Second Thoughts

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As I think I mentioned recently, digitalization is nothing new in my line of work, but it still amazes me. The most glaring difference has been in the transporting of the artwork itself. When I started and for years afterward the original art was bundled up and shipped to the syndicate headquarters where it was reproduced in an old-school print shop and, in turn, mailed to client newspapers. Now, everything moves almost instantaneously with the push of a button, not to mention the old-school print shop is long gone. Of course, some quality is lost in digital reproduction, but it’s the difference in mp3 files and vinyl records: most people can’t tell and don’t care. There are other, more subtle differences for the better, as in the third panel of the above cartoon. In the old days, I would have had to pencil in the “chalk” outline of Ludwig and painstakingly ink around it with a brush, emphasis on the pain. Today, it’s a simple chore to draw the thought balloon and the cat outline normally, and use an easy combination of select/invert/deselect/fill. You get the idea. It’s great!

50 responses to “Second Thoughts”

  1. There is strip in a Pogo book I have where one of the panels is drawn in silhouette (I don’t think I’ve ever had to spell that word before). Churchy, Pogo and Howland are pulling the boat along and one of them remarks, “Silhouettes sure do save a mess of drawin’”.

    Howland would be right in most cases. The chalk outline is a negative image, though, and would be more work. One of my favorite strips of all time was a Sunday Pogo. It was a continuation of events the previous Sunday when Churchy and Howland had been running (Don’t ask me why.) from a herd of 10,000 baby turtles, small versions of Churchy. The next Sunday, they’ve gained distance from the baby turtles, who are nowhere to be seen, but Howland can’t relax and urges they keep moving. Churchy settles down for a snack, however, and says, “Don’t worry! Ain’t no way Mr. Kelly is going to draw 10,000 baby turtles again.”

  2. I started working in TV and Radio back in the 70’s and the technology has been amazing. Now you can send photos, videos and sound direct from your phone and it is very Max Headroom in how reporting is done these days. I was working at a TV station when they switched from 16mm to Electronic News Gathering or ENG as they called it then.

    As a photographer, I love digital and the ability to do things in Photoshop I could never do in the darkroom back when you used chemicals and light…

  3. A view of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris by Louis Daguerre from 1838, believed to be the first photograph of a person. Note the bootblack and his customer in the lower left of the photo. The exposure time was ten minutes, so the horses, carriages and pedestrians were moving too fast to register on the print.

    And today one could take a high-quality digital photo of this scene and photoshop it to look just like this.

  4. Thanks for the insights into cartooning. Whenever you discuss a concept, it becomes obvious where before it was just there. Now I have a deeper appreciation of the artist’s work.

  5. Some years ago I had to do white-on-black for a presentation (with the evil twin sister looking over my shoulder and being a b***h, as always) so I can appreciate the effort, Jimmy.

    As for today’s real-timer, a tidy house in the sign of a deranged mind. Warren G. Harding said that. Actually, he didn’t, but he would have had he thought of it. Warren G. Harding had such a wonderful sense of humor.


  6. How realistic is this comic, though?

    “You can teach a cat to be careful to hide what it’s doing sometimes. You can teach the cat to feel fear about breaking your rules when you’re looking, or close enough to catch it in the act. You can teach the cat that certain acts have a high percentage chance of resulting in punishment, and not to be willing to gamble on getting away with it. But you can’t make the cat feel guilty.” — Brad Hicks

    It isn’t guilt; it’s dread! — JJ

  7. A certain blonde needed an interpreter for the third panel of the retro. This is the same person who can have late night geek pillow talks on coding and utility load probability. Guess she has advanced too far for line pictorial representations. 😉

  8. Kind of funny, I know intellectually that you draw digitally but to here the actual processes used is always a surprise. When I think cartoons I think old school with hand drawn and inked images and probably always will.

