Tomas de Rat / Tomas the Rat

De Ijzeren Vogel / The Iron Bird page 8

This page was really shapeless. There is no known name in the world of geometry to describe its shape, but it is kind of like a trapezoid with a curved right edge. The distortion was so extreme that I gradually varied the angle of the horizontal lines between rows from ‘uphill’ to ‘downhill’, to follow the trapezoid shape.
That was not the only nasty thing about this page however. Starting with row 4, I took another silly decision I would regret later on: I wrote the text balloons immediately in ink. This wouldn't have been so bad if my handwriting at that time had not been so horrid. You can judge by yourself by looking at what the last 4 rows looked like before I started the tedious restoration procedure, which involved removing the ugly balloons with Tipp-Ex®. Watch how the ‘text’ dances up and down, and how unrecognisable many letters are. Even I had serious trouble reading many of the words, so replacing the text was the only option. This ‘flash-back’ also displays the quantum leap between the primitive sketches and the ink-work I did more than ten years later. If I would have inked the page right after sketching, it would have looked similar to the sketches, only slightly cleaner.

Click the image to toggle between the original Dutch text and the English translation.

De Ijzeren Vogel, page 8

Row 1

It is not a coincidence that Tomas whacks his enemy with a little table he brought with him as a souvenir from India, because I was in my “Passage to India” period while writing this part of the story.
Tomas doesn't realise what the little device is that the hedgehog tried to smuggle into his office, but he throws it out of the window anyway (probably because it looks like a piece of junk). This proves to be a good idea, because the piece of junk is a bomb which would have probably caused even more damage than the previous ‘birthday present’.

Row 2

Tomas has somehow managed to disguise himself as a hedgehog which looks identical to Smuggler's accomplice. As you can see from the tied-up hedgehog on the floor, he didn't skin it to create a disguise in a Hannibal Lecter kind of way. The explanation is that he has some sci-fi device which can morph his appearance into any kind of animal, but don't ask me how it would work. Tomas is also lucky that the accomplice seems to suffer from amnesia, hence needs a map to find the way from and to Smuggler's hideout.

That map also exposes a dilemma that I had: the hedgehog appears to have ‘pockets’, even though none of the animals in this story wear clothes of any kind, except for the occasional hat. For Tomas I could explain it as him being an opossum (which evidently is also problematic because only female opossums have a pouch), but I don't know of any marsupial hedgehog. The only reasonable solution would be to give the animals clothes after all, and this is what I did in some of the later comics (e.g. The Hidden Map).

Row 3

Judging from the whole lot of time Tomas needed to reach the hideout and the steaming car, it wasn't so surprising after all that the accomplice needed a map. For the first time we see a two-vanishing-point perspective here. Of course this was not present in the pencil sketches, which were really basic. However, even after all those years I still remembered what the environment was supposed to look like in 3D, so I could finally draw it properly.

Rows 4-5

Here we get an idea about how much of a fruitcake this Smuggler guy is. He laughs maniacally at the news of Tomas being blown into thousand pieces, and instructs his fake accomplice to squash Tomas' friend to pulp, even though Pricky hasn't done anything to him. The ‘yak’ does not refer to the animal with that name, but is just a spastic kind of uttering. This seems to be enough for Tomas, so he reveals his true identity and grabs a gun from his dilemmatic pockets.

Rows 6-7

Tomas is a civilised kind of hero, so instead of pumping Smuggler full of lead, he sends him to jail. To celebrate the catch, Tomas and Pricky go for a new trip in the iron bird, because now there is no more risk of being blown up. But surprise, surprise: the bird has flown! And that's not everything, there is also some climactic thing waiting to happen. The only purpose of the redundant last frame is to postpone this until you flip the page