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October 29, 2014

Calvin at the Bat, Week 5



Well, here we are: the end of baseball in 2014. It's been a fun trip, heading this deeply into the postseason hinterlands with our beloved Royals, and no matter what happens tonight, it's been fun for everyone.




Having utterly expended all the sporting-, baseball-, football- and Calvinball-related Calvin & Hobbes strips over the last month, today we'll enjoy some of his more literal heroic exploits, which seems a fitting close to our amazing season.




























Go Royals.




October 22, 2014

Calvin at the Bat, Week 4



I'll be honest: the strategy that led me to this point is sort of coming apart. Having posted three weeks' worth of base- and Calvinball-themed strips in celebration of the Royals' march towards baseball supremacy, I've expended all my material before the conclusion of their Cinderella season.




Okay, counting those two strips above, we're fresh out of Calvin & Hobbes' baseball stuff. However, take heart: one major screwup doesn't necessarily spell doom, however grim it might first appear.





That's right, True Believers: there are still a bunch of football-themed strips. Since football is also a sport, and my ability to differentiate between it and baseball is spotty at best, as far as I'm concerned, it's basically the same thing. Sports!










































"Why didn't you just run some Peanuts cartoons this week? There are probably hundreds of those about baseball, many of which we'd find more relevant than your ham-fisted attempt to compare the Royals' performance in Game 1 to your own failings as a guy who posts things on this blog," you're probably thinking, or about to think. And you're correct, but I didn't think about that until I'd finished typing the second paragraph above, and re-writing this current paragraph to cop to it has eaten up much of my late afternoon. Just be thankful we made it this far, no matter what happens next.





Go Royals.







October 15, 2014

Calvin at the Bat, Week 3


YOU GUYS, IT'S ALL HAPPENING. We just received word here at Comics Tower that everyone gets to go home early today to go watch the Royals secure their destiny. With time so short, you'll forgive me if this week is less matter, more art. BECAUSE SPORTS.






Having used up the majority of baseball-related Calvin & Hobbes strips over the last two weeks, this week we're going deep on Calvinball. For as large a space in my brain as Calvinball has occupied since childhood, there are surprisingly few strips about it. I have no idea what I'll post next week, when the Royals win the Stanley Cup at Wimbelton. I'll drop Bill Watterson a line and see about him drawing us some new strips to keep the blog content fresh.






























Okay, all done. Now to begin my pre-game ritual of painting my entire body blue and white. Luckily, we've been on such a winning streak that I only have to touch up some areas where previous paint jobs have begun to flake, mostly just on the joints. Management might be irritated that i keep ruining their office chairs, but I just point out that the heart-shaped blue and white buttprints I've left behind will serve for years to come as a stirring reminder of our beloved team's Cinderella season, and then we high-five. SPORTS.




October 08, 2014

Calvin at the Bat, Week 2



It's been a big week for me, developmentally. After last week's first baseball-themed Calvin & Hobbes post, wherein I adopted a "comics > sports" batting stance, last Friday night saw me hunkering down and watching the entirety of the Royals v. Angels game, asking lots of questions, studying the patterns, and by the end of the ordeal, cheering along with people who didn't have to make the conscious decision to celebrate before savoring the Royals victory. I had no idea how much spitting would be involved!







Even my dog, who I'd brought along to give myself a more polite means of distraction than staring at my phone during expected boring stretches, was up and barking by the end. I got her from a shelter, so for all I know, she was potty-trained on the sports section, but this was the first overt indication that she was capable of being excited by something more complex than the walk from the couch to the front door in the moments leading up to her daily walk. Sure, she might've just been terrified by the sudden, extremely loud outburst of strangers yelling at a wall, but I'm pretty sure I heard a distinct "Go Royals!" in her bays.





As promised in last week's post, the Royals' Big Win results in more Calvin & Hobbes baseball-themed comics. It might've been a shortsighted move to burn through as many of these as I have so soon, but I didn't expect much to come of their postseason dreams, because I am a bad person. I suppose the next logical stakes-hike to promise for the in the event of future Big Wins for the Royals is a thorough survey of Calvinball. If (I mean when) they win the World Series, I'll spray paint my dog to look like a tiger and shoot a video of us touring Cooperstown, or something of similarly compelling viral potential. Sports!  




























Go Royals,



Hurricane Calvin



Here's a thing: An editor at Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science tallied up the total cost of all physical damage done by Calvin and/ or Hobbes over the span of the strip's run.





