WWWednesday: The World of Mr. Toast
by Dan Goodsell
I keep everything. Specifically, I have an ever-expanding collection of cards, stickers, and miscellaneous promotional items from the many comic book conventions I've attended over the past eight years. If you were a small press or independent exhibitor at Comic Con in 2001 (like I was) and I liked the look or layout of that postcard you printed and distributed to promote your comic or website, I still have it. I'm pretty obsessive about it, actually, and since my girlfriend and I recently moved and I now have a place for all of this junk, I've actually begun to file these things, as if they were comics themselves. Hey, they're still little pieces of art, okay? Heck, even more so than the comic they promote, these little cards and stickers are attempting to make a connection with their audience. "There's a comic book over here you'll really like, if you just give it a chance!" they plead. They're proverbial middle men. They deserve some attention, too.
The folks that spend hundreds of dollars on those throwaway freebies would agree. I've been in their shoes.
One such item that I've saved for a few years now is poster for Mr. Toast. I don't remember when or where I picked it up, if I paid for it or not, but as I was recently decorating this comic book storage room/personal museum of collectibles and mementos/man-cave of mine (I'm still thinking of a good name for it, and I'm leaning toward my "ready room," yes, from Star Trek), I decided I liked the simple, chuckle-worthy image enough to display. Here it is, right below my Scrapyard Detectives poster, a Bipolar cover proof, and a Buenaventura one-sheet:
I confess, I've been afraid to look up Mr. Toast on-line. What if I didn't like what I found? What if this poster was just an anomalous piece of promotional art, honestly, like many of those other pieces I've acquired over the years? Well, I bit the bullet today and Googled my crusted friend. I'm glad I did. The World of Mr. Toast is a beautiful, brilliant body of work that includes one-panel comics and "gags," the cutest flash animations you'll ever see, and an eclectic collection of pop culture Americana. In fact, the option between Dan Goodsell's Mr. Toast work and Tick Tock Toys gallery is a perfect combination of inspiration-meets-result, as his on-line archive of old toys, food containers, campy comics, and peculiar vacation destinations is an homage to/museum of a bygone era, with the innocence and good humor of Mr. Toast its obvious, natural by-product. Consider this gag panel:
In one simple frame, Goodsell captures and combines four of my favorite childhood pastimes: forts, toilet paper, eggs, and toast. My friends and I built forts all the time! When we got a little older, we toilet-papered each others' houses! As an adult, I still love breakfast the most! See what I mean?
The secret to Goodsell's eye-catching art is absurdly simple: draw two eyes and a mouth onto everything. His cast of characters is a virtual delight, and while he infuses each with an irrefutable sense of personality, the familiarity of each personified item (some of them coupled with props, like "Sr. Cork") evokes a charming instant reaction from the back of the mind, as well. I don't have to read a strip or gag starring Prof. Encyclopedia to remember those old dusty volumes my family had when I was a kid, those scientific journals that are probably so wrong by now that they'd make better science fiction than anything else. It's a precious memory, actually -- and yes, undoubtedly like Goodsell, I still have those encyclopedias. They're in the ready room, right around the corner from Mr. Toast, coincidentally.
Needless to say, I'm happy Mr. Toast made his way to the wall. He is a modern acquisition that celebrates the keepsakes of the past, the trinkets I've maniacally kept and preserved over the years. The world needs more Mr. Toast. Without him, we'd feel our age much sooner, I imagine. We'd all become that much more . . . crusty.