I’m in the funny papers; literally!

I’ve been written about often but I’ve never been in a comic strip before! The other day I was in “Amanda the Great” by Amanda El-Dweek! So cool!

I interviewed her four years ago for my Huff Post column, but she mentioned it this week!

Here’s the 10 With Tom Column with Amanda.
And here’s Amanda’s daily comic strip.

I’ve been wanting to be part of GoComics, so I guess this week I am! 🙂

Pretend it’s a city

I’ve been watching “Pretend It’s a City,” on Netflix. I’m probably done with it by the time you read this.

It’s a seven part show featuring author (although she hasn’t published a book in 30 years, but I guess it’s like being an Oscar winner. You’re always an Oscar winner) and humorist Fran Lebowitz. Each episode is about 30 minutes long.

Martin Scorsese directed the series and is shown as he interviews Fran in many scenes, which fade in and out of various locations, from a quite club called Players, which was founded in the 1800s by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, to being on stage in front of an audience.

The title “Pretend It’s a City” refers to Fran’s frequent mantra mostly to tourists who stop in the middle of sidewalks or do other annoying things, who she says need to realize, you are in a city – act like it! Fran is the female Larry David to me.

Some of the funniest things she talks about are New York City itself. Like, why are lawn chairs needed in the middle of Times Square? One interesting thing she says is that when she got to NYC in the 1970s, it was rough and gritty. But that’s how she knew New York since it was her New York at the time. She had nothing to compare it to. People who arrive today expect to see the lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway and that’s their New York.

She hates the no smoking inside rule. She says that artists and creative people meet and mingle over drinks, music and smoking. What if Picaso had to run out to smoke a cigarette every once in awhile, “Think of all the things he would have missed,” she says.

It’s all funnier and hits home when Fran tells it. Try the first episode, I think you’ll stick around for all seven.

Fran talks about so many famous people she has known. About her dislike for Warhol, her lifelong friendship with Toni Morrison and so much more.

There are lots of old scenes of “old New York” in the shows. She is really great to listen to.

A nice little article about me in today’s paper

The Miami Herald has a little article about me printed in today’s paper. My comics are here if anyone is looking for them. They didn’t supply a link in the printed article, but it first appeared in Thursday’s online edition, on the front page! and my comics stats went way through the roof because there was a link to them there.

People are congratulating me and I think they think my cartoons are being published daily in the Herald. I’ve been in the newspapers a lot over the years for various things (including my comics), so people are used to that, so I can only assume they think my comics are being published daily now. Many people just read headlines. I noticed on Twitter now if you go to retweet an article, it asks you if you read the article first. Love that.

Front page blurb


It’s one of the few times I’ve been in the paper where it’s something positive. I’ve always been part of controversial stories. When I wrote the news around here, for some reason I became part of the stories. Not too long ago, was about the wild peacocks in the neighborhood where they twisted my words and had me hating the peacocks (for the record, I love them). I was interviewed on the radio for about 20 minutes and somehow one or two lines made it into the papers. That story and my quotes made it all over the country. Why Chicago, New York and Milwaukee among many others care about our peacocks is behind me. Must have been a slow news day. Here is one little blurb in the NY Post, not too bad.

I did have a nice article recently in VoyageMIA about my comics and me. I guess I gained a lot of good press (and karma) recently due to taking on the daily comics rather than being in everyone’s business while doing the daily news.

After seeing this recent Herald article, I had one friend say, “Your dreams are coming true!” But truth be told, I prefer digital comics, for me anyway. I believe that just like movies and other entertainment – digital is the way to go. The main reason is the deadlines. With newspapers there is such a long time between when the comics are submitted and when they are printed.

Currently I am updating the comics till the last minute. Sometimes late at night I’m making a change on a comic that is scheduled to publish the next morning. I can’t do that with newspapers. The deadlines are way too long.

But even with the Herald article today, it was pared down to a shorter version in print (where digital, there is plenty of room) and even the cartoon itself is quite small, where it is large and featured on the online edition, and also, there are no links to the comics or social media sites – where the digital version had that. So digital seems the way to go, I think.

But what do I know. After the print edition appeared, I seem to be getting more subscribers online. Go figure.

