It’s pure coincidence that the rerun with the first appearance of the Teapot Rats happened on January 6th…or is it?!?!
One of the books I have read about webcomics reassures the budding creator, “the first hundred comics you write are gonna suck” (or something like that) and that is good advice, because it is true that I have seen a vast improvement in the quality of GONOGO with each passing episode. But the Teapot Rats have been with me since the beginning. I devoted four whole episodes to their shenanigans. In the end I am proud of their payoff. Yeah, you could say that this episode is just a vehicle for a series of Rat-based puns, but to me it is so much more than that. Getting GONOGO’s comedic footing has not been easy (and we are definitely not there yet) but I do feel that the Teapot Rats episodes have moved the needle significantly towards the funny goal, and more importantly, they are the type of thing that I find funny (If I didn’t find them funny I would sincerely need to reevaluate this whole “webcomic” thing) We say goodbye to the Teapot Rats in Episode 10. Only 90 more episodes to go…
Each panel of GONOGO is a hand painted watercolor that is scanned into the computer, with the final comic assembled in Photoshop. The results a kinda wonky at times, but that is a feature not a bug. I dont even use black ink, I use a dark brown for the outlines. (Winsor & Newton Nut Brown, to be precise) It is a far more labor intensive process than what many “Webcomics” artists do. I hope that it’s wonkyness conveys as a “handmade” look and not a lack of skill (although I am increasing my skill in every comic I make) This choice, of course, has consequences. The new format for webcomics is that they are being read on phones and not PC screens. Many webcomics capitalize on this and abandon the left-to-right-page format in favor of a vertical scroll. Although this looks great on a phone, I just cant seem to wrap my head around how this format would look printed. And yes, I realize that it may never be printed (a kid can dream, cant he?) but I feel like abandoning the format that we all grew up with to accommodate a platform that has only been around for about a decade is not “on brand” for GONOGO.
I am not such a luddite that I am against using photoshop wizardry when needed. In this weeks comic I needed to depict the rats in the dark, so instead of doing a very risky watercolor wash over the finished artwork, I simply applied a blue/purple gradient in Photoshop. The result does have a more “digital” look than the rest of the comic, but I just chalk that up to the director using “special effects” to tell the story.
This episode of GONOGO was a bit of a revelation for me. Up to this point in the first “season” all of the events happen under the Roosevelt Bridge. At the time I could see that this might become a bit limiting if the comic were to continue for several years. The idea that the Teapot Rats could tell us their origin story in flashback gave me the license to take the story to a different locale (even if it was just 10 blocks away to the White House) and it gave me the opportunity to draw something else besides the underside of a Bridge. Also, I dearly love a Heist Movie. I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have rats put on ski masks and gather round a floorplan of the White House.
I am as shocked as anyone that the plot line where the Teapot Rats “break into the white house” would become so…close to reality. In fact, the layers of scandal alluded to (Warren Harding, Teapot Dome, Tea-Party Crackpots, The Boston Tea Party and the Radical Right) seem rather quaint, in retrospect. Even the fact that I was able to work in two puns seems like it is not enough somehow. I have been working on the second half of season 1 lately and I can assure you that I am learning from the events of last year. I suppose the fortunate thing, now that we are returning to less scandal filled times, is that I won’t have nearly as many “accidentally relevant” moments…we can all hope.
As I have mentioned before, the comic is created about 8 to 12 months before it is published. One of the storylines that has been in the works from the beginning was that of the Teapot Rats. Of course, like Mayor McChez, these little guys are a metaphor. They are a representation of a certain segment of society that, let’s just say, some people find deplorable…
But what was once quirky and cute has lately become quite sinister. The insurrection of Jan 6th has created an atmosphere where calling these people rats is too kind. They are traitors and fascists. Full Stop. If January 6th had happened when I was coming up with this storyline, there would have been a completely different comic.
So, having said that, I would like you to take in the next few GONOGO comics through a nostalgic lens. Cast your mind back to the benign loonies of the Obama era’s “Tea Party”. These are the wacko conspiracy theorists of the X-files saying, “The truth is out there”, not today’s Q-Anon folks who say “There is no truth”. After all, there are plenty of sympathetic rat characters out there (Chuck E. Cheese comes to mind) and there are plenty of sympathetic kooks out there (Kanye West for example) but where you will get no sympathy from me is if you support the insurrection of Jan 6th, those people don’t even deserve to be called rats.