My Life as a Pork Chop Tony Edwards
“CAPTAIN GOODVIBES” 1973-1981
Where do you currently reside?
In an old horse stable about two miles from the centre of Sydney. As I look out my window I can see a line of Maltese terriers taking their lesbians for a walk.
At what age did you realize you were creative and wanted to become an artist?
About nine or 10. I wasn’t thinking “artist” or “creative”, but I discovered that my beautiful young schoolteacher would shower me with kisses and perfumed embraces if I did drawings of stormy seas dashing against rugged cliffs. The idea of exchanging affection for drawings seemed ideal to this younger boy, and to be honest, I still find it hard to fault.
Who and / or what does Captain Goodvibes represent? Where did the idea to create him come from?
He was autobiographical, or partly so, although I had no idea of that at the time. I guess I was throwing up all my worst character faults and watching them flutter in the breeze, not a pretty sight. He was a child of desperation, late one night, a looming deadline, no ideas, maybe another glass of red wine, a joint, and something might pop into my head, and he did.
Describe your relationship with Tracks magazine and how they decided to pick-up your comic strip.
Most of the best things that have happened in my life have been accidents. I took a few scribbles to show a surfing friend, and when I arrived. The editor of Tracks was there. I don’t think I’d heard of Tracks at that time, as I wasn’t a surfer. The editor liked them and offered to publish them. The Captain was born about a month later. In 1973, Tracks was a left leaning surfing magazine that crusaded against environmental vandalism, conservative politics, the military/ industrial complex and promoted a healthy disregard for the sober conventional life. The Captain, to my surprise, was more or less an instant success with the readers. This created some tensions amongst the staff, who felt I was an interloper, a non surfing outsider and so on, but the editor and publisher urged me on to produce more and more comic strips.
What artists / illustrators influenced you during the Captain Goodvibe years?
The usual suspects. Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson, Bill Griffith, Victor Moscoso, all the American underground cartoonists. There were many others, but unsurprisingly I’ve forgotten most of them. I was often accused of ripping off Wonder Warthog, but a friend showed my work to Gilbert Shelton, and his comment was that I was ripping off Victor Moscoso.
What sort of music where you listening to in the Captain Goodvibe years, and also currently?
I was probably playing Randy Newman’s first album when I started cartooning, or maybe The Beach Boys or Bob Dylan. It was a long time ago. A brief flirtation with punk and then the slow slide away from rock / pop into the music of long dead Austrians and Germans. I think rock music exhausted itself 30 years ago, the Rolling Stones should all have OD’d in 1970. The stuff I like now would probably make the Captain throw up: Chopin, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn, Dvorak, Motzart, sounds pretentious? It probably is.
How have the Captain Goodvibes comic strips shaped your artistic career today?
The “arts” is a very competitive and bitchy milieu; every man/ woman/ wanker/ wannabe/ genius is scrambling for attention and a very scarce supply of dollars. It helps to have a little form, even if it’s in the distant past and has nothing to do with what you’re doing now. The media love a good looking young piece of ass, even if they haven’t got two brain cells to rub together or an iota of ability, and everybody hates old white blokes, and who can blame them.
At what point do you feel like commercial design or illustrative work bridges the gap between fine art?
Saul Steinburg, was an American cartoonist whose work jumped the gap and is now considered high art. I don’t think many do, and I certainly don’t think I have. These days I paint landscapes. They’re not art, just pictures. The word “art” gets thrown around a lot these days to the point where it’s almost meaningless, but if your work makes someone’s spine tingle in a hundred years time it might be art, more likely it’s just background noise.
What’s the most important thing in life for you?
Can we make that plural? Money, power, fame, fast cars, booze, and family. I was only joking about the first five.
I came across your book “Captain Goodvibes: My Life as a Pork Chop” at Art Basel Miami just this last year. Have you found popularity and interest overseas? Both in and outside of the surf industry?
A little, but remember the guys and they were mostly guys, who read this stuff can’t remember anything about the ‘70s, and those that can have since gone mad, dropped dead or are in high security aged care facilities. He was essentially very parochial and part of me is pleased that he was only popular here in Australia, at a particular time. That’s what pop culture is all about. Over the years, I’ve had literally hundreds of offers to do something with him: films, books, a museum named after him, clothing, jewelry, ceramic bongs, sunglasses, surfboards, you name it. Ironically, the offers tapered off after the book came out. A cable TV channel wanted him as the station mascot, someone wanted to make a statue of him, and after a couple of disastrous forays into the world of commerce I pulled the plug and walked away from it all.
Are you connected to the surf industry at all nowadays? What’s your perception of it?
Not at all. Surfing, as with all organized sport, is a foreign country to me. Whatever it’s ethos when I was involved has long been buried under a mountain of money.
What would you like to say to the younger generation of illustrators, designers, artists, and surfers alike?
The creative spark speaks with a soft voice and is easily drowned out by the roar of everyday life. Listen for it carefully and take heed of it’s wisdom.