Assistant Comics Editor Lucas Adams introduces new Rumpus comics contributor Owen Cook
My parents moved to Monterey, California after I’d been in college for two years. After the move, they started sending me copies of the Carmel Pine Cone, the local paper from the next town over. In ever issue, wedged in between real estate ads for million dollar condos and articles about they beauty of Carmel, there is a police blotter that catalogs the sins of the town. Headline topics range from “Local Man loses iPod then finds it” to “Dog without leash on the loose.” Recently, my roommate pointed out that someone had taken the blotter to the next level, and turned it into a comic strip. The strip brings the blotter to life, highlighting both the absurd and bland moments of life in and around Carmel. The author is Owen Cook, and he is the latest addition to the Rumpus cartoon lineup. He answered some of my questions from his home in Brooklyn, approximately 2,575 miles from Carmel.
How long have you been doing comics? What got you interested?
I’ve been making comics since I was a little kid, but never attempted to put them out. I recently found some violent comics I made when I was 11 about Bill Clinton and a radioactive half-man-half-onion from Walla Walla, Washington. My dad subscribed to Mad Magazine and had every issue since 1962, which probably influenced me more than anything else. I discovered EC comics and R. Crumb at a friend’s house when I was pretty young, though I never really got into super hero comics.
How did you encounter the Carmel blotter? What made you want to do a strip about a small town police blotter?
When I was a teenager living in Big Sur, CA my friends and I were constantly harassed by the police on the Monterey Peninsula. I would read the blotter for entertainment and to validate my negative opinions about the town of Carmel, CA and the fairy tale that the police were perpetually trying to enforce there. Now it’s more about voyeurism and the desire to paint a strange portrait of an ongoing small town saga. Beyond that I miss the people I know there and the area of Big Sur so its an exercise in nostalgia as well.
Can you cite any style influences to how you draw and write the strip? Your strips reminded me of Félix Fénéon, with his three line accounts of crime in 19th century France.
I borrow from a lot of different artists, to name only a few I’d say Raymond Pettibon, George Grosz, and Jo Mora for this particular project. I see the Fénéon connection — ideally each strip could be seen as it’s own novella.
What has surprised you the most about the blotter?
The most obvious gags are old confused rich people calling the police over the most minor things you could imagine, but there are significant crimes just like in any community. While it’s easiest to find humor in the foibles of the rich, that is just one small part of the community. The revealing depiction of a small affluent town comes across in the contrasts of what’s considered a police matter. After reading about a fire engine and ambulance dispatched for every smoke alarm that goes off, the next entry is a blurb about a man who shot and killed his neighbor over a boulder that was maliciously put in his driveway. I guess reading about someone I know killing a teenager in a drunk driving accident and trying to cover it up surprised me most out of anything else. I also just read about some guy firebombing a tattoo shop in Monterey because they refused to give him a tattoo of a swastika on his chest and Obama’s face with crosshairs.
Do you have other work, cartoon or otherwise, we can see?
I have a bunch of stuff on my website: www.theeowencook.com although it needs to be updated. Soon there will be more comics and videos up there.
Any other projects on the horizon?
The Police Log Comics will be available in print form this summer. Starting with an issue for the month of January it will eventually
feature one comic strip for each day of the year.
Interview by Lucas Adams