Allow me to preface this with a note: I do not get starstruck.
If I met Justin Bieber at the malt shoppe, or wherever it is these whippersnappers hang out these days, I would quite possibly cut through the hordes of screaming teen girls and tell him to get a haircut. Same with just about any celebrity: haircut.
But when I set out to meet Matthew Inman, the writer/comic behind the Oatmeal, there was a percolating feeling of groupie craziness coursing through my veins—the bookish equivalent of that urge to toss one’s panties onstage at a rock concert (SIGN MY TITLES!). After all, this was the awesome factor 10 creative cybernerd behind some of my favourite comics:
- the Bobcats
- How to tell if your velociraptor is having premarital sex
- What they should have taught you in high school
- What it’s like to own an Apple product
I arrived at the event an hour early, feeling like the most ardent of keeners. I browsed the rows of home furnishings at Chapters to try and taper the keen-osity, wondering why the hell anyone would go to Chapters to purchase a jar of fuzzy peach slices (if anyone could explain this to me, it would be much appreciated). Within ten minutes, however, the 100 seats set up for the event were completely full, and about 100-150 people stood in an arc around the chairs protected by a velvet rope (it gave me an unearned sense of superiority to have procured a seat within this swanky velvet rope section).
As I watched the hordes of fans flood the cashiers to purchase copies of Inman’s book, I had that feeling I always get when I see people excited to buy books (caution: shmaltz ahead): well heck, there’s hope for this industry yet.
Inman took to the stage and spoke in the quick and funny delivery of someone who is highly caffeinated. It was great to hear him speak of where he gets his ideas (random ridiculousness of people in general), why he draws his figures simply (audience engagement—plus, they’re awesome), and how he so hates the flagrant abuse of the word “literally.” He spoke of his fascination with nature and animal quirkiness, mentioning in particular the life cycle of the female tiger shark, information supplied to him by a fan on his Facebook fan page. The female tiger shark has multiple embryos within two uteri. The embryos fight and cannibalize one another until two are left standing and are born. Seriously, look it up = twisted. Inman said as a footnote to this story that he loves hearing of such strange trivia to spur on his comics.
It was soon time to line up to get our books signed, and I perchance delivered a few elbows to the jaws of teens who tried to bypass me in line (accidents I swear).
I’m sure at this point you are thinking that this all sounds very lovely. Lots of books sold, tiger shark cannibalism, etc. I was practically giddy as I strolled up to the signing and launched into my own story:
Me: “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! Have I got a story for you to use in your comics! [I have no clue where the self-editor had disappeared to at this point. And yes, I did use each and every one of those exclamation points *shudder*].”
Inman: [timidly] “Oh yeah?”
Me: “Have you ever heard of the cuttle fish? [doesn't catch a breath or wait for him to answer] It’s basically a transvestite fish. The weak male pretends to be a chick and swims up to the female beneath the watchful eye of the burly male cuttle fish. The weak wannabe tranny cuttle fish then has sex with the female right there and THEY TURN RAINBOW COLOURS!”
*I could not stop myself at this point.*
Inman: [looking somewhat scared] “Oh yeah, I don’t remember that episode. What I remember from Planet Earth is the bird of paradise with the smiley face kinda feathers who did that dance.”
Me: “That was awesome!”
Then, I kid you not, on that stage . . . I did a reasonable facsimile of the dance in question. This will give you a sense of the horror.
To sum up then, Matthew Inman, creator of the Oatmeal, makes wicked awesome cartoons, is reasonably tolerant in the face of audience insanity, and received the brunt of my author groupie excitement. Check out the signed edition of 5 Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, below.
Mission: Accomplished. And I hope that next time the author groupie adoration factor will not lead me towards ritual dances on stage.