Today is National Young Readers Day here in the U.S. I have fond memories of this time in elementary school, where our class would hold a contest for who could read the most books by this day. The four winners would get a pizza party date with our teacher. Between my fervent love of reading and my crush on my second-grade teacher, I was all about winning this prize. And I did! It was a great memory, having stacks of books set aside, knowing that I was familiar with each of them.
Kids now have many options that I didn't have growing up, thanks to technology. Instead of dog-eared pages, many new and classic books are available in digital/e-book formats. Teachers and parents around the globe have shared with us that reading comics is critical to helping children learn to read. Tying these two things together, we have great news for you, comics fans.
Today is the official release for three Calvin and Hobbes e-book collections, courtesy of our sister company Andrews McMeel Publishing! It's the first time ever that Bill Watterson, creator of the iconic strip, has allowed his work to live in e-book format. He had a hand in reviewing the layout of the entire series, so knowthat this was fully blessed by the man himself. If you grew up reading Calvin or discovered the strip in the newspapers as an adult, you'll enjoy laughing and pondering the meaning of things that may have been overlooked. They are also a perfect way to introduce comics to youngsters and to encourage their love for reading.
Plus, if you take them out for pizza afterward, I know that they'd love it. Trust me on this one.
Our "Meet Your Creator" series idea of sharing the words of our cartoonists with you has been well-received. We really appreciate your comments and sharing. This session's cartoonist is one of the rising talents in the cartooning industry, Dana Simpson. Creator of Heavenly Nostrils and Ozy and Millie (both available on GoComics), she has seen her work and followers soar in the past year. Of particular note, her current work in Heavenly Nostrils has been compared by several to the early potential that Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes experienced. High praise, indeed. Bronies and comics fans all over the world are waiting to hear from the mind behind Phoebe and Marigold's wonderful world, so I'll hand it over to Dana.
My name is Dana and my job is to draw unicorns. I really love typing that sentence.
I've been cartooning for a long time. I drew my first-ever strip when I was 5. It was called Boo and starred blue, apparently narcoleptic ghosts, I think. (It's a little unclear.)
I absorbed all kinds of comics as a kid. I loved Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, like everyone did. Bloom County was kind of a revelation to me, as was Pogo, a strip that was before my time but readily available at the library, and I was the kind of kid who goes to the library in her spare time.
In college, I concocted a strip about two eccentric young foxes attending an apparently all-animal elementary school, titled it Ozy and Millie, and accidentally became a Web cartoonist, back in the 90s, before that was really much of a thing. I drew the strip for a decade; it always had a small but devoted following, and I loved doing it.
It was about all I loved, job-wise; after college, I worked as a reporter for a small newspaper, then did a stint in grad school, all of which taught me that drawing a comic strip was just way more fun and rewarding than any of the alternatives.
The thing about Ozy and Millie, though, is I created it when I was 19. The two main characters were always very much me, and the strip was fueled by the internal conversation I was having with myself in my 20s. And as I neared 30, the conversation was changing, and it felt like time to bring the strip to a close.
And, I pretty much planned to get out of comic strips altogether. I'd been doing it for ten years. I thought, not unreasonably, that I'd taken it about as far as I could. I like to think I'd also become a pretty good artist in that time, like you do when you draw every day for years, and I was thinking of trying to become an illustrator for children's books.
That never got past the planning stage, because of the Comic Strip Superstar contest, which I entered and won, and I found myself right back in it.
I won with a strip called Girl, which was about a little girl -- originally unnamed -- hanging out with her animal friends in the woods. In the contest I'd won a contract to develop the strip for syndication. The contracts got signed, and the development began.
The strip spent fully two years, the length of my development contract, being developed, during which time a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils showed up and made herself the title character. (Also, Girl became Phoebe, after Holden Caulfield's little sister in The Catcher in the Rye.)
The reason it took so long, I think, is that, having ended Ozy and Millie, I wasn't sure anymore what I wanted to say, in comic strip form. I'd sort of already mentally cleaned out my office to move on to the next thing. The internal conversation that was Ozy and Millie had sort of been about negotiating the end of childhood, and trying to find myself on the other side; it took me some time to figure out how to reinvent that dynamic to reflect an older, more settled self.
