It’s December! A lot of us are preoccupied with thoughts of toy-making elves. So, we thought we’d give a little nod to the North Pole and some of the other locals: the denizens of ARCTIC CIRCLE, by Alex Hallatt.
ARCTIC CIRCLE follows the exploits of Oscar, Gordo, and Ed, three penguins from the Antarctic who moved to the North Pole due to climate change. One of our favorite critters they meet in their new home is Lenny the lemming. He’s good-natured, friendly, and by far the most gullible member of the cast — which means that he’s often responsible for the punchline of the best jokes.
Here’s what Alex had to say about Lenny’s character:
“Lenny came into being many years ago when I discovered that lemmings are found in the Arctic (unlike my penguins, who came from Antarctica). As lemmings are rumoured to blindly throw themselves off cliffs (a bit of a myth, but a useful cartooning concept), that suggested very gullible characters and I thought a lemming would be a fantastic foil for the strip. So Lenny started out as just being really, really gullible.”
Early on in the strip, Lenny also exhibited the lack of self-preservation we’ve come to expect from cartoon lemmings.
“He got hit by lightning and then accidentally set himself ablaze by lighting a match near melting permafrost. Since then, most of his misfortune hasn’t been his fault.
“Lenny’s gullibility is a reflection of his trusting nature and not because he is stupid, but the penguins don’t realise that, so they underestimate him. Lenny is one of those rare characters who really doesn’t care what others think of him. He’s an eternal optimist and treats everyone as he would expect to be treated himself, even if this doesn’t happen.”
A lot of Lenny’s grief comes at the hands of Hector, the Arctic tern-turned-scam artist who preys on Lenny’s goodwill and trusting disposition.
“When you take a gullible lemming and pair him up with an avaricious Arctic tern like Hector, there can be only one outcome. The selfish, greedy bird will take advantage of the lemming’s good nature every time. Lenny knows he has been sold a dud by Hector over and over again, but he is always hopeful that the next time Hector will do the right thing. Writing this now, it occurs to me that characters in the comics are a lot more trusting than in real life. You hoped that one day Charlie Brown would wise up and not try and kick the football Lucy was holding, but he never did.”
But for all Lenny’s misfortunes, he’s also a very special lemming with some peculiar talents that often border on magical.
“I didn’t consciously decide to give him special powers, but noticed that the more the other characters underestimated him, the more he surprised them with his abilities. Like the strip where he goes camping with Oscar and constructs an entire log cabin from what he was carrying in his backpack. Oscar the penguin thinks he’s the bees knees and likes to shout about it, but Lenny quietly shows him up by displaying his talents as an artist, a kite-flier, a snow-castle builder, or just about anything he tries.”
When we asked Alex if Lenny is based on anyone in particular, she said that she never intended him to be, “but over the years his character has developed and I noticed that he is becoming more like a character from history…but I’m keeping that one under my hat!
“Lenny is perfectly happy where he is. He doesn’t have wishes, hopes or dreams, but just takes each day as it comes and enjoys whatever life throws at him.
“I’d like to be Lenny.”
Every Friday, we put the spotlight on a supporting character from one of our comics! If you have a favorite secondary (or even tertiary) character whom you’d like to see profiled, please leave a comment here or in our forums.