"A rainy day is my life."
- Martini Martian
Here we have another example of ambition and ideas eclipsing and usurping actual ability.
Martini Martian was a character my friends Dom and Geoff and I came up with in a high school art class when we were drawing a cat.
You'll note that this alien's face looks like a green cat's nose.
That is the origin story.
This peculiar, casually dressed Martian amused us so we drew some comics with him and gave him a something of a personality that could best be described as "depressed overweight alcoholic, but keeping it together." He was just a very, very pessimistic Martian who bad things happened to. And, like, he sucks but he probably doesn't smell bad at least. And he's very well-spoken and eloquent and it's probably the best part about him. In my mind he became a pretty well fleshed-out character. There are guys like him. Just very unlucky sorts who pleadingly say "why can't we all just get along?" in their heads. At first I imagined him having a voice similar the narrator in a "A Christmas Story," with a tendency to put his arms up in submission and slowly but astonishedly say "Woah!" every time he was wronged by a member of society. "Why is everybody always picking on me?" he would think to himself, as he thoughtfully sips his martini whilst alone at a galactic astro-lounge. Except he lived on Earth, apparently. He'd probably more likely be found at a TGIF, fretting over whether or not he should bring up to the waiter that nobody ever brought him his mozzarella sticks even though he ordered them and everything.
We wanted to do more with him but since he was a cartoon of an obese alien whose head is a lime green cat nose, we were limited to comics or cartoons.
Dom and I were both acolytes of the early-internet flash cartoon website AlbinoBlackSheep.com. It was seminal to us and imprinted on us mightily when we watched it as children who were too young to be watching AlbinoBlackSheep cartoons. I'm talking, like, 2002. "The End of the World," "French Erotic Film," "The Fingertips Project," "DooDooCaca," everything Neil Cicierega put out, etc. In fact, for research purposes, I just rewatched "DooDooCaca." Man, I shouldn't have seen that when I did. What the hell is that.
I really wanted to learn Macromedia Flash 8, so when I was 12 or something I recall I rented the "Macromedia Flash 8 for Dummies" book from the library for like half a year straight until eventually I said "I'm 12 and what is this I don't even."
Years later Dom told me he was learning how to use it so we thought the logical choice was to make a Martini Martian cartoon. I wrote it and voiced Simon, the bartender of the train-themed bar "Choo-Choo for You," as well as the miscreant man at the end. Dom single-handedly illustrated and animated it and voiced Martini Martian's disloyal and fickle best friend, Mel.
We hosted it on AlbinoBlackSheep, where it can still be found.
Predictably, it sucked. Man, I kick myself so hard now when I see little things I wish we had done better. Just tiny corners we cut that we didn't need to cut. We tried so hard all the time but I just wish we had tried a little bit harder than we ever did.
Martini Martial still did better than it had any right to, though. To us, so much as having a cartoon on AlbinoBlackSheep in and of itself was a big deal that carried prestige. But, inexplicably, it actually made it to the front page when ABS himself, the founder AlbinoBlackSheep Steven Lerner, featured us on August 19, 2009. Not only that, but he wrote a little caption, too.
"Your mixed reviews seemed to only have enouraged noob animator VanillaShipwrek to think he can start a series. Actually, besides the dollar-store microphone voices, there's something simple I like about it."
Wow. I think we felt like Weird Al must have felt when Dr. Demento played "My Balogna" on his show. And he sure went easy on us, too. The only thing he dinged was the audio quality? What about the rest of it? We were elated.
It was good vibes all around and it meant a lot to both of us. He really boosted us up and left us well-positioned and motivated to make a sequel. Which we started...but never finished. Some one-pagers are floating around somewhere for episodes we never made. One of them was about Martini Martian telling Mel in confidence that his doctor told him he had "loose oily stool" and that he was worried but also embarrassed, only for Mel to spread the word to everybody at the bar and then throughout the entire world until every person living knew that Martini Martian had loose, oily stool. Another one was about Mel just taking all of Martini Martian's stuff and selling it, and all Martini could bring himself to do was ask that Mel give him "his items" back even though it was all gone. That's all I could remember. Our showbiz ambitions for MM really died on the vine, because animation is very difficult and time consuming.
I believe ABS still follows me on Twitter, for however much that still counts for in 2023 and we have interacted periodically throughout the years, which is a bigger deal to me than I let on. In terms of internet culture and comedy writ large as we know it today, that guy and AlbinoBlackSheep's influence is immeasurable and gets nowhere near as much credit as it deserves. AlbinoBlackSheep belongs in textbooks that discuss "the dawn of the internet age," and Lerner deserves a Kennedy Center Honor, in my opinion. That we got a shout on the front page of AlbinoBlackSheep for our lousy little cartoon, even in the tail end of its days of waning influence, remains one of the highest honors of my life