By chris on June 12, 2009 13:15
Hey guys, please bear with me on these blog posts, as it's all still pretty new to me - and I'm really not much of a blogging person as you will soon discover. However, I'm sure I have a fair bit to talk about in terms of the development of the LS comic, which some of you might find interesting. If not, I apologize in advance...but here we go anyway.
What began as a possible desktop wallpaper image for my computer, has now developed into a full four issue online comic book series. To be honest, I never imagined it would get this far. As I mentioned in my bio, the Landscaper concept spawned out of kind of a joke between myself and a couple friends, mainly through my frustration during a certain series of events. It all begins with a hall. My wife runs a drama school / theatre company, which I’m involved in as both a set designer & actor. The school was run out of an old converted church reception hall, which was a great venue for both classes and productions. She bought and converted the hall into a fully functioning drama studio, which she ran with her sister. We had an adult class which would meet every Tuesday night at the studio, that was located at the end of the street in a neighborhood that didn’t have the best reputation, but prior to these events, wasn’t too bad.
The problems first began when a house up the street took on new occupants, who had just moved from another location and into “government founded housing.” It began simple enough. We would pull into the parking lot of the hall, and notice that someone had put some graffiti on the main wall that faces the street. A bit frustrating to have to call to have the front face of building re-painted, but we couldn’t be blinded to the fact that this wasn't a possibility based on the neighborhood. Although, we hadn’t had any real trouble up until now. It seemed like the neighborhood was actually getting better, with the addition of some new developments including a new primary school which opened up across the street. Soon we started dealing with these events on a more consistent basis. Each week we would pull into the hall to find windows broken, doors would appear to have marks on them, as if someone tried to jimmy them open with a screwdriver. Graffiti would start showing up in different places around the building.
We soon became a lot more vigilant, and started to notice a group of kids around the ages of 13 -16 riding their bikes around the area during the day. We didn’t really think much of it at first, but noticed them riding by the hall almost looking as if they were scoping out the building. We also notice they would hang out at night in an old playground, a few houses up from our building. We saw them sometimes when we would drive past after class. Weeks went by and the events become more intense. There would be times we would all be sitting in the main hall during class and would hear the sound of breaking glass in the foyer. We ran out only to find a brick had been thrown through the window from the parking lot. No one ever seemed to be around except for that same group of kids riding their bikes up and down the street, who would of course deny it. Graffiti was one thing, but now having to replace these windows was becoming very costly, and not to mention really pissing me off.
We spoke to security, and asked them to drive by more often during our night classes , but this didn't deter these acts from taking place. We had a gate which we close each night during classes, as the majority of our students were adults and drove their cars to the hall. It wasn’t a very high gate, but would stop people from using the parking lot once classes began. However, it was pretty easy for some to jump over and this became a major problem as the saga continued. Not only did we have to worry about the building being vandalized whist in class, but now we had our cars on the hit list. Multiple times we would hear the sound of breaking glass, but this time it would be muffled, as if originating from outside the building. We would open the doors only find the back window of one of our student’s car had been smashed out. Also some nights we would come out to find our tires flatted due to punctures. I started playing stake out, and began hiding out in one of the rooms overlooking the parking lot with all the lights out. A bit silly I know, but I was getting so frustrated, it was as if we were being personally attacked and there was nothing we could do.
On one of my routine stakeouts I discovered what I always assumed. Sure enough, I saw one of those kids hop the fence while the others stood watch on their bikes on the side walk. I would run out to try to confront them, but before I got the door open they would quickly hop back over the fence and head off on their bikes towards the playground. We felt we had a little more information now to be able to approach security and police, but to our surprise, security said they really couldn’t do anything about it. Unless they caught them in the act, they really had no authority to help us. To make matters worse they said - We know who these kids are, but there's really nothing we can do. This floored me. I couldn’t believe we were totally defenceless to conduct our classes without having our cars or our building attacked. There was one night where I did confront them. I saw them riding their bikes across our parking lot and told them this was private property, and asked them to leave. They had a few choice words for me, and then stopped outside in front of the building. I told them that I knew they were the ones who had been causing the damage to our building, and that we have gotten the police involved. I remember them yelling at me. “You can’t prove anything” – and one of them threatened under their breath to burn the hall down. The conversation turned into a shouting match between myself and four of these little punks on bikes, basically In the middle of street. I couldn’t believe I was doing this, but I didn’t know what else to do. I figure If I told them I knew it was them, that maybe that would deter them from continuing their nightly assaults.
