Posts from Lucas Wetzel

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January 26, 2015

Comics and kids

Those of us who work at GoComics feel pretty comfortable with the idea of being grown-ups who read, edit and promote comic strips for a living. I always wanted to work in the humor/art/entertainment industry on some level, so it's a natural fit. But lately I've felt an extra level of appreciation for the craft, having watched my 2.5-year-old daughter encounter some of the GoComics characters and features for the first time.

 

It started, as it often does, with Snoopy. We found some animated shorts on Netflix (produced by Peanuts and with editorial input from folks like Stephan Pastis) and introduced her to the Charlie Brown Halloween and Christmas specials last year, which she loved (who wouldn't?). She likes to point to the characters, say their name out loud and laugh, occasionally looking over to us for affirmation. It's a fun way to watch TV. 

 

Next, I brought home a coloring book I found at the office which includes characters like Ziggy, Heart of the City, Fox Trot and others. She did an especially amazing job coloring Baldo, even if the purple skin and green hair she gave him didn't quite match our official color guide. I sent Mark Tatulli a picture of her coloring of Heart of the City and told him that if he ever needed a back-up colorist, I knew someone who would work for cheap.

 

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At the Joslyn art museum in Omaha (a pretty fantastic place if you're in that part of the world) we saw a graphic novel exhibit in the children's wing that prominently features Big Nate creator Lincoln Peirce. 

 

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The framed, original Big Nate artwork looked right at home on the wall of the fine arts museum, and seeing it on display reminded me how detailed, expressive and balanced his artwork is, especially in the graphic novels.

 

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Not that our daughter was paying much attention, since she was busy drawing pictures in the kids' craft area. It was a different story the following week when we got her her first ever McDonald's Happy Meal, which made us feel like generous and also terribly irresponsible parents at the same time. The Happy Meal toy was a cool little Big Nate book that came with stickers. I pointed out Nate, Teddy, Francis, Gina, Jenny and Artur to her, but I didn't see Chad. If you ask me, that's a pretty big missed opportunity. Chad would be an excellent spokesperson for just about any kid-friendly eating establishment.

 

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Then again, I can see why he might not be an ideal fit for a company trying to promote healthy eating options in spite of themselves.

 

Either way, kids love Chad, Big Nate, Heart, Charlie Brown and so many other GoComics characters I haven't mentioned here. As adults, it's easy to understand and explain what about the artwork and writing makes a certain feature successful. But kids appreciate this stuff on an intuitive level, experiencing a genuine delight when they see these characters. It also makes me feel proud to work where I do. In the words of UU president John Glynn, our cartoonists bring joy to people's lives. It's a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of that process, especially when you see it first hand.

 

January 10, 2015

A Tribute To Charlie Hebdo, pt. II: "Stay safe, and be not afraid"

Heavy week in the world of editorial cartooning. As mentioned in previous posts on the subject, all of us have been watching the events in Paris closely and with great sympathy. We've received several media queries wanting to get our take, and even though we do represent many editorial cartoonists, this story is less about businesses like ours than it is about larger issues of free expression, confronting terrorism, and what it means to live in a free society.

 

Still, given that the title "Charlie Hebdo" refers back to Charlie Brown (an important figure here at GoComics HQ), it's hard not to take things a little personally. While my own inclination is to internalize and reflect on these events rather than share my opinions and interpretations, our cartoonists don't have that luxury. Within hours they were sending in work relating to the attack, and it's not by accident that the fountain pen has emerged as the most iconic symbol in these cartoons as a whole. Today I'd like to share a few images and links that have helped me process this week's events.

 

First, a few words from our friends in the Eurozone, Wulff & Morgenthaler, creators of the hit strip WuMo:

 

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Today's Bad Reporter portrays our own national media in a withering light — a bold, but (I believe) necessary statement from someone who isn't afraid to make it.

 

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(I also just adore the image of the angry old journalist in front of his computer.)

