As I re-read the book and browsed the various on-line collections, I constantly found myself laughing out loud at the punch line. Sinclair has a great one-two punch with his visual style and humor.
I see from the price sticker on the back that I must have bought this in the UK.
The following is from the dedication in the book,
We also see that the book was published in 1993. The Publisher, The Crossing Press, of Freedom, CA. lists no other books by Sinclair.
I have included Sinclair’s foreward.
The story opens with Alex buying a blue-collar restaurant from Angelo, aptly named Angelo’s, and turning it into a vegetarian restaurant. His first customer, Carl, unaware that the place has changed hands, orders his usual, Double Cheese Baco-Burger Fries with gravy, and a shake. Alex turns to his wife, Joanne, and says, “Honey, I feel a sense of mission…” Carl is a recurring character in the strip. Usually saying in deadpan to the latest customer complaint that he finds it easier to just eat the bug in the salad than to complain about it. NOTE, in subsequent, online strips, the previous restaurant is called, “Sam’n’Ella’s.” However, I am basing this blog on the above book, so Angelo’s it will be.
Here are the first six strips from Alex’s Restaurant, 1993 by Peter Sinclair
Sinclair lives in Midland, MI, 93% white, a staunch Republican town, home to Dow Chemical Company. One wonders how his neighbors view him. I found a fascinating 1999 interview with him, by Dominick A. Miserandino on The Celebrity Cafe web site. I have excerpted parts of it. I urge you to read the complete interview.
DM) How did you start in your work?
PS) I began work as a cartoonist about 20 years ago, several years after graduating from the University of Michigan with a BFA. I started thinking about a strip like Alex’s about that time, but I figured it would be a while before the mainstream was ready for it.
I spent a long time doing political cartoons for local newspapers, but I was unable to secure the position I wanted with a larger paper. At a certain point, I realized that the audience for work of this type was reaching a critical mass, and started to put ideas together. Alex’s has been designed as the cartoon of all things herbal, green, organic, wholistic, and so on. It is the cartoon of the global paradigm shift, the Aquarian Conspiracy, if you will.
The cartoon met with unexpected early success, in that it was picked up for syndication by one of the largest cartoon syndicators. They told me that, with their history of selling only the very safest of mainstream cartoons, they wanted to see the “next Doonesbury.” Unfortunately, they proved to be unwilling to weather the tough going in getting something like that started. They backed out when the cartoon did not make an immediately gigantic splash, although it was running in 50 papers in five countries.
To make a long story short, I learned a lot about how this business works, and what to look for in a contract. I had to go back to working as a paramedic and an ICU nurse to make ends meet, until the Internet suggested a way around the brick wall of media indifference to this audience.
DM) You’ve thought of going back to school as a nurse. Wouldn’t that pull away from your cartooning?
PS) Well, actually, I am a nurse. After being a paramedic for 15 years, a job that I loved, by the way, I took a correspondence course for people who were in the field of health care already, and got the license.
I worked for a year doing graveyard duty in an inner city ICU. Almost killed me. You have to respect the knowledge and professionalism of the people in those jobs, but it certainly confirmed everything I believe about the deficiencies of our health care system, and the scientific-reductionist paradigm that Alex’s is dedicated to exposing and killing off, once and for all.
DM) Do you enjoy nursing as much as cartooning?
PS) In nursing, you meet some of the most compassionate, efficient, and humane people on the planet. You also meet some of the most anal, neurotic, and unhappy people on the planet. Most everything you’ve heard about the health care system, good and bad, is true. I loved being a paramedic. You have autonomy. You make decisions your way. You see outcomes in real time. Nursing in a hospital is a whole different deal. When I was a nurse, I thought, seriously, that I was going to die way before my time. It was that stressful for me. I still have my license, but I have no plans to go back.
DM) Does the cartooning relax you?
PS) It depends. I am someone who thrives on adrenaline. I think that was the attraction of EMS work. It may be there’s a chemical imbalance in my brain. In any case, having a deadline seems to energize me. The work of putting out the final comic each day, or week, is kind of hectic, but seems to energize me. The relaxation part is when I curl up on the couch with a sketchpad and a book or magazine and just spin out little sketches and ideas. This has always been one of my favorite activities, and maybe being a cartoonist is a way that I can legitimize that guilty pleasure.
