This month marks the tenth anniversary of the comic strip Brewster Rockit: Space Guy being introduced into the funny pages of The Washington Post, my local paper of record.
Congratulations and kudos to artist Tim Rickard for his creativity and stamina in delivering a daily comic strip since its debut in 2004.
There was a time in my life when I dreamed of creating my own daily comic strip chronicling the follies and foibles of my daily life.
This is my story.
It is January of 1989. It is my junior year at Northwestern University and I am returning to campus after our school’s Winter Break. Over said break, I have had an idea and I took the weeks away from school to sculpt, craft, and hone this idea.
My idea is to follow in the footsteps of Berkley Breathed, Gary Larson, and Garry Trudeau and create a daily comic strip about life at our institution of higher learning.
I also wanted to follow in the footsteps of one of my friends at school (and let’s call him “Adam” because that’s what he answers to) who wrote and drew a comic strip that appeared weekly in our university’s daily newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. I saw how much fun he had creating and crafting his strip and I wanted in to that glamorous life of ink and paper.
Working against me were the stark facts that I had never drawn anything professionally and I had never taken any serious lessons in art.
Working in my favor was my fervent desire to create something for others to enjoy. Even if it was only stick figures.
Over the Winter Break, I had planned to create three weeks worth of material to take to the editors of our daily newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, to show them what my concept was. In addition, this prepared material of fifteen strips would provide me with a buffer allowing me more time to create additional humorous situations and characters.
In the end, I only crafted ten strips that I showed the editors of the Daily.
At the ultimate end, the editors scanned my material and rejected my idea saying that they just did not have the space for a daily strip. They already had three strips that ran weekly and they felt that was enough.
My dream of a daily strip was dashed, but my figures of stick would find life a few months later after I answered an ad (placed in jest, I discovered later) in our campus’s other periodical, a weekly publication called The Northwestern Review. In May of 1989, my strip Talking Styx would debut and I would have my chance to chronicle life at NU up until I graduated in June of 1990.
However, those strips and the tale of how I landed that gig are stories for another post. Today’s post is to publish the strips I presented to the Daily editors. So, for the first time seeing light in nearly three decades, here they are…
Our premiere strip introduces our Everyman (or in this case, Everystudent) character, Bri. The creator, and narrator, of the strip is also a recurring character and you may have noticed that the initials “D.R.H.” are used. I was planning to write this strip under a pseudonym because I had this wish to create something that others could enjoy, yet still be anonymous. You will see those three letters in all the subsequent strips, but sometimes you have to hunt for them (and sometimes you don’t).
The middle strip shows a landmark of Northwestern, The Rock, where it is tradition to paint it with the colors, logo, or name of your organization, cause, or names of friends. The last two panels of the middle strip also poke fun at the fact that parking was quite scarce.
The top strip of the above trio introduces a new character, Bri’s roommate, who was going to be given the name of Bill (and thus art imitates reality) but I never seem to get around to actually identifying him in the following strips. This oversight would be rectified in the first panel of the debut strip of the weekly version of Talking Styx.
It is apparent that I did not have access to a dictionary during Winter Break as last panel in the middle strip has the word “privilege” incorrectly spelled. Sigh!
It’s only the eighth strip and I am introducing our third character, the robot Shlock, my take-off on Star Trek‘s Mister Spock.
The “ASG” referenced in the middle strip above is the Associated Student Government, an organization of elected students who convened to do…something.
My admiration for The Bard comes out in Shlock’s analysis of ASG in the last panel of the bottom strip which is a line from Macbeth.
This strip and a half is the page I did not show the Daily editors as they were not ready.
The logo of ASG in the third panel was meant to be a reference to the flag of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, the fictional country in the book and movie The Mouse That Roared. This was the last strip of this limited series poking fun of ASG.
The middle strip was the start of a new story arc and it was going to deal with the incredible knowledge possessed by the folks who worked the Information Desk at the Norris Center (the student union). It’s only rendered in pencil and it’s faded in the printout out here, but the first panel goes like this:
INFO DESK WORKER: Info Desk. What can I answer?
WOMAN: Where is the Improv audition?
In the second panel:
INFO DESK WORKER: Norris 2C. Anything else?
I have no specific recollection how that strip was going to end other than to say that the woman’s questions were going to become more specific and personal (i.e., What is the average lifespan of a blue whale?, Where are my car keys?, Why am I afraid of ocelots?) and that the Info Desk worker would know the answer to all of them.
That’s my story.
P.S. What did the “D.R.H.” stand for? Well, that’s a story for another day.