Posted by: dougery | February 1, 2011

Scribbler’s Row

There is a period of time in every person’s life where we think we are good at everything. This youthful egomania is fueled by parents who are enthralled by a child who can lift up it’s head on it’s own, dodder across the floor on it’s own legs, or not mess its own drawers. Only a short while later will it occur to you that no you aren’t amazing at everything, that riding a bike is a fairly mundane achievement, that tying your shoes is not tantamount to curing cancer, that yes technically you could grow up to be the president but that a) this isn’t quite as fun as it sounds and b) no you won’t.

What follows this idyllic time is a many years long period of trial and era also known as adolescence. Where you discover what you are actually good at (video games, getting hit by pitches in baseball, being festooned with hormones, getting picked on, etc) and what you are not (team sports of any kind, speaking/interacting/being in the same room as the opposite sex, eating your vegetables, growing a beard).

One thing that I was pretty proficient in at a young age and something I largely abandoned as a viable means of entertaining myself and others is drawing.

When I was a kid I drew all the time. I would drive my parents bonkers with the simple question “What should I draw tonight?,” repeated ad nauseum while they attempted to relax for a few minutes together in front of an episode of Cheers, Dallas or Moonlighting.

Your typical boyish topics were often pursued. Dinosaurs were a huge hit, I have drawn literally tens of thousands of them. Also war scenes featuring hundreds of tiny stick figures hurling grenades at overhead planes who were in turn dropping ACME-esque bombs on top of air-craft carriers who were busy in their own right shooting missiles at the tanks who were crushing the hundreds of tiny stick figures. These scenes were so dense they would often fill up an entire 8 & 1/2 x 11.

Sadly none of these drawings survive.

In middle school I created my first comic series entitled “Bob & Zed.” Bob was your dark-haired straight man and Zed was the wild blond guy with an inexplicable Garfieldian fascination with acquiring and eating pizza as often as possible. Over the years I drew several hundred 3 panel strips of these two interacting with one another (with guest appearances by Bob’s nameless girlfriend [who looked exactly like him only with longer hair] who would try in vain to hook Zed up with her best friend [his own female doppelganger] and a very large and ruthless shark whose aquatic limitations never seemed to hinder it from eating many of Zed’s artfully obtained pies).

Sadly none of these strips survive.

In 8th grade math class I had a wonderful teacher by the name of Mrs. B. This was the year that my public school savagely divided it’s students into three tiers of aptitude in math. There were 2 ‘A’ classes for your whiz kids and overachievers and kids whose parents whined and threatened to sue if their unfortunately not-too-bright kid didn’t get placed within, 4 ‘B’ classes for your average student or an otherwise bright kid who would have really struggled in the advanced class but would probably be (read: was indeed) bored within, and 2 ‘C’ classes for kids who were plenty smart but bought into the idea at an early age that excelling in school was the social kiss of death and would fight to the end to not try at all. Them and your dummies.

Mrs. B. gave me two important things.

1. She rightly located me in a ‘B’ level math class where I would run As in for the rest of my high school career but also be pretty damn bored and

2. Encouraged, actually applauded and commented on the cartoons and doodles I would scribble all over the back of my tests and quizzes.

Let me just pause so that you can further consider the sheer preposterousness of that statement.

Mrs. B. had been around for a little while and just so happened to have taught a hometown hero of sorts, a then young Tom Toles who would go on to become a well-regarded and nationally syndicated political cartoonist. He too had drawn on his papers and my work reminded her of him. To this day that is one of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid me on anything.

The only problem was that I had no interest in politics and that Bill Watterson was doing everything I ever wanted to do and more in the newspaper funny pages. I found no joy in drawing people ‘realistically’ as they are more or less rendered in comic books (12-pack abs and the near universal proliferation of ‘DD’ cups aside). As such I didn’t really understand what I could do with this ability after high school got through. My guidance counselor, an otherwise nice man, gave me a disastrous piece of advice.  He said, if you can draw…

Go to Architecture school.

Disastrous is probably too harsh. I did fine. I never felt like I was doing anything great. And the friends I made there more than made up for any perceived academic failings. Yet I found myself focused less on building building and more and more on storytelling. Both reading and writing. This led me to grad school and Chicago, to my wife and the dude I’ll be best-manning for this July.

Said best man along with another bookseller and all around Good Guy teamed up with me to script and plan a long gestating and never realized web comic featuring, get this, three dudes who work at a comic shop and deal with your typical web comic fodder: zombie apocalypses brought on by implausibly spicy hot wings, awkward social interactions with the opposite sex, and the Venture Bros-esque lampooning of superheros and gaming characters. This went as far as character development and sketching as well as a few pretty damn good backgrounds (if I don’t say so myself) but in the end things never got off the ground.

Sadly no strips of this web comic exist.

Lately i have been giving more and more thought to getting back to the drafting board, literally. I love drawing and feel like it has been almost irresponsible of me not to have started putting stuff out there long before now. So don’t be surprised if you see me incorporating some scanned cartoons into this blog in the near future until i figure out exactly what I want to do.

I might not be Tom Toles, but Mrs. B., my Chicagoan friends, and my parents were not wrong. And I should be making something instead of constantly critiquing movies, books and music in this here space.

Well, that’s the plan anyhow.

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Responses

  1. DO IT.

  2. I LOVE this post. And I second Oline. Do it! Do it! Oh please, I want to see these comics. And I will read and love comics, if YOU draw them

  3. I will third this. It is a thing that needs to be done.

  4. Twists imaginary mustache in evil anticipation!


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