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.
• Once again told off that high school guidance counselor who suggested he “Think small,” in language not fit for 12-year-old athletes or 40-year-old Teamsters.
• Felt so lucky he immediately bet his family’s entire savings at the track, only to see his money be pocketed by the operators of the slotcar derby.
• Repeatedly ran around the bases with the trophy held high over his head, caring not that his pants fell down or it was well past midnight.
• Drank from the trophy’s cup. Waited for immortality. Then for power of flight. Then for the metallic taste to stop making him throw up.
• Cried so hard in joy that his players quietly backed away and went to their parents’ cars so as to not have to watch an adult fall to his knees and scream to the heavens.
Dahlia After Dark is a call-in talk/music dedication nightly radio program currently syndicated to almost 200 stations across the United States as well as to listeners in the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station (most of whom request beach songs and generally talk about wanting to bludgeon every other scientist on their team, often with a penguin).
Hosted by the mononymously-named Dahlia (formerly Alice Blotts), the program is broadcast from a home studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it began as a pirate radio program in 1992 under the title The Screaming Trees Mega-Mix Hour. But due to a growing and avid listener base as well as a time slot (midnight to 5 am) best suited for the despondent, lovelorn, and people taking a break from scrawling manifestos in composition notebooks, the show quickly evolved into its present incarnation of chatting people up, talking people down, and picking just the right song to lift spirits, soothe jangled nerves, and cut off anguished screams.
In addition to being a longtime radio host, Dahlia has authored several bestselling self-help/relationship books, including Dahlia Is Listening, Dahlia Hears What You’re Saying, Dahlia Would Like to Say Something, Dahlia Needs You to Stop Talking for Just One Damn Second, and Dahlia Has Heard Enough. She also pens a series of self-published ebooks as “Evagelinia Delacroix” that fall under the literary genre “Vampire/Dinosaur/Tentacle Romance.”
Dahlia After Dark also features a Saturday night spinoff radio program called “Ladies Night” with a listener demographic of almost 100% men, all hoping the one called “Terri” calls back.
See? The kids didn’t collide with an oncoming truck in a PSA about drunk driving. And surely Garrick’s exclamation is him being thankful that everything turned out alllllllll right, yes?
After all, as Abbey tells a true-to-character Neddy (“There’s no way Sophie can come to harm because there’s no way she can miss my big day”), when it comes to the Spencer-Driver family things are almost always quite similar to Geoffrey Rush’s outlook in Shakespeare in Love…
Unless, of course, the band van is no longer on the road.
Today hopefully is a slight correction course from yesterday’s strip, in which I gave Neddy the musical knowledge of a 49-year-old Gen Xer with song titles that threw off most millennials. (That’s not a dig. It was a bad call on my part.) But mostly it was a line that did not fit the tone of Judge Parker. There will probably be a few more such glaring errors (the sudden daylight at Spencer Farms, however, is a colorist glitch) along the way since I’ve already written several weeks of scripts. But it is something I’m very mindful of now. Plus, as I got further into the writing I believe I got a better grasp of the strip, so I think/hope/blindly hope you will enjoy what is on the horizon.
But yeah, “Oh God Oh God Oh God” almost never means anything good.
On the other hand, I got to say “butt-dialed,” a curse word, and maybe kill five teens (and a trucker) in my first four days, so it’s been a good week. Or my last week.
NOTE: Because daily strip coloring is outsourced and not done by the artist, mistakes are sometimes made. So readers should know that today’s strip is supposed to take place at NIGHT, not two in the afternoon.
SECOND NOTE: The rhythm of the dialogue is a vestige of writing Sally Forth for 19 years. I love writing Sally Forth. I love the tone of that strip. (I’m not articulating my arm to pat my own back, I just write a strip I would want to read and hope others think the same or phrase their cutting, insightful insults with happy emojis.) But this is a different comic with its own voice. I would chalk today’s Judge Parker comic to being a stumble to getting on the right path…that goes right through the guard rails.
THIRD NOTE: Because some have wondered, the songs were chosen for their ungodly running times (which, when combined, will actually still play when all existence reaches its conclusion and then starts all over again) and for no reason but what popped in my head at the moment, they both involve being in a car late at night. That said, those are not songs Neddy would mention. Again, the last of Ted in this strip, minus him in the background gawking at any possible wreckage.