Arthur creates for sight and sound

The Enterprise – Sean Mulkerrin

Up close: Doug Arthur likes to draw “improvisational comics.” Each sketch takes five to 10 minutes, and is meant to keep his mind sharp and continuously working.

VOORHEESVILLE — Five years ago, Doug Arthur had been away from drawing for a while when one night he bolted out of a dead sleep with the idea that he was going to do a book.

“Call it a midlife crisis, if you want,” he said, laughing. He was in his mid-40s at the time.

That September, he debuted “Antisocial Lawnmower” at FantaCon, a comic-book convention that returned to Albany in 2013 after being on hiatus since the ’8s and ’90s.

This summer, Arthur will release an updated “Antisocial Lawnmower” to commemorate 30 years of subversive observation and satire from “Tales from the Dougside.” He said he has a small but loyal following.

He describes “Tales from the Dougside” as free-form, a comic strip without recurring characters save for himself, acting as the omniscient narrator. He likens the role to the Crypt Keeper in Tales from the Crypt, a comic from the ’50s and a television horror anthology that ran on HBO in the ’90s.

His work is influenced by “Mad Magazine” as he writes parodies of pop culture and politics, he said. One of his favorite comics growing up was Peanuts.

“Cheap entertainment”

Arthur is a Voorheesville graduate, class of 1985. He moved back to the area in 2001 and to Voorheesville last year.

He began as a political cartoonist for “Generations,” the student magazine at the University of Buffalo. He was an equal-opportunity offender, he said; skewering Pat Robertson and the Moral Majority but also Mario Cuomo. Bill Clinton opened the floodgates, he said.

While still in school, he made the shift from politics to what would become “Tales from the Dougside.” After college, Arthur’s comic ran in a Buffalo local entertainment guide until 1998.

Arthur doesn’t make a living as an artist. “At this point, it’s become a self-sustaining hobby,” he said. He currently works for the state’s Department of Health.

Growing up as one of seven children, Arthur said, “Drawing was cheap entertainment.”

In the ’70s, if a TV broke, “then it was broken for awhile,” he said. He and his six siblings would have to make their own entertainment, using their imaginations, and they were each creative in some way. His brother was a cartoonist for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic strip; one sister is a talented seamstress; and another is a gifted painter.

Sense of sound

When he was 7 or 8 years old, Arthur and his brother, Rick, would create their own radio shows, influenced by their father, who grew up listening to epic storytelling on the radio in the ’30s and ’40s. The pair would record themselves reading comic books, and would add their own special effects.

Perhaps those early forays into broadcast led to Arthur’s making podcasts for the last seven years.

He came of age as music was evolving; in the early ’80s, disco was dying. In its place came New Wave and synth pop, and bands like Devo and The Talking Heads, which was a favorite. “One of the first things that really caught my ear was Gary Numan’s ‘Cars,’” he said.

“I got to be one of those guys who would pore over the liner notes because he wanted to know who was playing the instruments — which is kind of a lost thing,” he said.

Arthur does not call himself a musician; he doesn’t play an instrument. He makes music electronically, ambient music mostly, he said, and is a fan of musical innovator Brian Eno, who has worked with many of the biggest names in music history.

Arthur’s podcast, “Assault Of The Two-Headed Space Mules,” which he began seven years ago, is “on the edge of mainstream pop culture,” as he describes it. His most recent podcast was a tribute to George Romero, the creator of “Night of the Living Dead,” who died last year.

He’s done album reviews for avant-garde bands like The Residents.

“I reviewed an album by Crispin Glover, the actor — most known for his part as Michael J. Fox’s dad in ‘Back to the Future.’ It was very bizarre.”

The bizarre intrigues Arthur as he pushes aside the quotidian for new frontiers. When his strip became less interesting to him, he began drawing his dreams, writing down snippets of what he remembered from the night before and incorporating that subconscious resonance into his art.

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