When I was in graduate school I did a strip called Cow-Boy for the weekly newspaper The Comic Buyers Guide. At that time, in addition to Cow-Boy I was also doing a daily strip for the student newspaper. Six strips a week, much the dismay of my graduate committee. Almost 15 years later, I find it difficult to look at the strips I did for the student newspaper with their blazing insights about dating, classes and expensive bookstores. But, Cow-Boy I can stomach, in large part because I can see myself stretching beyond the completely banal to the somewhat less banal. In addition I can see the slow, inexorable drift towards making comics with science in them.
There were a total of 200 Cow-Boy strips and I have decided to start posting them from the beginning with my own commentary on what I was thinking. In our first installment we have Episode #1 which is really Cow-Boy #0. In retrospect, this makes very little sense except to the extent it reflects the convoluted storytelling often found in comics. The none too subtle message here is a lampooning of the cynical marketing of mainstream comics in the 1990s when people would buy comics not for the stories inside but because they came sealed in a bag with a card. You weren’t supposed to open the bag, of course, because doing so would decrease the value of said book. Such was the case with the 3 gazillion polybagged copies of the death of Superman comic. Of course, most people failed to grasp that the collector’s value of a comic comes from its quality and rarity, not because it is pre-wrapped in a comic condom.
Several years later (1997, I think) I released a 72-page Cow-Boy comic that collected seven stories I had done as mini-comics for local comic conventions. The first story, called Escape from Womb World, built off the joke for this first strip. By that time, I had much more invested in the character than I did after the first strip, so the gag in the episode #1 (or episode #0, whatever), which I tossed off without much thought, no longer seemed to fit. By then Cow-Boy had become an avatar for an aspect of my personality and my mommy would not smoke. So, in Escape from Womb World the reader learns that Cow-Boy’s mom isn’t smoking, but is, in fact, a victim of sidestream smoke.