A few people whose introduction to my boys comes from either here or the blogsite (docandraider.blogspot.com) have been asking "Who are these two?" "How did they get together?" "How many t-shirts do they own, anyway?" So I thought for the next couple of days I'd provide a brief history to bring everyone up to speed: who the guys are, who their friends are, and how they came to be.
Picture it: Vancouver. 1987. An aspiring illustrator has moved from the US to Canada. Like all struggling artists, he wants to get his work out there. One night, he comes across a copy of Q, a Vancouver bar rag, and thinks to himself, "You know, these guys could sure use a cartoon."
He approaches the publisher and editor and shows them some samples of what he has in mind: a single-panel series about two roommates named Doc and Raider. The publisher likes what he sees -- and in the next issue, no less than four cartoons appear. It's also the last issue of Q. Ever.
More after the jump.
But the boys refused to be tossed in the trash, and before long they were making appearances in GLBT papers across Canada, from Vancouver to the Maritimes. They made the torturous transition from roommates to a "couple" and continued to garner a steadily increasing readership.
Interest from abroad arrived: first, Gay Scotland. Then papers and magazines in Italy and New Zealand and Sweden and Turkey and Japan. At its height, the hand-drawn version of the cartoon was reaching an estimated monthly readership of over five million on four continents, even as it continued to be steadfastly Canadian in approach. The boys found themselves put in the service of the community, with a particular emphasis on AIDS education, but they also popped up in ads for film festivals, rodeos, dance conventions, the Gay Games, and, of course, Pride parades. The first years' worth of drawings were made part of the National Archives of Canada: a first for a gay/lesbian cartoon. Because of the unique financial relationship I had with the papers that ran the panel (I never made a dime off the cartoon: each outlet put my fee into a local GLBT charity of its own choice), during its run it raised over a half million dollars to underwrite everything from a hospice to a queer theatre festival.
By 1996, they'd cracked just about everything but the over-saturated American market. The readership was almost manic in its devotion. Doc and Raid were the couple next door, the guys down the street, the boys everyone knew from somewhere. When Raider was gaybashed, the readership let me know in no uncertain terms that he was going to come out of it just fine. When a domestic argument erupted into an all-out fistfight, I was pointedly told, again, that I was to make this right.
And so I did.
But a couple of years later, the cartoon felt like it was getting stale and predictable in its little single-panel format. So I set it aside, all the while thinking, "I'll get back it... someday." "Someday" turned out to five years, far too long a gap to recapture the audience but enough distance that I could revisit the characters afresh. I had started working in 3D and thought it might be cool to see what they would look like in that new medium, and with three years tinkering, the current versions of Doc and Raid were finalized. Younger, brasher, and, like their creator, far too opinionated for their own good. In keeping with their Canadian roots, one would be a francophone Quebecker while the other would represent the ROC (That's "rest of Canada" to those of you below the 49th parallel). The original characters were quietly domestic, even in their leather chaps and wrestling boots. The new generation, especially Doc, would be less prone to know when to keep its mouth shut.
Further, they werent going to be out there alone. Raider's best friend Elliot, who had a brief star turn in the first series, put in a continuing appearance, as did Mik, who was originally just a throwaway character until soldierboy Kai came along, thus setting the path for their relationship. Their neighbour Didi is still a bit of a blank page, although I have some possibilities in mind for her that I think some of the readership here at TBP will enjoy. Elliot's involvement with Doc's twin brother Gilles appears to be blossoming quite nicely, despite the minor hiccup that Gilles is a Catholic priest. And it's not unusual for President Obama -- or Jesus, for that matter -- to stop by. After all, the wry domestic humour that was the cartoon's hallmark has been augmented with a layering of social and political commentary: it lives more in the moment, which makes it (for me anyway) a headier experience, as though the cast of Family Circus was thrown into the world of Family Guy. The characterizations have sharpened: Doc is more flamboyantly French, while Raider is stiff-upper-lip British. Together, they are even more combustible.
The new version just celebrated its 500th cartoon since its release in January 2009. Already, we've looked at issues like gay bashing, marriage, coming out to one's parents, infidelity, and the problems that come when your apartment is haunted by a dead government leader. Where do they go from here? No idea, dear Reader. I'm just along for the ride. But I'm enjoying it, and I hope you are as well.
Tomorrow: Okay, all well and good, but who are these two in Real Life? And where did those names come from?