The Story of an Artist
Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 30 April 2004, 12:01 AM
Stuntmutt - The Story of an Artist
It was a cold, brisk morning at the HBO Station when the train from the Pacific pulled in. Billowing steam mixed with the fog as the passengers filed off lugging briefcases and carpet bags, huddling into deep, rough wool coats. One young traveller standing on the platform, and grinning at his surroundings from under a grey cap, didn't even have a threadbare bag of belongings. He tpossessedhe sum total of two dimes, a nickel and a single battered copy of the HBO news. The front page boasted a hahand drawnharacter, the charcoal smudged over the ink.
This was how the young traveller, who would become an icon, started one of the greatest journeys known to HBO.
Perhaps the first miracle to be worked in Stuntmutt's name was that he survived his first night in HBO. Unable to afford simple lodgings he decided to bunker down in an arch doorway. Ignored by passer byes and freezing in the chilly February air, Stuntmutt nearly caught pneumonia, but he waited out the night and started his life as soon as the shops starts to open. He trawled through the local grocery stores, begging to have his artwork displayed in their windows. He couldn't leave a way to contact him, since he was in a different doorway each night, but he hoped he'd be noticed and he left his name with each shop owner.
Little by little, Stuntmutt worked his way through HBO, displaying his artwork wherever he could find a place that would take it. Always, he was searching for that spark that would give him the edge over the competitors.
There were many miscellaneous artists in HBO at the time and all of them had their own unique style. As all sorts of artists were being picked up, Stuntmutt fell into despair. On the back of a spam post, he scribbled an unremarkable cartoon and fixed it to the window of the shop across the road. He was considering leaving, yet unsure how; his funds were at an all time low. He scrabbled in dust bins for food and slept each night in the YMCA. Leaving did not look like an option.
In fact, that unremarkable little cartoon caught the attention of a single , entrepreneurwhose real talent lay in his vast hosting abilities. He nipped inside, pointing to the crumpled spam post and demanded to know who the artist was.
The shopkeeper, Geary, shrugged. "Small chap, half starved. They're always in here."
The businessman, thwarted, turned to leave when Geary's young son ran forward. He tugged on the immaculate coat tails and said; "Mr Wu? I know him."
Louis Wu turned around, suppressing repulsion at the thought of being pawed at by the child. "What's your name son?"
"Ross Mills, mister."
"And how do you know this fine artist?"
"He plays footie with us sometimes. His name's Stuntmutt." Ross Mills ran his sleeve across his snotty nose and beamed. "He lives at the YMCA."
"Thank you, son," and Louis left quickly.
It was by this slim chance that Stuntmutt found a Buick waiting for him outside the YMCA. Louis Wu's loyal manservant, KP, opened the door and drove Stuntmutt to an entirely new life.
Stuntmutt was given a small boxroom in Louis offices. There was a desk, a fold down chair and a rickety cot. For the next few months Stuntmutt slaved, producing a thrice weekly cartoon for Louis daily news. His working conditions were poor, with his food and rent deducted from his pay, often he would be forced to produce a longer Sunday strip by Louis. The tactic Louis employed for the Sunday strip could be hailed as extremely innovative. Stuntmutt was fed laxatives on the Saturday and given only twenty four hours to draw, during this time he would be dehydrated, starved and also extremely discomforted. Louis Wu believed that this produced Stuntmutt's best work. He went so far as to market his own brand of laxatives in the local drugstore, Exlax is now a well known brand.
Although from the accounts, it may seem that Stuntmutt was forever confined to his office, this is not strictly true. On the days when he was not drawing he was allowed to mess around in Louis' bar. Stories of the WuBar are often wildly exaggerated. For example, the initiation rights of Regulars involves, according to one account, wrestling with a live kitten. The truth might even be stranger.
All regulars, including Stuntmutt, had to first prove themselves drinkers. Within one minute, one would-be regular was ordered to down a half litre of vodka and coke, a pint of beer and a Bloody Cortana's. The regular in question, one Gutupio, was taken to hospital and died of alcohol poisoning. While searching his person for identification, the nurses found kittens stashed in all sorts of places, places where not even the coroner dared report. The official explanation was that Gutupio was in possession of a number of felines in infelicitous locations.
This was one of the few tasks recorded, and no one is sure what Stuntmutt was asked to do to prove his worth. It is rumoured that he was Pallor's bitch for months, but recent accounts have said that this was simply part and parcel of forum life. What history does know is that he rapidly descended into alcoholism, falling further and further into Louis Wu's debt.
One cold morning Miguel Chavez, the local constabulary, paid Stuntmutt a visit. He wasn't surprised to find Stuntmutt sprawled across his desk, a few forum whores on his arm. Miguel splashed Stuntmutt with water from the ice machine and took him to the coffee shop.
Miguel could see Stuntmutt's decline, and exactly how much it suited Louis. The guest strips were piling in, and Louis could see that instead of paying for Stuntmutt's strips, he could just take the guest strips for free. Trying to convince Stuntmutt of this wasn't easy and Miguel was forced to leave Stuntmutt with a spam warning.
