Coming up with ideas

People always ask how I come up with the cartoon ideas. They just pop into my head. I don’t usually dwell on things, although sometimes I do, I might have a great drawing, but I hate the text, so I’ll let it sit – sometimes for months, and then the gag hits me and I change the text/wording in the cartoon.

Today’s cartoon – the Columbo – “watch one” came to me while watching (watching, see what I did there?) North Woods Law. I wasn’t even watching, I just overheard one of the officers say, “It happened on my watch, I’ll handle it.” And the rest is history. I used Columbo because he’s my favorite detective and he was popular in a past cartoon, where he used Siri for help solving a crime. And I read recently that he’s become even more popular with people during the pandemic.

This one from last year – the “Ice Hole” one, I explained once before, it came to me while watching Life Below Zero. I wasn’t really paying attention either, I think I was dozing off, and I heard Chip Hailstone, one of the people on the show, say to his kids, who were going ice fishing, “Hey, there’s an ice hole!” And it made me look up and laugh and just totally struck me as being hilarious. And voilà – there was a comic idea.

I played around with it a bit. At first there was a bear hibernating behind a bush and he heard the guys say “ice hole,” and he looked up with one eye open. It was titled, “Trouble Brewing,” but I couldn’t get the image setting right, so I made it another ice fisher.

Most times I’ll read something or see something or overhear something and just twist it in my mind for a bit. So many times I hear something and rush to write it down so I don’t forget.

After the cartoon is done, I end up changing it in some way – up until the last minute – sometimes it’s something simple like a color change, other times it’s the wording or maybe the expression on a character’s face. Never a dull moment.

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The Addams Family, in color

Today’s cartoon over at TomFalco.com is of the Addams Family. I drew this a few years ago, but I keep seeing them in the new Progressive Insurance commercials, so I thought I would dust it off and bring it out. There’s a new Addams Family movie coming out October 1. The cartoon originally had Lurch saying, “You Tweeted?” but I thought texted sounded more personal for the Addams household.

Anyway, notice the walls in the living room? Pink. Why? Because that’s what color they were!

I’ve been seeing this photo below, around the internet for years – it’s by Richard Fish, a well-known photographer at the time. It’s not colorized, this is the original color photo.

I never did find out why the walls were pink and green, but maybe that showed up better on black and white tv at the time and perhaps they thought the tv show would eventually be done in color.

Swipe back and forth and see the difference between color and black and white.

COMPARE – COLOR TO BLACK AND WHITE

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No shift, Sherlock

I didn’t think people would get today’s cartoon, but I’ve been living by Jason Chatfield‘s credo – “Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.” So I did and people do get it. At last count, there over 2000 shares on Facebook!

Originally I did this cartoon years ago and it was Watson handing Sherlock a dress, which is called a “shift,” which I remember from my grandmother for some reason, she must have used that word. And he says, “No shift Sherlock,” handing the shift back to Sherlock, and the explanation is, “Watson does not like this week’s disguise.”

But I didn’t think people would understand that “shift” is a dress. According to a blog called Who, What Wear, “A shift dress refers to a short dress that hangs straight down from the shoulders with clean, simple lines.” But who knew except my grandma and me.

What do Batman and Starry Night have in common?

I’m getting excited about New York ComicCon in October. As far as I know, it’s still on. I saw an ad on Instagram yesterday for ticket sales, so I assume since they are selling tickets, it is still on.

I lost my Batman/Van Gogh shirt. I like to wear it at ComicCon one of the days. I also have a Spider-man shirt and a Captain America shield shirt that I wear. That’s as far as I go with costumes.

Anyway, I ordered a new Batman/Van Gogh shirt and it arrived yesterday. I think I probably left the old one in New York a couple of Octobers ago, because I think that is the last time I wore it. It must have fallen off a chair or something and I didn’t pack it when I was heading home.

Anyway, you may remember, in April 2018, there was a story on the news about a guy in Mount Dora, Florida, who painted the exterior of a house with Van Gogh images. He had on this shirt and it was two of my favorite things combined, so I did a search online and found it. You can see the picture and video of the house and the guy wearing the shirt on the news here.

It’s just September 1 today, so I’m not trying to rush the month away. But I am getting excited for October.

Speaking of September 1, for some reason, as I get older, things move in slow motion, rather than fast motion, which you would think. For instance in the past, on September 1, I used to tell friends, remember this date, because before you know it, it will be January 1! And that was always the case.

