First, some background:
Long before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a cartoonist. Or better, an illustrator. But art school crushed all dreams of that. Still, I drew anyway to make me happy and that was comics. My closest friends were my main audience for my comic strip I created in high school named for my school, “Hazelwood Central.” I started around Freshman year creating an initial panel called “I hate cheerleaders.” Thankfully, the material evolved to better subjects over time.
The cartoon centered around four friends, a bland chick who’s name I can’t even remember, Devonte Jones — the then star of the strip, a handsome but goofy, tall dork, his best friend, a pretty boy named RaShawn and RaShawn’s crazy, uppity, high-low class girlfriend Jenitta.
Five years ago I sought to relaunch the strip in hopes that it would get picked up but my procrastination caught a-hold of me again. I finished about three weeks worth of strips, not the six I needed to send to the syndicate. Keith Knight, of the K Chronicles, tried to offer me some encouragement, to keep drawing since, per him, most cartoons out right now suck and no one can draw anymore.
Keith is great. You should really check out his stuff, by the way.
The revamped version of my strip got rid of the bland character who was replaced by a cartoon version of myself, Madeline aka “Maddie,” her best friend Rebecca, her slacker friends from college, her ex-boyfriends, her parents (obviously based on Mama and Papa Snob), her sisters (obviously based on Big Sis and Baby Sis) and her quasi friend/enemy, Jenitta, who I could not allow to die because I loved her too much.
Anyway, the comic is no “Boondocks” (and I loved “Boondocks”) and even though it’s never been published in any place fancier than my cubicle at work, I think it is 110 percent better than “Candorville.” (Apologize to Candorville creator Darren Bell. You’re doing your best to fill “Boondock’s” void.)
The strip isn’t so much about race or politics, but the middle class black experience and how it intersects with other forms of blackness. The main character, like myself, is not black in any sort of stereotypical sense and her friends are also atypical while at the same time being obviously black people. Everyone is smart (re: nerds) in some form or another, hence the title.
The strip is basically filled with a bunch of jokes about having a bunch of degrees but no jobs, parents who expected you to become doctors or something, city folks who went to HBCUs to appear “down,” where no one can get a date or keep a steady relationship, where many refuse to grow up, where a lot of the male characters participate in lazy radical “keep it realism” from their moms’ basements and were there are your array of upwardly mobile, money obsessed, Prada-Gucci-Coach consumerist superficial assholes who live to make the slackers’ miserable.
(God. I wish I’d kept this sucker up, because they would all be having some major Obama debates right now. Oh well. Maybe I’ll get to work on that one.)
That said, this panel somewhat sums up what college was like for me to a degree, only in reality I was ready to graduate and start my life. (I finished school in three years. Most folks who started at SIU Edwardsville with me are still there. I keed. But seriously, people do not graduate from that school.) Given how things turned out post college, I wish I’d never left, so the cartoon reflects that.
I don’t know how often I’ll publish the panels on here. It sort of depends on whether you guys like the damn thing. I’ll still write about politics and race and gender and Kanye West and all that drama. Michelle Obama’s outfits and the like will get covered, but considering I already have a ton of cartoons just lying around I figured, “Hey! Maybe they wanna be guinea pigs and tell me if this sucks or not!”
So what you’re about to read now are the first panels featuring Maddie, her friend Butros and her roommate Kari. Butros obviously enjoys a particular substance that I’ve never smoked. Kari is drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette and I’m drinking tea or coffee. It doesn’t matter since I didn’t drink either in college. It was ALL about the HEY KOOL-AID!
And I made some excellent Kool-Aid. I keed you not.