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Sunday 2 August 2015

Who Remembers Guru?

I’m sure that everyone who reads Fortean Times will be aware of Hunt Emerson’s perennial Phenomenonix strip (which must qualify as one of the most erudite cartoons of all time – especially the episodes written in collaboration with Kevin Jackson). But when I first started reading the magazine there was another regular cartoon feature as well – “Guru” by Pierre Hollins. According to his own website, the strip ran from 1991 to 1997. The example pictured above (just a single panel, as was often the case) comes from FT95, cover-dated February 1997.

Guru is a bovine-headed philosopher who talks like a 1960s hippie. I can’t say I ever found the punchlines particularly funny (the one above is one of the better ones), but I really enjoyed the strip anyway. I liked the surrealism of the Guru character, and the juxtaposition of deep philosophizing with “let it all hang out” hippie platitudes. I also liked the retro style of the art – in high-contrast black-and-white, with most of the characters wearing Victorian garb. These appear to be clip-art collages – something that probably involved a lot more time and effort in the 1990s than it would do today!

I just discovered that all (or most) of the Guru strips are now online at the Guru Files on Pierre Hollins’s website – reading through them stirred many nostalgic memories! There are also some colour cartoons, which I don’t recall seeing in the magazine. I particularly liked the one shown below. The caption (which is the punchline from one of the earlier black-and-white strips) is printed vertically up the left-hand side, for some reason. It reads: “If everyone knew the secret of the Universe, it wouldn’t be much of a secret”.


TwoHeadedBoy said...

I only started reading Fortean Times in 2002 (although I've got a load of back issues since then), so this is new to me - thanks!

Reminds me of the stuff Borin Van Loon was doing in the late eighties/early nineties...


Andrew May said...

Thanks very much for bringing this to my attention - I wasn't aware of it before, but it does indeed look very similar in style.

This sort of thing must have been very fiddly and painstaking to do in the late 80s and early 90s. Even if suitable photoshopping software existed, the artists would have had to find and scan in all the pictures themselves, prior to things like Wikimedia Commons etc. These days it's all so much easier I might even try my hand at it myself one of these days!

TwoHeadedBoy said...

It must have been fiddly, yeah - but just imagine how fiddly it must've been for Terry Gilliam to ANIMATE this sort of stuff in the Sixties!

Lenny Bear said...
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Andrew May said...

Thanks for the info - I will remember to look out for the book.