Due to a narrative miscue on my part—and in no way Mike’s doing—the strip suddenly just cuts to a close-up of a house with zero explanation in today’s third panel. But the truth is there are several possible explanations. Here are but a few…
• These are upscale kids from well-heeled families, so they can’t simply be eaten by hill-dwelling cannibals. The monsters have to come from good homes.
• The crash actually took place in an upstairs bedroom. There’s a giant hole on the other side of the house.
• I’m using the strip to introduce my spin-off comic characters. They’re sort of like Ents, but split-level homes.
• The actual narrator of the strip just got out of bed. They’re going to tell you a completely different story about how rampant alcoholism ruined the Teddy Bear picnic.
• It was an abrupt way to introduce our haunted house subplot, but just know a doll is about to peer through that window.
• If you know a better way to advertise my wooden shutters and cloth blinds business you tell me.
With none of my damn 400 words in the way Jim Keefe illustrates a thing of sublime beauty with an awkward yet bittersweet moment in his perfect second panel.
First, I’m a huge fan of original black & white line work, and artist Mike Manley so captures the horrifying beauty of the best of EC Comics and film noir in these strips that it’s a shame they don’t get seen more.
Second, here is what I learned today:
1. Some people are very disappointed that Sophie may live, and so have re-corked their Champagne bottles and cancelled the celebratory dance.
2. Some people are very dismayed that a scene of possible death is being shown at all.
3. Some people think that when you have a woman mention bleeding this gives them carte blanche to show they possess two frayed, limp neurons in a loose slipknot for a brain that synapses with the frequency of panda copulation, thus explaining why God is now this close to handing the Earth over to the roaches.
4. Some people hope the crash area consists of nothing but Whomping Willows.
This has been a very eye-opening day.
After this summer everyone deserves a moment of pure joy.
Because you should really see the original black & white artwork for today’s strip.
• Replace his hood ornament with it, thus resulting in multiple automotive collisions in which he can crawl out of the wreckage and introduce himself to the other driver as “Ted Forth: Two-Time Softball League Champion and Lapsed Car Insurance Premium Customer.”
• Name it “Bossk,” his favorite bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back. Drive around with Bossk in the passenger seat pretending to look for Han Solo or that psychiatrist office he told Sally he was now regularly visiting.
• Place it by the front door so whenever anyone enters he can shout, “Mind you don’t trip over the championship trophy!” Then have guests place tithe in the trophy cup before they can enter the living room.
• Place the now two championship trophies on either side of the throne he will make once he figures out how to bedazzle a beach chair.
• Realize that with three championship trophies and some attached shopping cart wheels he could probably start a gang.
• Be more confident during business presentations when he knows he can always look for reassurance from the trophy he got a seat for in the conference room.
• Whisper his darkest secrets into the trophy’s cup Cover trophy cup with Saran Wrap so they can’t escape.
• Put on Roxy Music. Ask Sally to leave the house for an hour.
When I was first hired to write Judge Parker I immediately thought it would be cool to do a Talking Bad or Talking Dead-like “after show” at the end of each week.
Of course, I couldn’t do it as an actual television show, because although my brain seems to consist of only three cameras and an “On the Air” light even I know when reality has to seep in. Sure, I could have done it as a podcast, so you could hear my sonorous Long Island accent. But unlike Talking Bad or Talking Dead, I don’t have any actors to interview, so it would be just me doing all the voices. This would inevitably result in all of the female characters sounding like the curiously-voiced dowager in a Three Stooges short who begins to realize that maybe it was not the best idea to hire three clearly psychologically damaged, head lump-intensive angry little men to repair her chandelier on the very night of THE social fete of the season.
But let’s be honest—doing this in any fashion is somewhat of a cheat. After all, an author doesn’t follow a book reader home and say, “No, no. Reread Chapter Three. It’s crucial.” A painter does not loiter around his work in a gallery, telling passing visitors “Come back! You have to study what I did with the shadows as well as the light.” (Maybe some do. I’m not privy to every artist’s restraining order.) Once a work of art is out there the artist has had his or her say. That work should now not only should stand on its own, but in some manner is also now owned by the reader, the viewer. And whatever opinion they have of that art is true to them and for the artist to counter that is rather egomaniacal and futile.
But hey, I already have this site and wrote the post’s headline, so let’s get this started.
First, let’s look at some crucial intel I received from readers. I was not kidding when I earlier asked people to fill in any blanks in my Judge Parker primer, because I am still learning the comic’s entire backstory (which goes waaaaaaay back). In fact, I have to admit that in some early scripts I routinely referred to a character in scene descriptions as “That Guy” because for the life of me I couldn’t find out his actual name. (Some deep research eventually uncovered the truth). Of course, why I would create such a prominent role for a character I couldn’t even name speaks of problems best saved for another day. But here is some interesting information I received in a previous post by “Bengaline”:
Worth nothing that Honey is not a newcomer — she and Sophie have had petty high-school drama going on for years, mostly regarding a rivalry over Derek but also involving Sophie displacing Honey on the cheerleading squad. If I’m remembering right, Sophie took up guitar solely so she could take lessons from Derek (for which she paid him by buying him an expensive guitar), part of her master plan to win his attention. And, then, a starring role in his band, because of course she’s that good.
