Franks and Beans: The Comic: “Artistic License”

I’d say that it was fairly inevitable that we would come to this point.  With my stubborn insistence that I keep trying to work in the comics field (dear comics: notice me, dammit!), the limitations of a single camera, no-budget production and a desire to promote ourselves a little bit more, thus is born Franks and Beans: the comic.

Putting a comic together is similar to filming, in that it usually takes more than one person to put together a complete product.  This short, two page story took efforts from a few folks new to the Franks and Beans world but not to that of some comics that I’ve worked on before.  Pencils and inks on this story are by Alan Gallo and colors are by Michael Wiggam, both of whom I’ve worked with on Teddy and the Yeti and a couple other projects.

Alan took on the difficult task of drawing likenesses, which is a challenge not many are up to.  Add to the fact that Alan had to draw four distinct individuals and I think it’s easy to see what a task he had before him.  Given all of this, I’d say that he did just a great job.  On an unrelated note, here’s a little known Franks and Beans fact for you – Larry when on a diet after this comic first showed up and he lost like 20 pounds.  I don’t know why I mention this here, but it was something that just stuck in my head for some reason.  I did not start working out, if anyone is curious.

As with any neurotic comic book fan, you might find yourself thinking, “where does this story fit into Franks and Beans continuity?  Does it fit into the established storyline?”  The answer, of course, is yes, valued viewer/reader.  Everything that happens in anything Franks and Beans related goes into the F&B universe as cold, hard fact.  This, of course, changes the whole tone of Franks and Beans, as it now becomes a show about a man who dies over and over again, only to find new life and new, strikingly similar situations.  Or perhaps it’s an alternate universe Jeff, I don’t know.

This comic, which, if it had a title would be called “Artistic License”, features several references to previous Franks and Beans episodes, including “Sandwich”, “Tree Hugger” and “Milkshake”, as well as showing off in no subtle manner nods to other F&B staples like the Dukes of Hazzard, Thundercats and He-Man.  How do we work in so many nods to previous episodes and themes?  One can only wonder.

This comic will live, perhaps forever, long after Larry and I are dead and our bones decaying under the soft earth (or maybe I’ll just get cremated, who can say), in its own tab at the top of this page and on the Internet, leaving people to ponder deep questions like “what the hell is Franks and Beans?”  The question, then, becomes if we will ever have another Franks and Beans comic to marvel at.  The answer is not clear, but let’s say that I have no immediate plans for one, though I do sometimes get anxious and have a desire to spend my money on comics that will never see the light of day other than on my own websites.  So you never know!!

This posting marks a milestone in this website’s history – it’s our 100th post to the site!  Let’s take a look at our running tally of blog posts to date:

Jeff: 100
Larry: 0

So it’s still neck-and-neck and anyone’s game at this point, which I guess is obvious.  Be sure to check back later for more of this exciting competition!

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Blog 32 – Rip Off

Originally Posted 5.17.10

Much has been made in my comments on the last few episodes of Franks and Beans on the subject of parody and just where it fits in with the concept of comedy.  While I’ll qualify my claim by saying that when it comes to parody, there can certainly be too much of a good thing, but as a general rule, I’m comfortable with making the assertion that all good comedies have at least an element of parody in them.  Really, I defy anyone to name a good comedy that doesn’t have some parodic content to it.

Let’s take a recent example and look at last year’s comedy smash “The Hangover”.  While certainly laying its own groundwork, where would it be without its nods to “Rain Man” and “Three Men and a Baby?”  Going back 20 years to one of my favorite movies, “UHF” is chock full of parodies, musical and otherwise.  If you really want to go back to the early days of film, all you have to do is look to the Three Stooges – lost among the eye pokes and face slaps is a parody of the social class structure that 1930s and ’40s America was struggling to break free from.  I don’t claim that Franks and Beans holds much of a candle to any of these cinematic gems; I merely want to point out how important a concept such as parody is to comedy in general.  When used properly, it’s a tool that really can’t be matched, because parodies are built on information we’ve already assimilated into our own cultural lexicon.

Self-parody is just another form of this type of comedy, and our wonderfully self-referential 30th episode, “Rip Off”, plays right into this concept.  What separates self-parody from regular forms of parody, though, is devotion.  Self-parody doesn’t come along without a substantial store of very specific material.  While parody lives off of the never ending supply of popular culture, self-parody relies completely on the singular body of work it parodies.  Franks and Beans could have its ever popular “No!” endings from the first episode, and we did, because we’re mocking overplayed cliffhangers and those have been around as long as there have been cliffs to hang from, but for us to use self-parody, we had to have enough material to serve as a solid foundation.  Thirty episodes in, the result is “Rip Off”, an ambitious and context-laden episode that, in many ways, highlights some of our better moments while making fun of everything we do.

“Rip Off” welcomes back old friend of the show “Hardcore” Mark Moncheck, who is getting sincerely less hardcore the longer I know him.  Seriously, the guy’s married, has a steady job, gets regular haircuts…it’s a misnomer, I tell you.  The perfect role for Mark in any episode of Franks and Beans is that of the obsessed fan, because it’s not much of a stretch from who he is in real life.  Sometimes I think that Mark, Larry and I are the only ones who watch Franks and Beans – perhaps I’m not too far from the truth with that thought – but even if that were the case, Mark has the enthusiasm to simulate dozens and dozens of viewers.  Hell, it got him a recurring role on the show, so I guess it’s working out for him, too.

