The Toe Nail guy was the most popular character on Fly, You Fools! There are two of them, and they were there from the first comic. They were certified Class A Ranters, and whined about everything from the music they play in Barista to strange Indian blog titles and the lack of Mogambo’s terrorist vision among other things. Even the great Jhunjhunwala on Twitter has a soft spot for the T.N.G.
The expression on the guy’s face and the sheer absurdity of the situation made him an ideal character. And he was well loved by readers. In fact, I’d say he’s the reason I started this webcomic.
How Fly, You Fools! started
Here’s what happened: I had a blog (like everyone else) and every 2-3 months I’d post a whine (like everyone else). Which didn’t matter much because no one read the blog anyway (like everyone else’s). So when Google bought Youtube (back in the dark ages of Web 2.0) I put up a blog post, and just to make it more interesting I used an old photo of mine of two guys talking about Youtube. It was absurd. Also was funny.
So that blog died eventually and I experimented with a few “caption on photo” things. On the Delhi-Agra highway, there are many dhabas which have some dude dressed as a clown, standing on the road to attract customers. It’s a scary WTF sight. I had a photo of such a clown, and tried putting some text/effects on the photo and make it into a 3 panel thing. It was bad, but I laughed for about 10 minutes on it. And a webcomic which used photos was born:
That particular Agra trip must have been a particularly auspicious one, because inside that same dhaba I shot another photo of a man who had just finished his lunch and was in a contemplative mood. He later became the Great Thinker who contemplates on Vegetarianism, Nudism and other things. He hasn’t appeared in FYF comics lately, but the comments discussion he started on Vegetarianism is epic.
So finally on reaching Agra, I was buying the entry ticket at Sikandra and just as I turned around, there they sat on the curb, talking, while the man in the checkered shirt was pulling out his toe nail. It was a truly WTF moment, and I just aimed and shot.
History Was Made!
The Death of The Toe Nail Guy
Why is the photo in Black and White, you might ask? Well here’s the story. After I got back from Agra I dumped all my photos in Picasa for editing, retouching, aligning etc. I converted a few photos to Black and White because the color was wrong/not great etc. Which is OK since Picasa doesn’t alter the original high resolution photos. Except this time something went wrong. During a backup I didn’t copy the original photos. Then the hard disk died and the only copy I had left was the 1024 pixel wide photo I put on Flickr.
This just wasn’t enough to go on. I make the comics at 300 dpi in the vain hope that one day they might be published as a book. And the magazines that print FYF need them to be high resolution. Also, the bigger the photo, the more chance you have of zooming in and out of the frame (to make one photo appear to be different photos).
The Toe Nail Guy had to go. The problem was, who would replace them. They were a great team and whining came naturally to them. But I couldn’t use them anymore. So I killed them in this comic. There was much mourning and public outrage over his death.
Months went by. No Toe Nail guy comics. People wanted the dudes back. Then one day I was taking photos in the Delhi Red Fort, and two ASI caretakers were hounding tourists to step the fuck away from the Diwan-i-Khas. A place where these two were quite happily lounging away themselves. And something about them looked familiar.
Maybe it was the leg scratching action… Maybe the nasal exploring… But I knew I had found the replacement for the Toe Nail Guy! I shot away from different angles, and the replacement comic practically made itself on the spot.
There was a little resistance to change. But things have settled down now. The new guys are high resolution and from multiple angles. And the sets are the best money could buy in Shahjahan’s time.
So that is the story of The Toe Nail Guy and his contribution to Fly, You Fools! Maybe one day we’ll meet again and I can shoot 20 megapixel photos of him in glorious color and then a new comic will herald The Return of The Toe Nail Guy!