Eric Millikin

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Eric Millikin
Eric Millikin.jpg
Nationality American
Education Michigan State University Honors College
Known for Postinternet art, painting, mixed media, comics, webcomics
Awards Pulitzer Prize, 2009

Eric Millikin, also known as Eric Monster Millikin, is an American contemporary artist and activist based in Detroit.[1] He is known for his pioneering work in Internet art, Postinternet art, and webcomics.[2] Millikin also works in performance art and body art, including "artistic drinking projects."[3] His artwork is often controversial and semi-autobiographical, with political, romantic, occult, horror and black comedy themes.

Millikin's art often includes self-portraits as well as portraits of celebrities and political figures. The artwork is mixed media, often combining expressionist paintings and optical illusions with found objects. Millikin's works often include text written in free verse, anagrams, ambigrams and cut-up technique poetry. Millikin's artwork has also been published in books, serialized in newspapers, and displayed in art museums.

Millikin often collaborates with artist Casey Sorrow. Together, Millikin and Sorrow created and popularized the international animal rights holiday World Monkey Day.

Notable artworks[edit]

  • Totally Sweet, a series of pop art, large-scale portraits of monsters, each created from thousands of packages of Halloween candy and a single spider.[4][5][6] Millikin uses over 40 different kinds of candy, and a single portrait can take between 5,000 and 10,000 candies.[7][8] Included in the series are portraits of such monsters as Freddy Krueger, Lily Munster, Gort, Godzilla and the Bride of Frankenstein.[9][10][11] Millikin compares his artistic technique of building large monsters from many smaller parts to the similar techniques Victor Frankenstein used to create his monster.[12]
  • Hollywood Witch Trials, a series of painted portraits of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan based on their crime mug shots, stylized to look like witches, and combined with excerpts from transcripts of the Salem Witch Trials.[13]
  • American Mayhem, a series that uses optical illusions to transform the flag of the United States into cityscapes filled with monsters, and incorporates ambigram calligraphy that reads when the paintings are hung upside down.[14][15] Inverting a national flag in such a way is a commonly used distress signal.[16]
  • Witches and Stitches, a series of early digital comics, from the 1980s, which were the first webcomics ever published.[17] This unauthorized Wizard of Oz parody comic was published by Millikin on CompuServe as early as 1985 when he was in elementary school.[18] Publishing on Compuserve allowed Millikin to self-publish, avoiding censorship.[19][20] Witches and Stitches was popular with audiences around the world and Millikin's success inspired many artists to create their own webcomics.[21] Copies of Witches and Stitches are now often difficult to find because Millikin was threatened with a lawsuit over the comic.[22] Millikin's outspoken autobiographical style paved the way for other artists to express their thoughts and opinions on the web.[23]
  • Literally Impossible, a series of Op art paintings created as answers to questions from a literacy test used to deny voting rights to African-Americans in the American south before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[24] The paintings feature illusionary impossible objects, ambigrams and palindromes.
  • Fetus-X, a series of alternative comics created in collaboration with Casey Sorrow. Fetus-X featured a psychic zombie fetus floating in a jar of formaldehyde who may or may not be Millikin's missing conjoined twin or his clone from an alternate timeline or dimension.[25] The comic was run for a short time in Michigan State University's The State News in 2000. After the Catholic League protested the comic and then MSU president M. Peter McPherson declared he wanted it banned, the comic strip was removed for being too controversial.[26][27] During the controversy over the comic, many people protested on both sides of the issue.[28][29][30][31] The comic was also published in other student newspapers like the University Reporter.[32]
  • Monkey Day, an international animal rights holiday. Monkey Day (celebrated December 14) was created and popularized by Millikin and Casey Sorrow in 2000 as an opportunity to educate the public about monkeys, as a holiday that supports evolution rather than religious themes, and an excuse to throw monkey-themed art shows and costume parties.[33][34][35] For Monkey Day 2012, USA Weekend published Millikin's The 12 Stars of Monkey Day, a series of paintings that were "in part inspired by the many pioneering space monkeys who rode into the stars on rockets, leading the way for human space flight."[36] For Monkey Day 2013, Millikin created a mail art series where he mailed Monkey Day cards to strangers, including Koko the sign-language gorilla and President Barack Obama.[37] In 2014, Millikin debuted a series of monkey portraits using 3D film techniques.[38]

Artistic style[edit]

Eric Monster Millikin's comics often explore themes of the occult and romance.