Joe Kromer is new to the show and, at ten years younger than both Larry and myself, newer to life in general.  Another fan of the show who was granted entrance in through our golden gates, Joe has since disappeared from the face of Brownsville, never to be seen again.  Seriously, I have no idea where to find this guy.  For a one-time character, though, he sure picked a memorable episode, and did a decent job with the “next time on Kielbasa and Kraut” line.  It probably took us all of five minutes to come up with that new title.

One of my great joys in working of Franks and Beans is writing lines that other people – of their own free will, mind you! – speak and act out.  Recreating the episode “The Sandwich” scene for scene, as short as it is, was great fun, even more so because we were using different actors.  Mark’s take on the “No!” ending was especially fun, because Mark couldn’t – for the life of him – not burst through the door of the room without looking really excited.  He was just playing it natural, I guess.

The premise for this episode is fairly simple – Larry and I find people stealing our ideas, and we decide to kill them, but then we end up doing the same thing they did in the first place.  Violence, another great comedic element, certainly has its part in Franks and Beans the series, and perhaps never is that more evident than in this episode.  I’m not sure how effective our out-and-out “I’m gonna kill them!” lines were – you’re supposed to show, not tell, after all – but even those served as means to an end.

Speaking of killing, Larry’s poor, wounded Jeep has finally been put out to pasture, though it still has a few more appearances before we give it its proper sendoff.  One of the reasons for its demise, however, might have come from the filming of this episode.  If you look for it, you’ll see it – as Larry is frantically backing up out of his driveway, the car makes a grinding sound, a thin waft of smoke can be seen, and then it kicks into gear.  I’m not saying that the Jeep wasn’t on its last legs as it was, but…oh, how we suffer for our craft.

The house Larry and I eventually burst into, breaking up the beginning of the famous “Mustache” sketch (keep an eye our for fake F&B’s crappy camera in the background…because they’re filming another rip off episode, not just going about their daily lives in a way that just happens to synch up with an episode of Franks and Beans), is actually Larry’s grandmother’s house.  We knew that we couldn’t film their scenes in Larry’s house (“the studio”), and our other options were fairly dim, and I think this new setting worked out really well.  It didn’t look like a house an 80-something-year-old woman lives in, did it?  That’s the magic of Hollywood, baby.

The fight scene that ensues was fun to do – so much fun, in fact, that I apparently had a hard time not smiling the entire time I’m physically assaulting Joe.  You can look at this in two ways: either I am a sadistic bastard who takes joy in causing others physical pain, or I should really be more aware of what I’m doing as I’m acting out a scene.  Pick your favorite!  It’s like a “Choose Your Own Ending” tale where one choice covers up my mental lapses.  The ‘punching’ sound effects make their return in this episode – they’re favorites of mine, and, for better or worse, I use them in a good handful of upcoming episodes.  There’s just something about them.

Tearing up a comic book is something I never thought I’d do – I’m more of the bag and board type – but I have to admit, tearing up the Punisher 2099 issue I bought for, oh, 15 cents or something ridiculous, was lots of fun.  It was like eating the forbidden fruit, only you weren’t REALLY eating it, because it was just for a show.  I hope that Stan Lee doesn’t revoke my Merry Marvel Marching Society card.  Yes, those exist.

The real humor in this episode takes place after the big fight scene, which is unusual for us.  Usually the punch in the face IS the joke, but this time it’s in turning the tables and doing exactly what we got so mad about in the first place.  I think it works, and even the line “I can’t find the Internet!” is pretty amusing.  We’ve set up the possibility for future conflict as Mark, nursing his black eye with a frozen bag of peas (a popular television remedy), expresses his hate for us.  Perhaps we’ll look back in on this theme one day, if only we could find Joe to make it happen.

Big props go out to Larry for all of the design work he did this episode, most notably the Funny or Die website parody “Laf or Perish”, which he created from electrons in the air.  It got me thinking that we should buy the domain name http://www.laforperish.com, but that’d be foolish.  Unless it’s be a BRILLIANT MARKETING TOOL!  Hmmm…

How could we top this blow-out-the-walls episode?  Why, it’s simple – with nudity.  Really, it had to happen.  Ever since iChat and its level of success (it continues to be the one episode everyone remembers), it was only a matter of time before we brought the big square censor bar back, and its effect is obvious.  Seriously, you didn’t think we’d do it eventually?  Well, here it is.

Blog 16 – Sandwich

First published 8.24.08

Oh, man.  This blog takes some context to understand.  I’m not sure how to cut it down without taking out too much.  Let’s go with this: here are the things you need to know about Franks and Beans 2012 so you can understand this Franks and Beans 2008 blog:

– This was written after a fairly long break between website updates.  Anyone who knows us know realizes that I always update my websites in a reasonable period of time (cough).

– We decided to make 24 episode “season” instead of 13.  That’s really immaterial in general, though.

