When I entered the MTC in early June 1993, I left my color pencils, felt tip pens, and sketch books at home. I figured cartoons weren't appropriate for a missionary. That lasted about five minutes. Soon the margins of my Missionary Guide were populated with bug-eyed characters. And then one P-Day, a singular event in the history of "Mission Daze" took place. After closing the envelope to the weekly letter home, I drew a picture of my alter ego to the left of my family's address. It was a big hit with my family as well as the missionaries in my district. Over the remaining weeks of the MTC, the pictures got more and more creative.
|This is what my letters home from the MTC looked like. As you can see, the format limited what I could do. What you can’t see is my family’s address—I don’t want you bombarding them with hate mail.|
When I arrived in Slovenia, the weekly comic strips moved from the outside of the envelope to the inside. This allowed me the freedom to create more detailed gags as I didn't have to worry about working around addresses, stamps, and the other stuff that usually goes on the cover of an envelope. Every week without fail I included a strip with my letter to my family. Over the two years I was in Slovenia, I sent home nearly 100 gags--a couple of which were actually funny.
|When I arrived in the field, I elected to start placing my gags on the inside of the envelope. Overall, I sent home almost 100 gags this way. Most of those gags have found their way into “Mission Daze.”|
Upon arriving home from my mission, I decided to give the mission strip a go. If I was able to come up with a gag every week during my mission, then maybe I could do a daily strip. I worked feverishly my first summer back and by the time I had to go to school in the fall; I had fifty or so strips drawn. I had just gotten Elder Van Dyke out of the MTC and into the field when I decided that I had enough done that I could start looking for someone to pick up "Missionary Man" (that's what I called it at the time-a name I was never completely satisfied with). After a couple of run-ins with unresponsive newspaper editors, I came to the conclusion that there wasn't a market for a comic strip about an LDS missionary.
Meanwhile life got a lot more complicated. School started and I found it a challenge to keep up on my studies and my art. Ultimately, I let my art slide instead of my studies. I set aside Elder Van Dyke for some time. Years went by during which I met and married my wife, graduated from BYU with a master's degree, got a job, and became a father. Through it all, though, there was this nagging feeling of unfinished business--leaving Elder Van Dyke stranded in Laputania forever as a greenie was somehow cruel.
I found the initiative to return to Elder Van Dyke the months leading up to my little brother's mission. I resolved that in addition to writing him a letter each week, I would include a week's worth of strips. That way, I would be forced to see Elder Van Dyke's mission to the end. As I explained to my little brother in my first letter to him in the MTC, I finally found an editor that would publish my stuff--me.
By the time I finished chronicling Elder Van Dyke's missionary journey from mission call to home coming, I had drawn over 500 strips. During the process, I mustered the courage to begin submitting gags to the New Era. Those gags led to future submissions to the Friend, several published books, apps, and ultimately this blog.
Someday, I hope to present these missionary comic strips in chronological order the way I always intended them to be. In the meantime, I'll continue to publish them once a week shotgun style on this blog. Really they'll let you put just about anything on the Internet, won't they?