Every cartoonist has a cabinet full of failures. It’s part of the job. A maxim I live by is one an old writing partner told me:
They can’t all be golden.
This writing partner is a good guy, originally from the Midwest, so he went on to better success in the comic book field than me, the inky homunculus of the pair. I have breathed and eaten sick humor since my teens. I chose the harder, yuckier path.
Anyway; a substantial part of my motivation as a cartoonist is making people laugh. Personally, I get off on making people sick. My destiny is to walk the razor’s edge between the two. Something in entertainment loosened in the late 1990s, possibly from the influence of Internet culture, and I saw the sweet spot that is modern sick humor.
I tested the waters early on with “McNugget Anatomy“, which first appeared in The Last Laugh in 1999. The animations I did in Flash contained a veritable grand guignol; mutilated lips, abuse of the elderly, urine drinking, and scalping by falcons. John’s Arm: Armageddon features an inferno of vomit, almost a full minute of piss drinking, and defecation on a birthday cake. These are meant to be little endurance tests, built to push the limits of what you can stand.
I saw an early Saturday Night Live sketch that made a tremendous impression on me as a boychik; the “Vomitorium” sketch. It was a send-up of decadent ancient Rome, with the cast in robes, barfing into giant stone troughs after a sumptuous meal. I clearly remember the puke-soaked feathers the “Romans” used to gag themselves, and a speck of barf stuck on Laraine Newman’s cheek. The audience was roaring. Bill Murray punchlined in a Carl Spackler-like persona, shoveling vomit out of the trough with a leaky scoop.
I haven’t seen that sketch in decades; I’m pretty sure you have to buy the 1975 DVD set to view it. I recalled all that from when I was 10. That’s the impression it made.
Also, around the same time, Garrett Morris spake the words “LORD AND LADY DOUCHE-BAG.” He officially introduced me to a compound epithet I went on to use over ten billion times.
So, in 2003, I pitched a comic strip called Headcheese, which I intended as the worst comic strip I could possibly write. The standard was whatever I could crack up my housemates with. I wrote a short-lived sports strip called Out Of Our League in the early 90s, which I don’t even have copies of. Headcheese is worse. Headcheese is unprintable.
Often when I try a more streamlined art style, I end up making the strip look generic. On the plus side, it’s easier to read. There’s that.
Cocksucking duck? Check.
Every reference in the above strip is antique or extinct. WTG.
I knew two different dudes in college who got so inebriated they pissed on their records, and there’s a story in an issue of the excellent Royal Flush magazine from ten years ago where a guy does the same thing. Maybe stereos vaguely resembled urinals at some point. I have no idea why it’s a common experience.
“As a dog returneth to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” -Proverbs 26:11
“Hello, this is the cartoonist. I’m not here to take your call right now, so here’s the definition of ‘phoned in’.”
The punch is also predicated on one’s knowledge of old cheese propaganda. There are safer bets.
Can you tell this one is my favorite? If not, can you tell I was still sweating Pete Bagge’s style out of my system in 2003?
Actually, wait- that one’s my favorite. I wanted to expand the world of Headcheese beyond the main cast, to include one-shot gags. The above strip grew out of the dialogue in panel 3. I had not yet seen Bad Santa.
The funniest aspect of this strip is that in the year 4000, strangers will randomly greet you with video clips of brutal sodomy. Well, the step-dad getting porked is pretty funny too.
This final strip brought in Jerky Rabbit, who appeared in the animated Sordid Hollow Easter Special, being used as toilet paper by Bear With Searing Gas Pain.
Sordid Hollow is another franchise I keep in my pocket for the right opportunity. You have to be smart; audiences go through phases with talking animals, and there are gluts, thanks to greedy studios. Honestly, I don’t know what hasn’t been done already, and better, with that kind of cartoon.
I mean, they can’t all be golden.