Different comics, different themes

The Gemini in me is always coming out when it comes to comics and comic strips. I am always coming up with different ideas and wavering on what to do. I have different theme ideas and comic ideas from strips to single panel cartoons.

What if they all could be done? Could they each have a short run, sort of like a tv season? Maybe have one strip about something run for three months then maybe have a single panel comic run for three or six months, then change that up to another type strip and so on. Is that a thing? Could it be a thing?

The comics would all be posted under one banner, “Tomversation” for instance and each series would run its course, sort of like these anthology series on tv like the “Killing Fields” or “American Horror Story.”


A Man Martin comic.

Man Martin sort of does that, but he does it daily. His “Man Overboard,” also called “Man Martin’s Inkwell Forest” has different people and different themes daily, I guess that is like a panel cartoon where each day is different but in this case, it’s a comic strip. But on the subject of different themes, he did something called “Billy and the Giant Frog” one time which I wrote about being one of my favorite comics. Little did I know at the time, that that was just a short theme and story line as part of the main Man Overboard comics. Billy and the frog ended and then something else took its place.

I like that.

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Sketchy vs clean when it comes to cartooning (and painting)

I read a great article by cartoonist John P. Weiss called “This is the Secret to Your Creative Success” where he talks about different cartoon styles – sketchy and clean – Krazy Kat vs Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes.

He vacillates between the two. I try to do that but sort of fall in between. I want to be sketchy with my cartoons, but I end up being clean, with a bit of sketchyness in them.

The reason it hit home with me is that I’ve been thinking of doing a new style of comic – a single panel but possibly black and white and sort of rough. I still have plans for my comic strip, but this comic panel would be a once-in-a-while thing.


I sort of did something like that here with Morning Joe. It’s not my usual style. It was almost drawing with my eyes closed. Even the words are sort of sketchy. This HQ Trivia cartoon is rough, too.


This Cross Fit comic is so much cleaner. And this is my style that I usually go with. I want to go with even a rougher style than the Morning Joe one but I can’t find any samples because I don’t allow myself to do that.


Here is the article by John, think it’s a great read. I don’t think anyone has ever talked about this before.

My Mort Walker letter


As you know, Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, High and Lois and other great comic strips, passed away this weekend. I found this old letter that Mort sent me when I was a kid. I had written to him asking for an original piece of art, but as you can see, he explained that they were collectibles and he couldn’t just send me one. The fee went to the Museum of Cartoon art, which was in Greenwich Conn. at the time. I visited the museum with my family and cousins once.

Mort sent me a reproduction copy of a Sunday Beetle Bailey page. I have that somewhere.

His signature is fading out on the letter. I had it inside a book for many years and just recently found it.


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Loving this cartoonist roundtable


From left: Tom Heintjes, Brian Walker, Greg Walker, Jeff Keane, Mason Mastroianni. Photo courtesy of Hogan’s Alley.

I read a really great interview in Hogan’s Alley, where editor Tom Heintjes sat down with some famous cartoonists,who took over the family business from their fathers and grandfathers. Jeff Keane of Family Circus, Mason Mastroianni of B.C. and Brian and Greg Walker who are Mort Walker’s sons, who work primarily on Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois sat around a table and talked.

They bring up the dynasty aspect of cartooning, something that has always bothered me. When a cartoonist dies, should the strip continue? Did it run its course?

Greg Walker says, “We’ve got to do quality work, or papers will drop us like crazy. We did come in with a nice list, but there’s the pressure to maintain it.”

I never really thought of that. It has a leg up being a popular strip with lots of newspaper subscribers but as one of them said in the interview, “When you’re at the top, there is only one way to go.” But on the other hand, newspapers are loath to drop a comic because losing just one subscriber over that is not acceptable, so I do think that some of these older strips just stay there year after year because the newspapers don’t want to make waves by dropping them, even if it’s only a handful of people who read a particular strip.

They all agreed that the older strips mixed with the newer strips make up a complete comics page and there is something for everyone that way. I’ve always agreed with that, I just felt that the older strips should be the original older strips, not an extension by the second, third and sometimes fourth generation of artists. And don’t get me started on those who buy gags. To me a cartoonist writes the strips and draws the strips, sometimes along with someone else, but purchasing gags just makes the cartoonist an artist, not a cartoonist.

