Friday in the Moving Van (with bonus nudity!)

You find the damnedest things when you're packing for a move.

Just trying to pack up this office I keep stumbling across all sorts of stuff. As I've often said, we acquire reading material in this house the way dryers acquire lint. It just shows up and sticks to us.

Sometimes it's books I've forgotten I own, which is actually kind of cool. Discovering these is a bit like getting a present.

For example, I'd completely blanked on buying this discounted paperback copy of The Kents several months back, an awesomely cool collection of the DC maxi-series of a decade ago or so. Found it under a pile of tax papers.

I bought the singles when they came out but they're buried in a longbox somewhere and I think I got this for under $3. It's still priced pretty low on Amazon and worth every penny: don't let the S-shield fool you, that's strictly marketing. This is a gritty historical Western, set against the backdrop of Civil War Kansas, from John Ostrander, Tim Truman, and Tom Mandrake. It's meticulously researched and great fun.

Then there's the review copy of Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous, a nice little indie book by Karl Krumpholz that I was going to write up and never did.

I know I liked it because I printed out the PDF, something I don't usually do with review stuff unless I really want to settle in with it. The writing was funny and the art struck me as very jagged and cool-looking. Since Mr. Krumpholz is well along with his sequel series Die Byron Die! it's probably too late to bother writing up this one now. Slave Labor is offering it as a trade collection, though, and I can at least point you to it. Here's the link , And here is a video trailer for the book that I found that's really cool.

I also am stumbling across odd little things like original art pieces I was meaning to frame that I set aside, and then put books on top of, or something. This awesome piece was by our friend Stephen Wilson, currently -- I think -- attending art school in Glasgow.

Stephen said it was "Batman like Kirby might have done him." He did it as a thank-you for letting him crash at our place on his way to Comic-Con in San Diego a few years ago. I really gotta get it framed.

But I think my favorite thing I've stumbled across here, packing, are the naked pictures. I'd forgotten all about these, but it's one of my favorite classroom stories.

I know, I know, but it's not what you think, I swear.

Here's the story. Years ago, when the cartooning class was still fairly new, we were administrated out of Seattle Parks and Recreation. Our Big Boss of Bosses was a woman named... oh, never mind her real name. We'll call her Harriet.

Harriet didn't like me and I didn't much like her. She was a classic example of the American fallacy that there is such a profession as "administrator," and that those professional skills travel from job to job without any need for any familiarity for WHAT you are actually administrating. Oddly enough, you find a lot of these people in city government. So we had this woman Harriet, who didn't really like kids, schools, or teaching, in charge of a program that was composed of all three. On top of all that, she was a pinched, humorless, sour woman.

Now, from all that, you'd think I was describing a crabby old lady, but she was a willowy blonde in her twenties. Harriet had the shriveled soul of a crabby old lady, though.

Anyway, we fought a lot, mostly over matters of budget. She thought I was dangerously unstable and reckless and I thought she was a prissy bitch. We rarely engaged in open hostilities -- you don't roll that way in public school -- but there was a lot of curt, clenched-teeth phrasing in our exchanges.

So when Harriet let us win one I always made sure to say thank you. In this particular case, she had let me take the class to the Emerald City Comics Convention on the school's dime again even after the show enlarged to two days and doubled in price, thus insuring this would remain a tradition for the class. I appreciated that and so had the kids, so I told them it would be nice if we made up some thank-you cards for Harriet, since she had signed off on spending the money.

The class was all for it and that was our assignment for the first class day after the show, doing thank-you cards for Harriet. I figured it was a nice gesture that might even mellow out that prissy bitch a little bit and maybe bring out her human side. Little did I know how much trouble I was about to get in.

How could this nice gesture lead to trouble, you ask?

Well, because that was the year I had Melanie and her posse: Kara, Angela, Karli, Karen, and their boy toy Edvon. They were hellions.