Although Stuntmutt seemed oblivious to his plight, he could see the new gueststrips getting better and better. 3D artists such as BOLL were upstaging him and he wasn't taking it well. He had struggled to get where he was, but he found it difficult to maintain his inspiration. His strips were drying up, just as a new source was appearing.
Stuntmutt couldn't fight his way through the depression, so he eased it with frequent visits to the WuBar. Jealousy consumed him, twisting his actions. In a drunken rage he wore the famous, exclusive Subnova tag. His friends, including Miguel Chavez, tried to make him drop it, but Stuntmutt bragged and waved the tag around. Kicked out the bar, as usual, when it closed, he started his long stumble home. From an alleyway crept the rightful users of the Subnova tag, led by Deimos Fawkes and Pallor. Without giving him a chance to explain (though he was probably too incoherent to reply) they beat him to a pulp. To drunk to resist, Stuntmutt was left in an alley, bloody and sore.
Once more, coincidence saved him. Some children were playing in the alley way and found a dead body. Running to their father, Pico, they eventually dragged Stuntmutt to the doors of the hospital. Pico ransacked the body for cash and ran.
Orderlies took the body inside and discovered that the sickly, bloody mess was still breathing. After a quick pat down and discovering that he was penniless, he was left in a ward for the doctors to attend to.
Stuntmutt's recovery was a slow one. The Subnova crew had done their job well, Stuntmutt wasn't about to leave the hospital room anytime soon. Louis Wu, seeing the opportunity, promptly fired Stuntmutt and filled his cartoon spots with guest strips. Stuntmutt was left alone.
He was deeply depressed, robbed of his dreams, his mobility and the most precious thing in the world to him - the WuBar. His friends, what loyal few he had, visited as often as they could, but each time Stuntmutt chased them away.
What they didn't know, and what Stuntmutt wouldn't, perhaps couldn't tell them, was that the incident had left him completely colour-blind. He would never again see in colour.
But over the many many months of strips, the public had grown immensely fond of Stuntmutt. Louis Wu found his business slipping without Stuntmutt's regular contributions. Worse, rival artists in the form of Fuzzy and Warbow & Blackstar collaborations were stealing the limelight from the sub par guest strips. Not in good grace, Louis Wu returned to Stuntmutt's hospital bedside and gruffly proposed a new partnership. It was sheer luck that the nurse in the room was fan of Stuntmutt. The nurse, Shishka, loitered as Louis roughly outlined a new business deal, as bad as the contract Stuntmutt had been in before. Stuntmutt wasn't given a chance to reply, because Shishka decided that visiting hours were definitely over, and Louis Wu was chased away.
Shishka sat down opposite Stuntmutt and gave him the harsh truth. The lifestyle Stuntmutt led was killing him, no sane person would have used the Subnova tag. Shishka advised Stuntmutt, in no uncertain terms, to batter a decent contract out of Louis and stick to it. Shishka left to attend to his rounds and Stuntmutt had no choice but to think upon his words. Absently, he scribbled on his newspaper.
Louis returned a few hours later, henchmen in tow to deal with any untoward nurses. Stuntmutt intercepted him with the drawing.
"It's good," Louis conceded. He slipped the folded paper into his pocket. "Not coloured . . . but good."
"I'm not working for free anymore, Lou," Stuntmutt warned. "I want free access to the WuBar and I won't be laxatived anymore."
Louis grudgingly conceded to those terms.
"And one more," Stuntmutt began. He hesitated . . . but he had arrived on HBO with nothing and made something. He wouldn't let something slip back into nothing. And while he was reminiscing he doubted he was on enough morphine. "I won't colour the strips anymore."
"Color," Louis corrected absently. "Fine. Done. But it's the same office."
"Yeah, whatever." Stuntmutt watched him leave, smiling at Shishka as the nurse passed the ward.
In a few months Stuntmutt was released from Shishka's care and back into the arms of the WuBar. Business resumed as usual for the intrepid artist almost one year to the day that he had first arrived in the HBO station. Talent had got him so far, drunken numbness took him the rest of the way.
While researching this story I owe great thanks to a Mr Deimos Fawkes who provided me with some of the original first strips that Stuntmutt produced. He also revealed the seriousness of Stuntmutt's Subnova accident to me, for the real repercussions are closely guarded secrets of Stuntmutt's.
I also owe thanks to Miguel Chavez who brought me the official autopsy reports of Gutupio and regaled me with many stories of the HBO and Subnova crew. Although, unfortunately, all did not make their way in to this account, I am deeply grateful for both the stories and the copious amounts of alcohol I was plied with.
Many people had stories or original strips to share with me, including pieces of Stuntmutt's clothing or wallets and other things they'd stolen from him at some point. I found these invaluable and proper dues must be paid.
Most of all, I wish to thank Louis Wu, for allowing me to use his pet Stuntmutt and tell this tale at all, for the bandwidth and the air we breathe, for allowing any of us to exist and etc.