06 January 2013

Mr. Squish is dead. Really most sincerely dead.

I killed off Leonard Squish in the fall semester, and I meant it. He was honest-to-goodness, no-fooling-around, dead.

Well okay, there was some fooling around.

If you’re familiar with the term “comic book death,” you know that when the comic books kill someone, they don’t stay dead. In one convoluted way or another, they always bring ’em back to life. Always. No exceptions. If you know of any exceptions, give it time: They’ll bring them back eventually.

I first experienced this in the old Batman books. In 1964s, they killed Alfred. No, seriously, they killed Alfred. But two years later, they brought him back: Turns out he had been mostly dead, but not dead dead, and some butterfly-hunter who happened to dabble in cryogenics had found Alfred’s mostly-dead corpse and brought him back to life. Only evil. But eventually it was all sorted out. ’Cause that’s how comic books do.

There’s some Internet documentary I saw last year which claims the comic book death began with Superman. Don’t you believe it. It’s been around forever. Supergirl and the Flash have both been killed, and were brought back long before Superman ever was. Batman didn’t stay dead, and neither did the second Robin. I haven’t read Spider-Man since junior high, but I understand they just killed off Peter Parker, and obviously he’s not gonna stay dead either. And of course, in the newspapers, there’s Bill the Cat.

Well, at the time, I decided I wasn’t doing any comic book death with Leonard. I had every intention of continuing the strip without him. I wanted to make that absolutely clear in the first strip of the spring 1991 semester. No comic book death for Leonard. He was really really really dead, really most sincerely dead. So there.

Mr. Squish, CSUS Hornet, January 1991.

You might notice I used slightly different fonts in the strip. That’s because I was working off a different computer. I was no longer the Hornet’s Graphics Coordinator. (I didn’t go into journalism for graphic design anyway, though I did make a decent living at it for a while.) That semester, I took a step sideways to become the Arts and Features Editor. I considered it a step up, but my stipend didn’t reflect this: I had received $300 a month when I was in Graphics, and now was getting $150 for the A&F job. Even though it was five times the work. Yeah, it seems nuts, but it’s supply and demand; it was harder to find graphic artists than it was to find features writers. That’s why I made better money in graphic design than I ever did writing.

The new job meant I no longer worked from the Macintosh SE-30 with all the fancy fonts on it, with its 512K of RAM and its 250 MB hard drive. Nope. Now I had to work with a regular Macintosh SE. (Yes kids, this was the dark ages. Your cell phone can do more than these computers. Combined.)

I could bellyache about the technology, but there’s no point. We still managed to crank out two editions of the Hornet a week on a combination of these old Macs and a team of green-monitor Sanyo PCs (which we called “IBM clones” back then, ’cause every computer that ran MS-DOS did so as a result of duplicating IBM’s hardware). Safe to say I’m far happier with today’s technology, even though it is killing off print media, and rendering a big chunk of my journalism degree and my State Hornet experience obsolete.

But back to 1991. My new responsibilities were to supervise, edit, and lay out an eight-page section twice a week. I didn’t need an assistant for my previous position, but now I did; I got my friend Warren to do it. He was great, and freed me up enough so I could write a few articles and keep drawing “Mr. Squish.” Despite the workload, the A&F job was the most fun I’d had at the Hornet, and definitely the biggest learning experience. It all went downhill from here. (Not bad or disastrous downhill; just downhill. C’est la vie.)

As for Leonard, well, where can we go from “The strip can’t go on”? Well, you’ll see next week.