August 4th, 2014
by James Allen
Syndicated comics are done way in advance of what you see and read in the papers. For instance, today I am working on material that will apear in the papers in early October. Okay, now hold that thought.
Back around June 20th, a historic nearby theater was going to feature the original 1933 version of King Kong. Folks, this is my FAVORITE movie, and (aside from my mother) probably the single biggest influence/reason I draw comics. My love of the film inspired me as a kid, to dream… in fact, DREAM BIG! I own the movie on several different formats, however I had NEVER SEEN IT ON THE BIG SCREEN! So, when I heard it was playing nearby, in a CLASSIC theater, I decided to take the weekend off, book a room in an upper-scale hotel, spend a couple of days eating fine cuisine, then, on my way home Sunday, go see my favorite film- King Kong.
It’s Friday afternoon, June 20th, around 4:30 PM. My bags are packed and I am waiting on my girlfriend to get here so we can leave. My Cellphone rings… caller I.D. tells me that it’s someone from King Features Syndicate. I immediately answer, and it is none other than Brendan Burford. Brendan calls to ask something “special” of me… Mark Trail has long had good relationships with groups like NOAA, The Wilderness Society, Forestry Service, The Department of Health and so on… and now, the USDA had contacted King Features to ask a favor… could Mark Trail make a public service announcement for “Tree Check Month” and the devastating effects of a certain invasive beetle. Brendan tells the USDA, that he’ll see if it can be done, then he called me. Brendan tells me that he’ll email all the information over if I can do it. Without telling him I was going to be out of town for the weekend and not back home until Sunday night, I assure him that I “got it covered”. He says “Great! Oh, and one more thing: I need it IN MY OFFICE by Wednesday!” Realizing this only gave me 1 day at best to write the page, illustrate it, reduce it, hand color it, then make a “numbered” copy (a process in which I write down specific numbers which represent specific colors that the page will be printed with), then be at FedEx on Tuesday early enough to catch the guy that picks up Next Day Air so that I could send it off and King Would have it early the next morning- Wednesday. I gulped for a moment, then agreed to do it! I never told Brendan of my weekend trip out of town.
The girlfriend arrived, we left… had a whirlwind weekend. LOTS of fun, fine food, elegant clothing, etc. Arrive back home late Sunday and the information on Tree Check Month is waiting in my email box as Brendan promised. I got right to work Monday morningnd worked all day… the day stretched into the night… bloody marys began flowing and before I knew it, it was 4AM and I was finally hitting the sack. I woke up Tuesday morning-ish and rushed to FedEx. I got an email and a call from Brendan the next day informing me that the page had arrived and he thanked me for tackling the job!
I hope you all enjoy the Tree Check Month page, and please keep an eye out for that darned beetle! When I see the page, I’d like to think it’s a case of “Grace under fire”. Oh, and as for my first time seeing the original Kong on the big screen?… TRULY the Eighth Wonder of the World!
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