Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Friday, November 3, 2023

My big new Bobby Campbell interview


Bobby Campbell on his porch at his  home in Audubon, New Jersey, in a photo taken in October . 

Bobby Campbell is an artist, schoolteacher and comic book producer (both words and images). He is also a prominent figure in the continuing efforts by Robert Anton Wilson's fans to promote Wilson's work. For several years, he has organized online Maybe Day celebrations on July 23; he operates a Twitter account promoting Robert Anton Wilson; he has done covers for books such as the second edition of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson.   He did the interior illustrations for the Hilaritas Press editions of the Historical Illuminatus! trilogy. Some of that artwork hangs on my wall at home.

Bobby has been reliably helpful and supportive for all efforts to promote RAW's work.  When I did an online reading group in 2014 for Illuminatus!, he created an artwork for it. More recently, he did the artwork for this blog you see at the top right of this page. 

After an attempted interview with Bobby by a third party didn't come to pass, I decided to do an interview myself. I think this interview is on the whole better than my 2014 interview with Bobby, but you may want to look at that, too, particularly Bobby describing how he met RAW.

RAWIllumination: Can you tell my readers who don't know you a little bit about yourself?

Bobby Campbell: Absolutely! For the most part I am a very boring, mild-mannered, 42 year old suburban dad :))) I hang out with my family, teach high school, coach youth soccer, putz around the house, and enjoy Philly sports. (Go Phils!)

By night, in my spare time, I'm also an artist. I make comix, art, zines, memes, graphic designs, covers, spot illos, etc, et al.

I've been at it for over 20 years now!

Folks around here might know me by my work with Hilaritas Press, Maybe Logic Academy, Team Human, Liverpool Arts Lab, Disinfo, or even New Falcon Publications.

Fun fact: I once drew an interior illustration of Iron Mike Tyson in an Antero Alli book! 

I have a small business called MLJC Media LLC, through which I manage my various freelance and royalty income streams. It ain't much, but it helps fund my weirdo Discordian art projects, such like: & Can you talk about your new career as a teacher, and whether you are enjoying it? I have friends who are teachers and it sounds like a challenging job these days.

Bobby Campbell: I would be delighted! I'm in my sixth full year of teaching, and of all the careers I've had, and I've had a few, it's by far my favorite. It's work that I find meaningful and I get Summers off to goof around with my artsy-fartsy mumbo jumbo, fair deal! I'll admit it can be difficult at times, but overall the experience has been much more illuminating than draining.

I teach a Computers & Technology class to 500+ 7th-12th graders that I see twice a week. I teach double classes with 45+ students at a time. I definitely have to sing for my supper, but we make it work!

I'm lucky that for whatever reason the kids seem to like me. I let them get away with a little in exchange for them not taking a lot! We're never quite as quiet as admin/security wants us to be, but the vibe in the room is generally very chill, with all students seated, focused, and productive. I just finished an Ed Psych class at Wilson College where they called this classroom culture "flow state." Some days are better than others, for sure, but overall THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT!

Here's a student art zine we produced:!_2023.pdf

In fact, I'd just kind of decided that I wanted to teach this class for as long as possible, esp since I teach the same students year after year, as they rise from 7th grade through to graduation, and how could I leave them? Well, this October, the CAO of my Charter School announced that the school would be closing at the end of the year, coinciding with her retirement.

The students have been staging walk outs to protest the sudden closing of our school. Things have been much more chaotic than usual in the building, but basically business as usual in my room. They ain't mad at me! 

The whole situation has been getting a lot of local media play, with some hint of genuine scandal, but we don't really know what's what yet.

Here's a piece from the Inquirer, showcasing a few of my very many brilliant students:

I assume I'll probably find a new place to teach next year, but I guess we'll see where the wind takes me! This may be a little silly, but how is it that you are "Bobby" to the "RAW crowd," and "Bob" to everyone else?

Bobby Campbell: I abandoned the usage of screen names on the internet pretty early on, and so usually would just go by "Bob" online. Old school users of, for instance, might remember me as Bob. However, when I joined RAW's Maybe Logic Academy classes/forum I thought it would be rude to take the name Bob, because Mr. Wilson might want it for himself, or it could create confusion where people would mistake me for him. "Bobby" seemed like a good compromise. (Bob Wilson ended up going by "RAW" in the MLA forums.)

