Forget your pumpkin-spiced latte foofoo.
In our late kickoff to the Holidays, we’re going full throttle with a rad gratitude vibe. All things considered, and even with all those fall BMX events winding down, that’s no shortage of things for any Rad Squad fan to be thankful for.
We caught up with Damian over Thanksgiving, and champ that he is, he showed us the ropes.
Read ahead for an exclusive interview on what, and who, the creator of Radical Rick is thankful for. While there’s some usual culprits, a few shoutouts might surprise you.
And just so he’ll leave us alone, we’ll hype it up with a book jacket quote from MX Mug:
“You better read this… and not because Damian talks about how awesome I am. It’s ‘cuz there’s some surprising stuff I didn’t even know about my bro Rick.”
The Raditude Interview
Looking back over the Radical Rick saga, what are you most grateful for?
DF: Too much. I think about how beautiful it was that I had an ongoing assignment to draw and paint and come up with ideas. Over the years that enabled me to really hone the craft of storytelling… a skill I extended into all aspects of my painting, my filmmaking, my advertising career.
What do you think about standing the test of time?
DF: It’s amazing. I’m so thankful that the interest in Radical Rick has resurfaced with such stoke. It surprises me every time somebody comes out of the woodwork, sometimes well-known riders, sometimes just average Joes, who tell me about how fun and how influential the Radical Rick comicstrip was for them.
You’ve said a number of people found Radical Rick in the school library. They’d go there during recess, find copies of the magazine, and go right to the comic strip.
DF: Yeah, that’s what I hear! But whether they were reading it in a library, or had a subscription to the magazine… it warms my heart to know that this comic strip I did for fun actually mattered to some kids. You know, that they got a little fun out of reading the adventures of this dude with an overactive rad gland.
Was it huge for readers who loved to draw?
DF: Yes! Although I never, ever intended it… there’s a lot of very talented people who now have careers doing art or design who related to the style of the Radical Rick artwork when they were young because it was something relevant.
DF: Yeah, they tell me they’d practice drawing, copying the pages... and they’ve since gone on to do great stuff, you know… even a few artists that draw way better than me were influenced by Radical Rick.
If we’re listing the people who made Radical Rick possible and fanned some flames over the years, I’m sure there’s too many to mention. Care to try?
DF: A big shoutout has to go to Mike Aguirre, who was the editor of BMX Plus! back in 1979. Mike had this idea that a comic strip based on a BMXer would be great. He was good enough to not give me any direction or demands, or… you know, limitations to what I could come up with. I just went away after meeting with the staff at BMX Plus! and the rest is history, really.
It sure is.
DF: I’m also thankful for my good friend John Ker, a big time photographer for all kinds of action sports. He was the staff photographer and later the editor. He was a good brother who read through my work and helped make sure that I spelled things correctly… and sometimes tipped me off when I was crossing a line in taste. But he never did it in a way that was condescending or ill-willed. He’s just an amazing man.
DF: Let me think… the other person I’m thankful for is Alisa, my bride. She could have said: ‘what are you doing focusing on this comic strip that makes you a buck fifty?’ But she understood that it was important to me, that I’m a dedicated and loyal guy and wouldn’t leave the magazine stranded. She put up with me doing Radical Rick at all hours of the night… spread across the kitchen table. She’s a saint.
Rad Influences...Going back to when you were putting pen to paper, which athletes and riders were playing in your background?
DF: I think I was inspired by all the riders throughout the decades that were pushing the barriers. The BMX racers, the flatland riders, the guys that were doing the big air competitions. You know, it’s pretty amazing to see that the kind of fantasy moves that Radical Rick was doing back in the eighties and nineties are now commonplace. So I was always inspired by the guys pushing boundaries... and often suffered much more pain upon impact than Radical Rick ever did.
Sounds like you’ve got some raditude for vicarious living.
DF: Yeah… I was busy working or drawing, and so Radical Rick was a satisfying fantasy figure for me. He could defy the bounds of gravity, bust through walls, risk body and soul… and I didn’t get a single abrasion.
Do you see yourself in Radical Rick?
DF: I get that sometimes. People go ‘oh, are you Radical Rick?’ And I tell them, ‘oh no, no, no I’m MX Mug for sure…’
Are you sure? Between surfing, biking, volleyball… and you used to be a ski instructor.
DF: You know, I always wanted to be good in every sport, but I tended to be in the shadows of the great guys. Probably because I spent too many hours in my bedroom drawing.
Were you influenced by sports other than BMX?
DF: You know, the beauty of Radical Rick is I could show his skill wasn’t limited to the bicycle. It was fun to show him stepping out of bounds… like when he snowboarded down Mount St. Helens, and when he stole PeeWee Herman’s bike… or when he…
Surfed the shark?
DF: Right. Fonzie may have jumped the shark, but Radical Rick… he surfed the shark! Anyway, I think branching out to other action sports just gave the world of Radical Rick a bigger feel… and allowed me to go into areas that I wanted to explore visually. It refreshed the episodes and refreshed the storylines.
We know you loved Mad Magazine. Are there any other artistic influences we’re not aware of?
DF: You nailed it… I loved Mad Magazine. When it came out every month, I’d sneak away to the grocery store and read it on the newsstand. And comics, too. Ironically I was a huge DC fan, but I ended up working for Marvel, so that was my little secret. I couldn’t let those folks over there know that.
Some double agent action, huh?
DF: Let’s just say I never told that to Stan Lee.
To be continued…
What do you think? What’s lurking in the shadows of your own day to day that deserves #radditude?
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