Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Frogs of Might and Voracity

Big Willy isn't the only animal out there with food on the brain. Well, food is a primary concern for most animals (including humans), but some critters, like Big Willy and Bud take 'living to eat' to a higher level.

Bud, my pac-man frog, whom I have had for 15 years, has been the inspiration for many pictures and stories. He sits motionless in a hole in the mud for days. Then, when a live earthworm or insect is offered, he launches the attack. Snatches the victim in his jaws and devours it. Onlookers are always surprised--to see the amphibian transform so suddenly from statue to pouncing tiger. And Bud will attack anything that moves (including your hand), will eat any animal he can swallow, and has no taboos on cannibalism, if given the opportunity. Some of his wild relatives die by choking, when they try to swallow prey that is too large. All this makes for a character as fantastic as those dreamed up by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko! Although I cannot claim their level of skill at rendering such a character on the comics page, I try my best. As such, I recently completed my second Bud-inspired comic story, which is titled "The Threat of Big Bad Bo." It is a sort of parody of the Marvel monster comics of the 1950s, with a pac-man frog as the monster. On display above is the opening splash-page, which is followed by four more pages, dense with action in a nine-panel grid. (My first Bud-inspired comic "Song for a Hungry Horned Frog"--which takes a more contemporary dramatic approach--is available on iknowjoekimpel.com.) Soon, I will collect these and other stories into a comic book of "Frog Stories." Watch for it in the coming year, true believers.

In a recent visit to my parents' house, I uncovered this colored pencil drawing from my high school days. It depicts a giant Bud, hidden among the swamp-plants. A nice reminder that I have been drawing the ol' frog for many years. (And was drawing him impressively well when I was a teenager.) In my visit, I have not had the opportunity to greet the real Bud, for he is buried under mud for his winter sleep. He sleeps for many months out of the year; and the duration of the long nap has increased with each passing year. However, when he does emerge, he is as vivacious as ever. His appetite is not quite as great as in his younger days, but he is still a horrifying predator, to any animal small enough to be engulfed in his jaws. We keep wondering how long the amphibian can live, and thinking that every winter will be his last. And then he surprises us again when he emerges, late in the spring. Whenever he does go to the great mud-hole in the sky, he will be remembered, in pencil and ink.

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