Stick ‘Em Up…

April 10, 2009

New Painting– “The Heist”

Truth be told, I am a frustrated comic artist.  While, like many, I have a massive queue of abandoned projects ranging in shape, size, type, and medium, the vast majority are unfinished comics.  They vary in stages of development, from seeds of ideas and outlines to character designs and half-drawn issues.

I have never successfully completed one.  I love the medium, but maybe I lack the required patience to draw for regular and extended periods of time.  Maybe it’s my total lack of intuitive layout skills.  Who knows?

Recently, though, I’ve been reflecting on a dusty duo of mine, two characters whom few have heard of, yet I’ve been steadily doodling for some ungodly reason since at least 1996.  I am speaking of “Phil & Larry”

Phil and Larry, cerca 1996.

Phil and Larry, cerca 1996.

First drawn over a decade ago, Phil and Larry began as my own adolescent Ren and Stimpy knockoff (not to imply that the real McCoy was any less adolescent).  A rabbit and a bear, respectively, Phil and Larry followed the hackneyed comedic trope of an unlikely duo, an odd couple.  Phil was a deadpan cynic and Larry was a complete moron prone to wild flights of fancy.  Their species were completely incidental and totally unexplored– anthropomorphic animals were a given in the genre and seemingly required little more explication.  Bunny and Bear.  Smart and Stupid.  Big and Small.  They simply were.

Somewhere around the turn of the century, I revamped the characters in an attempt to both give them more depth and generate better story fodder.  Their stereotypes were limited and their identities incidental.  Moreover, they took way too long to draw.

In an effort to make things more manageable, I streamlined their designs, making them at once cruder and more graphic, with a splash of vintage Bosco-esque stylization. I also decided to limit their world to single-panel gags.  They essentially became de-contextualized mouthpieces, an Abbot and Costello-like duo that told bad jokes in front of a red curtain.  This was fine by me.

In 2005, after I dropped out of UCLA, Phil and Larry transformed once again.  I was a confused kid floating somewhere between high school and college with no assured plan. Perhaps as a response reflecting my own lack of sure footing, Phil and Larry were suddenly endowed with grounded back-stories and codified philosophies.  Phil, though still cynical, was given specificity as a jaded hedonist.  The hot pursuit of his singular obsession with pleasure pushed him towards increasingly violent and often disturbing extremes.  Larry, conversely, was transformed from an idiotic bear into an amnesiac Yeti, the last of his kind with no sense of identity.

No longer “smart” and “stupid”, the two became better defined as polarized foils- an obsessive madman with a clear goal inexorably paired with a lost wanderer trying to find his place in the world.  As a final act of self-indulgence, I wrote myself into the story as well, playing the part of the comic creator, occupying a confused mental space somewhere between the two characters.  I had a clear goal and no clue how to get there.  They team up and kill me on page 3.

As my CalArts graduation approaches, another transition looms ever closer.  I can’t help but wonder how Phil and Larry will transform next…