Saturday, August 31, 2013

UNREAL CITY (the comic strip)

A couple years ago I did a very short lived strip (five installments) for Seattle's Stranger newspaper. Here's the first installment:

Having the opportunity to do a regular strip for the local newspaper would have been a dream come true for a lot of cartoonists... but it wasn't for me. I think when I got the offer I cried myself to sleep wondering what the hell I was going to do. I woke up the next morning with the idea of a contract killer who kills the wrong guy. Out of remorse he tries to protect the guy's sister- who wants nothing to do with him. It seemed like a really mainstream idea- something I would write for someone else. But I needed an idea for a strip so I went with it.
I had done a strip before called Snar-fled, a throw-away Garfield parody. I knew this strip would end up taking all of my time so I wanted to do something that felt substantial- something like Twin Peaks the comic strip. I had this ambitious idea of turning Seattle into a bizarre city that was like a glitched video game. It would be a continuing story where each installment would feel like a non-sequitur. Suffice it to say, the strip did not work out. What I should have done was stick to something simple and throw-way, but I've never learned how to do that type of comic.
The writing on this comic feels forced to me and not terribly good. The problem was that I wasn't trying to be a comic strip artist, which is it's own discipline all together. It's very difficult to get something satisfying across in just four beats. A full page is more my rhythm. It's the rhythm I've learned from years of reading comic books. I pulled the plug after just five installments. Still, there were some decent ideas floating around in there that I'm sure I'll end up using (and have already used) for other things. One of those things is the title: Unreal City, which I'm using for my current project.
Anyways, here are those other strips, warts and all.
 I wanted the main character, Elroy Bass, to have an unlikely design. Something in the spirit of Elliot Gould's version of Phillip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, or like how Moebius used this curly red-haired Donald Sutherland-looking guy for Missippi River. Elroy Bass also shows up in my story Echoes into Eternity.
Elroy's sidekick was a gay Scandinavian driver from Ballard named Bjorn Bonde. He would be Watson to Elroy's Holmes, and like Watson the story would be narrated from Bjorn's point of view. One crazy idea I had was that Bjorn was narrating the story from some bizarre state of limbo somewhere in the future.
The villain was a bizarre character in the Dick Tracy tradition. The Man Who Walks Backwards.

And speaking of Twin Peaks (David Lynch's influence on my stuff is pretty obvious), my roommates took me to the REAL Twin Peaks for my birthday this last May. The perspective on the first picture is distorted to accommodate the Café sign.