What I wouldn’t mind is having the Herald print me once a week and pick and choose from what was published earlier in the week and just run one, two or three comics in the weekend section or something like that. And running them online, too, wouldn’t hurt!

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My little VoyageMIA interview

VoyageMia, did a little interview with me regarding my comics, you can see it here.

It’s only a few questions. It reminds me of when I did my Ten With Tom column for the Huffington Post. I am thinking of getting back to that, I met so many interesting people through it.

You can see some of them posted here on this blog.

A life in comics

This is a little snippet about the Hy Eisman “A Life in Comics” documentary. There is a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the completion of the film. I donated the other day.

Cartoonist Hy Eisman, is a cartoonist of over 70 years. You’ve seen his work. He produced The Katzenjammer Kids and Popeye, doing both Sunday strips at the same time – the writing and drawing. And each had their own feel.

Mr. Eisman continues to cartoon today.

Stephan Pastis – 10 With Tom

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

I did this interview with Stephan Pastis a few years ago. For a long time I did a bunch of 10 With Tom interviews for the Huffington Post. I’m thinking of getting back into doing that. Anyway, here is Stephan.

I got the chance to ask Stephan Pastis, creator of the comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, my Ten With Tom questions. Stephan has one of the most popular comic strips around, his tipping point was when Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, noticed his work and mentioned it in a blog post. The rest is history. His online readership went through the roof overnight.

He won the 2015 Reuben Award for best newspaper comic strip. I’m trying to follow in his footsteps with my comics, so it truly was an honor doing Ten With Tom with Stephan.

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Do people mistake you for Seth Macfarlane?

I’ve heard that before, but the one I hear more is Robert Downey, Jr.  I even had a restaurant owner in Dublin, Ireland tell me what an honor it was to have Robert Downey, Jr. in her restaurant. I told her that I appreciated it, but that I didn’t like to be disturbed while dining.

Why do you create your comics 7 months in advance, why so far ahead?
I’m anal retentive.  I need to relax.

Are you recognized on the street?
Almost never. Except as Robert Downey Jr. in Dublin.

What are a few of your favorite classic newspaper comics from your childhood?

Far Side
Calvin and Hobbes
Peanuts
Bloom County

Flintstones or Scooby Do?
Scooby. There’s always someone trying to scare away prospective house buyers by filling it with fake ghosts and/or monsters. Knowing that the ghost thing is a sham, I could probably get a great deal on real estate.

Which comic strip would you like to crawl into and spend the day?
Krazy Kat. Lots of peyote and throwing bricks at others.

Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie?
It wouldn’t be Annie. Her lack of pupils would be disturbing, particularly if you fell in love. You could never look into her eyes.

What section of the printed daily newspaper today should be eliminated to add more comics?
Many of the comics.

Without looking, what color is Olive Oyl’s dress?
Top half of her is red. Bottom half of her is black.  Both halves are probably stained by spinach.

Do you think you’ll ever go digital in creating Pearls Before Swine? Why?
No. Too lazy to learn. Plus, it doesn’t seem like something Robert Downey Jr. would do.

Thank you Stephan!

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‘Dunce” comic strip is in a class all its own

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

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Jens K at work. (Photo by Agnese Zile)

jensJens K. Styve is the creator of Dunce, a delightful Norwegian comic strip he created in 2016. What attracts you first are the drawings, each strip is a work of art; add the comic writing and quality to that, and you have an award-winning comic strip. (photo by Nicolas Tourrenc).
TOM: Is Dunce you? Why the name Dunce for the title character?

JENS: Whenever I’ve done anything autobiographical, it’s been me drawn with that pointy Dunce-cap. I think it’s all about that voice in your head, the self-evaluating critic. The voice that, each time you do more or less anything, goes “You idiot, why did you do that? Why did you say that? Write that? Draw that? Look, now you’ve made a mess.” I think this voice is pure biology, every human seem to be their own worst critic. You should probably check with a biologist, but I assume it’s how we all made it this far. I guess my inner voice is also a sarcastic, satirical writer that can add some fiction and transform these expressions into comics. When I started doing a daily strip with the pointy-hat character, the title Dunce sort of gave itself.

