Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Return of the Unknown Enemy (or The One With The Retcon)

Retcon /ˈretkän/, noun, (in a film, television series, or other fictional work) a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events, typically used to facilitate a dramatic plot shift or account for an inconsistency.

The word is a shortened form of retroactive continuity and in modern times is most often seen when talking about comic media and science fiction/fantasy, with daytime soaps and primetime sitcoms in there for good measure.

The qualities of these retcons vary greatly, often depending on how closely a particular franchise follows any sort of internal continuity, or canon. The most famous example of canon is the various Star Trek movies, TV series, and related media. As such, it contains notable examples of retcons, from the look of the Klingons, to the importance of currency in the universe, to an entire period of history known as The Eugenics Wars. Some of these are explained away during subsequent episodes of more recent series in the franchise (with varying degrees of success), while some are simply ignored.

Another franchise that deals in frequent retcons is Doctor Who. Over the nearly 60 years of the series, it has struggled to sustain a consistent internal continuity. During the Classic series (1963 - 1989) there were many times when the series contradicted itself, and rarely did the writers do anything to explain these continuity errors. The New series (2005 - present) has been more successful in maintaining canon, although it, too, has had issues. But, what they have often done is made attempts to retcon some of the continuity errors from the Classic series when they've affected events in the New series. As the Doctor might say, "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey".

Of course, some of the most hilarious examples of retconning come from the sitcom "Friends", where the backstories of nearly every main character changes from how they were introduced at the beginning of the series. While some were more major retcons than others, Phoebe's backstory was in a constant state of flux, to the point where I don't believe even the character really knew what their true history was.

On the deck is the first retcon of Furble's run. But first...

Strip 57/166 - Apparently he'll eat anything!

Our intro to the character Bitem continues. He's a hungry little snake, which makes sense since it's the middle of winter and most of his prey is probably busy being scarce. But where does such a little snake put so much food? Your guess is as good as mine.

Strip 58/166 - And I mean ANYTHING!

The way in which Bitem holds his head up as he interacts with Furble and FC was actually inspired by Slimey, Oscar the Grouch's worm friend on Sesame Street. He's probably one of my favorite classic Muppet characters, just a simple worm controlled by two control rods. But, like all of Henson's creations, still able to express a wide array of emotions thanks to expert puppetry (or Muppetry).

Strip 59/166 - Why? What did Furble do to you?

The continuity error: our mystery Admiral, last seen scurrying away from Furbulia after he failed miserably in his attack on the planet, has made a triumphant return, and he's here for Furble! Sounds ominous, yes? One problem: he doesn't know Furble. Didn't meet him, didn't even make it to the planet's surface. So, how do we resolve this mistake?

Strip 60/166 - You know that feeling when someone is behind you...

The retcon: Furble and FC "remember" the Admiral as he escapes his decimated ship, thus completely ignoring the fact that they never met, didn't even know that he had plans to attack Furbulia. Again, I don't know precisely what I was thinking here, other than I wanted the Admiral to be a "big bad" for the comic strip (for a bit, at least). Perhaps I knew I would want a chance to talk about retconning sometime in the future in a blog when I revisited these comics. Yeah, that must be it. 

There, I just retconned my life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A Year in the Life (or Do Reptiles Like Snow?)

At last, we've come around to the first anniversary of the Furble comic being published. I'm not sure if I truly had any concept of how long I intended to do the strip, or if I had even given it a second thought. It was something that I truly enjoyed. It gave me a creative outlet that was not related to my current school experience, separate from the bullies that tormented me daily. The money that I was paid for it each month (though not much) was nice to have to get snacks and what-not during off-campus lunch hour, or to plunk into the arcade games when I would find myself at the youth center or the bowling alley. 

But, beyond that, it gave me a sense of importance. I was providing content to the local paper that, I hoped, people were enjoying each week.

Anniversary blurb

It made me feel happy.

It made me feel useful.

I'm forever appreciative that my home life was largely normal. Two parents who loved each other. Three of us brothers who, while we did have our sibling differences, were by-and-large fine with the existence of others. I had a friend whose mother was divorces, so I wasn't completely unaware of that aspect of some kid's home life. But, for the most part, I was largely unaware of the darker sides of family dynamics. And I came out remarkably well adjusted.

A normal home life and a creative outlet helped me survive my high school years at Kiester. And I'm grateful for both.

Strip 53/166 - A happy (and snowy) anniversary!

