Though W.T. Duck creator Aaron Johnson actually filmed this before last year's Thanksgiving Parade, the W.T. Duck balloon still has not been found, at least not to my knowledge. Last I heard it was being held by Somali pirates somewhere along the Kamchatka Peninsula.
For more W.T. Duck hilarity, be sure to hit up wtduck.com.
When you hear folks mention the Universal Press Syndicate classics of past and present, it's usually names like Doonesbury, Far Side, Boondocks, Calvin & Hobbes, Fox Trot, Ziggy, and so on. But buried in our roster are a few strips whose sheer innovation and cross-cultural appeal blow just about everything else out of the water.
Technically titled, "Pepe in Espanol," the pantomime strip chronicles the marital foibles and daily hijinks of our diminutive mustachioed hero.
To quote the Babelfish-translated description given on gocomics, Pepe is typical a Mexican who enjoys much the life. This great pantomima is very humorous, and through the years our enchantment with the protagonist continues growing.
None of us in the editorial department are entirely sure about Pepe's origins (the strips are uploaded to us not from Mexico, but an undisclosed location in Denmark), his creator (listed only as "Moco"), or why the strip is listed as a Spanish feature even though it never has any words. Not to worry, though. "Pepe in Espanol" more than speaks for itself. A few examples (click the image to enlarge):
Pepe's wandering eye often lands him in trouble with the wife
Not that this stops him from trying
Pepe has a knack for diffusing potentially dangerous situations
Although he sometimes can be the death of the party
He knows how to get a job done
He can pass into different historical eras with ease
and even traffic in the spirit world
No matter how much trouble he gets in, he keeps coming back for more
Even if Pepe hasn't hit big with the North American masses just yet, it's quietly becoming a cult sensation among sophisticated pantomime strip connoisseurs.
The newly created Nickelodeon Magazine Comics Awards honor the best comic books, strips, and graphic novels for kids published across the U.S. Readers vote for their favorite comics and characters either by mailing the ballot printed the December/January 2008 issue (on sale now) or by voting online at http://www.nickmag.com/comicsawards. Ballots must be received no later than December 31, 2008. The winners will be announced in the April 2009 issue of Nickelodeon Magazine and online at nickmag.com.
One of my best buds in the business and an amazing talent, Paul Gilligan, does the sublime comic strip Pooch Cafe.
To my admittedly biased perspective, Pooch represents everything that a comic is supposed to be, engaging characters, clever situations and LOL writing. But that's not it, Paul's art and his mastery of nailing the correct facial expression often takes a good strip and makes it great.
I can look at Poncho sometimes and laugh ... just by the sight of him. That's not easy. You have to be emotional connected to a character to get that kind of response. In my case, I haven't been this attached to a fictional character since Rosie O'Donnell was on The View.
This week is a busy one at the syndicate as we squeeze five days of
work into three. Reminds me of the time a couple of weeks ago when I
tried on those grey corduroys from college I found in my basement when
we were moving. But that's a story for another time ...
equally stressful on our cartoonists, especially those who dance with
the dangerous deadline dance. And although I know most people consider
The Lambada to be the most forbidden of all the dances, for cartoonists
the forbidden dance is "Le Deadline."
Which is French for "the deadline" ... I think.
cartoonists say the deadline helps inspire them creatively, others work
so far ahead they'll be running for years after their death (apologies
to Tom the Dancing Bug for co-opting his joke there).
believe however that the deadline, if not properly managed, can become
a burden which can make a cartoonist resent the property and the
profession and make them yell at their editor and come up with crazy
excuses like: "I didn't know there was going to be Thanksgiving THIS
And lo you think I'm criticizing our wonderful
cartoonists, I wouldn't want this to get back to them, because many
cartoonists are a vengeful sort ... something about the all the
creativity and all the alcohol and being alone in their studios creates
a volatile personality.
Everybody's got at least one good gag in them, right?
I'm one of those few super-intelligent and attractive people who generally doesn't laugh at the New Yorker cartoons that run in the magazine. Yet, our brethren at our sister company (brethren at sister company, wha?), Andrews McMeel Publishing have published an amazing collection of caption contest winners.
Everyday people who have displayed deft humor skills. These people could be anything in real life: accountants, lawyers, generals, miners, rabbit farmers, cobblers, millers, coopers, you name it ... but for one shining moment, they touched the humor apex.
Now, I laughed at almost every gag ... and many times not at the winning caption (they show 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place). So my hat's off to them ... and my hair is now a mess because of it.
Somebody bring me a comb and some rubber cement, please!
One day, hopefully before his death, Ruben Bolling will get his just desserts ... (FYI: I believe he prefers vanilla pudding cups).
