From mid-2001 to mid-2002, and again from mid-2003 to mid-2004, I spent an hour or two each morning, seven days a week, making improvisational comics, nearly all based on reader suggestions. Each improv was drawn in a different style. Some were funny. Many were weird. Most seemed to end in death.
The results were a mixed bag, quality-wise, but a few came together nicely. Some personal favorites:
25 - Whose Mind is it Anyway?
Deliberately cruddy art and lettering, but as it went on, I started actually writing—with hopefully interesting results.
22 - But No One Ever Noticed the Walrus.
Kind of long, but I found it oddly satisfying in the end. Features a momentary trackpad-drawing spasm early on when I went on a trip and forgot my wacom tablet's pen.
17 - Monkey Town.
Fun to read out loud.
12 - Inertia Man.
Mercifully short. Hopefully funny.
3 - Brad's Somber Mood.
The first reader suggested title set the tone for many that followed: funny=dark.
On the flipside, there were some out-and-out disasters. Notable failed improvs include the earliest two (didn't really know what I was doing yet), #21, with its aimless and ulltimately abandoned "story," and #5 which, despite a cool title and some bits I liked, had the dubious distinction of being nobody's favorite improv in a poll we conducted in 2002.
Dada was a always a big part of my childhood art obsessions and it steered a lot of these comics. From Man-Ray to Monty Python, nerds of my generation in the Boston suburbs during the '60s and '70s had a pretty finely-tuned appreciation for the irrational. The logo above with its Millard Fillmore portrait could have come straight out a They Might Be Giants video (TMBG were part of that generation and the Johns grew up in the town next to mine—also, we were all friends with Brian Dewan which might have been a factor). Inventions like Five-Card Nancy came from a similar place.
Two final titles were selected by readers when the feature went on haitus in 2004. They were "The Neverending Comic" (suggested by Andy Lang) and "I Like Cheese!" (suggested by Bob Oosterwijk). I'm duty bound to at least do these last two titles, so keep an eye out for more improvs in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
April 16, 2004 | A one-joke skit idea which mutated into the longest and deepest improv so far. Title suggested by Maggie Porter.
Jan 13, 2004 | Wrapping up my brief political foray begun in the previous improv. Title suggested by Mark Cofell.
Dec 23, 2003 | A weird little anti-Bush comic, because I couldn't think of anything else. Title suggested by Nick Douglas.
Dec 8, 2003 | It went on forever, but I like it anyway, despite a tool snafu early on. Title suggested by Sylvan Migdal.
Sept 15, 2003 | A True "Improv" -- I honestly had no idea what I was doing (and, um... it shows). Title suggested by Alex Duncan.
Aug 26, 2003 | Kind of pretty. Kind of creepy.
(The first reader chosen title). Title suggested by Nat Gertler.
July 29, 2003 | After a year off, The Morning Improv Returns with this little love poem to my generation. Title suggested by Craig Lawrimore.
June 23, 2002 | Title suggested by Ned Lem.
June 21, 2002 | Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Mmonnkkeey... Title suggested by Joe Torchinsky.
April 24, 2002 | The drawings. They are simple. Title suggested by Will Nguyen.
April 16, 2002 | A daily gag strip gone horribly wrong. Title suggested by Doug Waldron.
April 6, 2002 | A geometric rorschach test. Title suggested by Timothy Harrison.
March 29, 2002 | And you thought Inertia Man was a throwaway character. Title suggested by Marcus Morgan.
March 20, 2002 | He's an object at rest -- no two ways about it. Title suggested by Joshua Malo.
March 17, 2002 | An odd silent comic using a great title from one of our Brazilian readers. Title suggested by Octavio Aragao.
March 11, 2002 | Hell's tedium concludes. Title still suggested by Chris Galdieri.
March 3, 2002 | Hell's tedium continues. Title suggested by Chris Galdieri.
Jan 8, 2002 | Forgive me. Title suggested by Erik Horn.
Dec 19, 2001 | Has Hell finally jumped the shark? (Part One of a Three-Part Strip). Title suggested by Chris Galdieri.
Nov 3, 2001 | What it says. Title suggested by John Franklin.
Oct 31, 2001 | Yet another Microbiological romance gone horribly wrong. Title suggested by Jesse Rimler.
Oct 8, 2001 | Title suggested by Sean Duncan. Didn't mean to pick two in a row by Sean, but he had some great ideas.
Oct 1, 2001 | The first reader-suggested title. Existential despair meets the Home Shopping Channel. Title suggested by Sean Duncan.
Sept 17, 2001 | A weird little comic about a "boy," his "pet" and Photoshop's inner bevel effects. Done before I started asking for title suggestions.
Aug 30, 2001 | Adapted from an old unpublished improvisational mini-comic I drew in the late '80s.