Millikin's artwork is characterized by brilliantly colored paint brushed and smeared into swirls and spirals.[39][40][41] His work often incorporates found objects, such as packages of candy and spiders.[4] His large-scale artwork takes full advantage of the internet's formal possibilities, and has incorporated animation and winding "infinite canvas" designs,[42] going beyond the limited sizes and shapes of conventional printed pages.[43] The American Library Association's Booklist describes how Millikin's expressionistic visual style "crosses Edvard Munch with an incipient victim of high-school suicide" [44] and The Hindu describes his paintings as "haunting images."[39] Millikin's works range from those made almost completely of calligraphy, typography or text (for example "My Little Brother," a first-person tale from the perspective of one conjoined twin in a love triangle)[45] to those that are completely abstract. Millikin's artwork is given by Scott McCloud as an example of using the web to create "an explosion of diverse genres and styles"[46] and is described as "mind-blowing" by Comic Book Resources.[47]

Recurring themes[edit]

Major recurring themes of Eric Millikin's art are portrait paintings, the supernatural, and optical illusions. He often creates self-portraits showing him falling prey to tragic death or engaging in star-crossed love affairs. For example, he is depicted engaged in activities such as being killed by vampire hunters, being eaten by a dinosaur, and sawing off his own arm then replacing it with a zombie's.

Early life[edit]

Millikin began drawing horror comics by age one-and-a-half, when he made crayon drawings of ghosts terrorizing him during toilet-training.[48] By second grade, he was making teachers profane birthday cards showing his school burning down.[48] As a youth, he was influenced by 1980s X-Men and Far Side comics and the video game Gorf.[49]

Millikin attended art school at Michigan State University in their Honors College.[49] He paid his way through school by working in MSU's human anatomy lab as an embalmer and dissectionist of human cadavers.[42][50] While at art school, Millikin lived in a Buick LeSabre.[51]


Millikin began posting comics and art on the internet using CompuServe in the 1980s, and began publishing on the World Wide Web as early as the fall of 1995.[52][53] In his book Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, syndicated newspaper editorial cartoonist Ted Rall describes Millikin's work as "one of the most interesting webcomics around."[54] The Webcomics Examiner named Millikin's comics one of the best webcomics,[55] the webcomics blog ComixTalk named it one of the 100 Greatest Webcomics of all time,[56] and The Washington Post's readers named it one of the top 10 finalists for Best Webcomic of the Past Decade in 2010.[57] Millikin's work has also been nominated for multiple Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards, including their top honor of "Outstanding Comic". Millikin has been a panelist and guest at webcomic conventions, including the inaugural New England Webcomics Weekend, the first convention organized by and focusing on webcomic creators.[58][59]

In 2002, Millikin was an editor (along with Tom Hart) and contributing artist of the online alternative comics anthology Serializer.[60][61][62] The Sunday Times described their work on serializer as "high-art", and the Sydney Morning Herald considered them to be the avant-garde.[63][64] Serializer's contributing artists also included Renée French, James Kochalka, Chris Onstad, Ryan North, Jen Sorensen, Matt Bors, Joey Comeau and Emily Horne.[65]

In 2005, Millikin was one of the artists in the Clickwheel collective that published graphic novels on the video iPod.[66] Millikin has also been published by the webcomics sites Modern Tales and Webcomics Nation.[67] His comics are one of the all-time most popular on Webcomics Nation.[68]

Millikin is one of the few, and first, webcomic creators successful enough to make a living as an artist.[69]

Newspapers and magazines[edit]

Millikin's artwork has been published in many college newspapers, in alternative newspapers such as the Metro Times,[70] and in magazines like Wired.[14] His work is also published in major daily newspapers like The Detroit News,[71] Detroit Free Press,[72] The Courier-Journal,[73] The Des Moines Register,[74] The Tennessean[75] and USA Today.[76] The Comics Journal has written that Millikin's comics "use the newspaper format for far more daring, entertainingly perverse work" than most comics and is "perfectly at home at a good alternative weekly or a great college paper." [77]

Art galleries[edit]

Millikin's artwork is often shown in galleries and museums. He is one of the artists in the "Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics" art exhibition which has travelled to the Krannert Art Museum and The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar,[78] and in the "Monsters of Webcomics Virtual Gallery" at San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum.[79] His artwork was included, along with Marilyn Manson and HR Giger's, in the international horror art collection "DAMNED."[80]


Millikin is known for his political and social activism, with his artwork often tackling controversial issues. He has championed Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare".[81] Millikin has also championed green energy, ridiculing the "Drill, Baby, Drill Brigade" of "oil producers, free-market zealots and global warming deniers." [82] The Webcomics Examiner has called Millikin's work "one of the sharpest political commentaries available."[55]

