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Whatever Happened to The Family Monster?

[This originally appeared as an at the top of the site to explain the origin and reason for my comic strip, Welcome to Falling Rock National Park (2006-2012). I am reprinting it here as a post.]

My previous comic strip, The Family Monster, ran from October 2002 to May 2006. While I was writing it, I began to develop the idea for Welcome to Falling Rock National Park. I moved from Colorado to Oregon in the summer of 2006 and the timing seemed right for a change.

That’s the short version. Here’s the longer one.

The characters in The Family Monster were created in my senior year of college. I was finishing up my college comic strip, Atticus and Glen. Atticus was a wise old squirrel and Glen was a naive college student with a strange hat and a large dot on his shirt. Glen’s unrequited love was a fellow college student named Dee.

When I graduated college, I left the characters of Atticus and Glen behind. I decided that they belonged to that world, and since my life was about to change drastically, my comics had to reflect that.

The Family Monster was the first comic strip I did after college. It ran in The Colorado Daily. I am still amazed that they took a chance on me, given the horrendous comics I gave them to review. After a few years in that paper, I was picked up by the McClatchy-Tribune Campus, a college-friendly wire service. The Family Monster could then appear in any college paper that subscribed to the MCT Campus. Welcome to Falling Rock National Park is still thankfully run by this service.

For The Family Monster, I took Dee back in time to when she was just a girl growing up in the Arizona desert. Three monsters – Monster, Dirch, and Eggman – moved in with Dee to scare her silly. They failed miserably. Nevertheless, they stayed on, living in an underground fort in Dee’s backyard. The strip came to be about the interaction of the four main characters’ personalities.

The Family Monster was fairly open-ended in terms of the stories I could tell because of guest characters. If I wanted to do a story about pirates, I’d have pirates visit. If I wanted to tell a scary monster story (as opposed to the decidedly unscary three main monsters), I would bring in a character called Brulock the Destroyer. Another recurring character was Monster’s brother, Theo. Theo had renounced his monsterhood to become a wandering Buddhist, much to Monster’s dismay.

I had a lot of fun with The Family Monster. It was a comic strip that could never be syndicated, though. The responses I got from the syndicates (who, in turn, sell the comic to daily newspapers) were: the art is too alternative and the story not accessible enough. I also grew tired of the restrictions of drawing the monsters – they were basically sticks with heads, and I wanted to draw characters more capable of expression.

When I thought to set a comic strip in a National Park, I got the same feeling I do whenever I see vast possibility in front of me. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but it will be a long, long ways from where I started. Just as if I was visiting an actual National Park, there are many directions I can go without sacrificing the cohesiveness of the comic strip. The landscape is very much a part of the story.

Dee is still around. This time, I’m taking her to her first job after college. She’s a park ranger. She’s easy to spot: she has the big goofy hat. Maybe by the end of my career I’ll have told Dee’s entire life story. I would like that.

I learned a lot from drawing The Family Monster, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to read it.

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cartoonist announcement

Two heartbreaking decisions I’ve had to make recently: one, the next issue of Falling Rock National Park will be the finale. The second, that I won’t be exhibiting at San Diego ComicCon next year.

Falling Rock has been a big part of my identity for much of my adult life. I started the strip in 2006. After six years of that daily strip (and four years of my previous strip), I realized I was not going to ever be a syndicated newspaper cartoonist.

Falling Rock made its debut as a comic book series in 2013 (with the awesome help of guest artist Reid Psaltis). Over the past 7 years I’ve released 8 issues (with two more guest artists, Tyrell Cannon and Oscar Woodruff), and hopefully will release issue 9 next year. But it never made the bigger impact I was hoping for, never got the readership or publisher’s interests. And so, it’s time to try something new.

As for ComicCon, it’s been an amazing 8 years, but it’s been getting more and more difficult to afford that convention. I can’t do it at a loss. Every year I am amazed at how well it is run, and how gracious the people are, from attendees to exhibitors to celebrities. I will miss it, and I definitely want to return.

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issue 7 IS HERE

At long last, the follow up to issue 6 has arrived.
This issue is a single, 24 page story featuring Ernesto the lizard in a Hitchcockian thriller.
With jokes!
Order your copy here.


I will be at one convention this year, San Diego ComicCon in July,
and you can also get your signed copy directly from me there.

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falling rock comic strip: super villains

meeting-supervillains-falling-rock

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issue 6 HAS ARRIVED

glob-cover-6
Faithful Falling Rockers, the long wait is over. Falling Rock National Park #6 is back from the printer and it looks fantastic. I love the look and feel of the paper. It makes the experience of reading this story even more enjoyable, I believe. Paper and ink! The way comics were meant to be consumed.

back-cover-6

How can you acquire this latest trip to the American Southwest? Right here on my website, or next week at WonderCon! I will be in the Small Press section, table 93. Beyond that, I hope to get this issue into the fine local comic shops in Portland.

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I can’t wait for you to read this issue. I can honestly say I am very proud of it.interior-6-2

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new falling rock comic strip

For the fans of Falling Rock’s original iteration as a comic strip, here’s a brand new installment.

The inspiration came from watching Ex Machina, a movie I highly recommend. Makes a good double feature with Frankenstein.
falling-rock-strip-7-26-15

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issue 5 IS HERE

issue-five-assembledThe brand new issue of Falling Rock has been assembled! The fixed covers arrived on Monday, and the rest of the week was dedicated to unstapling the bad covers and stapling the good ones. If you are a subscriber or have pre-ordered a copy, yours is in the mail.

You say you haven’t subscribed? Why not buy a copy now and find out what all the fuss is about?

My thanks go to collaborator Tyrell Cannon, who adds gravitas to “The Destination.” You’ll be able to see us both at Emerald City ComicCon in March. We take kindly to hyperbolic praise.
issue-five-good-cover

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issue 5 delay

You must be wondering at this point, Where is Falling Rock issue 5?! The answer is frustrating. I received my order of 500 copies on Tuesday, only to find the inside covers were left completely blank. While not catastrophic (all the comics are printed intact, and they look fantastic on the new paper I chose for this issue), I cannot give you a product that falls short from what I intended. I worked hard to get this issue together, and I’m not going to let an error in production be the final word.

I’m working with the printer to find a solution. Hopefully we can resolve it soon and I can get these books into the hands of you, dear readers, where they belong. Keeping checking back here for further updates.

Thank you for all your support! I can’t wait for you to visit Falling Rock once more.

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issue 5 in production

A little status update. Falling Rock issue 5 is at the printer now and I should be receiving them the first or second week of February. Here, then, is a taste of what you’ll find inside:
issue-5-inside-back-cover

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issue 5 is coming

isue-5-cover-FINALThis week I have sent Falling Rock National Park #5 off to the printer. All my dear subscribers will receive this issue in their mailboxes. Look for it by mid-February.

Oh, are you not a subscriber? We can remedy that right now.

This issue has a “season 2” feel to it. I’ve redesigned the cover and table of contents.

Inside you’ll find two stories about Pam, the park’s curmudgeonly javelina. As an added bonus, “The Destination” features an extended flashback drawn by the esteemed Tyrell Cannon. If you’re interested in a sneak peek, do check out his series Victus. After you’ve feasted upon his visually sumptuous masterpiece in the making, you’ll be ready for Pam’s tale.
issue-5-back-cover-FINAL