TOM: What is Dunce’s name? He has a son, what about a wife, I don’t remember ever seeing her.

JENS: The main character’s name is Jens K, maybe with a tiny reference to another resentful literary character (Kafka’s Josef K.). The son is named Gustav, I haven’t really figured out yet if the characters should have other names in English, I guess it’s part of the concept that this is actually in the far north of Norway, far above the polar circle. Gustav obviously has (or at least has had) a mother, many readers ask about her, but that part of the story isn’t told (yet).

TOM: Your drawing style is beautiful, is it digital, do you use pen and ink?

JENS: In 2014, I came back from a 14 year long hiatus from comics. Actually I thought I had quit for good, with my steady job as a graphic designer. I did miss making comics, I guess what I missed most was working offline and analogue, with old fashioned tools like brushes, nibs, good paper and the meditative “flow” of drawing. So I returned. I decided to do a daily strip, just for myself. My days were packed, but I found that if I got up insanely early, I could sketch and ink a complete strip each day before going to work. These were self-published in small zines, and this eventually turned into my Dunce strip. The whole point then, was to do this without using any computers. After a year or so, my strip won several competitions and ended up running in Norwegian magazines and newspapers. After doing maybe 150 strips on paper, I bought an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, curious (and a bit skeptical) if these gadgets could recreate my analogue and “inky” style. One of the really good brush-makers for Procreate (Georg von Westphalen) came by and offered to make a brush pack based on my style. That did it, I switched to iPad.

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TOM: What does your studio/workspace look like?

JENS: Since I went full time comic artist in October 2017, I’ve been working at home. I have a separate room for work, but when I have the house for myself, I move around. My dog Brego (who is introduced in the strip, and often seems to be stealing the show) keeps me company, when I move to another place to draw, he finds another place to sleep. Kitchen is for writing, I have a good chair by the large window for sketching, and I do the inking in my office. All my nibs and brushes are there, in close vicinity, and although I do most work on the iPad now, I try to keep them active. Ink on the hands, and those random accidents that can’t be undone, is still what gives the best “flow”.

TOM: Dunce is run in newspapers in Norway and that area of the world. What is the schedule like is it run daily? How far ahead do you have to have the strips in?

JENS: It is running daily, and has been doing that more or less non stop since January 2017. That means I have to produce at least five new strips every week. There has been times (up to quite recently) when I’ve been so far behind that I handed in the next day’s strip at 12 every day. That is not at all recommended. I’ve now been able to build up a buffer of around four weeks. Also, I now try to make six or seven strips weekly, so that I can have a vacation one day, or even be able to get sick.

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TOM: I’ve read various quotes comparing your work to others but I don’t see it, I think you are totally unique. But who are your comic/cartoon influences?

JENS: My influences are pretty widespread, and they also change a lot. Some people mention Quentin Blake and Ralph Steadman, I admit those two have been great inspirations. I grew up loving French and Belgian comics like Asterix and Franquin, in the 90s I was hooked on Fantagraphics stuff (Hate, Eightball etc), and strips like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes have always been with me. Lately I’ve been looking into manga comics, working quite hard to find something to get hooked on. I’ve found a few gems, last one was The Girl From The Other Side, which I think everyone should read. Another artist who’s books I keep close these days is the Italian cartoonist Gipi.

TOM: What was the first thing you would seriously draw? I mean, I would draw Fred Flintstone, I always remember as a young child doing that. Did you draw a character or have a favorite subject at a young age?

JENS: Ah, I remember copying Beetle Bailey in very early years. I was maybe 12 when I decided I wanted to become a comic artist. My theory was that I had to draw every day, so that’s what I did. Much of the daily grind at that time was copying whatever I could find. Some comics were almost impossible to copy, and those were often the ones I liked most. I think I was early aware of the mystical quality in a line/stroke and how some drawing styles had more of a “soul.” Early on, I found it hard to do comics, because I was more into drawing than writing. In my recent comics hiatus I wrote and published two novels, so that was pretty much turned around in time.

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?

