The GoComics “Meet Your Creator” series brings you firsthand insight into the lives and careers of your favorite cartoonists. Each week, we hand over the keys to one of our talented creators, who share their inspirations, achievements, creative processes, studios and more! Read on to hear from this week’s featured cartoonist: Ed Allison of Unstrange Phenomena
This is True . . .
I have eaten more of it than anyone alive.
Kix with the Lone Ranger.
Pep flakes with Superman.
Taped a quarter to a Wheaties boxtop and sent off for a Jack Armstrong Cat’s Eye Ring that glowed in the dark. For 15 cents and the inner seal from a jar of Peter Pan, I got a Sky King Spy Scope that really worked!
The comics section of the Log Cabin Democrat carried three strips: Blondie, Alley Oop (beautifully drawn) and Red Ryder (the guy could draw horses – he had a brush stroke that made horses move). That’s about all you needed.
My mother read every word in every New Yorker ever published. I absorbed the cartoons. Like a sponge. Charles Addams was totally visual and drew back a curtain that revealed a world that was the result of an evolutionary process, ever so slightly different from the one we knew.
Others: Abbot and Costello – perfect timing; Bowery Boys – Slip and Satch – each one started a brand of humor; Looney Tunes, Bugs and Daffy (I had an enlightening conversation with Burne Hogarth about the comedic elements in Road Runner); Bob and Ray (thanks Dad – in 1949 he had me sit down with him and listen); Scrooge McDuck – 1st rate adventure stores; Rocky and Bullwinkle – I rearranged one month of doctor’s appointments so I could watch every day; Woody Allen; George Carlin; Monty Python.
Mark Twain; Charles “Buddy” Portis, Immanuel Velikofsky; Richard Brautigan.
Universal horror; Republic serials; ‘50s sci-fi flicks. Seconds before I die, I hope a Max Fleischer Superman cartoon flashes before my eyes.
My youth was spent exploring the woods of central Arkansas. My maturity was misspent mapping the streets of New York City.
The Unstrange Phenomena pieces began as random locusts in a large swarm of cartoons, unsuccessfully marketed under such titles as (1) This is True; (2) American Wit and Humor, Pictorial; and (3) Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous.
These cartoons contained NO recurring characters or stories, NO talking animals, NO dysfunctional families with children expounding like they had advanced degrees in philosophy, NO topical references to pop culture. The baseline of their humor was seeing everything that everybody else saw, just from a slightly different angle. They were presented as normal explanations of absurd situations, or absurd explanations of normal situations (occasionally, absurd explanations of absurd situations).
Left to themselves these Unstrange locusts gathered and found a focus in dingbat speculation, crackpot conspiracy theories and hardcore woo. When a syndicate offered me a contract to produce a webcomic, I replied, “Uh . . . What’s a webcomic?” I was vaguely aware of their existence. Like Yetis, I had sort of heard of them, but never seen one. With some excellent editorial help from the syndicate, this resulted in a daily web feature.
Three years ago, health issues forced me to cut production to one strip a week.
All my work is produced using the latest in 12th-century technology . . . pen and ink on paper. My “work space” is the dining room table. Behind me, a bookcase holds tools, notebooks and sketch pads. Two large cardboard boxes serve as file cabinets. The box on the right is for works in progress. The box on the left is for finished pieces. Under the table is a paper bag wastebasket – my most valuable tool.
Through the magic of electronics, the finished pieces are scanned and colored. I am twice fortunate to be able to work with the Best Colorist in the business.
What’s ahead for Unstrange Phenomena? Maybe a big-time mega book deal. Maybe a TV series. Maybe franchising the museum, complete with gift shop and cafeteria. Maybe next week’s strip.
As promised, here is my advice for aspiring cartoonists:
1. Put a frame around everything you draw. Make compositions, not sketches.
2. When you are about halfway through with a piece . . . STOP!
3. Dialogue comes from the nose, not the mouth.
4. Draw three cards if you’re holding a pair.
5. Keep the curtain inside the tub.
I would like to thank my family and friends for putting up with me through all this. Thanks to the staff at GoComics for making this happen. And, to all my readers, THANK YOU. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop by.
I must leave your planet now. Remain where you are until I am gone.
Read Unstrange Phenomena here.