I’ll be in Columbus this weekend for the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus, Ohio. Table 65 – I’ll have the 2071 collections for sale, the poster by my buddy Gerry, as well as a few other things. Come by and say hi!
This is my first attempt in a long time of hand-drawing and hand-lettering. I need to get more proficient at it and I need to find a point where I’m comfortable considering a drawing”done”. Leaving big open spots blank when I’m not coloring something bothers me because there’s not enough depth. Crosshatching isn’t the answer because it takes too much time and stuff either comes out muddy or not developed enough.
As far as the strip goes, this idea came about while watching one of Spike’s Ustreams. (Read Templar, Arizona) She brought up a story concept she had about some free-wheelin’ hoboes and I immediately thought, “Stop digging, you’ve struck oil.” It’s a smidge inspired by the Laugh Out Loud Cats over at HOBOTOPIA. I like old 20s and 30s newspaper comics that had all this room to play. If anything, we need to go back to that. If there was an entire paper that was nothing but strips like Bringing Up Father, Lil’ Abner, Popeye, Pogo, Krazy Kat, and Buck Rogers, I’d buy the hell out of it. But no, newspapers just want space for advertising and classifieds. Comics always get the short end of the stick. They get shrunk down and rearranged. And when the money gets tight they’re the first thing to go. Why do they think this? Newspapers are battling the internet and TV for news. If they really want people to buy papers they should offer more comics not less. I know I would stop reading my local paper if it didn’t carry comics. I’m probably starting to sound like Bill Watterson but after the Village Voice Media purge of comics from 13 alt-weeklies and Diamond Comics Distribution raising the numbers of sales for indie books to be distributed, it’s looking harder and harder for a cartoonist to make money these days. At least in newspapers and comic shop distribution, apparently.
I like how we tune in with Saddam ending the joke rather than delivering the whole thing. It lets your mind fill in the gap of what the horrible setup was. More comics should start with the end of something totally unrelated that we don’t get to see. Imagine if Beetle Bailey started with, “And that’s why I can never go back to Charleston, Rocky. Now let’s hear your story.” I could easily spend a good half an hour imagining what our lovable, lazy military scamp was doing in Charleston. Or maybe the first panel of the Wizard of Id could be the king standing on the balcony shouting, “We love you, Cleveland, you’ve been wonderful, good night!” Then for no reason at all cut to a story dealing with the wizard and his bitter, bitter wife.
Maybe I should just save random punchlines for the last panel of the strip. Like Grim and Saddam could be having a totally pointless conversation over whether or not MacGyver could really save the day with all the contents of his pockets (I want to believe that he could, if only so the child inside me doesn’t die a little bit) and in the last panel, after they reach their conclusions, just have somebody like the Dunkin Donuts dude pop up and say, “Time to make the donuts.” Does anybody else wonder whatever happened to that guy all these years later? I mean, he’s not like Juan Valdez or Ronald McDonald. No new guy came in later to fill his shoes. (At least Valdez had a commercial where they showed one actor trading places with the other, passing the torch, or in this case the burro and the coffee.) Good non-sequitur lines are very hard to come up with off the cuff, though. I don’t know if I have anything quite as good as a FUEGO! in me or not, but it’d be nice if I did.
Having not read too many Choose Your Own Adventure books, I’m basing this one more on good old fashioned fast food restaurant place mats. You know the kind. You pull out your crayon, trace the line, and what do you know? There’s a monkey. And monkeys are awesome. And instead of a monkey, here we have the various outcomes of what happens when Grim decides it’s time to end Saddam. Though I didn’t get the fun of drawing the final explosion, I do think it’s amusing that this strip is going to sit in the archives, perpetually leaving Saddam to sit there, terrified. It’s like we froze time, like in that 80s TV show, Out of This World.
This is pretty much my real fear: That some day I’m going to bash my head open trying to get to some stupid suds I put on my head to make my hair look nice. It’s bad enough when the bottle has a little tab you have to work your nail under, do they seriously think somebody with a soapy hand is going to be able to get a grip on a round plastic ball? This is one of those packaging concepts that looked nice to the designer and then there wasn’t somebody to slap them in the face to say it’s not really practical.
Another bath time fun product I’d like to ramble a little bit about is the Axe Shower Gel wall mount. (Yes, I use Axe. Now you know what I smell like.) This is very obviously a guy product. Not because it’s a suction cup-covered thing you stick to your shower wall to hold the gel, but because it’s obviously a slightly dangerous product. Ever try sticking a nearly empty bottle to it? It’s like you’re Wile E. Coyote setting a spring-loaded trap to catch some imaginary Road Runner and instead you end up dropping the bottle on your foot. And of course when it happens you put it right back only to have it pop out again a couple more times during your shower. Sure, we could hang a caddy in there so nothing would fall on us, but have you not seen late night stand up comics? Men don’t use hangers to keep our clothes clean, why would we use one to prevent minor bodily harm? I mean, after all, it’s not a real sport if somebody doesn’t run the risk of physical injury once in awhile, am I right? But then I guess I’d be calling showering a sport. Then again, cheerleading’s a sport. And I can only imagine cheerleading in the shower to be an even better one. In fact, I’m starting to change my own opinion as I write this. Any activity that can be more entertaining by doing it in the nude with water cascading on your body should be considered a sport.
