What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What was the deal with Sarah and the museum? May – August 2021


Couple years back, in the last major story before Terry Beatty took over writing Rex Morgan, M.D., Sarah got mixed up with an art museum. It started with the museum soliciting art made by kids, to sell as a fundraiser. But it turned out Sarah was such a good artist that it impressed a patron with mob ties. That patron pressed on the museum to replace the charity book with one done entirely by Sarah Morgan. And she’d go to the museum to draw it, and be seen as part of the tour.

This was all a bit much. Among the things Terry Beatty did as writer was dial that back. Like, by making clear the patron pushing for all this was looking at Sarah as surrogate daughter. Like making her mentor for the museum-drawing — Rene Belluso — into a regular character with an amusing string of scams. Like turning one of the kids on a tour seeing Sarah — Edward — into a regular, with an impossibly ugly dog. And finally having Sarah get hit by a car carrying Soap Opera Amnesia Disease. She lost her too-precocious artistic abilities. And she realigned to something more in range of actual six-or-seven-year-olds.

The most recent story seems to be going back on that revision, and I don’t know Beatty’s long-term plan for it. The museum book incident’s weighed on Rex and June Morgan’s minds, at least. And this essay should catch you up to mid-August 2021 in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or if any news about the strip breaks, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

23 May – 14 August 2021.

Kyle Vidpa, author of the Kitty Cop series of children’s graphic novels, was stuck with writers block. Fortunately Sarah Morgan, who’d warmed up on drawing stories about herself and her father doing several genres of adventure story, is a fan.

So she’s composed a hundred-page fan letter/fan fiction. And Rex Morgan had promised that Buck Wise, his friend and Vidpa’s licensing agent, would get it right to him. He’s taking his first break outside the home in a year-plus, visiting his parents, who don’t understand why he can’t use his real name on his books. His real name is Jake Rowling. Weary after a night of explaining the should-be-obvious-thesis that TERFs are bad even if standing near one might help your career, he gives in and opens the letter.

Kyle Vidpa, reading and thinking: 'Well, little Sarah Morgan, what have you sent me? ... Hmmm. ' [ After reading Sarah's 'Fan Letter' ] Kyle bursts into the bedroom: 'Lauren! Lauren! Wake up!' Lauren: 'What!? What is it? What time is it?' Kyle: 'I've GOT it! I've got the new KITTY COP book!' Lauren: 'You finally came up with an idea?' Kyle: 'Not just an idea! The whole book! It's right here!' Lauren: 'You wrote the whole next book in one night!?!' Kyle: 'No, not me, my little fan, Sarah! She sent me the next book. The whole thing's right here!' Lauren: 'What in the world are you talking about? You weren't even supposed to open that package, Jake.' Kyle: 'I know, but I'm glad I did. It's great, Lauren. Wait until you read it!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 20th of June, 2021. I realize it’s just the inclusion of the “throwaway” top row of panels that made the adjective get repeated. But the repeated use of “little Sarah Morgan” made me think of that Sunday Phantom story about The Little Detective Who Disappeared. Anyway, I remember when I was around nine or so I had a whole sketchbook somehow and I was determined to draw a comic strip through it. And I concede that many people are better at the demands of fiction-writing than I am. My recollection is that the strip dissolved into completely dadaist nonsense by the fourth page and I hope the sketchbook was (a) never finished and (b) mercifully set on fire and the ashes scattered around the world so it could never be inflicted on mortals.

It’s love at first sight. Or story love anyway. Sarah’s story is perfect, a new Kitty Cop novel ready to go. It needs some work, yes, but “not much”. And it’s even inspired him for more books. All he has to do now is get permission to use this.

Do I buy that? … I have to answer that question in segments. Might reading someone’s fanfic break an author out of his writer’s block? Yes. Might it have ideas he wants to put into the canonical text? Sure. L Frank Baum wrote in the forewords to some of the later Wizard of Oz books how he was indebted to fans writing in. Do I believe that nine-year-old Sarah Morgan could have written a novel that needs just a little tweaking? Even given the evidence we have of her ability to compose stories? I don’t buy it. I choose to interpret this as Vidpa, happy to have his problem fixed, understating how hard turning Sarah’s story into a professional book will be. Creative energy, after a long dry spell, is often a bit manic.

June Morgan, to Sarah, who's standing upside-down: 'Australia may be on the other side of the world, Sarah, but people there don't actually live upside-down.' Sarah: 'Are you sure about that?' June: 'Yeah, I am.' Sarah: 'Phooey. Upside-down sounded like fun.' Rex: 'What do you want to do with the rest of your day, Sarah? Do you have another Kitty Cop story in mind?' Sarahh: 'Nah, why would I want to write another one? I already did that. Besides, it sounds like Jake has the whole next story figured out.' Rex: 'It did seem so when we spoke with him.' Sarah: 'I want to watch anime. Can we get crunchyroll, Dad?' Rex: 'Crunchy rolls? Like the hard rolls we have at dinner sometimes?' Sarah: 'No, Dad. It's a *TV Channel*. I want to watch 'Kirakira Pretty Cure A La Mode'.' Rex: 'You know, I have no idea what you're talking about. Does that have something to do with ice cream?' Sarah: 'Dad, we need to sit down and have a serious talk.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of August, 2021. This strip came up in one of my love’s Facebonk groups, with people asking how it was possible for a single Sunday strip to read like it has a page of script missing. And I … just don’t see it, except that it’s fair for someone who dropped in without seeing Saturday’s strip to have no idea why Sarah’s upside-down in the first row. She was practicing being upside-down in case she ever moved to Australia. But I may be too accustomed to the style of the strip to realize how it reads to people who don’t expect, for example, that Sarah flitters between obsessions without keeping her parents in the loop.

So now all that’s left is making the deal. It’ll have to go through Vidpa’s literary agent and the Morgan’s lawyers. But she’ll get co-author credit plus royalties on the book and any new-character merchandise. So, that’s a nice step up on her college expenses, and she gets to pick out a pseudonym. Plus, Kyle Vidpa’s wife is pregnant, so he could get inspiration from within his own family in nine years.

And that’s the important stuff gone on in the strip the last several months. We seem to be transitioning to a new story this week, so I can begin November 2021’s plot recap without much prologue.

Next Week!

I try to explain what’s going on in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, which is going to be hard. The library plot I understand. But the summer plot, about golf? If I’m working this out right it’s about someone pretending to be a worse golfer than they actually are, for the reasons. I know, that doesn’t sound like I”m on the right track to me either”.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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