autobiography Blog comic

five years burning down the road

Although it feels just like yesterday, I’ve been drawing Welcome to Falling Rock National Park for five years now.  Today is the last episode of the fifth season.2011-05-13-falling-rock-national-park

I took this week to explore the edges of Falling Rock National Park and beyond.  Faithful readers will remember another trip outside the confines of the park, when Pam, Ernesto and Carver drove a truck  to California’s beaches.  This time Ernesto and Carver are on foot and so only get to the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, before they’re chased away by Animal Control.

Due to gainful employment, this was a busy year for me.  I’m happy with what I achieved; I think I drew some funny drawings and wrote some funny words.  Scenic Byways continues to climb the charts on its way to publishing history.

The main difference this year, at least for me, was in the way I drew the strips.  I drew each panel in pencil on plain paper, then traced it in blue pencil onto Bristol board, then inked.  This improved the compositions and made the characters more consistent from panel to panel.  Next year I may even switch over to inking with a brush.  If a brush was good enough for Bill Watterson, I figure, what the heck.

Thanks for reading, everybody.  You, dear readers, make this whole slog worth it.  I may not be a rich man, monetarily speaking, but with readers like you I know I’ve got something special.

This summer will certainly bring more blog posts, so keep checking back in on me.  I also hope to finish my zombie book.  If you are a publisher, let me say how much I’ve always loved you.

A few stats:

August 16, 2010 was the first episode of season five.
May 13, 2011 was the last episode of season five.

921: Falling Rock strips I’ve drawn.  When I hit 1,000 I’m going to throw myself a huge party or something.

42: number on Ernesto’s baseball jersey.  Although Jackie Robinson’s number was retired from all of professional baseball, Ernesto is allowed to continue wearing that number under a grandfather clause.

29: number of rejection letters I’ve received from comic syndicates regarding Falling Rock.  This number will not grow as quickly in the future, since many of the syndicates have either merged or disappeared into the folds of the newspaper.

88 miles per hour: speed it takes to travel to either 1855, 1955, 1985 or 2015.

4.5 billion: age of our sun.  It is the sun that gives life to this planet, allowing me to draw Welcome to Falling Rock National Park.  I draw the sun as a spiral, in homage to the Native Americans who called the Southwest their home.

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The Number 42

Ernesto the unusually large lizard wears a baseball jersey with the number 42 on it. 42 is a significant number.ernesto-welcome-panel

I follow baseball because I love this country. That’s right, I’m a patriot. I love baseball and I love bald eagles and I love a national anthem that is nearly unsingable. When I’m a retired old man I firmly intend to buy season tickets to whatever team (major or minor) is closest to my home. I will attend the ball game with a bald eagle, buy him a beer if he wants one, and we will sing along to the national anthem. It will be a glorious end to my accomplished life.

There is one retired number across all of baseball: 42. It was Jackie Robinson‘s number. Ernesto, therefore, is wearing a number you’d never find on a jersey today. Actually, Mariano Rivera, who was wearing the number when major league baseball retired it, has been allowed to keep it as long as he is an active player. When he retires, the number will too.Jrobinson

I like using 42 as a tribute, but also as a bit of ambiguity. What team does Ernesto root for? The Brooklyn Dodgers? Does he even like baseball, or did he just find the shirt stuck in a Palo Verde tree? Is it an original jersey worn by Jackie Robinson, or a reproduction?

42 is also the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, according to noted author Douglas Adams. When Douglas Adams died (sadly young, at age 49), Darby Conley devoted an episode of his strip Get Fuzzy to his memory.getfuzzy14

Ernesto wears the number 42 either in homage to those two great men, or simply because it was the only shirt he could find. Either way, I like having the number in Falling Rock. It reminds me to strive for excellence, or at least ambiguity.