Around about the same time all my art scene friends were on a huge Ramones kick, and everyone started going by their "y" names: Danny, Billy, Timmy, etc. And so I took the hint and started signing all my work as "Bobby Campbell."

Bobby was the name that my Mom intended to give me anyway. She tricked my dad into agreeing to name me Robert, supposedly after his grandfather, but really she was naming me after Bobby Kennedy.

I went by Bobby up until around sixth grade.

It's funny, if someone calls me Bobby it's either because they don't know me very well, or because they know me extremely well! Didn't you have a tough childhood? Did RAW's writings help you deal with that?

Bobby Campbell: I certainly had a chaotic childhood!

A couple years before I was born I had an older sister who died suddenly of meningitis at the age of two, which I think had a lot to do with the subsequent struggles my parents had. They divorced when I was four.

My dad was a high ranking member of the Pagans MC, a 1%er motorcycle gang. After my parents split up he went even further into the club, and every other weekend I was fully immersed in Pagan gang culture. Shit was wild.

My mom was a chill ex-flower child hippy chick who slowly but surely succumbed to depression, alcoholism, and eventually schizophrenia. When I was little she really liked Carl Sagan and read Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" to me as a bedtime story. Initially, she didn't put any religion on me, allowing me to create my own cosmology. I think after my sister died she was done with God and Catholicism, but as the years went on her makeshift atheism became a burden to her, because if there was no god or heaven she had no chance of being reunited with her daughter.

By the time I was nine she was drinking a gallon of wine a day and switched from Carl Sagan to the Holy Bible. After she read the Book of Revelations she was basically a completely different person. She was now espousing this nightmare version of Christianity, convinced that the end of the world was imminent, with frequent and increasingly intense delusional episodes.

To her credit, she held out long enough that by the time she lost it I was mature enough to recognize crazy talk when I heard it.

Around this same time my dad was arrested for murder during a Pagan event at a bar in Philadelphia. He claimed that the police only grabbed him because he had a patch on his colors (jacket) that indicated he was part of the Pagans' "Mother Club," or leadership group, and that the police had a policy to charge the highest ranking member they could find. My first contact with conspiracy theory!

The next few years were a wild ride between my dad's adventures with the justice system, in and out of custody, and two murder trials. (The first ended in a hung jury) Meanwhile, my mom was in and out of mental hospitals, with brief periods of clarity, punctuated by a series of suicidal and apocalyptic outbursts.

When I was 12 my dad was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, for a crime I truly don't know if he committed, and my mom died in an accident, that may or may not have actually been suicide.

(Oh interesting, I never thought about it before, but this would have been around the same time I switched from Bobby to Bob.)

I then went to live with my 21 year old brother and life significantly mellowed out.

I spent my teen years as something of a curiosity to people, because I appeared to be a clean cut, well-adjusted, cheerful kid, and folks wanted to know why I wasn't all fucked up. 

(It feels presumptuous for me to answer, but my guess is that it's partially because I was never physically or sexually abused, which seems maybe more deeply traumatizing than what I experienced.)

When I was in college, smoking weed, and exploring all those psych/philosophy 101 conundrums, like nature vs. nurture, for example, several alarm bells started ringing. Including my much discussed "Dark Night of the Soul" experience. I eventually realized that I had mistaken denial for acceptance in many cases, and that I was more destabilized by the loss of my parents than I'd previously presumed.

It was then, perhaps just in the nick of time, that I discovered RAW, and, following his lead, embarked on my own process of deliberately induced brain change, which looking back after 20 years, seems to have worked out okay :))) Why did you decide to organize the annual Maybe Day celebrations? Are  you happy with how that has turned out so far? 

Bobby Campbell: If I remember the timeline correctly, you were in the process of setting up an arrangement where Hilaritas Press was going to sponsor a RAW themed table at the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) in Cleveland, Ohio during the Summer of 2020, which Gregory Arnott and I were going to help you run. (A kind of continuation of when the three of us put together a small RAW event at the ConFluence Science Fiction Convention in Pittsburgh, PA in 2018.) Then when covid hit, and it looked like the convention was going to be cancelled, the possibility of a virtual event was proposed, which everyone agreed was a good idea, and I was encouraged to take the ball and run with it. [Blogger's Note: It was actually going to be in Columbus. The  NASFiC, the "North American Science Fiction Convention," a really big convention that is held in North America when the worldcon is overseas. We got good support from Hilaritas Press, which as Bobby says was going to sponsor a table in the dealer's room, but COVID-19 wiped out our efforts].

