Category Archives: Comic Strips

BEARDO Comic Strip Ends

The final installment of BEARDO, by Dan Dougherty, is now available as a print.

BEARDO, the long-running humor comic strip about family life by Dan Dougherty, has reached its end. Dan Dougherty is one of the finest cartoonist/illustrators in the business. He has all the qualities and skills that make him a professional: a strong work ethic, dedication to craft, and steadfast persistence. These darn cartoons don’t get drawn by themselves, folks. It takes a special person to see it through and make it all look so effortless. The above comic strip is a prime example.

The final installment of BEARDO, by Dan Dougherty, is now available as a print. Visit Dan and pick up your print right here. And, while you’re visiting Dan at his site, you’ll discover all the other work he’s been up to including a thrilling comic book series, TOUCHING EVIL, and his band, On the Off Chance.

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Filed under Comic Strips, Comics, Dan Dougherty, Family, GoComics, Humor

Review: THE FUN FAMILY by Benjamin Frisch

Fun Family

“The Fun Family” is the debut graphic novel by Benjamin Frisch. It is a satire of wholesome family comic strips with a decided focus on Bil Keane’s “Family Circus.” I think Frisch is a decent cartoonist but this work does not make me want to poke fun at family-oriented comic strips that are supposedly shallow and trite. No, instead, it makes me want to defend all comic strips, especially the masterful work of Bil Keane! That said, I do appreciate what Frisch is after here. He has set up an ongoing gag where he has the anti-Family Circus family crumble before our eyes. Meet the Fun family, they are not what they seem.

Frisch goes about his task with a good deal of precision. We are swept right into the family dynamics as each member recites what they are thankful for before dinner. We observe a hearty and classic nuclear family, all Ozzie and Harriet pleasantries intact. And then little junior picks up the phone and is given the news, via an automated message from the hospital, that grandma has passed away. This event triggers a downward spiral that just keeps going downward. This hits Robert Fun, the patriarch, especially hard. How can he continue to draw his world-famous circle-shaped newspaper comic strip celebrating the wholesome American family?

Perfectionist Robert Fun reveals his secret porcelain doll family to his son.

Perfectionist Robert Fun reveals his secret porcelain doll family to his son.

Everyone in this comic within a comic is drawn in the old-fashioned spit polish style of a family comic strip except all vibrancy has been replaced with a certain strangeness. The artwork is keyed down, all the characters either look lifeless or ugly compared to the original Family Circus characters. You think that family fun is the norm? Frisch tells you to think again. It’s an undeniably intriguing concept for a graphic novel. The narrative weaves its way through showing up how families are not perfect and how quack counseling can make matters worse. We also have an interesting mirroring of events going on as little Robby follows in his dad’s footsteps and creates his own successful family comic strip.

This is a well-constructed graphic novel. No real argument there. And the humor may hold up for some folks. As for me, if feels like Frisch is hammering away at something that is not exactly all that subversive as that is clearly his goal. The Simpsons series, reveling in family dysfunction, has been on TV for nearly 30 years. It is common to ridicule a tepid and disingenuous slogan like, “family values.” So, I can’t back down on feeling compelled to support Bil Keane’s life work, now continued by his son, Jeff Keane. What’s next? Are we going to bash Hank Ketcham and Charles M. Schulz? Surely, I ask this with tongue in cheek. It’s not that I can’t take a joke and I do believe that Frisch is capable of telling a joke.

Great satire is great satire. You just know when it comes together. All you need to do is read Mad magazine and read how it has cleverly satirized family comic strips over the years. In the case of “The Fun Family,” the point is made about family dysfunction in a didactic fashion that may prove to be too much of a good thing. That said, you may be alright with the tone to this book. I definitely look forward to more of Frisch’s work. How about a satire on this satire? Now, that could prove to be very interesting and Frisch could prove to be just the right cartoonist to take that on.

“The Fun Family” is a 240-page full-color softcover graphic novel. For more details, visit Top Shelf Productions right here.

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Filed under Bil Keane, Comic Strips, Comics, Humor, Satire, Top Shelf Productions

Review: THE COMPLETELY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREEN

Ethan-Green-Eric-Orner

Eric Orner is one of the pioneers in LGBT comics. “The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,” published by Northwest Press, is a great way to not only further establish him in the canon of LGBT comics, but simply to showcase the work of an excellent cartoonist.