Tom the Dancing Bug entertains, informs, skewers, lampoons, ridicules, and nourishes the soul. It could quite possibly be the most intelligent strip in production (with apologies to Pepe). I've met Mr. Bolling and while not traditionally handsome, there is a certain something about him that makes you want to be around him ... is it his magnetismo? Is it his cologne? Is it that he'll usually pick up the bar bill?
Frankly, I don't want to know. To paraphrase Socrates, "Somethings are better left unexamined." I would like to share with you my favorite characters/features that have appeared in the strip over the years.
1. Fat Man Who Uses Beard to Simulate Jawline
2. Harvey Richards, Attorney for Children
3. Sam Roland, The Detective Who Dies
4. Complex 1960s Literary Protagonist
5. Uncle Cap'n
6. Old Guy Who Dresses Young
7. Ethnic Humor, Inoffensive because it is created by members of the ethnic groups
8. Fabulous Guy in the Airport on cell phone
9. Louis Maltby
10. (tie) God-Man, Charley the Australopithecine, Nate the NeoCon, Dingle, Bill Dare: Boy Adventurer, Science Facts for the Immature
There are three TTDB books in print. I recommend you buy today. It's the kind of humor that you can reread and still laugh at the gags even though you know what's coming.
What a great time to be in the market for a new comic collection. There's the big 20th anniversary Dilbert 2.0 book buy here , the dazzling Cul De Sac buy here , Lio: Silent but Deadly (Lio #2) buy here and one of my favorites The Elderberries collection #1. buy here
The Elderberries is now done by the fabulously talented and eyebrowed, Corey Pandolph. But when it started it was done by legendary cartoonist, Phil "Farley" Frank and his great writing partner Joe Troise. Phil was a master with the brush and his style was warm and folky ... simplistic to the eye .. but as Corey can attest nuanced and sophisticated ... and difficult to replicate.
Phil passed away last year, but this book is a great testament to the man's talent and skill. I was lucky to have a few years to work with him. He was modest, a gentleman and an optimist. A rarity these days. I miss him. -JG
A few years back, Dilbert's Scott Adams wrote on his blog about how to write funny. Here's an excerpt:
core of humor is what I call the 2-of-6 rule. In order for something to
be funny, you need at least two of the following elements: Cute (as in kids and animals) Naughty Bizarre Clever Recognizable (You've been there) Cruel"
while I'm far too busy to look up the link, I'm sure you could read the
rest if properly motivated and if you have either a computer or a phone
with Internet capabilities. Which, unless someone printed this out and
gave to you, would have to be the case, right?
And what kind of weirdo prints out discussions from a blog in the first place?
Tyr, the 1000-year-old Norse deity who frequently makes an appearance in Phil Dunlap's Ink Pen comic, found out today that he is a dad. With an infant almost as large as he is (and a wife many, many times larger), our viking friend certainly has his gauntlet-covered hands full.
So what effect will fatherhood have on our fearless, centuries-old friend? Will he trade in his battle-axe for a rattle, his flagon of mead for a baby bottle, and his animal-hide jerkin for a "World's Greatest Dad" sweatshirt?
Back in July we had a paper in Asia complain about this "Argyle Sweater" panel, saying it offended them. My first reaction was, "of course, but who hasn't been offended by split ends? Isn't it about time we brought this global tragedy into the spotlight."
But apparently they were talking about using Moses at the butt of a joke. I tried to assure them that it's just a pun and not disparaging toward our Biblical hero, but the could not be assuaged. So we "suaged" them by sending a replacement.
Take a duck who works as a photographer amongst human beings with crying babies, bridezilla complexes and clueless clients and we'll show you a portrait of “W.T.Duck,” the comic strip that quickly exploded in popularity with camera aficionados and comics fans on the Web and is now in syndication. Look for W.T. Duck to begin appearing in newspapers this January. If you'd like to see the strip in your home paper and aren't sure if they're planning to run it, a little friendly demanding never hurt anybody. In the meantime, check out the W.T. Duck home page for more strips.
Production notes: "Birth Control" was produced by What the Duck creator Aaron Johnson, with voice acting done by himself and his son, Jonas.
While cartoonists are not normally known for their senses of humor, occasionally a prankster will slip one by his/her editor.
Noble editors who are just doing their jobs and trying to get home in time for the 6:30 Access Hollywood, but can't because Mr. Bigshot is late again and will probably miss a press run.
Now, I'm not going to tastelessly name names, but if you look in the below Elderberries by Corey Pandolph gag you'll be witness to a bit of chicanery we missed. Not seeing it? Look closely on Dusty's apron and read the embroidery -- got it? Just a bit too ribald for the comics pages, no?
I know it's hard to see exactly what it says, but with some help from our friends at Langley we were able to decipher it. See blown up version below it.
