With one exception, I really don’t sketch in order to come up with ideas. I sketch because I feel like sketching. Once in a blue moon, an idea comes out of a random sketch. Mostly, I’m sketching because I already have an idea.
The exception is my little dog Claremont. I can have fun doodling him and usually produce something usable, especially if it’s a gag with little or no dialog. He’s fun to insert into a strip with interesting layouts. He’s also fun to fling around the panel like the dog that he’s supposed to be.’
I think visually, maybe too visually. If I have a bit of dialog that I’m testing in my head or if I’m setting a scene, it’s all done by just sitting silently. I think this method evolved from making too many newspaper advertisements. Often, I’m given way too much information to fit into a very small space. People want to get their money’s worth out of an ad, and they frequently think that’s accomplished by crowding it so full of stuff that it becomes my job to make a lot look like less.
So I usually visualize an ad before I make it. “This will be the main focus, that can go there, this other thing will fit down here nicely, etc.” Design shouldn’t be a game of Tetris, but it frequently is out of necessity. With cartoons, I go with “less is more”. There’s a time factor in that, but there’s also a reader’s attention span to think about. Quick, easy-to-recognize visuals accompanying a quick read usually makes a happy reader, and in cartooning mere suggestions of items suffice for elaborate drawings. I like that. If I were drawing something that demanded a lot of detail, like a science fiction adventure or a moody detective piece, I would draw a page a week and take a lot more time. I think the strips that I currently make are complimented better with less detail.
When I’m thinking of ideas, I try to think of the characters and what they’re doing that day. Strong characters with distinct personalities really do try to write themselves. The unfortunate thing about a webcomic is that this is a part of a part-time job which presents itself as a full-time effort (or at least I think it does). There’s never enough time to think too much. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s not so good. Luckily (or unluckily) you’re only as good as your current strip. The successes may be quickly forgotten, but so are the failures. That’s a trade off I can accept.
I sketched the above to avoid a real assignment that I have, by the way. Cartooning is also a stress relief for me that works better than alcohol, meds or even a vacation (notice I’m omitting exercise and sleep, which is probably the best stress reliever). Nobody said cartoonists were normal people. In fact, we’ve often emphasized that we would rather be anything but normal.
Ah, the plight of the newspaper. I’ve never understood the thought process that goes into the placement of newspaper stands. Here we have one sitting at McDonalds. It’s not by the door and it’s not really in a place where somebody waiting in line at the drive-thru could quickly get out of their car, buy a paper, and then jump back in the car.
Maybe they figure those who are most likely to buy a paper are also using the handicapped parking. This is very specific to McDonalds, but they always make sure that the handicapped parking spaces are the furthest away from the door. McDonalds would be off my list if I was in a wheelchair. There’s no way I’m navigating the snow and ice from there.
Actually, I look at this little stand as a monument of defiance. Want a newspaper? How bad? No, no, don’t buy it near the entrance to the building! People may see you. If you want one, it’s way over there, in the mulch. C’mon, buy one. I dare you!
We can’t blame the Internet on this newspaper problem, there have been weird locations to buy a newspaper for decades. I’ve just always found this one particularly weird.
I first drew Harvey (named after my grandfather) when I was ten. I ran across these drawings while cleaning out my studio. I was so young, but I still hate to say when I drew these. Let’s just say that it was a shock that year when we found out Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.
When looking at this I know you’ll be shocked (SHOCKED!) to read that my main influence was Charles Schulz.
I’m not sure what the joke is, here, but I think it’s that he’s too small to reach the sink. When I was a kid, sinks were easier for me than monkey bars.
I bragged on Facebook that my polling place was so close that I could skip to it, so Tom Racine offered me a dollar if I actually did that. Two if I was carrying a basket. I forgot my basket, so I used my wife’s purse.
Hey, money’s tight and it seems like a harmless fetish.
Let’s say that you’re 10 years old, interested in cartooning, and way too impatient for the internet to be invented. Well, let’s say I was.
Somehow my mother found out about this little booklet that you could get. I’m not sure if it cost anything or if you simply had to request one. Either way, I think it was just a non-profit pamphlet that was very well made and generous to kids like me (or like I was…well, maybe like I am).
It was probably an old publication even when I was ten. Note that Mel Lazarus looks like Rudolph Valentino. I know, the pages are a bit yellowed, but it has to say something about the reverence that I held (and hold) for these cartoonists that it’s survived for 30 years without getting demolished.
It’s also worth noting that the advice contained within is still good despite the fact that the game has changed so much.
If I’m doing this right, you can click on an image to make it bigger. If I’m not doing this right, you can squint at the lovely illegibly squeezed images.
My wife was going through old papers and found this. A few years ago, she took some classes at IU. She received one of those letters that congratulate you on your admission (or, in her case, readmission).
I have a vague memory of drawing this while waiting on her in the Registrar’s office. I do what I can to improve self esteem.
I’ve managed to get rid of many, many books over the years. And by many, I mean…many. Bags full. Carloads full.
I still have a lot of books. I’ve whittled them down to what I consider “essentials”. They may not be important books to anyone else, but they have sentimental value to me.
