Today, we hear from Dave Kellett, co-director of the recently debuted STRIPPED film. Considered a love letter to comics, Dave explains how the film got its roots.
As a cartoonist, I never would’ve guessed that the best thing I’d ever do in my cartooning would be … in film. But, sometimes life leads you down interesting paths.
STRIPPED is a documentary on comic strips that I’ve been working on for four years – and debuted on iTunes in April (…as the No. 1 doc, no less! Which was cool!).
As a professional cartoonist, the project has been a dream come true. I got to travel around the U.S. and Canada with my friend and co-director Fred Schroeder, interviewing cartooning heroes from our childhood. We gathered more than 300 hours of interviews, including the first-ever recorded words from Bill Watterson, who also generously created the poster for the film.
STRIPPED sits down with everyone from Jim Davis of Garfield, Cathy Guisewite of Cathy, Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey, Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant, Matt Inman of The Oatmeal, Mike and Jerry of Penny Arcade and well over 60 more. We talked comics, daily deadlines, creativity and how the art form can be so powerful in the right hands. We also talked about the future of comics: where this art form goes in the painful switch from newsprint to pixels.
More than anything else, though, the conversations – and the movie itself – ended up being a giant love-letter to comics.
Which is appropriate … because, like so many of you, I have always loved comics. I love how these carefully crafted little panels can be so immersive and powerful. And I love how one person – a single, solitary person – can create and populate these worlds on a daily basis, for decades on end.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a cartoonist. And like so many cartoonists my age (I’m 40), I always assumed that my career would find its footing on the newspaper page. That was the brass ring of comic strips: The shining outlet where my heroes Schulz and Watterson and Breathed and Larson produced amazing work.
My path ended up being different, though.
After college, two stints in grad school, and an eight-year run working in the toy industry, I ended up finding my cartooning career in webcomics. Specifically, with two strips – SHELDON, a daily gag-a-day strip, and DRIVE, a long-form sci-fi strip.
Like every good parent, I love both my children equally: Sheldon allows for all sorts of jokes on pop culture, literature, history, pets, coffee and more. It can be single-panel, stand-alone goofiness … or long, emotional, character-based storylines that go on for weeks. And Sheldon allows for changes in art styles, too: Over the years I’ve used inks, watercolors, washes, digital painting, you name it. It’s a really fun strip to draw.
DRIVE, on the other hand, is more the storyteller’s strip, and channels my inner sci-fi nerd. I’m really enjoying writing the seven-year arc it’ll take me to finish the story. Drive combines my love for dark, serious sci-fi like Frank Herbert’s Dune, with goofy characters and stories, like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series.
With both these strips, I have no editor, no distributor, no layers between myself and my audience. Which is both the greatest thing ever, and a tricky balancing act. Because, ultimately, I have to wear all the hats in my career: I have to handle the accounting, the legal, the business minutiae, manage an office employee – and still have time for the creative stuff I live for.
Which in part is why STRIPPED got made: I wanted to talk about how cartooning is both flourishing during this time of change, but also changing drastically. Something fundamental is changing about comics: There are more voices, speaking to more people, about more topics – but we no longer have the four or five “water cooler” comics that folks can talk about at the office. It’s a fragmented world for comics, with more cartoonists making a living from their art, but speaking to far smaller audiences – and that’s both good and bad.
But ultimately, STRIPPED is my chance to sort of … give back … to an art form that’s given me so much in my life. Comics taught me to read, kept me company as a shy kid, helped me learn joke construction and art composition, and lifted me up through good times and bad. And if this film can channel even a tiny slice of the joy I’ve gotten from comics over the years – both as a reader and as a cartoonist – then I’ll consider it a success.
Thanks to our hundreds of fans who entered our "Stripped" documentary giveaway contest. We have selected our four winners!
FIRST PRIZE - A "Stripped" theater-sized movie poster featuring artwork by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson: Joanna Cortez.
SECOND PRIZE - A copy of "Stripped" on DVD: Omri Dvir, John Duffy and Jim Gelvin.
Congrats to Joanna, Omri, John and Jim! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your shipping address and phone number. Please note: You must contact us by 4/16/14 or your prize will be forfeited and another winner will be chosen.
If you didn't win, the film is available for purchase and rental now on iTunes. Take a look to see many of your favorite GoComics cartoonists talking about their craft and the cartooning industry. Click for details.
It's no April Fool's Day joke: we have a giveaway that could be considered legendary (RIP Barney Stinson, HIMYM).
Today, a new comic strip documentary was released on iTunes - Stripped. The film focuses on the history and future of the comics industry and talks with many of the top cartoonists in the world. From the GoComics family, the credits reads like a "who's who" of comics. This includes:
Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) - his first recorded interview in at least two decades.
Take a look at the trailer:
The film was so highly regarded that the notoriously private Bill Watterson came out of retirement to draw the movie poster - his first public cartoon since retiring from Calvin and Hobbes.
To celebrate this day with you and our cartoonists, we've partnered with the film's directors on a giveaway. You will have a chance to win our grand prize (the Stripped movie poster with artwork drawn by Watterson) or one of three second-place prizes (a DVD copy of the film).
