Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Canadian Oddities - The Fridge Door

Okay, this is going to take some explaining.  In Newspapers, it's not unusual to have a section for younger readers that's made up of their contributions and leaden with illustrated commentary.  There was a feature in the Montreal Gazette first as Tiddlywinks' The Bird Bag, and later a Sunday feature called The Fridge Door.

That later feature would be drawn by Paul Gamboli, an infrequent artist who drew a few select articles for Josh Freed, the Canadian equivalent to Dave Barry.  The following articles were reprinted in his book Sign Language.

The Fridge Door started out perfectly normal, with a Raccoon named Noodles who had a fondness for noodles.  Then it gradually got weirder with the introduction of a worm from space named Eugene...

...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Gamboli's character ran from April 24, 1988 to December 1989, which started out normal, but ran the gamut of weirdness when the feature took a decidedly dark turn, when Eugene the Alien worm got shot in a hunting expedition, and his fate was left ambiguous as Noodles was hibernating in a nearby cave.  Now, this was around the time that the Polytechnique Massacre happened, culminating in the deaths of 14 women and stricter gun laws in Canada.  So any attempt to reverse that would've been seen as cheap.

After that, Gamboli's feature decided to tap into the innovative potential of having his childish audience decide what would happen next.  Here's the backstory for what happened during the last month of The Fridge Door, but it's practically irrelevant here, since it's hardly addressed.

Instead, we focus on a piece of fuzz that's just wandering around.

The very next week, they recapped the backstory again for those who might've missed the memo last time.  And once more next week.

It really is a shame these scans are only available in black & white, since as I recall, there were some psychedelic colours involved.

After three weeks of non-sequitur events, readers were beginning to wonder what happened to their favorite Raccoon.

Feeling the need to address their concerns, Gamboli obliged, giving a kind of answer, by having Eugene take the form of a translucent moth, and the two of them traversing a weightless world of Pleiades known as Wasteland, which was around the time Bloom County was revamped into Outland.

Any similarities between licensed characters is deliberate and intentional.
[He Sings Too!]
Apparently, Gamboli couldn't decide whether Nopuss should have braids or half-eaten Mickey Mouse ears.  The text on the upper half of the lower scan is barely legible, so here's a helpful script to guide you along some of the more incomprehensible passages. (Italics between *Asterisks* are guessimated quotations)
Panel 1: Oh Nopuss, he's so cute.  Let's invite him to tea!
Panel 2: Hmm.  A stranger wearing a black mask.  Too much hair to be the Lone Ranger!
Panel 3: *Nopuss* oh boy! Never look a gift visitor in the mouth!
So, how ya doing, fatso?
(There's nothing in this cup!  What's with the fatso stuff?)
Panel 4: Of course - *our guest* is right, there's no tea, it's just pretend!
Panel 5: --PRETEND!!? Shocked I am!  Who's the perpetrator of this sham?
[Empty cup]
Panel 6: Well, Nopuss, there's no water in Wasteland, there's nothing her to *nourish* the body, let alone *feed a* soul!
[Empty tea pot]

The rest of the page is relatively legible if nonsensical, but the Raccoon's thoughts as they're flying away are:
(Eugene, why would anyone want to be a cartoon character?)
[Tee hee!]
After that amusing copyright infringement cameo, we get some more adventures for those who were curious about what happened to Scintalina, the ball of fluff.  In other words, no one.

After enough sideways distractions, we finally get back to the main attraction, Noodles the Raccoon who's clearly besides himself.

Sadly, we never got to see any more, for the very next week, which occurred on April 1st, the section that normally would've contained The Way Home was replaced with an advertisement for Drug use. Certainly a cruel joke.  After that, there was no more, which was just as well.  Depending on an outside children's audience to dictate your plot is no guarantee for narrative consistency.

