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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today....


I ran across this photo, taken at the 1987 San Diego Comic Con, on Mary Fleener's blog (go to Mary in Comic Con Land for more fun fotos -- including shots of Peter Bagge, Matt Groening, Dan Clowes, etc. ).

Mary is a talented cartoonist with a long history in the alternative press.

Pictured left to right are Steve Lafler, the late Dori Seda, and yours truly.

Dori, best known for her underground comix Lonely Nights, died tragically the next year from complications related to emphysema.

I didn't actually know Steve or Dori; I suspect that Mary was trying to get a photo of them and I inadvertently lumbered into the shot.

This was my first trip to Comic Con. I'd done some Underground Comix work but also wanted to break into traditional comics, so I split my time between the Last Gasp booth, where I hung out with The Pizz, Bob X, and Dennis Worden, and the Marvel Comics booth, where I showed inking samples to Jim Shooter, Joe Rubinstein, and John Romita. A bit surreal to say the least.

I vividly remember that convention. I was 25, married just two years, and trying to get a foothold in comics. Twenty years later, much has changed, but I'm still married, still have my hair, and still get a bang out of reading and creating comics.

Thanks to the Comics Reporter for the heads up.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Virgin Territory

I ran across this item at a comics newsgroup: An auction for the original cartoon printed in Playboy's first issue.

Published in 1953, the gag is still funny!


Friday, November 9, 2007

Ho Ho Ho

I drove to the local smut shop today (amazingly enough, we have 3 such places in Muncie!) and picked up the December 2007 issue of Playboy. The magazine was sealed in plastic, as it's been for several years now.

A digression: Who here remembers when Playboy -- and Penthouse and even Hustler -- could be thumbed through openly and were't required to be sheathed in plastic, in a sort of giant magazine condom? Also, who here remembers when Playboy (and the other aforementioned magazines) could be purchased at the local convenience or drug store?

A further digression: When I was a college student in the early 1980s, I worked at a 7-11 in San Francisco. We had to keep the Playboys and Penthouses behind the counter in a special rack that showed the magazine's name, but covered the "naughty bits" -- not that the covers of Playboy have every really been terribly "naughty."

Obviously this was the first step on the long road to keep (evil) pictures of nekkid women out of the hands of impressionable children.

So now we have Hugh Hefner's venerable old magzine safety-sealed, hidden away in "Adult" sex shops, while any kid with an Internet connection can find an endless sea of cyber porn, much of which leaves even me -- an avid enthusiast of erotica -- aghast.

Anyway, back to the point of this post: My Playboy cartoon is in the December issue. Yay!

If you want to see the nekkid girls, you'll have to track down your own copy at the local smut shop.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fair and Balanced


I stalled out after a couple hundred pages into the new Schulz biography. As a cartoonist friend of mine said, "It's tough sledding."

If you're looking for a book on Schulz that provides a fuller -- and more enjoyable -- portrait of of the man and his work, track down Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz by Rheta Grimsley Johnson.

The book was first published in 1989, but is now, sadly, out of print. Used copies can be found here. I got mine (a British edition published by Ravette Books) over 10 years ago.

Ms. Grimsley doesn't shy away from Schulz's gloomier side and does, in fact, deal quite openly with his depression and problems finding -- and accepting -- happiness. She also includes a lot of great anecdotes and quotes from various cartoonists, both old and new.

And for what it's worth, Bill Watterson recommended Rheta's book, too.




Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Recommended Reading

Pete Hautman is an exceptional writer. He writes the way I'd like to: lean, engaging, and funny. (See here for the story of how I met Pete.)

Pete won the National Book Award for his YA novel, Godless, a tantalizing story about a group of teenagers who create their own religion around a water tower.

I'm working my way through Pete's catalog: I started with Rash, winner of the 2006 Golden Duck Award, moved on to Godless, and am currently enjoying Sweetblood.

I can't recommend Pete's work highly enough. Get thee to Amazon (or your favorite bookseller) and see what you (and everybody who hasn't discovered this wonderful Minnesota author) have been missing!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Caption Contest

I ran across this picture while looking through stock photos for some greeting cards I was writing.

Let's see who can come up with the best caption for this lovely little image of impending motherhood. The more outrageous the better.

Let the hi-larity begin!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Good Grief!

I received my copy of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography from Amazon today. I stopped at page 31 feeling utterly despondent. Author David Michaelis paints such a morose and relentlessly depressing portrayal of Schulz and his family (at least his mother and her relatives), that it's hard to slog through.

One gets the feeling the author is chronicling the early life of a serial killer rather than one of America’s most beloved cartoonists.

I now understand the Schulz family’s dismay. It's rather obvious that Michaelis has a central thesis that he's painstakingly constructing: the artist as melancholy misfit, unable to achieve or appreciate real happiness, material to the contrary be damned.

Several cartoonists have recently posted on the Internet their personal stories about Schulz; all show a gracious, supportive and generous man. I've no doubt that Charles Schulz had his demons; nearly every great artist does. But the demons weren’t the sum of the man.

I never met Schulz, but I've read enough about him, and talked with people who did know him, to feel that this book -- at least thus far -- is doing him a great disservice.

On a personal, and amusing, note: When discussing Garfield and Jim Davis later in the biography, Michaelis quotes from the Garfield 25th Anniversary book -- a book I co-wrote and co-edited.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Comics Du Jour: The Mighty Small

The Scott Comics Cartel keeps growing: There's Scott Adams, Scott Kurtz, Scott Hilburn, Scott Stantis, Scott Metzger, and now Scott Cummings (if I missed a Scott, let me know).

Mr. Cummings has a new strip on Go Comics. It's just getting started, but looks promising.

Check it out.

Sparky Soprano?

This is very funny. Jim Davis even liked it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Life Imitates Comics?

Paige (a loyal friend of EEK! and HIS & HERS) posted
this on a comics newsgroup board.

Looks like Martha Stewart is offering tips for turning
skulls into sparkly centerpieces.

Who knew I was tapping into a home decor trend
with my EEK! strip from October 9th?







Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Usual Gang of Idiots

Like many cartoonists of my generation, I grew up reading MAD magazine. By the early 1970s, when I discovered William Gaines' subversive publication, MAD was undergoing a kind of second renaissance. Inside a typical issue of the time you'd find work by Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Angelo Torres, Don Martin, Dave Berg, Bob Clarke, George Woodbrige, Antonio Prohias, Jack Rickard, Stan Hart, Tom Koch, Larry Siegel, Frank Jacobs, Arnie Kogen, and Dick de Bartolo -- a veritable hall of fame of American cartoonists and satirists.

The changing social, sexual and political attitudes of the late 60s and early 70s provided great fodder for the magazine, and the Usual Gang of Idiots (as publisher Gaines dubbed his contributing artists and writers) produced some of the best work of their careers.

As an impressionable 10-year-old, I devoured every new issue of MAD, relishing each irreverent page. I copied Jack Davis and Mort Drucker drawings, trying to figure out just how these cartooning titans created their mirthful masterworks. I even wrote my own "MAD-like" comics, featuring such terrible puns as "Broom 222" (after the TV show "Room 222") and drawings of singer Tom "Bones."