Originally called RAWCON 2020, when it was envisioned as a replacement for the NASFiC event, and then changed to RAW DAY when it occurred to me there had been a long, but loose, tradition of RAW events on July 23rd, in accordance with Robert Anton Wilson Day, as proclaimed by the mayor of Santa Cruz in 2003. I've long enjoyed Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce's Ulysses, and saw the potential for Robert Anton Wilson to have something similar. One of my first recruitment emails went out to the fantastic Eric Wagner, who has this quirk of responding to emails with the subject line changed to a clever title, stylized like a pop single, and he replied to my email with the subject line "Maybe Day." Which in a flash I knew was the correct name. It turns out that was what Bob Wilson preferred to call July 23rd as well.

I have been absolutely delighted with how everything has turned out over the last four years of Maybe Day events! The level of participation and response to our group creations has been very encouraging and rewarding. I really enjoyed putting together the New Trajectories zines in 2020 & 2021, but quickly recognized that the time commitment needed to produce a central publication by a growing cast of Discordian visionaries was not sustainable, and so in 2022 I switched towards a more distributed model, where contributors produce their creations independently, (with assistance where needed) and the Maybe Day site became more of a curated index and signal boosting platform. The main advantage of this approach being that there's no real reason why Maybe Day can't continue indefinitely :)))

I've even got a small spin off event that I'm developing for the end of the year, MAYBE NIGHT, on December 21st.

(Joseph Campbell claimed that the dream that comprises James Joyce's Finnegans Wake takes place on December 21st, and that also coincides with Terence McKenna's proposed Novelty Wave singularity, that may or may not have occured on 12/21/2012, making the winter solstice very fertile ground for maybe logical workings!) Bobby, your fall 2022 newsletter announced "a 2023 release of my first full graphic novel: OKEY-DOKEY - The Dream@wake Sutra. Which weaves together the Agnosis! & Buddhafart comix into a 244 page Tale of the Tribe." But I can't find anything about this "full graphic novel" in the last two newsletters. Is it still on the runway, waiting for takeoff? 

Bobby Campbell: Very much so! The last year or so has been about my finishing BUDDHAFART #2, which comprises a large and difficult chunk of the OKEY-DOKEY graphic novel. I'm currently on the last 4 pages of BUDDHAFART #2. That comic will be released on the aforementioned MAYBE NIGHT. After which I can focus on finishing Agnosis! #3, which is the brief, but explosive, capstone to the Dream@wake Sutra :)))

Once all five of the individual comix that comprise the graphic novel are complete I figure I'll do a final edit and, at very long last, publish the complete OKEY-DOKEY grimoire!

There's probably only about three months of work left on the whole thing, but when I'll be able to find that time remains a bit up in the air, (another project has caught my attention) most likely the final book will push to 2024.

I'm in no particular rush to finish, as I've been working on this comic since 2004! What's another few months to get it right? By the end there will be 20 years worth of work compressed down into something that can be read in just about an hour. I tend to dodge questions regarding what the comic is about, because I don't want it to be about something, so much as I want it to do something. 

What is that something? Well...

The first 211 pages are available to read here: You kind of slipped in a scoop for me, about Maybe Night. Is it far enough along that  you know what we should all be doing to take part/support you?

Bobby Campbell: I'm not exactly sure what it's going to look like yet, but if people want to make things and send me links I will most certainly include them amongst whatever else comes together!

( - Let's say by December 15) I know for sure I want to convene a panel of RAW/Joyce/McKenna folks for a MAYBELOGUES discussion and I'm going to put together a piece making the case for the significance of 12/21 as a Discordian holy day. I don't know how much there needs to be another call to action, or additional pressure to be productive, but if people are making things anyway, we might as well share them :)))

For example! The very fine folks that produce The Lost Doctor radio plays are putting together a Christmas Annual, with many of our favourite British Discordians, a heavy mix of both RAW & Joyce influences, and featuring a brand new short comic by me, very appropriately titled "HARBINGER," which is perfectly timed to coincide with MAYBE NIGHT.

Maybe check out their kickstarter: Looking back at my previous interview with you, in 2014 I asked about your favorite RAW books, and you mentioned Quantum Psychology, Prometheus Rising, The Widow's Son and Masks of the Illuminati. Have you added any favorites since then? What did you think of Illuminatus!?

