After Tokyo, I was sent by bullet train to my eventual work placement, which was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The town didn’t even have a train station, and buses ran once every two hours and never in the evenings. The shock between going from Tokyo to this place was much greater than the shock from Canada to Tokyo. I found myself in a place that was boiling hot, in an apartment with devices I didn’t understand, in a town that didn’t have anything and was hard to get out of. And to top it off, a LOT of free time.
I didn’t have a map in English, but after much wandering around I found an area in the next town that had the necessary things for living (a supermarket, furniture store, a book store, and an electronics shop). I bought a scanner since I didn’t have one and carried it home (a good hour walk). I also managed to get an internet connection going, a story in itself.
Before, when I wanted to scan a comic or a piece of artwork, I snuck into the department copier room where I previously worked and used the scanner there (I had to be VERY careful obviously, and often performed “blind scans” without preview to avoid what I was scanning from coming on the screen). Because of this limitation, I had no room for experimentation. I slapped the artwork on the scanner, and scanned it, then FTPed it and deleted all traces of my work. It also affected how I drew the comic itself. Before this, I drew all four panels, and hand drew the panelling, etc. Besides colouring, no manipulation was performed to the image from the rough.
Now that I had my OWN scanner, and I could play with it, the sky was now the limit. I learned how to scan things properly. (If you had a chance to look the original THIN H LINE strips, the line work was dark grey and not black. When THIN H LINE became SEXY LOSERS, I went back and rescanned all the old strips properly and fixed those problems). I didn’t have to draw panel borders, I could get the computer to do a better job for me as I scanned single panels at a time instead of the entire strip. I could also do neat stuff like draw a single background and draw characters over it in different positions, like you see in panels three and four of this strip. This was a very liberating change and the THIN H LINE became a different strip as a result.
Having your own scanner … wow, what a blast that was. Mind you, installation was the hard part. I had a wonderful time trying to install drivers for a scanner that only had Japanese drivers and no English drivers to be found on the web. I ended finding an emulator program through which I could use the scanner. A year later I switched to a Japanese OS which solved that problem entirely. Recently I retired that scanner (a driver problem — updated drivers were unavailable when I upgraded my OS) and now it rests in a landfill somewhere.
This strip marks another change in that it became the first storyline that develops. Before, I was following the Heartbroken Angels formula in which every strip must stand by itself. Now, I had an idea for the Suicide Girl to die and for Shiunji to dig her up and stuff her. I began to have ideas for punchlines far in advance and developing transition strips with minor jokes to get to the later punchlines. So you may see a joke, but it could be leading somewhere funnier. I used this quite a bit since, like the Family Ties series in the Mike’s Left Hand thread, the Status Quota series in this thread, the Photo Finish series in the Kenta’s Horny Mom thread, etc. It really did change the structure of the strip in that it added cliffhangers as well as punchlines and some real character development. In comparison, Touro in the Madame X thread has no personality because nothing transitional ever happens to him. I think this was a very important change in the strip and the strip began to find its own footing as a result.
Now the joke itself. When I was in University, I tried to do a comic for the student newspaper, I did about a dozen strips which were very black in its humour. Often someone died in it. One of my favorites involved a co-op student doing evaluations on psychotics in a psychiatric institution. She eventually gets attacked (by a guy named Ray Ping, no less) and decides to get a gun to protect herself. She dies in pretty much the same manner as Yuko did, but is relieved that she finally has peace from psychotics. The final panel has her being dug up by Ray Ping on a work release program. I thought this was damn funny stuff. I showed this to Peter Brown who was the editor at the time, and he looked at it when I showed him and didn’t even crack a smile. “We’ll see.” he said. It never got printed like 90% of my strips.
Well, we all know who’s funny NOW, don’t we, you frigging jerk.
In any case, that was 1992. I got tired of them rejecting nearly everything I did and quit. Was my stuff too dark, too politically incorrect for them? I’ll never know. What I do know is that this paper decided to run a fresh new comic two years later that was done by two guys at the same university as I was. That comic’s name was “The Parking Lot is Full.” Go figure.