Saturday, September 11, 2010

When Will I Learn Misery Doesn't Sell?

In 1971 I tried to sell the following dismal gag cartoons to Boy’s Life. Somehow the editor’s felt poisoned campers and cliff hanging kids weren’t in a nine-year-old subscriber’s best interest.
"You see? I told you earth worm stew would taste good."
"Yes, they're moose tracks, Jimmy. Pretty fresh, too."
"Tell me again how much fun we're having. I keep forgetting."
In 1977 I wrote and illustrated a children’s’ book entitled The Miserable Life of a Sockeye Salmon. What was I thinking? Here are the illustrations; I’ve spared you the maudlin text.

In 1982 I began drawing a 64 page graphic novel wherein the parish of a country priest gets kidnapped and held for ransom. Click here for the world’s first gander at Parish Snatchers. Our now 27 year old son was born at that time and I never took Pastor Amos beyond the first 7 pages. The world’s probably a better place because of it.

I mention these stories because it appears I just don’t learn. I’m currently working on a marriage-building board game for couples set in the Middle Ages: famine, plague, Inquisition, rebellions, leeching, torture, wars, no universal health care. I’m putting the feud in feudalism. A real crowd pleaser, huh?

Somehow I never inherited the “I like paintings of kids with big eyes” gene. Too bad. A velvet Elvis sells. For better or (probably) worse, I’m of the Bambi Meets Godzilla school of entertainment. Irony over tidy, adversity (sometimes) over victory, ambiguity, chaos, and puzzlement over cute.

This being the case, I now put on hold all plans for: 1) an expository essay reflecting on Jean Paul Sartre’s essay On The Viscous, wherein I deal once and for all with my aversion to things sticky, 2) a comic book version of Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death, and 3) a novella wherein Orthodox Priests launch a church in rural Ferndale and marauding iconoclasts wearing Carhartt disrupt the liturgy.

I better stick to cute; it sells, misery does not. Now if only I can make the middle ages cute. Stay tuned.


  1. Come to think of it, The Alligator Game was also fraught with peril: cross Dad's legs from the ottoman to the wingback chair, risking earthquakes and death by falling or being eaten alive by alligators. But you were the hero who saved us, so we loved playing that game.

    Think of yourself as King of the Cautionary Tale.

  2. hmmm... i should probably learn a lesson from this... ;)