And from another interview, this one by Curt Guyette, also in 1999, in UTINE Reader, an online alternative publication we have a rather more concise description of the rise and fall of the syndicated strip. Again, I urge you to read the complete article.
Sinclair tells how his passion for drawing collided with economic realities after his college years in Ann Arbor, and how he satisfied himself with submitting political cartoons to the local daily while working as a paramedic. He even considered a job as an editorial cartoonist for a newspaper in upstate New York.
Then the inspiration for Alex’s Restaurant hit, and “I decided the real money is in cartoon strips,” says Sinclair, laughing.
Alex’s Restaurant is a sweet-tempered, middle-American place where the ribbing is good-natured and the humor more subtle than slapstick. Alex and his wife are corporate dropouts with New Age sensibilities. The cast includes a Mohawked Gen-X poet and busboy and a reality-checking redneck who sits at the counter sipping coffee with everyone from a spiritually connected Native American to a Dr. Andrew Weil–like homeopath.
Sinclair saw the strip as a way to tap into a social trend he noticed sprouting as the Reagan era drew to a close. Demographers call his target audience “cultural creatives,” a group that transcends traditional political ideology in favor of a path that embraces spirituality, ecology, and holistic health.
King Features, one of the country’s largest syndicators, agreed to pick up the cartoon in 1990, and almost overnight Alex’s Restaurant was appearing in 50 daily newspapers. With visions of a six-figure income dangling within reach, Sinclair and his wife, Sandy, a teacher, quit their jobs.
Eight weeks after the strip debuted, the Detroit Free Press conducted one of its periodic reader surveys, and Alex’s Restaurant finished at the top of the poll—as the paper’s most disliked cartoon.
Within a year, Alex’s Restaurant was cut by King and out of the mainstream. Sinclair was back working as a paramedic, and then as an emergency room nurse. His belief that the strip could be a success, though shaken, was not shattered. When a friend turned him on to the Internet, Sinclair transformed himself from a computer illiterate into someone with enough expertise to design Web pages. By 1997, the Nando Times, a prominent media Web site, found Alex’s Restaurant and began to feature the strip, providing a link to Alex’s home page.
Speaking of his home page, I think it is more of a cobweb site, than web site. Most of the links are busted and the blog entries are from January. I don’t know which year. If this year, it is now June.
There is another site with many of his sketches, and his animated GIFs. my understanding of the on-line comic strip, was that one of the weekly strips would be animated. This site also has many of his sketches. I got to thinking about his Paramedic time. You are on shift, waiting. You can read, watch the tube, do paperwork, work with your hands, but always with the understanding that when the tones drop, you are out the door for no one knows how long. So he couldn’t have done extensive drawings as he would not know when he could get back to them. Hence, the sketches.
This site also tells us that the (self) syndicated strip ran from 1999 to possibly 2002.
Sinclair currently has a presence on two (at least) web sites. One has to do with e-cards with animation. I think these e-cards duplicate those from the above link. The second site is more serious, and more current. From that site, desmogblog.com, we learn that,
Peter Sinclair is a long time advocate of environmental awareness and energy alternatives. An award winning graphic artist, illustrator, and animator, Mr. Sinclair runs Greenman Studio from his home in Midland, MI.
Mr. Sinclair’s syndicated cartoons have appeared worldwide, and his work has been profiled in numerous publications, including the New York Times. He is the producer of the YouTube series, “Climate Denial Crock of the Week”.
He also blogs on environmental issues at Planet Thoughts, under the Greenman user name.
One of his more recent works is providing illustrations for a book for children on strokes in the elderly. called “Grandpa’s Crooked Smile“. The website provides the following:
Title: Grandpa’s Crooked Smile: A Story of Stroke Survival
Author: Barbara Reeves
Illustrator: Peter Sinclair
Developed by MidMichigan Health
Funded by a grant from the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation.
Publisher: Aardvark Global Publishing, © 2007, MidMichigan Health.
Recommended Ages: 4 to 6
But, back to Alex’s Restaurant. The next link will provide you with many cartoons. They are grouped five at a time, with the groups following a theme. I assume they represent a Monday to Friday collection.
And of course, the ubiquitous google image site, with all things Peter Sinclair.
We seem to be at the end, so I leave you with the following,