I'd long wanted to make it into the pages of MAD, and submitted material sporadically over the years, always receiving rejection slips. A couple of years ago I began to submit again and actually received a response from one of the editors He liked TRIPLE TAKE and invited me to submit more material. Many submissions and rejections later, he finally accepted a piece for publication.

I received my comp copies of issue 483 today -- the "Zombie" issue. Flipping to page 27, I found my cartoon: "Product Placement in Horror Movies." Yes!

MAD may not quite be the same magazine it was when I was a kid: Jack Davis stopped working for it years ago and Mort Drucker contributes material only sporadically. But Sergio Arragones is still there every issue and a new generation of cartoonists has taken up the MAD mantle: John Caldwell, Tom Richmond, Hermann Mejia, Tom Bunk, Drew Friedman, to name but a few. And Al Jaffee continues to do the inside cover fold-in.

One of the usual gang of idiots. Me? I couldn't be more proud.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Silence is Golden...

The band is Greenskeepers. The song is "Lotion."

Enjoy.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

For Your Shopping Pleasure...

I've joined 10,000 of my closest friends and opened up a store on Cafe Press for EEK!

Right now, the fabulous array of merchandise includes a mousepad, a mug and a tile coaster.

I plan to add T-shirts soon and new designs in the aforementioned product categories.

I'm sure I'll need to hire an assistant soon just to count my money.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Comics Du Jour: Cul de Sac

I hope you're all reading Richard Thompson's delightfully entertaining strip, Cul de Sac from Universal Press. The strip had a nice big launch (70 papers, I think) and should definitely be a hit.

Oh, and some guy named Bill Watterson says it's good, too.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Best Belch?

Another of my graphic novels, The Boy Who Burped Too Much, has won an award: The Extensive Reading Foundation 2007 Language Learner Literature Award.

Say that three times fast.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Comics Du Jour

For some reason, I didn't like Brewster Rockit when it first came out. I'm not sure why, as I enjoy science fiction and science-fiction parody, and should be in the strip's target audience.

Be that as it may, I didn't like Brewster and didn't read it. Until last week. I was browsing through the strips at Go Comics and decided to check it out. And I was pleasantly surprised. I like Brewster Rockit. It's funny and clever and nicely executed. I'm not sure if the strip changed or if I did, but I'm glad I gave it a second look.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Controversy

Who knew Go Team Bob could generate so many comments?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

regurgitator

To quote Johnny Carson: "This is wild, wacky stuff."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Meet the New Boss...

I used to be a rabid Bruce Springsteen fan. Rabid is even an understatement. I was obsessed; consumed; hopelessly drowning in Bossness. In college and through the early eighties I listened to his albums endlessly, almost to the exclusion of all others (except similar-sounding artists like Dire Straits, Bob Seger, and John Mellencamp, with a little Billy Joel tossed in for "variety").

Over the years, I dutifully bought all things Springsteen: the records, the singles, the bootlegs, the boxed set of Tracks, the single CD (18 Tracks), even the suicide-inducing Ghost of Tom Joad. I was there when he and the E Street Band reunited and toured in 1999-2000, and back again for The Rising tour of 2002.

But I started to lose the faith when he released Devils & Dust, and felt no desire to buy the Seeger Sessions CD. It was obvious Springsteen was off on a musical journey that inspired him; I just wasn't going along for the ride any more. I rented the Live in Dublin DVD (filmed during his Seeger tour, which I purposely missed, and ended up skipping through most of the songs).

A couple of weeks ago, Springsteen announced he'd finished a new album, one recorded with the E Street Band. The record was due in October, with a tour to follow. This record, Magic, was billed as a rocker. But still I was skeptical, like a lapsed Catholic who wants to believe but just can't drag himself back to church.

The first single for Magic, "Radio Nowhere," somehow made it on You Tube and it does, indeed rock. Alas, as of today (Wednesday 8-29) it's been removed, but you can download the official song for free at iTunes.

It also sounds strangely similar to a couple of other songs from the 1980s.

Have a listen.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shhh...it's a Secret

A friend of mine just introduced me to PostSecret.

Fascinating stuff.

My secret:
I've trained my cats to assist me with writing and drawing. I occasionally spot-check their work, but mostly just nap.

What's your secret?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Excuses, Excuses....


I just received an advance copy of Garfield's Big Book of Super School Excuses, which will be in Scholastic's school book club offering this October.

The sequel to Garfield's Big Book of Excellent Excuses, School Excuses is a fun little tome written by Mark Acey and me, with highly humorous illustrations by cartoonist extraordinaire Brett Koth.

It should be on Amazon sometime in the next few months. I'll post a link when the book is available.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Odd Couple

That's legendary musician Frank Zappa (left) and comic-book king Jack Kirby (right).

What would be a weirder pairing? Kirby and David Bowie? Kirby and Divine? Kirby and Captain Beefheart?

Anyone know the story behind this pic?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Who is former talk show host turned billionaire entrepreneur?

This is sad news. Merv Griffin has died at age 82.

I grew up watching his talk show, and it was always fun when someone like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Truman Capote showed up.

My wife worked for a private jet company in the early 1990s that catered to Hollywood's elite. The company, located at the Burbank airport, sold jets and serviced those of various celebs. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a Gulfstream housed in their hangar, as did Tom Cruise. Merv’s private jet, a Challenger, I believe, was serviced at the company and he flew out of Burbank frequently.

My wife got friendly with some of Merv's "people," and even met the man once. The jet company was throwing a Christmas party, and my wife asked Merv if he was planning to attend. He waited a beat, then flashed that impish Merv smile and said, "Oh, nooo," as if he'd just been offered a fresh turd sandwich. Made perfect sense, of course. Why would Merv the billionaire celebrity want to attend some piddly little party? It would be like your car mechanic asking if you wanted to attend the JiffyLube Christmas gala.

Goodnight, Merv. Say hello to Miss Miller for us.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Comics Curmudgeon

Also known as Josh Reads the Comics.

Harmless entertainment or spawn of Satan?

Discuss.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sayonara, Auf Wiedersehen, Au revoir

Triple Take is ending Sunday August 26. The decision isn’t mine; King Features pulled the plug. Few will miss the strip, I’m afraid, but I will. I really enjoyed working on a daily syndicated comic.

The strip was probably doomed from the start. It was too gimmicky and I’m sure the multiple punch lines from a single character sometimes confused readers. It often looked like a sort of cartoon Tourette’s Syndrome, where the guy just couldn't shut up. I think the strips that featured lists or multiple characters delivering separate punch lines worked best.

Triple Take was Jay Kennedy’s idea (based on one of my submissions that included the “Things John Wayne Would Never Say” gag) and the strip outlived him by only a few months. I actually got the call that TT was being axed just 10 weeks after Jay’s untimely demise.

We were still in 29 papers, including the Chicago Sun-Times and the Seattle P-I. We'd lost a few big papers, however, and the sales trend definitely wasn’t on the upswing. Oh, well. That’s the way this business works. Most new strips don’t make it, running only a few years and then quietly vanishing.

