Friday, June 16, 2006

Bellyflop Archives #1: I Was A Fugitive From A Crumb Gang

Long before I started French language lessons at secondary school, I had picked up a couple of phrases, thanks to comics. My first was probably ‘Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’; the more things change, the more they stay the same. This was a favourite expression of Chris Claremont in his X-Men comic books and, ironically, increasingly encapsulated his own body of work over the years.

I wrote and drew this one page comic strip in January 1998, when I was almost – but not quite – free of the Blakean ‘dark Satanic mills’ that are the call centre. As anyone who’s worked in a call centre will testify (and God knows there are enough of us poor sods) it’s a dehumanising, debilitating experience. I also suspect it’s one of the major contributory factors to cirrhosis of the liver. I served three years and it still hurts when I drink.

The title paraphrases a 1930s black and white movie starring Paul Muni; I’ve either never seen or completely forgotten it. Yet, it’s evocation of a joyless, penurious working life resonated with the comic strip I had in mind. The other, more obvious, inspiration is the Robert Crumb short
“Stoned Again”. Although I suspect that my employers were too mean-spirited to put hallucinogens in the water coolers or pump euphoriants into the air, it was not unusual for a significant proportion of the battery livestock to be under the influence of one self-administered substance or the other.

I’ve apparently moved on since then: I manage a small helpline (too small to be considered a call centre, honest); ‘…I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master’, as good old Darth might rasp. I’ve abstained from slipping a mickey into my flock’s water supply, though lord knows I’ve had frequent and justifiable cause. On a bad day, I feel my head start to melt and know what’s coming. Definitely not a winner, but an oozer.

'Plus ca change...', as they say.

Click on the thumbnail to read the strip as originally printed in Bellyflop #3 (1999):

P.S. I'm currently working on some new stuff. Prolific I'm not.

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Blogger Atom Boy said...

Hi Bro'

Did you notice that the top image is out of line and not linked?

The closing /div needs to be after the image for it to centre.

Unlike some of your other 1 page stuff, Fugitive has much more of cartoon-like feel both in the simplicity of the artwork and the format. I like it, though, and can definitely relate. In fact, if you substitute the office for a classroom you pretty much sum up my job, too!

Oh, and thanks for the ideas on how to liven up classes a little... ;-)

2:26 am  
Blogger Khayem said...

Not until you pointed it out - thanks! Should be okay now.

Glad you liked "Fugitive". Yeah, I was definitely adopting a looser drawing style at that point. Given my erratic work schedule, it also meant that I could produce stories on a fairly regular basis too!

The Robert Crumb strip pretty much dictated the format. That said, I didn't have a copy at the time and was largely basing my layouts on a dim memory of reading it years previously.

I'll be publishing more material (old & hopefully new) in the future, so let me know what you think.

Now get back to work and teach those kids something useful...!

8:31 am  

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