Back in high school, I read a lot of comics. My first love was comic strips. After a while I tested the waters of comic books. They were fascinating. They charged ahead on 24 pages of glossy paper in full color. Yet, I was ultimately let down by superhero comics. They couldn’t seem to do what the best comic strips did: tell a succinct and witty story. Page after page of splash panels, action scenes that were at times hard to follow, spandex costumes that revealed muscles I had never heard of before. There was not much in superhero comics that a skinny redhead with glasses and braces could identify with.
One thing superhero comics did give me was Vigil the Ante. Vigil was a parody of all the comic books I was reading at the time. He was also a parody of the movies I’d recently seen, the TV shows I watched, the books I was assigned at school. He took the information I was ingesting at a steady rate and rearranged it into something I could enjoy.
He was also deeply indebted to Homer Simpson.
Vigil was part man, part ant, with a helmet, antennae, squinting eyes, a huge nose and a nifty spandex outfit. His shoes were shaped like two diamonds (I think that was because I didn’t like the way every superhero had super-smooth footwear, but maybe I just liked the odd design). Vigil stood for everything good and weird. He was my kind of guy.
Vigil, like all the best superheroes, had a sidekick. His sidekick had no name, a little joke about how he did all the hard work while Vigil took all the credit. “Friend” wore a costume as bulky and inefficient as possible. His huge goggles didn’t fit his head. A coat-hanger had somehow become lodged upside-down in his shirt. He wore a bow tie. There was a smiley face on his shirt, not unlike a giant bulls-eye. He had no pants, just underwear. He adopted the same footwear as Vigil, my only concession to a team costume.
I recently uncovered my last, and most fully realized, Vigil the Ante story. Clocking in at 21 pages plus cover, it was my attempt to tell a comic strip story in a comic book format. Plenty of jokes, lots of small panels, as packed with story as I could make it. I used a brush to ink it, as I was attempting to follow closely in Bill Watterson’s footsteps.
Reading it now, 13 years later, I realize how little my storytelling goals have changed. I also notice how much the dialogue sounds like conversations I’ve had with my brother. This all follows my theory that our sense of humor crystallizes in middle school and doesn’t change for the rest of our lives.
Tomorrow I will post Vigil the Ante and Friends in its entirety. I look forward to sharing it with the entire planet for the first time.