The Kiwi Concept
For those of you looking for one single, life-altering thing to blame for the whole Kiwi Craze, you're in luck - here it is: the 25th Anniversary Edition Jeopardy Nintendo Game. That's right. We've traced all this insanity back to one single rainy afternoon in which Greg and The Jennies were playing Jeopardy, a game which - when we play it, anyway - is inherently more violent than Mortal Kombat, Quake, and Doom combined could ever hope to be....mostly because it involves jumping the other player, wresting the controller out of their grasp, and purposely entering the wrong answer (i.e. Q: What color is an Orange? A: lkjdsf;lkas4303065). Anyway, on this fateful day, we were so busy using our opponent's controllers as nunchuks (spelling?) and hog-ties that we failed to buzz either of us in, and the computer (always the most civilized among us, for some reason) answered it for us. Which was really surprising, because usually when your scores are $50,000 , -$1500, and -$20,000, the computer tends to take pity on your pathetic ineptitude and stops answering questions. But that's entirely beside the point, which was that the question was this:
Q: What species of bird lays the largest egg in relation to its size?
....and that's when this madness truly started.
Bob was the first kiwi to be named. Before that, we merely wandered about chirping "kee-wee" while Greg scrawled stick kiwis all over his math homework. Bob came into being when Greg, angry at a classmate, pulled a name out of thin air and coined the now-defunct phrase "That's what Bob Kiwi said - before he was shot!" This was February / March 1997; Bob's first comic appearance was in April '97 (available in the Vault). A month or so later, Ty and McDonalds came out with their first installment of Teenie Beanie Babies, and once we got our paws on that innocent little yellow bird, Bob Kiwi became an undeniable reality.
The Evil Sir Ivan Kiwi
Ivan was the second kiwi to be named, and is actually about a month younger than Bob. Why? Well, after searching in vain for a few weeks and not being able to find any pictures of real kiwis, we finally decided to consult Grolier's Complete Multimedia Encyclopedia (for Macs). But when we saw a dark, gray, hunched, spiky-looking bird (and not a cartoony yellow one), Greg pronounced that this could not possibly be Bob, the cute little yellow kiwi, but, rather, his arch-nemesis, the Evil Sir Ivan Kiwi! (A name that also came from nowhere, but seemed to fit the devious-looking Grolier's kiwi.) Ivan shared his comic debut with Bob and Iiwi in April 1997.
Iiwi became part of the kiwi universe when, on a Easter '97 visit to the National Zoo's aviary (bird house), we noticed a little red Hawaiian bird called an iiwi. I'm not sure what thrilled us more - that the bird's name (and call) sounded so much like "kiwi", or that it only had two letters in its name. At any rate, the similar-sounding name (and fact that Jennies didn't have a kiwi of her own and was starting to feel left out) quickly won Iiwi a spot in the comics. The surname "Redbird" is a recent addition (1999), mostly because it occurred to Jennies that Iiwi the Iiwi is just a tad redundant. Iiwi debuted in late April 1997. (And for those of you that really want to know, the comic Bob, Ivan, and Iiwi debuted in was titled "Ferdie da Birdie Presents: Squeaks' Kiwi Friends." Ouch.)
Ferdie da Birdie
Believe it or not, Ferdie's actually the oldest in this bunch. He was born in 1988 (WOW!) when I discovered I could make a bird by taking the number 7, drawing a line down the other side (so it looked like the symbol pi), looping around over the top of the 7 down to the other side, and adding two eyes and a beak. (Stop shaking your head like that. It was the 80's, I was in third grade, and everyone thought it was really cool.) Ferdie's first comic came about one boredom-obsessed day in April or May of 1990. Coincidently, that's also when he was named. The name itself came about by my obsession with 1) making his name rhyme with birdie and 2) making it only out of letters I could make by tracing the edge of the hole in a sheet of notebook paper. (Hey, I said I was bored!) Ferdie then went on to star on the paper-bag covers that adorned my textbooks from 6th to 8th grade. I don't have any of the covers any more, but if I can find the original Ferdie comic, I'll subject you to it. (BTW, I've recently learned that 'Ferdie' is a nickname for 'Ferdinand'...though I'm certain Ferdie would pound you into a gooey pulp if you called him that.)
Ferdia da Birdie
Ferdia's origin is only slightly more sane. Ferdie needed relatives. Siblings. People that dedicated their lives to driving him nuts. Ferdia, his big sister, was the second to arrive on-scene (Ma was the first) in 1990. She guest-starred on my textbook covers, had walk-on roles in some of the earlier comics, and gained a following in Ferdie's second German comic, in which she played Ferdie's cousin and wound up nearly pummeling him into Play-Doh when his first few dinner choices backfired. I liked her spunk, and when she (and her superheroine alter-ego, which had no name but looked like batgirl) took charge of rescuing Ferdie in the Mortal Kombat comic, she became a mainstay in the comics that followed, providing the intelligent but recklessly adventurous foil for Ferdie. She officially became a cop in 1998, when I started working on Private Eye.
