Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Talking about John K

Bob Flynn does the blog Drip, a very worthwhile browsing destination, and the team blog Creative Juices. He commented on my recent "The Language of Comics" post (March 2) and his links got me thinking about John Kricfalusi ("John K") and soon my reply was including things I want to share with everyone, which bring us to this post.

You should know four things about John K: He created Ren and Stimpy. He has a blog called all kinds of stuff in which he shares his accumulated wisdom about animation with a large following of fans and artists. His relationship with his TV network ended badly, and he lost creative control and had to watch them run his creation off a cliff. He remains bitter.

Bob's comment referred me to a new blog for me, d.b.dowd's Graphic Tales. Dowd makes the sad but true point that our colleague John K is grinding an axe. I often remark to my wife, who has followed him for years, "What is John K doing now?" We have seen polished portraits of some new characters like George Liquor, but John's reporting on his involvement with the animation industry is mostly backward-looking.  He does not rally the troops for an assault on the evil empire with an ambitious new work. His attempts to assemble an army have mostly been for pedagogical purposes.

I concede I don't see every post, as I try to keep my finger on many blogs. I may have missed things that would disqualify some of my remarks. And there is always the chance that John is being quiet until the day of a big unveiling.

But I long to see John and his posse grab some of the characters from his fertile imagination and produce some Flash videos establishing them in a universe. A precedent would be Amy Winfrey's Making Fiends. Please visit Amy and watch some videos, either now or when I shut up, as they bring clarity to my point about what can now be launched online, away from the suits.

Amy is developing the cartoon for Nickelodeon, which is worrisome, if only because of John's awful experience. I desperately want her show to work out on her terms.

I have been in more than one conversation where someone, possibly me, has speculated that John has an artistic genius temperament like R Crumb's, and should be shielded from corporate types by a henchman wielding a cudgel. It is painful to watch him bleed over the tragic end of Ren and Stimpy. Many of us bleed with him, but are ready to get on with things and see a new John K TV show or movie.

Of course we appreciate the teaching on his site, which is like free art school (my wife's phrase, and she should know, having gone to art school). John has a huge following, and if he produced the video seeds of a great new cartoon, the buzz it would produce might give him negotiating power.

I'm a long-time axe grinder who reformed, as I prefer to put my energy into creation. A while back I was almost killed by a crack-addled driver who ran me over in an accident so spectacular it made CNN. Every day I live with modest impairments the doctors could not fix, but I rarely think of the guy or others who have wronged me, as that would allow them to destroy my goals, like my comic, Scratchin Post.

I must emphasize that I don't know the real John K, and my comments are based on his blog persona. The actual human being John knows this and will know if my commentary contains thoughts he can use.

It's awfully seductive, this business of telling other people what to do. I really shouldn't do it, but under the guise of prodding comic and cartoon brilliance it's irresistible. 

Illustration: Spillage from John K's brain. Click to enlarge. Copyright John K.