John Holmstrom is best known for launching PUNK magazine in 1975, which gave the early New York CBGB scene its identity, helped get bands like the Ramones, Blondie and The Dead Boys signed to record contracts and went out of business in 1979 when disco took over the world, Iran took over the US Embassy and Jimmy Carter tried to kill punk rock.
Soon afterwards Bosko became Holmstrom’s signature character, appearing in many publications. Bosko was introduced to the world in Comical Funnies, a comics ‘zine co-published in 1980 by John Holmstrom and Peter (Hate comix) Bagge.
Bosko is now appearing in his own, self-titled comic book Bosko #1, a full-color comic book available at most local comic book stores (St. Mark’s Comics, Cosmic Comics, Jim Henson’s Cartoon Universe, Village Comics etc.).
Most people think Bosko is very funny but he has his detractors. Since he has been labeled “America’s Least Favorite Cartoon Character” and the comic book launch was called “The (Unwanted) Surprise of the Century” we decided to send Bosko to interview John Holmstrom (his creator) to find out why:
Bosko: Holmstrom! (Bosko shakes a beer can and hits his forehead with it)
Holmstrom: Wait! No! Don’t!
Bosko: (Opens the can and sprays beer all over the cartoonist, who was working on a new Bosko cartoon.)
Holmstrom: (Holding up a wet sheet of paper.) I lose more comic strips that way…
Bosko: Bwah hah hahh!!! (He drinks the rest of the beer.
Holmstrom: Hey, Bosko! How the heck were you able to take over my life and ruin my career? Back in the early 1980s I was this cool “fine artist” who invented “Punk Art,” helped open the Mudd Club scene and inspired people like Keith Haring, Jean Michael Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and others to create punk rock-inspired art. If I had only followed the crowd and drawn fine art stuff back then… Instead, I invented you! And my art career has gone nowhere since.
Bosko: What the fuck are you talking about! The East Village Art Scene was the most overrated, boring, pretentious, awful, stupid, ridiculous scene of all time! You wanted noting to do with it! And this is why you and your East Village pals (Ed. Note: Bruce Carleton, Ken Weiner and The General) decided to ridicule it!
Holmstrom: Well, you got me. You’re right. I’ve avoided “fine art success” my entire career, I guess. Well, cartoonists rarely succeed at it. Why bother?
Bosko: Except for now! Your artwork has appeared in Juxtapoz magazine inspired art shows all over the country! And you’re selling digital art prints of me from the cover of Comical Funnies #1 on your Website. So what gives? Why are you caving in to commercial bullshit?
Holmstrom: I’m not caving in to anything. Juxtapoz magazine represents everything that the East Village Art Scene wasn’t. If the “East Village Art Scene of the 1980s” had been half as cool as the art scene that Juxtapoz magazine has been spawning, I would have been all over it.
Bosko: Yeah, right. Well, if you think you’re going to be so damn successful, why are you calling me “America’s Least Favorite Cartoon Character?”
Holmstrom: Basically because almost every publication that ever to published you (Twist comics, Comical Funnies, Stop! magazine, the East Village Eye, and recently Legal Action Comics) has gone out of business. (Hey, Luckyyou sure you still wanna publish this?)
Bosko: I was on the cover of the Village Voice and they haven’t done so bad.
Holmstrom: They published my drawings just once, and never hired me again for anything.
Bosko: Well, 99% of all magazines go out of business.
Holmstrom: Then there was that time you were permanently kicked out of High Times magazine.
Bosko: Oh yeah, I remember that!
Holmstrom: Not the best place to make fun of hippies.
Bosko: Hey, it’s not my fault. The art director dared us!
Holmstrom: Then there was that nightclub, Rock City! You were its mascot, featured in a three-month promotional campaign in the Village Voice, Soho Weekly News, and flyers all over the city.
Bosko: Yeah, wotta party! That place was fun! So what went wrong?
Holmstrom: It closed on opening night!
Bosko: Hey, it’s not my fault that the beer was warm. Or that the air-conditioning was on the fritz. Or that the toilets overflowed!
Holmstrom: I’m not too sure about that. Then there are the reviews:
“John Holmstrom founded PUNK magazine, co-founded Comical Funnies, STOP! magazine, and draws the wildly-unsuccessful Bosko cartoon character.”
-Fantasia Festival program, 2004
“…Full of urban hostility and pre-sexual behavior… Holmstrom’s Bosko [is] a crew-cut misfit whose idea of a good time at a party is to shake beercans and squirt them at people. Bosko is Ignatz Mouse in the city, using drinks instead of bricks…“
-Bill Sherman, Comics Journal, Winter 1981
“The staff of Punk magazine had this reputation for being totally out of control, like being “punks” in the old-fashioned sense of the word… I met Holmstrom… that whole fear I had of them being out-of-control maniacs was absolutely correct. They and everybody else associated with Punk magazine were fucking lunatics.”
-Peter Bagge, The Comics Journal May 1993
Bosko: That last quote is about you, not me!
Holmstrom: Oh yeah… Well, I guess I must be America’s Least Favorite Cartoonist, based on what all my enemies have to say. Well, even if the comic book isn’t selling like hotcakes there are still the art shows that are being set up, and those calls from the cartoon studios.
Bosko: Calls? What calls?
Holmstrom: Shh… I’m not supposed to say anything…
Bosko: Well, folks, don’t let that idiot Holmstrom stop you from buying my new comic book! It’s suitable for burning!
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