Read more from Gag Me with a Toon 3 in “Metalocalypse Director Jon Schnepp Celebrates the End of the Comics Code Authority at Meltdown Comics.”
“Saturday morning cartoons and afterschool cartoons were super inspiring to me as a kid to be an artist as I got older,” said Steven Daily, curator of Gag Me with a Toon, the cartoon-referencing group show that opened at Meltdown Comics Friday night. “All of the people in the show are either my friends– really close friends– or friends of friends. They all love these cartoons, so I thought that it would be a good idea to give homage to the cartoons that inspired us all to be artists and painters. We want the show to be fun, no pretentiousness.”
Now in its third installment, Gag Me with a Toon brings together a wide variety of artists. Daily estimated that over sixty people participated in this year's show, but he didn't have an exact count. Some, like Dan Quintana and Metalocalypse director Jon Schnepp, have been involved in all three Gag Me with a Toon events. Others, like Carlos Ramos, are new to the show.
As the name implies, Gag Me with a Toon focuses on '80s cartoons, programs that the artists would have seen as children, although not all of the influences stem from that decade. Daily said that The Smurfs is often a common reference in the artwork.
“Every year, we have three or four Smurf pieces.”
He added, “This year, it's Jem. There's a lot of Jem. I think it's probably because glam is on the rise again.”
We also noticed quite a few references to G.I. Joe, Transformers and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
“There are a lot of boys in this show,” he explained. “The masculine stuff seems to pop up more than everything.”
We talked to several artists who participated in Gag Me with a Toon, who shared the stories behind their animated picks.
Jessicka Addams, Strawberry Shortcake
“Strawberry Shortcake to me represents my childhood innocence and I wanted to do a little twist on that,” said Jessicka Addams, who recently showed her collection What's Behind the Bunny at Dark Dark Science.
“After the '80s thing failed, the hat was no longer cute and it was a little bit dated. She decided to go into a different line of work. I'm not really sure what that line of work is, but that's my idea.”
At first, Addams was going to show Strawberry Shortcake in her typical outfit, but she later decided to remove the costume to show “childhood innocence.”
“The hat just didn't work,” she said. “I thought about wearing it tonight, but it's a little too small.”
Carlos Ramos, Secret Ninja Team Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets
Carlos Ramos, whose recent shows tackled the films of Stanley Kubrick and the many faces of David Bowie, handled one of first TV loves for Gag Me with a Toon, Secret Ninja Team Gatchaman, otherwise known in the U.S. as Battle of the Planets.
“It was the first anime I had ever seen,” said Ramos. “You know, the first time you see an anime, your eyes get a little bit bigger and the world seems a little bit more technicolor. It has filmmaking and real emotions. Characters got angrier and they sweated a lot more. I just always loved the design and the content.”
He added that he feels that the show aged better than many other cartoons of the era.
“You can't really sit through an episode of G.I. Joe,” he said. “You remember it really well, but to sit and watch it is a real bummer.”
Daniel Galvez, Danger Mouse
“Danger Mouse is funny,” said Daniel Galvez. “You've got this blank background, he pops in and out. He comes out of nowhere. He's got this random villain, it's not even that big of a thing. He's so smooth. There's nothing really wrong with him.”
Galvez aimed to give the British cartoon character ” a rougher edge, a little bit more on the darker side.”
“You see him smoking, where, in the cartoon, you would probably see him as a health fanatic, because he's in shape,” he said. “For all we know, he could have gotten laid right before his picture was taken.”
Roman Dirge, Watership Down
Roman Dirge, creator of Lenore, went the film route by depicting Watership Down in his piece. It's his “all-time favorite cartoon.”
“I remember my parents taking me to a mall and they wanted to go shopping, so they dropped me off at a movie and they're like, 'Oh, a movie about bunnies.' So they shuffled me into the movie about bunnies,” he said. “They came back to get me and I was all traumatized. It's a horrific movie about bunnies.”
Dirge said that the film was a big influence on him. “I think it's one of the things that fucked me up and made me who I am. I am paying homage to it finally.”
Jon Schnepp, Gort and Friends, My Pal Doom
Neither Gort and Friends nor My Pal Doom ever existed. They are products of the mind of Jon Schnepp, who says that for every installment of this art show, he likes to come up with a “failed pilot.”
“This year, I decided to do an '80s version of violent kid's shows that they only made one episode and it was deemed that the violence was too high so they never made it to full series,” he said.
The shows are based around existing characters. Gort was the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still. In Schnepp's imagined program, he has a penchant for “incinerating some children.” My Pal Doom focuses on ” Dr. Doom kind of hanging out with kids and he doesn't like to be bossed around.”
Jim Mahfood, Jem and the Holograms
Jim Mahfood's piece is called “Jem and the Shroom Holograms.” He said he was attracted to the cartoon because Jem “could be open to interpretation.”
“She's a rock star, so she could dress like Prince or Bowie or some weird crazy shit. It's all pink. You can do crazy stuff with it, put her on some mushrooms, a skull, it's done. It's Jem.”
Gosha Levochkin, Multiple Cartoons
Gosha Levochkin depicted many different cartoon characters in his piece, though, the one that immediately caught our attention was Lupin. Levochkin said that he recalled seeing Hayao Miyazaki's Lupin III movie, The Castle of Cagliostro, as a child in Moscow, where he said it wasn't released until 1990.
“It was one of the first movies that Miyazaki did and Miyazaki was a big influence to me as a kid.”
Amongst the other characters featured are Cheburashka, who he described as the “Russian Mickey Mouse” and Space Ghost, who he remembered watching after settling in the U.S.
Steven Daily, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show
Steven Daily, who curated Gag Me with a Toon, took on two characters from wildly different cartoons. He chose Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe for nostalgic reasons.
“I totally remember coming home at three o'clock in the afternoon to see GI Joe at four o'clock in Channel 9,” he said. “It was G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K. and then Transformers at 4:30.”
Snidely Whiplash, from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, tied into his recent solo show.
“I just came off my solo show that was based on freemasonry and secret societies at La Luz de Jesus on January 7,” he said. “It was all Victorian guys dressed in regalia so I thought that it would be a cool transition to pick one of those guys from the cartoons and Snidely jumped out at me because I figured that if was a Victorian gentleman archetype, that's what the animators called him, then he probably would have been a mason. “
Chris P., Schoolhouse Rock
Chris P. of animation studio Titmouse had two different ideas for Gag Me with a Toon, but there wasn't enough time for him to see them through to fruition.
“I thought what could I do in one night, so I came up with the Schoolhouse Rock one while watching Schoolhouse Rock,” he said. “The interjection song was one of the good songs. I always dug the chick that says “Wow!” because I thought that was cool.”
He concluded, “I went for the cheap and easy joke, instead of saying 'wow,' she's saying 'fuck.'”
Dan Quintana, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Dan Quintana's pen and ink drawing may look like Baroness, but it isn't.
“It was based off Baroness because she is, in fact, possibly the only female Cobra,” he explained.
“Once I got into any G.I. Joe Cobras, there needs to be a couple more badass chicks in there,” said Quintana. “I wanted to do a girl that's a little more intimidating that Baroness.”
He continued. “If she really has to have a name, I would probably call her Serpenta. Like a full-blown version of Serpentor.”