Back to Annotated Archive, Part Four
August 31, 2000
Wew. Back from an hour of organizing those damn originals. Obviously, this one was built around a drawing of Johnny Cash. The original has about four variously unlike-Johnny sketches and half-attempts to draw someone playing a fiddle. Of course, he doesn't even play a fiddle, does he?
I think this one turned out pretty well, actually. One of my old cartooning axioms back in the Gateway days was "Black is a color." By that I meant that one should color things in with black whenever the opportunity presented itself, advice I'm sure not taking these days with strips like Eclipse. I did it here with the Man's jacket, though, and I like it.
Curiously, the original script didn't have the recorder angle. It went
- Bob looks out window
- B: Why do you play, O Man of the Hill?
- M: I play cuz I gotta.
- B: What do you play, O Man on the Hill?
M: I play what my gut says to.
- B: So, do you practice a lot? Huh? Do you? Huh?
- (Man plays)
- S: So I saw you were talking to the Man on the Hill.
B: Ah... he's not so great.
But for some reason, when I got to the drawing stage, I decided to go with the recorder bit. Now it's a little dissertation on the relationship between aspriring artists and their heroes. "Hey, Mr. Sim. I draw a cartoon. Wanna see?" Poor Bob -- the Man of the Hill doesn't have anything to say to him. My experiences have been better. I've found that when I've encountered the people I revere, they usually turn out to be nice, friendly people like anybody else. They don't think of themselves as terrible, unapproachable gods, partly because they've spent their lives being in awe of the people they think are the gods. Everybody is just struggling to get it right, and hopefully, make it better.
I always wish I'd come up with a better angle for that last panel. It's pretty grey, and Bob seems to kind of disappear in the left corner. Fume, fume. The penultimate panel, however, rocks. I particularly like how Bob's rooty-leafy things turned out... gotta remember to steal that for future cartoons...
The last line of this strip, originally, was going to be the Milk-and-Cheese-like gag of having Bob look down at the EBGMoB's buttery remains saying "I had to do it... because you were made of butter." Kinda funny.
Back in those days, I used to write Bob cartoons by writing some random words down on the back of the strip and seeing if that sparked anything. For this one, those random words were:
buying the copyright to Bob
How does that equal "evil business guy made of butter?" No idea...
Weirdly, looking at the back of the original, I find there was an entire
script that I didn't do. It goes like this:
- (Meow noises)
- S: Hey, what are you listening to?
S: What are you listening to?
B: Oh... my new Jingle Cats CD!
- (more meow noises)
- S: It sucks.
B: Does it ever! But there's this one bit..."
* to the tune of Handel's "Messiah"
- S: Wow, that's beautiful...
B: Oh, yeah...
Pretty thin, I say. The Jingle Cats, of course, turned up a couple of years later in Featuring the Most Relaxing Classical Music Album in the World... Ever! Dr. Navel made a tiny reappearance in As the Whole World Watches, and stumped many in the contest surrounding that strip.
Updated September 5, 2000
Bob has a pretty minor role in this one. It's the old digression-for-its-own-sake gag. What does Bob's conversation have to do with the Man Who Did Nothing But Quote Star Wars? Nothing, of course.
As for the MWDNBQSW, he's a pretty typical example of the kind of guest charcter I seem to do so rarely these days. He's got a big chin, and that's as much characterization as he gets. I kinda like how his obsession with Star Wars slides from charmingly goofy to completely dysfunctional.
I seem to recall working on this one while proofreading at the Journal, and I think I had sketched out a whole strip invovling Santa in a more direct role somehow. Then I decided it sucked, erased everything I'd drawn, and did this one instead. And now I'll never know what I would have done...
On the back of this one are several sketches of different faces, and another unused script. This one starts with a character named "G" (probably standing for "guy") and Bob:
-G: Sorry I'm late -- held up in traffic.
-B: Oh yeah? How do we know you weren't replaced by a robot?
B: What about a pod-thing? Or a clone? Or a shape-changing alien?
-Stumpy: Yeah -- photo I.D.'d be useless!
B: We'll have to cut you... see if you bleed human blood.
- FFF: But that won't help if he's a clone.
B: Too true, too true.
- B: I guess we'll have to take your word for it.
-B: But I'm WATCHING you...
Bob pre-emptively gives up on his own stupid plan, but then fate intercedes in a hopefully unexpected way. I like the fact that there's no dialogue in the final two panels; it adds a poignant quality I like. Also, we see the occasional French motif show itself again. Plus, I like Bob's rather bashful demeanor in the first panel. This was back when I had a girlfriend, so my attitude towards girls was much more healthy and stable...
The punch line is a little weak, but considering the kind of scripts I was considering for publication back then, it's a classic. I always regret putting in all those "ouch lines" in the last panel; a little overdone, I think. Other ideas I was considering on the back of this one were "Avro Arrow", "Salt lick", and "A missing child, an abused wife, and a 500-foot-tall robot... Secrets."
