June 23rd, 2007

The Zombie

Serious silliness

June 22 -  Hey.  I guess I'm back to pantslessness.  I know, I know; I've been all over the place recently.  That's the way it goes sometimes.  For example, posting last night's scheduled Pantsless Comic Book Character of The Day, Bone, didn't seem to be appropriate, but now it's OK.  Back and forth, silly to serious, serious to silly - still, as I have already asserted earlier this month, the two concepts can intertwine.  In fact, much of what went into developing my own pantsless comics character, Monkey, was a blending of seriousness with silliness.  The final mixture, something akin to half-and-half, is what feels right for me.  I would never be happy being too much of one thing or the other...as if they were my only two choices to begin with.  I wanted Monkey to be usable for stories featuring everything from slapstick and  cuddliness, to politics and feelings of abandonment.  Even though he is pretty strictly based on the original versions that I drew when I was a kid, Monkey struck me as a character who could cross over into all of those issues...in part because of his pantslessness.  I suspect that my discussions of sexual repression from a couple of nights ago tell only a small portion of the story of all pantsless characters.  Most, like 80%, are characters like Monkey.   Anthropomorphic characters aren't always pantsless (Mickey Mouse being the most famous example of that, I suppose), but there is some sort of cartoonists' shorthand at work in their designs.  The oldest such cartoon characters set the templates.  These were drawn by guys (and some gals) who understood the Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities of their time, and dared not cross them.  Still, it wasn't long before cartoonists began to play with the concept that their characters may or may not be pantsless.  Krazy Kat's Offica Pupp, for instance, seems to be virtually naked, but there are buttons and a badge on his chest, so sticklers might insist that he is wearing a full-body uniform of some sort.  What they may fail to take into account is the subversive genius of George Herriman, who understood full-well that he was blurring that line, as he did with everything else in his strip, from inconsequentially interchangeable backgrounds, to the slang-based speech patterns of his characters.  His truly cavalier attitudes, toward what some (even today) take so seriously, are part of the charm and ingenuity that make him an artistic inspiration to wannabes like me.  Again, it's interesting to note that his strip, begun in the 'Teens, both addressed issues of sex and garnered acclaim as "classic."  There may be something to that.  To be classic, something must not only stand the test of time, but reflect and speak to the larger issues of life.  Many comics deal with issues of morality and death on a regular basis, but very few tackle sexuality.  Those that do stand out from the rest, don't they?  They shouldn't.  We comics folk should be past all of that.  Comics should be master to nothing except the story, wherever that story may lead.  If it's about a talking rabbit who befuddles a slow-witted hunter, that's cool.  If it's about a talking cat who gets stabbed in the head with an ice-pick from a crazy ostrich with whom he'd had a sexual relationship, that is OK, too.  But...but there is that other problem to consider - the one called Society.  We may be over a century removed from the Victorian Era, but we are still jumping through the same hoops as did those earliest cartoonists.  In spite of decades of dramatic advances in both content and quality, comics are still perceived, by outsiders, as little more than children's books.  Any artist who tries to strike a balance between serious and silly could also be accused of infusing innocence with depravity.  Yep.  I have heard the argument (only twice, but I've really heard it), that my own Monkey, who has decidedly more musculature than Winnie The Pooh, yet much, much less than Superman, is an "obviously sexual" character, completely inappropriate for a kids' comic.  One female "critic" even went so far as to call Monkey "pornographic."  What can I say to that?  Any argument I give to explain that such criticism is, in my humble opinion, a stinking pile of garbage, would fall on deaf ears.  If you look at Monkey - smiley-faced, mitten-clad Monkey - and see excessive sexuality, then your real problem is not found in the pages of my comics.  Even so, it is something of which I have to be aware.  "Pantslessness" may seem like a silly subject, but, like I said back on the 11th, "Even in the silliest of topics, there can be found some kernels of gravity."  To that, I should have added "...whether you want to find them or not."  Well, I'm pooped from all of this serious silliness, so I'm going to wrap this up with your latest Pantsless Comic Book Character of The Day - Furball!