Would you like to be a cartoonist like me?
You can’t. Sorry. Not even if you paid me to train you. It won’t happen.
So. As an adult, you have a problem with a movie that you loved as a child. I see on social media that this is a common grievance. I don’t need to name a film. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of motion pictures that don’t stand up to the intense scrutiny and overthinking of 2017.
It’s not them. It’s you. You are the problem.
I’ll begin with a contemporary example: any current superhero movie. Marvel, DC, independent degeneracy like Deadpool and Kick-Ass; it’s all the same. Permit me to make another assumption- you got all worked-up over seeing the latest hero flick, and you left the theater three hours later feeling empty and disappointed, without knowing why.
“Little Girls” is the first track off of Only A Lad, the first LP from Los Angeles new-wave band Oingo Boingo. When I was only a lad, it was sort of a personal anthem. You probably know it, it starts with:
I – I – I love little girls, they make me feel so good
Little girls, they make me feel so
When they’re around they make me feel like I’m the only guy in town
Little girls, they make me feel so
Fairly innocuous, right? It’s cute, if you don’t read too much into it. Or, avoid watching the video.
Ralph Reese is a brilliant illustrator whose art I first discovered in Choose Your Own Adventure books; he was my personal favorite. His work leapt off the page more than the others, owing to his apprenticeship under the great Wally Wood. In my teens, I found reprints of Ralph’s collaboration with Byron Preiss for National Lampoon, “One Year Affair”. I dreamed of being able to draw like Ralph Reese.
When Ralph did a feature in CRAZY magazine, it was a cause for celebration. Because Ralph wasn’t just a master illustrator.
Ralph was also a master of making you crap your pants.
It’s time for us, as a species, to make a healthy admission.
The world we knew and loved, just years ago, is dead. It’s gone. It’s never coming back. Not even as a side mission in a GTA game. Now we are left with the nagging sensation that things were once better. It’s too painful to consider the reasons why. Hold on to the memory, and carry on.
I had to move recently, hence the hiatus. If you’re a writer or an artist, moving is extra hell because of all the books. Big glossy ones for the coffee table (if applicable), thick reference tomes, and oodles of little half-finished sketchbooks.
In 2012, my friend Chay and I worked as audience members for the taping of a popular game show, hosted by Steve Harvey. We helped to provide a diversity that was wholly absent from the proceedings.
I came to love and appreciate Steely Dan over the course of my twenties. I did not enjoy them while I was growing up in New Jersey. I lacked the wisdom and experience required to truly absorb their music. I was like Jonathan Richman when asked to cover a Steely Dan song for the awful Me Myself & Irene soundtrack; I never could figure out what them fellas was singin’ about.
As I grew older, Steely Dan lyrics became clearer. The words were honest poetry, sometimes inscrutable, each syllable chosen for its sound and rhythm as well as its meaning. The music was simply too complex for me to grok as a teenage punk. I had to experience the proper amount of loss, beauty and hardship before I really “got” it.
I didn’t know what a “squonk” was, but I knew that somehow, the most incredible song ever written and performed used to play on the radio. You could hear this masterpiece for free.
Mad medicine was everywhere in the 80s and 90s. There were toys and playsets endorsed by mad doctors, for use by kids. Every time you watched cartoons, you saw a skinny dude with crazy hair in a white lab coat, maniacally mixing chemicals and potions for some nefarious purpose. Under the influence of this, I created my own mad medicine man; Dr. Kill-Everybody.
Either the trope became shopworn around 2001, or something happened that discouraged children from playing with chemicals. You don’t see mad doctors and scientists like you used to. Maybe this is a good thing; maybe the concept was subconsciously driving impressionable kids away from lucrative STEM-field careers. I don’t know.
What I do know is this. Mad doctors once flourished in our society, even though they were annoying, and generally sucked.
In the early 1980s, video games were simple in concept, much like the “game apps” on phones nowadays. At heart, they were demonstrations of your skills with a joystick, paddle, or “track-ball” controller, performing one or more challenges. Eating all the dots, or climbing a scaffold to defeat a giant ape, to cite a couple of well-known examples. Navigating a maze while being pursued by killer robots. Killing a centipede, segment by segment. Swinging on vines over bottomless pits.
Or, flying planes into buildings. For fun!