I'll be gradually introducing these Sunday features at the beginning of every month, so we can see just how a relatively harmless children's feature wound up this way.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Influences upon THEY

It's been awhile since my last update, but I managed to add some more chapters to my current alternate project, This is THEY.  The link I gave for the 1st chapter was somewhat bugged, so here's the correct address:

Some of the references and influences may seem obvious to devoted readers of Newspaper Comics and Cult Movies, but there's a few lines I stole - sorry, plagiarized - I mean, borrowed to bolster my story.  The best way to ensure that your inspirations aren't easily traced is to use sources that are likely to be forgotten ages ago.  And here I am showing my secrets to everyone.

The current arc, Sweet Sick Teen, (and yes, all planned future titles are intended puns) devotes attention on a surprise pregnancy on a teenager known only as "The Girl", whose appearance is left deliberately vague.  Her sudden condition has an unintended side effect of emanating an unbearable fishy smell, which she can't stand, but neither can anybody else.  One classmate even remarks, “Did somebody hide garlic squid with mango and banana in the ceiling again?”, which is a nod-out to Gordon Korman's The Twinkie Squad.

Later, when the Girl is forced to go to the Doctor for a diagnosis, this exchange occurs:

“You can’t leave just yet.  Not until the Doctor’s gotten a good look at you.”
“But you’ve already done all the prodding and testing and whatnot.”
“It’s bad form to leave without a second opinion.”
“Meaning... that there’s a fair chance that I MIGHT not be pregnant?”, she said with a smidgen of hope.
“Oh, you’re preggers for sure, no doubt about that.  Just wait a few minutes.  The Doctor should be along shortly.”


She’d barely had time to cross her arms and roll her eyes at the unresponsive blank screen before the Clinic door opened.  A man wearing a surgical mask came in out of breath, either from running, or from the Girl’s scent.  He drew closer at the Girl, took a furtive look, poked her stomach with a solitary finger, then through a strangled voice, said, “Yeah, she’s pregnant alright.”  Then ran out the door with nary another word.

“There we go.  You can go home now.”

Later, the Girl finds out to her displeasure that she can't simply abort the baby without running into potential trouble.  It's not so much the forced pregnancy that bugs her, but having to live with the smell.  So she decides to take care of it by going someplace that'll definitely take care of this little problem - the fabled City of Lies, where untruths spoken often enough become true.

Fun fact - the three obstacles set up before the Girl's entrance into the City of Lies weren't included in my first draft.  The first obstacle, the Gravity Wells was originally intended to be used to show her way to school, but I felt that would wind up slowing the opening down too much, and didn't want to waste it, so I relocated it elsewhere.  The 2nd obstacle - Memory Bane, is a combination of all the short-term memory losses into one.  Along the way, she encounters a Tattooed Man with elaborate designs that's a cross between Memento and Prison Break.  An early encounter with getting a crowd of curious followers to stop following her brings the following dialogue:

“Crowd can look intimidating at first, but they’re remarkably easy to control.  They all want someone to tell them what to do.”  Then he spoke up in a booming voice.  “Alright, listen up!  Put your right finger in your right ear!
“NOW WHAT??” the crowd roared back in unison.
Put your left finger in your left ear!
Stand on one leg!
“WHAT??”  The crowd asked.  “WHAT?  WHAT??”
“There, that’ll hold them for awhile.”
“Aw, I wanted to have a crowd do my bidding.”
“You wouldn’t have been able to handle it.”
“What, you don’t think I’m capable?  I’m sure I could do it.”
“I’ve seen it happen before - overconfident leaders who think they can rule a crowd, only to have the crowd overwhelm their ability to control it.”
“And what makes you think I wasn’t good enough??”
“If you truly were worthy, you wouldn’t have lost your train of thought in the first place.”
She had nothing to say to that.  The only retort she could think up was, “I blame you.”
If nothing else, I can hardly be faulted for wanting to use universal truths.

While in the midst of Memory Bane, people can only recall at least three pieces of information at a time.  While the obvious influence would be Memento, the major source of inspiration was the 6th storyline of  Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Stone Ocean, Jail House Lock!  Which, in turn, was inspired by Memento.  Go figure.

