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Rob Dunlop & Peter Lumby:

Tozzer


Rob Dunlop & Peter Lumby

One the most accomplished debuts in recent years is the 80-page colour graphic novel Tozzer and The Invisible Lap Dancers (ISBN 0-9543008-0-7, $8.95, Ablaze Media Ltd.), created and published by newcomers (to comics) Rob Dunlop, writer and web designer, and Peter Lumby, storyboard artist. Theirs is the sort of savaging satire that suits our shallow yet horribly alluring, celebrity-saturated, fame-obsessed culture.

Dunlop and Lumby’s assault on Hollywood excess is built on a broad parody of Harry Potter, opening with Lord Cop-A-Feel kidnapping his unfaithful ex-wife Claudia Shifferbrain’s baby boy, Tozzer, and having a swastika tattooed on his forehead. Raised in a trailer park by foster parents (literally, Jodie and female Elvis impersonator Butch), the 11-year old Tozzer sets off for Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming a famous magician. He lands a place to study at Boarboils (as in Hogwarts) School of Drama, where he has to solve the mystery of the vault before the school explodes. But Tozzer is no real magician or wizard, he’s more of an anti-Potter, whose powers are merely shaky stage magic.

Tozzer

Dunlop and Lumby’s pun-filled names, familiar faces and unrestrained, unconventional comedy go much further than a tame Mad or NatLamp film spoof, and are "all done in the best possible taste", as deranged British TV comedian Kenny Everett used to say. There’s manic energy and some unpredictable twists here and behind all this scattershot, multiple movie references, a fierce drive to puncture some overinflated egos. In Rob Dunlop’s view, "Hollywood is an obvious target for satire, as the stars are our modern equivalent of aristocracy (in fact they wield more influence). These people have extensive entourages, coverage in every corner of the press and are swamped by crowds of fanatical worshippers. In many people’s eyes, they are god-like, untouchable, and it’s high time they were brought down a peg or two."

While some famous ‘real’ people appear, thinly disguised, such as Robert Junkie Jr. and chainsawing rapper S&M, whose their tabloid foibles hardly need exaggerating, Dunlop and Lumby also target stars playing their most well-known fictional character parts, from Animal Lecher, a parody of Hannibal, to gladiator Minimus and Charlies’ Angels trio, the Angel Dusters. Dunlop explains the method behind their madness. "We depicted fictional characters in the book, rather than the stars who play them, because these characters have a clearly identifiable personality (and a trademark look). Most of us know more about Hannibal Lecter’s idiosyncrasies than those of Anthony Hopkins, for example."

They tackle some strong adult themes, playing with sex and drugs, bodily fluids and body parts. "I think that if you’re going to satirise the powerful figures of the day, you have to be uninhibited. It’s hard to deal effectively with the absurdities of society if you’re still bound by its conventions when it comes to taste and decency." Neverthelss, Dunlop’s humour is driven more by verbal wit than visual outrages. I get the impression that his script comes first and takes precedence, so the words do a lot of the work, implying more than we actually get to see. For all its sicko unsubtlety, a lot more is implied rather than shown, so that on first glance at least, Tozzer looks surprisingly inoffensive.

The puns and physical humour reminded me of the much-missed British television puppet satire Spitting Image, created by Peter Fluck and Roger Law. It also harks back to earlier great British cartoonists, like wildmen Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman in their prime in the Sixties, or the 18th century inventor of political and social caricature, James Gillray, famed for his cruelty and scatalogical themes. I discovered that writer Dunlop had wanted to become an editorial cartoonist himself from the age of 16 to 24 (he’s 30 now). Instead, as a writer he’s hooked up with a talented illustrator in Lumby, whose chunky cartooning suits the subject well and reminds me of the great Mike McMahon in one of his later, looser periods, for example on Tattered Banners.

Tozzer is a Candide-like innocent abroad, and, as Dunlop suggests, can be seen as representing Jo Public, created by Hollywood but at the same time rejected by it. "Like many of us, Tozzer has a fascination with becoming part of the celebrity world, but the nearer he gets to that inner sanctum, the more absurd the so-called icons of the screen appear to be. This kid, a nobody from a trailer park, is actually the most sane character in the book. But he soon discovers that sanity is not a valuable commodity in showbiz." This book has a potentially wide appeal to any adult moviergoer who enjoys irreverent alternative humor. Check tozzer.com for further exposés in the pipeline.

Tozzer

UPDATE:
Tozzer 2 Special Edition
by Rob Dunlop & Peter Lumby
“Hollywood has been violating your favourite comics for years… it’s PAYBACK time.” Three years in the making, the long-awaited sequel to 2002’s Tozzer debut arrives, compiled from the 5-issue B&W mini-series colorized by Eric Erbes. Dunlop’s pun-filled, cynical banter and merciless meanness fuel this blistering 120-page assault on the farce of Hollywood blockbusters, parodying Star Wars with Luke Gorgeous, Matrix with Morphine, and Harry Potter with the film school Boarboils and Tozzer himself. Subtle, this is not, and Jacko and Michael Moore are easy targets, but it’s a slick, sick romp with real reach-out potential for movie fans and anyone with a warped funnybone.

Tozzer

Posted: June 11, 2006

The original version of this article appeared in 2003 in the pages of The Comics Journal, the essential magazine of comics news, reviews and criticism.

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