Turtle Club Newsletter #12 Deep and Fleeting
Return to Monkey Island
Have you ever found yourself diving into something and becoming absolutely obsessed with it for a brief period at a pivotal moment in your life? Letting the research and joy of discovery completely overtake you at a time in your life when you desperately needed the distraction?
That’s the situation I found myself in when discovering the classic LucasArts game The Secret of Monkey Island and it’s sequel, LeChuck’s Revenge. They are deeply, deeply silly games that are family friendly affairs. But like so many family friend affairs they contain a bubbling sorrow and nostalgia at their heart…A message waiting to get out beneath the surface, a kind of existential fear and sorrow of growing up and the tribulations of divesting oneself of childhood innocence in the effort to address the grim realities and calculations and compromises of adulthood.
I don’t know why I found Monkey Island when I did, or what compelled me to dive so deep into its history and lore (both publishing history, its inspirations, and the actual “Lore” of the franchise) but it came to me at a moment where I desperately needed a distraction.
In the summer of 2007 I had dropped out of the School of Visual Arts in New York City at 3AM in a phone call to my parents the very same night I moved into the apartment. I had spent the better part of my senior year of college following a path I thought I wanted, toward going to art school. But it wasn’t what was right for me.
To this day, 15 years after the fact, it is still something I almost never talk about. I don’t know why I’m embarrassed or ashamed about it because it remains one of the few decisions I ever made I did not feel any guilt or questions about and if I had not made that decision I would not have my my wife or had my son, the greatest things to ever happen to me, so.
But I think we are just afraid to admit failure even when that failure is what leads us to growth. I had been trying to convince myself art school was the thing that made sense to me but it just never did. I love to draw and I still have dreams about some day cobbling together a comic book but it has never been my undying passion. The passion needed to make something your life’s pursuit. In that empty New York apartment (and oh man was the view killer), after listening to my new roommate make assumptions about me and make fun of me for an hour while he rolled joints on top of my stuff, I realized I didn’t have The Fire for this. I was still sick, too and I think I just wasn’t ready to be anywhere but certainly not alone in New York City.
Anyway, the shame spiral falling out of that and the need to fill the void of any kind of real driving purpose is where I encountered Monkey Island and fell in love with it, particularly the first two. Ron Gilbert’s story, the humor and heart and heartache, the calypso midi music and winking nods at the banal pursuit of wealth and fame, all came together to form a story that was deeply and personally affecting to me for a six month period in 2007.
But Monkey Island was a dead property; LucasArts and its Adventure Games essentially folded shortly after LeChuck’s Revenge. Several follow ups came out under different creators and directors and while each is charming in their own way, they discarded the haunting and psychologically gripping finale of the second game immediately, not concerned with pursuing Gilbert’s original plans for the story or the real Secrets. Guybrush Threepwood, floating in a bumper car in the middle of the ocean after potentially discovering his entire adventure as a pirate was the imagination of a lost child in an amusement park? That’s mind bending stuff, rich with potential.
2009 saw some new entries in the franchise for the Wii and PC, from TellTale games, who briefly revived the spirit of LucasArts point and click adventures before tumbling down into controversy and worker abuse as so many video game developers do.
So, when I read that Ron Gilbert was returning to Monkey Island for a new entry that picks up from the events of LeChuck’s Revenge, I was thrilled beyond belief because of how fondly I remember those original games and how much they meant to me at a specific time in my life where I was in tremendous need of an escape that pushed me to pursue a passion, even if i didn’t really know what that was, that invited me to reflect on what I held too tightly from childhood that was preventing me from escaping my haunted amusement park.
I don’t know if they’re going to re-release the Monkey Island games or their Special Editions that they produced around 10 years ago, but I hope they do and if they do, you should play them. They’re a delight.
And I’m extremely excited to see what Ron Gilbert has in store.
Random Comic Panel of the Week
Urbane Turtle Around the Web
I spent this weekend extremely sick to my stomach and unable to do anything so I got no writing done. I did feel the kind of looming pressure to make sure I was producing some content but, since I couldn’t it was kind of nice to just compartmentalize that and put it aside. I think I’m probably done, for the foreseeable future, doing individual comic reviews at the Big Site I’ve been a contributor to for the last year on any regular basis. The amount of work for the return in terms of pay is, frankly, abysmal, and now that I’ve gotten a body of work that I’m mostly proud of that can hopefully parlay into future work I am less concerned with hustling over there for what little I see returned.
Freelance rates have got to get better, guys.
I don’t know if I’m going to pursue work at other smaller outlets with regularity but, who knows?
Anyway in the last newsletter I mentioned a project involving Iron Man. Below is the final product. I was commissioned to help contribute scripts from this channel who has developed quite a big following from their anime/manga content and looking to expand into western comics. It’s been a fun challenge to research and write scripts in this way that help introduce people to stories and characters they may not be familiar with. I’ve written over and over again about how my fandom started with reading encyclopedias and fan curated resources so this is a fun extension of that idea in a new medium. The dudes behind this are a couple of young guys who are really hustling to put together a legit operation, and I’m impressed by the effort going on behind the scenes. So this is the first video.
Still to Come
So, on the site here’s some general updates:
I think I’m still going to try to produce the last Batman piece I teased in the last newsletter. Last week, in addition to being cripplingly sick for 3 days, was consumed by the new (paid) gig above as well as some professional decision making in regard to my full time work that both took priority over what is essentially a vanity project, so. Batman Month will continue into April.
In May I hoped to start a series of Star Wars essays, one for each of the 9 main film entries. I don’t know if time will allow for that given everything, but I’m optimistic that I will, at least, do something.
Other than that I think I want to get to trying to do at least one post about something that is coming out right now on the page that is speaking to me in some way. I’m way, way, way, WAAAY, behind on my monthly books, in part because my LCS is currently moving locations, in part because holy crap how do you do anything when you have a nine month old, and in part because I don’t want to buy anything else on ComiXology.
But I’d like to do that.
No new WHY DO COMICS HATE ME?! this week. They don’t right now, because I am ignoring them. And this has been a long one.