Comics on the Road to Nowhere? Pt. 1 of 11: Tod's Balls

As a placeholder here on the Pylon until I get myself together long enough to actually go back to writing regularly again, I present the first of several posts which could, were I more inclined to the obvious, be entitled "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." Since I do not recall ever having to create such an essay educationally, it will not happen. But this is how I did spent part of my summer vacation, which encompassed a four-day gathering of my brothers, sister-in-law and nephew in Seattle, a boys-only road trip through Oregon to my father's home in Idaho for his 70th birthday party.

Out of a brief camping trip to the Craters of the Moon National Monument (a stop that I highly recommend, and of which I did not know previously), came this: a series of comic pages mostly drawn by my brothers Otis and the Eel (Mark and Chris) and written by yours truly, at first on some very bumpy roads, then gathered around a camp table while being assaulted cutely by chipmunks, pikas and increasingly weird bugs, and finally in a severely sleep-deprived state in the dwindling light around a cramped Winnebago dining table.

The comics arose out of a surrealist game in which my brothers love to engage called Exquisite Corpse, which I have participated in before at parties chiefly in a literary sense, though I have also drawn them before. Assuredly, the game popped up again midway on our journey to Craters of the Moon, as Mark and Chris each took turns finishing halves of a folded page, in which the first artist leaves small lines trailing over onto the remaining half for the second artist to complete. The unfolded page reveals the full work of art, created by divers hands but representing an artistic whole. They played the game with both a single fold into halves and two folds into quarters.

But they wanted me to play. My current discomfort with drawing is a far cry from my old state, where I would gladly scrawl out anything despite all evidence pointing toward my having a decided lack of talent in that area. When I did draw, it came with a torrent of grand insecurity, and every line, redrawn over and over until imperfectly perfect in my mind, was suffused with the torture of my actions. And now, after years of inactivity though with a longing to pursue it once more to provide myself with an additional font of creation, I am at a standstill. I cannot force myself to draw.

And neither could my brothers. Chris especially pleaded with me to join them, but I was happy to read my book on the Air Pirates v. Disney trials and leave them to the pleasures of drawing.

But then, via a massive adaptation to the game, they got me involved. On an empty sheet of paper, with his line given an unwanted but oddly compelling flourish by the steady bump of the RV on the Idaho highway, Chris drew the opening panel to a comic page of a homely looking sad-sack buzzing a doorbell. He offered it to me to fill in a caption to the panel, but I turned him down. The comic page sat on the table for several minutes while I slowly realized what a sourpuss I was being after having an initial six great days to this trip. Finally, playing off a road sign we saw as we wandered around Oregon looking for a reasonably attainable picnic spot (we were a little lost), I filled in the opening panel, and then left a caption in the next wholly empty panel, leaving it to await its own picture to be created.

The game was afoot. Mark then picked up the next two drawings, it came back to me for a flurry of words in panels 3 & 4, back to Chris for drawings in 4 & 5, and so on. It was played without the secrecy element so necessary to true Exquisite Corpse -- no folds here -- but this game evolved, after a while, into trying to subtly influence the following panels with slight changes to your next efforts, or using them to bring a story back to that which you imagined nearer the beginning. There were more developments to come that night and over the next couple of days over how we approached the game, but more on that later.

For now, here is the first comic Mark, Chris and I created as a group, based on the sign we saw that read "TODS BALLS 400"...


Mark Otis said…
Nice bit of reporting, there. And, all of the facts are absolutely true!

I had a sweet summer vacation hanging with you for a while, my brother.

I will send more comics soon...

-Mark Otis
Mark Otis said…
Nice bit of reporting, full of true facts explaining the good times we had!

I wish we were still hanging out!

Will send more comics soon,

Mark Otis

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