Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Comic-Strip Christmas Carol: Stave Two

Blame the lateness of yesterday's comic on my absurd need for sleep. I shall try to finish today's eventually as well.

Jim Davis woke at midnight to find someone in the room with him: a fat man with a disproportionally large nose, odd bandy legs that seemed too spindly to support his weight, outdated clothing, and a tendency to drop his "'g"s and swear entirely in keyboard symbols. "I am the Ghost of Comics Past," said the fat man. "Tonight, I'll be showin' you the error of your ways. Come with me, you ol' #$&%@!$."

Davis found himself floating out the window. He drifted for a moment, then fell...and landed, not, as he had expected, on the pavement, but in a bedroom strewn with old-fashioned toys and comic books. A small boy sprawled on his stomach on the bed, leafing through a newspaper. He took no notice of the Ghost or Davis, the latter of whom leaned forward to catch a glimpse of the date on the paper: July 15, 1955.

"Why," said Davis, "this is my own bedroom! And that's...that's me!"

"Got it in one," said the Ghost in a genial manner. "Little Jimmy, back on the farm again. And just look at what he's readin'."

Davis peered over the boy's shoulder and saw...

"All my old favourites!" he exclaimed. "Nancy! Blondie! Popeye! Peanuts! Pogo! They're all here!"

"Tha's right," said the Ghost. "Most of them were still funny then."

"I remember," said Davis fervently. "The hours I used to spend poring over the funny pages! The joy they brought me! I wanted to be like those cartoonists; I wanted to bring that kind of happiness to readers."

"And so you did," said the Ghost. The scene dissolved, then reformed. They were in the same room, and the boy Jimmy was still there...but he was older now, curled up on the bed, doodling on a scrap of paper. Davis saw slightly lopsided versions of Charlie Brown, Pogo, Beetle Bailey.

"Ol' Jimmy had talent," said the Ghost as the scene melted again. Davis was now in the different room, watching a yet older Jim Davis opening a Chicago Tribune that looked to be from June 19, 1978. "And one day, his talent led him to invent--"

"Garfield," breathed Davis, watching his past self read the first published Garfield strip ever. "The Tribune tried to cancel it, but no one would let it. And look what it's become!"

"What it's become?" intoned the Ghost...and Davis shrank back from its expression. "What has it become, boss? An automaton...a zombie, still clingin' to the glories of the past, churned out by a committee!"

"But...but you're the Ghost of Comics Past," quavered Davis. "You should like the backward-looking, the tribute to the genius of yesteryear..."

"I may be representin' the past," thundered the Ghost, "but I don't expect everyone to live there. We shouldn't be forgettin' the past, but that's no reason for us not to move forrard into th' future! Adaptation! Growth! Change! Tribute without stagnancy! Remember ol' Jimmy, and stop *&$% well betrayin' what he stands for!"

The Ghost, as he spoke, had grown to monstrous size, apparently swelling with indignation. Jim Davis fell to his knees and clutched at the Ghost's bow-legs in supplication. "Mercy!" he cried. "Mercy..."

The Ghost shrank...dwindled to a bedpost. Davis was back in his own room, in his own Now.

P.S.: As you can see from today's translation, this is the sort of strip that, while purporting to deal with universal themes, becomes dated quite quickly; the language in it thus reads as code to succeeding generations. The problem, of course, is that Davis is so stuck in the past that he genuinely believes that all his readers will know what a lava lamp is.


Michael said...

The last time I saw a real, functioning lava lamp was around 1975. Even then it was considered an antique.

Angry Kem said...

One of my friends owns one. Of course, he also owns a large plastic Darth Vader head that periodically glows red and bursts into insane laughter. Oh...and a Mickey Mouse phone.