Millikin has also used his artwork to raise money for causes like helping Hurricane Katrina victims,[83] fighting diseases like muscular dystrophy,[84] and granting wishes to terminally ill children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.[85] He has also created posters campaigning to raise money for programs to improve adult literacy,[86] auctioned artwork to support soup kitchen efforts to feed the hungry,[70] and created artwork to help people in the city of Flint who had lead contaminated water during the Flint water crisis.[87]

Critical reaction[edit]

Millikin's artwork has won many awards from organizations including the Associated Press,[72][88] Society of Professional Journalists,[89] Investigative Reporters and Editors,[90] National Association of Black Journalists,[91] and the Society for News Design.[92] In 2008 his illustrations were part of the series "A Mayor in Crisis", wherein the Detroit Free Press covered, or uncovered, secret text messages of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to reveal the mayor's perjury and obstruction of justice in a police whistle-blower trial. The series resulted in Kilpatrick's being sent to jail and in the newspaper's 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting.[90][93][94]

His front-page artwork in the Detroit Free Press advocating for U.S. government loans as a solution to the automotive industry crisis of 2008–2009 was described as a "gutsy move" that "stretch[es] the limits of the medium"[92] and CNN's Kyra Phillips described it as "full front page and in your face".[95] Congressman John D. Dingell displayed it on the House floor urging passage of government loans to automakers and reiterated the central theme of the piece, saying "now is the time for us to 'Invest in America'."[96]

Millikin's October 2011 Wizard of Oz-themed Detroit Free Press front-page "Lions, Tigers and Bears: Oh my!" illustration (about the Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers and Chicago Bears) was praised by ESPN's Mike Tirico during the Monday Night Football half time show.[97]

