Ron Rege has been working on a project called THE CARTOON UTOPIA for a few years now. So a few months ago Gazeta called Rege to ask what a Cartoon Utopia is. (It started with science fiction-style questions about utopia and soon morphed into hanging out at Los Angeles’ Philosophical Research Society with white witches.)
We’ll be printing snippets from that interview over the next couple of weeks. For now, please enjoy the interview’s “main course” — an audio slideshow from the interview, featuring images from Rege’s Cartoon Utopia and (badly edited by me) music from Rege’s one-man-band, Discombobulated Ventriloquist. (You can download Discombobulated Ventriloquist’s album for free here.)
More from the interview will be printed in the coming weeks, and we’d love to hear what you think of this slideshow!
SLIDESHOW TRANSCRIPT for those who aren’t in a sound-and-pictures state of mind (i.e. the bored at work network)
…I got into comics because I love the fact that it’s both personal and anonymous. Which is why I think I’m drawn to the medium. And maybe it’s because I started out doing zines and doing things through the mail and before the internet, but I’d love it if people didn’t know what sex I was, how old I am. Me personally, as a person, is not important to the work.
And I love it that…with comics it’s a one-on-one communication. It’s not like a bunch of people in a movie theater sitting watching the movie all at the same time. It’s one person quietly and they’re looking at exactly what I drew…The marks I made with my hand are what they’re looking at. So it’s a one-to-one communication.
ON THE BIRTH OF THE CARTOON UTOPIA
My comics have always been about, like, philosophical searching for the nature of reality (laughs) or the nature of what life is. It [the Cartoon Utopia] started out being just a series of drawings. I’d been playing in a band and not doing that much comics work. And I thought well, if I just do one image at a time it’ll add up to something. And I kind of had this idea of it being a cartoon utopia, like a science fiction story. Kind of like “what if??” ideas. And then I just started going to some lectures that my friend was giving, and I started to become interested in the whole consciousness ahhhh — I don’t even know what to call it exactly, but the new-agey consciousness movement.
ON THE STORY AFFECTIONAL ALCHEMY
Some of the stuff in the Cartoon Utopia I’m just lifting directly from books and presenting it. And with this story I kind of brought together my take on a few different things that I experienced and I kind of put it together myself.
I’m also trying to take ideas that are flowery and long-winded and really trying to use comics to distill them. I kind of think of each panel as being a bumper sticker.
ON PEOPLE WHO ARE FREAKED OUT BY THE NEW AGE
I think I’m coming to this with a really unique perspective. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say what you said, they completely recoil from it, they’re really disgusted by it and I’m like … I didn’t discover Robert Crumb until I was in my mid-twenties. I’m Catholic, I went to Catholic school. I didn’t know anything about — there were no hippies in my high school. So I don’t really have any of that kind of — revulsion.
ON CATHOLIC RITUAL
And I’ve started to realize…that a lot of the ways that I’m really attracted to a lot of this stuff, the alchemy aspects of it and the kind of ancient teachings of it probably has to do with the fact that I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school…the mass is just filled with all these crazy things … this little piece of cardboard that goes underneath the cloth that has this word in Latin stitched on it and all that –. Say whatever you want about Catholicism, historically and even the present it’s this really tyrannical, terrible thing, but to me it reminds me of home, brings comfort to me.