I finished inking it when I realized something…it has the great potential to be a little confusing. That’s part of the problem with conceiving a cartoon 15 minutes before you draw and ink it. So, I thought that I would lend a hand to the old cartoon this morning and guide you through it frame by frame.
The first frame. Aptly titled, “TAM 97: The First Frame.”
Here our heroes sit. In TAM 96, they decided to come to couples counseling to help them cope with their jealousy issues. As you know, “the girlfriend” has been spending a lot of time recently with a bottle of bleach (and “the boyfriend’s” best friend) named Mr. Gnomerton. In earlier strips we learn that the Boyfriend (TAM) picked up an obsession with pinewood derby racing and building pinewood derby racers, leaving the Girlfriend all alone and in dire need of friendly companionship since, evidently, neither of them have any “real life” friends besides each other.
However, now, it seems that the Boyfriend’s given up on pinewood derby racing. Why? Because it just wasn’t all that interesting after all.
But back to the panel. They’re sitting in the “Dr’s” office awaiting their first counseling session. Another couple emerges from the office, and since it’s implied that our heroes are the next in line for head shrinking, they prepare to meet “Dr.” Freis, Jr. and get down to some serious healing.
They’re understandably nervous. Seeing a counselor can be a little intimidating after all. Besides, the couple who had the session before them doesn’t look too happy to be there.
The other couple’s names are Jake and Carlotta. Jake bounces around from job to job which makes Carlotta accuse him of being shiftless and lazy. But in reality, Jake’s childhood dream is to write pulp detective novels. Tragically, he can’t disclose this to Carlotta because of a promise he made to Carlotta’s father on his deathbed. “No daughter of mine will ever marry a lazy writer” her father said. So Jake just leaps from used car lot to used car lot, constantly being laid off because of his inability to meet sales quotas. But he knows deep in his heart that he’s no salesman. He’s a writer!
Carlotta has worked at the law firm of Case and Brown for the last 10 years. She got the job right out of high school, which, incidentally, is when she met Jake. The two fell in love quickly. But Jakes seeming ineptness for work has caused Carlotta to have to turn the summer job she got at 18 into a career. Giving up on her lifelong dream of becoming a reoccurring character in a pulp detective novel. A dream that tragically she can’t relate to Jake because of a promise she made to his mother on her deathbed. “No daughter-in-law of mine will ever be the basis for the character of a noirish vamp” his mother said. She’ll just have to file and file for the rest of eternity she figures. Longing for the day when she gets to figuratively strut through a door with a swagger that would make a monk blush and legs that go all the way to the floor.
So, now Jake and Carlotta are here in “Dr.” Freis’s office. And it’s not looking good for them. Maybe they can someday find the happiness and symbiosis that eludes them. But for now, they’ll slowly erode each other’s joy with quite loathing.
That brings us to panel 2. Titled “TAM 97: The Second Frame.”
Here’s where it gets confusing. I should really have turned this into a 4 panel cartoon. See, since frame 1, Carlotta has cleared the frame, stage left leaving behind a skulking Jake. The Girlfriend has entered “Dr.” Freis’s office and awaits the Boyfriend’s entrance so they can get to the session. The session about which the Boyfriend voiced his concern of the monetary cost in the previous strip.
The Boyfriend is also visibly nervous about the whole ordeal. He secretly feels that counseling is a “chick thing.” But, deep down, he also knows better.
Before he can enter the office, he has a brief, silent moment with Jake who is reluctant to join his wife. The Boyfriend can see that Jake is damaged, and consequently, is quietly questioning the benefits of this counseling session. Nonetheless, he’s made a commitment to his Girlfriend and he’ll see it through…for her.
Now we come to the next frame. Titled “Still Life with Shame and Vase.”
Again, the cartoon takes a confusing turn. Maybe I should have made it a 5 panel strip? I couldn’t do that. It requires a lot of small drawing and I have enough trouble drawing big.
What has happened between the 2nd and 3rd panels is that the Boyfriend and Girlfriend have started their counseling session with Jr. But about 2 minutes into the session, after the explanation about the jealousy and who the heck Mr. Gnomerton is, “Dr.” Freis began to laugh hysterically at them. Hurting their feelings and making them feel small.
To be fair here, “Dr.” Freis is a solemn man and always highly professional, but it just so happens that today is his 60th birthday. Every year on his birthday, Freis’s colleagues zing him with a practical joke. And this being his 60th, he was preparing himself for one doozy of a goof.
Unfortunately, that was the day that this hapless couple decided to receive professional help. Their mildly insane problem, coupled with “Dr.” Freis’s heightened level of mirth paranoia, left both parties a bit befuddled on this day.
The Girlfriend is left with in confused wonderment as she tries to regroup and not feel like a psychological leper. But the Boyfriend sees an opportunity to recoup his much-needed cash. He knew it was a waste of time. And since he’s got no real sense on equilibrium, as long as he gets his money back, this whole ordeal will be like it never happened.
That’s where the third panel takes up. The couple has been in the office only 5 minutes before they come back out.
I realized that this was confusing, like I said, after I inked the thing. I didn’t want to add a “five minutes later” tag. I haven’t tagged anything so far in the history of the strip. Not really. Besides, I was already taking a gamble by drawing TAM in profile at the end. One more misstep could have been fatal.
I hope that clears things up for you. I hope that I’ve helped to make sense out of a poorly conceived cartoon.
Thanks for your time,
Fun Fact: Carlotta is pregnant. But she hasn’t told Jake yet. She’s trying to decide whether or not she wants to start a family with lazy Jake or run away to Europe and never let Jake know of his child.
Her suitcase has been secretly packed and stashed under the bed for the last three weeks.
This won’t make any sense if you don’t read the post. Read the post, lazy!