Say what? I'll let editor Matt J. Michel explain: 


The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is a four-volume set containing every published comic strip of Calvin and Hobbes in chronological order. I started with November 18, 1985 (the first comic) and determined every instance in which either Calvin (or Hobbes) caused any type of physical damage or it was mentioned that Calvin had caused some damage. For every event, I recorded the date of the strip and the type of damage caused (i.e., if it was a specific item, or was property damage) with a brief description of the circumstances leading to the damage. There had to be an explicit depiction or mention of physical damage in order for the event to be recorded. Thus, any damage possibly resulting from episodes like “the noodle incident” (or its predecessor, “the salamander incident”) were not counted.

To estimate the cost from damaged goods, I searched for comparable items, with some exceptions (e.g., Calvin’s Mom seems somewhat fashionable, so when Calvin placed an incontinent toad on her sweater, I looked for a replacement on To estimate cost for property damage, I used and (using the zip code for Chagrin Falls, OH). In the few instances in which a monetary value was given in the comic, I used that value.


Are there charts, graphs and so forth to further demonstrate his research? You bet. It's science!



This is wonderful. Do yourself a favor and go read it at the almost dirty-sounding PNIS website.



[h/t Gizmodo!]




October 01, 2014

Calvin at the Bat



The reason I know next to nothing about sports is because I know lots and lots about comics. I don't necessarily think the two are mutually exclusive, though I'm entirely biased in thinking that I made a much better use of my free time over the years. However, I do suspect sports fans have more fun tailgating than comics fans, since they get to do it outdoors and with other people.












That said, it's been a big enough week for sports here in KC that the excitement has filtered down even to me. While I can't state the specifics, I've been told that our (your) beloved Royals have made it to the postseason for the first time since the widespread adoption of the telephone, and this is cause for celebration. Thus, Go Royals.




I walk to work every day, and while I try not to make excessive eye contact with passers-by, I have noticed peripherally that the public's manner of dress frequently corresponds with an upcoming sporting event. For instance: if everyone is wearing ketchup-and-mustard-colored Zubaz pants, the Chiefs must be due for another game soon, likely within the next day or two. Royals fans sport their blues internally most seasons, but this year, there's been a steady increase in externalized sartorial support, culminating in an impressive show of unity yesterday, when even I swapped out my white undershirt for a blue one over lunch, letting the tiny triangle of fabric peeking out of my collar signal to the world, "Go Royals," though other fans would have to lean in to notice, so I planned to whisper it.




In an effort to connect with my fellow humans, I thought I'd share these baseball-themed Calvin & Hobbes comics. For sports fans, there's sports, and for comics fans, there's comics. Finally, some common ground!






Hey, sports fans: clicking on any of these will open them much larger in another window. Trust me, you should do this.

























If the Royals keep hope alive this time next week, I'll dish out another batch of these. If not, expect to see Charlie Brown on the pitcher's mound, crying in the rain.




For really real, though: Go Royals.





September 26, 2014

It's a Great Poster, Charlie Brown!



Over the last few years, there's been a marked uptick in alternate posters for beloved films created by all sorts of artists, often in collaboration with the films' directors. Mondo regularly puts out limited-edition versions of these things, rotating through every conceivable genre, era and taste on a regular basis. I'm sure there's some sort of schedule for their release, but I don't make enough money to even consider buying one, so I mainly just check in every month or so, think, "Gee, I wish I made a living wage," and then save the highest-resolution version I can to a special folder for later envy, before going back to my dinner of fish bones and boiled shoelace spaghetti on a trashcan lid.




I just stumbled across this new poster for "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" by super-awesome artist Nicolas Delort. It's not for sale just yet-- you'll have to wait until October 2nd-- but you can feast your eyes on 'em here, then go read a really awesome post on their creation on Blurrpy. Dude is spookily talented.




[h/t Superpunch!]

September 24, 2014

The Stacks, M-N



Ooh, lawdy! It's already been a whole week since our last hang sesh! After last time's 20+ strip salute to Marmaduke, I think it's time we reloaded our fun-guns with grapeshot, to widen our spread.




This week, we're reaching ever deeper into the now-mythical Archive Selects folder, nearly having to stand on a chair to grasp the clusters of Moderately Confused, Monty and Nancy squirreled away near the bottom.




