SpongeBob SquarePants -- who holds hands with his friend Patrick, a sea sponge, and was recently condemned by conservative Christians -- isn't the only cartoon character to catch heat lately. Have you seen that T-shirt/wallet/address book that says, "Boys are stupid -- Throw rocks at them"? The design's creator, Todd Goldman, says: "I get 20 hate e-mails a day. There's a whole campaign against me. This guy in Seattle had all my 'boy-bashing' products pulled from department stores. There's a website called Todd Goldman is stupid -- Throw rocks at him!" Indeed, at www.fathers.ca, Goldman's work is called a "hate crime" and "another form of child abuse." "I would like to stress that it's a joke," Goldman says. "I'm not trying to start some underground movement. I have a book tour coming in March, and I hope no one throws any rocks at me." He adds: "People are taking this way too seriously. Get a fucking life!" But it's Goldman who's laughing all the way to the bank. When Timemagazine wrote about the controversy, "I got a million hits on my website in 48 hours." Not that he needed the boost. The 36-year-old Clearwater resident is already a millionaire who employs his father, his brother, and a bunch of friends. He has just completed his second book and is currently in talks to create a daily comic strip and an animated movie based on his characters. "I've never had an art class in my life," he says. "But I was always drawing funny pictures on the chalkboard." He got an accounting degree from the University of Florida, then moved to San Diego and helped run a clothing company. He returned home to Clearwater five years ago "with my tail between my legs" after he went broke and his girlfriend of six years left him. He started pressing T-shirts with his designs. "The first year, I did $1 million in sales. This year, we did $90 million in sales." Goldman has expanded his cast of characters far beyond the fictional stoning victim. À la South Park, the Simpsons, or Hello Kitty,he's created a whole cartoon world where his kids live and play. Characters like Bonita Styles ("the most stylish girl in school. She's got a big 'fro, and she'll call you a fool"), Red Headed Stepchild, sisters Eve L. and Dev L., and Goodbye Kitty, all "go to school in an abandoned underwear factory because it's overcrowded at the regular school. The popular kids call that the Stupid Factory." Now, Goldman is slapping his designs on canvas too -- and guess what? His original paintings are fetching up to $8,000. Trisky Singian, director of the Jack Gallery, where Goldman is coming Friday for an art reception, compares him to the century's greatest pop artists. "Make sure you get his autograph," she whispers. "Could you imagine if you had Andy Warhol's?"
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