Can a sarcastic guy write a cute comic strip?
Maybe. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it can’t live on cuteness alone. It needs some downright UN-cuteness for my own sanity.
So, the elite few that read Mort Monday may have noticed that Mort was dark for a couple of weeks. There have been a few things in the way (life sometimes must override the comic, no matter how much I want to stay on schedule). But, more importantly, there’s been some internal conflict gumming up the works.
I created the concept for Mort Monday when I was around seventeen or eighteen years old (Want some history? Click here). That’s fine and dandy – it shows that I was quite the talented kid. My biggest influence in the comic-strip world at that time was Peanuts. I was well-versed on the plight of Charlie Brown, and the philosophical musings of his creator, Charles M. Schulz.
That concept fit Mort very well. Good ol’ Charlie Brown was contemplative, down-trodden, hopelessly positive against the powers-that-be who continually seemed to be against him. Things like the kite-eating tree, Lucy pulling the football, Never winning a baseball game.
Mort wasn’t in the greatest place, being homeless, but he still had pluck. He would wax philosophical about the flowers in the park. Decry the fact that he was sleeping on a park bench, while still looking to the positive: He answered to no one, the world was his oyster, and it was better to sleep under the stars, anyway.
I had multiple pages of four-panel strips, all written in my teens and twenties. A year ago, what I finally decided to try this, I used the notes as my template, even using many of the original four-panel concepts.
The problem is, I’m no-longer eighteen. I’m forty…something. While I still enjoy Peanuts (in fact, I’m collecting the Complete Peanuts), I realize that what worked for Schulz, isn’t always my cup of tea. In fact, if you told anyone familiar with my usual work that I was writing a comic strip about a cute homeless guy with a heart of gold – they would say that you were confused, and not to believe everything you read on the internet.
This is not to say that Mort can’t be an idealist. But there must be some leavening, both in him, and the overall tone of the comic, to keep me out of conflict in the long-run. A talented artist can draw in many styles (at least, that’s what I’m told – I’m still working on the drawing thing), but a writer is most at home writing in his or her true voice. Sure, Stephen King wrote the fantasy story “The Eyes Of The Dragon” For his then thirteen-year old daughter, but he went back to horror immediately after – and the parallels between that fantasy world and his world of the Gunslinger books were apparent. Long-term writing is kind of like a television actor in a series – his or her character will eventually include a bit of the actor’s personalty – it’s the way our minds work. It keeps us consistent. It’s hard to fight city hall, especially when “city hall” is in your head…
Can a guy with a sharp streak of sarcasm and absurdity write about a pie-in-the-sky idealist? For a short time, maybe. In fact, here and there with great joy. But sooner or later, a random anvil must fall out of the sky. It’s just his nature.
Beware, fair Mort reader, there will be anvils ahead.
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