A ‘topless’ Mickey Mouse? Only a ‘Twisted’ mind could come up with that

In previous visits to Modesto, “Rubes” creator Leigh Rubin has pulled back the curtain on his cartooning with the program “A Twisted Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

He returns to The Bee early next month with a new show, a tour through the history of what’s inspired him. A “twistory,” if you will.

It’s called the Twisted Pop Culture Experience Tour, and it’s “a zigzaggy time line through all aspects of pop culture – at least all the aspects I’ve covered in pop culture,” Rubin said by phone from his home in Nipomo, in San Luis Obispo County. His inspirations have included the Saturday morning cartoons he grew up watching, toys, movies and TV shows, even those sugary cereals he loved as a kid (and maybe still does?).

The tour sprang from the “Rubes Twisted Pop Culture” collection Rubin published last year with the Rochester, N.Y., Democrat and Chronicle. The softcover book gathered more than 250 Rubes cartoons, and Rubin expects an expanded ebook, with more than 300 cartoons, to be on the market in time for his June 7 visit to Modesto. The book’s cover is a nod to leading pop-art figure Andy Warhol and, in Rubin’s true twisted fashion, shows Mickey Mouse reading a newspaper with his mouse ears – and the top of his furry head – hanging on a hat rack behind him.

Rubin had wanted to do this collection for a long time, he said, after looking over his body of work and realizing how much of it was tied to pop culture. “Simple things like movie references, tons of little references to songs and sayings and phrases,” Rubin said. “Pop culture is our culture now, because everything has been made into a movie or will be.”

No kidding. Toys like GI Joe and Masters of the Universe, games like Battleship and Angry Birds, songs including “Harper Valley PTA” and “Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors” – all made into movies. And coming in July: “The Emoji Movie.”

Most bound volumes of cartoonists’ creations are previously published works. But as Rubin was gathering his pop-culture-inspired panels for this latest work, and personally coloring the black-and-whites, he even began creating some new cartoons to include.

This also is the first time Rubin has had a hand in creating an ebook, though he learned that his “Wild and Twisted World of Rubes” is available in that format. “Rubes Twisted Pop Culture,” still available in softcover in a limited quantity, will be an ebook available on Rubin’s and through Pediment publishing, he said.

The professional cartoonist of more than 30 years, whose “Rubes” is carried by more than 400 newspapers and other publications, including The Modesto Bee, said he’s itching to get out and meet readers. “I get inspired when I go out on the road,” and it absolutely beats sitting around getting “a bad back and a big butt” at the drawing table, he said.

“It’s fun to share this common experience with an audience,” Rubin said of pop culture. “Especially newspaper readers, because despite all that’s going on with the industry, people still read newspapers and comics. Comics are in themselves pop culture in a huge way.”

He said audiences can expect his Twisted Pop Culture Experience Tour to be more interactive than the “A Twisted Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” program. That’s because the inspirations he shared in “Twisted Mind” were more personal, while pop culture is something everyone can relate to.

Rubin also anticipates sharing with the Modesto audience a teaser reel of a “docu-reality” show he’s co-created. The pilot is nearly done, he said. “It’s not sold yet, but I’m really excited about it.”

The program will include “a little bit of travel, could be a lot of travel, where we go behind the scenes of what inspires other people to do what they do, whether it’s in the arts, or machinery, or whatever.” And the idea is that each episode also will inspire a “Rubes” cartoon.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

Rubes Twisted Pop Culture Experience

When: June 7, 6:30 p.m.

Where: The Modesto Bee, 1325 H St.

What: Leigh Rubin’s program demonstrates the influence and importance of how our collective pop culture brings us all together into a hilarious shared experience.

Tickets: $20 general, $10 students. All proceeds go to The Bee’s News in Education program, bringing news and information to more than 20,000 students in Central California. For tickets or more information, go to