Thankfully, we've always relished the taste of milk, and as a result, our muscles and bones have grown sinewy and strong, respectively. Next week, we might need an apple box or the sturdy density of a stuffed Ziggy doll on which to boost ourselves, but today, all we needed was our iron will and luxuriously long tiptoes.




Some folks think it's disgusting that our tiptoes are nearly as long as fingers, but we figure those folks are just jealous of the nice things we can afford with all the loose change we pick up without bending over. Now, who wants to race to the top of that tree?









































Woo! We did it. Next week: more of the same, except entirely different! Oh no, now bear is driving! How can this be?!



September 17, 2014

The Stacks, Marmaduke Edition



Ahoy there, True Believers! After a week off to nurse my severe paper cuts, I believe I'm emotionally and physically ready to return once again to my bulging Archive Selects desktop folder, a long-neglected batch of dynamite strips that I assembled years ago in an effort to provide blog content to my future self. It also contains advice to invest in Apple Computer and Snuggie stock, because the 2011 version of me didn't quite grasp that the only way one profits off of time travel is for the future version to advise the past version, instead of the other way around.




The reasons are murky, but I have always harbored a sincere, thorough appreciation of Marmaduke. So much, in fact, that I can think of four distinct times in my life where I've had to be told forcefully to stop talking so much about Marmaduke (only one of these times was during my employment here). One month early on in my blogging tenure, I wrote over 2000 words about various aspects of his strip, to the delight of… well, mainly me, but I'm pretty sure that's the whole idea behind blogging in the first place. As such, I'm devoting this week to just him, and feeling really good about my decision.






What's easy to miss for the casual reader of the strip is that Marmaduke, on a semi-regular basis, goes well beyond the premise of "a big dog is big." Here's a whole post about his interactions with aliens, for example. Slightly less regularly, it contains really keen observations about life with a dog, giant or otherwise. Pretty consistently, it radiates the sweetness behind the bond that allows us to refer to animals who regularly eat poop as our best friends, and every once in a while, it lets itself get a little weird. Just a little, though. 























Please direct your attention in the following strip to the fact that Marmaduke has a cake on his head. He thinks he's people (with a cake on his head)!








There's an occasionally reoccurring notion in the strip that bones grow from bushes and trees, like fruit. This is always fantastic.








Another reoccurring theme is "Marmaduke did something bad enough to involve the police." It's surely slobber- or tresspassing-related, but since we only witness the end of his spree, it hints at crimes sinister enough to incur the long, rolled-up newspaper of Johnny Law.








Ultimately, Marmaduke only wants to love and be loved, and occasionally dine on fresh cat meat. I think we can all identify.





Next week! Back to a varied selection of different comics, many of which begin with different letters of the alphabet which follow "M"! I wish I had a dog's sense of the passage of time, so it wouldn't feel so far from now. 




My apologies to all the other blog posts which were fire hosed off the front page by the length of this one. If I were as wily as Marmaduke, I'd eschew asserting myself in passive-aggressive ways, which I guess would probably manifest in me biting people. Or maybe a new wardrobe consisting of Big Dog shirts?? 


Sit, Ubu, Sit,


September 03, 2014

The Stacks, H-L



As has become the custom over the last few weeks, we again find ourselves hip-deep in my fabled Archive Selects folder, clutching the fronts of our collective shirts in our fists as we attempt to keep its hem unsullied by the brackish, inky waters. We wade forward, ever forward, towards a horizon that promises Garfield-orange sunrises and the dawning of comics drawn after 2009. We've come so far already, and yet, judging by the faded letters nailed to fenceposts (I'm envisioning this as a sort of forgotten swamp), we're not even halfway home. This would be cause for despair, were this an actual journey through soggy, uneven terrain and not a silly framing device for me to share more great comic strips with you. Our spirits are buoyed enormously by this news.





This week, let's all get trenchfoot by stomping around in highlights from Herman, Jump Start, Knight Life and Lola! I'll put on some Creedence to get us in the mood. 













































What a fantastic workout! It's almost worth it just for the feeling of getting to peel our waterlogged socks off afterwards. For now, let's rest. While we may not speak the same language as the feral natives who make their homes here, one needs no Rosetta Stone to translate their chanted incantation of what lies ahead: "Marmaduke, Marmaduke, Marmaduke." I just hope he doesn't require a sacrifice. Sees youse nexts weeks!



