Friends? was my submission comic to the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont for the MFA program. (I was accepted, graduated 2016.) The requirements were simply that it be “starring yourself, a snowman, a robot, and a piece of fruit.”
Creator: Angela Boyle
Publication Date: January 2014
Format: BW, 8 pages, 8.5 inches tall x 5.5 inches wide
Drawn using Speedball India ink and a Speedball 102 nib, lettered by hand. The cover and book ends (which is the last page of the online comic) were both done in watercolor and ink on cold-press watercolor paper.
The following essay was part of my submission package. It had to be titled either “Cartoonists are like that” or “The Future.” I also made a wee comic about he tapir species discussed here.
The Future: A Tapir in the Forest
The leaves have turned the deep red of fall and are escaping the trees on cold northern winds. It is silent except for the whisper of trees and the burping croak of frogs. Abe has just picked me up from the airport. I talked his ear off for the entire ride about my trip even though we kept in touch online while I was gone for a month. A whole month tracking tapirs. All but the porch light are off when we arrive home, and it is a welcoming sight. I am glad to be back after the hot days in Brazil. I was born for cold gray days.
But now I’m home. With my own couch. And my three loves: Abe and our two corgis, Ernie and Nisa. I can finally wear sweaters and fart when I want. And it’s cold enough for a nice hot cup of tea. I sprawl on the couch and the dogs pile on top, while Abe makes tea in the kitchen. By the time the tea is ready (Irish Breakfast, my favorite), my face and hands are covered in slobber from Ernie’s spastic kisses and Nisa’s timid gentle ones.
I’ve pulled out my notes and sketches to show Abe. I have am working on a contract job to make a comic about the new kabomani tapirs. They are the smallest of the five tapir species. Until recently, they were thought to be just juveniles of the mountain tapir. Scientists finally caved to the pressures of the natives in the area. They did some research to determine what the tapirs really were. Of course, the natives were right. They’re a completely separate species.
Tapirs are an important factor in seeding the forests where the live. Literally. They eat fruit and, because they roam about one square mile, are important in carrying the seeds from the fruit all over their patch. Because tapirs are an important part of the ecology of the areas they live in, we need to bring these timid, nocturnal creatures into the light of human consciousness. Each species of tapir is an official endangered due to poaching and logging in their respective domains.
But back to the present. I have been telling Abe all about tapirs for a few years now. And somehow he isn’t sick of it yet. Which is good because I have almost an entire suitcase full of sketches and notes to show him. I think it helps that tapirs have a quality that makes then look like giant corgis.
Because tapirs are so hard to find (they often live alone in their square mile of land), I also have lots of notes and drawings about the other animals in the area. I found plenty of capybaras, the world’s largest rodent. I was also fortunate to stumble across a giant armadillo, a 6-to-8-foot-long leftover giant from the time of dinosaurs.
After numerous cups of tea and a few hours, I am talked out. Sketches and illustrations are strewn in piles around the couch. I’m typically only a big talker with Abe, or when I am inappropriately nervous, so I was pretty quiet for the last half of last month. This silence left plenty of time for thumbnailing story ideas and sketching out styles for the various stories. Plenty of stories came to mind – strictly educational comics about the life of a tapir over the course of a day, more child oriented and anthropomorphic stories to get the kiddies interested in tapirs at a young age, and fantasy stories of tapirs as dream eaters from myths in Asia where the Malayan tapir lives.
And now it is Abe’s turn to catch me up on what has happened while I’ve been gone. How the dogs have been. How his photography is coming along. Living near an abundance of state and national parks, he can photograph plenty of local wildlife. We were sad he couldn’t come with me to Brazil, but someone had to take care of le poops, better known to others as “the dogs.” But he brought down his laptop and showed me the photos he took of deer, loons, beavers, moose, and one quick shot of a black bear from the car before Abe sped off. He even printed and framed a photo of Ernie sleeping in the yard with one of the chickens for me.
At this point, it’s late, but we are all enjoying each other’s company too much to head upstairs to bed. We’re all curled up on the big couch we got just for our cozy living room. We’ve pulled out the comics. I hadn’t been able to bring any (other than on my tablet) so I have been craving a good paper comic in my hands. The fire in the fireplace is dying down. Rain is beginning to tap on the windows. Nisa snores. Abe giggles to himself and turns the page of the comic he is reading. All the most comfortable sounds of home.