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The entertainer waited patiently at the street corner. Regaled in his Darth Vader mask, he struck a menacing, if not eye-brow raising, figure. A black cape flowed behind him in the soft downtown breeze, also ruffling the hem of his …...

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Filed Under , on June 30th, 2018

Editor’s Note_TFF Issue #18

By Seth Kabala

The entertainer waited patiently at the street corner. Regaled in his Darth Vader mask, he struck a menacing, if not eye-brow raising, figure. A black cape flowed behind him in the soft downtown breeze, also ruffling the hem of his kilt.

Still he waited.

He waited with eyes/mask eye-hole cutouts raised toward the pedestrian signal box, one foot planted on the ground, the other on a pedal of his unicycle. He made no attempt to cut the distance illegally, no rolling dart across the cross-walk and in-between motorists traveling in perpendicular fashion. He appeared content to rest in his slanted pose for an indeterminate period of time, so confident in owning the pose, and even the ground on which he had paused, he appeared a living, silent, motionless embodiment of leadership. If influence is measured in involuntary strangers’ gazes, this man had become the new Obama of 2008. He was audacious. He gave hope. He inspired.

He moved.

Off the curb, down the sloped pedestrian entrance ramp, and into the street. Halfway across, the signal changed from walk to flashing hand. His time for movement would soon end, and, evidently desirous to give his impromptu audience their money’s worth, he shifted his weight mid-pedal, swung a set of bag pipes onto his hip, gave the bag a couple of hard slaps, and produced the first low and scattterred tones of the evening’s performance.

But the show had only just begun.

Safe on the other side, he rolled down the side walk and transitioned the aural mess into a passable version of The Star Spangled banner. The song bounced off the high rise walls, creating a fleeting amplification. Then it was gone, and a George Lucas, Welsh evening stroll changed shades of interesting down a few clicks on the dial.

The train bell dinged. Shit! My stop. How long had I been standing there? Should I run the last block? Should I get out of the intersection? Search Craigslist for bagpipes and unicycles and instructors akimbo? Anything seemed possible. Who was behind the mask? Why had he rolled that way?

***
Why indeed? The preceding was a true account of what I witnessed downtown recently. To determine the rider’s true motivation would require a feat of investigative journalism, so let’s look at things through a Family Farce lens. Specifically, I’m going to frame Vaderkiltcycle in terms of the growing talents of my children. There’s more to a picture than first impressions, for youthful artistic expression as well as for grown ass men.

For almost a year now, Will and I have split creative duties (me, writer; Will, illustrator) on his comic strip, which he’s dubbed Meow, Meow, because, of course, it’s about cats, lots of them. During the same time, Anna and I have split creative duties in the same manner. She’s dubbed her strip Catix, as in cat comics. We’re into hundreds-of-strips territory now. The art has advanced and the writing, too. Comic strip writing is new ground for me. The Family Farce has always been about curated, artistic experimentation. So it shall remain with these strips we’re producing. They’re getting closer. Look for them in these pages in the not-too-distant future.

Will’s character cast includes Simon, Jerry, Quizzle, C.A.T., Smudge, Goggles, Klutzy, and the Owner. Each character has its own identity, backstory, and motivations. Each bears the mark of Will’s artistic pencil strokes. Unique angles and shading among billions of humans capable of applying pencil to paper. And why? Why is it unique? It is unique because Will is unique.

The general premise of Anna’s strip is the same, but the stories diverge. Anna’s approach to creation (animal friends who drive each other crazy) is in some sense a cardboard cutout of hundreds of other strips. Look at the character composition of any talking animal-based strip in syndication today, and I think you’ll see my point. The raw materials are the same. Only the assemblage, building locale, and color choices are different. Anna’s character cast includes Puff, Fuzz, Daisy, Shivers, Sox, and, of course, the Owner. Again, the renderings are unique, because Anna is unique.

Why, at six-years-old, does Ella ride her 10 and 12-year-old siblings’ comically-too-big-for-her bikes? Why does she mirror everything? Why intentionally twist phrases like Doritos Nacho Cheese into word play like Nautical Trees, holding an impish grin, waiting for a reaction? Why create, totally independent of your siblings’ artistic activities, a comic strip about penguins (characters so far: Bob, Joe, and Cinder), named Waddles? These strips maintain the same company line of artistic independence and uniqueness, because, as before, Ella is unique.

While Will and Anna’s artistic skills have, in the space of only a few years, begun to move away from early Simsons-esque to more polished renderings, Ella is still in the amorphous phase of drawing. If she puts in the work, she’ll produce great stuff, and we’ll feature it here in the pages of The Family Farce. Because she exists, she’s capable of producing magic.

Why create comic strips about cats and penguins? Comics bring smiles to rain soaked faces. They bring flavor to mundane lunches, color to black and white pictures, dimension to flat images. They are probably the only portion of a Sunday paper than many have ever read.

Have you seen the early sketches of The Simpsons? Very crude, rudimentary. But who cares? Nearly three decades later, the crude and rudimentary have amassed a fan base in the millions if not billions, have earned revenue in the billions, and have outpaced the expectations of everyone who looked at the jaundiced early sketches and said, “The fuck is this?”

In Q2 2018, I wrote about literal pet peeves, Amazon’s impact on my life, and delved back into fiction with the latest installment of Bullet Proof. (Note-within-a-note: check your pacemaker. Brenda gets a surprise!) With topics as diverse as those, how can we tie together a theme? Simple. It’s all creative art. It’s all people moving and doing and impacting lives. Every freeze frame could be a tableau worthy of inclusion into the Smithsonian.

Filtered through the lens of children, double-filtered through the lens of Vaderkiltcycle, I say artistic expression that spawns further artistic expression is its own source of renewable magic. It is spun from threads of strong bonds. Could your artistry make you billions? Could mine? Could my children’s? Anything is possible, but that’ not why we do it.

We do it in the spirit of Vaderkiltcycle? Of creating for the sake of creating. Damn the consequences. Damn the judgement. Damn the errant breeze blowing through downtown that made us grateful for underwear.

Let it not be a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away that creative memories reside. Let them be here, now, on your street, with you.

Let the sidewalks and airways be clear for the unicycles and bagpipes in us all.

Cheers, Vaderkiltcycle.

 

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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