August 27, 2014

The Stacks, G-G





Ahoy! Welcome back to our second dip into my long-forgotten "Archive Selects" folder. While I'd planned to span another stretch of the alphabet with today's entry, looks like we've hit a bit of a roadblock, resulting in a detour down Grand Avenue. It'd be nice if we could stay on schedule and get the H out of here, but we're going to have to take the long way. This dang monorail construction is never going to end!






Grand Avenue, by Steve Breen and Mike Thompson, is about as wry as a comic can be without being actually, actively mean-spirited. This makes sense-- each of the creators keep their pencils sharp through their respective work as editorial cartoonists, a fact that almost led me to type something about "the whetstone of satire," which, we can agree, would be a terrible thing to say.






Gag-wise, Grand Avenue is consistently snappy and refreshing. I can't tell you how good it is to finally find a legitimate reason to describe something as "snappy." Sure, I've used it in other instances, but the only other time it was an accurate summary was when I served as a character reference for my turtle roommate's job search. I'm not proud of this joke, but going through it together made our bond stronger, Dear Reader.



















Ah, the scenic route. This is a pretty nice street; all that cross-hatching really ups the property value. Next week: more letters, worse jokes! 






August 21, 2014

The Stacks, A-F



Earlier today, I dug up a half-remembered folder on my computer that I made a few weeks after I started working here. Based on the volume of different comics I see in an average day, I realized pretty quickly that I'd need some mechanism through which I could preserve particularly delightful comics for my own enjoyment that didn't involve scrapbooking. Thus, I made a folder called "Archive Selects," and tossed everything in there that struck me as worthy of inclusion.


A few weeks after that, they assigned me a lot more work to do, and I sort of forgot about nuturing my collection, leaving it to languish for quite a while its quality fermented. In a good way.









Obviously, we have a lot of comics around here. We add new ones all the time! It's great, lemme tell you. But once those comics aren't new, we corral them into our Archive, where they wait patiently for some distant week when their creator goes on vacation, so that they might be hefted up into the sun once more, chosen as that week's batch of reruns. It just breaks my heart every time I have to pull a vacation week; all those little cartoon eyes peeking expectantly up at me. Poor things. I wish I could rescue each and every one of you.


In an effort to boost our Archives' collective morale, we'll trot out some of the best stuff I saved lo those many years ago to Archive Selects. Today? A through F. Next week? I'll have to check a dictionary, but I think we start at "G."


Yum. Please enjoy some highlights from Born Loser, The Buckets, Drabble and Ferd'nand. Then go read them every day. Deal? Deal.

















Great, great, great. Hey, how about nine Ferd'nand strips to send you on your way? He's little and silent and foreign, so he won't make much fuss.





















Stay frosty,


August 14, 2014

All That Frazz

From the sound of it, last week's Frazzstravaganza was pretty popular with those of you who enjoy things that are objectively terrific. Glad to hear it-- Frazz gets to feel the love, and I get to feel a little less alone in this big, mean world after noticing how perfectly our respective tastes overlap. I can't wait to find out what else we have in common... I bet you like soft pillows and pepperoni pizza, too!




I'm tempted to use this week's entry to burn off the thousand or so leftover words I cut from last week's entry about Frazz's joke structure and my complicated numerological theories where every third numeral that appears in the strip actually spells out the true name of God (it's "Ricky"), but a jam-packed workload this week means I'll have to dispose with the haughty nonsense until sometime down the road. Instead, have another sip from the fire hose!


































Ah, refreshing! Thanks, Frazz.



August 07, 2014

I Know What You Did Frazz Zummer

Jef Mallet is a runner. He's also a swimmer, a bike enthusiast and (probably) expert swordsman. After he towels off, he also draws Frazz, which is likely already one of your favorite comics. Fortunately for all of us, a lot of Jef comes through in his work.


Reading Frazz, I like to think about Jef jogging along a circuit, eyes forward but attention elsewhere, mentally working out the next week of comics. It's pretty efficient. I do most of my thinking just sitting here, trying to come up with blog post topics.




It's probably just coincidence, but a lot of Jef's gags operate on a similar circular track, as demonstrated by the above strip. Because Frazz is such a treat to read, I picture his jokes structured not as a circuit's elongated, yawning O, instead, they loop gracefully around themselves, making a nicely tied bow. Hey, shoelaces on running shoes are tied in bows! Jef enjoys running! The imagery! It's like a hall of mirrors!