But the past few years, maybe five, six or seven years, life has moved in slow motion and of course I love that. So September 1 to October 1 will hopefully take awhile to happen. I know Ferris Bueller says life moves too fast and you have to slow down and take a look around, but in many cases, it moves slow, and I like it that way.

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CBS all night

Saw this old tv guide page on Facebook. It’s from December 1962, a Monday night. Looks like a NYC edition by the channel lineup.

I think I would watch CBS, channel 2 all night. Maybe up till 10 pm and then change to ABC Channel 7 for Ben Casey.

When we were kids my father was supposed to be on To Tell the Truth. It was live I think, because he was coming home late from work and my mother told me that the reason was he was going to be on To Tell the Truth, so we put it on and waited, but he never came on the show. I forgot the reasoning, maybe a technical issue or something and they showed a rerun.

He was going to be one of the liars/false people, making believe they were the person who was supposed to be the subject. I have to ask him about that, see if he remembers all these years later.

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New York Comic Con is back

So New York Comic Con is back! From October 7-10, 2021, the Jacob Javits Center will be alive again. Until recently it has been used for some sad and unpleasant things – you may remember it was turned into a hospital during the very dark days of covid. And until recently it was a center for vaccination shots.

I guess it will feel weird being there and thinking of all that, but in the end, it will be back to what it was meant for – events. Comic Con was cancelled last year, so it will be a big welcome home event this year.

I’m looking forward to Comic Con. And of course, being in NYC in the fall is an added bonus. This past summer there was still a lot missing. There wasn’t much in the way of service and I don’t think NYC is ready for visitors yet. Plus the weather is either 100 degrees or raining every day, which doesn’t help in making it a great summer experience.

That being said, I did spend a lot of time with friends and family and I did a lot of things from going to the Hamptons a couple of times to visiting Little Island, Governors Island, Coney Island (a lot of islands), seeing the fireworks and of course doing the Van Gogh Experience, among so many other things.

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Visiting Van Gogh

These pictures of course do not do this justice, but the other day we went to the Van Gogh Experience in NYC. It was one of the best things I have experienced. The best part and most unbelievable part was just as we entered, my favorite song, No Regrets by Edith Piaf started playing.

This was not planned. We entered randomly, it was not as if the show was starting, it’s an ongoing thing. The person at the entrance, parted black curtains, and four of us entered, the lights came on and Edith Piaf started singing and Vincent Van Gogh’s work was bigger than life surrounding us. An indescribable moment.

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Jason Chatfield; cartoonists are his favorite people

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

Jason Chatfield and Ginger Meggs

I interviewed one of my favorite cartoonists, Jason Chatfield, who incidentally helped me immensely with my own cartooning, as I live by one of his statements: “Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.” I live (and create) by that now.

I was interested in Jason’s schedule, technique and so much of his cartoons and comics work and work ethic.

TOM: You seem to do so much, TV, New Yorker cartoonist, daily comic strip (Ginger Meggs) and President of the National Cartoonists’ Society (NCS). What is the schedule like, for instance, when do you do the comic strip? When do you do New Yorker cartoons?

JASON: I have a pretty regular schedule — I work from a calendar instead of a to-do list — I tend to do 6 daily strips at-a-time, then the Sundays (weekend paper strips) on separate days.

I pitch a batch of 10 New Yorker cartoons each Tuesday; some roughs and some finished, and some of them re-submissions with new captions. 99% are rejected. Those are done in a 10-step process that I outline here.

The TV work is usually just a one or two-day shoot somewhere, then the show or commercial runs for years, so that’s not very time-heavy, and my NCS work is just constantly streaming in every day. Some days there is a lot to do, other days less so. Cartoonists are my favorite people, but trying to organize them can be like herding cats. ☺️

It sounds like a lot, but I manage to sleep somewhere in there and take weekends off with my wife and pup.

TOM: I see that Ginger Meggs recently turned 100 — that’s quite a weight to bear — taking over such a well-known strip. How did that come about? How were you chosen to do this?

JASON: When I was a 23 year-old editorial cartoonist in my hometown of Perth, the fourth cartoonist on the strip, James Kemsley, asked me to take it over. That was few days before he died of ALS. He was a dear friend and mentor so it was a very bittersweet honor to inherit. I’d give up the strip tomorrow it it meant having Kems back; he was an impressive guy, always way ahead of his time and always helping other cartoonists. I’m glad I could carry the baton and keep Ginger going past 100 years. (Details on the centenary are at gingermeggs.com )

TOM: As President of the National Cartoonists Society, what is your take on webcomics or comics only published online? They seem to be the most read today, yet I have heard that cartoonists have a problem joining the society.

