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1000 Steps to World Domination

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In cartoon shorthand, whenever you want to visually convey that someone is megalomaniacally nuts, all you need to do is dress him in a Napoleon outfit. Rob Osborne’s 1000 Steps to World Domination (AiT/Planet Lar), a 136-page graphic novel musing on life in Struggling Artists Town, opens with a cover shot of our artist hero with his hands in his coat – and closes with a full-panel page of our would-be world conqueror as he’s taking out the garbage in his Napoleon suit. In the gap between these two images, Osborne’s graphic novel finds much of its humor.
Between those apt images are a series of one- and two-page comic snapshots and eccentric success fantasies typically couched in the metaphor of World Domination. Our hero Rob, stuck in a crappy job and spending his spare time doing comics in his studio, announces to one of his snoozing dogs that he’s “going to take over the world.” And though he frequently draws strips imagining himself as a hard-assed conqueror (e.g., a set of sequences featuring our hero in hand-to-hand combat with a black-masked assailant), he’s just as likely to show himself being berated by a derisive monkey or as the tortoise in a re-enactment of his race with the hare. “I don’t really want to rule the world,” Rob tells his freckle-faced wife at one point. “What I really want is control.” Yeah, well, sometimes control is almost as difficult a goal as world domination.

Flitting between dreams of artistic grandeur and more rueful ruminations on the daily work grind, 1000 Steps tells a recognizable story: the struggles of the young artist as they prepare to head on the “Less Traveled” road of supporting themselves through their art. Osborne takes on a variety of personas from within his studio – dressing in a suit or eye patch, periodically imagining himself as a frustrated alien stuck doing anal probes instead of invading the earth. (“I didn’t sign up for this,” he sighs.) But for all his fantasizing, the cartoonist’s plight is a familiar one. If his strips have more than a smidgeon of Kochalka, even down to the way the cartoon diarist paces his jokes (as when our hero follows two different elevated self-statements with panels of his dog licking his crotch), you never get the sense that Osborne is looking at any other life but his own.
At times, I’ll admit, Osborne’s self-mocking conceit gets a trace repetitious: I could’ve done, for instance without the series of pages portentously quoting Sun Tzu on “The War of Art.” (They seem more designed to demonstrate his clear facility with pen and ink than to add anything to the story.) But then the cartoonist follows this series with a answering machine message from his father (“I’m on my 875th step toward world domination. What step are you on?”) that comically slaps our would-be world beater. Megalomaniacal? Hard to be too megalo when there still are vet bills to pay. . .
ADDENDUM: Please note, that though the Amazon link gives the impression that James Sime is the author of this book, Sime only wrote the introduction.

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
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