‘Opposite Day’ essay

Today Could Be ‘Opposite Day’ in Comic Book Making Land

Just before waking from a good four hour sleep I’d been greatly needing lately, I dreamed another of those odd pieces that seem to not involve oneself at all, nor even offer anything remotely about anyone I know.

Perhaps it was because i was sleeping with the radio on low, and yet another ad for Colonial Penn was on, since it was about faux Colonials, sort of a comic strip, if you will, like the ones seen in comic book or magazine ads ‘back in the day’ where everyone, or at least the protagonist, gets what they want by the end, in order to sell readers on the product or offer; and no consideration is meant to be given to things working out badly instead, as in life (sometimes).

My dream, this early a.m. of February 7th, 2014, basically had these ‘colonials’– that is, the sort found in George Washington’s day in the yet to be United States but with the faces of male models in illustrated ads of the more modern past, all after some antiques. As if they were planning a scam stealing items of their own era to sell to people in the future, the present of the ad.

Toothy and full of themselves and their pseudo cartoony testosterone, they were vanquishing a group of adversaries, also glibly fey men concealing their smuggler hearts, about to succeed (yawn) as usual, and thus ‘sell their MacGuffin’ but for the head of a large pencil, (also hand drawn), looming in and pushing one of the ascribed heroes away from his normally otherwise fated $uccess.

The villains could win, to put it simply. Hardly an earth shaking realization. But after waking, I began to apply this as a new tool I could offer fellow cartoonists and story inventors for cutting throo the cobwebs and cliche’s of the same ol’ same ol’ ideas.

The easiest way to show what I am talking about is to use a one pager, say that famous one of the skinny dude having sand kicked in his face by the big bruiser. Anyone who’s read an old comic has seen it. It’s been oft parodied.

Well, to apply this dream’s device, I say just have the big bruiser come back, after the weak kid has done his Charles Atlas training or whatever it is, and, grabbing him snarl, “I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!!”, karate chopping the clavicle of the (now 120 lb) weakling who in the next panel falls into a heap in the sand, his face twisted, unable to do anything but make crying noises like a middle aged woman. The bully goes off with the golden whore in question, head partly turned back over his own shoulder: “Bitch!”

Or better yet, try it on a longer comic book story. Say, a Carl Barks duck yarn. You wouldn’t, perhaps, want to tackle the whole story this way. Carl’s stories tend to be fairly loaded with variables as they are, and only changing a few points of action in the manner I’m promoting here would give you a raft of story angles–changes in reality –easily as long as the original. (You want to take that on as an artist more power to you).

For now, let’s say, on the return trip of Donald and the gang, in a typical Barks (Buck Rogers) rocket ship, instead of them getting what they all wanted in the end, just as they near Duckburg the rocket crashes into the ocean. Far below, one of the windows cracking, water pouring in, Huey, Louie, and Dewey start to drown, cursing their ‘uncle’ Donald: ‘THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU GREEDY BASTARD!!’

Or, instead, with three or four of the Beagle Boys having taken over their rocket, the ‘nephews’ revolt. A stray bullet from one of the #’d dog thug’s plated .45s spins throo the metal shell of the ship. The pressure change implodes them all. The end. You get the idea.

All a great wheeze to me in the middle of the night, but I’ll grant you, with the type of ironies Barks played with, where the group didn’t always get what they were after, this all may not sound like much. The point is, you can do this with anything. Any story. If you are bereft of ideas, dying on the vine creatively, just pick up someone else’s work, you don’t even have to love or hate it, and apply the notion of inversion to some area of their plot and spin off your own scenario from there.

Let’s take the Disney Snow White, (as a comic). Instead of ‘Snow’ coming back to life, she dies and each of the dwarves begin screwing her corpse. But all of them are sneaky about it, digging her up over and over and putting her back in the ground, each unaware of the others’ proclivities and activities, so inured to rote behavior are they. Until Dopey forgets to clean up or something and Doc slips on his leavings. The cat out of the bag, they all wake up, get into a huge melee’ and miss the Prince, also a necrophiliac, digging her up for himself.

Taking her away on his horse, wrapped up like a bedroll, he removes her that night and carefully kissing her, does indeed revive her. But she is a zombie, and having been ‘fucked over’ so many times by the seven dwarves, is falling apart. Etc etc.

You can jettison the original source if you wish. Nothing says you have to do a parody. Or draw like the artist you’re utilizing. Apply it to your own characters. (If you haven’t any, you should develop some).

Just think of your pencil going in like it’s docking with the line work, ready to erase what’s there like [spoiler alert >] Bugs Bunny in Duck Amuck (1953). You can even draw the pencil if you want, tho that sort of thing is often too abstractly overblown–it hurts the ‘reality’ you’re trying to create.

And you don’t have to copy the source material. Prod your own mind. Write something else. Look for the main juncture where the heroes are about to get what they want, and flip it over.

What would it be like in that story if they were screwed with by ‘Fate’ and they don’t get their Golden Goose? Try it and see what happens, fellow scribblers. Amuse thyself, and thereby learn to amuse others. Crumple up those tired old plots you know someone else has done exactly the same and do something funnier you didn’t know you were capable of inventing.

The future of all comicdom depends on us idjits.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx–Rick Grimes  Feb 7th, ‘014 xxx


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