1000 Steps To World Domination
It doesn’t surprise me at all that this, as a minicomic, was pushed by James Sime and as a book, was published by Larry Young. All three have in common a sense of importance orthogonal to reality and as a result, all three are achieving their goals based on building their own legends.
1000 Steps To World Domination is a series of mostly four-panel, one-page cartoons. They all revolve around Osborne’s desire to rule the world, although some connections are more elliptical than others. Chapters are introduced with strangely epic inspirational quotes.
The humor here is rooted in the way it’s impossible to tell how serious Osborne is. He expresses his desire to dominate the world to his dog, who licks himself as the sequence’s punchline. His wife just wants to know why. The question is never explicitly answered, but some thought will reveal fruitful possibilities.
Historical and cultural allusions provide context to his quest and excuses to experiment with alternative art styles (which are executed pretty well). The day-to-day art, in a style that I can best describe as no style, is enlivened with dramatic shadows and tone patterns for depth.
“The War of Art” sequence, slogans about creation illustrated with images of old China, was a standout for me. More artists would benefit from thinking of cartooning as a war, with constant incursions by enemies (time-wasters like TV) and the need to study and improve in order to win battles.
Then Osborne turns around and reveals his feelings of lack of control, which make his desire to dominate, to overcome the unexpected accidents of life, more understandable and sympathetic. He also tackles sex, religion, frustration with a day job, and the parable of the rabbit and the tortoise. Truly inspirational sequences follow unrealistic interludes with space aliens or monkeys. It’s all terribly deadpan.
All cartoonists face moments where they must believe in themselves to a ridiculous degree in order to be willing to put their work in front of the public. Osborne has made this egotism the center of his work without becoming obnoxious or annoying. After a while, I kept reading just to see what new changes he could ring on the subject. 120 or so pages are a lot to fill with such a simple idea.
I feared the gag would age before the end, and while I did think the strongest material was in the middle, reading this book for the first time was completely unpredictable. So many young creators want to make art about making art. While “write what you know” is useful advice, the collorary is that one should know something beyond one’s art. Osborne clearly does.
Osborne has a website named, unsurprisingly, Absolute Tyrant.