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Ted Forth’s Psychotic Break and the Three-Month International Espionage Story Line that Never Was

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on May 12, 2011

By now some of you are familiar with this week’s Sally Forth plot, in which Ted is so overcome with his fear of roller coasters that he finds it necessary to break from reality (a break that was either a long time coming or approximately the 47th time it has happened, depending on your take of the character). If not, simply start here and click forward.

Curiously enough, it’s a break that I’m rather proud of…for better and for worse. When I first took over Sally Forth in 1997, Ted was very much the typical comic strip suburban husband. He was good-natured, a little dim and hapless and most of his conversations were about sports, work and meatloaf (allow for sexual innuendo aaaaaaand…back to writing). He was a fine character. Only problem was, he was exactly the kind of male character I had absolutely no idea how to write. I’m not a sports guy. In fact, all I know about sports ended the moment I stopped collecting Topps baseball cards, meaning I still think Vida Blue is still pitching for the Oakland A’s. As for work, while I have indeed been employed by majors corporations and had actual titles much to the grave concern of human resources, I’m not one to talk about meetings or presentations or why I once dressed up in a toga to play “Ides of March” in the office hallway. So over the years I slowly gave Ted more of my interests, more of my worries and even my own occasional tendency to break the fourth wall-minus any audience save for a concerned companion–until one day my editor called me with an emergency message–“You’re making Ted Forth insane. Stop it.”

Alas, by then then Ted had become my comic strip avatar, which makes writing for him very, very easy. Far too easy. To the point that two years ago while struggling with a 103 degree temperature I came up with what I assumed was the perfect Ted Forth story. A story that would run for three months. A story that would seemingly forget that the strip is actually named after his wife, Sally. A story that I wrote reams and reams of dialogue and scene descriptions for–all in my feverish head. That’s because I was too sick to actually write anything down and too sick to realize that talking non-stop to myself was not the same thing as taking actual physical notes. In fact, only after the fever had subsided did I realize I had scrawled a mere three lines, all on one sheet of printer paper in fat marker.

The story–as much as I can remember, that is–was to go like this: The Forths would be quietly eating dinner as Ted rambled on and on about how Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” and the Banana Splits theme song have the exact same chorus. All of a sudden a midget ninja (I was going to call them “midjas”) flies right through a skylight I suddenly realized the Forths simply must have in their kitchen. Sally and Hilary scream but Ted seems eerily calm. Rather than freak out as he is oft want to do, he simply reaches into his back pocket and hurls a throwing star disguised as a Motorola StarTac through the midja’s skull. (He later explains this is why he never upgraded his phone despite being unable to text, surf the web or not be ridiculed in public). Ted then takes his shocked family down to the basement, where he removes the fake boiler (explaining that this is why the family never had hot water) to reveal a passageway to another, secret basement. Once inside the secret basement, Ted leads them back up another set of stairs into a different house, an architectural quirk I explained to myself as “fun.”

Ted rushes the family to that home’s garage and unveils his car–a 1963 Jaguar XKE (my dad’s car) outfitted with laser canons and “an ancient spirit.” Ted then drives off with a Sally and Hil crammed into a two-seater, explaining that before he became “Ted Forth” he was the leader of “The Gilded Hand,” a cadre of assassins that mostly killed on spec (to help spread the word in lieu of business cards). After that, the story gets hazy. They travelled around the world. Hilary learned how to climb mountains withe her mind. Sally revealed her own dark secret. And, of course there was day after day of capoeira hand-to-hand combat that I planned to explain to the strip’s artist as “like martial arts set to the Lambada.”

Naturally, since my life and Ted’s are one in the same, all of this would eventually prove to be Ted’s hallucinations over the course of one night as his fever broke. It would end with a much-improved Ted lying in bed, telling his dream to Sally and Hil and concluding with “You were there. And you were there. And you both shot at me.”

