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Old 07-07-2018, 11:56 AM   #1
TimR
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Birmingham, AL
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Franz Mailer, Master Cartoonist

[DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual people or places is purely satirical in nature.]


It was a dark and stormy night at the offices of Diatribe Comics (really just an “R & D lab” for their much larger parent company, according to some authorities) and the editors were in a tizzy.



“These pages are crap!” said one. “I mean straight up inky shite.”

“I know, I know,” said the other, putting a coffee-stained styrofoam cup to his mouth before realizing it was empty, for the twentieth time. “But Franz Mailer is a legend in the field! We could stamp his name on a dog turd and it would sell half-a-million copies to his fans!”



“This is true,” said the first, a (relatively) young 40-something with tattoos and a kind of sparkly dragon design on his form-fitting t-shirt. “But there are LIMITS. There must be limits. I mean, I have to think there are... such... limits... at some point. Right?”

His baggy-eyed pal sighed and almost lifted the cup again before finally remembering it was empty.

“No you’re right,” he said. “There’s a lot of blowback out there in fandom. I don’t even have to go online... I’ve been catching funny looks from short people in long hallways... You can just feel it in the air.”



The younger editor mused privately to himself that this was unlikely, as nobody really seemed to read comics anymore. His colleague was probably just paranoid, imagining that they were under more scrutiny than circulation figures could justify. The really horrifying truth was that they could publish their kids’ refrigerator scribblings across the entire line and maybe one guy in Poughkeepsie would notice--- and HE wouldn’t even be arsed enough about it to send them a rambling irate email.

But instead of expressing this, he played along.

“Yes, we’re becoming a laughingstock. The whole industry is giggling with schadenfreude, before using these pages to wipe themselves!”

“Actually the first couple installments were passable, I’d say. If you like that sort of thing. And with a top colorist going along behind him to make it look pretty. But this last batch he turned in... It’s like he walked off one of those craggy piers he’s always drawing and fell in the drink.”

“How long do you think it took him? Ten minutes per page?”

“If that. I don’t think he even penciled the thing. Just straight inks. And half-assed inks at that. He’s such a mad-man.”

“He’s a genius though. A mad genius. Maybe we should let him do it, in respect to his past work. You know, if he wants to coast, fine, coast. Rest on your laurels, Franz: you’ve earned it.”

“Yeah, but this...”

WHAP! A worn leather satchel slapped down on their conference table, spilling forth a large sheaf of bristol board paper.



“Ooh, pages!” said the editors, gleeful for some distraction from their worries. But would this bring new ones in their stead?

“Howdy-ho, gentlemen,” said the gray-haired, fashionably discheveled cartoonist who had brought the pages. It was Jan Clauson, the European emigre who had spent several decades inking the top talents in the field, as well as penciling his own work and teaching young hopefuls at the School of Pictorial Artistry here in New York.

“You look worried, mein freunds,” Jan perceived accurately, a slight trace of an accent still present beneath his polished English.

“Worried ain’t the half of it!” agreed the editors, “but let’s see what you’ve brought in. Ooooh! Now this is respectable, Jan... This we can put the ‘Diatribe’ logo on without fear of desecrating a 70-year-old institution, ya know?”



“Ja, you think so? Well, mein freunds, Bobby Kippet is no Franz Mailer, and I sometimes yawn when inking these pages; but I suppose they appeal to this generation.”

Bobby Kippet was drawing the main chapters of “Dark Viking 3” --- the editors had made sure of that, knowing already that Mailer was getting too wonky to hold down the entire book.

“Geez, Jan, I think he’s great! I can’t see a single thing wrong with these pages! It’s exactly in line with the script we approved. Bobby is the perfect artist, as far as I’m concerned. He may not be a GENIUS, like some, but that has its pros & cons, you know...”

Clauson, murmuring epithets to himself under his breath, then noticed the pages already strewn around the large table.

“Are these Franz’s latest? Can I see?”

“Oh god, if you don’t mind having your eyeballs melted out of your skull, be my guest!”

“Yeah, have at it! I’m getting some more coffee --- and then maybe jumping out the window, if I can get the damn thing open. Modern architecture, I’m tellin’ ya...”



Clauson flipped through the pages as the editors left the glass-walled conference room. He was a pretty big Franz Mailer fan himself, with reservations to be sure, but on the whole a devotee.

And yet... These pages, even for Franz, were pretty far gone. Would Diatribe actually publish this? It was almost at the level of some underground experimental comic, like something Fancygraphics would do. Or even a smaller, weirder zine place. Almost too wonky for Fancygraphics, mein gott!

But the Dark Viking always was an edgy, experimental “universe.” Clauson had inked the original back in the eighties. Although in those days Franz was still BECOMING a legend, and was closer to his hungry, striving days, aching to “draw well,” like a pro... ARTSY, to be sure. Franz was always artsy. Brilliant sense of design, passionate about ideas and storytelling. But not so entitled and complacent as this latest chapter...

The editors came back, buoyed by a new round of java. They were full of pep and... What was that twinkle in their eyes? It was not entirely to Clauson’s liking...

“Hey, Jan... We were thinking...”

“Ja? That is novelty around here, yes?”

“Hahaha... Good one, Jan! Now listen, you must see this ship is coasting dangerously near the breakers here. You saw his latest?”



“Ja, I saw.”

“Now, MAYBE the color can work some miracles there. Photoshop is a wonderful, wonderful thing...”

(Clauson had mixed views on Photoshop, but kept silent.)

“Anyway, we can’t see publishing ALL the remaining chapters that way. Suppose it gets WORSE! So, we need you to be...”

“Ja?”

“Our Aquaman.”

“Aquaman?”

“Ja... I mean ‘yes,’ Aquaman. You know, save us from the eddies! Drag this ship back into the tradewaters, or whatever it’s called... I’m an editor, I should know.. But anyway, rescue us, Jan!”

“And how am I to do that, gentlemen?”

“You inked him before.. Why not ink him again? Take his pencils as rough finishes and clean them up. Make ’em more like the old Franz. You can do that, can’t you? We’ll pay you for pencils as well, but (in the interest of being discreet) maybe just credit you as inker... The fans, you know, they want as much Mailer as they can get...”

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