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Cartoonist Ted Rall shared his thoughts yesterday in an article for the Los Angeles Times. It's a good read from a cartoonist who isn't afraid to ruffle feathers in service of making a statement, in which he recounts his own connection to the Charlie Hebdo staff and acknowledges the innate power of cartooning and the courage it takes to carry it out.

 

Some of the most interesting analysis and comparisons I've seen of European and American editorial cartoon responses to the tragedy comes from the excellent Weekly Storybook Comic Strip of the Day blog. It includes detailed discussion of different cartoons, links to other galleries and some good perspective on the cartooning business and the importance of free speech.

 

One of the most constructive things I read was a profile about the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists themselves, which a friend of mine wrote for the German magazine Der Spiegel. The article pointed out that Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Verlhac, whose pen name was Tignous, was a member of the organization "Cartooning For Peace." While his drawings were often controversial, skewering former president Sarkozy as well as those in clerical positions, Tignous clearly wanted his cartooning to be a positive social force. "If I knew that each of my drawings could prevent a kidnapping or murder, or remove a landmine, then I would not sleep anymore and would only draw," he said (my translation).

 

Cartooning, as Ted pointed out, takes courage. Not just to tackle difficult subjects using artwork, words and symbols, but also to share those cartoons with the public. I'd like to thank our cartoonists (and others across the world) for their efforts, and remind them that we deeply believe in what they are doing. Keep up the good work. In the words of Lio/Heart of the City cartoonist Mark Tatulli, who I corresponded with this morning, "It's a weird world, my friend. Stay safe and be not afraid! 

 

 

December 18, 2014

It's funny cause it's "truth"

When Jack Nicholson shouted "You can't handle the truth!" to Tom Cruise in the 1992 film "A Few Good Men," moviegoers were greatly moved by the intensity of the scene. If the same line was delivered today, however, Tom Cruise might instead say: "Actually, I've found a very concise and hilarious vehicle for delivering me the truth, one panel at a time. It's called Truth Facts and you can read it every day on GoComics.com!"

 

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Truth Facts is brought to you by the same Danish masterminds that created WuMo. It turns the fabric of our social decorum into swiss cheese-cloth, not just reading between the lines but translating what's written there into witty, irreverent observations that fit perfectly into stylish graphs, charts and pictograms. People who have already been reading Truth Facts might have noticed that the strip hadn't updated in a few weeks, but after working out a couple of kinks in the production pipeline, it's been restored to its once-a-day glory.

 

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Below (and above) are a few highlights from the past month. But I highly recommend starting with today's strip and working your way all the way to its launch earlier in the year.

 

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November 26, 2014

Comical Appetizers

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When this WuMo ran a couple of weeks ago, we had a couple of client papers pull it in advance. They didn't like the idea of a baby getting hit by a truck. Neither do we, of course. But I personally thought the WuMo guys did a great job of making a wry point about people's obsession with their cell phones. When I take my kids to a park there's always one or two parents who don't look up from their phones the whole time. The beauty of the comics is that even when depicting — or hinting at — a gruesome situation, you can still make a point and no one gets hurt. As one commenter put it, "it's funny because it's true."

 

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The Doonesbury Sunday series of Zipper's legal pot growing business continues to be outstanding. It's a topic you won't see anyone tackle on the printed funny pages, or probably anywhere else, at least not at this level of quality. With more states expected to put legalization measures on the ballots in 2016, this pioneering saga will only have more and more relevance.

 

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There are a lot of remarkable things about this two-part sequence from The Quixote Syndrome. For one, this has got to be the most prominent featuring of male anatomy anywhere on GoComics, much less in a dismembered state. For another, the story is all true. Read part 2 / The Prequel here.

 


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My favorite line of the entire month (in addition to the afore-linked "You stole my penis!") has to be "I know you've heard of history's greatest master. His name was Mister Pringles." Read more Basic Instructions here.

 


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Poncho has an amazing imagination. And so does Pooch Cafe creator Paul Gilligan.

 

Have a great Thanksgiving, folks, and stay tuned for more blog goodness all weekend long.