Eric-Orner-Northwest-Press

All of us cartoonists can learn from Eric Orner. Just when you get that first wave of resistance, that’s when you push back a little harder. Orner had tales to tell, just like Howard Cruse before him and Alison Bechdel right alongside him, and they could not wait.

Unfabulous-Social-Life-Ethan-Green

Orner’s comic strip ran in that fuzzy, chaotic, and bubbling time (1989-2005), before the internet and digital and then well into it. Orner grew as a person and as an artist. Collected here are some 300 of his groundbreaking comic strips. Well before Ellen DeGeneres was ready to come out, and perhaps a mainstream audience was ready to accept her, there was this comic strip. And casting the longest shadow, the less understood epidemic of AIDS, which Orner would address with both grace and thoughtful humor. Bit by bit, Orner was there to chronicle, in retrospect, a most confused and dangerous time–and it wasn’t that long ago and it’s still unfolding before us.

Northwest-Press-Eric-Orner-2015

By 1997, the Ethan Green comic strip appeared in every large city and most mid-sized cities in the United States, as well as running in Canada and overseas. As Orner states in one of the section introductions, “Given that I wasn’t watering down the content, the fact that this very gay comic strip seemed to be building a readership among straight folks was a source of pride.”

Still, controversy could easily arise when least expected. It was also in 1997 that Baltimore’s alt-weekly, City Paper, had to fend off a church group that took great offense over a mild sex scene in the comic strip, something akin to soap opera content. Maybe they were just waiting for the very next depiction of two men making love anywhere to set them off.

Just as a comic strip unfraid to grow, Ethan Green stands out. As anyone who does a webcomic today can attest, there is an unrelenting grind that a cartoonist can succumb to. But, even in the earliest years, Orner was willing to push his artistic and literary limits. Right from the start, he aspired to reach greater heights of insight and downright zaniness. In one strip, circa 1990, he has The Hat Sisters attempt to save lives through time travel. For every vulnerable penis they find, they sheath it with a condom. Everything in the strip is in balance and it speaks volumes.

Ethan-Green-Hat-Sisters-LGBT-Comics

Towards the end of Ethan Green’s run, in 2005, a couple of young independent filmmakers from Hollywood adapted the comic strip into a movie. It premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival and enjoyed a 19-city theatrical release in 2006.

Ultimately, Eric Orner’s comic strip enjoyed a great run. And now it is collected in this deluxe edition and off to begin a whole new life with old fans and new readers.

“The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green” is a 228-page trade paperback, black & white and in color, priced at $24.99, and available now. For more details, visit our friends at Northwest Press right here.

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Filed under Alison Bechdel, Comic Strips, Comics, Eric Orner, Gay, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Howard Cruse, LGBT, Northwest Press

KING OF THE COMICS: WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST AND 100 YEARS OF KING FEATURES

King-of-Comics-Ohio-State-University

A lot of us out there have one indelible image come to mind when we hear the name, “William Randolph Hearst.” We see a close-up of Orson Welles‘s lips as he sighs, “Rosebud,” and lets drop out of his hand a little snow globe. But surely there was more to the man and the best part of his legacy has got to be his contribution to the birth of newspaper comic strips. Why, to this day, King Features is both admired and respected, the company he founded to develop and distribute comics, columns, editorial cartoons, puzzles, and games around the world. Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum will celebrate the centennial of King Features Syndicate with “King of the Comics: William Randolph Hearst and 100 Years of King Features.” The exhibition runs December 13, 2014 – March 15, 2015. For more details, visit right here.

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Filed under Comic Strips, Comics, King Features Syndicate, Ohio State University, William Randolph Hearst

Review: ‘Wide Awake in Slumberland’ by Katherine Roeder

Winsor McCay with Gertie the Dinosaur

Winsor McCay with Gertie the Dinosaur

What will today look like one hundred years from now? In the world of comics, we have no choice but to include DC Comics’ upcoming “Teen Titans #1” in a time capsule, filed under “sexism.” Many of us today see through a glass darkly. But not all of us. One hundred years ago, Windsor McCay was at the top of his game as America’s preeminent cartoonist. Attempting to see what McCay’s world was like one hundred years ago could provide some interesting perspective.

