Here’s a classic-style 4-panel Underworld strip starring Snuff and Creep Rat. A completely silly and magical situation that’s a little rude the way I like it. This would work great animated – hell, it could even be done live action. If Buster Keaton had worked blue, and I was gag writing for him, I would
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Growing up Roman Catholic I found the confessional booth to be the most anxiety inducing part of mass. Having to list my little kid transgressions out loud in a dark box to a priest’s silhouette in the box next door was always spooky and weird. The priest would tell you to repeat a few prayers and magically you’re sins lifted from your body like champagne bubbles. They call it absolution. I never quite believed it. There was a Lithuanian church in Elizabeth, New Jersey where the priest was a nasty old fuck and I once had to confess my sins to him. Usually I’d run down the list of God crimes and get the impression that the priest was barely listening. But this time when I confessed to shoplifting, this ass-holy man decides to cross-examine me. Did I return the shoplifted article? Holy shit! He’s asking me a question. Whatever it was I stole, I’m sure I was still enjoying it at home. So I lied. I said yes, I returned it. I lied to the priest in the confessional box. Completely negating the whole process. He gave me a few prayers and I scooted out. Lesson learned: only confess to the small things. Anyway, this week’s comic strip is my little kid’s version of absolution. What do you think? Father Jimmy, Kid Priest. Should I pitch this to Nickelodeon?
This week’s comic strip expresses the beauty of artful gore more than anything else. I was thinking of Steven Soderbergh’s new film Contagion — but the fast spreading virus that inflicts Creep Rat and Snuff here is more like that hemorrhagic pathogen with the 90% fatality rate known as Ebola (which first scared the crap out of us in Richard Preston’s 1992 bestseller THE HOT ZONE). For a while I wrestled with some sort of dialogue and an ironic zinger of a punch line in the last panel. But after drawing and inking, the sheer carnage of the panels stood on their own.
Of all the major superheroes Batman is the most fetishistic: the mask, the cape, the bat logo with the wings, the darkness. There is also all the S/M gear: the ropes, pulleys, weapons, and the Bat Cave as dungeon. And let’s not forget the sadistic desire to punish criminals. He’s also the most fun to draw. So it made sense that Creep Rat would want to be Bat Rat. My favorite Batman artists are the more cartoony ones: Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, and Dick Sprang (one of the great dick names). I love art spiegelman’s quote about Batman:“ When I was a kid, Batman was my favorite superhero because I couldn’t figure out if he was a good guy or a bad guy. Frank Miller is still trying to figure that out.”
This week’s comic strip is pretty silly. Basically the first two panels are from a longer abandoned comic story about a completely different character who was a car thief going through a personal crisis. I had three penciled pages sitting in my flat files for years and always liked the drawings. So with a light box I simply put Creep Rat in the car and worked out a silly joke and had myself an Underworld comic. The rats in the garage were proto Creep Rats years before I created Creep Rat. Just goes to show you – there are many ways to hit your deadline.
LATEST IN UNDERWORLD
Here we return to one of my favorite types of comic strips. I save one-liners and bits and pieces that I’ve overheard at bars and on the streets and dump them in a bar situation. I get to have fun drawing different weird characters without the pressure of the set up and punch line comics
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UNDERWORLD FROM HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD OMNIBUS
Order “The Underworld: From Hoboken to Hollywood” the omnibus collection of the very best of the strip’s 23-year run, with annotations, photos, and other surprises from the author (along with a foreword by Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell).