At the aquatic facility where I work, we are notorious for our lock collection. There have been as many as 15 locks at once in the lost and found. It would be great if lap swimmers told us the combinations before they decide to leave them. That way lifeguards wouldn’t be sitting in the office trying to crack the code, with our ears pressed against the tumbler. Just imagine, if a lap swimmer was on his way out the door and commented, “By the way, I left my combination lock on locker 24 and I’ve taken the pleasure of writing down the combination for you and here it is.” This would sure save lifeguards a heap of time because then we could stop fiddling with all those combination locks. And I could stop telling patrons, “We do provide locks, but they don’t open.” Also in the legal sense, it’s a little disconcerting to full time staff if one of the lifeguards actually cracks a lock open. I don’t want to go through another background check, do you?
If Kurt were a little more subtle, perhaps his supervisors wouldn’t reach a conclusion quite so quickly. On the other hand, nothing escapes the judgment of those water aerobic ladies. So Kurt, just relax. You will be blamed regardless!
It is no joke that supervisors receive complaint letters from patrons, but the subjects are mostly about appliances and equipment that need fixing rather than pool personnel. I’m not sure if I was supposed to know anything about complaint letters, but as a lifeguard who barged in on supervisors every once in awhile, I sure had my “inside track” of the low-down that was happening at the aquatic facility. While Kurt is based on a real person, I cannot divulge if any of these complaint letters have an ounce of truth hidden in them. In the meantime, the real question is going to be whether or not Kurt knows what the supervisors are thinking when they give him that look. What do you think?
A brief update on the creative process of Suits and Guarders:
I managed to complete eight comics in the month of January and ten in the month of February all while bouncing back and forth to school and work. And I plan to submit my comic to several syndicates again this spring.
Kurt just couldn’t keep his hands out of the peanut butter on this one. And as one can see, Jonathan was already suspicious of Kurt at the moment Arnold jumped from his seat. This is exactly why a pool needs to stay busy; otherwise lifeguards will find trouble to pass the mundane hours. I’m not sure at this point if it’s the trunks or the chair that is more salvageable, but either way, it’s going to be a chore to wash the nuttiness out of this rampage. If Arnold ever figures out what happened, Kurt may seriously have to consider making that “career move.”
What’s really amusing about this cartoon is the backstory behind it. As if anyone would ever consider lifeguarding to be a career, the actual lifeguard that Kurt is solely based on said this comedic-like punchline word for word. Yes, Kurt is a real person. I always tell people that all of my characters are composites based on several individuals, but Kurt is the one exception. As a matter of fact, he was the driving force that caused me to create the cartoon “Suits and Guarders.” Because this story was etched deep in my mind long ago, I tend to think of this cartoon as one of the first comics. But because time was needed to develop the personalities, I pushed it back until later in the series so that everyone was familiar with the characters. This prank never happened in real life. In fact, I don’t really know what caused the real Kurt to express these words or even to whom he was referring. I just know that upon hearing this, I thought, “Now this should be in a comic strip!”
The only true story I can tell about mischief around lockers is that when I was a kid on a swim team, one of the older guys would open all the lockers before he left the locker room and run past them with his hand extended out. Bang-bang-bang-bang! was the sound that echoed through the drafty room, because at the time, the lockers were made out metal. It’s safe to say this is probably why all the lockers were replaced with plastic later on because over the years they had really taken a beating. On the other hand, a middle schooler on the same swim team told me that some guys at his school had applied oil to the interior of a locker and practically the whole thing had gone up in a blaze. So that’s what you learn in middle school. So it may be that around swimmers, lockers will eventually be lost to impact, flame, or perhaps, a leak coming from the ceiling.
This particular cartoon is completely fictional, though I would not be surprised if someone encountered something very similar. The previous high jinks of my fellow swimmers are fun to look back on, but I don’t think assisting kids in new ways to make a racket or introducing Arsonry 101 through my comic is a good idea. I’m pretty sure that one day a comic strip of mine will spark some mischief in someone but I’m hoping it will just involve the mischief of humor.
I don’t think any dancers follow my blog. But If they did, they might have a good laugh over this cartoon! Or maybe just point out that I don’t know my dance moves.
Swim coaches highly encourage stretching exercises before every meet or practice. Stretching not only decreases your chance of injury in the water, but nearly eliminates injuries on dry land too. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a kid, or an adult for that matter, say, “Ouch! I just hurt myself stretching!” On the other hand, I wouldn’t say it’s not possible. So if you’re going to try to prove that point, please don’t injure yourself.
If you guessed that this is based on a true story, then you would be correct. A group of high school swimmers decided that they were going to take up dancing one day and started performing pirouettes across the pool deck. Sure, lifeguards have to tell kids on occasion not to run. And of course, high school swimmers know not to run on the pool deck. However, from a teenager’s perspective, the pool rules don’t say anything about dancing, and I don’t think they ever will, unless jumping three feet in the air over a puddle of standing water becomes a regular dance move. So while you might say this wasn’t smart, it was actually very graceful. I tried to capture that grace here and the total reckless abandon of possibly falling and breaking a limb. How did I do?
Thankfully no characters (real high school swimmers or cartoon swimmers) were injured that day because the dancing was stopped by a lifeguard before it happened (inside or outside of the cartoon panels). I think it’s safe to say that only in a comic strip where the gag is fabricated beyond reality, will an incident like this ever appear to be funny.
Life has moments like this where we all take a leap at something. The way I see it, just jump when you’re ready; unless someone is waiting around to catch you. In that case, you now have the obligation of telling them, “Okay, fine! I’m going to do it now!”
