Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mad Man and Englishmen

Yes, I was in the advertising racket. You've already seen this ad I did for Dick's Deli in thursday.
Dick's got these cartoons for free (aside from what they paid to thursday, which wasn't much when you figure they stiffed the newspaper out of $100 when they closed unexpectedly). So did a lot of my MIT colleagues, for whom I drew posters advertising parties, mixers, special movie showings and other things. But I had at least one client that paid me for my drawings. As I mentioned, my cartoons were used to sell vitamins (or rather supplements) to kids. Thus was created the GOPHER Gang, a group of cool kids and one funny-looking doctor (and a gopher, of course). The GOPHERs were created to promote good nutritional habits to a younger audience, which everyone knew was going to be a hard sell given the typical youngster's preference for soda pop, fast food, chips and candy. However, it didn't help that the first attempt to reach them was a newsletter filled with dense print, along with the cartoon characters.
This was the one and only issue (and I'm leaving out the inside pages of this four-page newsletter). 
This was as far as the project got. It had everything it needed to become a hit, but then, so did the Carolana Colony Mystery Package, for which I also drew a cartoon. The most I'm going to say about the Carolana Colony Mystery Package is that it commemorated the Carolana Colony, a heretofore undiscovered British Colony that was found in Texas in 1987 when a backhoe operator digging in a parking lot just north of downtown Houston happened upon some undisturbed black earth graves. A friend of mine - a Brit who had moved to Texas almost two decades earlier to promote unregulated offshore radio (pirate radio, mateys!) - took an interest in the graves, as did a professor and archaeologist at the University of Houston. The professor researched the history of the graves, and determined that they were indeed from an English Colony that tried to establish itself in Texas at a time contemporary with the Carolina Colony at Jamestown. My friend tried to turn that history into a pop culture item by putting together a package consisting of 8 miniature flags representing the Eight Flags Over Texas (France, Spain, Mexico, Texas, Confederacy and the United States - and England and Carolana), a booklet with a condensed history, a cartoon that I drew, and a baggie full of dirt (taken from the parking lot where the graves were found). These were taken to Trader's Village in Grand Prairie, Texas, and offered for sale, and in one afternoon exactly zero were sold (on the other hand, some lucky customers walked away with bargains on Blaunkton car stereos and Alphine speakers).

So what did Houston do with this astonishing bit of history that was right under their noses? They did what Texans usually do with historic artifacts - they paved it over with asphalt.

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