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Doonesbury Turns 40!

February 16th, 2011

Believe it or not, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of Garry Trudeau’s seminal comic-strip Doonesbury.  I was lucky enough to have received as gifts, recently, two tomes that were recently released in order to celebrate that event.

The first is Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau, by Brian Walker.  This gorgeous, over-sized hardcover coffee-table book spotlights the illustration and design work of Mr. Trudeau (as opposed to a focus on his strips’ political satire and/or relevance).  As Mr. Walker comments in his introduction, “I had always felt that [Trudeau] had not received adequate recognition for his talents as an artist and graphic designer.”  In order to remedy that, the book includes beautiful reproductions of a wealth of Doonesbury-related materials drawn by Mr. Trudeau.

There is, first and foremost, a healthy sampling of reproductions of the strip itself.  Sometimes these comics are produced in the clean, colored, finished versions that one could read on the newspaper page.  Other strips — far more interestingly, to me — look to be scans of Mr. Trudeau’s original art boards, so we can get  a sense of how the ink and lettering were originally applied, where mistakes were corrected, etc.  As an artist myself, I found it super-cool to get a glimpse at these samples of Doonesbury in their rough form.

But the book is far more than just a handsome collection of cartoons.  Mr. White has included hundreds of other images of Doonesbury material.  We see promotional material created by/for the syndicate to promote the strip.  We see Doonesbury posters, t-shirts, buttons, etc.  We see Doonesbury illustrations that Mr. Trudeau produced for magazines (like Rolling Stone, Life, & Newsweek) that spotlighted the strip.  We see illustrations from the Doonesbury: the Musical (an experiment from 1984 that I had never heard of before!) and the Doonesbury board game, designs for Doonesbury stamps, illustrations for various Doonesbury collections from over the years, and so much more.  My single favorite image was a lovely reproduction of the poster for Sally’s Pizza in New Haven, CT (the best pizza place on planet Earth, in my humble opinion) drawn by Mr. Trudeau that I always admire on the wall when eating there.

The book also spotlights some of Mr. Trudeau’s key creative partners, which is fascinating.  One, though, was quite a shock to me — I had no idea that, almost since the very beginning, Mr. Trudeau has not inked his own work!  No, he pencils the strip, and the cartoons are then inked by Don Carlton.  This is unbelievable to me!!  Now, there’s no shame in an artist using an inker.  Many do — and, in fact, the penciller/inker partnership is a key … [continued]

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Looking for Calvin & Hobbes

April 21st, 2010

It is easy to run short on adjectives when describing Bill Watterson’s beloved comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes.

Running from 1985-1995, Calvin & Hobbes is undoubtedly one of the triumphs of modern newspaper cartooning, and the strip has lost none of its humor, warmth, or potency in the over-a-decade since its end.

In the prologue of his new book Looking for Calvin & Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip, Nevin Martell writes:

Though Watterson’s influences are somewhat easy to ascertain, the man himself is an enigma.  During the ten years that Calvin & Hobbes was drawn and was entrancing millions and millions of readers around the world, the man behind it tried to remain as anonymous as possible.  As the boy and his tiger reached new highs in readership, their creator shrank deeper into self-imposed obscurity.  Watterson never felt comfortable sharing himself with his readers in a public way and he never allowed his work to be licensed.  On the extremely rare occasion that he did make a public appearance or grant an interview, he only spoke openly about his work and went to great lengths to avoid discussing, or divulging, any details from his personal life.

To call him the J.D. Salinger of American cartooning is to take the easy road, but the fact remains that this incredibly talented comic artist is one of the most elusive characters of the late twentieth century — so elusive, in fact, that only a handful of pictures of him have ever been published.  He gave his last interview with a journalist in 1989 and his last public appearance was a commencement speech he gave at his alma mater, Kenyon College, in 1990.  Since officially retiring Calvin & Hobbes, Watterson has emerged infrequently and sporadically, and never in person.

So how do you find the man who doesn’t want to be found?

Although Mr. Martell does make some effort to actually find Mr. Watterson physically in order to conduct an interview with him (spoiler alert: it doesn’t happen), most of Looking from Calvin & Hobbes consists of Mr. Martell’s attempt to piece together a picture of Mr. Watterson’s life and work based on an exhaustive review of pretty much every interview Mr. Watterson has ever given and every essay he has ever written, supplemented by an array of new interviews conducted with a wide variety of Mr. Watterson’s friends, family, and peers, as well as the legion of creative folk who were inspired by his work.

