Monday "When in doubt, click on the cartoon" July 26, 2004          
Email Jimmy Johnson

I have a doctor's appointment this morning. They told me not to eat or drink anything after midnight. That includes coffee! So, I hope you don't expect a lot here, today. I do have something fun planned for tomorrow, something I've been saving. I hope you'll join me then, over coffee.

Most of you held your tongue and patiently waited until the "talk show" series ended in the newspapers last week. To the few of you who wrote in to express dismay and disappointment that Ludwig the cat actually is played by a Yorkshire terrier, relax. He isn't! It was all what we humorists refer to as a "joke." By the way, here's what's in the newspapers today. And here are four cartoons from this month in 2002. Wish me luck at the doctor's office.

It's Friday, and that means I'm busy with deadlines for the newspaper comic. I do have four cartoons. There's a cat cartoon in there, too, but I'm going to make you dig for it. Since we've been talking about the strip that's running currently, here's a link to the final episode of the whimsical interview with Pogey, the Yorkie. Have a great weekend, and come back Monday. (Posted 7/23/2004)

I just can't trust you people! Some of you mischievous scamps actually sent messages to my cohort Ned Ehrbar at United Media just because I posted a link to his email address. I am shocked! All seriousness aside, that's one of the perks of working in the comic-strip industry; I get to work with people who have a sense of humor. Right, Ned? Ned was too much the gentleman to point out that if I'd get my work into the offices of UM in a more timely fashion, the editors would have more time to ponder the spelling of words like "Yorkie."

Of course, this all arises from the weird Arlo and Janis sequence currently running in newspapers.  Speaking of cartoons, here's a little sequence of cartoons from 2001. (Posted 7/22/2004)

Stephen was nice enough to take the time to correct me yesterday. He wrote:

I must say I absolutely love Arlo and Janis [Cartoonist's note: if you must say it, you must say it!], but I must let you know something about the comic strip from July 21. The dog being interviewed, a Yorkshire Terrier, is commonly referred to as a Yorkie, not a Yorky. I thought you should know about your spelling error.

Stephen is referring to the A&J strip that appeared in newspapers yesterday. I have had a morbid fascination with this breed of dog since the morning I was attacked by one on the streets of Paris, a story for another day. I want to thank Stephen, but I also want to tell him that it isn't my fault. It is the fault of my editor, Ned Ehrbar at United Media. He is the one responsible for correcting my mistakes.

The supreme irony of this situation is that the very day the strip in question appeared, I was in New York City wining and dining Mr. Ehrbar and others on the UM editorial staff in a thinly varnished effort to bribe my way into their good graces and prevent just such debacles. Those of you who feel strongly about this issue may write Ned and tell him that Mr. Johnson is a comic genius who can't be expected to do every little thing for himself. And don't be fooled! Ned is known to pose as a very likeable and intelligent fellow. There's also this guy there named Alex George. Don't get me started on Alex!

I have for you today five cartoons from March, 2002. (Posted 7/21/2004)

The ol' Web page has been a little wordy of late, so I thought I would start with a cartoon; you don't even have to click on a link. I'm still traveling, and I don't have a huge backlog of cartoons from which to choose, so I am again presenting newer material. The above cartoon and these three actually ran in the winter of this year. I'll return to some of the mail, soon. (Posted 7/20/2004)

It's Day.

Many of you wrote in asking what the "D" stood for in the strip that ran in newspapers last Wednesday (below). The last name of Arlo and Janis and Gene is Day. Not very exciting, is it?  Quite a few of you, for reasons I cannot fathom, guessed Dylan. Some guessed Donovan. I think my favorite suggestion was from an old friend of A&J, Ken, who said it should be "Daily." Don't I know it?

A few people knew their name is Day. I can't be sure myself, but I don't think I've referenced the name in the strip for years. In the earlier strips, in the mid-eighties, it cropped up occasionally.

Why Day? When United Media was about to launch Arlo and Janis in 1985, the comic strip didn't really have a title, and the family did not have a surname. Some long-forgotten soul in the editorial office in New York suggested naming the family Day and calling the strip "Day by Day." I will reserve comment on my own private reaction to this suggestion at the time, but, suffice to say, I was a powerless, unknown cartoonist about to get his big break from these people, and they could've named it "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." As fate would have it, though, there was an obscure, newspaper column out there somewhere entitled "Day after Day," and United Media decided against risking any confusion--especially legal confusion. The family name Day remains. There you have it.