November 04, 2014

Election Day funnies

Here at GoComics, we have a strong social conscience. And today that conscience is telling us to remind everyone to get out and vote. While you're waiting in line to pull the ballot, check out all of these Election Day comics right here in this handy, dandy compendium. Happy voting!

 

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Fritzi and Nancy voted!

 

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A touch of cynicism from Momma

 

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The polls are on fire in Brewster Rockit

 

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The strange afterlife of "Congressguys" discussed on Real Life Adventures

 

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Goober, Block and Tonto: honest fools running for office in today's Baldo

 

Here are some more Election Day offerings from GoComics political cartoonists:

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Stuart Carlson

 

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Bob Gorrell

 

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Jeff Stahler

 

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Jerry Holbert

 

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A good note to end on, from Chris Britt

October 30, 2014

Baseball hangover

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We don't exactly have giddy grins on our faces this morning in Kansas City (far from it, in fact), but we can all agree that this MLB postseason was an exciting one. Now, if I could only stop replaying the last inning in my head...

 

Read more Win, Lose or Drew toons right here on GoComics.

October 09, 2014

Drabble drama: Home Run Blues + Exile from Pumpkinland

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Drabble is often described as a family strip, a safe and pleasant feature that readers of all ages rely on for its relatable humor and consistent chuckles. But in reality, Drabble is often a vehicle for some pretty intense moments of drama and conflict. Last month, for example, Norm found himself in a pretty rough pickle while seated at the outfield of a Major League Baseball game (click here to jump to the beginning of that storyline). I thought of this while walking around the outfield at a recent Royal's playoff game vs. the Angels.

 

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Albert Pujols, who had been mostly quiet in the first 2.5 games of the series, drove a deep ball back to left center that you could tell pretty quickly was gone. The home run cut the Royals' lead to 5-2, and the crowd quieted as Phat Al rounded the bases. Moments later, though, a chorus of cheers rang out from the home crowd. Someone had thrown the home run ball back onto the field — a hilariously defiant gesture that pretty much says "take your home run and stuff it." Once again, life had imitated Drabble.

 

The Royals went on to win that game and are now facing Baltimore in the American League Championship Series. If you read on to the conclusion of the Drabble story, you'll find a pretty satisfying conclusion as well. But the Drabble drama is far from over, as you'll see from today's strip (below).

 

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Banned from Pumpkinland!?! You're going to have to stay tooned to see how this one plays out. Until then, enjoy the playoffs, and don't forget to read your daily Drabble.

September 23, 2014

I likea Ikea

When I hear the word Sweden, three things come to mind: Swedish Chef, Swedish Fish, and the films of Ingmar Bergman. But recently, I have learned there is a fourth thing: Ikea! That's right -- the Swedish furniture superstore opened up a location here in the Kansas provinces last week, and since then my family has purchased a couple of classy diaper bins and several hundred meatballs.

 

As anyone who has purchased larger items at Ikea knows, however, the company cuts back on costs by leaving much of the assembly to the buyer. I experienced this with a baby crib a couple of years ago, but it was fairly intuitive. Some of these other products, however, are not so easy, as illustrated by WuMo:

 

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Argyle Sweater has a great take on this as well:

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If only it were so easy. I don't have a third comic today, but to keep in accordance with the rule of threes, here's a nice parting shot of this guy:

 

 

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Happy shopping, Kansas City! And if you make a date with Ikea, don't forget to follow the arrows.

September 10, 2014

WuMo!

Since being introduced to American newspapers in fall 2013, WuMo has been picked up by over 350 publications and media outlets. A longtime favorite in Europe, WuMo's sharp humor, social irreverence and general hilarity have made it a fan favorite here as well. Writer Mikael Wulff and illustrator Anders Morgenthaler are willing to skewer just about any topic, and though not all of their gags make it into print, WuMo never loses its edgy spirit. Below are a dozen of my recent favorites. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything on the funny pages with this level of artistic detail and startled, bug-eyed expressions, to say nothing of the offbeat humor and subtle — or stinging —  social commentary. Enjoy!

 

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Read more WuMo comics every day right here at GoComics!

