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?... 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...

Syndicate Roulette

Well, I just sent out a new comic strip proposal to the syndicates. (Cue audience laughter.)

The number of major syndicates has dwindled to six in the past few years, what with the L.A. Times Syndicate being swallowed up by Tribune. Speaking of Tribune Media Syndicate (TMS), I'm not even sure they're really even in business anymore. Several cartoonists have jumped ship -- Mike Peters with Grimmy a few years ago, and Todd Clark and Steve Dickenson with Lola last year. They've also lost some of their editorial cartoonists.

Not surprisingly, I received a lovely form-letter rejection from TMS in what seemed like minutes of sending out my package. I've heard other cartoonists have received this same letter recently. It appears TMS isn't really looking for new material, It's a shame. They were a good syndicate back in the day and boasted a good line-up, including MacNelly's comic strip, Shoe.

Getting back to the submission, here are the syndicates to which I submitted:

United Media
Universal Press
Creators Syndicate
Washington Post Writers Group
Tribune Media
King Features

I'll post responses from the various editors when -- or if -- I hear from them. I'm wondering if already being syndicated will make any difference in getting the feature looked at.

Here are my predictions:

United Media -- form letter
Universal Press -- form letter
Creators Syndicate -- form letter
Washington Post Writers Group -- form letter with personal note
Tribune Media -- form letter (already received)
King Features -- possible email; most likely no response unless I personally call (which I just might)

We'll see how accurate I am in the coming weeks.

As for what I submitted...that's a secret for now -- but I will post samples once I've heard back from everyone.

And to all you aspiring cartoonists out there, just remember this: Scott Adams (of Dilbert) received rejections from every syndicate he submitted to except one (United Features). He even got the old "Dear Creator" form letter rejection from Universal (a personal favorite of mine as I've received this particular missive since the late 1980s). And I submitted material (off and on) for about 14 years before getting syndicated with King.

Ain't cartooning fun?