The plot thickens! Well, not really. I guess they’re mostly standing around cracking jokes about Jesus. Still, though. It’s all supposed to go somewhere, I promise.
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.
This an older comic that I never posted officially when I first did it, because I was mainly posting comics on Myspace at that point and I thought they might delete my account for it. As you can see, it dates from before I realized that Zac Efron is obviously much, much more fuckable than Pete Wentz. I would imagine, though, that the enjoyment I took in drawing this still shines through in the finished product. Yep. Write what you know, they say. Whenever I show this comic to anybody I respect, their response usually includes that phrase, “But who the hell is Pete Wentz?” which proves to me that at least some things in this universe are as they should be. As hard as the music sucks, though, he’s still pretty cute. As long as he doesn’t talk much. I’m reasonably happy with how this comic looks, considering how old it is, aside from Pete’s face being somewhat deformed in that one panel there. You can probably guess that my attention to detail was keener on the panels which didn’t include his face.
When people suggest to me that I should try to get my comics syndicated into newspapers, I usually doubt that they’ve actually read my comics.
What’s interesting to me about this particular joke, aside from the obvious, is that it’s really not a very extreme sexual fantasy at all but, somehow, when it’s written down like that it seems like the filthiest thing ever. One thing I’ve always been interested in is picking at the scabs of our social taboos and seeing which ones are actually covering anything worth covering. They almost never are when you get down too it. I’m also pretty interested in writing about sex with guys, so two birds and one stone there.
I started with the idea of the Capitalist Pig character so that I’d have someone for my rabbit to argue with about matters of money and financial success, since I figured my own internal conflicts on the issue might provide some interesting comics. I haven’t really used him as much as I thought I might, but recent economic times have given me some cause to push him toward the front a little more. That, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to throw in an occasional slightly-more topical strip to break up the pornography.
It probably took longer for me to figure this out than it did for some of my readers, but when the rabbit and the robot are talking to each other, it’s usually just me talking to myself. This particular comic is a debate I’ve been having in my head. Part of me keeps saying, “He’s just not that into you, don’t be a stalker!” and then there’s the other (Most likely victorious) part that wants to send him this comic and see what his reaction will be. Yep. Hey, if I ever knew when to quit, I probably would have given up these comics a couple of years ago and went back to school or something. Of course, going back to school would be a lot of work. Welcome to my world: that fun place where obstinacy meets inertia.