August 20, 2014

To be young, gifted and opinionated

Though I often think of GoComics as a happy place I can go to read comics and escape the world's insanity, it's also a great destination to get a little perspective and a dry, humorous outlook on many of the big stories and issues currently setting our world aflame. The GoComics Editorial roster includes Pulitzer Prize winners and heavyweights like Pat Oliphant, Tom Toles and Signe Wilkinson, but I often find myself turning to some of the younger voices for both unconventional styles and an extra degree of outrage.

 

Here's a smattering of recent offerings from three of my favorites, starting with this trio from Darrin Bell.

 

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And from Matt Bors...

 

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and from Jen Sorensen

 

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August 13, 2014

The Saurus is my favorite dinosaur

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If this were an actual trap, I would have been caught. Most of my colleagues would have been, too. English majors (and copy editors) like me really can't resist wanting to reach into the screen to grab the erroneous "you're," pluck out the apostrophe like an errant eyebrow hair, hack off the "e" and squish it all back together. We do it every day, less out of pedantry than compulsion.

 

My only question with this "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal" is who is hunting English majors, and why? Are these flannel-clad men job hunters? Sensitive chaps who want to corral free ghostwriting and proofreading skills for the autobiographies they've always wanted to write but haven't ever felt confident enough to do so? We'll probably never know. But that little bit of mystery, combined with the epic levels of sugary whimsy found in every SMBC, is what keeps me reading.

 

As for the whole grammar/spelling stickler thing, I can't promise us English majors are going to tone it down any. Not while Deer Jesus is still out there, anyway...

 

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August 05, 2014

Finny Business

While Danish humorists Anders and Morgenthaler have made a huge splash in papers this past year with WuMo, another Scandinavian comic has been quietly garnering chuckles on GoComics for several years now. Viivi & Wagner, a lovely black and white strip by Finnish cartoonist Jussi "Juba" Tuomola, follows the odd-couple relationship of a human lady (Viivi) and her porcine paramour/roommate (Wagner).

 

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Viivi & Wagner started out as a feature for children in the magazine Kultapossu, with Viivi as a small girl and Wagner a talking piggy bank, but it eventually evolved into the more adult-oriented strip you see today. Wagner is a little bit off-color,  with Viivi offering a sensible, sardonic counter-punch, but it's the pig's utter laziness that I wanted to focus on today.

 

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Lazy-Ass magazine... now that sounds like a publication I'd be qualified to write for. Just ask my colleagues. (Actually, no... don't ask them that. That might not be good.)

 

One of my favorite things about Viivi & Wagner, in addition to the fantastic line-art and clever, humorous set-ups, is that the comic strip even inspired a brand of beer in Finland.

 

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If I ever make it over to Helsinki, someone better hook me up!


Enjoy more Viivi & Wagner here.

July 23, 2014

stretching the comics canvas

If you've been reading GoComics for a few years, you've likely noticed an explosion in new offerings on our A to Z listing. While single-panel toons and three- or four-panel funnies have long made up the traditional core of our content, some of the more recent additions require some serious scrolling and a bit of in-depth reading. While there will always be lame-o's who type "TLDNR" on anything over 140 characters, many others (like me) are delighted to see artists stretch the form to include literature, inspirational quotes, history and storytelling.

 

Today I'd like to spotlight three examples of GoComics cartoonists who work on a wide canvas, but I'd welcome any other suggestions in the comments. Let's start with a peek at Zen Pencils, by Australian artist Gavin Aung Than.

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There you have it... a scarily honest yet wonderfully poignant sentiment by Sylvia Plath captured in artwork. I love the arrangement of the words beside the falling figs. It's like a bit of concrete poetry in a graphic novel. Zen Pencils is as remarkable for its diversity of artistic styles as it is the wide range of source material. It's consistently inspirational and always fun to read.

 

If you're headed to San Diego Comic Con this weekend, stop by the Andrews McMeel Publishing/GoComics booth (#1503) on Friday 3.30-4.30pm and on Sunday 12.30-1.30pm to meet Gavin and see some examples of his upcoming book.

