McPedro's Origin Story
posted Apr.21.15 at 09:46 pm

Now that I'm back from Calgary, I have but one precious day to spend on all the updates for the next week, as I'm about to run north again, this time to do a talk at CCS, the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. If you're in the area from 3-5 on Thursday, please feel welcome to come listen! I'll also be selling books and such after the talk.

Considering the crunch, I'm going to leave this blog post up for the rest of the week, so I'll give you a good long one this time. In case you'd like to compare the color images to the old black-and-white ones, though, here are the links:

Now, allow me to weave you a tale, a tale of woe and ACH!: it is the tale of McPedro, and the pathetic reason he came to be.

You see, way back in 2004, just 20 or so strips into GWS, with a readership that was modest in size but devoted, I was approached by a company that I will not name because a quick Google search informs me that they still exist, and I don't like to mock the living. They offered me the equivalent of a week's pay at the newspaper I was working for in exchange for the exclusive right to merchandise GWS. Being 23 years old, broke as fuck, and somewhat fuzzy on the definitions of both "merchandise" and "exclusive," I jumped at the opportunity.

The first move we made as partners was to make really really ugly GWS-themed tee shirts, which were only ugly because I can't Graphic Design my way out of a duffel bag. They were made and sold through Zazzle (bear in mind this was the Zazzle of 2004), something I could have set up on my own, but had never considered. Luckily, when you search "girls with slingshots" on Zazzle now, only this rad image of an actual girl with a slingshot appears.

To my delight and surprise, I sold one of each shirt almost immediately! I also found them almost immediately, all three of them, hanging in my mom's closet, while I was snooping for vintage 70s sweaters I could "borrow" from her. It was a simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming discovery, but that's a tale for another time.

Next they told me we should make dolls of GWS characters. How cool! But, no; they were to look very similar to this. Once I'd finished screaming, I asked if we could please not. So they said "how about you create a new character, something that would make a good plushie, something cuddly?"

So I created a cactus.

While visiting my friend James Hatton in Jersey (among other fine Jersey folk), I made mention of my smart-ass solution to the Plushie Problem. Being a natural in the spotlight, James immediately started to act the part of an intentionally stereotypical Mexican cactus, only with an unintentionally Irish accent. I decided the Irish accent was the perfect way to indicate that, yes, McPedro was indeed dressed in a stereotypically Mexican manner (no doubt created by a non-Mexican toy designer who fashions novelty succulents with no concern for race sensitivity), but that they'd gotten him all wrong; he was in fact from Ireland, not Mexico.

I'm one of those assholes who doesn't know Irish from Scottish, which I hope will explain the development of McPedro's nonsensical "Scirish" accent.

We never did make those McPedro plushes together (it didn't happen until 2010 or so, when I partnered with Blind Ferret). A couple of years (and very little merchandise) after I'd started the strip, I decided that I wanted to produce GWS merchandise on my own, and bought back the right to do so a year before the contract was supposed to end, for half the signing bonus they paid me back in 2004.

I'm not saying they made a foolish move, but I'm hells of grateful they only wanted a couple hundred bucks for those rights, because I was still on a beans-and-hot dogs budget back then, and $200 can buy you a fuck-ton of beans and hot dogs.

Embarrassing admission: I could have kept that $200 in my pocket, had I only paid closer attention to the contract when I signed it. I'd requested that they please change the length of their term from 3 years to 2 years. When I received the revised contract, it read "for a term of 36 months." I nodded, satisfied, and signed it.

Mama never said I was good at math.

Freelancers, learn from my mistakes: always use a calculator when you think you're sure you know how many months are in a year, because you may be a whiz at Photoshop, but memorizing all the keyboard shortcuts probably took up the place in your brain where you used to store simple arithmetic.