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An Adventure of Buffalo Chris: Inspiration & Collaboration
By writer Chris Wiewiora
I came up with the idea of a comic series called The Adventures of Barista Chris while I was working for a corporate coffee chain. The storyline would be based on my job. And so, I planned for my co-workers to be drawn as animals (i.e. my bad-tempered boss would be a bear), thus disguising their names, if not their identities.
For each The Adventure there would be an accompanying An Adventure – a tangent narrative that would somehow connect back to The Adventures. For instance, An Adventure of Buffalo Chris is an adaptation of the Texan-American tall tale of Pecos Bill and the taming of his wild horse Widowmaker. The parallels to The Adventures is that Barista Chris rides a dangerous motorcycle he named Betty Jo (in the tall tale the wild horse is named Widowmaker) and also in The Adventures, Chris eventually falls in love with an apron-only wearing – otherwise nude – woman named Eve (like how Sweet Sue captivates Pecos Bill).
But there’s a problem: I can’t draw. Well, it’s not that I can’t draw, it’s that I don’t draw. I don’t draw, because when I do draw, the best I can do is draw birds as a lowercase m up in the sky.
And so, I got my buddy Dan Folgar (also a former corporate coffee employee) to collaborate with me on The Adventures of Barista Chris. I write. He draws. More accurately, Dan illustrates – he brings alive the imagery of my words.
The first thing at the top of my script for Buffalo Chris was a summary of the character(s), desire, and plot in one sentence:
Buffalo Chris is a feral boy who seeks danger via taming a wild horse.
I noticed the word that I kept using in my script was “wild.” And when I think of wildness I think wilderness, and the struggle to survive in that dangerous and unforgiving environment. But I was curious to see how Dan would represent wildness. The concept sketch Dan sent me was of a wiry boy in a loincloth and wearing a buffalo headdress.
I realize that American tall tales are about the United States’ folk heroes like Pecos Bill (or Buffalo Chris). However, I don’t believe that those stories are only about their characters; rather the characters embody their stories’ settings. The character’s character represents their story’s region. More simply, a story is about place, too.
In Dan’s concept sketch, Buffalo Chris’ hands float out and away from his body over the empty space around him. And maybe here, I can switch roles and give some words for Dan’s illustrations of Buffalo Chris: His landscapes are lush as well as wild. Dan gives dynamic images starting in the Texan deserts heading westward along the prairie, through the forests, over the mountains, and all the way to the Pacific Ocean where the sun sets.
Writer: Chris Wiewiora (chriswiewiora.com) is a MFA candidate at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment program. He mainly writes nonfiction, but previously collaborated with Dan Folgar illustrating another comic titled Life of the Coffee Bean, published in Bateau. Together, they have compiled a comic anthology that is seeking a publisher.
Artist: Dan Folgar is a cartoonist/artist from Miami, FL. He is currently seeking an MFA in visual arts at the Miami International School of Art and Design. He has comics forthcoming in Candy or Medicine, and an online comic series at sometime-this-century.blogspot.com.