Bill Holbrook’s ‘The Thing That Ate Auburn’

Monday, January 31, 2022

Bill Holbrook’s ‘The Thing That Ate Auburn’

The Plainsman has had some great cartoonists over the college years. But there was this stretch from the early 70s through the early 80s where there was some real, like, graphic novel quality stuff happening in the editorial pages. Case in pointiest: “Kevin and Kell,” “Safe Havens,” and “On The Fastrack” creator Bill Holbrook‘s copyrighted 1979 opus “The Thing That Ate Auburn,” an “affectionate spoof” of AU campus life which we present here for the first time since its original publication in pristine, scanned-from-the-originals quality, and with an introduction by the author. (You can see more of Holbrook’s Plainsman work here and here. And there’s more coming.)

Bill Holbrook: “During the calendar year of 1978 while I was at Auburn, I created a 24-page satirical comic book. This was in addition to my work as an Illustration and Visual Design major and being the art director for The Auburn Plainsman. In my latter capacity I did editorial cartoons, a comic strip “Fenton Farnsworth” and spot illustrations. Even then a heavy workload was the norm for me.

My goal was to create an affectionate spoof of the entire campus, beyond what I could do within the boundaries of the comics I already doing. Once I decided to purloin the plot of the 1958 film “The Blob,” the various elements seemed to fall into place.

“I began drawing it in January 1978, and completed the final pages in a marathon session in February 1979. Looking at it now you can see an enormous progression in the quality of artwork. It’s probably the biggest single leap I ever made.

I had a vague idea of printing and selling it myself, but that’s not where my talents are. However, I showed it to the Plainsman staff, who immediately offered to run it as a special section of their 1979 April Fools edition. So, on an early Spring day everyone in the university got a copy. While I didn’t see any money from “The Thing That Ate Auburn,” it raised my profile and brought freelance work my way, such as doing caricatures of the senior players for the 1979 football programs.

It was sort of like an early version of the Internet business model.”


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Related: Auburn’s banned 1979 student recruitment poster.

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