An Illustrative Lesson on the Importance of Stories

I didn’t plan on making this post today, but then I saw the news and some social media from friends and family, hit a quick Google search because I was reminded of something … and well … Here we are. It’s definitely political in its own way, so far warning, but there’s a moral of its own by the end.

One of the Calvin and Hobbes story arcs that I remember very vividly from my youth is the story of Calvin and the Traffic Safety Slogan Contest (which starts at this link, and ran for several weeks in newspapers at the time). The story itself is amusing as any of Calvin’s adventures, the school opening up a contest with a $10 prize ($20 in today’s money) for coming up with the best traffic safety slogan on a poster, and Calvin sabotaging himself while being utterly convinced, as his six year-old mind often is, that everything about the contest is a forgone conclusion, especially his victory. The moral explored by the end—which utterly baffles and bounces off of Calvin, something Watterson himself noted in the anniversary collection—is that you may try your best, but victory is never assured, so gain confidence and satisfaction from having tried and put your best foot forward, not from winning and being declared better than everyone else.

Naturally, Calvin doesn’t win, his slogan of “Be Careful or Be Roadkill,” on a poster splattered with chunky spaghetti sauce for a “patent-pending 3D Gore-o-rama,” isn’t exactly a hit with classmates or the judges. However, when his poster doesn’t win, Calvin refuses to accept that he has lost, instead declaring the contest a “miscarriage of justice” and stating that the judges were “biased against us from the start.” He then goes to his father and tells him it was rigged and that “I want you to call the school board, have them declare fraud, and make them take the prize away from [the winner] and give it to me!”

Calvin, of course, refuses to accept or understand his father’s attempts to talk sense into him, mocking his father’s answer that winning and losing is part of life, to which his father dryly observes that Calvin’s been learning too many morals from ads for athletic shoes.

It’s a fun story, but it was also interesting to me decades later how absolutely directly—and here come the politics, which many of you probably already saw—it paralleled the 2020 election results, Calvin’s mocking words and dismissive attitude perfectly reflected by nearly an entire party who refused to believe that it was possible THEY could lose. Ever. “Take the prize away from the winner] and give it to me! indeed.

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Schlock Mercenary Has Come to an End

Surely the author won’t mind me using the logo of his comic to promote it, right? Right?

If you’ve perused my website a little, specifically the links page, you may have noticed that one of the links I’ve had around since the very beginning leads to the most-excellent webcomic Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler. Schlock Mercenary has been a long-time favorite of mine since checking it out in … 2005, I think (?), after I saw Howard present at a few panels at a convention and speak on two topics, one of which would go on to play a vital part of my future career. The first was about how comedy writing was really hard, which I noted. But the other, the big one, was how to take something independent, like a webcomic, and make a living at it.

‘If you can get 5000 people to be fans who will buy and watch your stuff,’ Howard said. ‘You’ll make it. That’s what you need.’

And he knew what he was talking about. See, Howard had left his middle-management job to pursue being a writer (and artist) in the webcomic sphere full time, selling books, prints, and as he once noted with “dark scatological undertones” … maybe even Schlock-in-a-cup.

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