So did we all enjoy ‘Evan Dorkin’ day? Not only did Dark Horse Presents #6 feature another Beasts of Burden story from the Eisner Award winning pair of Jill Thompson and the man himself, but this week a gorgeous collection of Milk and Cheese presenting the misadventures of a murderous pair of talking, uh, milk and cheese, also landed on comic store shelves.
If you have never had the pleasure, it is a fantastic opportunity to investigate one of the most demented, and hilariously funny, comics ever published. For the fans out there, our ship has come in (and I’m not just saying that because the lads have a broken bottle held to my throat).
No wonder Kipling’s last words were ‘Damn. I wish I created Milk and Cheese.’
Each strip features the pair going off on a random subject. It’s the comic book about nothing, but has less whining than Seinfeld and a tendency to end in bloodshed. Dorkin sums up the appeal as follows:
Milk and Cheese is a comic about talking dairy products who are addicted to alcohol and pop culture and commit acts of extreme violence against society. You could call it a satire of consumer culture, selfishness and hypocrisy, but it’s actually just a stupid comic book full of crazy crap. People tend to know if they like it or not after looking through a few pages, they either stay with it or drop it like a box of hot cancer.
Despite the range of time covered by the collection – from 1989 to 2010 – the strips themselves are as funny as ever. Partly because the “crazy crap” described by Dorkin is just gut-bustingly funny. Milk and Cheese are equal opportunity offenders, and targeting “stupid people and trends and subcultures” tends not to date. One strip in particular features the pair going on the rampage due to a government zero policy on drugs. Not that they are pro- or anti-drugs, they’re just annoyed that the media campaign has interfered with their television viewing.
Dorkin describes how he first was inspired to create Milk and Cheese. Unsurprisingly, drink was involved.
One night back in 1987 I was in a restaurant in Manhattan waiting for food after a ska show at CBCG’s, doodling on a napkin. One of the things I drew was an angry Milk and Cheese standing beside a highway in New Jersey. I wasn’t thinking about creating characters for a comic, I was just doodling out of boredom. My friends liked the characters and I kept drawing them for fun. Eventually I met a guy named Kurt Sayenga at the San Diego Comic Con in 1988 and he suggested I draw a comic with Milk and Cheese so he could run it in his music and comics magazine, Greed.
In the final issue as it happens.
Dorkin’s work continued to appear in anthologies such as Negative Burn. Unfortunately the industry as it stands is less supportive of the short story format for comics, with many creators moving online instead. The decrease of anthologies on the stands that is one of the reasons why Dorkin has produced fewer Milk and Cheese adventures.
The stapled comic has been on the ropes and anthologies have always been a hard sell, but the multi-genre or humor-specific anthologies were where the bulk of the Milk and Cheese strips originally appeared. I did strips for Deadline magazine, Deadline USA, Dark Horse Presents, Negative Burn, Oni Double Feature as well as punk and comics zines — except for a newly-revived Dark Horse Presents those venues are all long-gone.
As for the migration to online pastures, producing work for free has less of an appeal.
Up until recently, my humor comics have mostly been on hiatus. I miss the anthologies but they were always a hard sell. As are humor comics in general. So a humor anthology had two strikes against it from the start. People look elsewhere for laughs, the web, television, The Jersey Shore.
Truly a nightmare vision of our present. Yet another Dorkin project that fans would love to see the return of – and I am thinking in particular of the proprietor of Ace Comics and Games in Brisbane who first introduced me to this next book – is Dork! from Slave Labor Graphics which in turn inspired the short-lived animated show Welcome to Eltingville. A few days ago Dorkin tweeted a link to the Adult Swim dvd of the show pilot. So is there any chance that series will also be getting the trade collection treatment?
That’s something I’d very much like to see happen. I’d like to do another few stories and wrap it up, it’s been my intention since about 2000, but the pilot kind of put a dent in those plans and for various reasons I never got back to the Eltingville material even though I know what the last few stories are going to be. Fingers crossed this is something I can work out and get going on fairly soon.
Overall producing the book with Dark Horse has proven to be a very enjoyable experience for Dorkin, who took the characters with him from Slave Labor Graphics having come to the conclusion that the pressures of the market were affecting his ability to produce work for that publisher. Having already worked with Dark Horse several times in the past, they were a company the creator was comfortable transferring his characters to.
Even today Milk and Cheese stands out from the crowd, with the current would-be satirical comics and animated shows more vapidly offensive than coming from a place of anger, or frustration as Dorkin’s work does. He mentions Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed To Thrizzle (featuring the similarly anthropomorphized Snake ‘n’ Bacon) and Peter Bagge’s Hate as among the few remaining contemporaries in humour comics, with his favourite cartoonists both off – and online Kupperman again, Kate Beaton and Richard Thompson.
They are all funnier and smarter and classier than me. If you’re not into the classy stuff, you might like my work. It’s like school on Saturday — no class. That’s a joke from Fat Albert. Just to show you where I’m coming from.
Dorkin also promises another collection of Beasts of Burden, after two more stories in Dark Horse Presents. On top of recent news that a movie is in the offing, it appears we have plenty more to look forward to from this most versatile of …
..seriously, lads, you’re drawing blood. Put the shiv down so I can type up the rest of this p-