Enter the contest by commenting below and answering the following two-part question: What is your favorite newspaper comic strip AND what is your favorite webcomic?
The contest will end at noon CT on Wednesday, April 9. This contest is open worldwide to all comics fans. If you have won a GoComics prize in the past week, you are not eligible. By entering, you are open to your entry being used by Universal Uclick/GoComics and the Stripped filmmakers in promoting the film and its outreach.
One of my first memories of television, circa 1952, is of the music and introductory sequence for Crusader Rabbit, a cartoon series created by Alex Anderson and Jay Ward (Ward later created The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show). On my first visit to the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, I was stunned to see, on display in the lobby, the animation table on whch Crusader Rabbit was created.
While on a recent late-night "let's see what's out there on YouTube" adventure I was able to catch up with my old pals Crusader Rabbit and Rags the Tiger, and then pushed on, deep into the astonishing world of old animated cartoons. It made me appreciate how fortunate I was, growing up in the 50s in Sacramento, California, in that every afternoon there were hours of programming that mainly consisted of every variety of amazing already-then-old cartoons.
The first time I remember re-visiting these toons was in the late-70s-early-80s, when I was working in NY publishing and hanging out at the Museum of Cartoon Art in Port Chester, then housed in a truly eccentric castle-like house made of cement. They kept tapes of rare old cartoons running constantly in one of the main exhibit rooms. ThIs was not only before the net, but before CDs, cable TV, and the widespread release of old films, TV shows, and movies. Before VHS distribution, you could only see these things if you happened upon them on broadcast TV, or went to a screening in a college town or arranged by afficionados. You couldn't possess any of it, unless you had actual film copies, which were extremely rare.
Every time I go back to these cartoons I am amazed by the beauty and ingenuity and playfulness -- and struck by the importance of the music, which is completely wound up with the movement and storytelling. Immersion in this world of endless visual riffing and inventiveness had a profound effect on me, and I'm sure on millions of my peers -- including a generation of future cartoonists. And I think the fact that in many of the old cartoons everything -- instruments, voices, sound effects -- was part of the music meant that "watching" was as much an aural experience as a visual one. This may have contributed to the central role music played in our lives as we got older, by making us good listeners.
I am doubly fortunate in that my own kids grew up in another golden age of cartoons -- The Rugrats, Doug, The Angry Beavers, Spongebob, The Fairly Oddparents, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. For those who have not yet encountered the earlier work, I invite you to enjoy this simulation of a 1950s afternoon of in front of the television:
Once upon a time, there was a boy who grew up in the idyllic town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He loved comics and was really good at telling stories. He grew up and developed a really great one into a comic strip about a young blond boy with a vivid imagination and impressive vocabulary. The boy had a stuffed tiger that would come to life and join him for adventures throughout his neighborhood. Many consider this comic the greatest comic strip of all time. After a decade of wonderful work, the man retired at an early age, leaving the rest of the world wanting for more and still remembering this boy and his beloved tiger.
Most comic lovers know this as the story of Bill Watterson and "Calvin and Hobbes." Of the many questions and comments that we receive about our comics and cartoonists that are a part of the GoComics family, both creators and fans alike always point to "Calvin and Hobbes" as setting an industry standard that stands the test of time.
As the syndicate representing Bill Watterson, we greatly respect his privacy and appreciate that his work continues to grow from generation to generation. We wanted to share news of a film that is releasing next month (November 15) that celebrates his work and includes several Universal Uclick/GoComics cartoonists, along with some of our very own staff members!
Perhaps providing the greatest insight into the relationship and significance of "Calvin and Hobbes" were the segments with Universal Uclick President Emeritus Lee Salem (Bill Watterson's editor), Universal Uclick President John Glynn and Universal Uclick Managing Editor Sue Roush.
Watch the trailer for the film:
The movie will release in select theaters and via video-on-demand on Friday, November 15. Throughout this year, the film has received a great response at several American film festivals, noting its class and respect for both Bill Watterson and his work.
What impact did Calvin and Hobbes have on you? Are you planning on seeing this movie? Let us know what you think. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #dearmrwatterson.
As a fan of longtime AMU writer Roger Ebert (I highly recommend his book Life Itself: A Memoir) I was delighted to come upon a link to zenpencils.com, the web site of Gavin Aung Than, a freelance cartoonist based in Melbourne, Australia. Than adapts inspirational quotes into comic stories, and his version of one of Roger Ebert's most widely-circulated passages is excellent.
It begins "'Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs."
I'd borrow the whole strip and paste it in here, but it would occupy about three feet of vertical space -- plus you will enjoy visiting his site, where signing up for his mailing list rewards you with three free frameable prints. You can read the Ebert piece here, and more about Mr. Than here.
p.s. Oops. I just realized John Glynn beat me to it, posting about this yesterday, but I'll leave it up on the theory that other readers may be as behind as I was.
If you're on social media or spend time on YouTube, you may have seen the "Harlem Shake" viral dance videos that have taken over, including becoming worldwide trending topics on Twitter. We have joined in on the fun.
Can you name all of the characters that are featured in the video? Leave your guesses in the comments section below by Wednesday, February 27. We'll choose a winner to receive an autographed print from Dilbert's Scott Adams!