Inches Nitely and the Lizard’s Id by Tim Rocks
Jonathan wished like hell the kids were in school. And Ashley out shopping, out of the fucking state. How did he get mixed up with these thugs? Oscar maybe, but not him, this was not his world . . . Except for idiotically trying to live like it was the good old days when his dad’s strip was a mini-empire that made more money than they could spend. And now he was clumsily knocking a coffee mug off the table, fuck–
“Settle down, Jonny, we ain’t gonna shoot you,” said the sleazier one, Bobby he thought it was. “Notsh yetsh anyways . . . ”
“I’m sorry guys I–” Stop apologizing! “Ah, here it is . . . ”
He drew from an office organizer rack a manila envelope. Handed it to Inches, the one in charge. The one who looked, not exactly respectable, but sort of stylish in a tough-guy way. “Men want to be him, women want to be with him” sort of thing.
Inches dumping out the glossy white sheets, studiously scrutinizing the artwork, the proposal notes. Bobby looking bored attracted to the drafting table T-square for some reason. Just a greasy mutt rooting around, getting his paws on anything and everything.
“Well now, Jonathan,” said Inches. Using his full name ironically? “So this is the ‘concept art,’ is it.”
Where was this going? Jonathan said yes it was. The movie studio had provided it. 3-D character designs of all the classic Lizard’s Id characters. It would be a huge blockbuster, THE family movie event of the summer. Pixelation Studios, the same one that did all the best computer-animated kids’ films–
Inches cut him off. “But look at all these shadows on Leo and Lizzie . . . like they’re supposed to be ‘realistic’, or some shit. And they’re so . . . sort of ‘please-love-us’, all ooey-gooey and stuff. No, I used to read The Lizard’s Id growing up — one of my favorites it was — and these have been turned into some digital shit, some sanitized kiddie movie crap, nothing like the strip I remember. Here–”
He grabbed a “Best of” collection that was lying out and flipped through it. “Here, see that? That’s what The Lizard’s Id looks like. Not this digital shit. These are too perfect, too smooth and plastic-looking. Dead. No life at all. See Bobby?”
Bobby slumped down like a slob in a (till now) pristine red egg chair by Arne Jacobsen, agreed. “Fucking lifeless, Jonny. Fucking bad idea.”
Inches noticed the new strips out on the drafting table then and stood up, the concept art pages falling all over the couch, some slipping onto the floor. “These the ones you’re working on now? Can I see em?” –already thumbing through the heavy white bristol paper as he asked.
He chuckled. Why? They didn’t have lettering yet . . .
“Ah Jonny, I see what you’re doing here.” What he was doing? “I see you’re trying to match the look of your old man’s art, that sort of loose spontaneous line-work he had… But for you, it’s not something you really feel, it’s just something you imitate. Most people probably can’t even tell the difference. Except that they come away empty for some reason. They don’t know why. It looks about the same. But something about it — ain’t quite the same. Sorry Jonny, but I’m gonna have to pronounce it straight up inky shite.”
Was this real? Was he hearing this? This fucking asshole lowlife bagman schooling him on drawing cartoons? Not that he was wrong exactly, it WAS just an annoying job for him, and he knew he wasn’t as good as his dad, but still . . . Actually, it sounded like what his dad would probably say if he were being honest. He knew his dad just tolerated his art for the sake of keeping it a family business. But still, what fucking nerve this guy had.
“Alright, maybe he was better, but so what? I do the best I can, you know? We’re not all comic strip gods.”
“Of course not,” said Inches. “I’m just thinking about this from a business point of view. Seeing as you owe us a lot of cash. Just thinking what we can do about this.”
“Yeah?” Nice that he hadn’t been shot yet, but this was almost as unpleasant. “What are you driving at?”
“I’m just thinking, well you know, my daughter, she draws that . . . What is it, Bobby? I’ve told you before . . . Jap shit. What’s it called?”
“Fucking Manga,” said Bobby. “Yeah, my old lady likes that big-eyed gook shit too. Anime or some such fucking thing.”
“That’s it,” said Inches. “The manga they call it. Anyway, I was thinking, maybe we bring her in on the artistic duties . . . ”
Jonathan’s pulse was racing. The insanity of it all was hard to wrap his brain around. His family’s revered, Inkwell award-winning strip, drawn by this bagman’s maybe 14-year-old daughter? He was literally unable to speak.
“Well you think about it,” said Inches. “But we might give it a try, see what the reader response is— Hey, you hear something? Sort of a sucking noise?”
Bobby had his 45 out and cocked, always ready for a little action. “Geez, I BEEN hearing that, now that you mention it. Just didn’t really register. What the fuck is that?”
“Jonny?” said Inches.
Oh god, did he have to say . . . “It’s, uh, it’s my dad. He’s upstairs . . . On life-
support . . .”
“Get the fuck outta here! Your dad — the creator of The Lizard’s Id — he’s upstairs right now, on fucking life-support? Well fuck me, I gotta go pay my respects. Can he talk?”
“Well, uh, he can, but it’s really not good to have visitors, see . . .”
“Fuck, we won’t be a second. Come on, Bobby. You read his strip as a kid, didn’t you?”
“We didn’t really get the paper . . .” said Bobby. “But I for sure knew about the Lizard. Fucking Lizard was everywhere man, on backpacks, Happy Meals, all kinds of crap.”
They were already out and running up the stairs, Jonathan standing stupefied listening to their voices echo through the house. Then he recovered himself and ran after them to try to moderate the insanity as best he could.