Hello, I Love You

I am really reluctant to get into age specifics, really reluctant, but I drew this cartoon in 1996. It was based almost directly on sweet misery I personally had experienced 30 years earlier. In the three decades between actual events and cartoon depiction, little had changed in society to invalidate the premise. Now, after just 20 more years, Gene and Ruth might as well be screaming into hand-cranked wall phones.

We are talking about Gene this week. For some reason, it always was easy to follow Gene with a camera when he lived with his parents. Many of the most memorable story lines in A&J have centered on Gene. Indeed, the very direction of his life was determined by events depicted years ago. His propensity for narrative continued as he grew up and moved on. However, the strip became two strips. I am not saying this was an impossible situation to maintain, but it was an inconvenient and distracting one, compounded by the fact that many people who favor comics about the title characters don’t like the strips about the son’s family, and vice versa. I don’t think of myself as having chosen sides, but—if I have to choose—I prefer writing stand-up for Arlo and Janis to writing screenplays for Gene’s brood. Most days. Also, it seems to me most readers prefer concentrating on the core. This is a terrible trap! Attempting to second-guess an audience is one of the most counterproductive things a creative person can do. Worse, with instant communication, sharing, comments and all that, interactivity has become expected. Young cartoonists see it as a necessity and a tool, probably quite correctly. There, would you look at that? I’ve wandered off onto an entirely different subject.

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54 responses to “Hello, I Love You”

  1. Meg, herpetologist. Whether it elicits comments or not, decades of classroom experience assures me that “a poor little girl” handling a snake will cause the shudders, shiver spines, or turn the stomachs of some readers. Good for Meg! And she is humane; she doesn’t hurt it, just says “shoo.” Peace,

  2. I enjoy the side stories about Gene, but I can see your point. Now that he’s left the house, you have to break his plate. So…are you considering a second strip? If Mort Walker can do it, so can you.

  3. Request to JJ: I remember a strip where Gene was a young boy and he was excited because it was Friday and Arlo got this far away look and said, “Yes, it was Friday then…” and then he came back to reality. I had a copy of that strip but have misplaced it. Sure would be nice to see it again in the memoirs of Gene. WAR EAGLE !!!

    God bless us every one.

  4. I enjoy little breaks from the main characters, A&J. When the comic dwells on other people, I can make up my own story-lines about what A&J are up to.

  5. What happens in a child’s life impacts what happens in the parents’ lives so I don’t see them as two separate strips. We have to see occasionally what is going on in Gene’s life so we can interpret what happens to A & J when they learn about it.

  6. I see it as JJ moving back to his roots in some way. Yes the strip has evolved to just A&J, but like he pointed out, some of the best strips happened when they interacted with Gene. It is not like you are doing a series of strips on Robin or some other character. Gene is family and it is interesting to see a younger Arlo in him. Frankly watching my son become a Father has had the same effect on me. On Easter he captured a picture of me with my Grandson that showed the silly side of me. Just as I connect with my kids, I hope to have that same connection with my Grandkids.

  7. Jimmy, I love you. I mean that figuratively, you know, as in “I just luv you.” I suppose that’s why I’m nearly a life-long reader. (It took me a few years to stumble on A&J and your blog!)

  8. Chasing what “the audience wants” can be one of the quickest ways for a creator to dilute the very thing that attracted the audience in the first place.

  9. The pro for Jimmy staying primarily focused on Arlo and Janis is that, well, they are his bread and butter. More time spent with Gene’s family might be considered an unwelcomed distraction by some readers, and little or no time spent there would likely not bother many of his core readers.

    The pro for him devoting more time to Gene and Mary Lou is that, well, darn it, they are interesting folks and bring a bit of a different perspective to A&J. Gene’s outlook is not the same as Arlo’s, and Mary Lou’s is certainly not the same as Janis’s. (Not to say that Arlo and Janis have gotten humdrum by any means, but we have had a lot of years to get to know them.) And of course Meg has been a keeper from the very beginning.

    The con is, well, there really isn’t one as far as I can see. Although I may lean slightly toward the latter view, as long as he continues drawing the strip as he sees fit, it’s all good as far as I’m concerned.

  10. That you should go wherever your muse takes you is a given.

    That said, just a suggestion, have you thought about turning the occasional Sunday strips over to Gene and Family? Going different places with the weekday and Sunday strips is certainly not unprecedented.

  11. Just to say that I like the various comments to JJ’s interesting points about including some looks at what’s going on with Gene and family. I could mention that I too have missed them when they haven’t been around lately, but also would underline that it’s totally up to you, JJ.

  12. Don’t bother trying to second guess your readership. If a reader is so self-centered that they think you have to write what they, and they alone, want to read then they can just go eat fried pigs tails. The rest of us will equally enjoy your A&J standup and the Gene Clan Melodramas.