However, not all criticism of Millikin's artwork has been positive. Since 2000, Millikin has been the target of protest campaigns organized by the Catholic League for what they call his "blasphemous treatment of Jesus".[98] "[Fetus-X] is offensive to Catholics and Christians," Catholic League spokesman Patrick Scully said in August 2002. "It completely ridicules the Catholic faith and is not funny."[26] The Hartford Advocate has called Millikin a "borderline sociopath."[99]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Damned VIII art show at Tangent Gallery in Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2016-03-13. 
  2. ^ (April 15, 2012). "Eric Millikin". Parade Magazine
  3. ^ Baetens, Melody (June 1, 2016). "Celebrations abound for Vernors' 150th anniversary: Pop art". The Detroit News. 
  4. ^ a b "Eric Millikin, Artist, Creates The Sweetest Halloween Art You'll See All Year". The Huffington Post. October 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ Anthony Domanico (30 September 2014). "Monster portraits so tasty you could eat them". CNET. 
  6. ^ Gregory Burkart (1 November 2013). "Get a Taste of Eric Millikin's Totally Sweet Candy Monster Mosaics". FEARnet. 
  7. ^ "What Else Can You Do with Halloween Candy? Make Amazing Portraits, of Course!". The Good News with The Ellen DeGeneres Show. 30 October 2013. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ Kelly, Clinton; Symon, Michael (30 October 2014). "Halloween in a Hurry". The Chew. Season 4. Episode 39. ABC. 
  9. ^ Jolie Lee (10 October 2014). "Sweet or scary? See portraits made of Halloween candy". USA TODAY. 
  10. ^ Ovation Staff (1 November 2013). "THE SWEET PORTRAITS OF ERIC MILLIKIN". Ovation. 
  11. ^ Leila Roelli (8 October 2014). "Mosaïques sucrées". Couleur 3. 
  12. ^ Mary Beth Quirk (30 October 2013). "We Can't Decide If These Halloween Candy Monster Portraits Make Us Hungry Or Scared". The Consumerist. 
  13. ^ Millikin, Eric. "Hollywood Witch Trials". Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  14. ^ a b Sjoberg, Lore (March 4, 2011). "Alt Text: Going Undercover at an Unregulated Content Farm", Wired.
  15. ^ Millikin, Eric. "American Mayhem". Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  16. ^ 36 U.S. Code §176(a) provides: “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
  17. ^ Talita Calitz (March 2012). "11 Webcomics worth bookmarking". Yahoo! Celebrity. 
  18. ^ Smith, Alexander, K. (2011-11-19). "14 Awesome Webcomics To Distract You From Getting Things Done". Paste. 
  19. ^ Dochak, Sarah (2011-11-29). "Pioneering the page: The decline of print comics, the growth of webcomics and the flexibility, innovation and controversy of both". Gauntlet. 
  20. ^ Grace Dobush (24 July 2014). "9 Major Tech Moments in Comics History". Consumer Electronics Association. 
  21. ^ Team Viva (2011-12-10). "Comic Relief". The Pioneer. Archived from the original on 2012-01-14. 
  22. ^ Garrity, Shaenon K. (April 10, 2011). “History of Webcomics” Comicdom Con, Athens, Greece.
  23. ^ Sreejita Biswas. (August 07, 2013 ). “Stick ’Em Up! Archived 2013-08-10 at the Wayback Machine.” Bangalore Mirror.
  24. ^ Eric Millikin (30 January 2014). "Eric Millikin: Black History Month: Can you pass this 'Literally Impossible' impossible literacy test?". Detroit Free Press. 
  25. ^ Simins, Elizabeth (Dec. 10, 2008). "A&E Top 10s: From the Cliché to the Controversial". Columbia Spectator
  26. ^ a b Bennett, Brandon (1 August 2002). "Guest appearance helps 'Fetus-X' move forward". State News. 
  27. ^ Castanier, Bill (12 December 2012). "Portrait of the artist as a playful grandfather". City Pulse. 
  28. ^ Birchmeier, Zak (24 August 2000). ""Fetus-X" provides SN with originality". The State News. Archived from the original on December 3, 2005. 
  29. ^ Hoxworth, Kim (30 August 2000). "Strip controversy bothers SN reader". The State News. Archived from the original on February 26, 2002. 
  30. ^ Strank, Jody (24 May 2000). "Concern regarding "Fetus X" cartoon". The State News. Archived from the original on January 7, 2002. 
  31. ^ Lattimore, Latoya (18 May 2000). "Cartoonists need to show respect". The State News. Archived from the original on January 7, 2002. 
  32. ^ Millikin, Eric; Sorrow, Casey (Sep 2001). "The Neglected Opportunity". University Reporter. p. 12. 
  33. ^ McKenzie, Charlie "Holiday monkey business Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine.". (December 8, 2005). Hour (Montreal, Quebec)
  34. ^ "A toast to Bubbles Archived 2007-04-15 at the Wayback Machine.". (December 8, 2005). Los Angeles City Beat
  35. ^ "For the Record: Mom, Dad, I'd like you to meet Ted Cruz". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2016-06-05. 
  36. ^ Millikin, Eric (December 12, 2012). "The 12 Stars of Monkey Day". USA Weekend
  37. ^ Millikin, Eric (Dec. 12, 2013). "Eric Millikin sends Monkey Day cards to strangers". Detroit Free Press
  38. ^ "Celebrate Monkey Day in 3D with Eric Millikin". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2016-03-13. 
  39. ^ a b Vincent, Pheroze L. (September 24, 2009). "Spinning a dark web of fun". The Hindu
  40. ^ Walters, Maria (March 2009). "What's up with Webcomics? Visual and Technological Advances in Comics Archived 2012-03-02 at the Wayback Machine.". Interface: The Journal for Education, Community, and Values
  41. ^ Harvey, R. C. (February 16, 2009). "Rants & Raves On A Mission". GoComics
  42. ^ a b Zabel, Joe (June 14, 2004). "Cutting Up The Dead: An interview with Eric Millikin Archived 2004-10-10 at the Wayback Machine.". The Webcomics Examiner
  43. ^ McCloud, Scott (July 25, 2000). "Reinventing Comics". Harper Paperbacks, Pg. 222
