I promise I will get back to writing about art soon. I just got back from New Orleans where a saw a whole bunch of art, some of it pretty good! But a couple of days ago, I made a discovery that I had to share. I learned that the The Portal to Texas History, an online repository of scanned publications, documents and images from Texas, has a pretty good run of the Rice Thresher (Rice University's student newspaper), including issues from fall 1985. (Thanks to Scott Gilbert for pointing this out.)
As it happened, I was at Rice in fall 1985. At the time, I was a "senior" actively weighing my options, which were: should I draw some comics or smoke another bowl? Occasionally, I decided to draw some comics, which were then published in the Rice Thresher. The character, Iron Shrapnel Man, came from a dream that my old friend John Richardson had. He told me that he had dreamed that I had created a character called "Iron Shrapnel Man." I figured that if I had invented him in John's dream, that was sort of like inventing him in real life. (I realize now that this is ethically shaky ground--sorry, John!) I literally haven't seen these comics since they were published. Here they are:
(OK, I was trying to be satirical but I think this could be read either way. Not very good satire, then. I was strongly influenced--practically to the point of plagiarism--by Gilbert Shelton's hilarious Wonder Wart-Hog comics.)
(For some reason, psychology had a reputation as an easy major at Rice. If I had been honest about it, I would have made him an art major. Period note: people thought Communism still mattered in the 1980s.)
(I'm pretty sure I stole the joke in the last panel. Also, I'm not sure why I suddenly changed the format. Probably because I was high.)
(The second panel was a direct swipe of Wonder Wart-hog. Damn that Gilbert Shelton was good. Also, the letter published directly above this strip is from me, complaining bitterly about the editorial policy of the then editor in chief and suggesting that students vote him out in the next election. On an unrelated note, I later learned that the Thresher staff had lost all my original art.)
This was the last Iron Shrapnel Man. The bowl won. I dropped out and ran off to Africa, ending the first chapter of my wildly checkered college career. Eventually Rice gave me a degree, so all's well that ends well. As for Iron Shrapnel Man, these six strips demonstrate quite well why I never became a professional cartoonist.