TOXIC CRUSADER Bjarni Gautur writes about GROWING UP TOXIC on Marvel Toxic Avenger comics and Crusaders to working for LLOYD: Life lessons learned from the Toxic Avenger about censorship, the environment and the importance of having a good mom!
My favorite Troma memory is probably when I got to meet Lloyd Kaufman for the first time. I grew up watching the Toxic Crusaders and reading the Marvel imprinted comic books (that were really censored when they were published in Sweden) and I fell in love with the great messages they were bringing forward into the cartoon medium. I loved the environmental message that the stories had as well as taking away the vanity of beauty. Most cartoons, even those who talked about the environment like Captain Planet, had things as far sighted with how the good guys looked good and the bad guys looked bad, so I can’t even talk about how awesome it was seeing hideously deformed mutants of superhuman size and strength be the good guys. With Toxie’s mom, of course. I still think more super heroes need the support of a good mom.
But I am getting off track. After a life of Toxic Crusaders in my youth, I learned of the actual Toxie movie at the age of 10, and finally got the chance to watch it 13, alongside the rest of the trilogy and I was Troma-hooked. Despite living in Iceland during my teen years, I ordered films off eBay and Amazon in order to make a Troma collection and during my first trip to the US in 2005 (for my 16th birthday) I ransacked a local Virgin (superstore) and bought their entire Troma stock of 20 movies, I would continue to do so during every trip I took to the US, fill my ratio of Troma related merchandise.
But in 2005, which was the first time I could really start building up my Troma collection, was also the time I got a letter from a Troma employee asking me if I wanted to play Toxie during the first Icelandic Independent International Film Festival. I was very lucky getting said letter because being a part of the generation that was born with the Internet, I found a way to send e-mails to everyone I wanted to talk to, despite social statuses or how big they were. Sometimes I would get replies, sometimes not. Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz and the Troma Team always answered my e-mails, even when I was 13 giving them bad plots to upcoming movies. It could have been an e-mail about me going to the bathroom but I would always get a very positive reply from Troma, telling me how awesome it was to hear from me.
And now, because of my e-mails I had sent in hopes of getting some more Troma films to Iceland (so that more people in Iceland could enjoy them), I was a candidate to help Lloyd during his trip to my hometown. I the first time I met him I think was at the screening of the first Toxic Avenger, the local cinema downtown had given the festival it’s biggest screen. I had brought a lot of friends whom I had introduced to Troma, and then suddenly while talking just how awesome this was, a small man walked in whom I had only seen in DVD intros and special features on his movies. There he was. The man who has inspired me more then even he knew.
When I was three years old. I had already decided want I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to make movies, cartoons and comic books. All featuring the same social commentary that Toxic Crusaders had. My dad told me that cartoons had environmental messages in hopes that the next generation wouldn’t be as bad as the generation before them and I felt that this was a worthy cause, teach by entertain. Kaufman was the hero when it came to this. Having obscene comedies always filled with actual good messages. Over the years, he had become one of the greatest heroes in my life.
And there he was, just walking into the theater. He came in alone, without introduction, just walked right in, something I wouldn’t expect from someone of his caliber. I felt like we were dealing with royalty, if my friend hadn’t pointed out that he just walked into the door, I wouldn’t even have noticed him.
I was the first to walk up to him, still in shock that I was actually meeting my idol, I might have actually scared him during out first initial meeting seeing that I just stared at him without saying anything. Finally I raised my hand as fast as I could so I could shake is and tried to introduce myself while stuttering and telling him how awesome he was. There were so many questions I wanted to ask him, stories I had heard about the films, little things I was curious about, but they were all arriving in my head at the same time, I didn’t know what to say. All I could say is how big of a fan I was.
Lloyd nodded, went into his man purse and pulled out a DVD for me. This would be our relationship for the next five days during the festival. I would try to conjure up some of the many questions I had about Troma, while he would tell me and my friends jokes as he would keep giving us DVD’s, very happy at the loyal fanbase that had brewed up here in Iceland and then we would walk in together to see a Troma film. Despite Lloyd introducing most of the Troma films and me being at most of the screenings. I only played Toxie once.
During the first screening of the 1984 cult classic in Iceland. Lloyd did an amazing speech on how the idea for the movie came and had a Q&A afterward, he had directed me on how I should act before we started and I tried to do it was well as possible. I didn’t want to screw anything up, but I was nervous. I had one line. A roar. I was suppose to roar when Lloyd asked me if there was anything that he forgot to mention, I did it right on que, and people laughed and clapped. The exact moment I did it I felt that I didn’t do it well enough, but everyone seemed to be happy, so I decided to join them with that emotion, wasn’t hard, seeing that I was standing next to one of the greatest directors of our time.
The next day I even got Lloyd to have a cameo in my first feature length project. A movie we were going to give to Troma the moment we were finished with it. Seeing that we did it at age 15, it was pretty good, we had a three act storyline, character development, decent gore and LLOYD KAUFMAN in a cameo. But the movie never did get a proper release, which is understandable, it was just made by some 15 year olds.
Charles Dickens once wrote something or other with the words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” All I know is that I have never experience the ‘worst of times’ since. My days with Troma have always been my ‘best of times’. But, my favorite quote has always been in a rendition of the Bard’s most famous play, my all time favorite quote of course being “They found a peanut of DEATH!”. Great words, from the great masters of our time.
I am now living the dream in Tromaville, working with mr. Kaufman on his latest feature, The Return to the Class of Nuke ‘Em High.
Thank you guys for all the memories and inspirations.
Stay tuned for more to follow from Bjarni on his experience slaving away in Niagara, New York on RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH we hope!!