Careful readers of this blog, and eagle-eared listeners of the Gweek podcast, know that I love the comic strip "Cul de Sac," by Richard Thompson. Richard recently went on hiatus from the strip while he undergoes treatment for Parkinson's disease, and I was glad for his treatment, but sorry to miss new strips.
Well, this week started a five-week period of guest cartoonists, keeping things re-run free until Richard returns. Michael Jantze has been doing a great job with the Cul de Sac crew since Monday.
[UPDATE: The above is the schedule for the Monday-Saturday guest installments. The guest Sunday installments start on March 18, and run in the same order, except that I didn't do a Sunday -- instead, that Sunday is being done by Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine!).]
Just filed the comics, and had a real blast playing with and drawing Richard's amazing characters.
I really loved the discussion that last week's comic opened up in the comments sections. Some commenters were sympathetic to Louis, others were not. Many people shared stories of similar experiences and feelings.
But my favorite comment was one that really surprised me. On the Boing Boing comments section, "eyebeam" wrote, "Louis creates his own pain, and needs to drag others down to feel better about himself." Later, "Promethean Sky" wrote:
"It didn't strike me as him trying to pull his friend down. It seems to me that his fear is that he'd look like a dork dancing, and is trying to 'help' his friend avoid that as well. Which only make the situation more sad."
I was struck by this. When I wrote the comic, I would have agreed with eyebeam that Louis simply wanted company in his misery, or to build himself up, and that's certainly a valid interpretation for Louis's actions. But Promethean Sky's alternative interpretation suddenly struck me as more true -- a truth I wasn't even conscious of while I was drawing the comic.
I'd say there's even more evidence for this interpertation than the one I'd "intended." Louis's expression seems sincere throughout his interaction with Myron. He seems to be genuinely trying to spare Myron's feelings (if totally clumsily and unsuccessfully). And when Myron agrees to go with him to flush toilets, Louis's thoughts don't betray any ill-intent. He doesn't think that he's glad he now has company, or that he feels better now that the put Myron down. He seems to be simply returning to his countdown, now that he's "helped" his friend.
I find this interpretation more interesting than my original conscious intent. In some ways, I think I intended this interpretation in mind all along without realizing it; after all, I drew Louis's expressions, and I struggled with the final panel, considering far less subtle endings, until I came up with this vague "78 more minutes" ending.
So thanks to Promethean Sky, and eyebeam, and all the other commenters, for contributing to the comic, and making it more fun for me. Cartoonists often have a love/hate relationship with comments sections (and often hate/hate) because they can be negative. But in their proper place, I find they can be a fascinating part of the process.
Now maybe someone can tell me why I found the soda machine's glow such an important part of the comic...