Mascoutah native Alex Schubert has found his artistic niche with a comic strip about a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking punk band called the "Blobby Boys."
It has appeared for two years in Vice, an international magazine with more than a million subscribers and an irreverent approach to covering news and culture.
Alex, 30, of Kansas City, Mo., loosely based the strip on his own experiences as a former member of a punk band called The Freds.
Koyama Press recently published the first "Blobby Boys" collection (52 pages, paperback, $10 at major book sellers).
"(The characters) are a group of three slime monsters, and there are several short stories in the book that revolve around their high jinks," he said. "In one story, they take part in a battle of the bands. In another, they go on tour in Europe."
Dozens of high-school and college students showed up for Alex's book signing at Star Clipper comic shop in University City, Mo. He also took promotional trips to Los Angeles, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Bethesda, Md.
"What amazes me is his fan following," said father Lou Schubert, of Macoutah "He's actually famous, and that startles me."
Fans include members of the Belleville-based punk band Lumpy and the Dumpers, who performed at the book signing. They wore green masks to look like the Blobby Boys and sang a song called "Too Much Slime."
The band stayed in character between songs and cussed up a storm, taking Alex's relatives by surprise.
"The art (in this comic strip) is amazing," said drummer John Birkner, 25, of St. Louis. "It's so smooth and different compared to a lot of stuff out there. And the humor is amazing. It's right up our alley. It's just so funny and goofy and genuine."
Alex has been obsessed with art since childhood. Even his kindergarten teacher predicted he would someday be a comic-book author.
Alex took private cartooning lessons and all kinds of art classes at Mascoutah High School before graduating in 2002.
Art teacher Scot Erickson remembers him as creative and unconventional, someone who liked to push the envelope on projects.
"I'm really happy for him," said Scot, 41, of Mascoutah, who went to the book signing. "You have so few students who go into art, let alone become successful."
After high school, Alex enrolled at Kansas City Art Institute to study printmaking, but the program was discontinued, so he switched to painting.
One of his big breaks was landing a part-time job as an art critic for the Kansas City Star.
"He was a pretty tough art critic," his mother said. "He has a very critical eye."
"He got into art history at some point," father Lou added. "He'd compare contemporary art to the masters, and it very rarely stacks up."
After college, Alex worked as a graphic designer for a company that produced online training materials for insurance underwriters and nurses.
Then came the opportunity at Vice. Alex draws his characters by hand and colors them on computer.
The Blobby Boys (Max, Kristof and Adrian) have developed a cult-like following among young males with their jamming, robbing and drug-dealing. Secondary characters include Aging Hipster, Punk Dad and Cyber Surfer.
"(Fiction writer) Lorrie Moore once said that authors should be honest," Alex said. "You should write something you wouldn't let your mother read, and that axiom has proven true in this case."
Alex recently expanded into other comic strips, such as Fashion Cat, which appeals more to young females. He also creates cartoon shorts for FOX network's Saturday late-night series "Animation Domination High-Def."
Alex got that gig with no experience in TV or film animation. He taught himself the process with help from "Screenwriting for Dummies."
"They liked my stories and the way the characters looked, so they were willing to give me a chance," he said.
The two- to four-minute shorts often feature adult content and graphic violence, albeit in cartoon form. A robot drill in "Killer Driller" murders a girl's boyfriends by impaling them in the groin, stomach, head and neck.
It's taken time for Alex's parents to get used to the edgy nature of his work. They can't exactly brag about it at church.
But they're proud of their son's artistic talent and his ability to promote himself in the highly competitive world of cartooning.
"I've always been amazed at how hard (Alex) works," Lou said. "He draws constantly. He never stops drawing. When he's on a plane or even when he's just watching TV, he has a sketchbook in his lap."
"I just tell people (the comic strip is) geared toward college guys," Nancy added. "It definitely has its own audience."