The Further Adventures of Yukon Cornelius

Today I want to share with you work that I completed while at the Columbus College of Art and Design, and which would have been part of the Columbus Arts Festival 2020 in June (but WILL be part of the festival in 2021!)

I fell in love late in life with a character from a Christmas special: Yukon Cornelius, created by Romeo Muller as part of the 1964 Rankin/Bass production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”–a stop motion special that is shown every Christmas. You might recognize the character:

Burly, positive, full of helpful asides “Bumbles Bounce!” and “the fog is as thick as peanut butter!”–Yukon helps our heroes realize their dreams by a) saving them from the Abominable Snowmonster, b) taking them to the Island of Misfit Toys to carry a message to Santa to come get these toys and pair them up with kids and c) reforming said Abominable Snowmonster and making him tame, and cool for Christmas Parties.


I don’t know why Yukon stayed with me. It might be that I went to live in the Yukon for nearly 10 years. I mushed some dogs (tbh, only as a one-day fun thing in Inuvik, NWT–though I attended and watched the Yukon Quest as much as I could), and spent time out in the wilderness. But I also lived in the great city of Whitehorse being a friend and misfit to a lot of other friends and misfits, who are also great musicians, artists, talented amazing people.

undefined Maybe it was that Yukon was very burly, and I was attracted to him, or even attracted to the kind of man he represented–a big “bear”. He seemed like a better version of a male hero than I had previously encountered. Though he had a gun, I don’t think he ever shot it. He was practical, helpful, encouraging. He had a lot of knowledge about Abominable Snowmonsters! And he was much more interested in saving people than in killing monsters. In the end, because Bumbles bounce!–Yukon and Bumble somehow come to an understanding. Bumble is just another misfit that needs to find his right place… and he does, next to the Christmas tree.

In another post, I will tell you more about that Queering the Hero journey I made–and continue to make. But here are my paintings, extrapolating three things:

  1. Yukon Cornelius could be gay. People have commented before on the queer undertones of the show–read the articles here from Vulture, and KQED and in 2019 The New York Times opinion page—- about themes of bullying, about being different, about being rejected, about finding acceptance for your unique qualities. Romeo Muller was himself gay. It’s not a stretch to see the queercoding in the show. Making Yukon Cornelius gay is not a stretch either, since he doesn’t make mention of a wife, and reads as what we would call a “bear” today–a burly, bearded, slightly overweight, slightly hyper-masculine man.
  2. Yukon has a way of charming beasts. His expert past knowledge of the Abominable Snowmonster speaks to prior run-ins with “Bumble”—and then he is able to tame and speak to the Bumble (who miraculously grows back his teeth in the final few minutes of the special!)
  3. Yukon deserved more of an adventurous life.

So, I created that life for him–and for me. The copyright on characters from this movie had a misprint in it, making all characters in public domain (outside of Rudolph who had prior copyright). So I adopted Yukon as my hero and gave him a life of meeting cryptids (Bigfoot, Mothman, sea monsters, etc.) Using acrylic and myself as a reluctant model–or at times a stand-in, I painted these paintings. (side note: I’d planned to have several cooler guys than me become Yukon for these paintings–but planning photo shoots was not easy.)

So if you’ve always wanted a rollicking adventuresome gay hero, I offer you Yukon Cornelius–rescuing, negotiating, protecting, singing, reading, allowing himself to be loved.

Continue reading

The Short Happy Life of “The Snowman”

Okay, it’s going to get Christmasy soon, so I thought I would try to shape the Christmas I want. I think we all do it. Through decoration and choice of songs and events, we shape this important holiday. Well, I’d like to craft my holiday with “The Snowman,” my second favorite Christmas story, next to Jesus.

“The Snowman,” Raymond Briggs’ christmas story made into a wordless film about a boy who goes on a midnight adventure with his snowman–complete with a flight up to the north pole to dance with a whole bevy of snowmen, and a brief encounter with Claus–is beautiful and heart-breaking. The music that accompanies the story brilliantly illustrates the emotional mood of the story, and if you’ve ever heard the main song sung in the film, it probably gave you chills.

That driving piano rumbling–that rolling and rolling in a minor key makes the moment exist between wonder-filled and ominous. Some of the scenes of the flight show a whale as a shadow in the water; some have the boy almost falling; but through it all, the snowman keeps a-hold of him, and the other snowmen fly in formation like blue angels around the pair as they glide over a winter landscape.

With every snowman story there is a theme of how temporary life is. Even Frosty the Snowman lives a short happy life. I love how “The Snowman,” without words, is able to put the joy and sorrow of friendship in one story.

And there’s something about this scene that makes me long for a snowman of my own, someone that still might take me on an adventure. I’d like to think that’s the kid in me, maybe. But I know it’s something more grown-up and universal–a longing for companionship, a feeling of being chosen, and desire for the world to have real magic somewhere–a little surprise still.

Maybe this Christmas, eh?