Squeaks joined up in 1996, when I did a comic featuring Ferdie's vacation in Roswell, New Mexico, and needed an alien. Up to that point, Ferdie's comics had only featured birds, so a mouse seemed a good choice of alien. I used a prototype mouse alien doodle from 1995 as a model (but lost the green-tinted fur in the change-over) for his appearance, but otherwise Squeaks' character and background was the same then as it is now. (He's mellowed out a little bit, though. For stranding him on the planet and then criticising his appearance, Ferdie got himself zapped with a ray-gun. Nowadays, when Ferdie fouls something up, Squeaks just kind of glares at him.) Squeaks got his badge in 1998 for Private Eye, his third comic appearance. (Car 54 was actually published midway through Private Eye, in early 1999.)
Beak's actually only been around since Christmas 1998, when he (in the form of a beanie) joined the family. He made his comic debut in May 1998 with the Phantom Menace: Waiting in Line at Star Wars comic, and it is actually there that he got most of his Jedi attributes (mostly because he liked the lightsaber).
The Sign Holder
I almost feel sorry for this kid. He's been around since May 1997 and he still doesn't have a name! (I'm serious. Pay attention to Ivan. The closest he comes to calling the sign holder by name is calling him "kid." I'm debating the merits of just naming the poor boy Kit.) He made his comic debut in Bob's Music Video comic (in The Vault), although there *was* a small kiwi pointing to Ivan and saying "It's the Evil Sir Ivan Kiwi!" in the very first kiwi comic as well. For those of you comparing the stories to the comics, the sign holder hasn't been doing much sign holding off-panel lately. But he's staying.
Lita the Dust Bunny just kind of...happened. Don't go telling the poor bunny she was an accident - she wasn't, she just popped into being out of necessity in 1999 for Kiwis in Space and kind of grew and developed from there until she had to stay. She now serves as one of Ivan's lackeys, and seems to be the only person aside from Ivan that the Sign Holder talks to. She also seems to be the character with the most rapidly-growing fan base, which tends to pop up every now and then and demand she get more screen time...
Bobetta came into being a couple months after Bob. I don't know why, or where he met her, or what she sees in him, but she's Bob's fiance' and he's very protective of her. She's very rich and somewhat spoiled, but once you get past her aristocratic front you realize...she's very rich and somewhat spoiled. She's a wealthy heiress and a prima ballerina, and seems to fill the roll of the comic's 'Martha Stewart.' I need to do something to make her more well-liked...
Ma appeared in 1988 alongside Ferdie on my Math book cover, joyously clutching the pan of meatloaf that became her signature prop for the next nine years. She wasn't in the original Ferdie comic, but appeared in a 1992 comic in my sketchbook, chasing her son all over creation in a desperate attempt to make the boy eat his meatloaf. She hasn't changed much over the years, but is loosely modeled after my Mom (who's not too thrilled with that).
Bink da Birdie
Bink, Ferdie's baby bro, also appeared in 1988 on my textbook covers, but stayed out of the comics until the 1995 (or 6?) Mortal Kombat comic. He's always been brainy, and now that I see his full name in print, he was probably named after a parody my friends and I came up with of the whack-a-mole game -- bop-the-birdie. (Yeah, I've never hung with a sensitive, P.C. crowd....but PETA hasn't stoned my house yet, so I figure I'm safe.)
Newt, who likes to be called Joe, was willed into existence in 1997 when one of Greg's friends commented that the "smart kiwi" scribble he'd done should be called Newt. (I have no idea why, he just did.) When we got a stuffed "Master Kiwi," all intelligent-looking in his vest and British hat, we decided that this just had to be Newt. But Bob kept insisting that it was Joe. So Newt not only came into existence, but earned his first alias. His second, XYZPDQ (XYZ Pretty Darn Quick), surfaced when Danger Kiwi asked him for aid on a technical question (How do I start this boat? What? It's a raft? Oh.)
Trevor, Casey Redwall, Bishop, & the cops of the 42nd Precinct
Trevor, Casey, & Bishop came into being in 1999, when I decided the cops in Private Eye needed names (after all, Ferdia should know her co-workers, shouldn't she?) and I saw these three in a televised segment of Car 54 that my brain kept broadcasting during Biology class until I wrote it down. The Chief & Vernon arrived under similar circumstances while fleshing out Car 54. I suppose I drew on characters from tv police dramas for character traits, but they're so well-rounded and mixed together I can't credit any single show or character. The rest of the precinct - as well as the officers in the 8th and other precincts - are called into existence as I want or need them, and, at least at this point, have no other origin to mention.
