With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought I’d find a Baby Blues strip with a Thanksgiving theme and write about how it all came about and the meaning of it to our family. Something poignant and funny.
I started by searching through my emails for “thanksgiving”—that’s an easy way for me to find something like this quickly. If that doesn’t work, I’ll head over to the BabyBlues.com archives and search.
While I was going through the emails, I ran across one that seemed odd to come up in a “thanksgiving” search. It was an email from Stephan Pastis, creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. The email was shortly after Thanksgiving of 2005. He had sent me the fourth in a series of gags he was working on. The email contained this strip, the peak of the action in the series where Zoe and Hammie, out on a beer run, ran over Jeremy from Zits and blew up a gas station:
A couple weeks before that, he and I had been talking on iChat. He was inspired to do a crossover with Pearls and Baby Blues. We discussed some of the things that could be done, including some very inappropriate stuff—funny, but totally unprintable. He finally had the brilliant idea of Rat babysitting Zoe, Hammie and Wren. I thought it would be funny for the Crocs to try to eat the kids.
Stephan hatched almost the entire plot during the chat, and said he would send us the strips to look at ahead of time. Once it was roughly agreed that he’d do it, I thought a nice touch would be to put a reference to it in Baby Blues, using a Croc as a prop. Stephan suggested we schedule that right after the week of Pearls strips ran.
I took it one step further by having Wren chewing on a dead, stuffed Croc’s tail the next Monday after that series. And two weeks later, in a Sunday, I featured a Croc mangled in the MacPhersons’ vacuum cleaner, prompting speculation there was a feud between Stephan and us.
My wife was aghast when I told her about what we were doing. Once I explained that all the vile stuff would be happening in Stephan’s strip, she was on board. Now it’s funny! As Stephan noted, she was probably envisioning our lavish cartoonist lifestyle going up in smoke.
When the series ran the next March, Stephan received emails railing against his “vulgar” and “disgusting” and “irresponsible” treatment of the Baby Blues kids, our fans defending us from his evil (I have to say, we’ve got some great fans, although Stephan now has another word for them). We had a few angry ones of our own. For days we exchanged the highly opinionated emails we received. Some were so over the top, we just had to scratch our heads and wonder if we needed to contact whatever authorities handle Internet crazies.
For the most part, though, readers on both sides got the joke. And no children, teenagers or Crocs were harmed in the making of that series.
After all, they are just ink on paper (or pixels).
You may ask yourself, “But what the #@&% does this have to do with Thanksgiving?”
Well, apparently it was while a good portion of the country was enjoying turkeys and hams and cranberry sauce and yams, that Stephan was bringing his sick, twisted plot to life—at least life as it exists in comics—on the drawing board.
Okay, so I didn’t end up with a poignant story about one of our Thanksgiving strips. But all memories don’t have to be touching.
It’s just as good to remember how much fun it was.
That’s what doing a comic strip should be all about.
For a little holiday fun of your own, see if you can decipher the scrawls on the phone booth. Keep it clean. They are. The earliest most accurate guess wins a free autographed copy of BBXX. Answer in the comments. Hint: There are four.
Contest ends at 12:01 AM MST, Monday, November 26, 2012. Winner will be notified by email, so make sure your email address is right.
Correction to BBXX readers: I mistakenly noted in the book that the Sunday strip with the Croc was the one right after the Pearls series. It actually ran two weeks later. It was a daily strip of March 27, 2006 that ran immediately after.