I can’t draw.
When my daughter was in second grade, I started drawing little doodles and dopey cartoons on scraps of paper and putting them in her lunchbox every morning. I’d do them at the last minute, while she was putting on her shoes to leave for school. A clunky little illustration of an inside joke or a scene from a movie.
But then she got older and her tastes became more sophisticated - way more than mine. And I knew the dumb little visual puns and one-liners I was doing were no longer cutting it. Not that she ever said anything. But internally, I was struggling for material.
Then one morning I jotted down this picture of a guy called Dr. Hempstead. And Dr. Hempstead was born!
We were reading a lot of Agatha Christie stuff out loud at that point. Maybe I thought he’d be this kind of erudite British amateur sleuth? But where he actually came from I really can't say.
In any event, I still can’t draw, but I still draw Dr. Hempstead every morning. I still do them on scraps of paper, with a ballpoint pen, at the last minute, at the kitchen counter. You can tell which ones I did after too much coffee, or in literally 45 seconds.
I don’t plan out the “series” until I get to near the end and I realize I’d better wrap things up. There are still inside jokes about, say, trick-or-treating or a thing called Croco-Gator. Also sometimes there are lapses of a long weekend or two-week vacation between panels, so you gotta do some re-caps.
Some have food stains on them, which proves that they really were in a lunchbox that day.
Almost all are first drafts, so to speak. Once a pen blew up in the middle of one of the panels, so I used some Wite-Out on it, which I consider cheating. But also my wife pointed out, gently, and correctly, that my hand-writing can be hard to read, so once in a while I’ve cleaned that up with Wite-Out too.
As for the material itself, all I’ll say is that there is good, there is bad, and there is Hempstead.