Cartoonist premiers new book at Chapters
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Cartoonist Matthew Inman, also known as The Oatmeal, presented his new book at Metrotown Chapters on October 22 on the last stop of his North American book tour.
Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants is a compilation of Inman’s comics from his website, theoatmeal.com, as well as original comics exclusive to the book.
As part of the event, the Seattle-native shared a history lesson, a heartwarming tale, and a question-answer session with the audience.
Inman’s comics cover a variety of topics, including historical figures such as Nikola Tesla and Christopher Columbus, and animals like the mantis shrimp and his dog, Rambo.
His illustrated essay on Columbus focussed on the explorer’s dark history, such as exploiting the Native Americans for gold, which Inman wasn’t sure how the public would react to.
“I published it and launched it and within six hours, I had a quarter of a million Facebook likes. Within six days, it was in the millions,” he said.
“It made me nervous because when it blows up like that you’re suddenly like, ‘Did I spell everything right? I hope everything is correct.’ Because you can potentially get something wrong in front of a lot of people.”
While most of the facts in the piece check out with historians, Inman admitted he might have gone too far in connecting Columbus to African slavery.
He also discussed a series of comics he published about his dog, Rambo. The stories started out as a commentary on the idiosyncrasies of his new dog, but after talking to a friend, it took a heartfelt turn.
“I was hanging out with a friend of mine who has a small dog and I asked him, ‘How old is your dog?’ And he said something to the effect of, ‘Well, that’s irrelevant. My dog is immortal. He’s going to live forever,’” Inman said.
“I could see that was his veneer. Underneath he was suffering because his dog was getting older and trying to cope with the fact that his dog was going to die.”
The first Rambo comic, “My Dog: The Paradox,” ends with the most joyful moments Inman has with his dog—like when he gets home and Rambo is excited to see him, be it four hours or four seconds later—alongside the sad fact that his dog will die one day.
“You have this animal that you love and you’ve built an affinity and then when they’re 15 years old—the age at which a teenager would maybe start thinking about college and you buy them a car—they die of old age. Like, how terrible is that?” Inman said.
The comic finished with a dedication to Rambo that read: “May he live a thousand years.”
Unfortunately, readers misinterpreted this dedication and Inman was suddenly flooded with sympathy emails from readers who thought Rambo had died.
While Rambo is still alive and well, Inman has had his fair share of pet losses, including more than 15 cats that his family had when he was a child that either ran away, were eaten by wildlife, or burned in a house fire that claimed the family’s home—all of which he documented in his comic memoir, “When your house is burning down, you should brush your teeth.”
After discussing some of his comics, Inman took questions from the audience, such as why he goes by the name The Oatmeal.
“I chose the name The Oatmeal because I used to play a game in the ‘90s called Quake and when I played it my name was Quaker Oatmeal. So I shortened it to Oatmeal,” he explained.
He also explored the possibility of offering an app in the future that would feature unpublished comics from his sketchbook.