by Karen Thorne
Cartoon characters Captain Goodvibes and Gonad Man, two of surfing’s unlikely heroes, are on a new high. The cartoons’ illustrators, Tony Edwards and Mark Sutherland, discussed the cult of the characters that entertained generations of surfers at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Sean Doherty and Phil Jarratt, former editors of surfing magazine Tracks, were also part of the panel discussion.
“A lot of what we created back in those days hasn’t really stood the test of time,” Phil Jarratt said, “but fortunately Captain Goodvibes has.”
Tony Edwards, creator of the binge drinking pig of steel that appeared in Tracks between 1973-1981, described Goodvibes as his response to the 70’s and his “enthusiastic embrace of its worst excesses”.
Before Captain Goodvibes, Mr Edwards was an architectural draftsman. “I started drawing a few cartoons to alleviate the horror of working in an office. One day a guest editor of Tracks saw them and said ‘give us a look at those’, and went ‘oh yeah, we can publish them’ and that was it.”
The cartoon pig, described by Tony Edwards as a “loveable abomination’, wasn’t motivated by any particular cause. “Sadly I wasn’t a political person and I wasn’t trying to change the world. My attempts at satire were pretty leaden and deliberately offensive. Maybe it worked, I don’t know,” he said.
Mark Sutherland, the cartoonist behind substance abusing surfer Gonad Man, grew up reading Tracks and Captain Goodvibes in the early 1970s. “I loved comics when I was younger but you could only get ones like Donald Duck. All of the sudden Captain Goodvibes was down at my beach, surfing. It opened my eyes to what comics could be,” he said. Gonad Man was published in Waves magazine from 1993-1999.
“In the 70s there was a lot to rebel against,” Mr Sutherland said. “Vietnam, the corporations and ‘the man’. Surfing was seen as an escape, rebelling against society.”
However, by the time the 90’s came around, he realised there was little left to rebel against. Instead, he saw the creation of Gonad Man as an escape from mainstream surfing. “He lived on his own island with palm trees, occasional naked women, massive waves and no sense of fear,” he said.
Gonad Man is a story about a boy raised by gorillas on Gilligan’s island; his mother is an ex-rated film star Ginger G and his father a famous surfer. After much substance abuse Gonad straightens himself out to save his island against the mega surf corporation, Bongwater.
Gonad Man laughed in the face of Australia’s surf culture in the 90s and poked fun at prominent names in the surf industry. The cartoon once featured a character named Smelly Skater in a full-body condom suit.
When asked if either cartoon character resembled its creator, Phil Jarratt simply said, “I think pets resemble their owners”.
Mark Sutherland has recently released The Complete Adventures of Gonad Man and Tony Edwards’ book, My Life As A Pork Chop, is a collection of the best and worst of Captain Goodvibes.