Cool Jerk— Not a great year

You’ve probably noticed that Cool Jerk hasn’t been anywhere near weekly this past year and may be wondering if I’ve thrown in the towel or lost interest in Armpit, Puppy and the gang. Well, it’s been a tough year for cartooning and I’ll share what’s been going on.

We miss you, mom

My mother-in-law, Betty Alilain, died from cancer the day before Thanksgiving last year (actually it was on Thanksgiving when you factor in the time difference between here and the Philippines). The cancer came on suddenly and was particularly aggressive. Betty took ill in October and sought medical attention, but Darlene only received news of the official diagnosis the day I arrived in Reno for Reno Comic-Con (Nov. 20). There was nothing we could do and we couldn’t even make travel arrangements before Betty passed away.

As you can imagine, this devastated Darlene. I’m not sure a day goes by where she doesn’t cry. It’s been difficult for me, too. Betty was a lovely woman and full of life and charmed everyone who met her (she flew out from the Philippines to attend Darlene’s and my wedding, and was the surprise hit among the guests). She should’ve had another 20 or more years in her, but it didn’t come to pass. Losing her hasn’t impacted me but a shade of Darlene, but it’s there.

If you’ve ever gone though this level of loss — or your spouse has — you know it’s tough to laugh sometimes. And sometimes I feel guilty for laughing. It’s probably a sign of depression.

With Cool Jerk, I found I work best when there’s a baseline tranquility in my life, and the more laughs, the better. I guess that makes sense— I don’t know how people can be funny when they’re feeling miserable. It’s been difficult to get into — and stay in — a “funny zone” for an extended period of time. And that affects Cool Jerk directly since it takes a while to write, then design, then pencil, then ink, then scan, then make final corrections/enhancements and then finally upload the strip with some commentary. If I’m not “feeling it,” it’s a struggle.

I get easily distracted. I can’t concentrate. I make goals and sometimes can’t meet them. I get frustrated easily. I procrastinate. I overthink my jokes. I suffer with self-doubt, especially my cartooning chops. “Am I funny?” I ask myself. “Is it OK to be funny?”

So the short answer is no, I haven’t quit Cool Jerk… but I am taking some time for myself. It’ll be back at full strength sometime, I hope sooner rather than later. But until then, Darlene and I are just taking it week-by-week. Thanks for understanding.

  1. SKleefeld says:

    Damn, I had no idea! I’m so sorry for you guys, but take all the time you need. Best wishes to both you and Darlene!

  2. Kay Gore says:

    Having lost both of my parents to cancer, I know how terrible a loss Darlene has suffered. I can only imagine how much more the pain had I not been with them when they died. My heart goes out to Darlene and to you. Many hugs!

  3. Megg says:

    I’ll wait forever. Seriously massive hugs to you both.

  4. Claudia says:

    Paul, thank you for sharing this. My heart goes to you and Darlene. Losing a parent is very hard, especially when it is earlier than one could’ve expected. Hugs to you both!

  5. Keithg1313 says:

    Take the time that you and Darlene need. I know how these tough times affect our creative process. I myself have lost my mother to cancer. Both of you keep your collective chins up. I will be checking back periodically for new strips as I always do. These characters that you have created have given me laughs in tough times, I wish you both all the best.

  6. Sam and Porkbun says:

    My condolences to you both. It’s hard to face the world when your loved ones are no longer here. Just know they wanted you in the world, make you happy and with you make the world a better place. It’s going to take time but you will be happy again. Take care and keep Jerking!


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