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He’s easily one of the most popular characters in the comic, but along with Rose, he’s also one that gave me the most headache.
The first thing you should know about Purvous is that he is a real guy. Well, not quite. Purvous is based almost entirely on a bagger named Ervin that I worked with when I was Bookkeeper and Customer Service Manager at my own Food “Baron”. Almost every single one of Purvous’s lines in the main comic are taken from things Ervin has actually said. The refurbished comic you see above is an exchange I directly witnessed, and yes, he even said “AH WANNA MAKE A BABY.”
As a writer, you’re often tempted to take people you know in real life and put them directly into your work. This is almost never a good idea. You’ll either want to do things with that character that might create a conflict with the actual person, or like me, you may fall into the trap of presenting a character without the proper fictional context. You know the character because you’ve practically lifted him out of real life, but your readers don’t quite get the same connection. They don’t get the disclaimer.
This is a comic I pulled out of the archive a while back. On its own it’s needlessly offensive. The cliche “you had to be there” certainly rings true here.
With Purvous, things were complicated not only by the typical factors but also by the fact that, let’s face it, he’s mentally challenged. That’s a concept most writers are uncomfortable with, and for good reason. You don’t want to seem like you’re making fun of retarded people for cheap laughs. In TG’s case, it’s Purvous getting the laugh on everyone around him. He may say crazy things that make you laugh, but nobody’s making fun of him. And the readers have really responded to him.
Still I worried about making the wrong impression every time I wrote Purvous into a strip, and certainly that’s what some who came to the site looking for something to pick at have taken away. But TG is a reality-based comic, and people like Purvous are part of reality. They make life a little less drab and boring.
Ervin himself is an amazing guy, and working with him was a blast. He is a completely unfiltered individual, and he knows how awesome he is. I think I did a not-entirely-horrible job representing elements of him here, and the dedicated Purvous fans would seem to agree.
But ultimately, Purvous isn’t really my character. He’s Ervin’s, and I was just borrowing him.