My guess is that FC has some sort of internal chronometer that would alert them to the fact that it had been a full Earth year since they first landed on Earth. Although, without somehow observing the planet first, how would they know how long a year was on Earth? Is it the same length as a year on Furbulia? Do they keep track of years the same way on Furbulia? Will I stop asking questions to which only I would know the answer? What do you think?

Strip 54/166 - It snows in Minnesota. A lot.

Turns out that I actually did mention Minnesota by name as the place where Furble and FC had crashed. For context, I drew this group in January of 1988. At the time, we were in the midst of a massive snow storm that dumped over a foot of snow on the area, so snow was most definitely on my mind. I don't think our snow came quite as quick as shown in the strip, but sometimes it certainly felt like it, as I would look out the window, not being able to see more than a few feet through the heavy falling snow.

Strip 55/166 - Introducing a new friend

I always strived to do whatever I could to keep the strip interesting and fresh. In pursuit of this end, I decided to introduce a new character to, at least temporarily, make our duo a trio. Bitem (Get it? Bite them? Bitem? Because he's a snake? Eh?) is a snake that is, somehow, surviving in the frigid Minnesota winter, despite being a cold-blooded reptile that should be deep in brumation at this time. He's cute, though.

Strip 56/166 - Actually...

Snakes don't store food for the winter. They wake from their slumber occasionally to forage for food and water. I suppose that might actually be what's happening here, especially given how the story unfolds in the next few strips. But I'm fairly certain I hadn't put that much consideration into it. I was too busy having fun creating a comic strip, at least for a couple more years.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Back In Time For Winter (or Minnesota's Two Seasons)

It's an old joke: Minnesota (or insert northern midwest state of your choice) has two seasons, winter and road construction. This is, of course, an exaggeration. There are a couple of days between road construction and Winter when the leaves change color and fall from the trees, and a couple of days between Winter and road construction when the temperature jumps from -30° to 85°. But it's essentially correct.

If you want to sound like an "old person," there are few better ways than to start talking about the weather "when I was young." However, my personal recollection suggests that winters in Minnesota were a bit harsher back in the 80s, in general, than they are today. Meteorological data may refute that, but it's my story, so what?

One particularly nasty winter I recall came during high school, specifically February of that year. We lived in the country, about 10 miles away from town, on a gravel road, about a quarter mile from the highway. The snowfall was so significant that we found ourselves snowed-in on the farm for nearly a week. I remember the driveway was just a massive drift of snow, and the only reason you could tell where the road was was because there weren't telephone poles in the middle. School was cancelled for a couple of days, but as soon as the paved roads were clear, they opened school at ran the buses only on the paved roads. So, in order for us to get to school, we had to walk up the gravel road to the highway and wait for the bus. We literally walked to school in the snow, uphill one way (fortunately, back home was downhill).

Another winter I have vague memories of consisted of a snowstorm that left a drift that went up to the roof of one of the sheds on the farm (about 7 feet high).

Yet another winter saw us on the bus on the way to school. We turned down one of the country roads, only to find out that we had driven into snow that was simply too deep for the bus to drive through. Our bus driver, a hard-core dude that was one of the coolest drivers I had ever had, got his shovel out and dug the bus free so we could make it to school, even if we were a bit late.

Those are the winters as I remember them. Minnesota winters were impressive, and left an impression.

Strip 49/166 - Nothing under my hat (except aliens)!

These strips dropped in January, so it made sense for Furble and FC to come back to Earth in the middle of winter. I'm not sure where the idea of the pair being trapped underneath a toque came from, but it did set up a number of strips where I didn't actually draw the characters, but they were all standard story strips (no galleries).

Strip 50/166 - TV Box Callback

A quick callback to the TV box from early in the strip. And our duo getting crushed by what is supposed to be some sort of large clump of snow, but ends up looking more like an unbaked pizza dough. Which, I guess wouldn't have been that much more odd than getting caught under a random hat.

Strip 51/166 - Use the tools you have...

I mean, given FC's design, he probably could be used as a shovel of sorts. Probably not the most dignified use of a companion, but desperate times...

Strip 52/166 - Questionable structural integrity of that snow

I don't know if Furble is using FC as a shovel or not, but they've made it out from under the hat. It's more subtle that I intended, but if you look at the top of the snow, you see the snow being upended like Bugs Bunny burrowing through the dirt. Unfortunately, that left turn at Albuquerque isn't going to help get them out of a Minnesota winter here. Maybe once road construction season comes around.