Fortunately, my own fever broke and I never wrote out the scripts or sent them to be illustrated. Naturally, they never would have made it to print and I would now be telling people what it was like to fuck up and lose a long-paying gig that I enjoyed so much.

I still think about Ted Forth and “The Gilded Hand.” Maybe one day I’ll sneak them into the strip. Maybe as a Netflix rental. Maybe in place of the annual chocolate Easter bunny story. Who knows…

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17 Responses

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  1. Sheltiemama said, on May 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I would have LOVED this. We’re all just one roller-coaster ride away anyway.

  2. Ed. Floden said, on May 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Wasn’t this a show on Fox in 2000, and which got canceled after nine episodes?

  3. Dave said, on May 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I would have paid cash money to read that story.

  4. Bowen Simmons said, on May 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I used to really hate Sally Forth. A man can only take so many strips that end with the title character smirking. It is actually a really good strip since you took it over, and Ted has a lot to do with it. Sometimes a character who was supposed to be a secondary character takes over: Look at Homer Simpson. When it happens, go with it; don’t suppress what is working. As King Kaiser said, “In the comedy business, you never cut funny.”

    • Gen said, on May 18, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Sally smirks because she’s secretly in charge of the Gilded Hand.

  5. spanghew said, on May 13, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Re Bowen’s comment about secondary characters: Or Snoopy. Or Fleetwood Mac. Or the Bush Administration.

  6. Paul Jones said, on May 13, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Thirded; I do like how you show what someone in the real world would need to do to be able to cope with a person like Sally.

  7. Frank said, on May 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Sounds like fun; I’d certainly read it! How about publishing it as a graphic novel, or more likely, a graphic short story?

    (Of course, I don’t know the nature of your intellectual property relationship with this strip.)

  8. Paul1963 said, on May 13, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Well, if the strip ever gets cancelled, maybe they’d let you do that for the last month or two before the end.
    I know I’ve always wanted to do something like that with one of the soap-opera strips. “Okay, only six weeks until the end. Let’s just go nuts. Rex Morgan vs. zombies! Let’s do this thing!”

  9. 霞拳四郎 said, on May 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

    or Popeye

  10. blueberry said, on May 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Yesterday, when Ted slipped into his dream, I decided that for now on I will read “Sally Forth” as if Ted died on the roller coaster and everything after that moment will be a hallucination.

    While I obviously can’t control how you write the strip, I’d be ever so appreciative if you threw in little effects that confirmed this interpretation (Ted changing shirts inexplicably between panels, the cat hissing in any panel featuring him and the cat, Ted being unable to eat, dream or pick up solid objects, etc.)

    Thanks in Advance,

  11. Harold said, on May 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Hey, if The Phantom strip can have a seven-month storyline where his wife is blown up, declared dead, and thrown in prison under a false identity, all while the Phantom mopes around the world and fights terrorists and pirates with the world’s sexiest pirate-killing captain of a robot ship, later to perform a prison break and a “Munich”-style series of huntdowns, I don’t see why Ted Forth can’t have a little fun.

  12. Charlene said, on May 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    By any vague stretch of the imagination, had you just watched the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir” before you succumbed to this fever?

  13. turquoisecow said, on May 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

    That is an awesome story. Should you ever become coherent enough to write it out, I would read it, even without the illustrations to go along. I would even pay money to read it, assuming I wasn’t broke and it was reasonably priced. In fact, if you don’t write it, I might be motivated to write Ted Forth fanfiction, which is just disturbing.

  14. ThursdayNext said, on May 16, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I would love to follow Ted’s deviation from reality, but I can no longer click forward on Comics Kingdom in any browser. Does anyone know why not?

  15. red4 said, on May 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Oh, NOW I see it. A few days ago I didn’t understand the last panel. I thought Ted was kneeling on the beach, trying to balance over the incoming surf.
    Afterward, I thought he was prancing over blueprints.
    Today I realized he’s flying over farmlands or neighborhoods.

  16. Toronto said, on May 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    It’s always the simplest explanation.

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