I'm traveling today, so I don't have my usual, voluminous resources at my fingertips. You'll have to make do today with three cartoons from recent memory. Please come back tomorrow. (Posted 7/19/2004)

It's Friday, so many of you will know I'm busy with the newspaper cartoons. Remember those? To make it up to you, I'm shoveling up five, angst-filled cartoons from 1994, plus the final installment of Puss in Boots. Have a wonderful and safe weekend!

Oh, yeah... the name thing. Many of you have written about the family's surname, and two of you actually knew it. All will be revealed Monday. (Posted 7/16/2004)

The Arlo and Janis strip that ran in newspapers yesterday caused a minor sensation among regulars here at as well as the general readership. What th' Sam Hill is the family's name?

A&J is something of a minimalist strip. I don't worry a lot about where they work or--as has been mentioned already--where they live. Their names don't even seem all that important. However, they do have a surname, and it has been mentioned in the strip. Incidentally, the salesmen at United Media gather annually for a meeting, and one year--for fun--the men and women who push A&J for a living were asked this as a trivia question. I think one fellow knew it.

There's a little story behind the family name, but before I get into it, I'll give you a chance. Does anyone reading know it? Drop me a line if you do.

Here's the next to last episode of Puss in Boots and four random cartoons from 1994. (Posted 7/15/2004)

I see the ol' vertical scroll bar is getting long, again. It'll be time to archive this page soon and start anew. Which reminds me: I've received many good suggestions for this Web site, involving concepts like bulletin boards and archives and something called "favicons," and I want all you who've written to know that I'm not ignoring your suggestions. Well, not deliberately, anyway. I appreciate them very much, and if my shirttail ever hits my you-know-what, I will get around to implementing some of them.

The main thing here at is the cartoon, however, and I have five for you today. The Puss in Boots series nears conclusion, and here are four cartoons from a dining-out sequence, drawn in 1999. Happy Hump Day. (Posted 7/14/2004)

I have two series of cartoons going at the moment, the short series where Gene subcontracts his chores, and the ongoing Puss in Boots series. The former began yesterday with the first three cartoons in the sequence and wraps up today with the final three.

Reece writes,  Do you take requests? I'd like to see the one in which Arlo talks
about the first time his dad ate a jalapeno: "It's still referred to in the family annals as 'the fish-pond incident'."
First, let me mention that I'm really not set up to take requests at the moment, because that would require organization. Several of you have written asking about this, and I wish I could comply. It doesn't hurt to try, though, and I'll run requests if I happen upon them. Including at least an approximate date would increase your chances from none to slim.

As for Arlo's dad and the jalapeno incident, it is based on reality. Many of us grew up in an America where the most exotic produce in the markets was iceberg lettuce. When my father received a stubby, green pepper along with his order of fried chicken, he assumed he was supposed to eat it with the same gusto he ate the chicken. There was not really a fish pond nearby, but there was no way I could put in a comic strip what was actually said. There is much of my father in Arlo and, strangely enough, me. (Posted 7/13/2004)

Things are kind of hectic around here this morning. I'm going to drop off the latest Puss in Boots episode and the first three episodes of a week-long mini-drama that ran in 1998, and then I have to go. I'll have time to visit tomorrow.  (Posted 7/12/2004)

I hope you'll understand if I keep it short today; I have to create more cartoons. I am presenting a little series I drew a few years back that is a favorite of mine, a memoir really. I did present this on a Christmas Web site I posted in 2002, but I'm placing here, too, because I like it. I hope you do. And, "Puss in Boots" continues. (Posted 7/9/2004)

First things first today, for a change. I have a little five-part series from Y2K, about road maps, of all things. Then, of course, here is the next installment of Puss in Boots.

Yesterday's discussion of traditional publishing versus Web publishing produced a lot of interesting mail. Lynn wrote, in part:

 "Why indeed do people buy a paper if they can read the news for free online? Convenience and tradition! I have been using the internet for about as long as the Web has been around, but nothing beats the local paper to begin my day. When I was working, it was easy to port and read on the bus or at breaks in the office. Now that I am not working, it is still more convenient, with breakfast, to peruse the news in my paper than online. Of course, once the coffee is done, I head to my PC to catch the latest of the latest, but am more likely to  read in-depth in the paper. The paper also has other sections that I look through (sports, food, home, Sunday sections) that I am less likely to peruse online. There is also something comforting about having something to hold in your hands and then recycle (great for protecting surfaces from painting, shoe polishing, starting fires, etc.) "

I think Lynn speaks for many of us. By the way, one of these days I'm going to formulate and post a "mail policy," but I've been meaning to mention that I do edit letters for length and clarity. I would never intentionally change the point the writer is making. Lynn's letter, for example, was very cogent, but I had to whack it in half, more or less.