– Mark Moncheck would comment on every one of our episodes when they were uploaded to the Funny or Die website.  Now, we only wish he would comment.  C’mon, Mark.

– Rick Rolls aren’t as funny as they used to be.

– I often wrote (and, well, write) without a clear end in mind, and so these things can go on and on and on well beyond the point of interest for anyone in existence.  One day I’ll realize that the Internet doesn’t give you more, uh, Internet points for writing more words.  Perhaps I’ll even take my advice at some point.  Not likely though!  Enjoy this blog, Earth!

SCENE: A bleak and desolate landscape, where the sun beats down mercilessly on the desert sand.  The light shines overwhelmingly, bleaching an already preserved skeleton of an unfortunate steer.  Overhead, two similarly emaciated buzzards circle nervously in the clear, hot, bright, blue sky.  The sand seems to stretch on forever, uninterrupted except for the large boulders strewn haphazardly over the area and a few patches of withered and browned grass.

Off in the faraway distance, the figure of a man reaches the apex of a small hill, feeling as insignificant as he looks as he staggers forward toward some unseen goal.  We advance to the wispy visage, a shadow of his former self.  His shirt is tied around his head in a sense of futility; the sun treats him no less harshly.  His sunken eyes are bleak and his lips are as parched and cracked as the earth around him.  He ambles on, making no sound, simply mouthing the words to an indistinguishable phrase.  His arms hang dead at his side; his feet, covered in worn-through soles, drag through the grainy sand.

But then, on the horizon, something catches the man’s view.  He stops in his tracks and lifts his head.  Was he seeing something?  Perhaps he had been in this situation a hundred times before – distracted by a mirage or a flicker of cruel imagination.  A trick of light?  Another nothing to compliment all the other nothings?  But no – there it was again.

The man stands straighter than perhaps he has in all of his life.  He opens his mouth to speak, but the words devolve into a raspy unintelligence.  He clears his throat once, and again, and again, and he reaches up with his newly living hands to touch his face – a face into which hope now flows once more.

Walking forward with a purpose as never before, the man begins to speak, first barely an inaudible whisper, but soon he is shouting at the top of his lungs: “It’s back!  Franks and Beans is back!”

END SCENE

And after weeks of waiting, Franks and Beans is back with a (theoretically) highly anticipated season two.  (WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!?) Our first episode of this new undertaking is none other than “Sandwich,” named after one of the basic food groups.

Having returned to southwestern Pennsylvania after a lengthy hiatus, Larry and I got right to work and managed to punch out five episodes of Franks and Beans, the first of which is on display before you.  It’s a short episode, one without much plot and really only one joke, but an appropriate one, I think.  It calls back previous shorts such as “The Change” and “You’ll Never See It Coming”, and it continues a theme of quick, timing-based jokes that I think are so underrated.  The pause between “Is that my sandwich?” and the inevitable “…no” really determines if this works or fails, in my opinion, and I think that we hit it pretty well this time around.

How obvious is the joke from the beginning or the episode?  I don’t think that’s really an issue here, as the timing is probably more important.  But not knowing what Larry is looking for until I magically appear on the armchair does hold with it some risks.  When I think back to it, there probably should have been a shot of me sitting down with the sandwich after Larry walks into the room and before he asks his question, but hindsight and a limited list of filmed takes keeps us honest this way.  At any rate, our almost comical sandwich, complete with olive and toothpick (Larry’s idea) shows up and probably steals the show.  It was a good sandwich, and I had to keep from eating parts of it during filming.

This episode is significant probably more so than any plot point in that it introduces a new character, and this more than anything else precipitated the episode’s production order.  Mark Moncheck (who also comments on, like, EVERY episode as username hardcoremarkie18) was gracious enough to fill in as an extra character in several of our upcoming episodes, and I wanted to first introduce him in our loving homage to the Rick Roll.

In this scene, I wanted Mark to seemingly come out of nowhere, making viewers say “wait…who is this guy?!”, and airing another episode with him in it first would have really taken some of the humor out of that…even if I’m the only one who might find that funny.  Filming this batch of episodes actually served as the first time I’ve ever met Mark, who had to leave soon afterwards in order to fulfill his obsessive haircut fixation, and I have to say that it was a real treat to meet someone who uses the phrase “Mustache Buddy” in his everyday language.  There now arises the challenge of giving him a proper character name for the inevitable IMDB entry (HOW DO I GET THAT LISTED?!  COME ON, INTERNETS!!).  It will probably have to be Hardcore Mark: not very original on my part, but it just seems to fit.

Back to our previously mentioned Rick Roll – this internet sensation continues to astound me.  Well, honestly, the internet as a whole is a rather fascinating contraption, but you get what I mean.  Why anyone would choose Rick Astley to prank their friends is beyond me, but I can at least appreciate the humor.  Before this inevitably fades away into cultural yesteryear, Larry and I both agreed that we’d have to do something with it, and we wanted to sooner rather than later.  Having us all dance on screen was something of a last resort, but really – what else were we supposed to do?  It was worth it just to get a little extra mileage out of our ever-expanding collection of “NO!” endings.