JENS: I think Quentin Blake could do a good one, probably also Richard Thompson. Those would probably be ink drawings. If I was to be painted in oil, it could maybe be by Australian comic artist Ashley Wood. Or Norwegian Edvard Munch, he would have painted me as some sort of devious villain.

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TOM: Who is your favorite super hero?

JENS: Ouch, I don’t mean to be cocky, but I’ve never been enthusiastic about any superhero comic (or superhero movie). Guess my reply just has to be «blank» on this one.

TOM: If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

JENS: I would have started doing this Dunce-strip in 1995, when all newspaper editors were happy and positive people with an optimistic outlook for the future.

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Jens K at work with Brego nearby. (Photo by Agnese Zile)

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Finding obscure comic strips

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

I’ve been reading Allan Holtz’s “Strippers Guide” blog since it started in 2005, I believe. I love it because it’s all about thing I love – comic strips – old, historical comic strips. Alan is a comic strip historian and author of “American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide,” a book I own.

Each day, Allan (shown here) and contributor Alex Jay, talk about old comic strips on the blog with plenty of wonderful images of the strips. Many I never heard of and quite a few bring back memories. I had the opportunity to interview Allan recently for Ten With Tom.

Allan-Medea-Jim

Allan at right, with his wife Media and cartoonist Jim Ivey at Jim’s 90th birthday party.

TOM: I love old comic strips and newspapers and enjoy the Strippers Guide blog, what made you come up with the idea of the blog?

ALLAN: I was about to begin shopping my book, “American Newspaper Comics – An Encyclopedic Reference Guide,” around to publishers. I’d spent over twenty years researching the book, and my name was somewhat known in the comic strip collecting world, but I felt that it would be helpful if I had wider name recognition. In 2007, when I started the Stripper’s Guide site, blogs were the hot new thing on the web. I figured that if I posted regularly about comic strips, with some eye candy in the form of nicely restored old comics, it might help my cause.

Well, it didn’t really help at all with publishers; I ended up having the book accepted by the University of Michigan Press primarily because another author vouched for me. However, I found that the daily regimen of writing short essays, and scanning and restoring the comics, was just what the doctor ordered to stimulate my desire to continue my research work. I also thrive on the feedback I receive from comic strip fans and historians.

TOM: Why Stripper’s Guide? I know what strippers are in the newspaper business, but what made you use that for the name?

ALLAN: I was trying to come up with a catchy title for the blog, and I figured that anyone with an ounce of curiosity would be intrigued by a site that calls itself Stripper’s Guide. Comic strip fans have occasionally called themselves strippers long before I came along, so I don’t get any points for originality. Over the years I’ve fielded my fair share of comments from site visitors who were hoping to find something very different. But maybe I turned a few of them into comic strip fans!

I wanted to call my book Stripper’s Guide as well, but the folks at University of Michigan Press very sweetly told me that there was no way in hell they would publish a book with that title. I still think we could have sold more copies, though …

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Detective Riley, an obscure comic strip from the 1930s

TOM: I love the obscure comics, what you post as “Obscurity of the Day.” How do you find those? I know of some old comics I’ve been trying to find and I can’t find them.

ALLAN: Decades of research have yielded a practically never-ending supply of comic strips I can discuss for “Obscurity of the Day.” The real trick is getting the samples to show. Since microfilm photocopies and online newspaper archive images are rarely of decent quality, I have to find original newspapers that print these rarities, from which I make high-resolution scans and then do additional restoration work.

There is a lively trade in old newspaper comic strips. I haunt eBay constantly, always looking for oddball and obscure material, whether in the form of clipped comic strips, complete newspapers, or even newspaper bound volumes discarded by libraries. My collection is pretty vast and I’m always looking for more.

As to the subject of finding dimly remembered old comic strips, I get asked about them a lot. I’ve become a regular Sherlock Holmes when it comes to identifying dimly recalled comic strips from the past. Between a vague description (sometimes as little as “it had a funny looking kid in it”), a general idea of when they remember reading it, and the newspaper they saw it in, I can usually come up with the answer.

TOM: Do you draw? Have you ever created a comic strip yourself?