  13. Interesting things that you have to wrestle with, JJ. I’ve always liked the Gene subplots but always wondered why Gene had to go away. He and his family never come home to visit his parents in their milieu. And what would Arlo and Janis be like as grandparents? How would it impact their own relationship? Seems like there is material there to mine. But… You are the divine architect of this great little world and we mere mortals are happy to go along with whatever you create for us.

  14. After a rather long hiatus due to real life issues I would like to weigh in on the Gene/A&J issue. I see the problem in dove tailing them together, and I think the quality we have seen in A&J is more important to maintain than pleasing all readers. I would much rather see JJ do what he does best rather than try to meet some ones standard that is not his and miss the mark. Yes Gene, Marylou, and Meg are lots of fun, but if it distracts from the high art form that A&J is then we can do with a lot less of them and reserve them for an occasional special treat, like Meg and the snake, which was priceless.

  15. I’m happy with whatever JJ gives us. Seeing the whole family here is kind of like seeing our real family – love them but don’t need to see them all the time.

    On another note: If solving puzzles really does help prevent or delay dementia, this afternoon’s activities should have extended my sanity for quite a while. One would think that Send to Kindle would automatically be included in the Kindle app and/or Kindle for PC, but noooo…. I finally figured it out, so I can now settle down to read the free book that I got through LibraryThing: Operation Cosmic Teapot. Stay tuned for my review 🙂

  16. Just an opinion: Having a lot of Gene & family might risk getting into a soap opera strip at the expense of humor. I think JJ referred to same when he mentioned “writing screen plays” for the younger group.
    If I want soap opera, I’ll go to Mary Worth.

  17. If Jimmy ever did consider splitting A&J into two separate strips, I would’ve thought it would be A&J and the other being The Cat. I agree with everyone else that its nice to see most strips involving A&J with an occasional appearance of Gene, Mary Lou and the other supporting characters. They’re all part of the extended A&J family (Luddie too).

  18. Well, I’m going to weigh in as another reader who does not mind strips that go away from the central characters now and then. I could cite a few, but it does not matter. As someone else said, it is your strip and I enjoy whatever you see fit to draw!

    I like the idea of having Meg stay with A&J.

    BTW, what happened to the discussion about the boat??? 🙂

  19. Mark, Gene’s phone is light years ahead of the fossil that Ruth is using. 🙂

    “What is that thing coming out of the end, Grandpa? And why is Gene thinking that ‘nobody is at home?’ He’s calling Ruth’s phone, right?”

    Of course, in 20 years, today’s cell phones will likely be viewed as the equivalent of using carrier pigeons…

  20. Mark, I thought that you knew that I can run faster and jump higher. Unfortunately I require two batteries and one of them drains power about twice as fast as the other. Fortunately I no longer require an aluminum foil hat. The pink bunny following me around becomes irritating after awhile.

  21. Jerry in FL, is that the one wearing shades and beating a drum?

    On the plus side, be glad they aren’t the type batteries that set the Boeing aircraft and hoverboards ablaze. Emergency call to doc, “Doc, I’ve got problems!”, “Really, what seems to be the matter?”. “I’ve got bad heartburn!”. “So take Tums”. “No, Doctor. My pacemaker battery pack’s on fire!”

  22. JJ we love what you do – what ever you do.
    If you just keep peeking in the windows you will be fine(d)
    While we like Gene & family the strip is Arlo And Janis.
    A phone call now and then would not be remiss.

  23. I heard a hilarious parody song today courtesy of one of my volunteer builders here at the boat shop. I was going to link it and will try and if I fail, please Mark, this is for Debbe.

    “Ghost Chickens in the Sky”

  24. Good morning Villagers…..

    JJ….you draw, we read, we laugh….if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Keep up the great work.

    Jackie, one of the teens had introduced that song to me, and it IS eggsactly that, hilarious. Did you see the questions I asked about Port A? The ferry?

    Raining here, and from the looks of the national radar…it’s going to be a rainy day.

    Jerry, I hope they never have to ‘jump’ start you….love the Pink Bunny joke 🙂

    Ya’ll have a blessed day

  25. Gal, here are the lyrics to Young’s ‘Hey, hey….” you can U- tube it if you want. When you said fade away, this song came to my mind. Hey, there’s a song in everything. I love music.

  26. The techie rewrite of a familiar saying. 😉

    “God grant me the dgaf to lol at the things I can’t even, the swag to yolo the things I can, and the lifehacks to know the difference.” Brandon Hayes

  27. Checked with my deputy and workman, storms hit outside Tulsa, none at my place, I am south. Everyone ok in our rea.

    Of course Monroe, LA where all my family is will flash flood apparently again.

    I am on an ice run, soda and Shiner beer, jalapeño bread. We are eating leftovers for lunch today.

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