There were certainly other big name cartoonists and plenty of newspapers but there was only one Winsor McCay. He could dazzle his audience. He was part of the zeitgeist. Much like Chaplin, he did what he did with far more distinction than his competitors. In a new book that attempts to place McCay in context, we get some insights about Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur, and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, and how they reflected the American dream. And, among the findings, we confront a problematic character named, Impie.

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Filed under animation, Comic Strips, Comics, Winsor McCay

Interview: Keith Knight Talks About ‘The K Chronicles’ and the Cartoonist’s Life

Keith_Knight_Cartoonist

Keith Knight is one very funny, and profound, cartoonist. What is the secret to his success? Consider this life lesson: It is all in the doing. It applies in art school, law school, med school, any kind of school. “I’ve been doing this for years,” said Keith to a question I put to him about his success. That comment says it all. It is a part of this interview that stays with me. Knight has created a wonderful life for himself that includes making a living as a cartoonist. He has done it with style and become a significant voice. And he is easy to find and to keep up with, especially with his special subscription service you can check out here.

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In this interview, we talk about activism in comics as well as the nature of humor. We go over a long and rewarding career. And we look at some exciting things that lie ahead, like Keith’s first full-length graphic novel, “I Was A Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator.” Keith has also branched out into live action videos which bring his comics to life. And there is a comedy show, based on Keith’s life as a struggling cartoonist, that is being pitched so we’ll see how things go.

Keith-Knight-K-Chronicles-4-Sept-2013

Keith Knight has three comic strips he regularly creates, there are two weekly strips, “The K Chronicles” and “(Th)ink.” And there’s the daily, “The Knight Life.” He also has strips in Mad Magazine: “Father O’Flannity’s Hot Tub Confessions” and “Bully Baby.”

The-Knight-Life-Keith-Knight

Also in this interview, Keith jokes about his focus being, “the fight for a more decent cartoonist’s wage.” Certainly, his concern is over the same stuff most folks worry about: healthcare, education, and “not being condemned if you’re poor or low-income.” When asked about his thoughts over his legacy, Keith’s mind turns to the 500-page collection of “The K Chronicles,” published by Dark Horse Comics and that you can take a look at here.

The-Complete-K-Chronicles-Keith-Knight-Dark-Horse-Comics

Just click below to listen to the interview:

If you’re in the San Francisco area, you can stop by and visit with Keith at the Alternative Press Expo on October 12 and 13.

And you can also listen to Keith on Totally Biased with W. Kamu Bell on FXX, broadcast live on Tuesday, October 22.

Keep up with Keith Knight at The K Chronicles site here and The Knight Life site here.

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Filed under Activism, Comedy, Comic Strips, Comics, Keith Knight, Political Cartoons, politics, Protest, Race, Race Relations, Social Commentary, Social Justice

The Troubled Genius of Al Capp

copyright © Capp Enterprises, Inc.

copyright © Capp Enterprises, Inc.

Denis Kitchen is a name synonymous with comics. An opportunity to discuss comics with him is to be treasured. Micahel Dooley interviews Denis Kitchen for Print Magazine’s Imprint blog about his latest project, a biography of master cartoonist, Al Capp. It is co-written with Michael Schumacher and entitled, “Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary,” which you can find here.

copyright © Capp Enterprises, Inc.

copyright © Capp Enterprises, Inc.

Al Capp was a larger-than-life pop culture icon without equal. His career is unique in every way. Never before, and never again, will there be such a comic strip superstar. Given a few more years, there won’t be any newspaper comic strips because there won’t be any newspapers. But, once there was a time when newspapers and comics strips were held in very high regard and an integral part of life. And, at the height of that era, there was one king of comics, Al Capp, creator of the transcendent comic strip, “Li’l Abner.”

Unfortunately, Al Capp was not without huge flaws. Despite his command of beautiful women with his ink brush renderings, he had great problems with actual flesh-and-blood women. It is documented that he attempted to rape a number of women, from college co-eds to Grace Kelly. Does it take away from his reputation? Yes, indeed, it does, as it should. However, the art, the career, and the accomplishment remains.

You can read the interview here.

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Filed under Al Capp, American History, Comic Strips, Comics, Humor, Li'l Abner, politics, pop culture, Satire