Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Adventures of Johnny Applepix

  I did a lot of creative writing during my years in high school. Much of it was the adventures of Rob Boozakis and his pals in Clemont High School, which I wrote under the guise of Hobart Pumpernickel. (You'll find a recounting of Hobart's creation and an early example of his work here.) Prior to Hobart's debut, however, a lot of my creativity combined writing with my somewhat limited skills as an artist.

  While I was still in elementary school, I had produced a "Sunday comics section" for the entertainment of my parents and my brothers. It featured strips like "Andy and Jojo," "Peter Groundhog," "Dat's Grownups" and my attempt to draw Superman.  I drew them, colored them, and delivered one each Sunday for a few months. For the most part, I think I recycled jokes from other comic strips and joke books that I read.

  In seventh grade, my friend Billy and I spent part of the summer drawing a collection of Rube Goldberg-esque cartoons. As I recall, he had a plastic stencil that had beakers and coils and other "scientific" equipment that we used to make these inventions. Included in these drawings was a character who had a nose the shape of a potato and three hairs sprouting from the top of his head. He eventually got a name -- Penelope Jones (yes, I know Penelope is a girl's name, but he was a boy nonetheless) -- and ended up "starring" in a couple of notebooks' worth of gag cartoons that I drew.
A recent drawing of Penelope Jones. He hasn't changed in fifty years.
  By ninth grade, the world of Penelope Jones had expanded to included superheroes like Superduck and Batduck (who were not ducks; in fact, both had the same type of potato nose that Penelope had), secret agent George P. Wombat (who was not a wombat, but did have a different kind of nose), and Penelope's brother Schnooky Poo (whose face was never seen, so we have no idea what his nose looked like). I had advanced beyond single-panel gags by this point and was writing and drawing comic strips of their adventures.

  In the fall of 1966, a new character appeared, inspired by one of the classmates of my brother Richie. The lad had a mole/birthmark on his face and my brother started calling it an "applepix." No one recalls where he came up with that name for it, but that's how Johnny Applepix got his moniker. It wasn't long before I started drawing comic strip adventures of Johnny, beginning with one in which the applepix starts to grow and takes over his entire head. In the course of seven pages, Johnny is mistaken for the master criminal Boscofinger, falls into a time tunnel that takes him to the near and far future, and is even mistaken for Richard Kimble's one-armed man.

Johnny's troubles begin when his entire head turns into an applepix.
   Johnny's other adventures have him trying to win a free sweatshirt from a local radio station, attempting to collect a reward by capturing an escaped fugitive, and turning into a master criminal after he breathes in gas from a meteor.
   In all, there are seventeen pages of Johnny Applepix Archives, all drawn in a single marble notebook. Only a few people ever saw them, but of those who did, more than one said, "Gee, Bob, you should be doing comic books." Who could have guessed...

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