For just a moment after reading the above strip, I merely enjoyed it, and then I actually got the joke, and I made a silent vow to myself that I wouldn't pretend that I got it right away when I posted it. I still can't believe how great it is. It's like a fractal!




I've written of my admiration for Jef's work before, but Frazz is so consistently terrific I figured revisiting some of his older daily strips was in order. Fun fact: I would've spelunked into the archives for my own enjoyment. That I also have a forum in which to share some of my favorites is but mere coincidence.


































There are maybe ten strips of which I can think that consistently delight, day after day. Before I read Frazz, my list only had nine entries, and one of those entries was an idea I had for my own comic that I pinned to my Vision Board as an aspirational prompt. My admiration is such that I've spent the last two nights of my own free time writing, then deleting, a few hundred words of incredibly stuffy explorations of Frazz's jokes' structure, detailed theories about how his setups seem like the sorts of musings one might have while out jogging, and paragraph after paragraph specifically listing traits that make Jef and his work so doggone endearing. I consider it a sign of my continuing maturation that I realized the folly of posting such nonsense before it was too late.


What I'm saying here is, you should read more Frazz. It's the best.


This level of sustained sincerity feels strange to me. I need to go appreciate something ironically. Ah, that's better.


July 30, 2014

Bless Your Art

Stahler - Seurat Cellphone ParodyJeff Stahler


Who likes comics? Wha-- everyone? That's good. Here are a bunch of comics I've had knocking around my hard drive for a while for want of a reason to post. August's sticky stubbornness saps me of my need to adhere to a theme, so open wide and drink from the fire hose.


Off the Mark - M&Ms Peanut Bar



Off the Mark - Easier Drawing

Off the Mark



Nc_c080923 - iron manNancy


Sn030531 - feel like a romanThe Buckets



Tom the Dancing Bug - Bagel Bites StripTom the Dancing Bug



Its_c111107 - Mermons

In the Sticks


Pe810531 - Rain VS Baseball



Pe811229 - ClosetLight



Pe950127 - DogTerribleWriter



Up090825 - czar wash

Unstrange Phenomena


Next week: substance, probably! Stay frosty!



July 25, 2014

Meet Your Heroes




It's time for Comic-Con International, when the east coast rises a full thirty feet above sea level as enthusiasts worldwide weigh down San Diego. Comic-Con is where every single one of the things that are too cool for your tiny brain to even imagine happen all at once. Merchandise and creator meet-and-greets aside, the cosplay scene has grown so vibrant that there are people there dressed as "sexy" variants on Star Wars bounty hunter/ space mummy Dengar. At least four. Even if you don't think that's cool, it's better than most of the parties you go to. Everyone wins at Comic-Con!

Another cool thing that is happening right now is that if you click on any of the images, they'll open in another tab in high-resolution. It's totally wizard.
Comic-Con is the future our forefathers fought to protect. It's the best. Everyone agrees.


To those in attendance, we salute you, and remind you to drop by our booth, number 1503. You can get a free GoComics Pro account, so you can spend your time in various lines reading sweet comics on your cool computer-phone, instead of trying to make small talk with the guy in front of you dressed like a zombie version of Frasier Crane. There will also be a ton of awesome signings from people like Bloom County and Outland creator Berkeley Breathed (who, I can say from experience, is a real peach) They might have stickers there, too. I don't know, it's not my department. I know the people who will be there, though, and they're terrific. Make them talk to you! They basically have to!








For those unable to attend, I suggest coordinating your own fan summit via your local Craigslist for opportunities to meet up with like-minded people in your area who enjoy comics and/ or dressing up like steampunk versions of historical characters. That's how my parents met, though they were dressed as steampunk versions of Mork and Mindy. It was a simpler time.  


You know what's shockingly easy to find in our archives? Comic strips about comics. Turns out, there's some overlap in those interests. Now revel in your literacy, True Believers!












You enjoyed that, right? Hey, so did we. We have lots more comics that, even when they aren't about other comics, are still comics themselves, so you can't go wrong, assuming comics are what you're after. But you don't have to take my word for it-- you can check out Calvin & Hobbes, FoxTrot, Big Nate and a seemingly infinite cast of others every dang day on our site. I think we also have an app. Yeah, we also have an app. Gosh, we're pretty great. 

