Mark Medley, National Post
Published: Monday, May 12, 2008
The search for Bigfoot has led intrepid explorers to comb the isolated forests of the Pacific Northwest for evidence of the fabled creature's existence, catalogue every oversized footprint found preserved in the mud, study each frame of grainy camera footage, investigate alleged encounters. Search no more. Bigfoot sets the record straight in his new graphic memoir Bigfoot: I Not Dead, and helping out our sasquatch friend is Toronto illustrator Graham Roumieu.
"People's relationship with Bigfoot is a lot like their relationship to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny," says Roumieu. "Most rational, sober people don't really believe in Bigfoot. But you want to believe in Bigfoot, just like you want to believe in Santa Claus."
Yes, my fellow Bigfoot enthusiasts, this is all a ruse concocted by Roumieu. You'll have to wait a bit longer for the authorized biography.
"A couple of times I've made the mistake of pretending that I actually believed in Bigfoot," he admits between sips of beer during an interview last week on the patio of the Cadillac Lounge in Toronto. Roumieu laughs in disbelief as he recounts a recent radio interview where the hosts thought he was serious. "I just came off looking like a complete maniac. I had nut jobs from Kentucky phoning in from their trailers, calling me a fake."
That's what happens when you deal with a creature who divides skeptics and hard-core believers. Sure, everyone loves the lovable oaf in Harry and the Hendersons, but there's a fine line between homage and ridicule. If you visit online bookseller Amazon and check out the reviews of Roumieu's first book, In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot, you'll find comments such as: "What a waste of time and money. As a dedicated Sasquatch researcher, I learned absolutely nothing from this book."
He recalls another negative review. There was another gentleman who said Roumieu was "defaming a very respected and beloved mythical creature."
"Well, in his mind not mythical," says Roumieu. "[He said] that any day Bigfoot would be discovered and he'd show me. ? It actually upset me. It was one of the first times I'd gotten a negative remark about my work."
For the most part, his work has been acclaimed. An editorial illustrator, he's worked for The Wall Street Journal, The Walrus and The New York Times -- about 1,300 magazine and newspaper illustrations in the past six years. He has another book called Cat and Gnome coming out this summer, and he's working on a young adult title, which will take the form of a high school yearbook written from the viewpoint of the least popular kid in school who becomes the only person on the yearbook committee.
Bigfoot struggles with popularity, too. You'd think a legendary monster would ooze confidence, but Roumieu presents a creature who struggles for societal acceptance while trying not to eat your children for dessert.
"In Bigfoot's case," explains Roumieu, "[he's] trying to become famous and trying to be significant in a world that's afraid of him. A world that's fascinated by him. And also under the conditions of his fame, which is: Bigfoot wouldn't be famous if he wasn't elusive. So he can never be fully famous in the Paris Hilton sort of way, even though he sort of wants that, but is completely incapable of dealing with it because he has a brain the size of tennis ball. And he also has anger management problems. And he stinks."
Roumieu admits that, in a weird, hairy way, Bigfoot acts as a stand in for himself.
"For the longest time, I denied there was any sort of autobiographical content from my own end in it," he says. "But a lot of it is. I mean there are no stories taken directly from my life, but the overall themes and experiences? Yes."
With a trilogy of Bigfoot books now under his belt, Roumieu says the series may have come to an end.
"It's sort of leaving it hanging. It might be [the end]," he says. "We'll see in three or four years, or 10 years, or 20 years. I don't know."
There's always the Yeti.
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