The My Fair Lady/Pygmalion-inspired comic originally titled “Lance and Eskimalion” is the first comic in the famed Sketchbook #23, the same one containing the original Port Side Story. I think that officially makes that sketchbook the Lance and Eskimo Golden Age. I helpfully dated this book (and none of my others) so I know this comic was written in April 2000.
This is apparently while I was flirting with the “Eskimo is the responsible one” characterization that has now been thoroughly abandoned.
Henry Higgins’s character design is a bit more Leslie Howard and less Rex Harrison in the original, but I like to think that both designs take elements from both actors.
Much of dialogue is basically the same (the updated version expands on it, if anything, and tends to remain closer to the Shaw. Hey, you can’t improve on that!) Lance enters amid random “clap clap clap” sounds effects from a nonexistent audience, despite the fact that he has already appeared earlier in the comic. The following page, covering the Lance as Alfred Doolittle sequence, features some of the cutest drawings of Eskimo ever, dressed in a fancy robe a la that scene in the Wendy Hiller movie.
Next Lance’s “convince the teacher you’re sexy as-are and you don’t have to work” gambit succeeds, and then backfires, much as in the update, with perhaps more intention and calculation on Lance’s part. Meanwhile, after Higgins forces Eskimo to repeat various practice phrases over and over, she bursts into song. (I do think the new lyrics are a little better.)
“The time has come to teach you the ways of a true aristocrat–drinking, lying, cheating, flirting, manipulating and hiring people to do stuff for you,” Higgins announces. After a brief training montage, there’s a part that’s not in the update where Higgins takes Lance and Eskimo to a Japanese teahouse to test out their new skills, and Lance and Eskimo are much more knowledgable and mannerly than he is. I took this out for the obvious reasons that the current Lance and Eskimo don’t know anything about Japanese culture and neither do I. I can’t even read this anymore. Not because it’s embarrassing (well, not just), but because I’ve forgotten hiragana.
Eskimo and Lance are groomed and prepared (Lance gets a trim, but he doesn’t put up a fuss about it–with a lack of continuity, he doesn’t have unusually long hair OR a sentimental reason to be attached to it). They are then ready for the ball (”The Prince is giving a ball” is how Higgins explains the event–I had a bit of a Cinderella thing, going, too, I guess.) They make their entrance in one of the only color panels in any of my sketchbook comics, a special event I reproduced in the update. (You’ll notice that while I used a similar design for Eskimo’s dress–unusual for me in the age of endashingizing all her outfits–I switched Lance’s tux back to basic black. I no longer legitimately think sky blue tuxes are cool.)
The thing about the gay prince and princess is pretty much taken directly from the original. (I’m proud, though, that in the update, I didn’t have to resort to showing Lance’s eyes to show that he was winking.)
Lance sits uncomfortably through the prince’s flirtation (”So I’m thinking, why can’t a woman be more like a man?”) until Pickering throws her shoe at him (the prince, not Lance). Meanwhile Eskimo dances with Lissa and then proudly announces to Higgins that she “scored digits” (there’s no closet angst in this version). The “Show me” scene is very similar, down to Pickering’s fake-out forehead kiss, with the notable exception that her gushing is more romantic/sexual and less scientific. I’m sort of legitimately impressed with the energy of the last panel.
The storyline wraps up on the next page. (I used the the same joke to conclude the Eskimo/Higgins storyline in the original and the update.)
Of course, in this universe, there’s no follow-up with Pickering as Lance’s girlfriend. It’s just not explained where she went after this, which is one of the things I gently mock in L&E Fall in Love.
As a special bonus, here’s a very cute one-shot picture a few pages after this comic, showing Lance and Eskimo in each other’s outfits. It wouldn’t work now, because Eskimo doesn’t dress like that anymore, but Lance is adorable in bindi and a kitten collar.