July 01, 2014

Map Treasures

Cul De Sac Map


Hey, party people. If you're anything like me, you find yourself constantly wondering, "Is there a means by which I can see a detailed cross-section of the X-Men's signature jet Blackbird? How about a sail and rigging plan constitution from the late 1700s, also? Or perhaps, like, every map ever drawn into a comic book, comic strip, bathroom wall, pamphlet, screed, escape plan or tattooed on the back of a galley slave for later treasure retrieval? All in one place, I mean. FOR MY CONVENIENCE."




Well, heck. That's pretty much why Tumblr exists, my friend. Why not burn off some of your workday perusing the stacks over at Comic Cartography? It's not like you're going to get anything else done this week. It even has a nice, hi-res map plucked from our very own Cul De Sac! I mean, so do we (click on the above image for a larger version), but they have lots of other stuff, too.



June 19, 2014

Garfield's First 36 Years



It's Garfield's 36th birthday! If we were going by the list of traditional anniversary gifts as complied by librarians at the Chicago Public Library (which is apparently the list of record), Garfield would unwrap a nice set of bone china for his special day. Hang in there another year, and you're due for a tasteful chunk of alabaster, big guy!




Since Garfield's first strip wasn't about him being born, then followed by years of him being a kitten, etc, technically, this "birthday" commemorates his first appearance in print. Of course, celebrating the event in those terms would cause an annual rending of the space/time continuum in the Garfield universe, since the characters would then have to acknowledge themselves as fictional players in a syndicated comic. As that last wheezing sentence proved, it's much simpler and enjoyable to say "birthday," and leave it at that.




In the eyes of generations of readers, Garfield stands as the shorthand for all comic strips-- it's the first one many people cite when they need an example of a comic strip (this probably comes up in my life more than yours), and his ubiquity as a licensed property is bested only by Peanuts, which is saying something, since, holy macaroni, Peanuts is good at licensing.




It's a testament to the skill of Jim Davis and all the good folks at Paws, Inc that such a seemingly mundane premise ("A man has a cat") has endured for so long and remained so consistent without having to bring in a bunch of tertiary characters to provide more grist for plots. Garfield pretty much hangs out around the house, pretty much around the kitchen counter, and is pretty much the same as he was 36 years ago: lazy, hungry and unflappable. Also, fat.




Garfield is fat like Homer Simpson is fat-- he has a rounded midsection, and everyone talks about how fat he is, but it's more a source for jokes at his expense than an obstacle for the character to overcome. I would maybe point out his disturbingly large feet if I had to highlight a single attribute worth noting. His profile has been wisely revised over the years from the original design (which I'll call  "Garfield Prime"), to make him more mobile and relatable, since, while certainly more accurate in terms of "how to draw a morbidly obese house cat," Garfield Prime also falls into the category of "kind of gross and unappealing." I picture Garfield Prime as having a voice like a phlegmy George Wendt.




You don't make it 36 years in this industry with "gross and unappealing," unless you just sit at home drawing icky strips for yourself year after year that you never send to anyone, in which case, you're tangential to this industry at best. The most you can hope for is Henry Darger status, which is noble and all, but will never result in suction cup-footed characters stuck in back windows of Volvos. He might as well have never lived! 




Anyway, birthdays are great, Garfield's great, and you're great for reading this far down. Please enjoy this generous helping of Garfield- and Garfield's birthday-related miscellany from years gone by, and help yourself to some cake.*


*Cake must be provided by you.


Garfield-related miscellany, Blog Post Division:


This one time, a Garfield punchline stretched over two days. Take my word for it, or see for yourself!


Another time, Garfield was replaced as the strip's protagonist by a big, yucky dog. Now we have "Garfield's 'Poochie'"!


And yet another time, about a year ago, I posted a bunch of my favorite Garfield strips and out-of-context images, which you can click on and save and then have as a thing on your computer, if you want.



Garfield-related miscellany, Birthday-Themed Comic Strips Division:





































June 16, 2014

Garfields vs Garfields

Oh, hello. Coming up later this week, we'll have a nice, big birthday blow-out for our pal Garfield, but as we're already in a birthday-celebratin' sort of mood, I thought it might be worth cheering for the first birthday of Garfield vs Garfield, a weird thing I made around this time last year. I even made this title banner, which never ended up running, because I'd already made, like, 40 strips, and didn't think it needed to take up any more space on the blog.



GARvsGAR - TitlePanel


Now, thanks to the glory of hypertext, I can post it here, then link to the original three batches of Garfield vs Garfield strips by typing out the words "The first batch are here," "the second batch is here" and "the third here," and not care at all about my verb tenses, because I came to party, not copy edit.