    Has the digital age changed how far in advance you have to submit the strips? I think I heard once that Schulz had to submit his strips 4-6 in advance which means cartoons weren’t timely. I’ve noticed that they have become more current with little or no lag time. What kind of lead time do you need in the digital age?

  9. For today’s strip, Arlo needs to get a clue, it isn’t Gene that Janis is worried about. She wants to be sure the house is clean for Mary Lou. Mothers-in-law have to set the best example for their sons’ wives. They have to be certain their son is getting the care they deserve.

  10. I love hearing the explanations, although I still picture the strips being drawn with a pencil, then inked and finally colored, all by hand. Drawing and creating with a computer is true science fiction to me. Wizardry!

    Know that Jimmy does not hand color dailies but in reading the archives I came across a Ludwig that was PINK! Not the pink of Garfield’s girl friend or Fleshy but definitely pink.

    Going back and reading the old strips has been a joy and yet I have not seen them all. Today’s retro I had never seen.

    Were I to never have company or something important, there would be little clean ever again I think.

    Love, Jackie Monies

  11. Just a mention of the completion, for those of you that follow Luann. Today’s strip made me laugh out loud.

    “What, you’ve never run off to South America with a girl before?”
    I suspect that there are a few of the A & J village that have indeed run off somewhere exotic with the appropriate gender (whatever that might be).

  12. Indeed, Ludwig has been known to catch mice, snakes, lizards. turkey gizzards. Not sure about chipmunks and gophers and squirrels? And ate them.

    Love, Jackie Monies

  13. My cats love to catch lizards, not to eat them but to release them and catch them again. EMB, I am now not the only person here who has made a joke about Hitler. Yours was funnier though. Thunderboomers moving in.

  14. My cat caught a lizard last year and wanted to bring it inside to play with. I wouldn’t let him because I didn’t want it getting loose inside. In about two minutes, there was nothing left but a small blood-spot. Even pampered indoor cats who don’t go out very often know what to do with their prey.

  15. My cats, especially some of the orange tabby variety, liked to catch small snakes, a la’ Ludwig and bring them to me dangling down and still alive. Then I would have to try to get them to spit them out so I could kill the snake and they didn’t want to. Meanwhile, snake would be trying to bite cat.

    Perils of cat ownership.

    Love, Jackie Monies

  16. I have two original POGO weekly strips that the Hall Syndicate sent out to the newspapers.
    There’s 6 strips (Mon – Sat) and the dates (week of May 25, 1964 and Jun 1, 1964).

    I framed them and they make a very nice display in the POGO corner of my office.

  17. Tom, you lucky devil! An original week of Pogo! All I have is one “Tank McNamara” from the 1980’s and my new A & J I bought this year.

    Which makes me ask, how many A & J cartoons do you own Ghost? I bet it is more than one and I bet you were one of the ones I was bidding against this year. Who is serious collector here?

    Love, Jackie Monies

  18. Speaking of cats and their penchants for bringing and playing with their food… My dog, a German shorthair pointer mix, thinks she is a cat. She catches and plays with bugs, lizards, snakes, field mice, field rats, and even one armadillo! She was sh proud when she brought the armadillo to the garage door. However, unlike a cat, she comes when she is called, will walk at heel, and knows a short list of verbal commands. Before I destroyed my knees we were doing beginning agility training. Of course, I realized this is of no significance… But I’m proud of her, too.

  19. Ok…what I want to know GR is, how did you know that it was a bootblack and his customer in the lower left of the photo. 🙂 Inquiring minds wanna know.

  20. David, I would be proud of her too. I owned a blue heeler named Shorty (like in Texasville novel) who loved cats and thought she was one too. She’d go out in yard with Marigold who was a cat and they’d catch mice, snakes, etc. and you’d see the two out jumping around in air together, tormenting their poor prey. Catch and release was a big game to them.

    It was a little bizarre seeing them doing these “air dances” if you didn’t know what it was.