I actually saw Jeff Keane talk on a panel with Dan Piraro, one of the Walkers, (Which one escapes me at the moment) and one of the guys behind Girls & Sports at San Diego Comic-Con in 2006. All very nice guys with nothing but kind things to say about webcomics, which was refreshing considering the anti-newspaper attitude at webcomic panels at the same convention. The Family Circus is an interesting thing in the comics world. It stands on it’s own outside of any conventions. It doesn’t particularly deliver humor so much as cuteness. There are people who love it and there are people who hate it. It’s creators know this and admit it’s not for everyone. It’s found it’s audience and serves them well. The only real argument to be made is that it’s pap that’s filling up newspapers and taking space away from other comics, which is more of a personal taste issue if you ask me. If you can get enough people to like your work that you can make a living off of it, kudos to you. Bands do the same thing when they complain about the type of music that a wider audience likes, calling what’s popular garbage and lamenting the fact that they don’t have mass appeal.
So that strip’s been parodied every way under the sun, most successfully with The Dysfunctional Family Circus. I decided it’d be best to just spoof the layout and let Grim and Saddam do what they do best, which is violence and zany mayhem.
Pretty much everything that needs to be said about Dennis The Menace has already been said by David Malki over at The Comic Strip Doctor. I remember watching reruns of the original 50′s show, later the cartoon series, but I didn’t really start reading the actual comic strip until my local paper started carrying it, which was some time after Ketcham already stopped drawing it. So by then Dennis had stopped being particularly menacing. Half the time I just imagine him as a stylized Billy from The Family Circus.
Anybody who’s had to live with a room mate at one point in their life can probably relate to this. It’s just really convenient when the person you’re sharing your living space with decides to make some drastic decision without consulting you. I mean, who wants to be bothered with such minor inconveniences as, “I can’t pay rent this month,” and that old chestnut, “My friend’s visiting and they’re staying with us. I told them they could have your bed. You don’t mind sleeping on the couch, anyway.” The things they’ll assume for you are always hysterical. It’s never just something you’d consent to in the first place. They always have to take it one step further and take it into your corner of the place, mess with your stuff, hock it on the Internet, whatevs, right? Shoot, in high school we had friends who you could “loan” something to and they’d sell it or give it away to somebody. Who you don’t know. Who lives out of town. That they always forget to track down when you’re wondering where your favorite shirt went to, or that rare album you let them take home to make a copy of. I say “album” in place of CD, so I’m not totally an old fogey. Though I’m sure there’ll be a generation that doesn’t understand why our buddies had to take the music home with them, why they couldn’t simply burn or downright share a digital copy with no physical media exchanging hands. Tapes changed hands for awhile, too, especially during the transition where they were cheaper and easier to get ahold of than CDs. I had some vinyl but by the time I actually started seeking music out on my own to collect it was more practical to use something else.
But yeah, room mates. They’re a necessary evil sometimes. In college I lucked out and usually got the guy who quit and moved back home halfway through a semester, leaving me with a nice double to myself until they placed me with somebody else who would move out as well. One time a roomie decided to move out but waited to tell me until after they actually sent someone to my door and told me I had 2 weeks to find a new room mate or they’d place me with somebody else. I didn’t mind that he wanted to room with some other guys, but that was a real dick move.
It’s not the strongest Frank Miller joke ever, but I could have just done a one-panel with it. If he was still directing Buck Rogers I could have done a “Whores. In. SPAAACCEEE!” gag. But really, David Willis has reached the pinnacle of Frank Miller jokes already (As is customary: Damn you, Willis! [Make sure you imagine me pumping both fists in the air as it's shouted to the heavens. I want to do things properly]) so why bother trying to climb that mountain anyway?
I love animals and don’t condone violence towards them in any way. This strip is more of a commentary on that state of mind you get into in the middle of the night, when you can hear any noise, and your only thoughts are, “Make it stopMakeitstopMakeitstopMAKEITSTOP.“ There’s no real thinking involved, it’s more of an instinctive response. You could be inside yourself looking out unable to stop your own actions. But until you wake up you can’t do anything about it. That’s why future me in the morning always thinks past me is a dick whenever I set multiple alarms, forcing myself to walk around and wake up before I can return to bed. Not to mention I enjoy these little glimpses into the day to day life inside their apartment. If I run out of non-sequiturs I can just go back to these two sharing a place and the hijinks that go on there