Before we fade into the comics ether, here’s one final look at the strip, by the numbers:

875 strips
750 dailies
125 Sundays
28 Doctor strips
20 Dog strips
11 Baseball strips
8 Cat strips
6 Psychiatrist strips
3 Godzilla strips
3 McCoy brothers strips (mentioning one or both of them)
3 Ned the Optimist strips
1 Earl the Optimist strip
1 Rejected by the syndicate strip

My three favorite Triple Takes:

Sunday, August 5, 2007

If it Looks Like a Duck...

I hate traveling. Driving to the airport; waiting in the security line; hanging around the terminal; the take-off; the landing. Even when I’m on vacation and going to a fun destination, I hate the process of getting there.

I had an especially hellish trip Friday. I had to fly from Indianapolis, connect to Chicago, and fly on to St. Louis. Sounds simple enough. My flight from Indy was delayed over half an hour, which meant I (just) missed my connecting flight in Chicago (even after I ran across the airport to catch it), which meant I had to hang around another hour for a later flight.

Unfortunately I was up against a deadline. I had to be in St. Louis no later than 6:30. Actually, it was a suburb, technically in Illinois, about 30 miles from the airport. I needed to rent a car and drive to my hotel, which was right down the street from my ultimate destination.

I landed in St. Louis at around 4:30. Originally, if my connection hadn’t been late, I would’ve been there by 3 p.m. I was already an hour-and-a-half late. Renting the car took longer than I expected. I checked in at the rental agency in the airport but then had to take a 10-minute shuttle to the car lot. It was after 5:15. when I finally got my car and zoomed onto the highway. I was making fairly good time until I hit Friday afternoon downtown traffic. This delayed me about ten minutes and my 30-minute trip turned into 40 minutes. I pulled into the hotel parking lot just before 6 p.m., rushed thorough the check-in process, and collapsed on my bed at 6:05. Made it!

So why in the hell was I killing myself to get to Collinsville, Illinois? I needed to be at an awards banquet that started at 7:00. One of the award presenters met me at my hotel at 6:30 and we drove to the nearby Holiday Inn, which housed the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). After a tasty meal, and an entertaining audience-participation murder-mystery show, the awards commenced. At 9:00 I received the 2007 Golden Duck for Excellence in Picture Books. What the heck is a Golden Duck, you ask? I didn’t know either until I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by one of the award’s representatives. The Golden Ducks were created in 1992 to recognize excellence in children’s science fiction literature. In essence, the award is a Hugo for kid lit (the Hugo being the biggest award a science fiction author can receive). Past Golden Duck winners include Jon Scieszka, David Elliot, and somebody named J.K. Rowling (who was awarded a special Golden Duck in 2000).

It’s a major prize, to be sure, and I was thrilled to receive it. The book that won was NIGHT OF THE HOMEWORK ZOMBIES, written, of course, by me and illustrated by Steve Harpster. The Duck went to both of us, but Steve couldn’t make the banquet (he was at a show in California) so I hogged all the glory, although I will have to send him half the prize money…eventually. I also received a lovely framed scroll and a necklace with several rubber duckies (see photo).

At the banquet I sat next to another winner, Pete Hautman, who won for Best Young Adult Book. Pete’s a helluva nice guy, and after the ceremony we hung out in the cigar bar, talked books, movies, comics (as a kid, Pete wanted to write comics and created his own mimeographed comic book with his friends), publishers, agents, and why there were so many chubby goth girls in revealing homemade costumes at the convention.

Pete’s an excellent author, too. He gave me a signed copy of RASH, the book for which he’d received the Duck. It’s a darkly comic tale of a sixteen-year-old boy in the not-too-distant future, and it’s a wonderful read. Pete’s also the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Young People's Literature (for GODLESS), which is a really major award – one of the biggest. You can check out Pete's books at his website, and buy them at Amazon. I plan on getting as many as I can.

Pete drove from Minneapolis – a ten-and-a-half trip each way. He brought along the audio version of the latest Harry Potter book, which just so happens to run about 21 hours. Perfect!

My trip back to Indiana was uneventful and, thankfully, glitch-free. I was a little tired, my ears were badly plugged from the flights and a sinus irritation, but I walked in the door Saturday night proudly wearing my Golden Duckie necklace.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Comics Du Jour

I've really been enjoying The Argyle Sweater, a new panel by Scott Hilburn on Go Comics. It's consistently funny and always inventive and clever.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rejection

Just received a large envelope from PEI (Playboy Enterprises International).

In it was my latest batch of cartoons and a typed letter stating that "Mr. Hefner reviewed the batch and didn't find any cartoons suitable for the magazine."

Hugh Hefner personally reviewed my cartoons?

COOL, BABY!

Never have I been so excited by a rejection letter.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Peek Behind the Curtain...

...at the comic strip Lio.

Very interesting read.

Bonus points to anyone who knows who Lew Little is.

Summer Reading

I'm about halfway through Koji Suzuki's Ring, the novel from which the Japanese and American horror films sprang. The translation is a little akward here and there, but the pacing is excellent.

I've dangled a toe into the giant Essential Ellison pool as well. Interesting stuff.

So, what are we reading this summer?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Confessions

A couple of comments on my "confession" entry got me thinking...

Besides never reading any Harry Potter books, I have also:

Never watched an episode of "American Idol." Seriously.

Never watched an episode of "The Sopranos," even though Steve Van Zandt (longtime E Street Band guitarist) is in the cast. I may check out the series on DVD. Or not.

Never watched any of the various "CSI" or "Law and  Order" permutations.

Never read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Never ate escargot.

However, I have eaten duck tongue, duck feet and ox stomach.

p.s. I just received my copy of The Essential Harlan Ellison in the mail. It clocks in at just over 1000 pages. Wish me luck.

p.p.s. I can now cross off "Never read any Harlan Ellison."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Confession

Okay, I admit it. I've never read a Harry Potter book. Not even the first one.

Does that make me a lesser human?

Monday, July 16, 2007

There Must Be Some Way Out of Here....

I’m a child of the 1960s. I mean that literally. I was a year old when JFK was assassinated, five during the Summer of Love, and seven when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was too young to really appreciate the music and culture of that turbulent decade, but its influence lasted through the early 70s, and I soaked up the sounds and sights of the sixties like a sponge.

I was a weird kid raised by weird parents. I was eight when my dad took my 12-year-old sister and me to see the movie Joe in 1970. I begged to see The French Connection in 1971 (my sister eventually accompanied me), and my mom and I watched The Godfather at a local theater in 1972.

As for music, FM radio in Los Angeles in the early 70s was heavily into its “album-orientated-rock” phase and played all the classic 60s songs, sometimes entire albums.

What I didn’t get from movies and the radio, I got from MAD magazine, which, at the time was going through its second gold age. Everything you needed to know about current events, politics and entertainment could be found in those well-drawn pages of parody.

