Archive for August 13th, 2012

Aug 13th 2012 The Gene Album


This week we’re celebrating son Gene. Since Arlo & Janis premiered in the summer of 1985, the title characters have undergone dramatic transformations in appearance. They both have completely different hair styles today, and—as I’ve learned to draw—they don’t look so weird. Appearance aside, however, Arlo and Janis have not changed so much. They’ve mellowed a bit, progressing from a young married couple to an older married couple, but that’s about it. Gene, their son, is another story. He has grown up.

Gene is a young man in the strip today, about to graduate from college with plans of his own. This week, in the newspaper and on this Web site, we’re going to look back at Gene through the years. Below, we’re starting with 10 comic strips from the 80s. A few have appeared on the internet, but many have not been seen since they were published in newspapers over 20 years ago. I hope you enjoy seeing them again as much as I enjoyed digging them out of the closet. 
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While it is true Gene has undergone more substantive changes than his parents, he also has changed more in appearance. Anyone who has raised a child shouldn’t find this strange.  Here he appears as he did when the strip began.
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See? He’s already changing. Notice the flip thing going on with his hair. This is typical of the little-kid humor that young Gene inspired. Generic as it might be at times, it was fun, and I miss it.
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The humor in this strip is more subtle and original, more Arlo & Janis, if you will. I swung freely between the broad kid humor and more sophisticated dialog between Gene and his parents, particularly his dad.
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Young Gene wasn’t always the butt of the joke. Sometimes, it takes fresh eyes—and ears—to perceive things as they are, and sometimes things are pretty banal.
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I was stretching myself as an artist in this strip. In particular, note the camera angle in the first panel. This sort of thing proved to be a lot of work, however, and I decided only Walt Kelly can draw a tree.
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There was a combination of inspirations for this strip, as there often is. I knew a little kid about this time, the son of friends, who was an absolute freak about Star Wars. Also, I remembered crawling under the house with my dad to change the filter. That’s nice brick work if I say so myself; I wish I could lay real bricks that well.
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The more things change, huh? The cordless telephone represented the cutting edge of consumer communication technology about this time, and—as now—I was more than happy to make fun of it.
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I may have been a relatively young man when I started drawing Arlo & Janis, but I came from an era when games such as Pick Up Sticks were considered fun. It required supreme patience and a surgeon’s deft touch. No wonder video games were so well received when they came along.
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Speaking of video games, it’s hard to believe, but not every kid had one when this strip first appeared. Every kid wanted one, though.
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Don’t be gone too long! We’re going to do this some more tomorrow.

Buy the new book, "Beaucoup Arlo & Janis!"Today's "Arlo & Janis!"

48 Comments » Posted by jimmyjohnson / Vintage A&J