Can a comic strip have seasons?

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Drawing Hal.

I’m working on my comic strip Hal and High Water, and hopefully will start publishing daily, but I have an idea that I’ve been considering. And that’s taking breaks, sort of having seasons, with breaks in between.

I know, I didn’t even start yet and I’m talking about taking a break! But listen, seriously. What I mean is, cartoonists work 365 days a year, they never stop, they never get vacations and if they do they have to build up that time by working extra hard to get a backlog of comics so that they can take time off. But what if the comic ran for a month or two or three and then there was a break, sort of like a tv show. The comic runs, ends with a cliffhanger, takes a month off, and then comes back for a new “season.”

A webcomic can do that very easily not so much a newspaper comic. But why not?

What if a newspaper comic ran for three months, then took time off and in that time another comic ran? What if three or four comics took up one space in the newspaper – sort of like the old days with tv, when a show would take the summer off and there would be a summer replacement. Years ago, that was the norm on tv and these last few years it’s been like that where there are not many reruns, other shows take up the time slot and there are usually three tv seasons now in a year.

So a newspaper comic would run a few months, maybe three months or six months, then take a break and in that three or six months another comic would run, then perhaps another comic or the original comic would come back, but they would run on some sort of schedule.

I’m thinking of doing that with Hal and High Water as a webcomic – running it for a period of time and then taking a short period of time off. Hopefully the readers will be there upon its return, but a good cliffhanger may be needed for that – sort of like a “Who shot JR?” cliffhanger.

I had written once about switching up my own comics over the year – run a panel cartoon for a few months, then a comic strip, then something else, but that would defeat the purpose of having time off. It would allow me to publish my different ideas and features over time, but it would not give me time off.

So I’m toying with the idea of taking breaks during the year – yes, even before I started publishing.

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Living in the Roaring ’20s

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Let’s bring back the newsies caps, but not the smoking.

Some of us were talking and we have a feeling that a lot of the 1920s will come back in the 2020s. I’m talking about maybe fashions and sayings and things like that. Maybe even  reprisal of silent films as a goof. It may all start as a goof.

I have so many of those newsboy/newsies caps, but I never wear them. Possibly some guys may start wearing them as a goof and they’ll catch on and become the fashion. Maybe sayings will come back like, “horse feathers,” and “Don’t take any wooden nickels,” and “four-flusher.” You can see a full list here.

Other fashion statements of the 1920s were beaded dresses, argyle socks, Cloche hats, art deco and flapper styles. Maybe guys will slick back their hair and wear straw hats.

Podcasts are sort of like old time radio, aren’t they? And maybe sepia toned photos could be a common thing on Instagram. And what about cars, people might drive more restored cars around as a common thing – Model T’s, Model A’s, The Hobnocker, Bugatti, etc.

Pez was invented in the 1920s and so was Pineapple upside down cake and Kool-Aid and sliced bread! Water skiing was invented and the dial telephone,  and the jukebox and sunglasses! And of course newspapers were at an all time high in circulation, every city had their fair share. And it was the Gatsby and the Charleston dance era. Who knows, even if just one or two things came back for a bit, it would be interesting.

I never liked when the years changed or the decades passed. I don’t know why, I guess I didn’t like the passage of time. But for some reason, I’m all into the 2020s. I’m looking forward to them.

Maintaining an institution

The Miami Herald, my daily newspapers, is dropping the Saturday edition this spring, they will only print six days a week.

A few years back, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans dropped a few printed editions during the week, but I think they publish six days a week now. And today I saw a story on tv about the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock’s daily newspaper going digital. It’s been published for 200 years or so and the current publisher Walter Hussma wants to keep it in business. Their new plan – give every paid subscriber an iPad so that they can read the paper online! His goal is just to pay the bills and to keep the institution going, not to make a killing in profits.

“It’s a lot more interactive. We have slide shows. We have video. You know, when the Arkansas River flooded a few weeks ago, we had ten videos on the front page,” said Hussma

When they first talked about going digital, someone asked, “But what if people don’t have an iPad?” So the newspaper invested $12 million in iPads and now every subscriber receives a free one!

These videos explain it all.

I visited The NY Herald last week

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The New York Herald in 1895, when it was a new building at Herald Square.

I had to go to Macy’s on Herald Square last week so as I usually do when I’m on Herald Square, I pay homage to the New York Herald. The Herald itself is not there today, it left the location in the early 1920s and a clothing store took over the location until around 1940 when one of the ugliest buildings you’ve ever seen – a square ugly box replaced it.

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Luckily there are some remnants of The Herald at the location. The large statue of Minerva & the Bell Ringers stands as a memorial to James Gordon Bennett, founder of the newspaper.  The statue originally stood right at the top of the building, front and center, you can see it in the top photo. The owls that graced the roof are there today and so is the clock. All at a small park across the triangle.

