Having finally unscrambled the remaining scrolls sent to me via carrier pigeon from the Tunnel Walk of Shame gatekeeper, we can continue with part two of the interview.
If you missed part one, be sure to check it out here lest ye wander forth having absolutely no idea what's going on and fall into a ditch.
- Have you ever received compliments or responses from fans of different teams?
I’ve never gotten any comments from Iowa fans but that’s mostly because they can’t read. Occasionally during game week, I’ll get some comments from the opponent’s fans. But that’s pretty rare. I think if you aren’t in Husker Nation, the comic probably doesn’t make much sense.
- Does TWOS reflect your personal feelings regarding the program? If so, what do you feel needs to be changed so it isn’t a punch line?
It does and it doesn’t. Mostly I’m trying to make jokes, not statements. I’ll take whatever the big story line(s) of the week are and make a comic out of that, though or I’ll take one of the big criticisms of Bo or the team and make light of that.
Sometimes our fan base blows a lot of stuff out of proportion, so collectively, Husker Nation kind of dictates the story lines of the comic. Before I write each one I sort of ask, "What’s everyone losing their crap about this week?"
I think people like to characterize Taylor Martinez as stupid or Bo as a maniac or Imani Cross as The Hulk. It’s easiest for people to paint them in broad strokes. But nobody’s that simple or one-dimensional. Part of the comic aims to show how ridiculous some of those characterizations are.
Like, I don’t think Taylor is stupid. He seems to have this very black-and-white view of the world ("It was fine;" "We didn’t do this right;" "I guess that was good when I ran for 225 yards"), which is one reason Bo loves him. But that’s not stupidity. It’s a little bit of a shield to deflect all the criticism and pressure, which is necessary. So I basically just depict him as a 14-year-old me.
He plays Nintendo, eats Gushers, and raises the roof when excited. I think that makes him kind of fun. And my friends will tell you, I’m a huge supporter and fan of Taylor – sincerely. I believe in him. He does say some ridiculous things, but he’s a winner. And he’s a breath of fresh air in terms of his earnestness.
It’s better than hearing Ray Lewis bloviate about how he was chosen by God to tackle people. Ray Lewis is awful. And stabby. But the players shouldn't be derided by anyone, and that’s not what I want to do with my comic.
Those kids might do and say some eyebrow-raising things, but if my exploits and comments were on full display when I was 19, it would've been horrifying. These guys are under a ton of pressure and have to deal with such ridiculous things and for 18-22 year-olds, they handle it pretty well in my book. It’s not my aim to make them look bad.
I like Bo a lot, too. I like how his players don’t get in trouble and how he seems like he has their best interest at heart. If I have a complaint about him as a leader, it’s about his Inner Circle Illuminati of assistants.
Bo hires his friends – understandably seeking some comfort and familiarity in his first head coaching gig – and in the comic I portray the coaching staff with this Sopranos dynamic. They’re all tough, they’re all individuals, but Bo is Tony, and when he speaks, everybody backs down and falls in line.
I think the program would maybe benefit from some outside thinkers that would challenge Bo and make him uncomfortable. He should hire Lane Kiffin as his special teams coordinator after Kiffin gets fired from USC. Just to mess with everyone.
In terms of where the team is as a whole, I certainly wish they weren’t losing big games by big numbers on big stages. Everybody has varying levels of patience on that, and more people are running out of it than they were a few years ago.
So you have to ask, "Can this staff win titles?" I think they can. I think they’re young, they’re adjusting to new conferences and new coordinators and they’ll get it together. They’ve had to deal with a lot of change. Now that they’re settling in, I expect better results. Soon. If they ever win a National Title I’ll write a hell of a comic for it. So much material.
- Let’s say a new coach comes in for whatever reason. Do you consider him and his staff TWOS material from day one?
Oh absolutely. But that is my NIGHTMARE scenario. I love the Bo character. It’s fun to use Taylor to troll him, to bring Carl back, to have him idolize Rex, to have him scream at assistant coaches he doesn’t really know the names of. There’s just a lot you can do with that lovable meathead.
I don’t know that you could bring in a new coach with more potential as a character. Maybe Charlie Weis. I’d just depict him with pictures of Jabba the Hutt and Honey Boo Boo’s mom, alternately.
That said, I’ve been able to work in a little Tim Miles, some of the new assistants and Shawn Eichorst a little bit, too. I’ll find stuff to make fun of for whoever coaches this team, but having a piece like Bo Pelini to work with is a rare blessing.
- Finally, is there a general statement you want to make regarding TWOS to those who both love your work and hate it?
There is. But that statement would be Taylor’s catch phrase, which contains a word not fit for this fine family site (Editor's note: usually). So in lieu of that, #GBR.