Rob Osbourne and The War of Art
The creators who work in the field of mini-comics are a breed apart. Like the members of a garage band, honing their craft, the dedicated ones toil endlessly, mostly in obscurity. There’s a bit of a punk rock esthetic at work here. Like their musician counterparts, mini-comics creators tend to be fiercely independent. Oftentimes, that same independent spirit gets in the way of their ever achieving any true success, but they struggle along anyway. With little recognition and even less financial benefit, one wonders what particular stripe of madness has infected these poor souls.
If the field of comics is the bastard son of literature, then mini-comics is certainly the bastard child of comics. This axiom holds water until you start reading them. The truth about mini-comics is that there is at least as much talent and creativity working in minis as there is with their larger cousins.
James Sime, the owner/operator of Isotope Comics Lounge in San Francisco, recognized this simple fact. Possessing a keen eye for talent and a bit of a punk rock esthetic himself, he also noticed the absence of any sort of public encouragement or recognition. To ameliorate this condition, he created the yearly Isotope Award for Mini-Comics Excellence. Rob Osbourne was the first to win it with his sort of autobiographical story, “1000 Steps To World Domination”. 1000 Steps was subsequently snapped up by Larry Young and Mimi Rosenheim from AIT/Planet Lar. They collected the first six mini-comics, and the result was one of the best graphic novels of the new millennium.
1000 Steps is Rob’s story about what happens when he sets out to rule the world through cartooning. The overreaching arc of the story spans through several vignettes. These are composed of slices of life; Rob discussing his plan for world domination with his wife Sarah, Rob getting nowhere at his soul sucking, ambition destroying day job; cut with what can only be termed waking dreams. Each time we enter one of Rob’s daydreams we’re set up for what happens next during the real life sequences. Real life and dreamtime are inter-cut with each other in a Robert Altman style of storytelling. Two space aliens serve as a metaphor for Rob wondering why he even has a day job. The turtle versus rabbit parable serves to show us Rob’s determination that slow and steady progress on his comic will eventually win the day. The monkey on Rob’s back is given literal comedic license to fuck with him. Even God shows up periodically to offer Rob his two cents worth.
There are two parts to 1000 Steps which seem like non sequitur until one really thinks about how they fit into the big picture. The first one is a brilliant eight page retelling of Sun Tzu’s masterpiece ‘The Art of War’ called, ‘The War of Art’, where Rob applies the ancient master’s battle technique to his own storytelling. The second is a short bit called, ‘The Women of World Domination’, wherein Rob not only shows us what women really think about us comics fans, but also ironically proves he can draw a damn fine pinup as well.
Rob’s simple pen and ink line work is phenomenal. He shows off talent within these pages that could easily win the Pepsi challenge against anyone currently being promoted by the “big two” as the hot new artist of the minute. He’s amazingly gifted, and after reading 1000 Steps, I firmly believe he’s quite capable of one day achieving his dream of world domination.
1000 Steps to World Domination has a clear simple message at its core. With enough hard work and determination, you will always succeed. Just don’t forget to feed the dogs and take out the trash along the way. It’s a brilliant, fun read that might just give you a whole new perspective on what one man can accomplish with his art.