ALLAN: I’m good at quite a few things, but drawing is definitely not one of them. Unlike the old saying, though, I can in fact draw straight lines. It’s those darn curved ones that are completely beyond me. I think that may be a part of my fascination with comic strips — the ability to boil a story down to a few deftly arranged pen lines never loses its magic for me.

I did actually create a comic strip, though. I used to work in the software industry, and my company had a monthly newsletter. Just for kicks I came up with a sort of a Dilbert-y comic strip for it. At first I tried to populate it with stick figures, but it was incomprehensibly bad. So I drew a closed office door, and had all the dialog emanating from the other side. After submitting two of those, the newsletter was cancelled. I fear it was my fault.

TOM: You are the author of “American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide.” I have owned that book for many years. How did that come about to begin with?

ALLAN: When I first got seriously interested in newspaper comics and wanted to read about their history, I was frustrated by the quality and lack of depth in the references available then. It seemed like everybody talked endlessly about a standard litany of high profile classic comics — Flash Gordon, Krazy Kat, Little Nemo and so on — but when they ventured beyond those strips the information was generally spotty, and often just plain wrong.

So I set out to gather all the basic information about every US newspaper comics and panel — their running dates, creators, formats, and so on. I felt that a comprehensive reference was needed as a jumping off point for researchers who want to go into more depth. I had no idea when I started that I was embarking on a project that would take a lifetime!

The book was originally published in 2011 and I’ve continued researching ever since, so I’ve got lots of new information to share. I’m very proud of the original book, but I’m hoping there’s a way to bring out the 2nd edition at a much lower price. I want comics enthusiasts to be able to buy a copy without feeling that they need to live on bread and water for a month to afford it.

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A late 1970s strip, The Captain’s Gig, by Virgil Partch

TOM: What comic strip from today or the past would you like to crawl into and spend the day?

ALLAN: Wow, that’s a great question. My first instinct is to say I’d like to be Jiggs from Bringing Up Father. He’s obscenely rich, lives in rococo splendor, and moves through an Art Deco world drawn by the great George McManus. But then I remember that Jiggs regularly gets beaned by Maggie, his harridan wife. Maybe not so great after all.

I could have a wild day as Little Nemo, Buck Rogers or Captain Easy, but I’m enough of a homebody, used to my creature comforts,to take a pass on that.

No, I guess my choice is Dagwood from Blondie. He has a job where he gets away with murder, naps on the couch, and eats the most stupendous sandwiches without ever gaining an ounce. And who doesn’t have a crush on Blondie, whose personality, figure and lovely face put us imperfect real humans to shame.

TOM: Have you met many famous cartoonists? Which ones impressed you the most?

ALLAN: Cartoonists are the celebrity superstars of my world, and I’m sufficiently in awe of them to be a bit shy. I confess that I’ve been in the same room with some of my ink-slinging heroes and sometimes not gotten up the gumption to introduce myself. Which is pretty stupid, because cartoonists are cooped up in their studios so much that when they do get out in public, they tend to be very friendly and giving of their time.

I’d have to say that the cartoonist who impressed me most was still the very first one I met, at a comic book convention in Orlando. Wayne Boring had been the artist on Superman (both comic books and the newspaper strip) in the 1950s and ’60s. By the time I met him he was retired, and I was a snot-nosed 12-year old who saw the gray-haired fellow as a god.

I got up the nerve to approach him with a copy of one of the last Superman comic books he worked on. Much to my amazement, he was not only friendly but sat with me for about five minutes, paging through the comic book and reminiscing about working on it. He even asked me questions, which seemed impossibly congenial. I’ll never forget it.

TOM: Now that Bloom County is back, which of these classics would you like to see come back, too: The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes or Pogo. Please choose just one.

ALLAN: Well, they are all classics, but if I could only have one back, it would by Gary Larson’s The Far Side. I’ve always had a particular affinity for slightly subversive and off-kilter humor (my current favorite strip is Zippy the Pinhead). Although Larson said he ended the panel because he felt his well was running dry, I’m betting that after the long layoff his creative juices have been revitalized and he could have another great run.

TOM: Do you attend comic cons? Which one do you like or prefer?