  44. ^ Flagg, Gordon (August 2006). "Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists". Booklist, Pg. 23
  45. ^ Millikin, Eric "My Little Brother"
  46. ^ McCloud, Scott (2006). Making Comics, New York: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-078094-0. Pg. 227
  47. ^ Reed, Bill "Sunday Brunch"
  48. ^ a b Breithaupt, Christy (July 26, 2006). "Dark visions: MSU grad's 'Fetus-X' comic earns national recognition Archived 2006-08-10 at the Wayback Machine.". Lansing State Journal
  49. ^ a b Beck, Robert. "Webcomic Spotlight: Eric Monster Millikin".
  50. ^ Fingeroth, Danny (August 2008). "The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels". p. 276.
  51. ^ "James Joyce Foundation Objects To New Children's Book - ArtLyst". 2014-02-08. Archived from the original on February 8, 2014. Retrieved 2016-07-01. 
  52. ^ Garrity, Shaenon (July 15, 2011) "The History of Webcomics" The Comics Journal
  53. ^ Xerexes, Xaviar (January, 2009). "Eric Monster Millikin Talks Fetuses, Zombies and Monkeys". Comixtalk
  54. ^ Rall, Ted (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, New York: Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine. ISBN 1-56163-465-4.
  55. ^ a b "The Best Webcomics of 2004". The Webcomics Examiner. Archived from the original on 2007-01-06. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  56. ^ Xaviar Xerexes. 100 Greatest Webcomics Thread
  57. ^ Cavna, Michael. "THE BEST WEBCOMIC: It's time to vote on your nominations..."
  58. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  59. ^ Marshall, Rick (March 23, 2009). "Webcomics Weekend: Online comics get their own convention -- here's what you missed!". MTV
  60. ^ Hart, Tom and Joey Manley (Oct. 21, 2002). "Modern Tales And Tom Hart Launch Serializer.Net Today Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine."
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  64. ^ Sharwood, Simon. (August 30, 2003) The rebirth of comics: Comics online. Sydney Morning Herald(Australia), Pg. 5.
  65. ^ Bors, Matt (Oct. 24, 2006). " Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine.".
  66. ^ "Clickwheel Comics" Clickwheel, August 26, 2006.
  67. ^ The Comics Continuum (February 19, 2003) Longplay Lineup
  68. ^ Popular / New Today "All-Time Top 100 ... 12. Eric Monster Millikin By Eric Monster Millikin" Retrieved 2011-11-18.
  69. ^ Brenner, Lynn (February 27, 2000). "What People Earn: How Did You Do This Year?". Parade Magazine, p. 9.
  70. ^ a b Mazzei, Rebecca. "Paper View" (PDF). Metro Times. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  71. ^ "News is honored by sports editors". (February 28, 2003). The Detroit News, p. 1H.
  72. ^ a b "Freep's fentanyl report is tops". (April 18, 2008). Detroit Free Press, p. 3A.
  73. ^ Millikin, Eric. How apocalypse will affect sports fans (December 18, 2012). The Courier-Journal
  74. ^ Millikin, Eric. How apocalypse will affect sports fans (December 18, 2012). The Des Moines Register
  75. ^ Aftermath of 9/11 (September 10, 2011). The Tennessean "Artist Eric Millikin created this illustration from some of the most powerful photos of people reacting to the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath."
  76. ^ Millikin, Eric. How the count may have been mishandled (August 21, 2013) USA Today
  77. ^ Wood, Mariko (March 2003). "Download: Good Comics and Baud Web Comics". The Comics Journal, No. 251, p. 38.
  78. ^ Out of Sequence:Underrepresented Voices in American Comics
  79. ^ Monsters of Webcomics Virtual Gallery Artists Archived 2012-02-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  80. ^ Ford, Andrew Michael (Oct 17, 2009). "DAMNED II - featuring Marilyn Mason & HR Giger". Juxtapoz
  81. ^ "Uphold affordable health care". Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  82. ^ Millikin, Eric. "Please Ignore The "Drill, Baby, Drill" Brigade". Real Clear Energy. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  83. ^ "The Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  84. ^ "Labor Day 2002 Webcomic Telethon". Archived from the original on May 27, 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  85. ^ "Guest Strip Project benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  86. ^ Millikin, Eric. "Reading Works Poster Page". Reading Works. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  87. ^ "Twitter lights up over Snyder's State of the State speech". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2016-02-08. 
  88. ^ "Winners named in Michigan APME newspaper contest". The Washington Times. 1 June 2014. 
  89. ^ "Free Press wins big with SPJ; Journalists sweep the year's top awards". (April 19, 2009). Detroit Free Press, p. 9A.
  90. ^ a b "Mayoral reporting: Free Press wins top honor". (April 1, 2009). Detroit Free Press, p. 5A.
  91. ^ "2014 Salute to Excellence Newspaper Finalists". National Association of Black Journalists. 
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  93. ^ "Free Press wins its 9th Pulitzer; Reporting led to downfall of mayor". (April 21, 2009). Detroit Free Press, p.1A.
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  95. ^ Phillips, Kyra. "Big Three Push For Bridge Loan". (Dec. 5, 2008). CNN Newsroom, 2:00 PM EST
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  97. ^ Detroit Free Press staff (Oct. 10, 2011) Purchase today's special Tigers, Lions front page
  98. ^ "Michigan State President Acts Presidential". (November 2000). Catalyst Journal of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
  99. ^ "Stand-Up Comics". Hartford Advocate. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 

External links[edit]