It was 1982.
Issue No. 6 was the last issue of DUCKWORK. I am not sure of the reasons why, and I’m hoping that Gerry Giovinco does his history of the paper because he was directly involved with the nuts and bolts and all of the behind-the-scenes issues involved in publishing that student paper. Me – I was a clueless freshman who hung out, handed in 3 installments of a strip and irritated everyone with a constant stream of movie trivia and trivialities. I know money was an issue as always. The school was playing musical deans at the time, and the old guard was going out and the new one coming in, wanting to make changes. I know that everybody was trying to get their academic act together. The workload was tremendous particularly for the illustration majors. Time was a precious commodity. What was the sense of working on a school newspaper if you were going to flunk out of that school? Crack those books! Write that term paper you’ve been avoiding!
After issue No. 6, I was proceeding with the idea that there was going to be future issues and was working up ideas for other strips. I was going to continue my trend of mocking classic and sub-classic television programs and started to work up sketches for Gomer Pyle Goes to Viet Nam.
I found these sketches in an ancient, GBC-bound sketchbook. I don’t know why, but I must have been using an 8-H pencil at the time. These drawings were so light they were practically non-existent. I had to really play with levels in Photoshop to get something to show!
Anyway, Sargent Carter having heard one too many “Golly’s” and “Shazam’s” seizes on an opportunity to ship Pyle off to South East Asia. Carter figures Pyle won’t last a day and he’ll finally be rid of that lumbering lunkhead forever! Of course, just like the TV show, nothing works out Carter’s way. Pyle sees action and gets blown to bits. He is shipped back to the old Sarge in a small crate. Carter opens the crate finding a basket case Pyle still alive! Naturally it ends with a deliriously grinning and quite mad Gomer Pyle shrieking, “Soo-Prize! Soo-Prize! Soo-Prize!”
Maybe it’s a good thing DUCKWORK ceased publication.
The story was based on/ripped off from one of my favorite comics in my collection – Weird War Tales. Comic companies had done so many variations of war and Western comics, why not offbeat ones? In the cover story, the GI buys a talisman from a shaman. The shaman promises the American that he can not die as long as he wears the talisman. The soldier figures that he has just got an incredible bargain. The problem is that the talisman only keeps the wearer from dying – not from harm. He ends up at the end of the tale in a wicker basket hoping that somebody will remove the talisman thus granting him the sweet release of death. John, my older brother, bought it, read it and threw it to me as he always did at the time. He may have read it and forgot about it. I obsessed over it. The cover is etched in my mind. I still have it. The comic had the Comic Code seal meaning it was safe for kids, but it gave me the willies!
Eventually word came down that the school was not going to fund any future issues of DUCKWORK. Gerry thought we could keep it going by selling advertising space. That’s what regular comics and newspapers did! There were ads in previous issues for art supply stores, small shops and cafes. We would just have to dedicate more space in the paper for advertising. The problem was that the Ducks would do the selling. Not everyone can be a salesman. Making a cold call to a little shop is tough. I was miserable at it. I think the cheapest ad was $15 for placing a business card on a page. No bites. The other Ducks were equally successful. It was dispiriting. Who wanted to go from store to store, door-to-door just to be rejected? Besides who wanted their place of business associated with comics about cannibalism, necrophilia and over-sexed water fowl? Showing potential advertisers copies of the paper was a deal killer. An inept sales staff and the utter lack of time caused by the crush of school work amongst other commitments meant that DUCKWORK was a dead duck.
I think Comico was starting to come to life. Gerry Giovinco, the driving force of DUCKWORK, had much bigger fish to fry than a little school newspaper. He was on the precipice of independent comic history!
Gerry will hopefully clear up the timeline in his column over at CO2 Comics.
Anyway, the plug was pulled. The DUCKWORK sign came off of the door of the tiny office on the 13th floor. I remember passing it a few times and trying the knob. Locked and unoccupied. DUCKWORK was dead. Nothing else came in or was started up to fill the breach. No other paper was started up. Not even mimeographed typewritten dispatches! No other Spanky McFarlands came forth to declare that he was going to put on a show. The party was over.
Next Time: Epilogue Part II!