And the next episode begins with a soothing cover showing our hero enjoying a relaxing moment of introspection. Practically a pastoral setting, really. Giorgione would be proud.

Stay with us — this is going to be a big one!



Fire and Ash

So apparently they are still making phone books. Occasionally. Used to be we’d get about ten sets of yellow pages a year, all of them printed by different companies, whose tireless salepeople would go around to all the local shops and restaurants and convince them that if they didn’t buy an ad in the Grunt Hills Alliance Yellow Pages their businesses would be echoing chambers of desolation and despair, with spider webs across the cash register and only the mournful sound of crickets accompanying the squeaks of their noses across the panes of their front windows as they wistfully watched hordes of customers flock to competitors who had shown the foresight to purchase large expensive ads in the Grunt Hills Alliance Yellow Pages.

It was apparently quite the racket for a while.

And of course, the Grunt Hills Alliance Yellow Pages would be delivered free to our doorstep, along with the West Trollop Community Yellow Pages and the Dog and Pony Yellow Pages and Big Joe’s Gimme Yer Ad Money Yellow Pages, all of them containing more or less the same ads from increasingly impecunious merchants, and we would do the same thing all our neighbors did — toss them right in the trash. I think the local landfills are about 80% Yellow Pages, at least down in the strata of, say, the 1990s and earlier. But now, what with the Internets and all, only the most gullible or easily-intimidated merchants are still purchasing print ads, and the deluge dried up.

So it seems a shame, now that I have actually found a use for these phone books, that we hardly get them any more. You see, the paper they use in the phone books is cheap and slick, consisting mostly of waste material and made smooth with the addition of clay. Really. As a result, phone books burn really messily, with lots of drifting ash. (Yes, I spend a certain amount of time setting random things on fire to see whether they burn in an interesting manner. Here’s a tip — light a ping-pong ball sometime.)

And — finally getting to the point — as a result, when I wanted to do some Burning Debris footage, such as might be seen in the aftermath of a disaster of sorts, it turned out that lighting phone books on fire and throwing them out of an upper story window was absolutely the way to go. I mean, naturally it is a fine way to spend an afternoon anyway, but in addition to the joy of simply throwing burning phone books out the window, the result is lots of flaming debris and drifting ash, and images of this were used in the composition of this particular cover. Naturally, Max has gone over all of it to give it a more painterly style, but I was glad to be able to make a contribution.

And I got to throw burning phone books out the window.

Life is good.

–Bob out


Artist’s Notes:

Gonna chime in here briefly about the phone books.  They’ve always confused me.  Growing up with the internet, I’ve viewed them as a relic of a bygone era.  Kinda like when I wander past a newspaper stand and glance the headlines… “yup, that’s what happened yesterday.”  Just a really poor way to be informed.  

I’m pretty sure I had never even opened one until a few weeks ago.  I’ve certainly never used them for their intended purpose.  No, they are so much more useful as, say, a booster seat for a young child, or a riser for a computer monitor.  But that’s only if you don’t already have an encyclopedia serving the same function .

They are literally forced upon us by these phone book companies.  I can recall many instances of going about my business in my home, and hearing an anonymous figure outside my doorway quickly run up, and WHUMP, and then run away, shouting “go, go!” quickly followed by van tires peeling out and screeching away into the distance.  

During one particularly apathetic stretch of my existence, I allowed these quarterly deliveries to simply be piled upon each other like so much geological strata.  I wanted the deliveryman to appreciate that I would sooner bring in a flaming bag of dog poo into my home, than another useless phone book.  

Over time, they’ve gotten the message, or something.  No more phone books at my door.  That’s fine, I still have the one from 2010 on top of my fridge.  I use it to, uh, keep my fridge warm… or something.

Or I did, until recently, when my wife and I bought a house, and the Great Pack began.  I couldn’t be bothered to help with the whole affair, since I have comics that need drawing, and my wife is an expert at packing stuff anyway, and I would only interfere.  It was then she introduced me to another use for phone books: packing paper.  By ripping out and crumpling the pages individually, you create a nice cushion for, say, whiskey bottles that need boxing.  I tried to help by drinking as much as I could, thereby lightening the load, but was informed that my time would be better served going out and acquiring additional phone books.

Unsure of where to find them, I proceeded to the local newspaper stand, where I knew that at the very least, I could theoretically purchase newspapers, which could serve the same purpose.  But as fate would have it, right next to the newspaper stand was a big shelf of phone books, just there for the general public to take.  That explains why they stopped delivering them, I guess.  More efficient this way.  So I loaded up about a dozen; which garnered dumbfounded looks from the newspaper salesguy, who doubtless had up to this point never seen anyone take even a single volume, and now before him stood a young man grabbing all he could carry.  

I then returned home with my bounty and promptly took a nap, satisfied that my “half” of the packing duties were now complete.