Day Camp: A Home For No One

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We’ve done a lot of good comic book and strip type stuff over the years. We’ve also done some really regrettable stuff and I think that is perfectly fine. Growing pains! And just as being aware of your death will add significance and value to your every silly breath, each time we’ve noticeably slumped just makes it all the more badass when we really knock it out of the park. So at one end of this spectrum I will put Two Drink Minimum and the best of I’m Famous and on the other end most of our first run on Black Snow. It’s not like there weren’t good moments here and there. But it was completely anchorless, drifting along on the strength of Mystery Men jokes and complete ignorance of pretty much everything we were writing about. There was an admitted lack of coherency to the narrative and a lot of the jokes made less than no sense and we loped along with that for half a decade at least. We aren’t quitters, though sometimes maybe we oughta be. Oughta!

It was hard to sit at conventions and push the original Black Snow. Not because it was the worst thing ever or even the worst thing at the convention (our neighbors actually may have taken that “cake” and I feel crummy anonymously calling them out on it from afar but seriously, OUCH!) but it wasn’t the best we were capable of and we both knew it. We didn’t discuss that, because we were always getting drunk at conventions and being aggressive with people. Sometimes our kicked under the table rage got the better of us and manifested itself in less than awesome ways. Now allow me to tie these two threads together! In the middle of the aforementioned quality spectrum is a comic strip we worked on loosely based on our experiences as pre-teens called Day Camp.

When we were at summer camp there was a kid that we called Michigan. The reason we called him that I have to assume, was that he was from Michigan. We kind of poked fun at him, bullied him softly, but others bullied him harder. Even fifteen years later it is actually painful to think about that pathetic seeming kid in acid wash jeans and Payless shoes and the abuse he soaked up for no legitimate reason. He had pale skin and common brown hair and his lips always seemed red and wet. He was no threat to anyone. And yet people lashed out at him. As I said, Michael and I weren’t the worst. But neither of us started a Michigan Anti-Defamation Club. We called him “Michigan” just like the rest (I might have even started that). As a person who has always been small and quiet and not really remarkable for anything other than having read more epic fantasy novels than most of my peers, I was not cut out for traditional bullying. I had a soft heart, but sometimes my brain was soft too, and perhaps it was even glad I was no longer Public Dork #1.

The day before Michigan’s last day at camp I told him I was sorry. I told him that he was a cool kid. His face half lit up and he said “Thank you” and I said something else lost in the sands of time or whatever and then I went to go get some fruit punch. I was wearing white corduroy shorts and a NO FEAR t-shirt. You don’t get a free pass for a lame last day apology and wearing awesome clothes. I still remember that summer as a particularly bad one. The Michigan saga kind of set the tone. While my friends were playing punk shows and learning new things (like fingering girls!) I was scratching off Black Plague looking zits (zits is a stupid word) and somehow alienating most everyone in my life. Good practice for living as an adult on Planet Earth, am I right? The summer before people liked me. This summer people didn’t. I was basically the same guy (not so good, not so bad) but you know, some summers that matters and some summers that just don’t.

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The enormity of the shitty summer reached its crescendo with the “Alex Hater’s Club” which admittedly was more of a semi-circle in the grass rather than some well structured unit, but still, that kind of shit stings. I could never tell what the reasons for the hate was. It had nothing to do with Michigan. I feel like maybe it would have felt more justified, in fact, completely deserved, had a group of people come together to rail on my shittiness toward some random kid from the Midwest. But the “Alex Hater’s Club” didn’t care about Michigan (state or kid). He existed in no camp pecking order.

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Day Camp was a weird experiment. Most of the characters are based on real people.  The cool counselor that happened to be a slam poet that went really dark places with his poetry. The object of Michael’s summertime affection, a pretty Mexican girl with devil horn bangs. The lumbering Gameboy obsessed giant. The “Clique”, the cool kids who were actually kind of shitty and uncool. Michael and I are introduced about 70% through as annoying know it all tricksters. An extremely fictionalized version of a kid we knew plays one of the two main characters. While he was more of a tough kid in real life, for some reason or another we made him a lot dopier and fatter. We are projecting.

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This was our first ongoing strip and it is kind of apparent I have no idea how to write a punch line. My humor is not very punch-liney. Despite some miscues, I think Day Camp is something very much worth finishing someday. There is no one clamoring for a conclusion to the storyline we just never bothered to finish, but it’s one of those things I always assumed would work itself out when the stars aligned. There’s so much more to do with it. We have to get the “Alex Hater’s Club” in there somehow. We have to get to the field trips to exotic locales like Raging Waters and Battery Alexander. We have to get that love story moving (devil horn girl’s chief contribution to the story thus far was pointing out that it was Wednesday). We have to see if Travis and Michigan can patch things up after the Clique tried to destroy the threat of honest friendship.

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And of course, obviously this is what I was getting at the entire time: Michigan is the main character of Day Camp. Yeah, it was my plan to re-write history the coward’s way. And so what? I hope that kid from Michigan forgot that entire stygian summer. If he did this version gets to replace it.

Spoiler alert: happy endings for everyone. Now put that in your Arcade Fire pipe and smoke it!

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