* AUTHOR’S NOTE: Starting this year, I’ll be starting a series of blogs about cartoons, comics, and other visual media that has influenced me – think of this as a small peak into the madness inside my own head.
Porky in Wackyland… Oh, what to say and where do I start with this cartoon?
I can’t think of any cartoon that exemplifies more just what draws me to cartoons in general than Porky in Wackyland. I’m likely parroting a large number of people when I call it Bob Clampett’s finest work. And frankly, this cartoon scared the hell out of me as a kid, but the more I watched it the more it grew on me and warped my fragile little mind.
There’s so much going on, particularly in the first four minutes, that I dont really a recap of the picture is particularly appropriate; plot is minimal and the entire thing is built of a manic pace of surreal images. The film builds its entire premise on building something up, then doing the unexpected, or just plain bizarre to begin with. There’s a small undercurrent of satire, but each example is confined to its specific gag and doesn’t detract from anything else in the film.
In short? Its a masterpiece.
Wackyland plays a huge part of the style in Jason in a Strange Land, and for some imagery and stylistic issues in how I planned on handling Razzle cartoons. While it’s hard to duplicate something like Clampett’s manic pacing in a comic, the throwaway satire was planned for Razzle, and the backgrounds for both cartoons would have been (or are, in Jason’s case) extremely surreal. As I plan the next chapter in Jason In a Strange Land, I am consistently looking back on this cartoon, and this was in fact, the inspiration for writing this series.
After taking some time to pour through my old projects, I found something I had simply dropped and forgotten about for over a decade – Jason in a Strange Land. Honestly, I’m not terribly sure what made me drop this, other than a move across the country let it slip through the cracks as I focused on life and other creative endeavors.
The titular Jason.
I remember clearly why I started this project, though, as I really wanted to go in a very specific direction with this and achieve a few goals:
The art style was intended to be extremely surreal.
It’s no secret I’m into bizarre, surreal or “deranged” art and cartoons – in fact, I love them. Cartoons especially are excellent examples of surrealist work in and of themselves, but if you compare the works of, say Chuck Jones (extremely beloved and amazing cartoonist) to, say Bob Clampett (another beloved, excellent cartoonist), or perhaps even the difference between Bloom County’s original Run and the early strips of Outland, you’ll see the differences I’m speaking of. During this period was when Damn It, Monkey!’s original run was at its peak (in my opinion) and I was exploring some other art in comics I had like Ratboy Is Dead(‘s previous run) and Something Inane (a now defunct comic I’ll likely touch on again another time.)
I very distinctly remember wanting to get extremely surreal and abstract with this, and I even found the original storyboards for the first six pages of the comic. Half of it is basially an acid trip.
Explore philosophical elements in the story.
Strange Land is just that – a bizarre, surreal land with no known location anywhere, and the laws of reality may or may not apply, depending entirely on cartoonist’s whim. I had written a small portion of the next area of the story while waiting to be called for Jury duty, and it got pretty deep (though, as a first draft, likely rather rambling and disjointed) on the very nature of existence. What better thing to think about when waiting to be a potential juror?
Social commentary on loneliness and friendship.
This ties in closely with the former; Jason was, as a character, misanthropic, bullied, and an outcast, for no real reason other than other people were jerks. Taken to Strange Land could be considered a blessing – a chance to start new, a fresh new start… or become horribly isolated as there are clearly no other people around.
Not to say that there are no other characters.
Hans Booker and Backpack.
Hans Booker is really nothing more than a 90s goth version of the Hamburger Helper Helping Hand, and backpack is a literal backpack, but in Strange Land, he probably fills in a role more akin to a malevolent or mischievous wise old owl, or the Cheshire Cat. Honestly, this whole idea is probably ripe for references to Alice in Wonderland.
Aside from these two, there was also a group of characters made from a random assortment of objects – Rat Face, Jesus, Bitey, Erasercase, and Tony’s Conscience. The designs in and of themselves are another nod to dark surrealism, as well.
Since I’ve redrawn the characters from their original sketches, and I still do have the first storyboards, I’m going to at least finish those pages of the comic. There’s about six, and the story is listed with the boards I did for the comic. I may actually do the comic in color; I may not. We’ll see. I may continue the project after this, depending on my personal drive and reception (you know, that thing where you can give me direct feedback in the comments section or on social media HINT, so try actually saying stuff to my misanthropic, introverted little self.
I’ll keep everyone posted about my progress on the comics, as well, so please stay tuned.