For the first time, available now by itself: “Lemmings in the Third Year” for your Kindle, iPad, e-reader device.
Arctic researchers stuck in a land of talking animals, comedy, runner up to the Fountain Award. The idea started with Iron John: a Book About Men and ended up being about Women in Science instead. How did that happen?
It was the summer of 1992 when I moved to Missouri to sit outside the gates of the University of Missouri-Columbia and hope that I got in to their Masters program. It was foolish. I can’t believe the belief I had, the sheer power of conviction that they would pick me if I waited right there. To wait the year–in order to get in-state tuition too—I worked at Taco Bell, next-door, and I was just barely getting by. I lived in a house with four roommates, but the rent was about 400 a month for a bedroom. In the fall, I saw an ad in the Maneater (the student newspaper) for a cartoonist. It paid 12 dollars a cartoon. You had to produce 2 cartoons a week, but you had an open subject, any style, whatever you wanted to do.
I was not a student at the time, but maybe they made an exception for me. I could draw. I had imagination. I could do this. But what would I write about? I remember that I was reading Iron John: A book about Men, and was very confused by it. There was a lot I loved, and I lot I argued with. Robert Bly brings that out in people–and that’s okay. I had also picked up a book about polar bears from a discount shelf inside an old Hastings store. By mashing Robert Bly and polar bears I created Captain Bly and submitted six cartoons for consideration. I got in! It meant that I had nearly 100 extra dollars a month! I was thrilled.
I kept that cartoon strip going for four years. After the year waiting outside, I did finally get into Mizzou, but I kept the Taco Bell job too. The strip started out being about men, and about bears (I didn’t have a clue that I was a gay man who loved “bears” but drawing them made me happy). But soon it got into science, and I created three biologists who journey north and are stuck in a north where all the animals talk to them.