Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Art of Punk: Milo

This is Milo. Milo is a caricature of Descendents’ singer Milo Aukerman.

As a punk rock fan, you’ve probably seen him around before. Whether you’ve listened to the whole of the Descendents back catalogue (I admit, I haven’t listened to all of it myself) or you’ve just seen his face, in one of its many guises, on a T-shirt you probably recognise Milo. You may not have even seen the original Milo as he has a face that pop culture and punk bands alike seem to be endlessly finding new ways to repurpose. Needless to say, Milo is one of the most iconic yet simplistic band logo-come-mascots and album cover designs of punk rock.

The original Milo character was first drawn in the early 1980s when Milo Aukerman and Bill Stevenson, Descendents drummer, were at high school. But the famous Milo image wasn’t drawn by Milo or Bill themselves, it was drawn by a classmate of theirs, Roger Deuerlein. The caricature of Milo was born in the form of comic strips and posters that were an attempt to make fun of Milo for being a nerd. However instead of giving in to taunts and criticism, the band took Roger’s Milo caricature and made it their own.

The first, and probably most famous, Milo character was used on Descendents’ first album, Milo Goes To College (1982). Rather than asking Roger Deuerlein to draw the character – he was aferall an ignorant bully – they got Bill’s friend Jeff ‘Rat’ Atkins to create his own interpretation. Atkins recalls saying,Okay, what kind of Milo do you want?' So I draw him a Milo. First was the crew neck T-shirt, then I drew the polo shirt Milo, then I drew the Milo with a tie, because he goes to college. Bill goes 'Oh, that’s it', and it becomes the cover of the first record.

Meanwhile Milo, the caricature, went on to become a sort of mascot for the band. He is featured on many of the band’s other releases, including the 1996 album Everything Sucks (read Colin’s 20th anniversary review of the album here), and on numerous amounts of Descendents merchandise and promotional materials.

I particularly like the inventive T-shirt designs they’ve had over the years, many for specific shows or festival appearances – see the Groezrock 2014 waffle design below.


Milo Goes To College was titled such because Milo Aukerman did indeed go to college. He never stopped being a so-called nerd and not only has a degree in biology but also a PHD in biochemistry. Now, I’m not even sure I know exactly what biochemistry is – I’m a graphic designer – but for a punk that’s pretty darn cool. And that’s one of the things that I love about the Milo character, it embraces nerdiness and conveys the message that you don’t have to be afraid to be yourself.

As I love an excuse to create a new Art of Punk board on my Pinterest account, I’ve started gathering together Milo-themed images. This includes Descendents originals and Milo parodies. My favourite of the latter category is the IT Crowd Milo – Moss Goes To University. Brilliant.