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"Acorn Man," short story excerpt

Wednesday 12/14/22

I was really bad at drawing as a kid, but I dreamed of making comic books, so I hit upon the possible solution of creating characters out of the simplest geometric forms. I’d believe in these characters and what they were trying to do so much that I couldn’t fail to imbue them with an unmistakable quality and surplus of life that would result in others believing in them, too.

Those imagined readers of mine would experience my characters as characters to such a degree that they wouldn’t focus on the crudity of my creations. If anything, they’d think my limited drawing skills were an asset, because the characters were earnest and uncluttered. You knew what they were truly about by their words and deeds.

The first character I invented was Acorn Man. He solved your problems before they started, or more specifically, helped you to solve them by identifying the warning signs of your future suffering.

The way it worked was Acorn Man could look into the the rest of your life as it moved forward. He didn’t know exactly what would happen, but he was able to see what likely was going to unless you addressed key factors in the present.

The primary challenge for Acorn Man himself—besides being an acorn with a cape, which I patterned on a Dorito, and rudimentary pencil marks for limbs and a snowman’s basic facial features, and not having the highest coolness quotient—was that he had to tell people that bad times were awaiting them if they didn’t address certain issues, which isn’t what anyone wants to hear if these bad times haven’t overtly begun.

That was the dilemma of the stories, a tension source, because there were people who’d want to squash Acorn Man, to bury him in the ground before his time. His planting time, I guess you could say.

I worked in my room in extended drawing and writing sessions, stashing the issues for future release in a box in my closet. The early version of Acorn Man—before he exhibited growth, which is the purpose of an acorn—was prone to bitterness. He’d been ignored too many times when he was only trying to help, which negatively impacted his self-worth. That’s something I wanted to explore—the idea of a super hero who is down on himself, because we hardly ever think of super heroes that way. We don’t even usually think of people we admire that way. They’re a solid stratosphere above the kind of thing that gets us down, which is the real reason—beyond the super strength, the flying, the ability to take a bullet—they’re so super to us.

This version of Acorn Man from the first few books would circle back around into the lives of those whom he’d tried to warn and assist. He’d do a follow-up visit, in effect. You always got more than one consultation with Acorn Man if you were the other protagonist. It was a series hallmark.

There was this one man in his fifties whom I simply called “the man,” because he was supposed to represent more than himself and I was trying to be weighty. The man’s combative nature and narcissism had cost him the relationships he used to have. This human piece of weighted-straw had broken every last back and we weren’t talking camels, which was something Acorn Man said in a thought bubble, nor literal backs.

When Acorn Man first appeared to the man, the man had had another fight about something trivial—a ref’s call in a ballgame, who the newly elected state rep was—with his former best friend who was now barely a friend. The erstwhile friend had become one of those people who still calls you a friend simply because it’s easier than deciding on what the better revised noun would be. They don’t want anything awful to befall you, but they don’t want to be around you much, either. If you may die without someone’s assistance, they’ll still give it, but that help won’t come without there first being a thought of, “Should I really?”

Acorn Man’s appearance was meant to convey that he understood the seriousness of someone else’s immediate situation, but in the more important terms of what was about to follow. He was cap-less, as if he’d come as soon as he could—urgency being of the essence—without stopping to grab what one might have thought of as his hat. When there’s a fire in the middle of a night and children need to be pulled from the burning house, I think one can’t help but be suspicious of the neighbor who stands on the front lawn in their coat, having stopped on the way out to get it. This was not the Acorn Man method of super-heroing.


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