Why do I bring this up? I’m glad you asked. Sunday night I saw Bob Dylan in concert at a local Indianapolis venue. Dylan was one of the most famous symbols of the 60s counterculture, and his songs had a huge impact on his fellow musicians and the youth of the day. Arguably, his best music is from that decade. His output in the 70s, 80s and beyond was uneven at best.

At 66, Dylan’s future as a touring musician is uncertain, so I figured this might be my last chance to see the man perform. I’d never seen him live, but I had watched numerous concert films over the years.

Nothing really prepared me for the Bob Dylan of 2007. He took the stage with his band at about 8:30 p.m. and launched into “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.” Next he lurched into a strange arrangement that turned out to be “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” From there, Bob was growling through song after song: some I recognized; some I didn’t. Most were older songs, I guess, with radically different arrangements.

At no time during the concert did Dylan speak to the audience. No “hello, Indianapolis, it’s good to be here,” no “this next song is from such and such album,” no “thanks” after the applause. Nothing. Dylan careened through each odd arrangement, almost daring the crowd, “Hey! Try to recognize this one.”

As odd as the show was, the real entertainment was not onstage; it was in the audience. I had a crappy lawn ticket, and a group of women arrived shortly before the concert and sat in front of me. They were middle-aged and were consuming a shocking amount of Coors Light. Barb, dressed in a tye-dye T-shirt, Diane, a heavy woman in shorts and a tank top, and Shelly, the sober designated driver, were celebrating Karen’s 52nd birthday. I know all this because Barb told me and everyone else within a twenty-foot radius. As the show went on, Barb and Diane drank more Coors Lights, danced, chatted, and disappeared for minutes at a time.

At one point, Barb returned with a large pretzel, which she handed to me, introduced Diane as her “better half” and asked if I’d like to come with them after the show “to ‘play’ and eat acid.”

I thanked her for the offer, but politely declined. Barb and Diane careened off, apparently to ask Bob Dylan to sing “Happy Birthday” to Karen.

Karen hadn’t had quite as many beers, so she was in a little better shape. We started talking and she expressed concern over the whole “eating acid” thing. I was amazed that anyone even made acid anymore and asked Karen about this. She wasn’t sure where Barb and Diane got the acid, but was worried about its purity and made it clear that she was not going to partake.

She also told me that she thought Diane was upset with Barb for flirting with me and asking me to join their “acid party.” I always hate to come between two drunken lesbians, so I assured Karen that I only talked with Barb and took the pretzel to be polite. No home wrecker me.

As Dylan played a perfunctory two-song encore, Barb and Diane were still nowhere to be found. Shelly was dispatched to find them, while Karen stayed on the lawn.

I packed up my lawn chair, bid Karen a happy birthday, and wished her luck with her friends.

Driving home, I remembered Barb telling me she was as a nurse at a geriatric center. God help those old people when she stumbles into work, hungover from beer and acid.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

I had a flat this morning (which I had to change on the side of the road) and ended up getting four new tires (I was long overdue).

How was your day?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Free Range Association

A few posts back I mentioned an overabundance of strips with kids. Well, that's nothing. Check out the number of "offbeat" single-panel-type comics currently on the market: Over 20 (not counting the new FR)!

The list:
Ballard Street
Bizarro*
Brevity
Close To Home
Flight Deck
Flying McCoys*
F Minus*
Fifth Wave
Frank n Ernest
Go Fish
Moderately Confused
Natural Selection
Non Sequitur
Off the Mark*
Pardon My Planet*
The Quigmans*
Reality Check
Rhymes with Orange*
Rubes*
Six Chix*
Speed Bump*
Strange Brew

(I've put an asterisk next to ones I read regularly)

New Strip: FREE RANGE

A tip of the hat to The Daily Cartoonist for this item.

Creators is offering a funny new single-panel strip by cartoonist Bill Whitehead.
I've met Bill a few times in my capacity as writer/editor for Paws. Bill works for Hallmark and writes some very funny cards.

A group of Hallmark creative types came out to Paws late last year, and Bill was among them. We chatted at lunch and he mentioned he'd been working on a strip that he was trying to get syndicated. I'm glad he made it.

Congratulations, Mr. Whitehead!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Actually, I Read it for the Cartoons…

A few months back I wrote about a conversation I had with Super Cartoonist Jerry King. Jerry sells a lot of cartoons to Playboy and told me that the one-and-only Hugh M. Hefner, founder and publisher of the famous magazine, personally approves and initials every cartoon rough that gets accepted. I thought that was pretty cool. Hugh started out as cartoonist and truly loves the medium.

I’ve sent batches of cartoons sporadically to Playboy over the years, and received a couple of nice letters from Michele Urie, the late, great cartoon editor, but no sales.

This May, I pulled together a batch of single panel gags and sent them off to the new cartoon editor, fully expecting another polite rejection.

Last week when I received the large manila envelope from PEI with a California return address, I knew something was up. Playboy’s editorial offices are in New York, but the Mansion is in L.A. There was even a cryptic "AW/HMH" typed on the label.

The enclosed letter was written on stationery embossed with the ubiquitous bunny logo, and paper-clipped to that letter was something even better. That’s right: one of my cartoon roughs with "OK HMH" written in blue pencil. Holy shit! I thought. I JUST SOLD MY FIRST CARTOON TO PLAYBOY! Yeah!

It was so cool. I was grinning like an idiot for over an hour.

The cartoon should appear in the December issue (I’m guessing) because it’s a Christmas gag.
I’ll let everyone know when it’s published.

I have to thank Jerry King for inspiring me to submit material to the magazine again. It's long been a dream of mine to be published in Playboy.

Now to work up another batch – and face the likely rejection. But that’s okay. I won’t take it personally, Hef.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Comic Strips

A couple of the big syndicates are releasing a new crop of comic strips. United is offering Secret Asian Man, and Universal is launching Cul de Sac .

Secret Asian Man is obviously trying to fill an ethic niche, while Cul de Sac looks like a well-drawn and well-written strip about kids. I like Richard Thompson's work and the sample strips I've seen.

Here's the question: How many cartoonists have been told by the syndicates that a new strip about kids, however well done, is impossible to sell in today's market because of existing kid/family strips? (Tiger, Baby Blues, PreTeena, Agnes, Hi & Lois, Big Nate, FoxTrot, Curtis, Marvin, Heart of the City, On the Fast Track, to name a few.)

Interestingly enough, Universal just launched Lio last year -- a kids' strip with a twist, but still a kids' strip. King greenlighted The Pajama Diaries, a family strip, a year or so ago as well. Dog Eat Doug combines babies and animals, and Cow and Boy offers kids and bovines. So, apparently, you CAN sell a strip about kids and families. This makes perfect sense, as everyone was a kid or has kids or knows kids. It's the same with family strips: everyone has a family, so it's easy to identify with the subject matter.

The moral of the story is this: Don't listen to the syndicates. Do what inspires YOU. If it's kids, or pets, or families or aliens, do it. There's always room for good comics, regardless of the subject matter.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Question of the Day

So what's dirtier: Giant-Sized Man-Thing or Essential Man-Thing?

