"The Malawi
Mouse Boys"


Page 1. Panel 1. Classroom setting. Professor Smartypants stands in front of a chalkboard. The rest of the World On A String cast is seated in front of her. Hugh Mann is asleep in his chair. Across the stage stands a turtlelike figure with a guitar neck for a tail. Professor Smartypants says, "Today, we're going to be talking about instrument construction and sound. Panel 2. Inset of Hugh Mann's closed eyelids, upon which are written the title of the comic. Script: Liz Timbs. Art: Ken Alleman. Panel 3 and 4. Professor Smartypants says, "A determined musician can use anything to build a..." One of her students, Norm L. Guy, interrupts, "Ooh, but actually, the guitar should have a nitrocel..." Professor Smartypants interrupts him back, "Is that true? Let's dig into that idea."

Page 2. Panel 1. Professor Smartypants has changed from her classroom duds into her traveling outfit. Hugh Mann awaits her, seated in a flying vehicle called the String Wing. She says, "Let's take a trip to Malawi. Hugh Mann can fly us. Panel 2. Indiana Jones type map graphic of the String Wing taking off from the United States. Panel 3. Close view of Hugh Mann saying "ook ook" and Professor Smartypants wondering, "Why does he keep laughing?" Panel 4. Back to the map graphic. The String Wing, over the African continent, closes in on Malawi.

Page 3. Panel 1. Superhero logotype reading, "Let's meet the Malawi Mouse Boys. (Not actual mice.)" The mouse boys are pictured in shadow with their instruments and silhouetted mouse ears. Panel 2. Professor Smartypants says, "The Malawi Mouse Boys got their name selling barbecued mice on the highway." She is offered a stick of barbecued mice from off-panel. In response, she brandishes a similar stick with barbecued cauliflower on it. She says, "Thanks, I brought my own." Panels 3 and 4. Cartoon drawing of the Mouse Boys drawn from reference photo. Text reads, "The Malawi Mouse Boys are gospel singers. They built their own instruments with materials they had on hand, not having enough money to buy them. Plastic water coolers became percussion instruments..."

Page 4. Panel 1. Image of a guitar made from odds and ends. Text reads, "...And the guitar is made of sheet metal, tree limbs, and baling wire." Panel 2. Progression of a live turtle, a dead turtle, and a turtle shell fashioned into a fretted instrument. Text reads, "These instruments make the Malawi Mouse Boys' unique sound. One may think this isn't a real guitar. As far back as we know, people have made instruments from whatever was available. Early banjos were made of gourds. Greek myth says the first guitar was made from a turtle shell." Panel 3. Back to the classroom. Professor Smartypants says, "A 'real' instrument can be made of anything. It's the sound that's important." Norm says, "Yeah, but shouldn't it have ceramic humbuck..." Clio, the guitar turtle, interrupts him: "No." Volume 2 Number 7. CC BY-SA Ken Alleman 2019.

Page 5. A letter reading, "Volume 2 postscript. Volume 3 is coming, but it will be slightly delayed. Also, it will be 12 pages, rather than 24. This is because, before that, there'll be a World On A String special, 12 pages on its own. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed volume 2. Ken, 9/22/2019." The margin contains doodles of a miniaturized String Wing flying next to an enormous guitar neck, one of the Dots sipping coffee next to a cafe style table, a silhouetted figure striking a kung fu pose with two guitars in hand, and a sine wave.

Page 6. Graphic of the String Wing streaking across the page. Text reads, "Dr. Liz Timbs is a historian of Zulu-speaking people of South Africa. She created and scripted Professor Smartypants, Norm L. Guy, and Clio the turtle. Ken Alleman is the creator of the World On A String. He believes everyhting we do makes a difference, and that it is up to us to decide what kind.

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