Permit us yet again, Little Leaguers, as we tread a path down Memory Lane for another lesson in Hard Cheap Knock history. When you get old, you get nostalgic. When you get nostalgic, you get worried. When you get worried, you get lawyers. When you get lawyers, they make you document every last idiotic detail.
This time, we’ll be exploring the origin of a beloved mascot and world-renowned engine of capitalism – the sordid tale of Empanada The Necromancer.
Anyone who has read my self-published autobiographical account of the demise of Hard Cheap Knock, From Wahpeesh! to “Wha Happen?”, will know that I take personal responsibility for our hard times. If any single effort on my part represents this fall from grace, it is my insistence that Empanada The Necromancer become the new face of Hard Cheap Knock. Again, all of the details are in my book, but suffice it to say that several failed marriages, an addiction to inhalants, mountains of HCK capital, and the hyper-inflated ego which results, are a formula for, at best, bad decision making. At it’s worst, I became a monster.
So let me take you back to 1994, friends. HCK was thriving. Our publishing and product empire was literally a cash machine. The cabin was well stocked with Pepsi, the yacht was always fueled and ready, a fleet of mobile homes stood poised to shuttle anyone of us to our next convention appearance. Edgar, our caretaker, could be summoned at a moment’s notice. A team of high-paid, coke-stoked lawyers, Hart, Chapman, & Knox, was kept on retainer.
Enter the monster.
Enter Little Dookie
Little Dookie was my pet project. Thanks to my inhalant addiction, I was a pale shadow of the artist I once was. All I had the capacity to do as a member of HCK was make absurd deals that did not mesh with the vision of the team. Pouring time and resources into a partnership with a snack cake and savory pastry company made all of the sense in the world. My teammates had no idea of the under-the-table dealings, clandestine meetings, and huffing-fueled deals that were going on behind the scenes.
Pouring time and resources into a partnership with a snack cake and savory pastry company made all of the sense in the world.
In the competitive world of microwavable snacks a mascot spokesperson can make or break your presence on the shelves. Little Dookie was looking to us to create the next Ronald McDonald or Charlie The Tuna of savory handhelds. Actually, they wanted a whole spokesteam. Needless to say, I was in no condition to crank out a palatable, let alone acceptable, Little Dookie spokescharacter.
I had already spent a significant amount of our advance from Little Dookie on spray paint and air duster cans. The LD lawyers were beginning to pressure me, via H C & K, to produce. As hard as I tried to convince the other members of HCK to put sketches together, they had their own stories and characters to attend to.
“When are we going to see a new Minute Man episode, Gundy? It’s been months!”
“Fuck Minute Man! AND Minute Man for that matter! I’ve got Empanada The Necromancer! We’ll be riding his sorcerous coattails straight to the bank! You hear me?!?”
The Official Handbook of the Hard Cheap Knock Universe
As our pantheon of characters, storylines, and epic tales began to accumulate, it became necessary to catalog it all. Fans were getting confused and needed backstories when issues sold out and reprints were delayed. Around this same time, Flippy and Carson spearheaded the early meetings on what would become The Official Handbook of the Hard Cheap Knock Universe – an alphabetical, encyclopedic character consolidation of all of our efforts. It was a brilliant concept. So brilliant, my inhalant-addled brain was determined to wipe its flaccid, metaphorical dick all over it.
If I remember correctly (and there’s no reason I should), the conversation went like this:
Carson: I think Volume One should cover A through F.
Flippy: Asshat McCool to Felipe! Thatoughtta do it!
Me: You fucks! What about Empanada The Necromancer!
Carson: <sigh> What about him?
Tonz: Are you high again?
Flippy: Mmmmercy! What are you trying to say?
Me: If you only go through F, that leaves Empanada out of the first issue.
Frank: Actually, E comes before F. He’d be in Issue One!
Flippy: <rolling eyes> That’s right… Your new guy gets to be in the first issue… Even though he hasn’t even appeared in an issue yet.
Me: Oh. Oh? He would? Okay. Good.
Tonz: I’m going to take you outside and stomp on your nut sack.
Me: <covering my scrotum with my hands> Gulp!
Carson: Shouldn’t Asshat McCool go under M?
Wetz: My hands are SO SMALL! Who wants a hug from my monkey arms?
I retreated to my room of the cabin and sobered up enough to write the entry into the Handbook. In my mind, it didn’t matter if he appeared in a single issue. Empanada was a lot of things to me at the time, but if I had to say one thing he represented over any other, he meant a closet full of something with which I could fill my lungs that would make me forget that my dick hadn’t been hard in over a year.
I look back on those days like they happened to someone else. Like a movie I saw, my character played by someone like Nick Cage or Peter Stormare. A brow-beaten, flaccid Cage or Stormare.
The monster was on his rampage. He didn’t care for colleagues or lovers, friends or compatriots, artists or on-the-go, ready-in-less-than-60-second edibles. He just wanted to line his pockets with that paper, yo. His days were numbered.
Empanada meant a closet full of something with which I could fill my lungs that would make me forget that my dick hadn’t been hard in over a year.
Baked Snacks and Class Acts
Empanada The Necromancer, as a spokesperson for kids’ savory pies, was a fucking ridiculous idea. He was, of course, a master of the Dark Arts. He did finally appear in single-page comics. He thwarted evil(er) do-ers with his one super power – to summon the zombified livestock used to produce Little Dookie meats. The bad guys ran away or were distracted enough by Little Dookie pocket meals that they did not care if they were incarcerated. He sold, and still sells, a whole motherfucking shitload of handheld, crusty, delicate pies.
He sold, and still sells, a whole motherfucking shitload of handheld, crusty, delicate pies.
I took work from anywhere I could get it, even if it meant working for the competition. To my credit, I still have not cashed the check I earned from Potency and Potential. As low as I sunk, I just couldn’t bring myself to sink that low.
Things got worse before they got better. It wasn’t long before I was sending propellant directly into other orifices to arrive at that next sweet high. Rock Bottom for me meant waking up on the HCK yacht, in the middle of the Atlantic, with a WD-40 straw lodged in my urethra, completely out of out of inhalants, and starving.
One thing I can tell you about the Hard Cheap Knockers – they are all Class Acts. Sure I had to spend a month drying out in a storage container underground which Tonz had arranged to be a solar-powered Faraday cage. Yes, it was several years before a few of them would even speak to me. Of course, I was required to be a chip-carrying twelve-stepper before anything like this website was even remotely possible.
But here we are, friends. Hard dicks, clean living, and still riding high on snack cake and savory baked goods residuals. People usually say they wouldn’t change a thing in these summaries. I’d change a lot, but I’m thankful every day for where I landed and who I see sitting next to me. Mostly, I’m thankful for a flaky pastry necromancer who never really found his place in the world. Just like me.
Here’s to the men, the perfect men!
Who never are at fault;
They blame us if they chance to get
The pepper for the salt.
They blame us if their business fails,
Or back a losing horse;
And when it rains on holidays
The fault is ours, of course.
They blame us when they fall in love,
And when they married get;
Likewise they blame us when they’re sick,
And when they fall in debt.
For everything that crisscross goes
They say we are to blame;
But, after all, here’s to the men,
We love them just the same!