    Love, Jackie Monies

  21. Dale – I agree but I don’t know that Loodie feels guilty – he just knows Janis will be irate. My cats, however, would have gone to sleep in the fourth panel. Or a couple of the younger ones might be batting pieces of kibble around in a game of fridge-hockey.

  22. Well, I got lucky. I found the two “82 billion turtles” strips in Pluperfect Pogo on pages 132-3. That mess of drawing really is impressive. Howland Owl has been taking Pogo Possum to search for “the poor, new spawned turtle child what run off in fear and tremblin’ without so much as a toothbrunch.” Pogo asks how Howland is going to tell which the turtle it is, for “82,000,000,006 turtles is born every year.” In the last panel of that May 17, 1970 strip, Howland starts asking each one, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” A termite starts to count them: “Now, jus’ let’s see. . . .”

    The following Sunday strip ends with turtle Churchy Lafemme joining them (with one of those baby turtles on his head, for he bumped into them). Churchy asks Pogo and Howland, “What’s goin’ on?” Howland says, “Set down an’ enjoy Miss Mamselle’s lunch to which she invited us . . . nothin’ to fear . . . Mister Kelly ain’t gone draw 82 billion turtles again. . . .”

    But I didn’t find what I was looking for: A Sunday strip that begins with a tree in panel one, a tree that really outdid most all other of Walt Kelly’s wonderful trees. Such penwork! As I was first gawking at this most glorious tree, I then noticed one of the characters just to the left breaking the fourth wall, commenting on Mr. Kelly’s extra-fine drawing that day. I can’t find it. Mr. Kelly got me good that time.

    JJ ain’t gone draw 32 billion anything ever, is he?

  23. Field rats? Cotton rats or rice rats? I’m guessing both occur in/near Austin. I’ve never seen either in the wild, though we do have Sigmodon hispidus [cotton rats] in the college collection. Some cheek teeth are definitely S-shaped [or reverse S-shaped], hence the generic name. Genus has related spp. s. of the border.

  24. Technology has made a huge difference in the printing industry overall. I started out as an apprentice in small daily with a job shop on the side. The job shop still did work with a California case and Linotype. The newspaper side was modern with a new phototype setter. The trades were full of articles saying that phototype would never replace hot lead for quality printing. When I was forced into retirement (by a girl driving and playing with her cell phone) My little shop was running computer to plate after somewhere in there hearing the argument that this laser printer thing would never replace phototype for quality printing. My plates were basically made by a 3000dpi laser printer. Color printing used to be a big deal to do. You sent off to a specialty house for the separations and then had to do a quite careful merging of them and the type. Now full color printing is easy. Push a button easy almost. Printing changes more in the last 40 years than it did in the 400 years before.

  25. Dennis, I have heard that USA Today is composed in one location. Then sent electronically to local printers for printing and distribution.

  26. Today’s retro strip reminds me of two lines:

    From a movie: “We are their gods!” – said by a Native American to an Anglo-American.

    My own: “If you lived in a house ruled by giants, you would pray that they will be kind.”

    My own line was written in response to a news article about child abuse.

    It also applies to our pets, though.

  27. Drat.

    I forgot to mention that the Native American was admonishing the Anglo-American who was trying to turn a work dog into a pet by spoiling him with extra food.

  28. Debbe 😉 There was one other possibility besides it being a bootblack and customer, but since this a family-oriented cartoon blog, I decide to go with “bootblack”. 😉

  29. Dennis, I was thinking about exactly what you said and the color separations. I was in high school and somehow had ended up drawing full color cartoons to be used on the high school’s football programs. Each one was that week’s opponent vs. our tiger mascot.

    Did this in a shop exactly as you described and remember how complex and difficult my cartoons were to print on that glossy program magazine. Any kid with a computer could probably do that now but in the 1950’s this was pretty high tech. I remember having to do drawings for each color too?