It’s an effective approach, and the result is a fairly comprehensive look at Mr. Watterson’s development as a cartoonist as a kid and in college, his years-long post-college efforts … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Lots of great Lost analysis out there.  Click here for EW‘s Jeff Jensen’s in-depth write-up of the season 6 premiere.  I’m a big fan of “Doc” Jensen’s weekly Lost write-ups — they’re always insightful and ridiculously detailed.  Click here for Mr. Jensen’s interview with Lost masterminds Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindeloff, and click here for collider.com‘s interview with Mr. Lindeloff.  Both contain some tasty morsels of hints about what awaits us in season 6.  (And here’s a great interview with Mr. Jensen himself in which he discusses Lost‘s final season.)  On a less serious note, check out this very funny (and also super-detailed) review of the season 6 premiere from bestweekever.tv.  (The graphic of Jacob’s note to the Temple-Others is phenomenal.)  Lastly, this review of the premiere from chud.com is worth your time.  This dude has a Lost re-watch blog that I often checked out while conducting my own Lost re-watch project.  I hope you all enjoyed my extraordinarily lengthy list of the burning questions left hanging after Lost‘s first five seasons.  Can’t wait for tonight’s episode!

Click here for a terrific interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.  Click here for the Onion A.V. Club‘s interview with Aziz Ansari.  Both are great conversations with two very smart and funny individuals.

Speaking of interviews, for anyone out there who loved A Serious Man as much as I did (read my review here), you MUST read this phenomenal interview with Fred Melamed.  Mr. Melamed is the actor who portrayed Sy Ableman, one of the my favorite new characters that I saw created on screen in 2009.  The interview is a hoot, particularly when Mr. Melamed declares his effort to “bring the pompous, Jewish, overweight, rabbinic figure back to the center of American sexuality.”

Bill Waterson, the amazingly talented creator of Calvin & Hobbes, is well-known for having pretty much disappeared from planet Earth following the end of his beloved comic strip.  He hasn’t granted interviews, he hasn’t appeared at conventions or other gatherings of comic strip artists, and he hasn’t allowed any licensing of his characters.  So die-hard Calvin & Hobbes fans like myself took notice when he agreed to an e-mail conversation with a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Click here for the question-and-answer exchange!

This is very disturbing. Back to the Future Part III is officially ruined for me forever.

That’s all for today!… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

I followed a link the other day to the 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of ’80s Cartoons.  Pretty funny stuff there.  I’d also like to direct your attention to this list of the 10 Star Wars Toys that Unintentionally Look Like Other Celebrities.  (It’s worth your while if only so that you, too, can be stunned by the resemblance of General Riekaan — from The Empire Strikes Back — to Senator John Kerry!!)

I’ve just discovered a phenomenal web-comic called Let’s Be Friends Again.  It’s mostly about comic books.  I love it to death, and it’s well worth your precious time, so check it out.

Have you seen this ten-minute fan-made live-action G.I. Joe film, Battle For the Serpent Stone?  I’m a big proponent of fan-films, and this one is of pretty high quality.  It’s quite an achievement — take a look.

Here’s a link to an terrific interview with IDW Comics editor Scott Dunbier, discussing his work in putting out the gorgeous new hardcover Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume One (1980-1982), the first of five books that will collect every single strip (many of which have never before been collected) of Berkeley Breathed’s masterpiece comic strip.  I lust after this collection, and very much hope that Mr. Dunbier is able to move forward with collections of Outland and Opus as well.

This is a great story about an annoying movie theatre patron.  I wish there was a theatre like The Alamo Drafthouse here in Boston, because I would be more than happy to spend an enormous amount of money watching movies there and nowhere else.  I am sick to death of having my enjoyment of a movie interrupted by some jackass talking, texting, or some other such nonsense.

Harvard University is offering a class on The Wire??? Sign me up!!

I never believed it would happen, but filming on the two-film adaptation of The Hobbit is coming closer and closer to getting underway.  Click here for an interesting interview with director Guillermo del Toro with some updates on how things are progressing.

Despite my renewed appreciation for the final run of episodes of Battlestar Galactica, this hilarious evisceration of the plot points in the last 45 minutes of the finale is impossible to argue with.

Here’s a terrific list of one fellow’s Top 15 Episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.  It’s an interesting list.  I absolutely adore episodes such as “Over The Edge,” “Mad Love,” “Robin’s Reckoning,” and “Heart of Ice,” and I was also pleased to see some lesser-known gems like “The Ultimate Thrill” and “Growing Pains” make the cut.  (However, while “If You’re So Smart, Why … [continued]