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.
I very rarely do drawings like this of people from life; I usually use photographs instead. When I have done guys from life before, their reaction usually hasn’t been all that enthusiastic. This time, though, the guy in question liked the drawing a lot, and I have to say that it wasn’t the worst time I’ve ever had drawing somebody. What happened after might have even been more fun, but I guess there’s little or no artistic purpose to me elaborating on it in this post.
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.
I think this is the last one of these from my first issue that hasn’t yet been posted in a blog. I’m thinking on Wednesday we’ll have the next part of the Swine Flu storyline to post.
The other night. A dream. I’m drifting off to sleep, and I don’t realize that I’ve fallen there yet, so when I see myself walking down a sidewalk. I think it’s real at first even though it looks a little bit like one of those first person shots in Being John Malkovich where they’re inside Malkovich looking out, as opposed to really being the person that’s walking. I realize it must be a dream when I see what’s on the sidewalk. There’s a horse lying there, a horse definitely and not a pony, in proportion and detail, although it’s only about three feet long, maybe as big as a largish medium-sized dog. The dog comparison is uncomfortable, because half of the horse is ground into the pavement, smashed paper-thin as though it has the consistency of a pile of dog shit and has been stepped in by a giant shoe. The only portion of the horse to retain its original dimensionality is the left front leg and everything above going to the neck and head. These parts are flailing about feebly, like the antenna of a roach that’s been sprayed but hasn’t quite given up yet. The horse’s eyes roll up in their sockets, but I couldn’t claim it was looking at me.
This is when I realize that it’s all a little too weird, I must be dreaming, and I think that I wake up. I’m in my room., although the light is strange and soft and diffused, like how they tried to photograph a woman’s bedroom in the early days of three-strip technicolor. I’m not yet concerned that the aesthetic qualities of my imaginative landscapes so often are easily compared to the techniques employed in old films. There’s somebody next to me, but I don’t quite see him. He’s in my peripheral vision, just barely though, and I’m telling him that I just had the strangest dream, but I never remember my dreams. That part is true, because I really rarely do. So, I insist that he has to help me remember the horse, because it was too interesting to waste. I think he’s nodding a little bit, but he doesn’t say much in the way of an answer. I decide that he’s not trustworthy, and I tell myself that it’s up to me to remember this dream. I insist again and again that I have to record every detail. I think this is why I remember most of what happened afterward. I start to realize that there’s something strange about this as well, and that there might not be another person in my peripheral vision at all, and that’s when I “wake up” again.
I’m lying in my bed now, which seems about right because I’m supposed to have just snapped out of a bad dream. Looking down, I discover that there’s a boy there, going down on me, green t-shirt and brown skin. He’s beautiful, and I recognize him from my escapades, even though I can’t see his face. It seems hazy, though, and I can’t feel his mouth on me like I should, and some part of my brain starts to suspect that I never did wake up, after all.
Now I’m standing up at the foot of my bed, and I think I’ve woken up again. But for some reason the door between my room and my roommate’s is open, which it never should be. I think it’s actually taped shut. There’s something profoundly disturbing to me about it being open. I can’t recall the last time that it was. Then I notice that the light in the room isn’t natural, it’s a deep blue with no conceivable logical origin within the room. I think in the box of crayolas I had when I was little, that blue was called cornflower blue. I start to step toward the door, but I feel like I shouldn’t. The steps I take toward it don’t actually bring me any closer, until I finally notice a shadowy figure in the room. It’s headed toward me, and for some reason I’m afraid of it, even though my suspicion is that it’s the boy from a minute ago, still in his green t-shirt and without pants, just walking at a casual pace. Suddenly, another figure rushes me from my right side and grabs me, which is when I realize it’s all just too improbable, I must be dreaming, and I “wake up” again.
Now I’m lying back in my bed, but I feel paralyzed and I can’t move. There are two figures standing over me.
“It doesn’t really matter. He can’t hear you,” one of them says.
They continue discussing me for a few moments. What’s disturbing me even more than my paralysis is the fact that one of them looks exactly like a drawing I had done, only that drawing wasn’t of anybody in particular. It was as though the guy was from the drawing, rather than the other way around. They keep discussing me for a few more minutes before I snap awake again
This time, I lay with my eyes closed for a few minutes. I think about the sounds in the room and the feeling of my cheek on the pillow. I’m trying to figure out how I can tell that this is any different than being asleep, and zero in on the exact indications that tell me the difference. I feel unsettled, because in the last portion of the dream I had been convinced that I really was awake finally, and that I was in an asylum or something, imagining these walking versions of my drawings looking over me. I had finally snapped.
It took me a few minutes, but I did convince myself that it was a real pillow against my cheek. I opened my eyes.
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.