And some interesting info by “Rob Morris”:
You pretty much nailed the character descriptions. Not much else to fill in. Other than Steve was Sam’s second law partner. His first was Randy Parker. When Randy split to run (and be elected) as the next “Judge Parker”. Also, Steve married Sam’s first legal assistant, Gloria Sanchez. And, the only reason April came into the life of Sam/Randy was because Gloria left to tend to her ailing mother.
And from the wonderfully named “GreenLuthor”:
Neddy’s reasons for hiring seniors in her factory was – and I swear I’m not making this up, ask Josh Fruhlinger – because, being that they’re all old and on Medicare, they already have health insurance, so she doesn’t have to provide it for them. No, really.
All great stuff and I thank you for passing it along!
Second, like I mentioned earlier, I don’t think I have the right to insert my own thoughts into other people’s opinions about Judge Parker, especially as they are trying to figure out a new iteration of a strip. But I also mentioned I already started typing this, so here are some responses to recent online thoughts regarding the comic:
1. The present Judge Parker is in no way a repudiation of Woodrow Wilson’s years helming the strip. That would be indifferent and cruel. We will, however, soon be wrapping up present storylines so that I can selfishly start writing my own. Now, I understand that “soon” in soap opera comic timelines can be anywhere from next year to when the Sun becomes a white dwarf star. So I can say here definitively that most plots are concluded by the end of October. This October. That said, conclusions always give birth to new complications. That’s how this show called “soap opera” works.
2. I am not writing a humor or parody version of Judge Parker. I’m also not an idiot. I can see why people would think such after the first week’s strips, especially when it comes to Garrick the trucker and his affinity for a certain late-night, call-in radio program. But that scenario was the result of trying to find a unique way to tell a plot device that has been done again and again in comics, books, TV, and movies—the possibly deadly car crash. (There’s also a host of late-50s/early-60s pop songs about this very thing, which were strung together into the most morbid upbeat medley in an old The Tracey Ullman Show sketch.)
I also thought it would be much better to learn of the accident from a rather distinct individual’s perspective than show the kids screaming and tumbling dow a mountainside for four days of strips, if only because they would all eventually look at each other and ask, “Are we dead yet? I’m getting bored.” And, even in drama strips or law shows you need humor. If it is always “sturm” without the “humor” then it gets far too bleak too quickly. By the way, according to Google Translate the German word for “humor” is indeed “humor,” if only because they didn’t have a word for it on their own and had to borrow it from English. (Yes, I know English is a Germanic language, just go with this quip.) And to that end, when the German edition of I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats came out I was told it was shelved in the “Poetry” section of German bookstores because most do not have a “Humor” section. I’m certain there are many Germans who will refute this. Please do.
3. Speaking of “law shows,” we will be bringing back the legal aspect to this strip, given that its first name is “Judge.” (Unless I am mistaken and the strip’s “Judge” is not in terms of a court of law but rather Fast Times at Ridgemont High‘s Reinhold. I will now pause to let every guy or girl over 40 to reminisce about the Phoebe Cates bathing suit dream sequence.) And by “law” I mean all aspects, from attorneys to judges to local police to government officials, as well as vigilantism and even outright criminal activity.
4. And speaking of “Judge,” title character (or former title character depending on your thoughts about Randy Parker) Judge Alan Parker will indeed have a larger role in his strip. And it won’t be him simply receiving book awards while sitting in his comfy chair. He’ll sometimes sit on a couch! But really, I have an idea to turn him into the “Stage Manager” (as in Our Town) of the strip. He won’t ever address the audience but he will be a presence and some stories we see through his perspective, even though sometimes he won’t exactly be paying attention.
Well, now that the “No, listen to me!” portion of this aftershow/”stop calling it a show” is over, let’s open it up to questions. Feel free to ask or post anything in regard to Judge Parker. Please keep in mind I won’t answer questions along the lines of “What happens next?” or “Why do you suck so much?” (The former because then what would be the point of doing the strip and the latter because while I’m in therapy I haven’t completed it, so I can’t quite answer such deep looks into my soul quite yet.”) Also keep in mind I’m currently on vacation and am trying to spend more time on the beach instead of at the laptop, so my responses may not always be immediate.
Oh, one last thing. I did not have a specific song in mind for what is coming out of Rabbit’s earphones in today’s strip. I am also not a musician, so please do not try to discern the song from that random jumble of musical notes. I can say most probably he is/was not listening to following tune, if only because I doubt he regularly goes for almost decade-old Swedish pop. But then again, I’m still learning about this strip’s backstory, so there’s always a chance Rabbit is the biggest Eurovision Song Contest fan EVER.