Deep within the musty and cavernous depths of bookseller Kings Books, the normally clandestine fez-wearing Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians, or C.L.A.W., held their monthly public Open Swim meeting.
I had detected their nefarious schemes through Facebook and on the Web and noticed they hold the open meetings on the fourth Wednesday of the month in order to recruit henchmen. The initiation rites included joining them in a test of ones mettle as a cartoonist. This month’s meeting, planned by Thorax O’Tool, was a challenge to draw a bridge connecting two landmasses divided by water. Participants then choose their favorites using four “Glass Pellets of Destiny.”
This is the standard procedure for the meetings; I could always leave if I was too chicken. I decided to press forward and enter the dark world of cartoon drawing. It began with strange chants and a mesmerizing dance put on by the seasoned members. When it was all over, I was overcome with the need to rub pencil lead across paper. I must have had the Tacoma Moon Festival on my mind because I began to draw a bridge with Chinese-inspired accents.
When the whole thing was done, the fruits of my labors clearly blew the rest of the group out of the water in what I can only attest to beginner’s luck. As I inspected the various bridges drawn by the multitude of members, I noticed no two looked much alike. Each was drawn in an entirely different perspective and can be viewed on the group’s Facebook page. Sadly, the elders used their sway to collect the most pellets and pull in the top prizes, including a luchadore mask, a like-new game of Pictionary, and a signed poster for upcoming zombie-themed convention, Tacoma Zomb-pocalypse, by C.L.A.W. founding member Mark Monlux. It was then that I heard the group was plotting their presence at the event. I took my leave of the group, knowing that I would have to investigate later that weekend.
On Saturday, as I approached the Tacoma Dome Hotel, I was immediately accosted by a gang of freshly-dead zombies. After deftly fighting them off and paying admission, I noticed the C.L.A.W.s presence looming front and center in the lobby. Their arcane colored markers blanketed their table setup which appeared to be designed to lure people into giving up their hard-earned money to fund the league’s brain-washing “scholarship” program.
The award is available to any registered student, most puzzlingly the website describes that the scholarship goes to the one who “best fills out the application.” Not too bad of a deal, but I would be suspicious that you may end up being asked for a favor in return somewhere down the line…
Mark Monlux explained that fundraising for the scholarship is largely provided by the 24 Hour Comic Book Day event. The next one will be held later this month on Oct. 20 at Nerdy Stuffs in Spanaway. Monlux also noted the group has a policy to only work with other groups when there is some kind of trade-out, like a financial contribution to the scholarship fund.
When I emailed member and local artist R.R. Anderson to ask him about the origins of the league, I got quite the tale in reply:
“CLAW actually began thousands of years ago when an ancient viking ship landed by accident in what is now called Hilltop. The lost viking tribe hid a cache of swords and magic helmets in an underground vault before heading back out to sea again where they were immediately devoured by an enchanted white whale. All knowledge of CLAW was lost for centuries until one day when an angel appeared to 4 heroes who destiny had guided to the same sushi restaurant that evening. Mark Monlux, James Stowe, “Electric” Elliot Trotter, and myself RR Anderson… our brains were filled with holy mulch-dimensional forbidden knowledge that moonless night in the year of our lord Two thousand and eight A.D. Hands joined, we flew to the spot, now a tiny memorial park–Larry Frost Memorial Park and began writing in sidewalk chalk and charcoal the constitution for the Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians… as we wrote, each slab of concrete sidewalk lifted from the ground… revealing itself as a shimmering plate of gold. We somehow also discovered a cache of magic swords which when handled.. mutated into over-sized novelty pencils. Are we still going strong? Indeed. We began as 4 founding fathers, our ranks have since swelled to 19 full-members known as the sharp talons of C.L.A.W. we infiltrate all industries, all religions, all kinds of stuff… we can shape-shift into different animals or trees… we can fly… bend time… fold laundry perfectly… leave stains… remove stains… but most of all we can draw like the wind and wear a fez doing it.”
The story of where they get the cool fezzes is also interesting: Monlux knows a guy who knows how to get them imported from Turkey. I try to resist its power but it’s quite tempting.
Besides the monthly meetings, members of the notorious cabal have been known to lurk at the Frost Park Chalk-Off. The Chalk-Off is held Fridays at noon and should continue weekly through the end of October when it hibernates until next April.