I think part of my Achilles is constantly complaining about not getting recognition, even though I sometimes do. (I could be a multi-trillionaire from my comics and still find something to complain about). This is why I was pleasantly surprised when looking at the Covered blog to see my own comic being done. There's proof that despite conventional wisdom, people still think of a particular comic that's mostly humor and gags after ten years. Even though I've been at this for decades, when you spend 90% of your time alone doing comics for yourself sometimes you wonder who sees what you do. I do anyway. It's even more flattering when someone you've heard of but never officially met is a fan, let alone acknowledges your existence.
The cover is by Dyna Moe, probably best known for the Mad Men app that everybody was using as their Facebook avatar a couple years ago. I'm familiar with the feeling of one's most famous work being something you're proud of, but at the expense of eclipsing everything else. I didn't ask her but I'm guessing this may be the case. She's also done several illustrations, and videos for Channel 102 and Funny or Die, which can be seen perusing her site. If I was still doing The Magic Whistle as a regular series, maybe I'd ask her to do a cover.
Here's the original.
My drawings are done quickly and it shows, but makes people think anyone can do it. I spend more time getting the dialogue and pacing right and then when I'm finished I think of how I could have done it better. My originals have paste-ups and white-out all over them (except the ones for sale). In this case I spent a lot of time drawing straight lines from everyone's eyes to the main guy's shorts in pencil so I'd get the eye contact just right. The original sketch is long gone.
I've been working a lot on Hippie Days. It's not that much of a departure from what I've been doing all along except it doesn't have things like talking animals or people spontaneously combusting or anything supernatural like that. It'll appear regularly on Act-I-Vate, which seems to get a lot of traffic, including publishers and editors, so I'll be posting it there every Thursday instead of here from now on.
With the periodical comic dead I need to work on something full length to keep staying in print. Publishers are loathe to invest in something that would cost $4 when they can make at least 5 times that with a longer book. Paperbacks less than 150 pages don't cut it anymore. Some people say I'm “slumming” continuing to do comics, but I consider higher-profile work just another job that pays better. Anonymity is a double-edge sword. With comics at least I don't get relatives thinking I had anything to do with the merchandising.
Even having done comics for more than twenty years and being printed everywhere I still feel new to comics. I'm told people don't want to buy anything with the hodge-podge of stories, gags and short bursts I've been doing all my life, despite my belief that in the long run those type of things sell better than most “graphic novels”. I hate that term, it's like a pimp calling himself an “adult recreational consultant”. It's a necessary evil, though, since it's a euphemism that keeps artists and readers from being ridiculed. I'm also told people prefer Spiegelman-inspired comics rather than straight-out humor. I like all that stuff too, but I don't expect a lot of it to be remembered in ten years. Chris Ware and Dan Clowes are but two exceptions. Ask a random person in the street to name the most famous comic of all time off the top of their head, most likely they'll say Peanuts. Or if they don't know we have 50 states or that WWII came before Vietnam they'll say Garfield. And what genre are they?
There are only seven non-comedy comic strips in syndication right now versus the hundreds of others. I'm told people like Tony Millionaire and Johnny Ryan's books don't sell as well as they used to, but it seems they resonate more with the general public. I'm glad Michael Kupperman is doing well, though his success seems to ultimately be from the comedy world. Maybe telling me humor doesn't sell or saying “I like it, but...” is just a way of turning me down politely. Do humor comics sell? Like the great George W. Bush once said, “Only time will tell about my legacy.”
It doesn't have too much to do with hippies. I just like the pun. Even if nobody under thirty will get it. Years ago, a girlfriend had a niece visiting. She was watching something like Law and Order with Henry Winkler as the guest star. Walking by, I said “Hey, it's the Fonz!” and she said “Who's the Fonz?” It was my first experience feeling old. Maybe I should have said “It's the guy from Arrested Development” instead.
Yes, I was actually “walking by” the TV. Drew Friedman once pointed out that in his class, Will Eisner used to always say “I was walking by the TV when...” without ever acknowledging he was sitting down and watching it.