For this week’s blog prompt, we CCAD MFA students are supposed to write about a text we’ve read or are currently reading that has an unexpected bearing on our work.
Now, I read a lot of books about the history of film and animation, along with a ton of comic books / comic strip compilations; there are a lot of graphic novels that I like (Bone, Maus, Scott Pilgrim), but what I turn to most are reprints of daily strips like Krazy Kat, Peanuts, Popeye, Li’l Abner, etc. Anyway, if you know me at all, none of that is probably very surprising.
So for a book that recently inspired me but is a little outside of my usual wheelhouse, I’m going to go with George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I read the book in high school, but I re-read it this summer and I really enjoyed the way it was able to critique political corruption without directly addressing real-world issues.
This was particularly inspiring for me because I’ve been developing a comic strip called Planet Schplork, all about a human kid who is interning on a planet of complete morons and psychopaths. Although a lot of the humor of the strip is going to be either character-based or generally absurd, one of the reasons I wanted to set the strip on a distant planet was so I could address and mock current issues without dealing with them directly.
I think sometimes when you make jokes about politics and social issues and you tackle them head-on, your work can turn out to be a little too preachy or literal-minded. That’s not always true, of course, but it’s a trap that’s easy to fall into. There are a ton of comics online that try to argue for a particular point of view, and they do that by simply having two characters stand around and voice an argument, with one character being the rational, sane voice of reason and the other being the idiot to be instantly proven wrong. That’s not very visually interesting, and it’s an approach that can come across as a little smug and self-satisfied. So that’s something I’m trying to avoid when I deal with satire.
Animal Farm is one of the books that really made me want to develop the strip, and it’s particularly relevant this week because I just finished my submission package for Planet Schplork. I inked out 24 daily strips in preparation for the Cartoon Crossroads event this weekend, which was awesome, by the way. I got to meet legends like Jeff Smith, Keith Knight, Sergio Aragones, etc., and I passed around my work to a lot of them. Everyone seemed really enthusiastic about my stuff, which was really flattering.
I’m not going to post the comics here (a lot of syndicates prefer not to print stuff that’s already online), but I’m happy to give you guys a look at the cast of characters. Enjoy!