Just asking.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Paucity of Posts

I've been posting so infrequently, A Nickel's Worth is starting to resemble Steve Gerber's blog (without the medical discussions). Steve's an excellent comic book writer, and you should all buy his upcoming work on Dr. Fate, news of which is here.

To digress a bit about Mr. Gerber, I enjoyed his work as a wee lad on such titles as Marvel's Man-Thing, The Defenders, and Howard the Duck. I picked up the entire run of the early 1970s Man-Thing several months ago on ebay and have been slowly working my way through them. The stories are excellent: quirky, funny, and incredibly subversive for a 1973 comic book. There are even crazed Vietnam vets, fer crying out loud. I have the Essential Howard the Duck, which I plan to read as soon as I finish the Man-Thing books. (A postscript: You've heard the joke, haven't you? What's the dirtiest Marvel comic book title? Answer: Giant-Size Man-Thing.)

Anyway, back to business. Why have I not been posting? Well, a lot of reasons, I guess. Mainly I've been busy. Lots of ch-ch-ch-changes coming up, most of which I can't say anything about for a couple of months. It's mostly good news, with a rather big helping of disappointment...you'll see what I mean later. (Cryptic enough for ya?)

I've been working a lot lately -- comics, greeting cards, t-shirt slogans. Some of my witty one-liners are currently being featured on shirts from the What On Earth catalog. Check 'em out here and here!

It's summer and my kids are home from school, so we've been hanging out a bit. My boys and I have watched Terminator 2 on cable about three times (I'd already see it about 10 times before that). It's a great action movie that's infinitely watchable. It may not be Citizen Kane, but damn, it sure is fun. Great chase scenes, great action scenes, silly plot, but great direction. Like Road Warrior, another "guy's movie" that I can watch multiple times, it's a great ride.

What else? We saw Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which was very good. Some might complain about the film (Jessica Alba is too young, we never see Galactus, etc.), but I thought it captured the spirit of the comic book well and absolutely nailed the Surfer character. Unlike most recent superhero films, it wasn't non-stop CGI fighting. The action was well staged and had a sense of drama and gravity.

I also rented Ghost Rider, which, although it had excellent effects, was quite a disappointment. Nicolas Cage is way too old for the role and turned in a bizarre, campy performance that really hobbled the film. The story itself left me uninvolved, and Peter Fonda was amazingly bland as the devil. How can the devil be bland?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Catching Up

I've neglected my blog lately. No good excuse, really, although I have been busy (not superhumanly Jerry King or Glenn McCoy busy, but busy nonetheless).

I traveled to Ohio this past weekend to speak at a school library about children's books (I've authored a few over the years). I did a presentation with the very talented illustrator/cartoonist, Steve Harpster. Steve has illustrated several of my books, and we've also collaborated on a few projects that we hope one day to publish.

Check out Steve's most excellent work here.

Let's see...I also spoke at my son's middle school Career Day a couple of weeks ago, worked up 18 samples for yet another new comic strip proposal, and tallied up the rejections from my last two syndicate submissions (not HIS & HERS, but a couple of projects on which I collaborated). One project was rejected outright by all syndicates; the other may live on in some form at King. Who knows? Probably not. But we're still "talking."

Working on these various projects – books, comics —made me think about how tough working with people on various projects can be. Collaboration is not an easy thing. It involves cooperation, compromise, and, unless you find the perfect partner, concessions.

I must admit to having mixed emotions about teaming up with an artist or writer. It’s rare to find the likes of Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman or Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman -- a team that meshes seamlessly and produces work of such singular vision. Most of us aren’t as blessed.

Cartooning is, by and large, a solitary pursuit. I'm not sure if that's because we cartoonists like to follow our own "vision," or if it's because we're just hopelessly anti-social. Maybe a bit of both.

Any thoughts? Do you like to collaborate? To work alone?

I'll be back soon with more news.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Heavy Metal Blunder

I took my 14-year-old son and a couple of his buddies to a concert last night: The "No Fear" tour, featuring the bands He is Legend, Chimaira, DragonForce, and Killswitch Engage.

Now, being 45, I'd never heard of any of these groups. They don't play Killswitch Engage on the light jazz station I usually listen to in the car.

I was originally planning to drop my son and his friends at the concert hall and hang out at a Starbucks for a few hours, but it seemed a little irresponsible, so I purchased a ticket for myself and we made the trek to Indy to see the show.

Now, I'm not ignorant when it comes to music. In fact, I pride myself on being fairly knowledgeable about rock and roll and pretty eclectic in my musical tastes. I like some hard rock, some country, jazz, even some hip hop. But the stuff I heard at the Murat Theater Wednesday night, with the exception of DragonForce (the band my son and his friends really wanted to see) was just grinding, repetitive, monotonous garbage.

Watching Killswitch Engage and Chimaira pound and shriek and rasp through their songs, I thought "this is what serial killers must listen to when they're dismembering their victims and making lampshades out of their skin." It was truly disturbing, yet mind-numbing, sonic swill.

A few highlights of the show:
  • My son being denied entry because of the plastic studs on his fake leather gloves (he had to run back to the car and ditch the offending items)
  • DragonForce lead singer spitting four bottles of water at the indoor crowd. (Eww)
  • Several very wasted young men being escorted by security from the theater
  • One very wasted young lady being escorted by security from the men's restroom
  • Paying $2.00 for a 50-cent bag of potato chips and $3.00 for a can of Sprite

The funniest (and oddest) sight at the show was a young man standing by the sound board in the middle of the room. Seated in front of him were two women, who took turns performing the songs in sign language for him as the bands played. The women were reading the lyrics from printouts placed on music stands and signing accordingly. Since it was impossible to make out the words to any of the songs being sung, I wished that I understood sign language, too. Maybe I would've known what the *@#! the bands were singing.

As it was, the only lyrics I could make out during the entire evening were "I Hate Everyone," which the frontman from Chimaira kept repeating over and over and over. Standing in the Egyptian Room of the Murat Theater, being assaulted by an endless wave of awful noise for four hours, I had to agree.

Correction

Apparently, Keith Richards was joking when he said he snorted his father's ashes along with a little "blow." But, hey, it's Keith Richards. Sounded plausible, right?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Writing

How do cartoonists develop material for new comic strips? That's a question with as many answers as there are cartoonists.

Lee Nordling, former syndicate editor and a comic strip writer himself suggested this recently on the Toon Talk message board:

"So, here's A process--not THE process--for developing a strip. I suspect it'll work for some but not for all. If you want to try it, change the stuff you know isn't for you. For example, people who write best in the evenings and not the mornings should probably change the timeframe for #1.

1) Every morning, before the daily chores of life have started to shove your creative process/thinking aside, write at least one week's worth of strips, daily and Sunday. Get them to the point where you're happy with them.

2) The next morning, write another week's worth of strips, daily and Sunday, then review what you wrote the previous day and edit accordingly. Take out the ones you're not happy with...but ignore the ones you wrote this day.

3) Continue this for at least three weeks. (Are you doing the math? Ignore it if you are; it's the quality that counts, not the quantity).