That's Melanie, in front with the blue shirt. Behind her is Edvon, in yellow, and Angela's the one with the blue hair. You can sort of see Karen in the shadows on the left. I wish I had better pictures of that year's class, they were a lot of fun. I really was very fond of the girls, despite the fact that they were a disciplinary nightmare.

At the show the girls had met Edward Pun, a local cartoonist who was putting out a 'zine with some friends called Stone. The kids had been really impressed by this, because it looked a lot like our own Doodle Inc., but with real production values. One of the things the girls had been especially interested in about Stone was that even though it was an anthology, every strip in it had managed to incorporate the same oddly-shaped rock. (Hence the 'zine's name.) Some contributors had made the story about the rock, others had just hid it in the background as an Easter Egg, but it was always there.

So Melanie asked me, as I was walking around the room looking at what the students were drawing for Harriet, if their cards could have a theme too.

"Well, they're all thank-you cards," I said.

"No, no! I mean like Stone! Where there's an extra thing that we all have to do!"

"Sure," I said, pleased at their willingness to take on a challenge. "Pick something and let's see what you can do with it. What do you want to do as your theme?"

Kara said gleefully, "NAKED!"

The girls all exploded with laughter and there was a brief bout of hysterics at the table. When the storm passed, I said mildly, "Well, you know the rules... you have to show me you can make it work. Find a way to do it and not be obscene, and we'll see."

"We can draw naked people?" Melanie was shocked.

I shrugged. "Comics artists do it all the time. They find a dodge, like using strategically placed furniture, or something."

"Like Austin Powers!" Karen said,

"Yes, exactly."

They realized I meant it, that they could try, and this really set them on fire. I was faintly smug about taking their attempt to rattle me and turning it into a lesson in creative thinking.

After class, I took the bundle of cards down the hall to my then-supervisor, a nervous woman named Aimee who often found herself caught in the crossfire between me and Harriet. She was delighted at the idea of the thank-you cards, and oohed and ahh'd over the lot of them until she got to Melanie's. And Kara's. And Angela's, and Karli's, and Karen's.

"Why.... why are they all naked?"

"The girls were just being silly," I said. "They got the giggles and decided they would all be naked in their thanks. I thought it was cute."

"I ...don't think I can give these to Harriet," Aimee said timorously. Clearly she thought I would explode with rage at this refusal.

I shrugged. Truthfully, I had half-expected Aimee to balk, but I figured I owed it to the girls to try. Anyway, it was worth it just to see Aimee turn green.

The next day I explained to Melanie and the others that they'd freaked Aimee out but I had appreciated their creativity nevertheless, we had a good laugh, and that was that. I'd offered them the cards back but they told me to keep them, and I still have them, five years later.

So here are the "Naked" cards. Someone should see them.


And Angela:

Karli just went topless:

Kara, being the instigator, took it as far as she could:

And Melanie's, I thought, was really rather sweet. Even though she was the loudest and most unruly of the lot in real life.

And that's the story. Eventually Harriet left public service to get married, and the general consensus has been that this has, in fact, mellowed her out at last. Aimee transferred out at the end of that year and I'm not sure where she ended up. I'm still teaching at Madison-- despite what conventional wisdom predicted at the time, I outlasted every administrator assigned to me by Parks and Rec. Eventually the AfterSchool Arts Program was reassigned to the West Seattle YMCA Community Center, a much more congenial organization that's been nothing but supportive of me and the class. We still attend Emerald City as a school field trip, and I just passed out the kids' show passes and info packets yesterday.

Melanie and her posse are all young adults now, high school grads off to college or otherwise out living their lives, probably long since gone their separate ways. But I still have this little memento of their middle-school years when they were BEST FRIENDS and the high point of the day was cracking each other up.

I might have to have these framed, too, now that I think about it. A big one with one of those multiple-opening mattes like you see with a group of family pictures, maybe. It'll be a nice piece for the new office...

...if we ever get moved. So I should quit reminiscing and get back to work.

See you next week.

REVIEW: Flash Forward #1 Asks if There is Redemption for Wally West

More in Comics