Turns out, the answer was "little girl and unicorn."
An ageless, vain creature of myth, finding common ground with a brainy, tomboyish fourth-grader. That's what's going on inside my head these days; it's how I make sense of my life as it is right now, in comic form.
My process is all-digital, these days; I do Heavenly Nostrils in a program called Manga Studio. (This is in contrast to Ozy and Millie, which was all done on paper and in ink.) Sometimes I miss having a finished physical object, but more often I delight in not having stacks of artwork sitting around my house. I listen to music while I write, and watch TV and movies while I draw, and I'm sure all that stuff is influencing me even as we speak.
I look at strips like these and think, "Somehow, I made it my job to draw little girls and unicorns." I don't know what I ever did to deserve that kind of luck, but I want to keep doing it for a long, long time.
-- Dana Simpson
Read Dana Simpson's Heavenly Nostrils and Ozy and Millie online and on our GoComics mobile app. Like Heavenly Nostrils on Facebook and follow the comic on Twitter. Also, you can follow Dana on Twitter at @MizDanaClaire.
Over the past two years, our GoComics readers have offered an incredible level of support to our creators' projects. You've helped nearly a dozen creators in their Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. You have also let us know that you want to hear about more opportunities to support your favorite comics and cartoonists. Here is another opportunity to help a cartoonist bring an art project to life.
Daniel Shelton, creator of the sweet and endearing comic strip Ben, is on path to create his first English-published comic strip collection. But, he could use your help.
Take a look at his Kickstarter campaign by clicking here. With three weeks to go, he is well past the halfway mark toward his $5,600 (Canadian dollars) goal. International readers, we'd love to hear from you. Canadian readers, support your own! If you can't donate to support the project, please share this message via social media and use the hashtag #gocomics.
The giving tiers are among the most generous we've seen, including getting a signed comic original print at the $50 mark.
Thanks for your support of our creators and of GoComics. As Jay-Z once famously said, "You could've been anywhere in the world. But you're here with me. I appreciate that."
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!
"Dear Mr. Watterson" is a documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder that views like a love letter to Calvin and Hobbes and how comics impact the world around us. In the film, Schroeder's interviews include some of the finest cartoonists alive: Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Bill Amend (FoxTrot), Jef Mallett (Frazz), Jan Eliot (Stone Soup), Keith Knight (The Knight Life), Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur) and Lucas Turnbloom (Imagine This). Additionally, self-professed comics geek and actor Seth Green is interviewed.
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:
One of my pipe-dream goals is to get mentioned in a comic by one of our incredible GoComics creators. Well, you have a chance to win such a prize! Kevin Fagan, creator of Drabble, is holding a contest on his website, where you can enter to win a custom comic drawn by this talented cartoonist.
How to enter, you ask? It's simple. Click here, enter your name and email address and you are set! The contest has been extended to Friday, October 4, so enter soon!
Strange days are upon us politically, no matter where you reside as you read this post. History is made every day, but with border wars continuing in the Middle East and the world facing one of the largest weapons threats since the Cuban missile crisis and the Cold War, it's a time for awareness. Even those who look the other way when it comes to politics are taking note.
As we look at history, our cartoonists are taking note of a tragedy that affected the world 12 years ago: the 9/11/01 tragedies in New York City, Washington D.C. and western Pennsylvania. To honor those who served, who lost their lives and loved ones, our GoComics editorial and political social media accounts will unify for 24 hours. For one day, we will share the same content to memorialize and take note of this unforgettable time.
Follow along and/or "like" us on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
This month marked our 10th anniversary at San Diego Comic-Con, the largest pop culture event in the world. Over five days, more than 130,000 people ventured to the San Diego Convention Center and the surrounding Gaslamp District to proudly wave their geek flags. Our lean-but-mighty team of five from GoComics and our sister company Andrews McMeel Publishing (AMP) were there to participate in the whirlwind of events, cosplay, celebrities and breaking news. Here are a few bullets on what we did and how we did it:
Lots O' Planning: I have a very fun job; I get to work with talented cartoonists and writers for a living, along with many innovative digital partners in the comics, entertainment and publishing industries. I am the envy of my attorney and accountant friends every summer when I head to Comic-Con. However, for every hour that we're on the ground, we've spent at least three to five hours with planning and paperwork to make sure that we're representing our comics, creators and brands well ... along with giving you something fun and funny to follow. (That's alliteration.)
