The first part of “The Case of the Renegade Refrigerator” is a lot of dialog between Virtual Man and Zeldoid the Cyberdog. This continues a tradition in comics that starts with Bud Fisher‘s “Mutt and Jeff,” which is considered the first American comic strip. It goes back all the way to 1907.
Mutt and Jeff were buddies, despite the fact that they were sometimes on the verge of killing one another. Although Virch and Zeldoid had just met at the beginning of the comic (See posting no. 43), they quickly fall into a comfortable companionship.
This may have a lot to do with the natural canine friendliness embodied in Zeldoid, although she’s smarter and more articulate that your average dog. She gets exasperated with Virch, but she quickly becomes a loyal sidekick nevertheless. It’s very easy to take this sort of easy, everyday friendship for granted, but both human people and canine people need it to thrive.
I’ve been thinking about friendship since I read a remarkable book by Sigrid Nunez. The Friend is the 2018 winner of the National Book Award. I found out about it from a NYT article by Alexandra Alter. The book is about two very different people who nevertheless have a long-standing friendship. Two of the things that tie them together are that they are both writers and they both have many years of teaching writing in academia. The woman writer who narrates discovers her writer friend, a man, has killed himself. Although he has had issues with depression over the years, his suicide comes as a severe, unexpected shock.
The writer’s widow asks the narrator to take her late husband’s dog, a Great Dane named Apollo. Although she considers herself more a “cat person” and has a tiny apartment that forbids pets of any kind, the narrator finds herself accepting this unlikely burden. This modest-size book holds a wealth of musings on death, writing, teaching and friendship. I found it difficult to regard as fiction. I was convinced it was thinly disguised memoir until, toward the end, Ms. Nunez allows a glimpse into the nature of writing fiction that transmuted my understanding of the whole work.
In my new comic I’m using a dialog between two friends to set up some mysteries to further the plot. But I’ve also been thinking a lot about Nebboids. For my purposes they need to be very much like humans, but it would be a crime to turn them into “little green (or orange and blue) men,” whose only distinction from the human species is their odd appearance. I’ve dropped a few hints of their “other worldliness” into this episode of “The Awakening of Edzl,” and they’ll be more to come.
By the way, along the lines of posting no. 45 (“Phony Physics and the Fifth Dimension”) I feel I should again explain why there are all these peculiar images on the inside of Edzl and Pretzl’s roomy and otherwise mostly empty spaceship. To quickly traverse the 2000 light-years from the Nebboid home world to Earth, the Nebboids have entered another parallel universe, the “Looneyverse,” where the speed of light is much faster than in ours. According to Einstein, a spaceship approaching the speed of light in our universe would also approach a condition of having an infinite mass. In the Looneyverse, the reverse is true -a spaceship’s mass becomes negligible. Also, it is thought (by all the leading Nebboid scientists) that sense data in the Looneyverse is difficult to process by sense organs originating in our universe. These two conditions result in a confusion of phantoms. Nebboids who are veteran travelers through the Looneyverse (like Edzl and Pretzl) are so use to the visual hallucinations that accompany them on these trips that they usually ignore them.
Now that that is crystal clear, this long-winded explanation gives me the license to insert all sorts of peculiar doodles into the story panels. Wheeee!
Anyway, Sigrid Nunez’s wonderful book has also got me thinking of Edzl’s dharma teacher, Ursa, who probably won’t show up until the next issue of P&R. I admit that I had a sort of stock conception of her. Ms. Nunez has got me curious and interested in who this person might be. Although like all my comics, P&R is going to definitely be silly, perhaps that doesn’t preclude some complex (for me, anyway) character development.
Oh yeah, and with reference to Buddhism, which is somehow got to get into this crazy comic and the blog too (I guess), an “unworldly” or “supramundane” friendship would be a friendship without conditions or attachment, not just a friendship involving beings from another planet. That kind of friendship might be as rare as Nebboids in your neighborhood!
Next time: More non-stop action as Virch brushes his teeth and ponders more about his identity. An unfortunate purchase from a yard sale on Pluto is mentioned. Virch and Zeldoid take a walk in the park and Zeldoid tries to educate Virch on the nature of the superhero zeitgeist. Excitement! Drama! If you can’t stand to wait, go ahead and buy the darned comic!
* Nibbana is the Pali word for the better-known Sanskrit word, Nirvana. In this case it also works much better as a pun. For more than you ever wanted to know about the song, “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” which would have been well known to most readers of Bud Fisher’s early “Mutt and Jeff” comic strips, see the Wikipedia entry at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes!_We_Have_No_Bananas.