 

 

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Peter Mann, the artist and writer of The Quixote Syndrome, teaches in the Humanities program at Stanford University, where he occasionally uses these comics as teaching materials. The above illustration from last week presents a Franz Kafka parable in its entirety, with artwork that drives home the disorientation and reminds us how "Kafkaesque" came into the commen lexicon. You'll need to enlarge it to keep from squinting, but its well worth your while. Catch more Quixote Syndrome here.

 

 

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Eleri Mai Harris, of Eleri Mai Harris Cartoons, has been doing a great series about American history and civic identity, including this strip from earlier in the year depicting the Solidarity Singers of Madison, Wisconsin. I visited Madison over the weekend, and though I didn't make it into the State House in time to hear the 11:00 a.m. singing protest, I did hear a couple of the Solidarity Singers sharing their message outside the State House at the weekly farmer's market. Check out more of her recent large-format cartoons on GoComics.

July 01, 2014

Ripley's: Sometimes you have to see it to believe

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Ripley's Believe it Or Not, an illustrated feature that runs daily on GoComics, presents so many interesting facts, historical trivia and fascinating people that you almost have to remind yourself that they're real (although technically the title does give one the option of doubt, the fact-checkers dept. hasn't found any spurious claims yet).

 

One aspect of the feature that makes the informational tidbits really stand out is the artwork, which are pencil and ink drawings based on a variety of sources including historical photos, news reports, medical and biology textbooks — just about anything you can think of. Many of the images are of ordinary people with extraordinary stories, such as Miss Mena the fire eater. Last week, after North Carolina-based photographer Lisa D. Johnson recognized one of her subjects in the Jan. 4 Ripley's panel above, we asked her to share her original photo of Miss Mena so we could give readers a window into Ripley's rendering process and highlight Lisa's photography work.

 

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To see more of Lisa's images, visit her website. To read more Ripley's, head on over to GoComics and add it to your daily reads.

June 24, 2014

Adam @ 30

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Like so many others, I've grown up with Adam@Home. When I first read it in the Kansas City Star in the '80s, I was a kid who enjoyed Clayton and Katy's sense of mischief and Adam's interest in computers (we had a spiffy Apple IIGS at the time). These days, as a sleep-deprived parent with perpetually disheveled hair and an ever-present mug of coffee in front of his MacBook, I can identify much better with Adam himself. Hard-working Laura's skepticism and dry sense of humor keeps the rest of the family in check, while baby Nick makes everyone smile without needing to say a word.

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While the artwork and color in Adam@Home has always bounced right off the page, it's really Brian Basset's (and now Rob Harrell's) writing that sets it apart from other family strips. Adam@Home is full of goofy ideas and little details, seamlessly incorporating over-the-top humor into everyday settings. Even better, the characters seem to genuinely like each other, giving the strip a warmth and charm that you won't find on television or even many other places on the funny pages.

 

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Recently I've found myself going back through the archives on GoComics (available from 1995 on) and appreciating how much humor and weirdness Bassett was able to wring from what looks on the surface like a very ordinary suburban life. The settings in Adam@Home were always fairly normative (manicured lawns, stucco houses, streets and drive-thrus lined with minivans), but the characters' wry observations and overactive imaginations made it clear that these neighborhoods were actually made up of quirky, whimsical individuals like the Newtons. It's a strip that promotes individuality by gently lampooning the universal.

 

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While as a younger person I mostly read Adam as a good-natured spoof of the middle-class family life, I now view it as a healthy way of retaining one's sense of humor in the face of growing older. The beauty of this (and other) comics is that they all mean different things to different people, and without a doubt Adam@Home has left — and continues to leave — a lasting impression on many thousands of readers each day.

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So before you dive into your favorite Adam@Home book collection or dig into the GoComics archives, please join me in raising a hefty mug of hot coffee in a birthday salute to one of the funny pages' true originals. Happy 30th, Adam!

 

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Subscribe to Adam@Home here!

