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.