4) As you get up each morning and write a week's worth of strips, review what you've written and start to fashion your sample. Theoretically, you've culled out the weakest gags. Here, you'll realize you may need more defining gags for characters or relationships.

Filling these holes will be a new task, and, in repeating the process of writing every morning, you'll have many to cull from to fill those holes well.

Notice I didn't suggest you draw any of these gags.For me/this exercise, the point is to learn to become your own editor, to learn to cull cull cull from gags that aren't good enough (yet) to draw."

I tried this method on one of the strips I'm developing. I didn't get a week of strips written each day, but I did churn out a surprising amount of material: nearly 60 strips in six days. Not all of them are usable, of course, but most are solid, a few are really good, and even the bad ones are good idea starters.

How do others work? Anyone want to offer a different method?

Mortal Thoughts

This has been a weird few weeks.

There have been three strange and unexpected deaths in my little corner of the world lately. I'm not as death-obsessed as Woody Allen, but I must admit I think about the subject probably more than I should. And these recent losses don't help.

How do we deal with death? We can ignore it, deny it, run from it, or try to make peace with it.

Or we can do what Keith Richards, that indestructible icon of excess, did.

"I snorted my father,” Richards was quoted as saying by British music magazine NME. “He was cremated, and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared,” he said, adding that “it went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”

Richards' father died in 2002 at age 84.

Like I said, a weird few weeks.

Monday, March 26, 2007

G.I. Joe Hair


Went in for a haircut Friday and, for some unknown reason, decided to go really short. I ended up looking like a G.I. Joe Talking Commander-- just needed the scar. (I had one of these figures, and the whole G.I. Joe Adventure Team, back in the early 70s.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Syndicate Roulette Update: Universal Press

I just heard from the editor at Universal. He sent me a nice email and we discussed HIS & HERS. He offered some very insightful feedback (for which I'm very grateful), but he's passing on the strip. I have two other submissions out right now. We'll see how those fare.

United Media
Universal Press -- email from editor: NO
Creators Syndicate -- form letter: NO
Washington Post Writers Group
Tribune Media -- form letter: NO
King Features -- call from editor: NO

Friday, March 16, 2007

Jay Kennedy Has Died

Jay Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of King Features died in a drowning accident yesterday while on vacation in Costa Rica.

This is sad and shocking news. I, like everyone else, am completely stunned.

As he did with many cartoonists, Jay wrote me personal notes with each submission I sent in, and I eventually became syndicated with King Features in 2005.

Sadly, I never got the chance to meet him in person. His wife died the night before our sales meeting and he wasn't able to attend.

I didn't know Jay well; in fact, I found him a bit of a mystery. But I respected his opinion immensely and I always wanted to please him. When Jay complimented your work you knew he meant it.

Here's the official press release from King Features.

Jay was a big fan and collector of alternative and underground comix and quite a knowledgeable comics historian. If there's Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, maybe there's Comics Heaven, too, and Jay is hanging out with E.C. Segar, and George Herriman, and Windsor McCay, and Charles Schulz and Will Eisner and assembling the best comics page ever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

So Long, BIG TOP

I was saddened to hear that Rob Harrell is ending his comic strip, BIG TOP. Rob's a great cartoonist and the strip had a wonderfully quirky, off-balanced feel to it.

I especially liked Dusty the poodle. One of my favorite "arcs" is the series of strips in which Dusty kidnaps Oprah (who's never seen "onscreen"). He has her down in a dungeon a la Silence of the Lambs and even says the line: "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again." Too funny.

I was fortunate enough to trade originals with Rob a couple of years ago. His BIG TOP hangs proudly in my family room right below an original Bud Blake TIGER strip from 1968.

Besides being a top-notch funnyman extraordinaire, Rob is also an outstanding painter and illustrator, and I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do.

We'll miss ya, man.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Forward

We started Daylight Saving Time this morning. I live in Indiana, an odd and backward place that, until last year, resisted this practice.

I moved here in 1995 and thought it was weird that we didn't follow DST, considering that almost everyone else in the world did. I didn't understand why Indiana resisted. It would've been much easier because every year you had to figure out if you were two or three hours ahead of California or on the same time as New York or an hour off.

There was often talk about changing; but if there's one thing Hoosiers hate, it's change. Of any kind.

So nothing was done, until last year, when the governor decided to bring the state kicking and screaming into the mid-20th century. And scream they did.

There are hot-button issues out there, like abortion, gay marriage, and gun control. In Indiana , the hot-button issue that trumps all others, apparently, is Daylight Savings Time. Oh, how the Hoosiers hate it. One letter writer to the local paper called it "the plague that is now upon us." Plague? Dude, you just turn the clocks ahead in spring and back in fall. It's not like you're being forced to give up your firearms or anything.

I guess I don't understand all the consternation. I grew up in California, and never thought twice about DST. I guess we were focused on other, less important issues, like the environment and immigration. Somehow, this "plague" never bothered us.

The good news is, that even though they hate it, it shows that change, however small, is possible in Indiana. Who knows? In another 50 or 60 years Hoosiers may even pass some meaningful environmental regulations; or maybe even give up their unhealthy fixation with pork.

Okay, I admit it. That last one is just crazy talk.

Super-Top Secret Part 2

The new project I hinted about a while back is almost ready to go. I'm working with a big-time cartoonist on this one. We should be submitting it for consideration within the next few weeks. More later.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

What's In A Name? (Cartoonist vs. Web Cartoonist)

I'm not trying to turn this into and "us vs. them" situation, because I hate that kind of stuff. Unfortunately many "print" cartoonists use "web cartoonist" as a pejorative, implying that the majority are wannabes and amateurs who can't sell their work to legitimate markets and thus create cartoons for the Internet. Unfortunately, they're mostly right. For every Scott Kurtz or Penny Arcade, there’s a zillion badly drawn and horribly written web cartoons. Web cartoonists can disagree with this and accuse the print cartoonists of being snobs, but it doesn't change the reality of the situation. Don't believe me? Go look at a hundred web cartoons. Go look at a thousand. Go look at a million (because there are at least 6 billion web cartoons currently online). The vast majority are just plain bad.

