Before there was ever an online version of The Cynic or even the name “The Cynic,” there was a character named Kevin who appeared in what I would call my fundamentalist religious comics–yes, I was a religious nut up into my early twenties. Pastor Pratt also came out of that period. Kevin was actually based on a best friend I worked with at Burgerville, a local Northwest fast food chain. The character of Scott would also be influenced by another co-worker with questionable ethics. Scott also took on some of the worst parts of myself from that time of ignorance.
So at nineteen years of age, I drew hundreds of comic strips with a Pentel marker and a Sharpie, laid them out by hand with typing paper and scotch tape and xeroxed them. Then further pain was added by hand stapling them all into magazine size editions and selling them through underground magazines, or ‘zines as they were called. I even got them on the stand in Tower Records–didn’t sell one issue. I did sell several issues though via ads in various underground magazines and had a lot of fun trading with other ‘zine publishers. Despite being a fundie and despite drawing Christian propaganda, I still could not resist a good fart joke or walking the line on acceptable humor and received more than one letter on being too crude. These comics were tame for what was about to come.
After my deconversion, thanks to the likes of James Randi, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan and other writers with a skeptical flair for observation on God and the universe, I joined an artists’ studio that put out three tabloid editions of comics and comic book art. They were distributed all throughout downtown Seattle for free with backing by a limited number of advertisers. That was the main problem–lack of advertisers. The majority of advertisers told us to come visit them after we had successfully published for a year. Only we needed their money from the start to keep going and thus the venture crashed (where was Kickstarter when you needed it?!).
Kevin made it into those three tabloids under the title “Kevin’s Muse.” I even lashed out at the fundamentalist Bob Larson in a Halloween special. Poor art saved by the spirited humor of a naive kid who didn’t know better on how to produce a good comic series. Readers apparently enjoyed the comics (of course, it was free!). And my poor art was next to some quality comic book art by David Lee Ingersoll and new stories by writer Sarah Byam of Billi 99 fame. Several established underground artists donated sequential art to the project too.
When everything came to an end and I left the studio, I decided to put Kevin online and renamed the series The Cynic. It was a reflection of how I felt at the time. Nothing ever comes easy and all I wanted to do was draw comic strips instead of facing the reality of a crappy job (the artists’ studio had been paying me to do art direction and print production and that was now gone). The Cynic debuted online way back at the tail end of 1999. Remember when the world was going to end because of Y2k? The first storyline featured a ridiculous plot about a cat abortion clinic. Pastor Pratt was incensed that any one would ever abort kittens. Really, it was just a ruse to get rabid pro-lifers away from the “human” women’s clinics.
As you can see compared to the recent eBook releases, my art has changed considerably. I was still just a twenty-somethin’ kid wanting attention and trying out the Internet to do it. I got my fair share of it, despite there being better features and artists.
The strip ran Monday through Friday for 7 years with a few interruptions for holidays or a freelance project that took over my time. It was posted on this site and sent out via email to subscribers. But in 2007 after taking on a mortgage and other financial obligations, I just didn’t have time for The Cynic any more. It’s a shame because Kevin, the main character, would have had a lot to say about the downturn in our economy and the crooks responsible–not to mention the greed of American consumers who bought more than they could afford.
In 2010, at the request of a client, I brought The Cynic back for another run, which you can see in Digest issue 2 concerning bikini baristas. It was the first time I let the comic be truly R-rated with nudity. Previously, I came close with language and suggestive scenes, because I figured it was for the sake of ads and the off chance a print publisher might want to run the series. In 2010 I said to hell with it (Google ads already banned one of my sites for inappropriate material and no nudity was involved). Let there be skin!
Then I went dormant again. I took on some overwhelming freelance projects involving animation that left no time at all to do a comic strip. All my script ideas and unfinished drawings lay still.
At the beginning of 2015, I dug out my unpublished work. I missed The Cynic. I missed Kevin’s pessimism, Scott’s arrogant nature, Heather’s loose lifestyle, Sonja’s judgmental liberalism and Doyle’s cooking. Ebooks and apps have taken over. It made sense to bring the characters back for another run in Kindle–if not for the online crowd which is overloaded with reading choices, then for me and those like me who look for the oddball indie comics. I used to cherish printed ‘zines. My own and other underground comics that I traded for. It’s not quite the same with digital printing, but xeroxing is a pain in the ass so it’s hard to complain too much about nostalgia!
In upcoming digests I plan to abuse “Kevin,” as you can see by the above picture. In reality, the character of Kevin has diverged from the real Kevin. I’ve made the character who I want him to be and have done whatever I’ve wanted to him. I guess this means, in a way, I really am abusing Kevin.