March 2nd, 2012

Supporting Cast: Rush of MALLARD FILLMORE

by Tea

Since our office is in New York, we’ve been pretty excited about the “LINsanity” over Jeremy Lin’s stunning debut on the New York Knicks. And, conveniently enough, there’s a character on DailyINK who is even more invested than we are: Rush Quat, the little boy from MALLARD FILLMORE, who has said for years that he wants to be the first Asian-American in the NBA.

Since MALLARD FILLMORE is a political strip that takes place at a news station, it rarely centers on kids. So Rush is the only regular character who is a child. “He’s precocious, of course,” says Bruce Tinsley, the creator of MALLARD FILLMORE, “because every comic-strip kid is precocious. I thought of making him stupid, but it just didn’t work.”

His dad, Dave, is the owner of Dave’s Diner, and Mallard’s best friend. Rush’s relationship with his dad is a strong one:

“Dave is a single dad, probably because I grew up in a time when most sitcoms and other entertainment featured lots of single parents, to be ‘relevant’ or some nonsense…anyway, now I’m stuck with it. His dad is strict, not a ‘buddy,’ but, at the same time, never talks down to Rush. Rush helps Dave out in the diner after school, probably in violation of hundreds of child-labor laws. His dad is his mentor, his hero, his toughest critic, and his best friend.

“Just as Mallard mirrors a lot of my experiences as an adult, and a journalist, Rush is a lot like my son, and like me as a kid, especially when it comes to school. He’s also a lot like some of the Vietnamese immigrants’ kids in my experience who rise from poverty to valedictorian in a generation. They debunk the popular mythology my teachers parroted, that America is a ‘Eurocentric, parochial culture, in which only WASPs can prosper…’”

Rush is named for radio host Rush Limbaugh, although Rush doesn’t usually mention this unless he’s asked. “His ‘Sixties-generation teacher, Ms. Carp (that’s Mizzz Carp, not Mrs. Carp!) loved it when she thought he was named for the band. When she found out it was for the talk-show host…she considered calling Child Protective Services.”

Rush is most frequently featured in the strip when Bruce is writing about school or educational topics—of course, as a kid, he’s the one most affected by these sorts of issues.

“Rush lives in a town where President Obama, and almost all of Congress, send their kids to private school, while he’s stuck at Harold Stassen Elementary, because Dave can’t afford private-school tuition. He’s on the Perpetual Waiting List for the local charter school that offers the International Bacculaureate degree. Will he ever get in? Did Charlie Brown ever get to kick the football?”

In spite of his ambivalence toward school, Bruce tells us that Rush loves to learn, and reads a lot in his spare time (although he never enjoys the books assigned for class).

“He, like my son, wants to be a teacher, or a college professor. He likes the idea of passing on wisdom to the next generation, while getting three months a year off…”

We asked Bruce how Rush feels about Jeremy Lin’s introduction to the NBA.

“It’s bittersweet; he likes that Jeremy Lin’s Asian, but wishes he were of Vietnamese, not Chinese extraction. He also hates that he plays for the Knicks, not the Wizards, his hometown team (he’s also a big Kentucky Wildcat fan). AND he’s a little upset that HE can’t be the first Asian-American NBA player now, and blames it on me, for making him 8 years old for the past 18 years. In fact, when he does the math, he’s convinced that he was probably Jeremy Lin’s inspiration….

“As far as the “no Asian-Americans in the NBA” thing goes, it’s Rush’s leitmotif. It’s been part of the punch line of a lot of Mallard strips. It all started because, at school and on TV, Rush constantly hears that, when minorities are under-represented in any profession, it’s because of ‘institutional discrimination,’ and the government better darn well step in and do something! So here’s this Asian kid who loves basketball, and suddenly notices the NBA’s demographics….the joke writes itself, and it’s on us….”

Check out next week’s MALLARD FILLMORE for more from Bruce about Jeremy Lin!

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