June 17, 2014

Ice Cream, Gingerbread & Comics

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As the inimitable Wallace Stevens once wrote, "The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream." Lio came close to attaining this majestic title in a strip from earlier in the month. I like that instead of just devouring the sundae, he decided to enjoy it a little bit with a Winter Olympics-worthy slalom.

Equally amusing was today's WuMo (below) in which an anthropomorphized Gingerbread Man shares his secrets to success.

 

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You really have to love the delicious (sur)reality of the comics page, especially in the summer time.

 

As a scrumptious bonus, here are links to a couple of amazing ice cream recipes from Germany which I've been working tirelessly to perfect and introduce to the domestic market: The "Eiskaffee" (ice cream coffee float) and the even more exotic "Spaghettieis." Guaranteed to make your summer 73% cooler. 

May 30, 2014

Todd Clark's "Ice Cream Kid" hits shelves next week

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The San Francisco Gate ran a cool feature on Lola creator Todd Clark last week, including some interesting backstory of the strip and the process of creating it. Also discussed in the article is the AMP for Kids title The Ice Cream Kid: Brain Freeze!which comes out next week.

 

From the article:

 

"Years and years ago, I had this thought 'Well, what if something happened when you got a brain freeze?' So I thought about like temporary powers or something. So the Ice Cream Kid is a fourth-grade boy whose name is Irwin Snackcracker. And he finds one day, when he bites into an ice cream, that he gets these temporary superpowers. Each ice cream gets him a different one, a different little power."

 

Some of Irwin's powers include super speed and the ability to talk to animals, which come in handy when he has to battle a villainous lunch lady.

 

"I'm very excited about it," Clark said. "And hopefully there'll be more. We've already had talks about the next book and the next."

May 13, 2014

Oscar and Arthur, circa 1882

Here in Kansas City, home of GoComics HQ, everyone knows that barbecue is a big deal. So big, in fact, that there are an estimated 715 accepted spellings of the word (barbecue, bar-b-q, barbeque, etc). One fact that isn't widely known about Kansas City, however, is that author Oscar Wilde visited on a speaking tour back in 1882.

 

Illustrator Peter Gordon Mann (whose new feature, The Quixote Syndrome, is a recent addition to GoComics) playfully combines these two facts in an imaginative work of speculation about what that visit to Kansas City might have been like for Mr. Wilde. Check out part I here and follow the link below to reach the second installment.

 

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Read part II of "The Wilde Days of Kansas City" here.

May 07, 2014

WuMo retraction

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Although I generally don't apologize for our comics, once in a great while we'll spot something that we wish we could do over (or, in this case, not do at all). Such was the case with Wednesday's WuMo. While on the surface an innocuous joke about how people with fair skin might be camofluaged in the snow, several people have pointed out that this visual gag essentially picks on people for their skin color — "no different than calling someone a derogatory racial term," as one caller told me.

 

As the editor of this feature, I should have been more sensitive to the fact that albinism is a condition that affects 1 in every 17,000 people worldwide. I'm sure most of them don't appreciate anyone cracking wise at their expense, and I apologize for not better taking their feelings into account. Good humor tends to walk a fine line between tasteful and insensitive, and we don't always get it right.

 

To those of you who reached out, thanks for sharing your perspective and know that we'll be doing our best to make sure our features don't unfairly single people out for how they look.

 

sincerely,

 

your friendly comics editor, Lucas Wetzel

Hog Heaven

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I've seen this Brevity panel racing around the funny webs, and I've just got to say — well done. Sure, it's one of the dumbest jokes I've seen in a while. But what a glorious image.

I'm also curious how other readers interpreted the woman's reaction. To me, she seems taken aback but not necessarily displeased that she's seated on a bounding magic swine rather than half a ton of chrome and steel.

One thing I know is the next time I get cut off by a cavalcade of large leather-clad men on "hogs" — whether here in Kansas City, in the Black Hills or on some small-town stretch of Arkansas — I'll only have to think of this panel to adopt a more sympathetic, slightly humorous view of bikers.


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