Bobby Campbell: I'm really enjoying Lion of Light currently! All of the Hilaritas Press audio books get heavy play in the background while I'm working, and deliver such a fresh experience of the text, in large part due to Oliver Senton's brilliant reading performance, that those are probably my current favs. I don't know how many times I've read Cosmic Trigger, Prometheus Rising, et al, but when I listen to them I somehow pull out something new that I never noticed before.

I'd guess I probably left off Illuminatus! from my list of favorites only because I thought it went without saying. Safe to say that Illuminatus! was the most intense reading experience of my life. I read all 800+ pages over the course of a 3 day weekend. Just absolutely glued to that luminous fucking tome! As it has done to so many other people, it flipped a switch in my head, and supercharged my creative impulse. I think maybe the reason why Illuminatus! has this effect on creatives is that it's a fully functioning proof of concept of the transformative power of art. If a piece of literature can do THIS to me, then that means it's not impossible that I could create a piece of art that makes people feel like THAT. 

I assume he designed it this way, but I also tend to think of everything RAW ever wrote as an extension of Illuminatus! All the novels are either direct or indirect sequels and all the non-fiction books serve as exegesis and/or world building. A great deal of the fun with RAW is in all the expanded universe interconnections, obscure references, and reprisals of themes. Have you read any of Robert Shea's novels?

Bobby Campbell: I know it's a crime, but I have not. I think maybe because Shea was less aggressive about luring readers of Illuminatus! to his subsequent books. I love the way Mike Shea has gone about preserving his dad's books, and I'm very intrigued by the project you're putting together, so it seems inevitable I will eventually find myself in that world! What's the best way for people to keep up with what you are doing? And, among your various comics, is there one you want to suggest as a "gateway drug" for people who haven't followed your work?

Bobby Campbell: Probably the best way to stay tuned to my weirding ways and means is through my email newsletter, which you can check out here:

It comes out pretty infrequently, just a few times a year, but it includes a pretty exhaustive list of my comings and goings.

I've kinda faded away from social media, not really intentionally, but more so out of boredom.

Though I'll still occasionally pop into Instagram & Twitter to drop links to whatever new stuff I have going on: & 

Weird Comix #2 is currently the best introduction to my work, mostly just because it's the latest and I also wrote and drew everything myself.

Don't be scared off by the #2, it's an anthology series, you can jump in anywhere :)))

(Don't mind the amazon link, if you click around long enough on you can find it for free!)

Also! And if everyone will indulge some more shameless self promotion for a minute, I'd like to try to sell everyone on another comic:


Comic Trailer:

This is an old comic that I made with my brilliant & hilarious childhood best friend Timmy "Main Man" Toner as co-artist, and I absolutely adore it.

How it used to be was that I was part of two scenes. The local punk rock scene in Delaware and the online Maybe Logic Academy/Discordian scene.

The local folks wouldn't read anything I made for the online people and the online people wouldn't read anything I made for the local folks.

It was uncanny! So I tried to get sneaky and make something that was simultaneously for both sides of the coin, and guess what, NOBODY READ IT!

This thing fell through the cracks so bad that I honestly don't think the Main Man even read it, and he fucking drew half of it!

Here's the amazon link:

(but also click around a bit and you'll find it)

[Blogger's note: Each of those two comics are just 99 cents for the Kindle on Amazon, read in color on your phone or tablet using the Kindle app. Just buy the things already.]


Anonymous said...

Great interview, and good to hear about Maybe Night. I wonder when we'll get an equinox style Maybe Dawn and Maybe Dusk...?
I hope there's some rich colouring inside the graphic novel when it comes out. But I'm guessing the work involved in doing Agnosis in colour would be massive, maybe near impossible. I'm kind of clueless about such things. Then again I used to enjoy Moore's melancholic Swamp Thing in the past. I don't think it was colourised at all.
Sent from Iain

Bobby Campbell said...

Very many thanks, Iain!

And without spoiling anything, the black and white art soon becomes integral to the plot :)))

Rarebit Fiend said...

Bobby is such a great part of the community. His positivity is so authentic, it never feels forced or condescending. I thought that it was interesting that Bobby's father was in the Pagans. When I first moved to Morganton I would occasionally hear people talking about "the Pagans" and how they were best avoided. Having never heard of the motorcycle gang, I thought there were a bunch of unruly Wiccans and such running around.