JASON: We have many webcomic cartoonists in the NCS, and under past President Tom Richmond’s tenure (around 2010/11) the NCS introduced two webcomic categories into our Divisional Reuben awards. (Long form and Short form).

Webcomics are a rich and diverse artform we’re really proud to promote — comics in newspapers are only a fraction of the make-up of NCS membership. Our biggest numbers of entries for the 2020 Reuben awards were for both webcomics categories. 

I think I read about 70% of my favorite comics online (the rest in magazines and printed book collections.)

TOM: Do you work digitally or with pen and paper?

JASON: I use both. I learned to draw traditionally before I learned to draw digitally, so the transition was very natural. I use a Wacom Cintiq with an Ergo Arm for most of my work, but I often spin around to my drawing board and use a Hunt 101 Imperial nib on my dip pen for a lot of my New Yorker finishes. (Mainly because people request to purchase the originals… And I like to get inky fingers so my wife thinks I’m doing actual work.)

TOM: What does your studio, workspace look like?

JASON: It changes all the time. I’ve moved so many times the past 15 years my studio has been every kind of room imaginable. You can get a glimpse of my current studio (June 2021) in this video just shot by Wacom for the production of a series of coins I designed for the Royal Australian Mint. They cut the part where my dog sits under my desk while I’m working and farts. Almost constantly.

TOM: What comics/cartoonists influenced you?

JASON: I was a big fan of MAD growing up, so all the Usual Gang of Idiots were my teachers — Sergio Aragonés was my favorite for his pantomime marginals, but Mort Drucker’s hand gestures and caricatured likenesses, Jack Davis’ movement, brushwork and shoes, Al Jaffee’s inventiveness (and snark) all contributed to my weird brain. And then the “newer” guys like Tom Richmond, Mark Frederickson and a slew of other talented idiots followed suit.

For comic strips, I loved Calvin & Hobbes and later, Cul de Sac.

TOM: If you could crawl into any strip or panel for the day, other than your own, which would it be, and why?

JASON: Cul de Sac. I would want to sit down and just pick the brain of Alice Otterloop. What a brilliant mind Richard Thompson had, to bring her into this universe. Wildly inventive, funny and smart character writing.

TOM: At what point did you realize you were famous?

JASON: Ha! I don’t think that’s true. I know it sounds silly considering all the things I do being so public-facing, but I now totally get people having a pseudonym. Fame isn’t something I aspire to — I just like to do my work and hopefully have people enjoy reading it. I think ‘actual’ fame comes with more downsides than upsides… unless we’re talking about my local diner naming a roast beef sandwich after me. That’s all upside. (And topside).

TOM: What song would be the theme of your life?

JASON: The theme to Curb Your Enthusiasm

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

JASON: Richard Thompson. Without question. 
One can dream.

TOM: Thanks, Jason! I learned a lot!

My daily cartoon is here.

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Ginger Meggs celebrates 100!

In the Heights

In the Heights

I saw “In the Heights” the other night. Loved it.

I think it is probably the movie of the summer – it’s got everything – singing, dancing, a big presence and it’s fun.

I’ve been all over NYC, but never to Washington Heights, I always plan to go to see one thing – the Little Red Lighthouse at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, but I never seem to make it. You just take the A train or the #1 and you are there.

I’ve seen it from the Hudson River many times, from the Circle Line (the lighthouse and Washington Heights).

The Little Red Lighthouse



I’ve been to Spanish Harlem many times – by accident the first time. There’s a museum up that way, the Museum of the City of New York. Every time I’m in the city, I go to the museum. I take the #6 train and get off at 103rd Street and walk through the Spanish Harlem neighborhood and end up at Central Park, where the museum is, across from the park on 5th Avenue. But along the way, you are immersed in a great culture – the food, the murals, the bodegas, the schools and hospitals, there are many hospitals up that way.

The first time I went to the Museum of the City of New York, it was to see the Roz Chast exhibit. I figured out how to get to the area and I’ve gone back dozens of times since.

I’ll be in NYC soon and of course I’ll visit the Museum of the City of New York, Spanish Harlem, and Washington Heights. New York is back, as is most of the country, and I’ll be enjoying so much of it, having not been there for such a long time. The last time I was there I had to leave a little early because a nor’easter was coming!

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