I guess 2002 was a pretty productive year for me. In addition to creating my favorite neglected character, I also started publishing the comic that has dominated my output ever since … Watusi the Talking Dog!
Watusi the Talking Dog (the concept) first appeared in 2000, beginning as the featured character in an experiment in quick storytelling. After I had the chance to teach cartooning workshops to jr hi school students, I wanted to come up with a more “hands on” activity for them, a way for them to complete a comic during a single class session. Students would draw one panel at a time (following from one of my starter panels), then switch with a classmate until the story was done. My hope was to draw their creativity out without forcing them to worry about the whole story or become frustrated by a blank page. While I didn’t have many opportunities to practice this in a classroom setting, I was lucky enough to have it catch the fancy of some of the cartoonists I know. I got help from my fellow APA-5ers along with some non-artists I knew, and soon filled enough completed strips– along with some of my blank starter panels– to flesh out an issue. I kind of did it as a lark, just to get it out there to share the format with other artists who might want to jam with me on an all-ages comic, and to promote the work of the participants at the same time.
Surprisingly, it caught on in a big way, and by the time SPACE 2003 rolled around, I had three issues full of comics from fellow artists, including collaborators I’d never have met without this project! At that show I was much more enthused about this new series than the collections of my other current project, the increasingly-political “Continuity and Vine” strip. I made a concerted pitch among artists to get new participants, and shortly after that show I had enough strips for the fourth issue, and things continued after that at a consistent pace for a number of years.
Eventually, though, new participants stopped joining in the game, especially as fewer of my peers made and exchanged physical comics through the mail. By this time, though, I had started exploring Watusi as a character, developing his setting and bringing in characters from an earlier project (ironically, a project derailed by “C&V”, which had in short order been replaced by Watusi) to act as his supporting cast.
While my print output has slowed considerably over the past couple of years (that’s what I get for ending Watusi #27 on a cliffhanger, I suppose!), the character has been thriving in my weekly webcomic. Next year is looking rosier on the print front, too, as I plan to finally get the epic “Isla Esmerelda” storyline into print. For more on the Watusi print series to date, read more about it here.