pretty invisible in high school." Despite his choice of anonymity, at least the pseudonym of Angus Oblong will live on in obscurity - if only in a dark corner of a museum of all things weird.
"Please take your finger out of my anus. I'm really really drunk but I can still feel it. It
fucking hurts. Get it out. Now."
--Angus Oblong (In a private email to me!)
The Oblongs can still be seen on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. While there are no plans in the works to renew it, Angus continues to produce books that can be purchased directly from his site. Additionally, tapes and CDs of the show can be purchased from the fansite, Oblongs.Net
http://www.angusoblong.net/ - Angus Oblong's own website
http://www.oblongs.net/ - Fan site with a lot of links to buy stuff
All 13 episodes of The Oblongs