I’m finding out that one of the great benefits to working on a weekly strip is that it allows for a huge amount of character development. This new character, this cowboy – who is as of yet unnamed – is turning into a really interesting guy for me to excavate. He’s practically writing himself, as they say. I originally came up with this character back in the late 90’s, and his first appearances in my script sketches only faintly resemble this current incarnation, who is, on one level, my homage to Clint Eastwood – specifically his iconic Man with No Name character from the Sergio Leone films – in my opinion the greatest western anti-hero, with all of his understated dialogue and moral ambiguity, to ever appear on the big screen (If you hear Clint’s quietly menacing voice while you’re reading the dialogue for my character, that’s all right with me. I hear him, too). This touches on the experience I’m having with producing a weekly strip, in general. After having spent most of my time learning how to tighten a short graphic story into something where every word matters, producing a strip allows for so much freedom and exploration (and arguably digression); it feels a bit like being a jazz soloist (trumpet, preferably) riffing on a pre-established musical theme. End result: Extraordinary fun; endless room for exploration; enjoying the ride without being hung-up about “what happens next”. I feel a little like Alice falling into the rabbit hole. Now I know why Gould was so insane! Not to say that there isn’t a pre-established arch to the Belligerent Piano story – there is, and always has been. But it has always been intentionally epic, and more about character interaction, so the weekly strip format really allows for character expansion – you can really investigate every crevice and improvise (or “riff”) on segments of the pre-established script. Very fluid and organic experience! Very surreal. It reminds me of the surreal fluidity of a Dylan song like “Tangled Up in Blue” or “Black Diamond Bay”. In terms of following a story line, the experience of creating Belligerent Piano is like knowing your destination (or at least having a general idea about where you want to end up, as well as specific landmarks you want to visit along the way), but taking your time getting there: Exploring all the backroads and little towns you stumble upon in a free-wheelin’, ramblin’ manner…knowing your route, but allowing for the unexpected.
BELLIGERENT PIANO WEEKLY STRIP, EPISODE #21