October 17 - "Forbidden" WOMP Character of The Day - Mechanical Hero of Otto Fastwind (always inexplicably abbreviated to M.H.O.T.F.)! What can I say? Not only was I a strange kid, I was also, apparently, crazy. Worse, as you may have noticed over the last few days, I had very little concern for spelling and English Grammar (in spite of my assertion on the 15th that "English was always my best subject"). As I've been looking back to those "glory days," and posting my reminiscences of them, that's proving to be a deadly combination for my over-inflated ego. It's been difficult to face some of the unfortunate realities of my childhood comics, even though I know that I was just a kid when I created them. I was expecting a bit of embarrassment (in fact, some extremely uncomfortable embarrassment in cases yet to be discussed), but characters like M.H.O.T.F. (a grinning cyclopean robot who looked like a cross between Tik-Tok of Oz and Commander Alien) have been so hard for the "2007-me" to describe because I'm so far removed from the "1977-me" who thought them up. They are "my" characters, but only because I've inherited them from my preteen self. I think that one of the reasons that they have become "forbidden" is that I can no longer truly relate to them. Strangely, my older characters, like Monkey and family, have more stoutly stood the test of time (and my own test of acceptability). I think that is due to two factors. First, they grew up with me. I don't really remember a time when I didn't have Monkey in my life (I was six years old when I began drawing his adventures, after all), much like how I don't remember not having my little sister in my life. Later characters seem more like school friends who may have been close to me back then, but not so much since graduating. Second, those oldest characters were so simple and without intended subtext of any sort that they were like blank slates. In recent years, I've been able to fill in those blanks with a more experienced hand. Still, I can't help but consider not only that the actions of that "more experienced hand" were, themselves, from almost two decades ago now (and therefor possibly just as embarrassing upon modern review), but that rehabilitating some of my dozens of "forbidden" characters may be both a great challenge and a lot of fun!
October 18 - "Forbidden" WOMP Character of The Day - Mr. Hermit! This one was just...oh, I don't know. Naive, maybe? Sad? Let me try to make sense of Mr. Hermit for you (and for me, while I'm at it). First, I can not stress enough that I grew up in the 1970's. Just affix that to your thoughts as you consider how a kid might have imagined some of these "forbidden" characters. OK, anyway; Mr. Hermit. Well, he was inspired by a handmade puppet purchased at a church craft bazaar. I didn't really want it, need it, nor even like it, but I bought it. I guess I've always been a sucker for the "pity purchase." Even today, I can't look into the face of someone set up at a comics con lest I am compelled to buy at least something from them (although I have been pleasantly surprised by my "pity purchases" more often than not). The mouthless hand-puppet was made of shaggy yellow fake fur, and was clearly meant to resemble a Muppet, probably Oscar The Grouch specifically. In his stupid, furry, forlorn face, I saw the embodiment of pity. I felt so guilty that I didn't love him, that I loved him for it. Does that even make sense? When I drew his exploits, I imagined Mr. Hermit as a supreme loner, an unkempt outsider living in a cave or squatting in some woodland shanty. He eschewed society, bitterly proclaiming Humanity's many faults...all the while dying inside for want of a little human contact. He was, in the end, a cautionary character...a projection of myself as I imagined I might become. I felt like that loner, that pitiful shaggy grouch, and "Humanity" did very little to convince me otherwise. In Mr. Hermit, though, I grasped the conundrum of shunning that which I craved, and imagined the sad results. It seemed obvious, then, that finding a way to deal with the worst of society was the only way to experience any of the best of society. All this from a terrible, terrible childhood cartoon character. Cheaper than therapy, I suppose. Still, once I'd had my own little breakthrough with Mr. Hermit, I had no desire to continue to draw him. Years later, when they caught the Unabomber, I saw Mr. Hermit's face once again in the grisly reality of Ted Kaczynski. Some small part of me said "That could have been me." Even though Mr. Hermit is now "forbidden," what he taught me may have made him one of my most important characters.