"Fort Knox" strip inspired by post

By Kellie EtheridgeOctober 1, 2009

Monday, Fort Knox will begin appearing daily in major newspapers across the U.S.

But it won't be Fort Knox, the Army post. Instead, it'll be the syndicated comic strip titled "Fort Knox," which depicts the members of an Army family named Knox. It's drawn by Paul Jon Boscacci, an artist who grew up as an Army Family member and attended school on Fort Knox during one of his father's tours of duty.

"Once an Army brat, always an Army brat," said Paul, who talked about how he valued his military upbringing during a phone interview with the Turret. "I'd always believed that moving every two years (was great)-you're always changing...(and meeting) new people."

His strip chronicles the ups, downs, TDYs, and other adventures of Army life for the Knox family.

Paul said that the strip's main character, Maj. Joe Knox, is based on his father, Joe. He describes the character as "a little macho and old-fashioned, (but) deep down, this stern officer is a big softy."

Paul's father-also named Joe, was an Army Reservist in the Medical Corps when Boscacci was born in California in 1972. Joe signed up for active duty as a full-time Soldier when Paul was 7 years old, and the family set off for Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The family included Paul, his mother, two brothers, and a sister. The Army brat lifestyle had officially begun.

A year later the Boscaccis PCSed back to California.

The family was eventually stationed at Fort Knox from 1985-1986, where Joe served at Ireland Army Community Hospital as the hospital administrator. Paul was enrolled in the eighth grade at Macdonald Middle School, and later completed a short tenure as a freshman at Fort Knox High before his family's next move-back to California.

Paul loved living on Fort Knox, and especially loved the snow.

"The Christmas we celebrated in 1985 felt like a real Christmas, versus a warm and sunny California one," he recalled.

Following Paul's high school graduation, his dad received orders for Fort Jackson, S.C. Despite his military upbringing, Paul had no desire to follow in his father's footsteps. Instead, he attended the University of South Carolina and earned a degree in journalism. While at SC, he was the editorial cartoonist for the "Gamecock" student newspaper.

Upon graduation-literally two days after-he began work at "The State" newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

After more than 32 years of service, Col. Joe Boscacci retired from the Army in 1996 and decided to return-where else'-to California, namely Los Altos in the Bay Area.

In 1997, Paul also decided to head back to the West Coast. He worked at an ad agency, a software company, and a media company-CMP Media-where he produced a popular Web comic called "Offline."

Paul had always been interested in creating comic characters, and the "Knox" family name had stuck with him for years. So he created the strip based on what he remembered about Army life. He worked for almost four years trying to get the strip off the ground and into syndication. He credits Amy Lago with the Washington Post for helping him develop the strip and get it syndicated.

"It's been really tough to get things syndicated," Paul explained. "Only one percent of (comics submitted are) professional enough to be considered."

Paul readily admitted that the idea to call his strip "Fort Knox" was because of the good memories he had of the post.

The other characters seen in the strip are also from Paul's Army family.

Jane Knox, the matriarch of the Knox household, was inspired by Paul's "long-suffering" mother, Jane. Much like her representation in the cartoon, Jane was the glue holding the family together. On top of being a military spouse and taking care of four children, she was in charge of the finances and helping Joe with his speeches.

"She is and was the backbone of our family-the role of most military spouses," said Paul. "I know the moves were hard on her and she missed her friends and family a lot."

The character of Donald Knox is Paul's brother, Dan. Like Donald, Dan has red hair and even carried a briefcase and wore a tie in elementary school.

The nervous, asthmatic, hoodie sweatshirt-wearing character, Wesley, is also modeled after someone near and dear to Paul's heart.

"I put myself in (the comic strip)...Wes is me," he admitted with a laugh.

Another suspiciously familiar character is Betty Wu. Betty is Paul's wife, Jean. He met Jean while they were working in the same building in San Francisco. They would walk together to catch the Bay Area Rapid Transit train at the end of the day. She had gone to college and was friends with Paul's brother, Dan. In the strip, Betty and Donald are friends, while Wesley admires Betty from afar.

In real life, Paul has another brother, Tony, and a sister, Theresa. He has apologized for not including them in the Knox family strip, but he believed the four-family member dynamic worked best for the cartoon.

The bully character is based on all the bullies Paul encountered at each new school-and each new school brought a new bully to torment him.

When asked if the rest of his family was upset about being portrayed in a comic strip, Paul replied that his father is "psyched about being immortalized in print."

"The fact that it's a military family strip has him smiling from cheek to cheek. He's told all of his military friends and they've rallied around the strip," said Paul.

"My mother is also very happy-mostly with the way she's drawn. My brother Dan likes his comic alter ego, and his wife reviewed the strips and said, 'that sounds exactly like Dan.'

"As for me, I'm happy with the sweet and weak character of Wesley. He captures who I was at Fort Knox (and other places). He never manages to 'win', but-for some reason-we never stop rooting for him."

As for keeping up with current military events, Paul wants to avoid the comic becoming too political in nature. However, he said he couldn't rule out Joe Knox being deployed to Afghanistan.

"My main purpose (for the comic) is to capture the everyday challenges of military brats and Families," Paul said.

"Fort Knox" is distributed by the Writers Group and will be available daily and Sunday in such papers as the Washington Post and the Louisville Courier-Journal. It can be read online at www.comics.com. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------