Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig (or How I Survived My Bullies)

A lot to unpack this week, so here we go...

I want to address something that I have wanted to talk about in this blog. One of the main reasons that I wanted to do this project (with the exception of remastering my comic and getting it out there), is the subject of bullying, specifically my experiences.

I was bullied pretty mercilessly from 7th grade until I left Kiester at the end of 11th grade. I was a socially awkward kid with no athletic ability (or interest), who would rather spend time playing video games and Dungeons and Dragons than cruising main street. Essentially a geek and a nerd before they were cool. There were many vectors to attack me personally. and the kids at school managed to take advantage of pretty much all of them. My looks were a popular topic of scorn. Suffice it to say, my self-esteem was beyond low.

They would take any opportunity to mess with me during the school day. We had to provide our own locks for our lockers. I decided I wanted to get a cool looking combination lock where you pressed numeric buttons rather than turning a dial. It didn't take long for one of them to figure out the combination and start stacking my locker. For the uninitiated, "stacking" someone's locker consisted of taking their stack of books/papers/etc, placing something on the bottom that unbalanced the stack on the top shelf of the locker, closing the door, and waiting for the subject to open the door, causing the books/papers/etc to fall all over the floor. I knew it well, it happened many times. I soon replaced the cool combination lock with a simple key lock.

My grandfather committed suicide while I was in seventh grade. I had a hard time processing it, and I got emotional about it in school from time to time in the days after. Most people would have had some level of compassion, or at least would have been apathetic about it. But, my classmates made sure I knew that showing such emotion was a sign of weakness that could be exploited.

I'm glad that social media didn't exist back then. It was bad enough that I had to deal with the bullying at school, and on the bus the way there and back home, but at least at home I could escape it all. My parents would have kicked each and every one of their asses if they thought that would have helped, but they knew that wasn't the answer.

I did have a few friends on which I could depend to at least not join in on the bullying. They didn't stand up for me against my bullies, and I can't blame them. They would have opened themselves to similar attacks, and in such a small school in such a small town, there would be no way to hide from that. I didn't hold it against them. 

If I wasn't at home on the farm, I was in town at one of my friends' houses. At times during the summer I spent almost as much time at my friend Eric's house as I did at my own. Sometimes you just need a place that is away from everything, and Eric's house was that place.

The one oddity in the bullying is that, with a single exception, my comic never came into it. I'd like to think it was a modicum of respect for actually doing the comic, but more than likely it simply wasn't worth trying to bully me over it. The only time it was brought up was when one of the kids, who went by the nickname "Furry" as his last name sounded similar, demanded to know whether or not I was making fun of him by calling the comic "Furble". I assured him that I was not, and it stopped there. Believe me, making fun of any of them was the furthest thing from my mind.

It's fairly telling that I am no longer in contact with any of them on even a semi-regular basis (with the exception of being Facebook friends with a few, which doesn't really count), and my life is none-the-worse for it. When we moved from Kiester, I had to leave Furble behind, but I also left all of that animosity behind. My senior year of high school in Nebraska was the complete opposite of the last 6 years in Kiester, full of fun and friends who I actually talk with to this day. Kiester will always be my home, but there are substantial parts of that home that I choose not to remember on a regular basis.

Strip 33/166 - Catching a ride to Furbulia

I wish I could explain my lettering starting with this strip. It doesn't look anything like it started out as. Much clearer, straighter, and well-positioned than it ever was. Of course, my dialog still left something to be desired, but baby steps..

12 million miles to Furbulia is going to require a fast ship. Better get to work catching one.

Strip 34/166 - Home again

And, just like that, we're finally on Furbulia. I am particularly proud of the house that I drew in the first pane. The style came from artist Mark Kistler. He was the host of a drawing program on PBS called The Secret City Adventures. He would spend each episode teaching different drawing techniques, like shading and perspective. During each episode, he would take those techniques and add to a huge sci-fi themed mural in the studio. I filled notebooks with drawings in his style, using the techniques that I had learned watching the show. The house is directly inspired by those drawing techniques.

Strip 35/166 - Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Of import is that, apparently, the beings on Furbulia have undergone some changes since Furble has been away. I decided to make a noticeable distinction with the new character in order to make it easy to determine the difference in the characters from a visual standpoint. Of course, I could have just done something like adding a hat, but this approach seemed more ridiculous and fun, the idea that in such a short amount of time life evolved so much on his home planet. And, not just that, but obviously the current lifeforms somehow mutated. I know, it's the direct opposite of science. But where's the fun in sticking to established scientific theories?

Finally, we admit that Furble and FC have, indeed, been using thought balloons this whole time. Who's fault is that? Apparently, it's mine (fourth wall break, POW!).

Strip 36/166 - Vive la evolution!

Doubling down on the idea that Furble's mom sprouting legs and arms, and speaking using speech balloons as opposed to thought balloons is all a result of evolution. Yes, I know. That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works. But its all in service of fun.

What conclusions should you take away from this particular post? 

It gets better. 

No, bullies aren't likely to evolve beyond their Neanderthal ways, but I hope that the bullied can find somewhere to call home, even if it isn't home. I was fortunate to have a good home, and a good home away from home. Not everyone is as blessed. Those that are need to step up and help those that don't. They're not going to ask for help, because they don't want to rock the boat, don't want to make it worse than it already is, don't want to get others involved in a bad situation. Get involved. Change a life. Be a home.

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