    Love, Jackie Monies

  30. Sandcastler That is correct. The trade magazines at one time had articles about them. The NY Times does the same thing. In fact it is common now for papers to have editorial and composing in one location and the press lines in another. Even weeklies like the Fredericksburg Standard in Fredericksburg, TX does it. Sent the whole layout across town to the printing plant and they image plates from the files and on to the press. You can cut a lot of time from deadlines by comparison the the days of film and plate burners. Same as the difference between hot lead and stereotype and phototype and film. Each advancement shaves time off the set up.

  31. Don’t think I mentioned but when we went back for my mother in law’s funeral, the most popular Sunday brunch spot with long lines was the old print shop where I used to sit in the dark, dirty recesses and read proof on the lead plates from the linotype machines! It was even named “The Print Shop” if I remember rightly in it’s new life. Don’t know how good the food was, the lines were too long to wait out.

    I did comment that they must have done some incredible cleaning up to get it to pass a restaurant sanitation inspection. So much for nostalgia of one’s youth, it is now trendy to today’s youth.

    Love, Jackie Monies

  32. Jackie, that is one trend I like! Reusing old buildings for new business. Much better than tearing down one just because it is old. One building downtown in Tuscaloosa has the date 1871 picked out in big numbers on the front. I always thought it was the date it was built but found out differently. Turns out it was a bank built in the 1890’s and the 1871 date was the founding of the bank.

    And sometimes history repeats itself. On River Hill, there was an old hotel which burned down in the 1960’s. Went by there yesterday and they are now building a modern hotel on the same spot. Should have a great view.

  33. Mark, I agree with you there. I was active in New Orleans with preservation efforts, moved to Houston, TX and there seemed to be none. They moved a few buildings to a downtown park and tore down the rest it seemed to me!

    Youngest daughter lives in extremely historic town of Quincy, IL where almost entire old town is part of a historic district. She lives in one of most historic homes in town and serves on the preservation board. So, I applaud all efforts to save or repurpose old buildings.

    And the food must have been good in that print shop, the lines went around the block!

    Love, Jackie Monies

  34. Jackie, sorry to disappoint you, but the only work of Jimmy’s I own is a print, not an original. But I’m quite proud of it, and it’s framed and hung in my home office. You may recall that he solicited donations of blankets for people living in tents in, as I recall, a city park in Pass Christian after the city was ravaged by Katrina. As thanks, he sent donors copies of an original work that incorporated Arlo, Janis and the blankets. (That sounds vaguely dirty, but it wasn’t.)

    If you’ve not seen it, perhaps Jimmy would publish it on the blog some time, if’n you asked real sweet.

    And I’m sure you said, but I don’t recall…which A&J cartoon did you purchase?

  35. On Car Talk (NPR show) they keep joking about the Alamo having been moved in order to preserve it. That would be something to behold! Actually, it’s been in 5 different countries over the years: Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

  36. “Car Talk” is still on? Really? I figured that by now Tom would have given himself a cerebral aneurysm from cackling at himself so hard.

  37. To quote Wikipedia:

    The show was produced from 1977 to October 2012, until the Magliozzi brothers retired. Edited reruns continue to be available for airing on NPR affiliates.

    Since I didn’t discover the show until the late 90s (after which I listened whenever I was near an NPR station), I’m still enjoying those edited reruns.

  38. Good morning Villagers….

    Back at the turn of the century, A & E ran a special listing the 100 inventions during the last thousand years….all I can remember is that the printing press was number 1. It was a good documentary, wish I could remember the top 10.m

    And the devil is still running amok in the hen houses from a busted water pipe that drowned a couple of hens to a belt busting and I had to pull it out of the pit…arrrggghhhhh. Left it to dry on the aisle.and sew this morning.

    Ya’ll have a blessed day

  39. I am reminded of “How to Murder your wife” with Jack Lemmon. For those who might not know the movie – Jack Lemmon is a comic strip creator with a strip about a man’s man who solves crimes. When Jack’s character marries the woman who comes out of the cake at a party, he changes the character to also have a wife, which causes problems with the strip. There is also a glopita, glopita machine that is significant to the plot.

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