Web cartoonists are guilty of their own snobbery. They fashion themselves as the creative visionaries of a bold new medium, and sneer at the "boring and mediocre" work of traditional cartoonists. In some respects, they have a point. A lot of print cartooning (especially syndicated comics) is created to appeal to a mass market; it's not particularly innovative. But if you look outside newspaper comics (magazine cartoons, greeting cards), there is a lot of very good stuff being done by traditional cartoonists. It's just as "edgy" and "fresh" as any web comic. And odds are it's drawn a million times better and is much funnier.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Guest Blog

Editor's note: My 12-year-old son Bobby provides today's "unusual" blog. Enjoy!
Check out Bob's blog at http://piece-of-cheese.blogspot.com/
************************************************************************************

The Adventures of…ORC STEVE

Once there was an orc named Steve. He was a cool orc. He liked to kill stuff like boars and what not. But once he got lost and ended up in a big city called Orgrimmer. IT WAS HUGE!!! It was probably like 400000000000 feet long, dude! It had a Bank, Hobo Mall, Auction House, Food Market, Walmart, Pizza Hut, Domino's, and a 18-story TOYS R US!!! It was the hugest city ever. But one day Steve found himself lost in Orgrimmer. But he just found the exit and went out. He then saw a huge flying boat thing. He asked a guard to tell him what it was and he said, “UHH WELL IT'S USED TO TRANSPORT PEEPZ TO UH….LIKE A CITY…”

So, Steve went on the boat and he went to the city. The new city he went to was called the Under City! It wasn’t as big as Orgrimmer but it was still big. It was only 2000000 feet long but that was still good. It had a Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa John’s , a Dead hobo…eww, and a Toys R Us/Walmart/Marsh thing. It also had a Hotel called“The Undead Inn” but Steve didn’t really like the city so he went outside to adventure.

He adventured east until he went to a place called “The Scarlet Monastery” Steve was surprised that it was 1000000000 feet long. Not as big as Orgrimmer but bigger than Under City. It only had 1 thing….a Tailor Shop! Steve bought new clothes there to make him look like a red knight. He bought red shoulder blades, a red helmet, a red shirt with a Canada flag on it, and a red axe.

Then he went outside of the monastery. He went back to the Under City and went on a boat ride to Thunder Bluff, a city of cows. Thunder Bluff was 3000000 feet long. But it was still good. It had 7 Walmarts, Pizza Hut, and a 6 story mall with a Toys R Us, a Marsh, a Tailor, and a Hunter Training Guidebook store.

Steve bought the hunter's guide. He started to read it.

Chapter 1. How to train a wolf to be your friend.

1st -- Walk up to the wolf or lay meat in front of you.

2nd-- Pet the wolf until it falls asleep.

3rd-- Attack the wolf and put a saddle on it to make it rideable.

4th -- Jump on it and ride away.

So Steve followed all these steps and in no time he had a pet wolf. He rode away into the sun...

The End!

Who Are You?


I went with my 14-year-old son to The Who concert in Indianapolis Tuesday night. On the drive over we got behind a white stretch limo. The limo was heading towards the arena in which The Who was playing, and my son and I speculated that the car’s occupants were indeed the legendary English rockers. We’ll never know, of course, but I can fantasize, right?

I wasn’t quite sure what to except from the concert. I’d seen a short video clip of the reconfigured band playing a small hall in England in late 2006. The footage was great and showed guitarist/songwriter/mastermind Pete Townsend wind-milling away and Roger Daltrey enthusiastically belting out songs. But would the group bring it’s “A” game to Indianapolis? Would the physical strain of touring dampen their enthusiasm and take the sharpness off their performance? I mean, these guys aren’t youngsters; both Pete and Roger are in their early sixties. Would this show live up to the group’s legendary past and high audience expectations?

The answer, of course, is a resounding “OH YES!” The Who rocked the hell out of the Conseco Fieldhouse Tuesday night.

The show opened with the crisp guitar chords of “I Can’t Explain” (1964), and rocked through “The Seeker” (1971) and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (1965).

Between old classics, the band tossed in new songs from “Wire and Glass,” the first new Who recording in 25 years.

The new material was very good, but suffered a bit in comparison to the older songs. I mean, how do you compete with “We’re not Gonna Take It” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?

Townsend ruled the night and rocked harder than seemed possible, especially on songs thirty and forty years old. No rote playing here. No going through the motions, slogging through the hits. Pete attacked his guitar with passion and urgency, showing a freshness and conviction that would put musicians a third his age to shame. To put it a little indelicately, Pete made that guitar his bitch.

Singer Roger Daltrey is a true soldier of rock ‘n’ roll, his voice battle worn and raw, but ultimately beautiful…every rasp and growl a hard-won badge of honor in an amazing career spanning four decades.

The rest of the band was in fine form as well, with excellent support by keyboard player John "Rabbit" Bundrick, guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's younger brother), bassist Pino Palladino, and drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son and a fine successor to the inimitable Keith Moon).

The show’s intensity kept building until it exploded with a near atomic version of “Baba O’Reilly,” truly the highlight of the night. After a standing ovation, an obviously appreciative Townsend thanked the audience and remarked that the song had become a sort of soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives, and it meant a great deal to the band that the song meant so much to the fans.

Pete’s words were quite touching and showed that Townsend understands that the songs ultimately belong not just to the artist but to the audience as well. Tuesday night’s music – and, in fact, The Who’s entire catalog – belong to the fans who treasure the songs and keep them alive.

During an extended version of the classic “My Generation” (interspersed with 1982’s “Cry If You Want”), images of young people from the 1950s through today flickered on the video screen behind the band, transforming a song about youthful rebellion into a universal anthem: “My Generation” is your generation and every generation. The children of the 60s make way for the children of the 80s, and so on.

The line “hope I die before I get old” takes on new meaning 42 years after Townsend first wrote it. It seems less about physical aging and more about maintaining a youthful outlook by staying passionate about life. If this is the case, Tuesday night’s show proved that it’s going to be a long time before Pete Townsend gets old.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Favorite Strips?

Here's your chance to plug your favorite comic strip. Doesn't have to be syndicated, but if it's not, please provide a link. I've posted some of my preferences in the Comics Du Jour section, but I want to hear what others think. And I want to find out if I'm missing some really good stuff out there.

So let's put some comments on this blog, people!

Comics Du Jour


Real Life Adventures by Gary Wise and Lance Aldrich has been around since the early 1990s and always provides a good chuckle. A lot of strips aren't actually funny, but RLA consistently is.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Greeting Cards

Here's a card I did for Renaissance Greetings last year. I've done some writing for American Greetings recently, but not any artwork. Doing both the writing and art is great, but the lazy side of me likes just typing a few lines and cashing a check.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Comics Du Jour










I chuckled aloud when I read F-Minus today. I like when that happens.

Tony Carillo's strip is always a treat. He's got a unique perspective, and his gags are fresh and funny.

Tony's grown as a cartoonist since the strip launched, too, and his current work seems more confident and assured. He's also my friend at myspace.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"He Won't Get Far On Foot..."

John Callahan is one of my favorite cartoonists. His work is pointed, fearless, and funny as hell. There's an hour-long Dutch documentary about him available for viewing here.

The film is in English, but does contain profanity, nudity, and lots of "sick" humor: i.e., the perfect Callahan experience.

Hungry for more Callahan? Go and get his autobiography, book of cartoons, and new CD.

That's an order.




Saturday, February 24, 2007

McCoy Sighting


They walk among us…but they are not one of us.

Ghosts in the Machine

365 jokes. That’s what a syndicated cartoonist has to come up with every year. 365 printed jokes. That’s a lot of material, especially when you consider that for every published joke, there are probably five or more rejected gags that didn’t make it.

Why do I bring this up? I mention this because cartoonists, faced with this daunting situation, sometimes use writers. It’s a common practice in the comic strip business that goes back to the very beginning of the industry. Newspaper cartoonists in the 20s and 30s routinely employed both art assistants and writers. In fact, many successful cartoonists started out as assistants to the big names in the biz.