Bob Kiwi was wandering around a Sailor Moon realvideo archive one night in May 1999 and discovered an interesting and, surprisingly, murderously evil villainess named Galaxia was featured in some of the episodes. He mentioned "Galaxia" might be an interesting name for a villain, and didn't the series need another villain, and wouldn't it be neat if we did an episode with a space-alien villain. Well, you don't need to smack me upside the head to get me to take a hint (although it helps) and my brain took the ball and ran with it. The result? Galaxia Kiwi.
Commander Charles D'Gal
D'Gal is hands down my favorite evil villain. His origin lies in May 1999, when Bob was playing with a black pepsi bottle cap, pretending it was a hat. It occurred to Bob that the cap looked like the black berets French soldiers wore, which reminded him of Commander Charles Degaulle, a highly respectible Frenchman who did something very important, like lead part of a revolution or something. (The kiwis don't remember what he did, and I slept through Modern European History. I truly did.) Bob at the time considered France evil (I don't know why. Really, I don't. He had it in for Britain for a while there, too...) and thus became the Evil French Commander Charles D'Gal. I needed another villain for Kiwis in Space - Galaxia wasn't evil enough on her own. She needed an enforcer. And boy, did she get one. D'Gal is just so much evil fun! (I'm having problems convincing people of this. They seem to think he's a good guy. What, do I need to post a picture of him kicking a puppy to convince you people that he's evil?!?) He's a success, though. A murderous villain that's despicable yet likeable. The "Magneto Effect," if you will. Oooh, the possibilities...
Drake was created in 1999 for Kiwis in Space, and given a new surname by Plague in 2002 since I could never remember his old one. Drake's character is based on an almalgam of several self-righteous spacefarers (Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest comes to mind, but Drake predates him...) and military fighter-pilot jocks, who shall remain nameless for the sake of the decent pilots out there. He's significantly easier to write now than he was at first, and he holds the ignomous position of this series' whipping boy. I simply delight in tormenting and torturing him...
Captain Commodore Mallard
Mallard was created in 1999 for Kiwis in Space. Starship captains aren't supposed to leaver their ship on away missions, so you won't see much of him - but he's fun. Originally, I borrowed heavily from Star Trek:TNG's Captain Jean-Luc Picard for his character, and while some of the grace and tolerance remains, Mallard is doing a fair job of developing on his own.
A black-plumed Vycerian duck and long-time associate of D'Gal; to say they're close would be an understatement. Jes is a recent, late 2001 addition to the series, so her character's not quite developed yet. She's a trip, though. She's got a quick temper, a short attention span, and less moral compungtion that D'Gal (yes, less). Beware of mood swings and a less-than-stable psyche.
One-Shots and Guest Stars
To be honest, I called Oz into existence just because Private Eye needed another villain to kill off. Afterwards, his character did something it wasn't supposed to do. It developed. Normally, that's not a bad thing, but it can be if you've just killed off the character. Granted, I could put Ozzie in fics set before Private Eye, but I wanted him available for anything, so I decided (in my glorious position as The Jennies, chief decision-maker and all-around kiwi creation goddess) that Oz wasn't dead. He hasn't appeared in anything since Private Eye yet, but given my story backlogs, that doesn't mean much.
Gherkin Girl, The Pickler, and the Manje Gang
More minor characters. Gherkin Girl and the Pickler were born when we saw Batman Forever in theaters (1996?). For more info on them, check out the In-Jokes section. The Manje Gang came into existence in 1999 for Car 54, and while most of them are/were behind bars, you'll be seeing more of them. They're just too fun. Goth meets Punk. Heh. Yeah, too much fun...
Da Hooties were collectively born on May 31st, 2000 (Bob's 3rd birthday), created from Crayola Model Magic and model airplane paint for Bob's bday gift, and are something like an entire alien race of miniturized clones. That'll make more sense if you read The Search For Cuteness, available from the Comics page.
Skye of the RedTails
One of the most interesting one-shots I've written, Skye appears in 2001's Search for Cuteness. He's a Hawk - a tribal Flier species that are also the Hooties' long-time enemies. The 'Red-Tail' bit refers to his tribe, though bird enthusiasts will recognize it as also naming a species of hawks. Having invested far too much energy in the social structures, native species, and mechanics of the Hooties' world, I may attempt a spin-off story featuring the Hawks at some point, but I give no guarantees.
Winni called herself into existence in Fall 1999. She's a brown duck living in New York City slums and working as a waitress for some greasy spoon, and she tends to attract trouble the way honey attracts ants. She appears in Open Season, but is more or less a one-shot character.
The officers at the 8th Precinct have only been around since May 2000, but they're fun. The 8th precinct is uptown, in a much less crime-infested area of San Viano. Every now and then (like at the start of SFC) they make an appearance.