Hey, look! Some highlights showed up fashionably late:


Garfield vs Garfield 1


Garfield vs Garfield 5


Garfield vs Garfield 22


Garfield vs Garfield 25


Garfield vs Garfield 28


Garfield vs Garfield 35


Garfield vs Garfield 31


Want more? Really? Whatever, mack-- go click on those links, and fill your boots. Buckle up-- more Garfleid coming up later this week.



June 06, 2014

Garfield of Dreams



Flatter than the rest of the folded newspaper sections spread out on the kitchen table, the comics section was always waiting for me, every Sunday morning for as long as I can remember. Whatever was ahead-- church, a soccer game, a trip to the pool, yard work-- Sundays started off with a few quiet minutes studying the comics. If we were in a rush, as happened with increasing frequency the older I became and the more "sleeping in" revealed itself to be the smartest option of all, I'd steal a few minutes while my parents honked the horn in the driveway to hopscotch through my favorite strips, knowing I'd be back later to read the rest and scoff at how simple the "spot the difference" puzzle was.


Sunday mornings in my parents' house remain ritualized to this day, even in my absence: if I drop by before my dad gets back from playing golf and settles in to tidying up, the comics are still out among the rest of the pre-church clutter, under the lights in the kitchen someone forgot to turn off, not realizing they were the last one out of the house when they left.


Garfield is especially suited to the broad expanse of Sundays, appearing in most papers above the fold, stretching out to take up a full quarter or more of the page. The color palate used is nice and flat, which always looks cleaner and more crisp than other strips' attempts at depth and shading through gradients, which never seem to reproduce as intended in print. This is a personal preference-- I'm all for a Pantone scale freakout, if that's what a particular creator wants.


To me, even the most hilarious Garfield gag never measured up to the title panel, which changed every week. The best part was that it didn't need to do anything (start here, end there, etc) besides somehow figuring out how to get the word "GARFIELD" in there. So week after week, there was some weird, new context for the title, encompassing all sorts of settings and fonts unthinkable in the strip proper. I'm not proud of this, but it took me a few years before I realized that the title panel never really had anything to do with the strip, no matter how hard I looked for clues.




The reason there even is such a thing as a title panel has to do with the various configurations a multi-panel strip appears in different papers around the world. With every paper's layout differing slightly, there's a functionally infinite combination of strips, columns and puzzles on pages that could be oriented vertically or horizontally, Sunday comics need to have built-in "crumple zones" (not the actual term) to account for any nips or tucks necessary to fit them onto a given page alongside the rest of the stuff on there.


For instance, ever notice how Peanuts takes a panel or two to get going, even after the title panel? That's because those first few panels can be lopped off if needed without harming the integrity of that day's gag, and the remaining panels reconfigured into a new, streamlined format. Example? Example:


  Pe770220 - snow washington


See? Lop off that first panel and the title, and you didn't miss a thing. Instead of a tall rectangle, you get a long one. Newspaper readers in markets with certain spacial configurations might never have the pleasure of seeing a title panel. Pity them.


Calvin and Hobbes is a little unique in this regard-- Bill Watterson chafed at the idea of constraining his ideas into little boxes, so he worked out an agreement that he'd fill up a box however he felt like it, then turn it in and have it run in papers without any tinkering. This isn't necessary for a lot of strips-- their scope doesn't call for such creative freedom. For anyone who remembers having their minds blown by seeing a T-Rex flying a jet in the newspaper one Sunday, you can see why it was such a smart idea to compromise on the side of the artist, instead of the format.



Click on any of these here word-pitchers for hugeness.


Earlier today, I happened to be rummaging around in the Garfield archives, renaming years and years' worth of strips translated into different languages to ensure they all adhered to the same naming conventions for future database searches. As my soul slowly died, I managed a saving throw, grasping on to the novelty of title panels. In order to ensure this flight of fancy counts as a work-related activity (thus remaining part of my billable hours), I've fluffed up some selections from 2006 for you to enjoy, since 2006 was where I stopped renaming things for this week. Now we both win, except in this case, you win a lot bigger than I do, since the only parts of you that have to do any work here are your eyes and whatever fingers you employ for scrolling down the page. In a way, we're also both losers for caring this much about these things, but only in the eyes of those incapable of joy. We win again! Have a nice weekend, y'all.

































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