You can’t summarize webcomic Mr Boop better than his first panel, which emerged from what felt like an internet id raging on February 28, 2020. “My wife Betty Boop is absolutely hot,” says Alec, the bespectacled, grinning protagonist, cartoon avatar actually writer and artist Alec Robbins. .
His wife, you know, is Betty Boop. She is very sexy.
At first blush, Mr Boop may not seem all that different from the web comics that broadly defined the genre’s boom about a decade ago: imperfectly drawn panels, constant flirtation with copyright infringement, and a passionate, self-indulgent hero based directly on the author.
But Robbins isn’t just channeling tropes from the fanfiction era that has largely passed; he armed them, providing satirical notes perfectly from a very specific time on the internet with layers that only reveal themselves as the story unfolds. Over 216 comic strips, several videos, and one worrying free-to-play visual novel, Robbins — a writer and comedian whose credits include assignments I think you should go and Eric Andre . Show — starting with a joke about a man married to Betty Boop and leading to a hilarious, sometimes existentially disturbing interrogation of what is interesting about fandom and stupid about copyright law.
Although Mr Boop‘s early appeals were directly internet-related—a new strip debuted on Robbins’ Twitter feed, where everything can still be read for free — the comic takes on a different weight in the fancy new hardbound edition of Silver Sprocket, which also collects a series of guest strips and cleverly adapts the original video ending for the written page. This is the new best way to read the best comics I read in 2020.
I have about a million questions when I’m done Mr Boop last year. Alec Robbins is here to answer some of them:
Of all the fictional characters you can marry online, why Betty Boop?
It’s never been anything else. It’s not, “Oh, it would be funny to draw a comic about marrying a fictional character. Who is that?” That was never the approach. It always comes from Betty Boop. There is a bar called the Winchester Room which has a life-size statue of Betty Boop. I will pose for photos with it to make my friends laugh. And from there, I’m inspired to tweet, every now and then, something like, “Damn… Betty Boop is so hot.” I really like the thought of this character being uniquely designed to be a sex symbol but now especially remembered by, like, grandma.
So how did that insider joke turn into this psychosexual web comic?
I drew a sketch, once, just to make my friend laugh. I just sent him a message. But then I finish work one day, and — sitting in my car after work — I open a notepad file on my phone, and I write 40 Mr Boop strips at once. They come so naturally. When I started drawing it, it was like rocket fuel.
The comics don’t last long before you expand the universe to other fictional characters: Bugs Bunny, and Sonic the Hedgehog, and Peter Griffin. In the 45th comic, Alec and Betty Boop have orgy with Goku, Jessica Rabbit, Fred Flintstone, Gardevoir from Pokemon…
Oh my God, I take it very seriously, which characters will enter and which will not. Once you open that shell, you play with every archetypal character that people have a famous sexual obsession with online.
Some are ironic, like Sonic or Shrek or SpongeBob. Some are obvious, like Jessica Rabbit. But then there’s left field. Like, if you’re used to Pokemon fans and how they end up sexualizing certain characters — I know there’s something with Gardevoir. If you ever see someone draw horny Pokemon art, Gardevoir is probably the one you’ve ever seen.
And you need some that are personal. Ranma and Gina from Porco Rosso — when I was young and watched anime, it resonated with me. You have to enter your own favourites. I need to make sure I’m in the crosshairs too. I didn’t want to go out, like I was making fun of anyone. So I threw in some of my vices too.
Book 3 has an entire meta-narrative about Betty Boop’s father enforcing her copyright and breaking off her marriage to Alec. And that’s the question I had from the start: writing comics that incorporate so many recognizable fictional characters, are you experiencing actual copyright infringement?
Maybe. I don’t know if I should speak. My answer is a wink “maybe.”
You have the scene where Mickey Mouse comes up with an erection and says, “Walt Disney really hates it when I, Mickey Mouse, participate in debauchery.”
I think it’s pretty clear how I feel about copyright. I can tell you about this. There is fear. And I finally stopped worrying altogether. Fear really empowers me, when nothing happens to me, to be braver than before. And the harder I do it — after that about copyright infringement, with Mickey Mouse as the holy grail — I’m even more protected. This is a perfectly valid critique of that world.
The ending literally dips into all-out horror — right down to the final merging video End of Evangelion the song “Komm, süsser Tod.” How do you decide when and how to finish a comic?
There are some pictures that I changed because I was like, “This makes I uncomfortable.” I have the most reservations about Book 4. To this day, I’m kind of like…is that the right capper for everything? Obviously makes sense, but I’m really worried about the statement I’m making. I don’t want a final statement. from Mr Boop be bad to fall into the fantasy world and enjoy it.
It’s a pretty sure ending, but have you ever returned to Mr Boop universe? We know Alec was previously married to Samus Aran and Gina from Porco Rossobut we know almost nothing about the relationship.
Maybe. I like having the buttons on it, especially with the hardcover. But it was so much fun. I miss him. I don’t think it ended prematurely, but a lot of other people did. I really invested in not letting it drag on for too long. There’s no reason I can’t go back there.
Finally, I’ve been wondering for months: when is Sonic the Hedgehog speaking Mr Boop, I heard Jaleel White’s voice in my head. Is that true?
Yes. That’s canon for me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.