08 January 2013

Mr. Squish’s wake.

Nope, didn’t post this on Sunday. I write stuff in advance, and have Blogger put ’em online on the day I want ’em online. But I goofed up and this went live early. Oh well. Consider it a bonus strip.

At the beginning of this brilliant idea I had where Leonard Squish was dead (’cause Santa Claus murdered him the previous semester), my thinking was I’d pull a stunt where people in the strip would constantly refer to the recently departed Leonard, but he’d never actually be there. The strip would now consist of Randall and Armand, and they’d continue about their comic-strip-character business, and every so often refer to the late Mr. Squish, for whom the strip was named.

Yeah. Dumb idea.

I scripted about four or five possible ideas. I finally realized this constant referral to Leonard’s dead just sucked all the funny out of the strip. It was morbid, not amusing. Kinda like the strip below.

Mr. Squish, CSUS Hornet, January 1991.

Randall’s little “Gonna Shoot Santa Claus” song made a few folks chuckle (though I was ordered to remove the “goddamn” for some reason and replace it with “stupid”). Beyond that, the fixation on Leonard’s death wasn’t amusing. Imagine that last panel missing. Imagine every week consisted of people making jokes, and somehow including the memory of Leonard. Really doesn’t work any.

So here’s the cop-out I came up with: “Mr. Squish: The Early Years.”

Okay, I’ll admit it right now: I stole it from Sledge Hammer! No, I’m not confessing vigorously; Sledge Hammer! has an exclamation point at the end of it. It’s an ’80s sitcom I used to watch about an extremely violent cop whose first name was Sledge, whose last name was Hammer. It was like Dirty Harry on cocaine, played for laughs. The guy even talked to his gun as if it were a person—but he wasn’t so schizophrenic that he didn’t try to hide this trait. A few years ago the producers released the series on DVD, and they made the mistake of taking out the laugh track. Without the laugh cues, I discovered Sledge Hammer! wasn’t nearly as funny as I remembered it to be. Oh well.

At the end of its first season—mainly ’cause ABC gave them little hope for a second one—Sledge Hammer! they had a cliffhanger episode where Sledge was supposed to defuse a nuclear bomb… and wasn’t successful. It was largely an excuse to show the nuked ruins of Los Angeles, and Hammer’s boss screaming his catchphrase, “Hamm-mmer!” over them. Okay, season two rolled around, they started the first episode with “Previously on Sledge Hammer!,” and showed the rubble of the bombed-out city… followed by the opening titles of Sledge Hammer! with the caption beneath them, “The Early Years.”

Teaching me, at the time, there is always a way out when you paint yourself into a corner.

But it wasn’t entirely a cop-out, as you’ll see from the upcoming strips. I decided to dip a little into Leonard’s backstory. Though gradually I ended that and took a surreal left turn… but I’ll get to that later too.

The gratuitously over-violent “Gonna Shoot Santa Claus” song was ’cause I clearly had Sledge Hammer! on the brain when I wrote this strip. Yes, this meant it could never, ever run in a family newspaper. But I never, ever planned for it to.