Thurber House Part 3
posted on September 13, 2017
One more look at the prints from Lisa’s Story on display at Thurber House. As if that wasn’t ultra cool all by itself, following the book talk and signing at the Columbus Museum of Art on the evening of Sept. 27, my wife Cathy and I get to spend the night in Thurber’s attic. I almost had to take a pass because of a radio media tour I have to take part in the next morning, but it turns out that I’ll be able to do it right from the attic. Anyone besides me sensing a story arc in there for my Funky author Les down the road? Note to self: take pictures!
posted on September 6, 2017
As part of the Lisa’s Legacy Trilogy box, readers will also get a digital chapbook called Summer’s Story which tells the story of her birth and is the final thread in the tapestry of Lisa’s life. So, in essence, you could say it’s really a fourlogy. Or not. Below is an excerpt from the chapbook.
Hey, you found it! Good for you, and, if you’ve gotten this far, then you’re exactly the person we had in mind in preparing this chapbook. Sensitive, inquisitive, and with just the ever-so-slightest touch of OCD (the good kind not the bad kind where you find yourself wishing that OCD was in the correct alphabetical order). Because what you have here in this chapbook is the final missing piece that ties together the tapestry of Lisa Moore’s life. If I may, let me briefly explain why this chapter in Lisa’s Story at first wasn’t and why it now is.
When Lisa’s Story was first published in book form in October of 2000, it collected the narrative which first appeared in Funky Winkerbean and that took her from her first cancer diagnosis to its remission. After her cancer returned in 2006, that second story from the strip along with the earlier work was collected in 2007 in a new book called Lisa’s Story – The Other Shoe. In the strip, during that six year interregnum between the stories, I stepped away from dealing with Lisa’s cancer to write different stories featuring different characters. Lisa, with only a coupe of exceptions, left the stage to others in the repertory while she patiently waited in the wings. One of those exceptions, however, was a fairly significant one. It was the story of the birth of Les and Lisa’s daughter Summer. It followed Lisa through the ups and downs of her pregnancy to Summer’s birth as a preemie and her battle for life in the neonatal intensive care unit, and, as such, it adds the final brush stroke to the picture I’ve been painting of Lisa. Once again we see Lisa’s courage in the face of adversity on display. And it makes clear why in The Last Leaf we see Summer going to her sweet sixteen NICU reunion at the hospital. Compiling only parts of a comic strip into a book can be a tricky bit of business since, what flows so naturally from day to day, can seem awkward and forced when rearranged and aligned in foreign juxtaposition to one another.* Such was the case with Summer’s birth in that it didn’t have a natural home in Lisa’s Story, coming too quickly following the first chapter and too close to the second. Even though it would have explained why there was no Summer in the first half of the book, and a young Summer suddenly appearing in the second, the juxtaposition would have been jarring. As well, the book would also have become unfocused. The story we were telling was Lisa’s cancer story. So the decision was made not to include it.
As a youth I always wanted to create a super hero. Little did I know that her name would be Lisa. With this chapbook story back in place, the entire arc of Lisa’s life is now complete. And, with it as well, I think my work on Lisa’s Story is done. I can’t imagine what more she could possibly want to have me tell. But, then, I never saw her coming in the first place.
*For that experience, I would humbly suggest seeking out the editions comprising The Complete Funky Winkerbean where each day follows like the next breath in the lives of the characters and absolutely nothing is left out which will be a balm for your ever-so-slight OCD.
From The Lisa’s Legacy Trilogy box.
The Last Leaf
posted on August 31, 2017
It was during the waltz that Lisa returned. The waltz was on a bootleg CD that a friend had sent me that winter. He had sent it because he knew I was recuperating from surgery on my foot and thought that it would help pass the time. Little did he know it, but he had thrown me a lifeline. A lifeline that would save me from myself.
I usually enjoy the winter, but that winter was an exception. The chill outside was matched by the chill I felt whenever I tried to enter the world of Funky Winkerbean. I had just wrapped up the very long and difficult story arc about Lisa’s battle with cancer. Following Lisa’s passing, and not wanting to spend a year in comic strip time mourning her loss, I did a time-jump, moving the lives of my characters ahead ten years. I had done this once before in the strip, and it had turned out to be nothing less than wonderful. This time, not so much. The first time I executed the time-jump with my cast of characters it had been meticulously planned out, my readers alerted and stories prepared well in advance. With the first time-jump, I knew what was coming and how it would all culminate with Lisa’s story. This time, I had been way too casual about it and I was paying the price. When I looked beyond Lisa’s story, there was nothing but a void. My current high schoolers were gone, and the new students were strangers to me. Funky had opened a Montoni’s franchise in New York City, and nothing felt comfortable there. Nothing felt all that comfortable about Montoni’s back home either. I had an expat Afghan former insurgent running the place and . . . well, that was pretty much it. What had once been a welcoming stage for my characters now felt cold and empty. Even my third set piece, Les and Lisa’s house, was no longer a familiar setting as single parent Les struggled to raise his now high school–aged daughter. Nothing felt quite right to me, and it wouldn’t be long before nothing felt right to my readers as well. I was not in a happy place.
Enter the CD. My friend had sent me a bootleg concert recording of a performer we both admired, but it wasn’t doing much to quell my growing sense of panic [Changes okay? I can put it back if you prefer the original.]. And then I heard the waltz. The singer had transformed one of his older songs into a captivatingly beautiful waltz, which, thanks to modern technology, I was able, at the push of a button, to repeat over and over again. I did this for a really long time. We’re talking an afternoon here. It was during these repeated listenings that it happened. I began to picture Les and Lisa waltzing to the jukebox at Montoni’s. Dancing the full length of the room in one single-panel Sunday strip. Lovely. Which lead to the first question: was Lisa real? Answer: no, of course not; Les was imagining her there. Which lead to the second question: why was Les by himself in Montoni’s late at night? Answer: he has a daughter who would soon be going to college and, even with her sports scholarship, needs to augment his teacher’s salary by helping out Funky while he was at the New York Montoni’s, so he agrees to be the night manager. Question: sports scholarship? Answer: yes, Les, the nonathletic leader of the out crowd in his high school days, has a daughter athlete who’s the star of the girl’s basketball team, and it’s at the practices that he’ll eventually meet the mother of one of her teammates, annnnnd we were off and running.
I realized that Lisa’s story wasn’t over and that there was a final chapter yet to be told. That Lisa’s pervasive influence in the strip was still ongoing and that I had also left myself a number of Easter eggs to be rediscovered that would link back to and tie a bow on some of the story arcs from the previous two volumes in this trilogy. Happily, there was still more work to be done as I continued to explored the innumerable gifts of Lisa’s legacy.
From The Last Leaf