As for a final word for now on the Web/paper thing, the overarching point I've wanted to make is that, without traditional paper publishing, there would be practically no professional cartoonists outside the animation industry. I don't know about you, but I think that's a terrible thing! There are many Web-based comics, to be sure, and that's a topic for another time, too. However, to harken back to the original letter on this subject, Web comics aren't putting much bread on many tables. (7/8/2004)

"It's 2004; important issues such as putting food on the table aside, Arlo and Janis is just as entertaining on the Web as it is in the local fish wrapper, as is pretty much every other newspaper comic in syndication. Shouldn't that undermine their ability to entice me to buy a newspaper? Yet syndicated comics have been available on the Web for over seven years now, by my count, and show no signs of disappearing from the papers. So, at the risk of opening a big, ol' can of worms, how do the comics manage to both sell it and give it away?" --McD

I say, Hand me that can opener! McD raises several interesting points. First, cartoonists are no different from human beings in one fundamental way: essentially, there is no more important issue than putting food on the table, a science that sometimes goes under the fancy heading "economics." And the economics of the Web are, indeed, peculiar, especially when it comes to comics and publishing in general. As McD has perceived, syndicated comic strips and newspapers themselves are in the awkward position of giving away on the Web the very product they sell otherwise.

Of course, there are the usual ways to make money that are adapted for the Internet--subscriptions and advertising, to be precise. Nowhere in the Worldwide Web, however, do these revenues approach those gained from traditional publishing. Most Web sites maintained by traditional publishers do well to pay for their own maintenance. In other words, no one realistically foresees the day Web publishing will replace paper publishing as an industry.

Yet, the Web, in another sense, is replacing paper publishing. How many of you increasingly rely on the Internet for your news? Raise your hands. That's what I thought--all of you. While there is a splendid array of blogs and newsletters that are Internet exclusive, most of the news you depend upon on the Web is generated by reporters working for and paid by newspapers, wire services and television networks. Why, indeed, do news organizations--and comic strips--sell it and give it away?

Believe it or not, we've only been living with the Web a few years. The truth is, nobody wants to be left behind. Everyone is experimenting. So far, I suppose the pay-off is public relations. A Web page advertises a newspaper. And a comic strip (ahem). Yet, as McD observes, a Web page has the potential to directly undermine traditional readership, the only lucrative kind at this time.

So, how do they sell it and give it away? With great trepidation is the best answer I know. Heck, I'm just a cartoonist! Which reminds me: here's Puss in Boots and a short series of four cartoons from 2001.

(I didn't even take up McD's observation that comics aren't disappearing. Actually, they are, but there are many factors besides the Web, and that's a topic for another day. I've already gotten carried away here.)(7/7/2004)

Good morning! What a weekend, huh? Bubba from Texas writes:

"I cannot believe you took time in a holiday weekend to satisfy us peons who just love your cartoons.  I recently quit taking the paper and still can keep up with Arlo and Janis, which was a factor in keeping the paper for other than obits. Keep it up! It is worthwhile to make people smile.  I was forever cutting out your cartoons when we were self employed and taping them in obvious places and sending to the kids through the mail. They just seem to hit where we old bubbas from Texas live."

As grateful as I am for the kind message, I'm also compelled to take a moment and earn my keep. The very reason comic strips exist is to entice you to buy a newspaper. As much as editors hate to admit it, comic strips are very good at this. When you support your local fish wrapper, you support a number of cartoonists as well. You know this. I'm just reminding you.

Let's see; what do we have today? Five cartoons from June, 2000. And the next cartoon in the
Puss in Boots saga. (July 6, 2004)

I received what I consider an amusing letter last week from Bonnie. I said I wouldn't identify anyone beyond a given name, but I hope Bonnie will forgive me if I state further she is from Gloucester, Massachusetts, because I think it is somehow relevant to the matter at hand. Bonnie writes:

"You say you grew up in Alabama?? I would never have suspected.  I'm sure that many cartoonists go out of their way to hide geographic references in order to appeal to the unwashed masses.  A few exceptions that come to mind are For Better Or Worse (Canada) and Get Fuzzy (Boston). Sometimes colloquial expressions are slipped in which offer tantalizing hints:
Fred Basset  (England?). [Cartoonist's note: Jolly good, old girl! Fred Basset appears originally in London's Daily Mail.] There's nothing about Arlo and Janis that would make me think they are southern. Care to comment?"

