Lisa’s battle with cancer kept getting pushed back on the schedule as I worked on these other stories. At the start of each year, I would grab one of my trusty yellow legal pads (if they ever stop making legal pads in yellow, I probably won’t be able to write again. I wish I was kidding.) and make a list of all the beats I was hoping to hit in the strip in the coming year. The return to Lisa and her story was always on the list each year, and every time the year would pass without my having tackled it. It wasn’t because I was concerned about how difficult and work-intensive the story arc was going to be and what it was going to cost me to tell it. Okay . . . it was exactly because I was concerned about how difficult and work-intensive the story arc was going to be and what it was going to cost me to tell it. It was also going to be a huge gamble. A story arc dealing with someone dying of cancer that stretched out over two years was going to push hard against the proscriptions of the comic strip and the expectations of its readers.
The work itself had a thousand precursors but, in a newspaper comic strip, no precedent. It wasn’t going to be comfortable work, but when is talking about death ever comfortable? It would move Lisa’s story from a feel-good piece to a darker cautionary tale. So, waiting for the writing stars to align before I began work on it seemed to be the sensible thing to do. Or, at least, that’s what I kept telling myself. Like most good stories, it waited until I wasn’t looking to sneak in. All I know is that one morning I woke up deciding that I was all in and pushed my metaphorical chips to the middle of the table. Looking around I found myself all alone. I was about to embark on a journey with no familiar reference points. I was going to have to create work that was unlike anything I had attempted before with no video on the nascent YouTube to watch to learn how it’s done. Luckily, I had an established work method already in place, but this was going to be different. This was going to be edge work, and I hadn’t been to the edge before.