The Awfuls

In the dark ages of mankind, before Al Gore descended from heaven and invented for us a series of tubes known as The Interwebs, humans were primitive beasts who walked the Earth with bent backs and giant hair. The giant hair came from many sprayable products applied liberally, the bent backs from carrying around gigantic ghetto blasters as the sole conceivable means to transport music from point A to point B. This was the ‘80s, a time so amazing backward that when computers wanted to talk to each other they had to use the telephone – and a land line no less. Messaging was done through private dial-ups known as BBSes – an acronym, back when there were many million fewer acronyms roaming the plains free and incomprehensible, that stood for Bulletin Board System. Users could call a number and connect, provided somebody else wasn’t already on the line, and read text as it spilled across their screen at the blinding speed of 300 baud (slightly faster than a normal reading speed). Text was the only option. Speeds and computing power that would allow pictures was an unattainable dream.

The online world was not yet in the wild-west era it finds itself today, but more in its early pioneer phase – so early that most of the settlers were dying of exposure and scurvy. It was around this time that Shane first learned the terrible, unfortunate truth that he was a writer, and would therefore never be a valued contributing member of society. Oh well, fuck it, he thought, and proceeded to write many comedy posts and columns to amuse the dozens of perfect strangers who logged onto the various local BBSes in any given day.

Out of this period sprang the idea for a revolutionary new comedy-focused BBS called Bedlam. Although it never made it to launch, Shane busied himself writing lots of new material for it, including what would have been the world’s very first (and perhaps only) ascii text comic strip. Presented under his online pseudonym, Dr. Bertram X. Fegg (named for one of the more obscure characters in British comedy history), he completed forty-five individual strips for the proposed daily feature before he decided he was getting rather ahead of himself and paused for a break. The Awfuls, like Bedlam, never saw the light of day, and distribution was limited to a fan-fold computer printout handed around at parties.

Presented here now, is one of Shane’s earliest forays into comic writing, accomplished (some might say committed) while still in his tender teen years.