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Category: Cartoons

Square One
Okay, here we are. On the “Subconscious Comics” page of the website this week we have reached the end — or rather, the beginning — of that comic strip. The episode I’ve just posted there was the very first one to see print. The first of a thousand or so. You can now see — on that page and in the voluminous archives — everything I have been able to find here in my studio. Some episodes have been lost. Others were given away or sold or left behind in copy machines. So this is it. The complete set.

The strip was created originally as a spec proposal for the National Lampoon. They had been using some of my spot cartoons, and I was hoping to break into their “Funny Pages” section. It ran in the late 70s and early 80s and featured such alternative gems as Bobby London’s Dirty Duck, Gahan Wilson’s Nuts, Shary Flenniken’s Trots and Bonnie, Dan O’Neill’s Odd Bodkins, and a bunch of others I would have been proud to appear with.

There was some back-and-forth, but it never happened. Around that same time, luckily, The Santa Cruz Express was coming into being here at home. Its editor, Buz Bezore, asked me if I had something “different” to offer for the new weekly. Whatever you say about Subcon, it is different. I showed him what I had offered to the Lampoon. Buz liked it, and we were off and running. This first episode (owing partly, I think, to its smutty theme) was a smashing success.

And now, 42 years later, we are once again at square one. Back at that first strip — and the last one I will post. Next week there will be something else on that page. Right now, I can only say that it will come from within the world of Subconscious Comics. I’d call it a “new beginning,” but I’m not really sure that it will be the beginning of anything. I can only say that it will be something different.
The End is Near
I drew Subconscious Comics for 20 years. After that, I took to posting those same cartoons on this website for another 20. For some reason, I decided to post the strips in reverse chronological order. This week we have reached the year 1980 — and the second Subcon ever printed. Next week, we will finally arrive at the very first episode of Subconscious Comics.

It will also be the last episode I upload, perhaps ever. I have decided (now that my Subcon-inspired graphic novel Head First has come out) that it is time to leave those old drawings in the past and move on. Not from Subcon itself, of course. That would require major brain surgery. Those characters and settings are a permanent part of my hard drive now, and I can’t imagine life without them.

I don’t have a clear picture of exactly how the future will unfold. The idea of another book is appealing, but I’m not ready to commit to that. Instead, I am going to start — the week after next — producing new drawings for the space that the old Subcons have been going. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. They won’t be new strips…just bits of whimsy from the world of Subconscious Comics.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, but it should be fun.
Meanwhile, Back at the Website
In case you’ve missed it, for the last three years I’ve been grinding out a graphic novel based on my comic strip Subconscious Comics. Now the writing, the drawing, the coloring, and the building of a Kickstarter campaign are done. I raised the money I needed to print and publish Head Start. All that’s left now is the nuts and bolts of getting it out to my stalwart backers. Thanks to all of you.

As I return my focus to, I notice that we are reaching another milestone. Over the last two decades, I have been on a path to republishing all one thousand episodes of Subconscious, starting with the strips from 2000 and working backward toward the very first installments from the end of 1980. Two weeks ago, I finally began posting strips from 1981.

After such a long time, I only barely recognize some of these strips. It’s almost as if I’m getting to experience them in the same way others did — just with a 40-year time delay. The drawing style (to my eye) changed a lot over the life of the strip. The Boss looks pretty much the same, but Nemo, the other characters, and the topography of the subconscious have evolved and matured.

Not Nemo’s personality, though, nor any of the other characters’. I am proud to say that they have remained consistent in that way. Nemo is still as calm, centered — and detached — as he ever was. The Boss is still a tangle of complexes and neuroses. Ava didn’t arrive until 1985 (so you won’t see her again as postings head backward in time toward that very first episode), but she has brought that same fire ever since she arrived.

I seem to have slipped into a reverie about my comic strip. That wasn’t my intention, really. Still, I am struck by the fact that, in producing the graphic novel, I’ve put those old characters back in the front row of my mind. They re-entered my daily thoughts for the first time in decades.

It appears I am more attached to them than I had realized. Strange. They’re imaginary people, after all. And not even people — creatures of the subconscious. Cartoon creatures of the subconscious. Even so, I will miss them — again — if they go away.
The Boss
Over the last 20 years, I have not drawn more than a sketch or two of the Boss. The Boss, you might know, is the main character in my comic strip, Subconscious Comics. For the twenty years prior to that, I had drawn him almost every day. Now that I am once again drawing him regularly, I am enjoying the process of getting re-acquainted.

When you don’t see someone for along time, there is a tendency to stop thinking about them, even if you were once close. It’s the same with a made-up character. As is often the case with real people, if you were close, sometimes the old, easy familiarity can return pretty quickly. That’s the way it’s been with me and the Boss.

I had forgotten how much he reminds me of Daffy Duck. That’s not too surprising, I guess. I never consciously set out to model the Boss after him, but Daffy was always my favorite animated character: zany, melodramatic, cunning, and utterly hapless. And very funny. I see now that I imprinted that same brand of persona on my chimp-in-underpants.

I had been working in earnest on the script for my comic novel — in which he is a key player — for nearly nine months. Curiously, however, I didn’t really begin our re-acquaintance until I started drawing him again. As I wrote his parts in the script, he remained a distant figure in my mind, and only when I drew his facial expressions did he fully come alive. It’s a bit like talking to your old friend on the phone as compared to seeing him or her in person.

As with Daffy, you are forced to forgive a lot if you’re going the like the Boss. He is vain, calculating, and insincere, but oddly innocent. Maybe that’s what makes him charming (at least to me). And even though I know him pretty well, I am seeing him now with fresh eyes.

One thing I’ve noticed: he has not aged. Some comics characters do, of course, like Blondie’s Alexander and Cookie Bumstead, but not the Boss. There is a character in Subconscious Comics who stands in for the older version of the hosting human, but the boss is forever early-middle-aged. It’s hard to know what age Daffy is, but whatever that age is, he is frozen there.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m “friends” with either of these characters. I like them, though, and I’m always glad to see them again. In the case of Daffy, I have to settle for cartoons I’ve seen many times. I don’t count his more recent incarnations because they are not voiced by the departed genius Mel Blanc, whose depictions added so much to the character’s persona.

With the Boss, though, I can cast him in new situations with new possibilities. For me, he’s forever fresh and new… like a real person. He’s just ink on paper, though. I can’t shake his hand, or hang out at the bar with him, or have him over to the house. Come to think of it, I can’t do much of that with my flesh and blood friends, either. Maybe the Boss will have to do until the real thing returns.
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