The Short Unhappy Life of Francis (a Tse Tse Fly)

Concept: Okay, I admit it, this was largely a cop-out.  I was feeling kinda burnt-out, and I had no idea what to do.  Mark’s directive was to “do something that you’ve been talking about doing” which was just vague enough to be unhelpful, because I really didn’t want to search through old notes and crap just to pull something together.  So I was stumped and uninspired.  As the middle of the month was rolling around and I knew I’d be spending even more time out of town, I decided, “just do anything so you’ll have something to show by the end of the month.”  I figured, even if it was crap, maybe it would be zen enough to get me outta my slump.

Putting it Together: So I’m sitting on my couch and it hits me that it would be kinda funny to show the life of a gnat (which I knew was pretty short), but to show how it was still a very full life.  Plus, I figured I could whip it out pretty quickly since there wouldn’t be any real difficulties with the art.

Unfortunately, I never could decide how to spin it.  One idea was to have just dots for the art, but I figured that had kinda been done (in Longshot Comics—I think that’s what it’s called).  Another was to make it fairly accurate with just light touches of un-realness (cigars for the new father).  Another was to make every human thing (like a job) have a gnat equivalent (a garbage can for an office), but it turned out that it was really just one joke (because the gnats used garbage for everything).  So I wound up with a combination of the three.  You see lots of dots because there are always other gnats flying around, but you still get a “gnats as people” gag.

The original sketch—if you can call it that—actually had a happy ending.  But it seemed funnier with the sad ending.  I know, I need help.  I had a hard time finding out exactly how long a gnat lived (okay, I only searched on the Internet, but still…) so I wound up using a mayfly as the model life span.  “So why is it a Tse-Tse fly?” you ask.  Well, just because it was the first thing I wrote and JoAnn thought it was funnier.  There’s some mental leap you can make with Francis of Assisi that somehow adds to the humor.  I wanted to be scientifically accurate, but decided to go for any help with the overall “effect” of the strip.

Layout: There’s nothing terribly special about the layout except that I used a 3 x 4 grid.  The dimensions for an 11” x 14” paper are:

  • margin edge:
  • title:
  • gutter:
  • panel:

The other interesting part is the text.  Obviously, I put text at the top and at the bottom of each panel.  So you’ll have to let me know how well that worked.  As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I’m prone to putting text at the bottom of a panel—it feels more natural for some reason—but I typically see it at the top (it’s more conventional).  So you’ll need to let me know what you think.  The one thing that it might achieve here by having something at the top and the bottom is to produce a contrast.   Obviously, part of the humor is the “irony” between the amount of time that has passed and the amount of life that has passed.

Lettering: As is probably obvious, I once again used Word to produce some of the text.  But this time I knew what I was getting into, and I also knew that the caption boxes would be fairly small so there would not be as much of the spacing issue as I had the last time.

Inking: Admittedly, a lot of the inking was actually drawing in disguise.  That is, I only very loosely sketched this out and then relied heavily on the markers to do most of the work.  I actually think it looks pretty sloppy.

Reproduction: Nothing special about the photocopying except that having wider margins for the piece made photocopying a whole lot easier.  I do think that the counter text gets to be too much, and the effect is lost.  I probably would have been better off with doing something like “Day 1” instead of getting all those numbers on there.  Oh well, I thought it’d be funny to show the minutia.

Overall: I would say that, if nothing else, I was at least successful at getting back on my feet to do the next installment.  This one I did kind of grudgingly, but it did get me moving up out of a slump and toward being interested in doing the next piece.  I will say that, even if this one didn’t quite meet the criteria that Mark outlined, it at least fell into the category of things that I have thought were interesting.  The theme that this comic and the next one have in common is SCALE—this one Time and the next one Space, and our relative perception of each.  It is postulated that bugs actually do perceive time differently than we do—that their metabolism is so sped up (relative to ours) that they actually do live quite a while.  I’ve always thought that was pretty cool.