What I intend to do with my story is to influence new ways of thinking.  (There are very few narratives that are voiced in the Second Person)  And the best way to do so is by telling a story, and letting audiences figure it out themselves.  While in Memory Bane, there are little details that upon a second reading, make more sense.  I tried my best to sprinkle copious amounts of clues throughout, but worried that in my haste to clarify things, I might've dumbed down the material, or put off the reveal for too long.  (No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, read for yourself)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sick Photo Finish

Things haven't been progressing well for my sister lately.  Last month, she, her husband, AND the baby ALL wound up getting sick, each one getting the disease at one point or another.  Then my parents got sick too, which affected their efficiency as well.

For a long time, it looked like I alone was immune.  That overconfidence soon faded when I finally succumbed to the effects of the flu myself.  I was laid back for about three weeks.  I'm normally not someone who complains about every little ache and pain, so the ensuing disease's refusal to go away grated heavily on me.  Especially since I had a nagging cough that kept me from sleeping.

When the coughing grew too overwhelming for me to ignore, I was introduced to some leftover cough that was left hiding somewhere.  There was still some left in a bottle that hadn't been used in awhile.  A quick look at the expiration date showed that it had probably expired a year ago.  However, the contents was still quite potent, and proved to work, it's sticky substance coating the inside of my throat with healing residue.

However, the taste was so offensive, so gross that I devised an unique tactic to overcome this obstacle.  Similar to how I use chewed up portions of food to swallow pills (as opposed to drinking water, which only get stuck in my mouth), I put a piece of thin unspooled artificial fish meat flat on my tongue, then carefully maneuvered the teetering spoonful of medicine towards my throat.  This procedure wasn't perfect, since I had to keep my internal balance straight, and some droplets of cough medicine wound up splattering to the sides, but at least I managed to swallow without gagging too much.

When about three weeks finally passed, I started feeling like my old cranky self again.  That was when my sister, her husband and the baby all got sick yet again.

I've been told that this is a common occurrence, that having a baby around invites infectious diseases to swarm around, even with helpful vaccines to numb the pain.  On top of which, having a baby takes them longer to come over for visits.

They've always been late in coming over, but they apparently forgot to factor in the time it takes to dress up their little baby in the dead of winter.  A prospect which has a sort of collective amnesia where winter tires are hastily replaced for regular tires that don't work as well on slippery snow-laden surfaces.

Moral - never have kids.

Friday, December 1, 2017

December's New Year

Closing out the year is the last batch of BC's letters and poems, which, surprisingly enough, revolving around Christmastime are pretty sparse.

I suppose that once Johnny Hart got more invested in Christianity, he devoted more attention towards making symbolic comics than clever monological rhymes or back-n-forth transcripts.

Looking over the results, the playing field is pretty sparse, so here's a bunch of miscellaneous letters & poems I was unable to properly categorize.

While going through my collection, I came across an April strip that I missed, because I was confused about when to properly show it.

Then there was the fact that sometimes Peter's Pen-pal could be maddening vague in his responses.

Then there was usage of innovation to spice up some letters.  Note the lack of a Night scene below.

Soon, they started using anachronistic technology that years later, actually got an update.

Then there was a reference to the Epic BC storyline surrounding the fact that we never actually knew what the invisible responder across the water actually looked like.

That lack of response could be attributed to a revolving door of various responders, depending on who bothered to answer the mysterious letters coming across the ocean.

There were several strips revolving around Columbus Day that would've been better served around October, but given the amount of controversy surrounding the man, felt unsure about devoting further attention towards the issue.

Particularly since the second comic repeated an earlier joke.  That's one small world there.

This one plays around with the format somewhat, by having the letter-writing action take place in the throwaway panel, and the return letter taking up the bulk of the strip.

This is probably the wordiest letter Peter's ever written, full of name-dropping characters.

Moving onto the poetry angle, here's a quick ditty of Wily's numerous phobias.

There were several poems where Wily's view of women was less than remarkable, and felt out of place during Valentine's and Mother's Day, when such celebratory holidays would've felt out of place.

Then there's this, which has rose-coloured nostalgia for times of old, which probably never really existed.

Of all of Wily's poems, this one has what I consider to be a fairly effective punchline, even though it could be considered triggering to some people.