This strip more or less marks the introduction of a new character, but it’s one that’s been on my mind for a long time now. For anybody who’s been reading the comics for a couple of years now, they might remember a storyline I did a couple of years ago featuring a teddy bear sold at a bookstore as a promotional item during Christmas who, after the holiday season, is no longer needed and suffers a crisis of purpose. The storyline ended when the teddy bear, seeking a new vocation and having lived his short, sheltered life in a bookstore watches Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled and, seeing neither the irony nor the tragedy of it, is inspired to embark upon a career as a blackface entertainer. Sadly, there seemed to be no place for his act in our modern world, and the story ended with him being approached by something that looked ominously like a lynch mob.
That wasn’t meant to be the end of the story, though. I had the vague outline of a whole epic adventure for the little bear, and I stopped because I realized that I liked it a little too much to continue with it as I’d started it. The bear was based, none too subtly, on a bear that had been sold at the real-life bookstore where I worked, and I didn’t think that they’d appreciate a version of their possibly copyrighted character becoming a hard-drinking alcoholic, making inappropriate advances toward a small boy, dancing in blackface, and accusing the company of implicit antisemitism for their Christmas-centric winter decorations… among other things that I had the bear doing. Some big corporations are funny about stuff like that. Go figure. So I decided that, if I wanted to continue the storyline, I should come up with my own renamed and redesigned teddy bear character. They can’t copyright the idea of a teddy bear being sold at a bookstore, I’m pretty sure, and that’s all that remains from the original concept. I hope to redo the whole origin story with the elements that I liked from what I did originally, but with this new character, and then I’d like to finally get to the big future plans that I had for the teddy bear. But until I manage to get around to all of that, this second Swine Flu comic is the next in an ongoing storyline, so stick with it and enjoy.
I did start out thinking this wasn’t really worth writing about, but a storyline started to occur to me and now I think it’ll be running through the strip for a while, so stay tuned. I plan to do a couple of storylines running concurrently, so they might take a while to finish, but hopefully they’ll be worth it.
I do like the idea of telling longer stories in this short strip format, because it’s fun to me to take something so rigid and see how far it can bend. Of course, long storylines in daily strips are nothing new. Dick Tracy in the ’30′s was doing massive stories that today would probably be considered “graphic novels” but at the time were doled out a few panels per installment. Today, though, the strip format seems to have gotten so set that you’re a little bit shocked when anything out of the ordinary is done with it. We’re conditioned to a degree to expect an exact rhythm of setup, beat, punchline. If the joke happens in the penultimate panel, you’ll probably go back and reread it to figure out if you missed something. I think that we’re not too far away from two daily cartoonists doing the exact same joke as one another without even realizing it. There are already Zits strips that do Calvin and Hobbes jokes almost panel-for-panel, but I’m not sure how “accidental” that actually is. The difference between the two is that Zits has lolled in its own refuse for years content to repeat in different fashions the basic concept, “Isn’t it funny how teenagers are lazy and say stupid things?” while Bill Watterson is a genius who could be working with a nub of yellow crayon and a discarded cheeseburger wrapper and would still manage to transcend and say something profound and entertaining. Then again, Get Fuzzy is nearly always a few panels of Bucky saying something mean, Satchel saying something stupid, and Rob expressing exasperation over it, and I love Get Fuzzy, so maybe there’s something enjoyable and useful in repetition. The best comics like that are a little bit like watching different artists cover an old blues song. You can hear a million different people sing Stack A Lee, and it gets more interesting the more it’s done, because you want to find out if there’s anyplace new to take it. And then you can be the Dixie Chicks molesting Landslide. It really all depends on how it’s done.
Anyway. I love Satchel. Buck too. Can’t they just all be happy? Maybe in their own way they are.
I kind of view that final panel as a big goodbye wave to anybody who might have had lingering doubts about whether they wanted to read my comics. I like it, though. It’s always fascinating to me the things people do and say during sex, and all the things in the sexual panels of these stories are things that have actually been said to me.
OK, so my computer decided to completely die on me last week, and that’s complicated scanning and posting and all that stuff. For the moment, I’m using a friend’s computer, and trying to keep stuff coming. As far as this page goes, hm, I think I’ll let it speak for itself.
The title of this comic comes from a comment a friend of mine made to me a while ago. I woke up one Saturday remembering vaguely that I’d spent the previous evening in some clubs and had more than a bit to drink. That Sunday, I got a text from the friend in question that read, “Sober yet?” Apparently, I’d been pretty wasted.
“Was I that fucked up?” I asked.
“Lol. You were a hot mess.”
“What’s that mean? ‘Hot mess?’ ” Being gay I know that it shocks people, but I don’t read a lot of Perez Hilton or devote too much attention to the lesbian exploits of Lindsay Lohan, so I’d never come across the phrase.
“It means that you would’ve been hot, but you were a really fucking mess,” I was informed.
I felt like the description summed up a lot about the last couple of years of my life.
I’ve been trying to get this story together because I decided at some point that I wanted to call the first eventual trade paperback collection of my comics Hot Mess for that reason, and I’ve been trying to get together material to submit for a grant that has an October submission deadline. Trying to figure out how to explain my comics and what some of my goals for them include has forced me to organize them in my thoughts a bit more than I had. I’ve already mentioned on here bits and pieces of information about it, as in, “Oh, this drawing is for,” whatever issue, and so on, but now, if anybody’s curious, I feel ready to lay out a bit of the master plan, and maybe some of my past posts will have a little bit more context.
This title piece, Hot Mess, is intended for inclusion in an issue that I want to call Tales of… SELF INDULGENCE! and that will hopefully indulge a little bit of my interest in old EC and other horror comics. I have a couple of other pieces already started at different stages for this. My first two single issues, give or take, will probably fill out the back matter of Hot Mess, and I’m starting to refer to them, collectively, as Odds and Beginnings. The story Roll With It that I posted on here a while ago, along with some other bits and pieces that I’ve posted at different times, are meant to be included in, “It’s Like Heaven” , which is named with a quote from an Allen Ginsberg poem and meant to comprise some of my musings about my recent romantic misadventures. Then there’s, “Thought Dreams”, which some of you might recognize as being named with a Bob Dylan lyric. I’ll say more about what this one will include later on. There’s also, “Marchin’ To the City”, which is named with another Dylan lyric. That one is meant to include a partial origin of Rickets the Robot, and is something that I’ve given a lot of thought to. All together, these issues with some additions and rearrangement will hopefully comprise a sort of autobiography of part of my life, and will be Hot Mess.
One of my first real attempts at coloring stuff in Photoshop, so I think it turned out alright. If you don’t recognize what the bear’s quote is a reference to, get off my website and go read Calvin and Hobbes, ’cause you’re kinda culturally illiterate until you do!