Bonnie, Bonnie, Bonnie. Apparently a steady diet of baked beans and salted cod has given you a somewhat narrow view of the world. It is Indeed possible, with lots of education and determination,  for a person to hide the fact he grew up in Alabama. (For all you people reading in Alabama, that was sarcasm. Please don't write me angry letters.)  As for Arlo and Janis, I haven't gone out of my way to disguise nor advertise their geographical location. Heck, I don't even know what the outside of their house is supposed to look like!

You are right about one thing. In the past, cartoonists and particularly their editors at the syndicates were very wary of identifying cartoons with locales, for fear of making them less attractive commercially. I think this is one of those old notions that has eroded with time, much as the admonition to never mention snakes in the comics. Allow me to add, there is a new United Media strip out there called Barkeater Lake that is very place specific: upstate New York.)

I do know that my first editor, my dear friend Sarah Gillespie, watched me like a hawk in the early days of Arlo and Janis. I think she were afeared I'd slip in a phrase like, "Hush mah mouf!"

I have for you today the third installment of Puss in Boots and two more cartoons that ran in 1998, about the same time as the Puss series. I sincerely hope you are enjoying a long, Independence Day weekend.


I mentioned yesterday that I'm already re-thinking the new feature "The Mailbox," wherein I answer selected emails from readers. It quickly was acquiring a life of its own. Not only was it taking a lot of time every day to edit and write, I suspect it was influencing the dialog here at

I know it did for me, as I found myself thinking more about what would be good for "The Mailbox" and less about just hanging out and talking cartoons or whatever. Several of you wrote to suggest running "The Mailbox" on a weekly or some other semi-regular basis. You guys are so smart! I think that's a great idea. When I get an interesting comment or question or--mon dieu!--think of a reply, I'll pass it along.

While we're on the subject of mail, a reader yesterday wrote, "I appreciate you adding links to sites like the one today with the short bio of Charles Perrault.  I had no idea who the originator of these stories was or how old they were!" The reader is referring to a link on the first page of the Puss in Boots series that began yesterday. Before this series is through, I'll tell you all a little story about how I became acquainted with Monsieur Perrault. Oh, by the way, here's the next installment.

Also, I have three cartoons from the last years of the 20th Century. (Posted July 2, 2004)

I'm still stuck in 1993--in more ways than one, probably. As I did yesterday, I have chosen five cartoons from that year. And did I say yesterday that "The Mailbox" would be back tomorrow? I'm wrong, again! The truth is, I'm already rethinking "The Mailbox." Don't get me wrong: I enjoy hearing from you, and answering your questions gives me something to talk about here. However, I don't want to turn mail into a chore for you or for me. I want to devote full attention to my mail, without wondering, "Will this be good for "The 'Box?" I still will answer mail, but perhaps in a less-structured format. Heaven forbid I should have a structured format around here!

Also, today, I'm starting what I consider a special series, one of my favorites. I think the cat people will enjoy it, but it isn't really a cat story, per se. From 1998, it's the Arlo and Janis version of the fable Puss in Boots.  (Posted July 1, 2004)

Today I have five Sunday cartoons from 1993. In the interest of saving bandwidth (What th' heck IS "bandwidth?") and all that, I have removed the top tier of these cartoons, as per our conversation in "The Mailbox." Speaking of "The Mailbox," it will return tomorrow. I know few of us were sorry to see this home page shortened last week, but I did notice that "hits" dropped dramatically immediately afterward. I want to remind anyone who's interested that the Endless Home Page (earlier home pages) is very much with us and can be accessed whenever you have time to wait for the download. (Posted 6/30/2004)

Today, I have five early cartoons from the mid-80s, chosen with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Also, the last two installments in The Grasshopper and the Ant, and--of course--"The Mailbox."

I've taken too long on The Mailbox  today. I'm going to have to be quick with the cartoon presentation. Here are the next two installments of The Grasshopper, etc. And a favorite of mine from last year. Oh, all right! And a cat cartoon from last year. More tomorrow.

I want to thank those of you who've written in with some very good ideas about Web-site management. You are being heard! What I really need now are time-management tips! (Posted 6/28/2004)

OK, it's Friday. That means I'm busy finishing up the "real" cartoons for this week. I do have another installment of The Mailbox. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks. And the next installment of The Grasshopper and the Ant.  And a couple or three cartoons thrown in, just 'cause. (Posted 6/25/2004)

Things are changing rapidly around here these days! The first thing you'll notice is the Endless Home Page has disappeared, but you can go there via the above link. I've crossed my fingers, but Heaven only knows what will happen to all those links embedded in the monster. Also, there is the second installment of The Mailbox. which includes several cartoons. And I'm beginning another sequence today, The Fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant, the A&J version.