The Herald stood on the triangle at Broadway and 6th Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets. It originally was downtown on Park Row where most of the newspapers in the 19th century were, but in 1895 it moved uptown to the Herald Square location, named of course, for the newspaper.

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This disgusting building stands in The Herald location today.

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Do these people realize the hollowed ground they stand on?

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One of the clocks stands in the park today across the street from the location. Another clock is on the other side of this column.

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Owls from the original building grace different areas of the small park that holds the historic mementos.

Related photos and stories:
The New York Herald
Visiting the NY Herald again
Revisiting The New York Times
Pulitzer and The World
The Sun; it shines for all

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My brush with cartooning greatness

Lee Salem passed away earlier this week. I had conversations with Lee about cartooning and also Jay Kennedy, both heads of the big cartoon syndicates – Lee ran Universal Press Syndicate (now known as Andrew McMeel and GoComics.com) and Jay ran King Features.

In the mid 1990s I had sent them my work and they both liked it and both engaged with me. In other words, I didn’t receive form letters of rejection, which is usually the case, they were both nice enough to reject me personally.

In Lee’s case, he felt that my work was too much like The Far Side, which I believe had just ceased publication around that time. Today there seems to be many panel cartoons in that vein, but I guess right after Gary Larson left the scene, they didn’t want copies cropping up. I didn’t realize I was doing the same thing, but I must have been influenced enough by Gary that I was drawing weird single panel comics.

far-sideBut look at this famous Far Side comic panel; still hysterical today, just as it was the day it was published. I felt it was a compliment to be compared to him.

I’ve always loved single panel comics. I’m not sure why, but I was always drawn to them more than comic strips. Maybe it’s the concise nature, where you only have the one space to tell your story in the most economic way. I’m really not sure. I still love Hazel and Charles Addams, Out Our Way, They’ll Do It Every Time, Flubs & Fluffs, Dennis the Menace and so many more. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy comic strips, but I do find myself drawn the less wordy ones, so maybe that’s why I like panels; they’re less wordy.

In Jay’s case, I remember receiving a personally written note from him, I have it somewhere and I’ll share it some time when I find it, but he encouraged me to continue my work and he asked to buy some of the current submissions and for the next few years I was part of “The New Breed,” which featured single panel cartoons by various cartoonists each day.

I would send the syndicate a bunch, maybe 20 or 25 at a time and they would purchase maybe five of them. They would send back the ones they wanted edited (change this word, move that shading, things like that) and I would make the changes and send the comic back and it was published in about 300 daily newspapers a few weeks later. Many who are published today started cartooning for The New Breed feature. It was a way for them to groom cartoonists before the internet.

I regret not continuing with them after a couple of years. I had started a business and that took off and I guess I became too busy to continue with the comics on a regular basis. A less than smart decision on my part at the time, although I’ve lived a very good life thanks to my business.

I’m ready to start publishing again. I’m preparing comics for daily publication, I keep going back and forth between a strip and my single panel Tomversation comic, which I tend to love more.

Revisiting the NY Times

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See this Starbucks coffee and NY Times? What’s interesting is that this Starbucks is in the lobby of a building on Park Row, right next to the original NY Times which was in the building starting in 1889.

Park Row, across from City Hall, is where many NY newspapers were in the 1800s – The Times, The Sun, The Tribune, The Herald. Most buildings are gone now.

The newspapers eventually moved uptown. The Times to Times Square, The Herald to Herald Square and The Sun just a block away, into the old A.T. Stewart Dry Goods Store which moved there in 1846. The Sun took the building over in 1917.

The clocks are still on the corners of the building. It’s hard to read it all but they say, “The Sun. It shines for all.”

 

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The Times building is the light color building on the left.

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The entrance to The Sun building, still there at 280 Broadway (the building, not the newspaper).

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The Sun building today.

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Newsboys. 100 years ago.

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“The Sun. It shines for all.” These clocks are still on each corner of the building today.

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Joseph Pulitzer’s World building, The Sun (the small building), The Tribune and the Times.

‘Ink,’ the play

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We’re going to see “Ink” on Broadway in a couple of weeks. It’s a play about Rupert Murdock and the Sun newspaper. I’m not a fan of Rupert, but am a huge fan of newspapers, so looking forward to it.

I also am a Fan of Johnny Lee Miller who stars with Bertie Carvel, who plays Murdock, Johnny Lee plays Larry Lamb, the editor of the Sun. Johnny of course plays Sherlock Holmes in the excellent tv show Elementary.

From Ink’s website: “It’s 1969 London. The brash young Rupert Murdoch purchases a struggling paper, The Sun, and sets out to make it a must-read smash which will destroy—and ultimately horrify—the competition. He brings on rogue editor Larry Lamb who in turn recruits an unlikely team of underdog reporters. Together, they will go to any lengths for success and the race for the most ink is on!”