Get Out On The Floor: This year, GoComics and AMP had a double-wide booth on the convention floor and a schedule of 15 cartoonists offering free hour-long signing sessions. Between our space and our line-up, it made for a noticeable experience for passers-by. The longest lines came to see The Oatmeal, Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County; The Academia Waltz), Bill Amend (FoxTrot), Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate) and Lela Lee (Angry Little Girls).
The Streets Are Watching: Thousands of people venture to San Diego for SDCC without a convention badge to be a part of the culture for five days. With so much happening downtown, we wanted to go to where the people were. Every day, our GoComics team held a giveaway in the Gaslamp District at a surprise intersection, announced via our Twitter and Instagram accounts. T-shirts, 2014 calendars and Comic-Con-exclusive buttons were among the premium items given away to nearly 1,000 fans.
Partnerships: Comic-Con is more fun with good company to celebrate the experience. We had a great partner in the Unofficial San Diego Comic-Con Blog for their "Enchantment Under the SDCC" party. GoComics was a provider for several premium autographed prints and bound comics collections. Hundreds of comics fans had a ball; so did we.
Cartooning Industry Bonding: Something that grows from our SDCC experience each year is the number of new relationships from our diverse set of cartoonists. We bring more than two dozen creators together for a celebratory dinner in San Diego each year, where we talk shop, introduce new ideas, listen (a lot) and connect. The old mix with the new, print mixes with webcomics and all enjoy a good meal. I sometimes forget that cartoonists are also fans of one another's work, and many of them get excited to meet their idols. It's a beautiful thing.
After four years of Comic-Con, here are my tips for future goers:
If you choose to dress up and have a great costume, expect to be admired and to have to stop every 20 yards.
If you don't dress up, don't walk behind people with great costumes if you expect to get anywhere.
Plan your experience using a map and the official SDCC mobile app. It'll make your experience SO much better.
Leave enough time in your plan for cool things to happen. You never know when you'll meet someone unexpected who is the highlight of your trip. I was stuck in a crowd near a large exhibit, then comes Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, standing 20 feet away from me for an interview.
The nightlife is great in San Diego, but don't feel the need to party or entertain every night. It's a marathon.
Charge your phone whenever you can. It may help to invest in a supplemental charger. Taking pictures – and you'll want to – will drain your battery.
Always check the back patio of the convention center for food options. Much better selection than on the floor -- shorter lines and fresh air.
Did you make it to Comic Con? Meet our team? Tell us about your experience.
In January 2013, cartoonist Benjamin Scott created "Hank The Sock," a comic strip that hits on youth pop culture with a talking sock named Hank and his friend, Chuck. (This is a sentence that I never thought I would be able to write without a modicum of hyperbole.)
Sometimes dry-witted, sometimes very biting, it's frequently a fun setup between a clever character and a straight man. However, Hank and Chuck both take turns with these roles, making it break out of many of the traditional comic strip molds.
It's just starting compared to many comic strips' tenures, but "Hank The Sock" has potential. The simple panel perspective is akin to Dilbert's artistic viewpoint for how the characters engage with each other. Heavy on the puns, it has moments that will make you wince, which you will also see made evident by Hank's "wince face" that appears in several strips:
Read "Hank The Sock" here or on our NEW GoComics mobile app (on iOS, Android and Windows). Do you have a suggestion for a Sherpa Comic of the Week? Let us know.
While it's a few weeks after Father's Day, I wanted to acknowledge the fathers who are raising children on their own. One of the comics that tells a different story of parenting is The Single Dad Diaries, which highlights the day-to-day efforts of Derrick Thomas raising his son while balancing dating, an ex-wife, religion and life in the city.
- Gene Willis