Tom Duck and Harry's Alaska Connection

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Tom and Harry head for Alaska in The New Adventures of Tom Duck and Harry

Cartoons from TOO FAR NORTH were included in the CARTOON NORTH exhibit and catalog in Ester, Alaska (which is outside of College, Alaska, if you don't know where Ester is, which is outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, if you don't know where College is)


Ohio Gothic: Tom Duck standing on a rain barrel next to Harry (a pig) who is holding a five pronged manure fork, the two set against a cartoon rendition of the setting for Grant Wood's American Gothic.
 
The cartoonist standing next to 'the world's largest marmot,' which is actually a stuffed bear posed as a marmot, in the visitor center at the top of the Mt. Roberts tramway in Juneau, Alaska; tram is owned and operated by the Goldbelt Native Corporation
 

The cartoonist standing next to a regular sized marmot in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, Tongass National Forest, Juneau, Alaska.  The marmot is real but not alive. The cartoonist is alive but not for real.
The cover of Too Far North: A Northern Cartoon Odyssey by David Mudrick.' Click the cover to see sample cartoons from the book.


Left: Tom Duck and Harry, Ohio Gothic--that's Harry on the right

Center: The cartoonist with the world's largest marmot--that's the marmot on the right--in the visitor center at the top of the Mt. Roberts Tramway, Juneau, Alaska; marmot courtesy of the Goldbelt Native Corporation, which operates the tramway. (Yeah, yeah, we know it's a doctored stuffed bear.)

Top right: A regular sized marmot in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, Tongass National Forest, Juneau--again, marmot on the right

Bottom right: Too Far North produced and published by the cartoonist and his friends at Northcountry Communications, Gakona, Alaska, in 1987; the initial (and only) press run of 1000 copies sold out, which enabled the cartoonist's family to pay for their trip back home; click the book or here for more, including some sample cartoons



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MY BRUSH WITH ALASKAN HUMOR,
OR "WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT RUNNING INTO A MOOSE?"

by David Mudrick, June 2007, revised March 2010

With selective memories of Gakona, AK
[Until we lived there, I thought AK stood for Arkansas, but now I know it's the sound you make trying to draw breath at 55 below.]

In May 2007 I received an email asking permission to use portions of my book, Too Far North: A Northern Cartoon Odyssey, in an exhibit of Alaskan sequential art (aka cartoons). We had produced it over twenty years before in Gakona, Alaska, with the help of publisher friends, in the dead of winter. The exhibit (www.esterrepublic.com/cartoonnorth.html) was held in June 2007 in a small gallery between College and Ester, on the Parks Highway, "the road" that runs between Fairbanks and Anchorage. In the mid 1980s, this area would have been too small to call "podunk," especially in midwinter when there's not enough unfrozen liquid around to dunk anything, rich or po'. Nevertheless, I couldn't be more honored, even if it were in the New York Museum of Modern Art. (Well, that's probably not true, but I don't have to worry about finding out.)

My wife and I, along with our then five kids, were wintering in Alaska to see the Northern Lights, with plans to return to Northern Virginia after the school year and spring breakup. As winter progressed, we needed to raise enough funds to stay fed and get home, so we published the book, which was a collection of cartoons I'd done for our friends' bi-weekly news magazine, Copper River Country Journal. The cartoons were usually executed in ball-point pen on copier paper, by lantern light after the kids were asleep.

My greatest compliment came from a Journal reader in Tok who wrote, "This is real Alaskan humor." So, then, what is real Alaskan humor? Certainly, it runs the same gamut as any other humor genre, perhaps more often on the cruder side to meet the preconceptions of tourists. However, with the penetration of The Last Frontier by technology, just about anything can be had or viewed there. When we were there, satellite broadcast was sometimes the only way to communicate. The satellite dishes were pointed almost to the horizon, which was a visual and visceral indication of just how far into northern latitudes we had come.

My cartoons focused on the more quirky aspects of rural Alaskan life as we experienced it. No, I never really saw a house made entirely of duct tape, but I suspect they exist. No, swans do not return for the summer in "S"s, but rather in the same "V"s as other migratory waterfowl. No, my kids never fought over the Sears catalog as a source of indoor recreation, but they did decorate the cabin with paper snowflakes and listened to the output of our home entertainment center, which consisted of an AM-FM clock radio that picked up two stations and a Fisher-Price cassette recorder.

Cartoon set inside cabin, window curtains slightly open revealing night sky with starts, frazzled mother trying to ignore daughter reaching for book being held defiantly by son; caption: 'Mom!  It's my night for the Sears Catalog!' -Ed.

Unfortunately, like mosquitoes, puns can exist that far north. Even more unfortunately, but unlike mosquitoes, puns do not die off in winter.

Alaskan humor reflects the same vagaries of the human condition found elsewhere, though Alaskans may be reticent to admit it. More than elsewhere, Alaskan humor must also pay homage to the larger population of two-, four-, and six-footed, pawed, clawed, winged or otherwise appendaged denizens of the state, not to mention the finned or flippered river and sea folk. Having a moose in it doesn't make it Alaskan humor, although having a flying saucer cross the galaxy, only to run into a moose on "the road," just might. This also was the only way I could work road kill moose into a humor context, since those encounters were often fatal for both the moose and the occupants of the vehicle. To add insult to injury or death, you or your survivors wouldn't benefit from the windfall of moose meat. There was a list of indigent families waiting to get a phone call that their moose was available, perhaps 100 miles away. We had more than our share of close encounters of the moose and caribou kind, and they were only a laughing matter after the fact.

Cartoon, no caption, of aftermath of collision between flying saucer and moose somewhere on 'The Road' in Alaska; both aliens and moose appear dead (have Xs for eyes), but the inscription on the smashed saucer looks more like Hebrew than any Venusian we've seen -Ed.

Oh, yeah, the Northern Lights. We did see them. They can stay almost motionless for hours and then suddenly start dancing at breathtaking speed, so you have to decide in advance just how long you'll stand there watching before your brain freezes and you forget to go back inside. We also saw them from the doorway of our north-facing latrine. The door was no obstacle to viewing as it had blown off in the fall during a week of 100-mph chinook winds. Of course, when using the latrine in the winter, you had to let the seat drop hard first to remove the two inches of hoar frost.

Springtime was another source of humor, when kids would measure the depth of ice-melt puddles by wading into them. The water was always at least a half inch above the tops of their "breakup boots." By that time we were packing to return home. The nights were too light to see the Aurora, but the local fauna springing back to life all around our cabin sounded like a Tarzan movie. On the drive back "outside," after surviving the winter with little more automobile trouble than a broken valve lifter, we experienced a cracked windshield and a flat tire within two hours on the first major paved road in British Columbia. Good ol' Alaskan, or northern, humor.



Sorry, but we just had to do the following--no, it's not from the book:
6/11/07


Some Alaska links (but y'all come back, y'heah?):

Click here to visit the home of the world's largest marmot, the Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska

Click here to visit the home of the regular sized marmot, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in the Tongass National Forest, Juneau, Alaska

Click here to visit our favorite Alaska travel site, BearfootGuides.com


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