One type of book I always keep is a paperback collection of comic strips. Way back when, there were no great reprint collections of comics. Well, there weren’t any when my mother took us to the grocery store. That’s when I could browse the paperback collection and occasionally find a comic strip collection.
I would buy them no matter what they were. If it was a collection of Hazel, I bought it. (anyone remember Hazel? Anyone?) Some were fantastic, some were mediocre, and some were flat out weird, but I loved them.
This Charlie Brown collection is a sort of miracle. It was published before I was born, which means I must’ve swiped it from my sister’s collection. It’s a nice collection of Sunday strips. It’s a miracle because the cover is made out of what I would describe as “thick newsprint”. It somehow survived my childhood.
Here we go. A Dick Tracy collection by Max Allan Collins. He was (and is) one of my favorite mystery writers, so I was very excited to see that he was writing Dick Tracy. I think that’s why they kicked him off the strip. Somebody at Tribune found out that I was excited. At least that’s how I perceived it back when he was let go.
I bought everything, and I was always disappointed to see that the Beetle collection I was about to buy wasn’t a bunch of newspaper strip reprints, but what appeared to be comic book reprints. They were ok, but by age eight or so I was already a newspaper strip snob. Still, it’s fun to have this kind of book, because it’s proof that it once shared space on a rack with a Dirk Pitt novel. (Dirk Pitt….I still laugh at that name, but what do I know? Those Clive Cussler books sold by the crate.)
This Dennis The Menace book was also published before I was born. Hmm, it’s a lot cheaper than the Charlie Brown book. It’s also in better condition. Keep in mind, I’m posting only the odd ones. This qualifies as another miracle. I have a lot of coverless books from my childhood that look worse than artifacts dug up from 500 years ago.
OK, this isn’t really from my childhood. Tor published it in 1990. This is just the last instance of a mass market paperback comic collection that I can remember. Maybe it’s just the last one I bothered to notice.
Remember these? Once the special aired on TV, you never saw it again until whatever doofus at the network decided to rerun it. So I bought the book.
I have to admit that I have no idea if I actually read this. Marvel used to collect their newspaper comics into paperbacks. I’m sure I bought it with all intentions of reading a subdued version of the Hulk.
Ah, now it truly is a miracle that this survived. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe this is a replacement I bought. It’s still pretty beaten up. Al Jaffee’s Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions remains one of my favorite books of all time.
I never read these. I bought them just to flip the pages. Any book with flippable pages for animation is a must-have. I must’ve been bored with the concept by the time I got this one, because the corner pages aren’t bent beyond recognition.
Both Marvel and DC would collect stories into paperbacks. I have a vague memory of Jim Shooter suggesting that an aspiring colorist track one of these down for practice.
I’m sure I bought this at a school book fair. The schools would only host the book fair. Books placed for sale were usually decided by some company. Teachers always (ALWAYS) scowled at a comic book purchase. I’m sure they would’ve been happier with something a little more realistic, like a Dirk Pitt novel.
Remember seeing Snuffy Smith paperbacks for sale at the grocery store? I don’t either. The inside of the book has my cousin’s name written in it. That means I either stole it from him or he gave it to me. I’m sure he gave it to me because I was a saint of a child who only stole from evil corporations, like the grocery store.
This was published when I was two years old. That definitely means I didn’t buy it and it probably means I didn’t steal it. It’s the little-seen Charles Schulz panel cartoons for his church publication. They starred actual teenagers instead of children. How could I get rid of this?
That’s my little trip down weird paperback lane. I miss seeing them for sale.
We were driving back from Chicago into Indiana. Northern Indiana has proud stretches of Bland. Yes, Bland. It’s Bland for as far as the eye can see. Generations grew up maintaining, enjoying and being comforted by the seemingly endless supplies of Bland. There are miles and miles of fields, respectable farms and an incredible amount of nothing else.
I can say this, because my mother was from the deep South and my father from the cold North, that this is like the Bible Belt with all personality stripped away. Boring is a popular accessory for all the Bland.
So imagine my surprise that along Highway 65 is a zit in the Bland, or a little oasis if you will. Suddenly, you’re besieged by billboards advertising adult bookstores, strip clubs, and even (my favorite) The Rub Club. The Rub Club advertises massages, but (and this is only a gut feeling) there might be more rubbing involved at a higher price.
In the middle of all of these billboards is a lonely small black billboard that reads “Hell Is Real!” I think Stephen King has a setting for his next novel.
What kills me is that it’s supposedly “God’s Country”. It is known for being deeply conservative. The most radical among them worship at the Methodist Church and they’re not trusted. I mean, they might perform Grease in their playhouse. That could lead to less Bland.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen sex clubs proliferating out in the middle of fuddy-duddy breeding grounds. It always seems like there’s a place for sin in the middle of the Bible Belt.
So after the residents finish complaining about people different than themselves, they’ll make fun of the name Obama by voting for a guy whose name is Mitt. They will assure themselves that they have done everything they could do to preserve what this country is all about: sexual repression.
And this liberal has to wonder what is in a 24 hour adult superstore. I know, I can look it up. I’ve probably seen it all (previous research papers and whatnot). I wonder because maybe, just maybe, the contents of these adult superstores can unite us.
Forget science, forget communicating, forget respect … let people of all beliefs, races and orientations hold town meetings in these stores and come together.