Brian Walker says of his dad Mort Walker: “My father has been asked millions of times why he doesn’t retire, and he says, ‘Why should I retire? I’ve got millions of readers who enjoy my strip!’ Why should he retire just because he’s getting old? When he started out, in 1950, he was competing against Pogo, Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie. None of those guys quit to make room for him — he scratched and clawed for every one of those 1,800 papers.”

The roundtable interview is here. It’s really good.

Women and comics


Courtesy AP

There’s a new exhibit at the Library of Congress called, “How Women Broke Into the Male-Dominated World of Cartoons and Illustrations.”  I would love to see this next time I’m up north.

This is Dale Messick, who created and wrote and drew the Brenda Starr comic strip. I never knew if Dale was a lady or man as I read the strip while growing up. It seems like it was geared toward women, but I think I read all the strips in the New York Daily News when I was a kid.

I love this photo, I always like to see cartoonists in their environment. It’s sort of like seeing behind the scenes of a movie set.

Smithsonian.com has the whole story of the women and cartooning here.

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I was ghosted by a mentor

hal-paperI was looking over Facebook friends, deciding whether to dump people and I came across this lady who works at one of the major newspaper syndicates. She and I met by accident through social media and she was going to help push me and my comic strip through the syndicate process as she has with others only I screwed it all up. She has ignored me ever since. And I think she would like Hal (shown here) from my new comic strip “Hal and High Water.”

What happened was I did a bunch of 10 With Tom interviews with cartoonists and I happened to interview one of her favorites. She helped get this particular cartoonist published and syndicated and she seems like she is in love with him, at least it appears that way from her Facebook posts, but she did fawn all over him in an online chat.

Well, she saw the interview and asked to befriend me on Facebook. I wondered, “Who the hell is this person wanting to befriend me?” And then I looked her up and saw she worked at the syndicate. I got all excited. I approved her friendship and that was that.

But as I do too often, I’ll approve a friend, someone I have not seen in years, and we don’t interact. We are just there. So I said to myself, “Let me say hello and introduce myself so as not to just have our ‘friendship’ linger.” I sent her a direct message and for the next hour, we had a conversation back and forth on Facebook Messenger.

She asked about my own cartoons and offered to help! She and I spoke about that bitch who works at the syndicate who I told you about before, the one I confronted at ComicCon, and lo and behold, she hates her and she called her every name in the book, using some filthy language! I was shocked and excited. I had an ally. She told me all sorts of gossip about the syndicate and she told me about all the famous cartoonists she has known and I thought, “This is it, I reached my tipping point.” I truly wanted to meet her.

She then told me to send her my comics, printed out in hard copy form. She said she was going on vacation the next day and she would look at them upon her return. So I agreed.

The next morning, she checks in on Facebook in Islamorada, one of the Florida Keys, which is basically in my neighborhood! What should I do? Invite her and her husband for drinks? Coffee? Lunch? I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I had only “met her” online the night before and anything I did or said would obviously look like me reaching out to use her influence. Should I bother her on her vacation or what? I wanted to, but I respected her privacy.

I decided to not say anything. And all that week she posted her adventures on Facebook, she was in my neighborhood for lunch, she went to a museum, they went fishing, they really did it all and me, I stayed silent. I didn’t even “like” her posts. I just stayed silent.

I guess that was not the thing to do because she has never said a word to me again. I did reach out and ask if she received my comics and I got silence back. I was ghosted by her, a potential mentor.  To this day, which is almost a year later, she has not said a word to me on Facebook and we do comment on common posts. We agree with things politically and we enjoy the same comic artists and we have so much in common.

I do see from her posts that she travels often and likes to get together with people. I didn’t know. I honestly didn’t mean to offend her. I truly wanted to meet with her and pick her brain, but I guess I wanted to respect her privacy, too and therein lies the rub, I ruined my chance of what could have been something so great. Now I’m on my own again, pushing my comics and trying to get noticed.