Thank You, Mr. Watterson

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I absolutely love Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I was raised on the comics, learned how to read with them, gained a broader imagination through them, and I still read them to this day. I want to use this post to explain just how much I love this strip and how it has impacted my life. However, I don’t know if the words I have are adequate or even enough to really show my apprieciation for Mr. Watterson. 

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All strips featured in this post are from The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes (1992). [View Larger]

For quick reference, Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip about a mischevious, intelligent 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger. Written by Bill Watterson, the strip ran from 1985-1995 and ran in 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

When I was little (probably about 5-7 years old), my dad would pull out a book of Calvin and Hobbes and read me to sleep. Dad’s only mistake was thinking that it would put me to sleep. Calvin’s adventures and vast imagination filled my head with stories and my own possible adventures that kept me awake. Now, about 17 years later, I’ve begun making my own comic strips and incorporating many things I’ve learned from Mr. Watterson and Calvin.

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Spaceman Spiff is one of Calvins’s many alteregos. Thanks to Spaceman Spiff, I wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut-Princess who piloted her own spaceship and faught menacing aliens. [View Larger]

From his comics, I’m learning how to organize my comics in an asthetically pleasing, yet readable way, how to write the dialogue of comics, and how to turn everyday experiences into fantastical adventures.

I could say here how clever, creative, enduring, intelligent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and hilarious Calvin and Hobbes is, but anyone who’s read the comics already understands. And if you haven’t read them, stop what you are doing and go read them. I suppose I don’t have much more to say, other than Thank You, Mr. Watterson.

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My take on Bill Watterson’s style. I created this comic in response to hearing a lot of Christmas talk before Thanksgiving. (It’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves.)

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Comics Spotlight: Speed Bump and The Argyle Sweater

One panel comics are short and to the point often absurd and pun-derful. With one panel comics, there is no waiting for the punchline and it often lacks a drawn-out narrative. One way to think about one-panels and strips is comparing it to literature formats: Strips are like novels whereas one-panels operate like short stories. While there are several comics like these floating around in the papers and online, two that stand out to me are Speed Bump by Dave Coverly and The Argyle Sweater by Scott HilburnBoth of these comics have an absurd nature to them and take normal concepts and turn them upside down. IMG_E1379For example, Speed Bump might take two concepts, a work vacation, and a sheep herding dog, and mash them together. The Argyle Sweater typically takes concepts, like online dating, and uses characters that seem out of place to act them out. IMG_E1381I especially enjoy these two comics because they make you take a minute to figure it out. While they sometimes rely on dumb punchlines, they often make readers see the mundane in a slightly different light.

Other popular one-panels include The Family Circus, Bizarro, Rhymes with Orange, Cornered, and The Far Side.

With the internet and mobile phones gradually replacing newspapers, many comics have moved online. Some cartoonists have exclusively put their content online and have developed a large following. One of those artists is Doug Savage, creator of Savage Chickens. He uses chickenschickengps2 to talk about very human concepts and it certainly makes for an absurdly funny comic.

Not all one-panel comics need to be funny to be successful. Political/editorial cartoons are often limited to a single panel and use a splash of humor to comment on serious topics. Political cartoons are also usually a bit absurd.

From creating my own one-panel, I discovered that it’s not as simple as it looks. The concept needs to be simple and understandable to a large audience, and you need to deliver the punchline immediately. I first struggled to come up with a good subject, and then I struggled to find the right phrasing to fit it all in. I have a new found respect for all the one-panel artists out there. IMG_1321

Comics Spotlight: Blondie

On September 8, 1930, Chic Young’s now insanely popular comic strip, Blondie, appeared in newspapers across America. It began with a pretty flapper girl, Blondie Boopadoop, and a bumbling, awkward, billionaire’s son, Dagwood Bumstead. At the beginning, Dagwood was just one of Blondie’s many boyfriends, but eventually, the two fell in love. They tied the knot in 1933, in a highly anticipated and memorable comic strip. As a result of their marriage, Dagwood was almost immediately disinherited and written out of his father’s will and “Dagwood and Blondie had to go out into the world and hack it like the rest of us” (Dean Young).

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Before I drew a comic inspired by Blondie‘s style, I figured I’d practice by drawing the two main characters and the logo.

Today the strip is written and illustrated by Chic’s son, Dean as well as head artist, John Marshall. Dagwood and Blondie’s day-to-day escapades revolve around their work and home lives. The Bumsteads have two teenage children, Alexander and Cookie, and a dog, Daisy, all of whom make frequent appearances in the strip. The strip also features the Bumstead’s neighbors and coworkers.

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A Blondie strip from Oct. 25, 2015, which includes characters from other newspaper strips such as Dustin, Zits, and Baby Blues. 

In its early years, the strip’s success led to the creation of several “Blondie” movies spanning from 1938-1950, and a 26-episode TV series in 1957. Blondie was portrayed by Penny Singleton in the movies and Pamela Britton on TV while Dagwood was played by Arthur Lake in both.

I think the strip’s enduring popularity comes from its ability to represent and show the absurd and hilarious in the mundane. While this is the aim of most comics, Blondie does it particularly well as it comes off extremely relatable and makes me laugh almost every time. Another reason I find Blondie so funny is that I see a bit of my dad’s personality (and maybe a bit of my own) in Dagwood. I think the most incredible thing is that the strip has been in print for almost 90 years. I can’t think of any other comic that has endured so long. The creators must be doing something right!

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My comic inspired by the Blondie comics. I wanted to find a way to include Dagwood’s famous sandwiches and it just so happens that I really DO get excited about sandwiches.