1. Do some research. To sell into this market you have to know what
they're looking for; I love Perry Bible Fellowship, but I don't think
it could sell into this market. Study your local paper's comics pages:
what are the recurring themes? Family, pets, kids, ... occasional
2. Assess the existing
competition. If you have a new dog strip, you better be sure that your
strip is better than Pooch Cafe, Get Fuzzy and the myriad of others out
there. Why would an editor buy your strip if he already has something
superior? Family strip? Foxtrot, Cul De Sac, Stone Soup, Zits, Baby
3. Distinguish your strip. What's different about your
strip? Don't just say your humor ... because that's subjective. You
better be able to give a logline about your strip that will make it
stick in editors heads so that our salespeople can get and keep their
attention on the work. Good samples are helpful ... a good logline and
good samples are better. Logline example:
"Pooch Cafe is a
about a groups of dogs who come together at a cafe to construct a
catapult to hurl all cats into the sun." or "Pooch Cafe stars Poncho
whose life is shattered when his master Chazz gets married to a woman
with 10 cats."
It's not necessarily the ONLY thing about Pooch
Cafe. But it's a quick line to let the editor know instantly about the
tone and setting. Once (s)he gets into the samples he can see how strong
the characters are.
Speaking of political cartoons, Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson created this depiction of President-elect Barack Obama for the new issue of The New Yorker. You can read the article here.
In addition to his illustrations for The Washington Post, The New Yorker, National Geographic and other publications, Richard Thompson writes and illustrates the Universal Press daily, Cul de Sac. The feature appears in 200 papers and was a nominee for the 2008 National Cartoonist Society's Best Comic Strip honors. The first Cul de Sac collection, which came out this September, features a warm introduction from Bill Watterson.
If you haven't been reading Cul de Sac, you'll want to start in time to see how this situation plays out:
In addition to our regular comic strips and panels, Universal Press Syndicate distributes editorial cartoons from some of the finest folks in the business, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Pat Oliphant.
During Mr. Oliphant's visit to our Kansas City office this week, he stopped to talk with a Kansas City Star reporter about the election of Barack Obama and the difficulty of lampooning a president he actually likes (something that hasn't happened since he first moved to America in 1964, he says).
Though "No Drama Obama" might not be an easy target as, say, Sarah Palin (whom he always depicted with bats flying around her head), a man of Oliphant's talents will certainly be able to come up with something amusing about the president-elect. In the meantime, those wishing to catch up on Oliphant's unflinching take on the Bush/Cheney years should hit up this excellent collection.
Oh, and Pat also graced a few of our office dry-erase boards with some sketches that are a bit saltier than what we usually send out to papers. But as much as I'd love to post them here, I'd probably get fired.
San Francisco Chronicle staffer and Bad Reporter cartoonist Don Asmussen and Amuse sold this hilarious treatment to Al Roker Productions (yes, that Al Roker -- tremendous comics fans himself). ANF tells the story of the Anchorton family. It's now being prepped for pitch to the networks by two established TV writers to polish for the brass. Conceptually it's sophisticated, but at its heart it's traditional family show.
Bridget McMeel works out in LA as our development exec with our agency William Morris. We've had a good run of projects we've sold ... but cripes, the development process take forever. It makes syndicates seem speedy ...
I work in KC with the content and engage the cartoonists when we get nibbles. I travel to LA fairly regularly to pitch and have general meetings. We sell to producers, networks, studios, whoever ... as long as they feel like the right partner for the individual property.
(Here's what we have in development as of today)
- Harvey Richards, Lawyer for Children (New Line/WB) based on the Tom the Dancing Bug character
- Small Apartments (Deviant Films) based on the novel by Chris Millis (John "Close to Home" McPherson's occasional writing parner)
- Pooch Cafe (Sony Pictures Animation) based on the strip by Paul Gilligan
- LIO (David Kirschner Productions) based on the strip by Mark Tatulli
-INK PEN (contractually not at liberty to divulge who were partnering with on this yet) based on the strip by Phil Dunlap
- Adam@Home (optioned to a network/contractually not at liberty to divulge) based on the strip by Brain Basset
- Tank McNamara (optioned to a network/contractually not at liberty to divulge) based on he strip by Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds
- Action News Family (optioned by Al Roker Productions) and based on the concept by Don "Bad Reporter" Asmussen
We had sold a few other properties that the options had expired and not been renewed. It's a funny business ...but one of the best things to happen to us lately was the success of the film "Alvin & the Chipmunks" ... an established brand that parents trust ... sound familiar to comic strips?
But we don't just take our comics ... if the idea is strong enough, we'll try and sell anything we think we can. Don Asmussen's "Action News Family" is a good example of that. he just came up with an incredible funny treatment and it just clicked as far as why we thought it would sell.
Who was the charming gentleman who just walked by my desk? Why, the one-and-only, legendary, Pulitzer Prize-winning master of editorial cartooning himself, Pat Oliphant. Not an everyday occurence around these offices, believe it or not.