Previous Issue Issue 5 -- August 8, 2013
I like surprises, especially the good kinds of those. I try to stick at least two or three surprising, unexpected moments in every issue (I wish I could see the look on every reader's face when they turn to Page Four). If you like surprises as well, you probably shouldn't read this commentary on the latest issue until after you've read the issue itself -- fair warning.

Also, writing in character as Mulberry proved to be too limiting. I apologize to anyone I've just crushed who thought she was real.

When I get a story idea, it very rarely goes straight to production immediately. They usually need months to stir in my brain until I know exactly how to approach them. A basic plot synopsis is one thing; planning out every last joke and line of dialogue to fill it out is another. When BANG began last September I had two ideas for opening stories. One involved Mulberry visiting Portland and making wisecracks around the landmarks. The other was the "Threads" idea, which was more of a risk. Well, I'm not one to play it safe, so "Threads" it was. The other idea I left lying around for later.

I had a completely different set of wraparounds for BANG #5 written, drawn and finished when the news broke that The Oregonian was now owned by a corporation located on the opposite side of the country, and that they were making the dreaded cuts the previous owners had fought for years. They were even losing their famous downtown building. It was heartbreaking, and as the owner of another paper, I now knew what the narrative in BANG #5 HAD to be about. (As for that other set of wraparounds, they're still around...maybe I hid them in the issue somewhere. Look hard.)

I don't know if it would have worked half as well if I hadn't been able to put that montage together toward the end. Yes, I actually have a stack of 1980's Oregonians in the basement. The priceless moments you see photographed were skimmed off the mere top of the stack. I could have gone on and on with this sort of thing. Many other papers around the country have had their microfilm digitally scanned into Google Newspapers....why The Oregonian hasn't done this is beyond me.

I dusted off the "Mulberry tours Portland" idea and used it as the first half of the story. Looking at this portion, my not-so-inner nerd is showing again...instead of the Courthouse Square or a pretty fountain or something, they go to Movie Madness and Ground Kontrol, and instead of "Portlandia" the story references "Grimm." By the way, when I first heard the words "Voodoo Donuts" I could not stop laughing. This is the scenario I instantly pictured in my head.

The last major character has been formally introduced into Forever 16 -- in this issue you meet Steve's radical outspoken girlfriend, Jocelyn Stafford. You may remember her as the center character on last issue's cover. This will probably be the last time Forever 16 takes up six pages for a while; it was important to get all those origins out of the way. It only took a year.

Here's another feature I had planned from the beginning: something regarding the existence of Bohemia Visual Music, the strangest TV station I've ever seen. If the boost I'm giving it this month winds up setting in motion the events that actually bring this little piece of anarchy back to life, that would be lovely.

There's not much of a plot in "Lola," an eight-pager in four pages by Jewell White. But it is well-drawn, well-paced and pleasant, despite the fact that someone gets bitten on the head by a vengeful rabbit. When I was sent this one, I knew I had to find space for it.

One secret inside fact for those who visit the site: Mulberry's license plate, which is cut off on the cover, says HEY 854. This was the license plate of my mother's terrible, malfunctioning, garishly yellow Dodge Colt that she had to survive on in the late 80's until she gratefully received a hand-me-down Buick from my grandparents. Since then, HEY 854 has shown up on license plates in my work, starting in second grade. Sometimes I wonder where that nasty car ended up -- I figure if I print that plate enough times, someone who knows will come forward. If you were behind its wheel at one point, you should know I once did something unspeakably gross to the inside right door handle.

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