I’m not going to pretend to be one of those people who writes inspirational posts for a living, because I don’t think the above statement is going to brighten anyone’s day. Instead, I think my forte is invoking people to laugh at my terrible humor.
This cartoon best explains how a swim instructor usually spends their time in the water with a beginner: half of the effort is merely consoling the swimmer and telling them that everything will be alright, and the other half is actually performing the task. The same is true for any teacher or coach in life. I chose to apply the panel angles from the child’s view in order to relate to the person taking the leap, instead of the one who is watching. It takes a lot of patience, but when they take that leap, it is so worth watching the expression on their faces. With many kids, I have successfully gotten them to overcome their fears in the water, not due to how I teach, but because I visualize what they might be going through. Okay, I guess that was some kind of inspirational writing, but I still refuse to be categorized in that realm.
I’m still not entirely sure how I came up with this one. The best way to describe it is that once these characters were developed, the cartoons just began writing themselves.
The English language has multiple double-meaning mishaps which Thomas has a hard time comprehending. If it weren’t for all the slang terms in everyday language, Thomas would probably be the best communicator and Kurt wouldn’t find frustration in his answer. Thomas will always be the logical thinker: without expression, feeling, or any relevant terms that coincide with the present. Almost like Spock from Star Trek. The take away from this cartoon is that we all interpret things differently.
Some of you may know the expression “pinned.” It has multiple meanings nowadays and probably did back in the 1950s. It’s meaning back then was when a young man gave a silver pin or something of value to his sweetheart showing a sign of “going steady” and later marriage. I know, not exactly what you were thinking, right? The real joke here is that Jonathan, having the old soul, knows the double-meaning while no one else does. You may be asking yourself, “How does Ian know about this?” After getting hooked on musical theatre, a fourteen year old version of me got to play Harvey Johnson on stage in “Bye Bye Birdie.” I still cringe at some of these memories, but for your entertainment, here is a link of the song “Telephone Hour” posted below, I am the one in the red vest trying to get a date to the prom. Oh, the irony!
The Telephone Hour
There are times as a lifeguard when the swim traffic will hit a lull, and the pool will be empty. Virtually everything is quiet, and if you exclude the occasional rippling of waves and the dumb comments made by guards, one might think that the pool was actually closed. However, there is always that one superstitious guard that believes that if you disturb the peacefulness with a comment as audacious as, “Wow, there is no one in the water!” or “Finally, no one is swimming!” then someone is bound to show up. I don’t think any of these guards believe in that voodoo magic. The closest one might come to being convinced of that drivel is Thomas, but he’s too heavily invested in his reading to pay any mind to the careless comments of Jonathan or Kurt. While guarding a pool with no patrons isn’t really passive income, it is income that is earned in a non-active or passive way.
For my new year enlightenment, I am posting these two comics. The first is a recent draft of a cartoon for “Suits and Guarders,” and the second is an “Ivan the Terrible” cartoon I did a while back. They are not the same comic, but they both share the same location from a different angle. Partly due to working with architecture and partly the inspiration from other creative writers, I am considering creating a geographical map of where the cartoon character’s lives take place like that of C.S Lewis, when he wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia” or J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” It will better develop an image of where everything takes place and bring the characters to life, almost like how every stage show has a set design.
We are now halfway through the Christmas season. I hope everyone is enjoying the wonderful fellowship with family and friends!
The CPO training continues, and Kurt is trying to explain the reason for Thomas having car sickness. Thomas, however, is clueless. This is the obvious reason why Kurt is sitting on the other side of the bus.
This particular strip has quotes from two books that captured my interest during my high school years, and in many ways, compelled me to write humor based on philosophy. The first quote comes from the “Inferno” in Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, which Thomas has been reading since the beginning of this story. The second quote comes from Blaise Pascal’s “Pensees,”which translates in English as “Thoughts.” One might say the takeaway from this is how we acquire so many truths from experience, and yet we don’t seem to change. Dante writes about how the wise view the loss of time in the 14th Century and Blaise Pascal in the 17th century writes about the vanity of youth. And here I am writing words through Kurt’s thought balloon that jokingly jab, but also tie the two together. This comic proves two points about Kurt’s youthful existence: He is “very vain himself,” and also wise, in that he is annoyed about the loss of time. It also shows that even though he may be conflicted, he has some understanding of God. Interestingly enough, after writing this cartoon, I realized the quote from Pascal is from the section called, “The Misery of Man Without God.” How’s that for a philosopher comic?
These two comic strips are some of the newest editions to the story “CPO certification.” Well over two months ago, these three characters, Thomas, Jonathan and Kurt were waiting for the bus to arrive; now they are finally getting on the bus! Wouldn’t it be great if time moved this slow? Still, I have to admit, I wish I could turn these out a bit faster as school takes precedence over much of my creating process currently.
CPO is the abbreviated term for Certified pool/spa operator, which I received earlier this year. Many things happened that day that compelled me to write about it. In reality, my supervisor gave me a city vehicle so I could drive myself to the site. For the comic strip adaptation, I wanted more shenanigans and crazy dialogue to take place, so I added more characters to the mix to banter off of each other. As it turns out, quite a lot of this is fabricated so don’t look at this particular story as an average company outing for any certification. Three things I can tell you for sure; I don’t get carsick and the brakes were fine, however I did listen to some hair metal on the trip down, but limited it because it does make me speed.
Ian Johnson was born with a crazy cartoon character perspective on the real world. “Suits and Guarders” is loosely based on his life as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a local pool. Any resemblance of characters in this work to persons, drawn or imagined, is purely coincidental.