I know this was probably fun for them. A way to escape the boredom of whatever it is they did during the night, as I’m sure their parents we’re not concerned in where they were and what they were getting into. However this was not fun for my wife and I – and definitely not fun for our students, as this was starting to deter them from coming to our night classes. I was getting sick of coming there every night and wondering what was going to happen next. Soon, other people in the neighborhood were finding windows broken, things stolen from cars and more B&E were reported. I remember one of our neighbors told me ; that during the day he saw a few kids jump the fence and try to break into the our building. He yelled at them to get away and that he called security. They left, and soon returned with about 20 more kids. They then began jumping his fence and throwing rocks at his house. All this because he told them to get off our property. In some kind of twisted metaphor this area became like a war zone. It was kind of like us against them. People began talking in whispers about forming vigilante groups and dealing with these kids in their own way. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this, it was like something you would see in the movies, not real life. People were getting so frustrated that this one group of kids were disrupting their way of life. They were afraid to leave their homes at night, not knowing that when they got home whether or not their house would be broken into or their property would be damaged. The police seemed to turn a blind eye to this situation, as more and more people of that area reported similar events. The problem was they were kids, and unless they were caught doing something, the police and security really couldn't do much about it - or so we were told. This group would ride by and basically mock us, knowing that we were pretty much defenceless.
They knew they were untouchable, and this gave them more power. I stated hearing things on the news about random attacks involving kids of similar ages. An elderly couple was attacked in a park by a group of teenagers. I woman out jogging in the morning was attacked by a group of kids no older them 15. She was robbed and bashed. Three teens, aged 13-14-15 attacked a man on a bus with a machete, then smashed out all the windows of the bus. What the hell was the world coming to? I mean what do you do, they were just kids, but as violent and aggressive as adults. It was such a blurry line. One night we were sitting in the middle of hall right after one of them had put a brick through one of the windows. We had just come back from chasing them down the street. When we got back we called security, which seemed to be our routine of the night. The majority of the actors at our studio are comic book fanatics, so of course the topic of vigilante would come up from time to time.
We were all sitting discussing our frustrations, when I piped up and said. “I’m just going to go down to the damn hardware store, strap two nail guns to my back, wear a hooded sweatshirt, safety glasses and a dust mask. No. Even better, we should form a group and call ourselves the Landscapers: re-shaping/changing/cleaning up this neighborhood. There it was. The beginning of what would become The Landscaper comic book. It’s strange how these things come about, but this was seed that created the idea. Of course I wasn’t serious, well maybe just a little, but I was so frustrated that these kids had no deterrent. Nothing to make them say - Um... maybe we shouldn’t go out tonight and cause trouble because *insert deterrent here* choose from - Robot monster zombies -or Hell Hounds - or – Robo Cop - or - The Landscapers are out there. This sparked a few of the others to come up with similar hardware store based weapons and costumes. Each of us had our own names and special weapons. We would joke about what we would do, and how the neighborhood would be a better place because of us. Ok, I know a bit silly, but it kind of made us feel better about it all. That night I went home and designed the Landscaper logo. I thought it would be fun to make tee-shirts to hand out to the group, kind of like our own little inside joke. Unfortunately, like most things, it got forgotten after a while. I never made the tee-shirts and the idea kind of disappeared. I put the logo in a folder on my desktop labeled "Back burner" and there it sat. We ended up selling the hall and moving to a new location. I know, it’s almost like they won, but in the end we just couldn’t deal with it anymore.