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Judging Parker: Week One

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on August 28, 2016

JP August 28 2016
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.

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20 Responses

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  1. elfodin said, on August 28, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I anticipate the arrival of October, and look forward to your “Crisis on Infinite Judge Parkers” reboot.

    • cesco7 said, on August 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      We were hoping “The Death of Everyone in the Comic” story would become a collector’s item, but the 90s comic book industry kinda killed the lucrative nature of that idea.

    • Bob Brandon said, on August 28, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Need someone from USS Enterprise to sudden appear and clumsily and irreparably blow up the timeline.

      • Mollyscribbles said, on August 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

        Bringing in the Enterprise could result in copyright problems. But H.G. Wells’ time machine is public domain! And bringing in Dracula is always an option.

  2. Bill said, on August 28, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    You know, Tom Batiuk could learn a lot from you. Keep up the good…strike that…great work.

    • cesco7 said, on August 28, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you very much, Bill! 😀

  3. Cat Wisdom 101 said, on August 28, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    You deserve more beach time. Week one rocked. The timing for fresh plot lines in October is perfect. The end of October is the Pagan new year when the veil is thinnest between the seen and unseen worlds.

  4. Naked Bunny with a Whip said, on August 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I have an idea to turn him into the “Stage Manager” (as in Our Town)

    I’m glad you specified. Otherwise, I might have thought you meant as in this guy.

    • cesco7 said, on August 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Hahahahaha Oh, no.

  5. ManyNamesWithNoSpaces said, on August 28, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Addl backstory: I am pretty sure that Steve, the now former law partner, was a military vet confined to a wheelchair permanently. Until he wasn’t! (Someone else should confirm this).

    And commenters loved the squirrel named The Dude. He snuck into their rv, and became Sophie’s pet squirrel, finally released into the wild at Spencer Farms. An occasional appearance by The Dude or a squirrel presume to be The Dude (perhaps for Sophie’s convalescence if she survives, or as a reminder of Sophie from time to time if she does not), would make the commenting crowd go acorns, er, nuts! Bonus: Manley liked drawing the squirrel.

    • cesco7 said, on August 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Holy hell, that squirrel will now be in EVERY panel! Thank you!

  6. Rob Morris said, on August 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Steve backstory: He has prothestic legs. Former (presumed) Iraqi military vet. His mom was in a wheelchair. Steve prevented her being killed by an (presumed) Isis/Taliban assassin.

    Couple more backstories:

    1. Neddy and Sophie’s grandfather is buried up the hill on Spencer Farm’s property. Just in case you need to know.

    2. One of the few characters who has wandered in and out of the Driver/Spencer’s lives is a female assassin named, Theresa, who is hispanic (from Mexico?). Oh, and she is in love with Sam Driver. Last appearance early 2004. But, she also appeared in the late 90’s.

    3. The Driver’s (Sam and Abbey) are always drinking wine. One reason, besides they like it, is they are part owners (partners) in a vineyard in California (Napa?). Abbey’s childhood friend named Trudi and her brother, Keith are the other owners.

    4. Also,their detective in Arizona had the hots for Sam Driver, when he was out to get Judge Parker’s book deal advance by “Dewey, Cheatham and Howe” lawyer. That’s the famous Dixie Julep story who shot her boyfriend on the golf course when he was playing Sam.

    5. Abbey has had her share of suitors too, none rose to make Sam Driver too jealous.

    Couple questions/thoughts…

    *Like the thought that more criminal activity will be associated with the plots/stories inside Judge Parker.

    *Will you continue to run/overlap storylines?

    *How long do you anticipate the stories will go in real time? In the past, they would take upwards of 6 months (or more)?

    *Do anticipate bringing in new regular characters?

    *What’s your thought’s on Spencer Farms? And, will it ever seasonal (weather) change again?

    • cesco7 said, on August 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      Hey, Rob! Thanks for the further info! And to answer your questions:

      1. Okay, this wasn’t a question, but thank you very much!

      2. Yes, there will usually be three or four plots overlapping, like in most soap operas. And although it may seem the strip is now focusing only on the crash other stories will soon come into play, both new and continuing.

      3. I think that depends on the story. Some will fade and then return when new information or a new twist arises. And as will usually be the case a story’s conclusion will create a follow-up plot.

      4. Oh, there will be new characters, both supporting and major.

      5. Hold on until November 🙂

    • m@ said, on August 31, 2016 at 12:00 am

      Their grandfather is buried on Spencer Farm’s property? Well, if we *did* need an undead/zombie arc, this would even fit into the continuity.

  7. hankgillette said, on August 28, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I’ve never written a comic strip and certainly wouldn’t claim that I could, but I think if I were asked to take over a strip that I hadn’t been following closely, I would go to the Comics Kingdom archives and read at least a few months to learn the characters and current story lines (also to make sure I didn’t repeat a recent story line).

    In fact, in the case of Judge Parker, Comics Kingdom’s archives go all the way back to November, 1998. Is there some reason you didn’t do this? Perhaps too busy actually writing the strips? Just curious about the thinking here.

    • cesco7 said, on August 29, 2016 at 7:42 am

      Oh, I actually did that. 🙂

      My public persona can sometimes be a little too self-deprecating, but I did read several years of strips. However, the period between my getting the gig and me writing the first scripts was about two weeks, so I had to do some fast cramming. And as what often happens when you cram for a test, not everything sticks. But I continue to read and re-read the archives.

      Side Note: When I first took over “Sally Forth” in 1997 there were, of course, no online archives. So I received a huge package consisting of almost 750 weeks of strips. I still have that package. I call it “The Anthology.”

      • hankgillette said, on August 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm

        Obviously, I have yet to figure out how serious your posts are yet. If you found my question offensive, I do apologize. It wasn’t meant to be.

  8. cesco7 said, on August 30, 2016 at 7:24 am

    No, no! No problem at all! And your comment made perfect sense, especially in light of my post. I just wanted to explain it fuller. Thank you for reading and posting! 🙂

  9. Mollyscribbles said, on August 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Now I’m wondering if someone could pose as a long-time reader of the strip helping to fill in character background for you and just make up something. Provided they didn’t go into too much detail on the culture of the aliens that abducted whatsisface, it’s hard to say anyone would notice the difference. It would be most effective coming from a long-time reader of the strip who hoped to take advantage of the opportunity to make their long-held fanon a reality, but as I was only vaguely aware Judge Parker was a strip at all before this went down, I can’t properly take advantage.

  10. Qov said, on August 30, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I *love* aftershows and directors’ commentaries and outtakes and all those things that make a DVD set take five times as long to watch as the actual movie, so please continue to share your process here.

    I like the ring tone. Whatever it is is either spectacularly inappropriate or eerily prescient, so no need for us to know. First responders say that the ringing of unanswered phones and the blips of incoming text messages are the hallmark aftersound of mass tragedy. Poignant.

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