The Milkman So Tough He Inspired a Cult Comic

After failed adaptations that were supposed to star everyone from Jack Nicholson to Bill Murray, David Boswell's cantankerous cult comic book character has finally gotten the film it deserves.

Nov 17 2015, 5:00am

Coming off the back of the fantastic Comic Arts Brooklyn festival, I thought I'd push one more super tough comic character on you. A guy destined to piss on your flowers and curse you out. A man whose most notable catchphrases include "Jerk!" and "I thought I told you to shut up!!" He's none other than the World's Toughest Milkman, also known as Reid Fleming, a real son of a bitch who was created by David Boswell almost 40 years ago. He also happens to be the subject of a fantastic new short documentary by Charlie Tyrell appropriately titled, I Thought I Told You to Shut Up!!

It's not often that you see a documentary about an artist that's as creative and fun as its subject. But Tyrell's short is playful as hell, with kinetic editing and storytelling that is electrified with inventive narration, stop-motion animation, and interviews with fanboys such as Simpsons creator Matt Groening, actor Kevin Pollak, Ed Asner, not to mention kickass narration from Academy Award-winner Jonathan Demme.

Boswell's comic was so popular that after making it to the top of cult status in the 70s and 80s, Warner Brothers bought the film rights. But after Warner's head honcho snubbed the adaptation that was supposed to star everyone from Robin Williams to Jack Nicholson to Bill Murray as the titular character, the film got stuck in contractual limbo. Comic sales declined and Boswell crept towards obscurity, despite the adoration of some of the industry's most influential people.

All of this is to say, hope is not lost. The short does highlight the comic's unfortunate downfall, but its style and demeanor mine meaning and knowledge from within. Despite Hollywood's pitfalls, fickle decisions, and the battle for art over commerce, David Boswell marches on and shows that there's hope for artists and weirdos. He proves that you don't need a Hollywood ending to be happy. Sometimes regular life is good enough.

Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as the senior curator for Vimeo's On Demand platform. He has also programmed at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival. Follow him on Twitter.

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