So, what better way to get my revenge than by inflating a poor horse by a factor of ten or fifteen? I've always hated that whole "square-cube law" excuse for why insects can't be huge (by that logic, a lion should collapse under its own weight compared to a house cat), but I had no problem imagining that a horse that big would have some serious health problems.
I had to do a fair bit of research for this one; I never would have used terms like "appaloosa" or "draft horse" without looking them up.
Lightning himself was not the most effectively realized drawing I ever did. I used Letratone to make him grey, with disastrous consequences for the cartoon when scanning it in for Internet display. My artistic limitations rear their collective head again; I'm sure there are far better ways of showing off a huge sixty-foot horse than the way I drew it, though I like the various tiny figures cleaning and tending to the stupid creature.
For the final panel, I backed off slightly from my original intent. Originally, Lightning's eye was going to be more fevered and sick, with more of a hint of a suffering animal behind it, to go along with all the foam and drool dripping from his sick, diseased mouth. Eventually I just thought, okay, enough. He's a sad enough beast as it is.
Curiously, on the back of this cartoon I find some preliminary scripting notes for the cartoon that eventually became Menace Marine. Weird.
Updated September 6, 2000
This is a pretty simply structured strip, basically just a call-response type thing, where the General's dialogue follows one idea and Bob's follows another. By this time I believe Bob could be said to be a legitimate expert in this kind of thing, just like Doctor Who. Of course, that's not to say that he'd be any help.
I made some change to the sixth panel, but I'll never know what it is because I glued the replacement panel firmly onto the old one. The panel I really want to change is the last one; every time I look at this one, I want Bob's final line to be "Caused what?"
Originally in the script, I had a voice on the other end of the phone saying, "Bob, your father is dead." For some good reason, I amended that, so now we don't really know the particulars of Bob's little tragedy. More universal this way, I think. Plus, I didn't really want to get into the issue of Bob's parents and past.
I kinda like the art approach in this one. As alert readers can probably tell, I photocopied the Bob from the fourth panel and then reused him for the next three panels, signifying that frozen, this-isn't-happening feeling you get when a big part of your life is being rewritten by death. I particularly like the Bob floating off into the white space.
-Death: You will game with me.
-FFF: Where's Bob?
S: Ah, he's in the kitchen playing chess with Satan or Death or something...
-B: Hey guys!
S: That was quick. How'd it go?
-B: Awesome! I keep my soul *and* I won a scourge off him!
-FFF: A scourge? Like nuclear war or plague?
B: Better than that -- check it out!
-B: Fast snails!
- (nobody says anything)
-B: WAY faster than normal!
S: That's a scourge?
- FFF: They're pretty fast, all right.
Basically, I was trying to work the comedy of the word "scourge", to pretty limited effect. I recall working on this one while waiting at a Japanese restaurant for my dining companions to arrive. Somewhere during this period came the gypsy woman idea, and that worked a lot better. This way, instead of just stating the snail joke once and belaboring it for a couple of panels, I was able to actually depict some of the ways fast snails could be a problem. I think I came up with some good ones. This is the kind of strip I like, where there's something funny in every panel. That's the ideal structure for a Bob strip, only rarely achieved.
Plus, I loooove the art in this one. The gypsy woman came out as well as I'd hoped, with lots of texture and black and greys (though I kinda wish I'd done something better with the "trees" behind her). But I love that foreman guy in the fourth panel the most -- I think it's because of the little shadow lines under the bill of his hat. It's not a big panel, but there's lots of stuff in it, and it doesn't look too cluttered.
September 7, 2000
Contrary to what this strip would suggest, I don't really like grapefruit.
Anyway, originally Bob was going to be trying to get a mutual fund when the Underwater Warriors burst in, but somehow that element got dropped. Instead, I just went with the old stand-on-the-street-corner-yelling gag. Man, look at all those extras I drew in the second panel. Five little off-the-cuff cartoon characters, and another one in the next panel, and then two more in the last panel? I honestly don't remember the last time I populated a cartoon with that many random humans. Jeez, that's depressing...
I sure do like the Underwater Warriors, though. I guess they're kind of ripped off in spirit from the Sea-Devils from an old episode of Doctor Who, though I wasn't looking at any pictures or anything when I drew them. And I love their water-tanks, with the tracks, and the faucet on the front... even that little guy in the cockpit turned out just dandy. I was on a nice plateau with these strips, I think.
Plenty going on in this one. I particularly like the line, "like fascism, but kind," which captures the kind of upscale snob nonsense I was trying to get at. Then the next panel, with Bob bitching it up with the androgyne. But it's fourth panel that makes it all worthwhile: "Pants off, Monsieur Genoux!!!" Bob, as always, takes the direct approach. Of course M. Genoux is wearing boxer shorts with flowers on them.
And then the payoff. Those beautiful, beautiful knees, with the little sparkles. As I say, this strip had a few more twists and turns than most, as I was really trying to put more effort into each strip.