ALLAN: Comic conventions are about comic books, not newspaper strips, so I’d be a fish out of water. As a kid, when I was more into comic books, Jim Ivey‘s annual OrlandoCon was the highlight of my year. OrlandoCons were great because Ivey invited all these amazing cartoonists he knew, most of whom were newspaper comic strip artists and editorial cartoonists. Meeting these people opened my eyes that comic books were not the sum total of cartooning by a long shot.

From what I understand, nowadays most comic conventions are more about adaptations of comics for movies and television than they are about actual comic books, so I’d be doubly out of my element.

TOM: When you were a kid, what newspapers did you see/read the comics in? What is your earliest memory of reading comics?

ALLAN: I lived in Montreal as a kid, so I fondly recall the strips that ran in the Montreal Star. I especially remember Jasper, which was a comic strip distributed only in Canada. It was about a bear who lived in Jasper National Park in Alberta Canada. I guess that would qualify as an Obscurity of the Day on Stripper’s Guide now!

What really doomed me to a life of loving comic strips, though, was when my dad was doing some plumbing repair under our house and he came out of the crawlspace with an old newspaper he’d found wrapped around a pipe. It was a copy of the Sunday comics from a Montreal Gazette of the early 1940s. This 10-year-old kid had never seen such large, beautifully colored glorious comics. They were a powerful revelation to me, who was used to comic strips printed muddily and on the scale of a postage stamp in current newspapers. I must have read that old comics section a hundred times, and I guess that sealed my destiny.

TOM: Thank you Allan!

Herriman

A 1909 strip by George Herriman.

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10 things you didn’t know about Trading Spaces’ Paige Davis

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

 

paige-davisTrading Spaces is coming back! Yup, the granddaddy of DIY shows! Paige Davis is back along with most of the designers you might remember from the popular show that ran from 2000 to 2008. Along with Paige, returning are Doug Wilson, Genevieve Gorder, Hildi Santo-Tomas, Vern Yip, Frank Bielic, and Laurie Smith. Carpenters Ty Pennington and Carter Oosterhouse are back too!

As you may remember, two sets of neighbors redo a room at each others houses over a weekend with the help of two designers for that week.

The new version premiers Saturday, April 7 at 8 pm on TLC.

I had the chance to ask Paige the 10 With Tom Questions. Here we go . . .

TOM: How did the idea for the reboot come about?
PAIGE: I’m not 100% certain, but I believe TLC felt it was good timing on the heels of the nostalgia wave that is sweeping television right now. There are currently so many reboots of old shows. It’s comforting and fun. Waiting for Trading Spaces to air is like saving the best for last.

TOM: Had you kept in touch with any of the cast/designers over these past 10 years that the show was off the air?
PAIGE: Definitely. And Facebook and social media has made it even easier than before to keep up with each other’s lives.

TOM: Where will the shows be taped? One city? Different areas of the country as in the past?
PAIGE: Our show has always been taped around the country. This reboot is no different. This season there are episodes in southern California, Atlanta, and Baltimore.

TOM: Are you stopped by fans when you travel? What is their number one question?
PAIGE: I am stopped by fans sometimes, yes. The number one thing I’m asked is, “Will you come to my house?” I always say, “Careful what you wish for.”

TOM: Are you a designer, have you designed or did you just fall into the hosting aspect of the show?
PAIGE: I am not a designer. Though I do have a love of decor and design. I am a dancer/singer/actress by trade. Trading Spaces was simply a job I auditioned for. A bit of fluke that I booked it.

TOM: If you had one super power, what would it be?
PAIGE: To never be hungry or to be able to curb cravings with the wiggle of my nose.

TOM: What was the last tv show you watched?
PAIGE: Speechless.

TOM: What’s the last thing you took a picture of?
PAIGE: The Playbill cover of Carousel on Broadway. My dear friend is in the ensemble. We went to see her last night.

TOM: When you guys trade spaces, what is your favorite room in the house for a do-over?
PAIGE: I can’t speak for the designers, but I love when we do family rooms because they have the most jeopardy if the homeowners are disappointed. Lots at stake when it’s a room you spend a great deal of time in.

TOM: Starry Night, Mona Lisa or Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso?
PAIGE: Picasso, all the way.

TOM: Thanks Paige! We’ll be looking for you on April 7!

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