"Holy Molé was dropped and it was a favorite of ours. We always looked for it first thing when we opened the paper in the a.m. Please bring him back." -- one of many loyal Herald readers
Well, it took me almost three years, but Holy Molé is finally back -- and, starting Monday, he'll join Dennis the Menace, Blondie, Marvin, Shoe and the rest of the gang on the Bradenton Herald's comics pages, seven days a week.
Why now? Rick Hotton, Holy Molé's creator, certainly never stopped drawing the inspirational cartoons. In fact, he even published a book of his comic strips -- "Life is What You Make It" -- since we last were partners.
When one door closes, another opens, right? So when Garry Trudeau decided to put daily production of his "Doonesbury" strip on long-term hiatus to focus on a web series for Amazon, Rick came gently knocking at our door again.
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In halting Doonesbury, Trudeau declared that newspaper comic strips just aren't as influential as they used to be. I think Holy Molé is about to prove him wrong.
A little background on Rick: He's a local talent, living and teaching in Bradenton and Sarasota. He has spent the majority of his adult life as a teacher, and is the owner and chief instructor of West Wind Karate Do, a traditional karate school in Sarasota that he launched in 1976.
Holy Molé came to life almost by accident several years ago. I asked Rick to tell us how something so creative, so spiritual, came to be.
With a smile, Rick responded thoughtfully -- frankly, I have never heard him be anything but thoughtful and yen-like in all the years I've known him.
"To be honest, I did not set out to be a cartoonist. Born from this angst, I started to draw pictures of what I yearned for -- and in this sense, cartooning found me!"
He went on to talk about the art of cartooning, sending me straight to the funny pages to compare styles.
"I have noticed that I have discovered an art form that is truly unique, almost like the cave painters of old," Rick said. "Short stories that in their minimalism gravitate toward the archetypes of the subconscious mind."
By this time, I'm humbled and feeling quite sure that I could never be so profound about my craft.
"Often I will draw something that I'm not totally certain why I draw it," Rick said. "For example, a cliff may represent something deeper in our mind -- perhaps the unknown, or as Nietzsche said, 'the abyss.' Often it is as if the cartoon draws itself and I just surrender to the process with pen and paper. Of course the humor is transcendent -- perhaps being joyful is a state of grace."
Rick's words are almost hypnotic. They explain how his characters, Holy Molé and Kool Kat, make you stop and think about life. Simple, complicated. Fascinating, exasperating. Every single day.
If you haven't met the character Holy Molé, he's idealistic and often prophetic. As Rick describes him, Holy Molé strives for meaning and purpose beyond the mechanics of day-to-day living.
Kool Kat, on the other hand, "is perfectly content living each day without great introspection. He is pragmatic and very much a realist -- sort of an ex-hippie who has come full circle."
Yet they're best friends, and the balance they find through that friendship is the inspiration of Rick's cartoons. It's almost a disservice to call them cartoon characters. They're really tiny spirits in drawings that have found a home on our comics pages.
Welcome home, Holy Molé. We've missed you.
Joan Krauter, the Herald's executive editor, can be reached at 941-745-7070.