The two guys flanking the word "Hey!" in the third panel are Shawn Ohler and Steve Tilley, then-entertainment writers at the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, respectively. Shawn was to return in Party Favor, while Steve would reappear in both Fabricated and Sayonara Sun. The guy down in the lower right-hand corner is Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who made a small reappearance in The Fray debating Bill Clinton.
I like the "spaced out" Bob in that panel; he's got the earring, he's got the funky petals, he's got it going on, in the modern parlance. But the part of this strip that stays with me still is the phrase "every drooling meathead in Christendom." Don't know why. Bob's final line for a time was going to be "You mean I'm still wearing it?", but that somehow came off to me as a little too conventional.
The back of this one is covered with alternate ideas. I had "talking to a classroom full of children," "vampire trees," "sending a telegram," "what happens when you die," and "God goes on vacation." I even got a scrap of script written for that one:
-G: Now I'll be in Maui for two weeks, so you'll be in charge while
B: Yes sir, Lord!
- G: Now I know you'll want to have some friends over while I'm gone, and I'm not going to stop you...
Hmmm... might have been funny.
Coming up fast on the last of the first run of See strips, as I was soon to jump over to the Sun for my first burst of family-newspaper exposure. I don't know if it was conscious or not, but I sure took advantage of the relative freedom See afforded by doing this strip, one of the more offensive I've done, I think.
The guy getting therapy is a pretty transparent caricature of Roy Wood, assistant managing editor of the Journal, where I was proofreading at the time. He was to reappear, with no memory of his traumatic childhood, in Why We Have Unions and The Prodigal Idiot.
I like Bob's change of demeanor here. It's not often that Bob plays the straight man, but he can do it. The whole idea was to present Bob as the soothing though vaguely impersonal voice of authority in order to highten the hoped-for contrast between him and the clown. I love his "please continue" line in panel four. Bob's not being overtly cruel, but he knows he can use the fact that he's the therapist to lightly prod the guy into painful territory. Orignally, the line was something like, "Now, I need you to tell me about that night in explicit detail," but I think I made the right choice, underplaying Bob and letting the main joke of the clown carry the idea.
I also think the clown turned out not too bad, with the little diamond motif on his outfit. Panel 6 is his big moment; I really should have drawn a tiny little bird flittering out of his ass along with the notes and the "Toot!"
Udpated September 8, 2000
Is he Bob's father? No. No, he's just an old man with rough-hewn words of wisdom. "That's a hard truth in life, understand?" I love it that Bob receives the old man's benediction at the same moment as his poor dog faces execution. We had a dog growing up, and she was eventually "put to sleep," and while it wasn't my dog, I still felt guilty about the whole affair.
Originally, in the last panel Freddie was going to be asking who the old guy was, with Bob responding that he didn't know. But the strip's ultimately about the dog, not the guy, so I changed it.
I kinda like how "cute Bob" turned out. By then I was always drawing Bob with the sharp-edged, curved petals, so to revert to the round-edged petals and the big, big eyes made Bob look quite cherubic, I think.
The back of this one was crammed with other ideas. My scribbled notes include "a giant brass telescope that can see into your thoughts" (presaging by several years the Time Looker-Forward Tube), as well as the note "Bears'll go into any situation," and "Mr. Hollow-Head." Plus, there are two, count-'em two, unused scripts or partial scripts.
-B: C'mon, Let's go party!
S: Can't. I'm busy.
FFF: So am I.
- B: Well, fine. Who needs you? I'll go hang out with Mr. Building.
- B: Hey, Mr. Building, long time no see!
Mr.B: Oh, I've been keeping busy. I'm writing a screenplay, we're hoping for an October shoot. I'm going to direct, of course.
- Mr. B: I've been sending it out and the response has been really good, people are saying I'm really talented.
B: (thinking) Jeez... what a knob!
-B: So, want to go for a drink?
Mr.B: I'm a building. I don't drink.
Hilarious, yes? No? Incredibly dumb? Just as well I did the Fresh Roasted Peanuts thing, then, huh? Here's the second unusued script:
-Guy: Hey, Bob, haven't you heard? The river's crested! There's going
to be a flood!
B: Oh, I heard, all right.
-B: But while you saps lug sandbags around all day, I'm taking it easy. My laser cannon will boil off any water near my house.
-Later that Day
B: Mmm... nothing like a barbecue on a hot day... Why not come over for a steak?
- B: Oh, right... too busy. More for me, then!
- G: All right, Flower, that does it. We want you and your laser cannon out of town by sundown!
-B: Hey, you guys can say what you want about me... but leave my laser cannon out of it!
- (Laser cannon)
- G: He's right...
G2: What... what had we become?
G3: Mob mentality. We were animals... worse than animals.
G4: So ashamed...
Actually, that's not too bad. Typing it up here kinda makes me want to do it. We'll see. This script has a strong similarity in my mind to Higher Ground, with Bob berating a group of people who are already under a lot of stress. What a jerk.