Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Brief History of the Juvenile Alienated Generic Skunks

I'll tell you this story so I can tell you another story. A little more than twenty years ago my friends and I created a comic book. At the time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular. I'm not talking about the sucky, childish movies or cartoons, but the raw, edgy, black-and-white, oversized comic books by Eastman and Laird. The Turtles were so popular they spawned a number of imitators (and possibly inspired the entire independent comic industry) like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters and Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas.

So we decided to get in the game. At the time I was a passable cartoonist, and we all had more creativity than you could fit in a 55-gallon drum. In other words, together we had more than 55 gallons of creativity. The comic book we created was called Juvenile Alienated Generic Skunks. We modeled the characters on idealized versions of ourselves, with huge hair-metal hair and rippling muscles. Hammer was the leader, a sort of Mike Hammer-type, but a skunk with an eye patch. Jam was the idiot with muscle. Sly was the con-man--er, con-skunk--in a trenchcoat. Psycho was . . . well, Psycho was crazy. Psycho was me. Now that I think of it, these guys were a skunkified A-Team without the van.

We only produced one comic book (two versions: original and revised) which included the origin story for the skunks. But the specifics aren't important, because I just told that story to introduce a bunch of names. I'm going to start referring to some of my friends (and in one case, my brother) by these names. Hammer, Jam, and Sly.

On Halloween in 1984 Sly and I were 14 years old. Hammer had just turned 15, and Jam (my brother) was 12. Even though we were a little old we decided to have a last run at the candy grab that is Halloween night. We wanted to be courageous and rebellious, but we weren't very good at it. Our mischief while growing up was confined to sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night and pretending to be ninjas on the playground. We were dorks, and without malice of any kind.

On that Halloween I dressed as a ninja. Sort of. My clothes were black and I had a scarf over my face. I wore boat shoes (deck shoes, whatever) with the soles torn off, because then I could sneak. Right. Hammer dressed as a viking. He had the horned helmet and a cardboard sword covered in tin foil and a fur vest made of a blue-gray carpet remnant. We spent the night calling him a carpet salesman from Missouri. Why Missouri? Why not? We were idiots, I tell you. I don't remember what Sly or Jam wore.

We wandered around for a while gathering candy and snarky comments about our advanced ages, but Sly had mischief on his mind. We passed a house with a pumpkin on a porch-rail. There weren't many people around, so Sly trotted across the lawn and slapped the pumpkin. It fell back onto the porch and landed with a thump. I don't know if it even broke. Anyway, some old guy (probably at least 40) with his toddler son was in the same front lawn and saw Sly's act of vandalism. He yelled, and Sly bolted, running for the new construction a block away. Jam ran, too, and soon the old guy was in hot pursuit, his brat abandoned in the grass.

It should be noted at this point that some of us ran track, and were only a few months removed from competitive running. Hammer and I were still in the street, but when this high-speed dork parade started, we ran, too. We passed the old guy, then Jam, and finally Sly. I ran so fast in my soleless shoes Jesse Owens couldn't have caught me. We ended up in a muddy lot and took shelter behind the framed walls of a half-built house. Old guy gave up on catching us, probably windburned from when Hammer and I screamed past him.

After that we went home. We were not cut out for hooliganism.

So 22 years have passed. We graduated high school and did all the young adult stuff we could: military, college, bartending. One by one we got married, and I was last. I proposed to Michele on Halloween 2003 and we tied the knot on this last June 24th.

Obligatory wedding picture here:

We four skunks all served as groomsmen and such in each other's weddings, and mine was no different. The four in the middle of this picture are the skunks:

The two on the ends are good friends, too, but they weren't involved in the comic, so I'll have to come up with their aliases some other way. For instance, there's some reason to call the man on the right "Cat Puke," but that's kind of mean, so I won't.

Man. I let my mind wander for a few minutes and look what it comes back with.

4 comments:

d chmielewski said...

I never heard about the skunks. Seems kind of like black smurfs I would say, more than Ninja turtles, but I never got to read the original or revised editions, so I couldn't say for sure (Though I am sure a PDF posting of the comic would make for excellent reading). If the timing were right, I could have been "Brainy" Skunk, "Dorky" Skunk or "not gettin' any" Skunk, but probably would have looked at you four and said "huh?" and walked away. Apparently my powers of imagination were/are not that finely honed. Though I did often wonder what it would be like if I could either stop time, or fly. Both seemed like fine activities that did not involve any fashion risks or fancy names.

Party on Psycho Skunk.

Jason said...

I think we considered your place in the comic world after the fact, because we had a character named "Avery" who was the scientist and developed all of their . . . well, they never had anything developed. But they had a scientist on hand.

I can't remember if Jackson has the comics or if they're in storage at my mom's house. I should digitize them. That would be fun.

Just This Girl said...

It makes me happy that other people have retained friends from, say, middle and high school the way I have (our nickname is The Pink Torpedoes). Handy for wedding parties, yes, AND they can always call you out on that time you thought wearing a crocheted vest and a black-bead choker was high fashion.

I bet you would look smashing in a crocheted vest, Jason. Hey! I'm in Minnesota!

Mike said...

Avery...Avery...Avery. He was the long lost skunk that was the brains of the operation. Lift your glasses to the skunks for they were corny, maybe a bit of a plagerism, but they were the product of a lot of work by a group of guys that really had nothing better to do.

Muppy Mup Doom Brother