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A Conversation with Glenn Anderson

Glenn Anderson of Friendship says he's part cartoonist, part designer, and all artist. Now he hopes to help blow Pittsburgh up with his "'Burghdana": a black kerchief covered in a logo he designed that says "Da 'Burgh" in a blocked text.

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Of all the characters in your strip, which do you most closely identify with?
Flatlite. He's a dog who's evolved to a level of a very polished human degree. He has all the social graces of Martha Stewart and he can wipe his own ass. He hangs at posh places, has money and chases the finest women. He's definitely of the upper crust, but he's a dog. He's my lead character and the only non-human, so he represents the minority. He's a lot like me.

So what is the goal of all of these characters? Is there "somewhere" they're trying to go?
All of my characters belong to a yacht club: Andy's Loop Café Yacht Club. But it's a yacht club only in name because none of them actually owns a yacht. George Bush wants to belong to the club and they take a vote where they all vote nay to accepting him. But Bush is saying, "Hey, I'm the only one with a yacht, though."

Do your characters symbolize anything about America?
Yeah, man, my strip has sexual and racial undertones and I use them to define life. All these persons represent mainstream society. They're expressing the human condition, from being pitiful to being triumphant, from being well adjusted to being schizophrenic. I call them graphinitions: graphic definitions of life and its vocabulary. They're all also personalities that are extensions of me. And hopefully by expressing the more unstable ones, I can become more stable.

What type of philosophy are you addressing with these characters?
Take Mithah, for example. He's maladjusted, can't get along with women; he hates his job. I have a few strips where he's spending time mostly on shrink's couches or on the toilet. In one strip he's on the toilet and he thinks, "Tell me something. If chicken didn't exist, what would all the shit that tastes like chicken taste like?" And this is his view of life.

Tell me about the "'Burghdana." What led you to this?
I was tossed out of my house a while back and I ended up at the Avalon Hotel. All I had was a plastic bag with my toothbrush, some toothpaste and pretty much what was on my back. I then moved to the YMCA in the Hill District, and from there I moved to a friend's, who turned out to be a heroin addict living with a bunch of other addicts. I had a room with no locks so I had to take whatever valuables I had in a bag I carried to work and wherever I went. I had reached a deep bottom and in that bottom I had to ask myself "Where are you?" and that's when I thought up "Da 'Burgh" logo.

What does "Da 'Burgh" mean to Glenn Anderson?
Well, one thing I had that was true was my art. I knew I could rely on my art because it's God-given, and God wouldn't lie to me. This logo is representative of my plight. I've always loved Pittsburgh so I designed the logo and liked it. Now I just hope everybody else likes it, too.

What's been the response so far?
They love it. I just got them a few weeks ago and already I have them available in three gift shops at the Hilton, the Omni and the Westin.

So we can expect to see people waving these at the Steelers' games?
Yeah, a couple people said they'd wear them and wave them at the games. They're all-purpose; you can be a Pirates fan, Penguins fan or a Steelers fan, but most of all you gotta be a Pittsburgh fan. I'm striving to see that this bandana, for Pittsburgh, is the shit.

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