With Peanuts, Charles Schulz ushered in the era of the individual creator and influenced a generation of cartoonists that eschewed, for reasons of artistic integrity, the use of writers or assistants.

These cartoonists are to be commended for their singular vision, of course, but to my mind there’s nothing inherently wrong with using assistants – for art or writing.

Jay Leno has writers. So does David Letterman. The current and former writers of The Simpsons could fill up Madison Square Garden. Nobody gets upset when these guys do it, but somehow when a cartoonist uses a (usually uncredited) writer, he or she is being "lazy."

That’s just not true. If anything, using outside writing talent helps keep a strip fresh. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you’re cranking out material daily. Multiply that grind by several years, and you can get serious burnout.

I won’t mention names, but I know of several syndicated 'tooners who occasionally (or more than occasionally) use gagwriters. Does this make their strips any less funny? Nope.

Most gagwriters aren’t credited for their work, which is kind of a shame. It’s standard operating procedure for syndication, but it would be nice if the collaborators got a little pub. Buddy Hickerson, creator of The Quigmans, generally lists his writing partners on his strips, which is a nice touch.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Comics Du Jour


I laughed out loud at today's QUIGMANS. Buddy Hickerson's long-running panel is sometimes hit-or-miss, but this offering is quite funny.


I know Hickerson works with different writers, and I think he may have another person drawing as well. The panel looks a little different some days. It's still good, just not quite Hickersonian. Anyone have the scoop?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

TRIPLE TAKE Nuts & Bolts

In case anyone wonders (or cares)...

I pencil each strip on a piece of legal-sized copier paper and use a light box for inking, thus avoiding any pencil lines (or erasing marks) on the finished art.

The artwork is created on 2-ply Strathmore 500 plate-finish Bristol board with Pigma Micron pens (08 for the panel borders; 05 for the line work).

The inked strips (3 5/8" x 11 7/8" daily and 6" x 13 1/8" Sunday) are then scanned into the computer, with lettering added digitally. I create two files for distribution: black-and-white and color (I use Photoshop to color both dailies and Sundays).

The b&w and color TIF files are emailed to King’s service bureau in Florida. Todd and I work about six-to-eight weeks ahead on the dailies and twelve weeks ahead on the Sundays.
We produce three gags a day, seven days a week, and best of all, we do it without steroids!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Axed Comics


Here's a Triple Take from 11-22-06 that made it past the first editorial review but got spiked after closer scrutiny, and we had to substitue another comic from our stockpile. This gag, written by Todd, is a good one (I think), and the art's not so bad, either.

Apparently, some people would've been beary ticked-off if this strip had run...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is It Wrong?...

...to name a female gym teacher in a children's book "Miss Van Dyke"?

That's what I thought, which is why, after I got over my giggling fit, I changed her name to "Miss Van Ernie."

Inker Extraordinaire

One of my favorite comic book inkers, along with the inimitable Klaus Janson (Daredevil , Dark Knight Returns) is Joe Rubinstein.

I met Joe at the 1986 San Diego Comic Con, and he was nice enough to look at some of my inking samples. Jim Shooter, then EIC at Marvel Comics, directed me to Joe after looking over my work. For awhile I wanted to get into comic books as an inker, and actually did some professional inking for a few b&w books in 1986 and '87.

Joe gave a great critique, complimenting bits that he liked, and pointing out bits that didn't work. I know he doesn't remember me, but meeting him had a big impact on me.

I'd always thought Joe was older...Guess it's because he started doing comics in the late 70s and early 80s. Turns out the guy's some sort of wunderkind -- going to classes at the Art Students League at age 11 and working as an assistant at Neil Adams' Continuity Studios when he's 13. Wow with a capital "OW" is all I have to say. He's only about three years older than me, too. Boy do I feel like a loser turd.

I mention Joe, not to wallow in my inferior turdness, but because I just came across a great podcast interview Joe did in late 2006.

Here's the link. Go and listen. And if you don't know who Joe is, shame on you, and check out these pages.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Holy @*##!

I’m not sure how long this has been going on, but TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is now showing, unedited, uncensored, and unbelievably good films from the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

I just re-watched Network, and the station didn’t bleep one F-word, or cut one second of the William Holden/Fay Dunaway sex scene. And this is basic cable, people. AMC has been chopping up its "contemporary" films for years, and tossing in tons of commercials. (I couldn’t bear to watch the way they recently butchered Deliverance.)

In an era of insane FCC fines for "wardrobe malfunctions" and "obscenities," TCM should be commended for having the nads (and integrity) to air classic movies – of any era -- intact and uncut.

As a film aficionado, I’ve long appreciated TCM for its wide selection of black and white classics, including an impressive library of silent films. But I admit it’s been awhile since I’ve watched the channel. I now have a new reason to tune in.

Coming up this week: The Big Chill, Prizzi’s Honor, and Shaft!

Fire up the DVR!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Fernwood Feast

Well, My Fernwood 2Night DVDs arrived a week or so ago. I've watched about six or seven episodes, and for the most part I haven't been disappointed.

The show really holds up well, and the interaction between Martin Mull (host Barth Gimble) and Fred Willard (second banana Jerry Hubbard) is priceless. The show was definitely ahead of its time, and much of the humor is still sharp today.

Some highlights:
Lou Moffit, morphing from Fernwood's "consumer activist" into a shameless pitchman for the "WonderBlender" (from "Gibleco Enterprises").

Frank DeVol (bandleader Happy Kyne) talking about his nostril replacement surgery. Apparently he was born with only one nostril and had cosmetic surgery to add the missing nasal passageway. ("Some people think it's the one on the left. But it's really the one on the right.")

A hippyish, vegetarian restaurant owner who doesn't eat any meat, "except, like, burgers."

Much like SCTV, Fernwood 2Night created its own bizarre little fictional world and populated it with funny, offbeat characters. The show also had a killer cast, including Jim Varney, Bill Kirchenbauer, and Kenneth Mars in recurring roles.

I'm still looking for a complete set of Fernwood episodes, but I'm more than satisfied with what I have.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Comics Du Jour


I really enjoy The Meaning of Lila, an excellent strip helmed by John Forgetta. John works at American Greetings as Editorial Director, and he's a great guy.

Lila is consistently funny, with a nice, contemporary sensiblity. It feels like an update of Cathy, without the endless swimsuit-buying angst.

The Meaning of Lila should be in every paper in the country, IMHO, and if it's not in yours, write your editor and ask for its inclusion. (And while you're at it, ask them to put in Triple Take, too.)

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Random Toons



I think we've gone too long without some art. Here's a strip I pitched to MAD magazine and almost sold: MY ZOMBIE GIRLFRIEND. Click on the image for an enlarged view.

I have a few more of these I'll post occasionally.

Thoughts? Comments? Insults?

Super-Top Secret

Mere days after sending off my comic strip submission, I'm working on a new feature with an unnamed co-conspirator.

Stay tuned...