Sweet Nothing

June 19, 1986


As the above 1986 comic indicates, I was making trouble from Year One. Rob, a poster, asked a couple of questions last week that I indicated I’d answer. First, I’m sorry to have been away so long, especially in the midst of the 35-year-anniversary thing I’ve been ballyhooing so prominently. Of all times, a major household disruption and some untimely browser updates have left my creative infrastructure in a shambles. At the moment, I am making do. When I say “making do,” think “Apollo 13.” Now, Rob asked: “1) Where did the names Arlo and Janis come from? 2) Can we please have more Gene, Marylou and Meg? They’d make a great spin-off strip.” Today, I’m going to take the easy one, the first one. Many long-time readers know this story, but I am blessed with a significant number of newer readers. When I was in college, I did a comic strip for the weekly student newspaper. It was about a hapless hippie (Yes, that term was alive and well back then.) named “Arlo.” Indirectly, the character was named for Arlo Guthrie. I say “indirectly,” because I had a buddy named Pat whom we had nicknamed “Arlo,” because he had a shocking mane of long curly hair, much like the singer. Basically, I just wanted to annoy him. Years later, when I was developing the comic strip Arlo & Janis, I resurrected the name “Arlo” for my male lead, because I think it has a certain comic quality. “What name,” I thought, “would pair well with “Arlo?” It didn’t take long to come up with “Janis.” That’s about all there is to it. I’ll get to Question No. 2 in the next post.


14 thoughts on “Sweet Nothing”

  1. While wearing my “Arlo & Janis” shirt, many times people have commented that it must be Arlo Guthrie and Janis Joplin. At first I’d carefully explain that it’s from my favorite comic by Jimmy Johnson. Finally I now say, yep! It’s a cool shirt, wear it often.

  2. I was sure that Janis was named after Janis Joplin! No? Not even subconsciously? Ah well, it makes a good story anyway, and I’m going to stick to it, even if only in my head 🙂

    Happy Tuesday, everyone!

  3. Re 8-4-20 “real-time retro” cartoon: I remember, about that time, buying my all-female staff swivel devices that went between the handsets and the curly line cords that were claimed to keep the cords from tangling. For some reason I cannot now recall, they never seemed to work.
    Later, when we converted to computer operations, I got them headsets, and we looked like a junior version of Mission Control at NASA.

  4. When Arlo & Janis first showed up in the Seattle Times (it may have been week one, it may have been after a year or three, but definitely back there), I was bothered by the names. These people were supposed to be baby-boomers, but weren’t those were really uncommon names until Arlo Guthrie and Janis Joplin made them famous? I had occasional Internet access way back, but by the time it became useful for that kind of question, I no longer cared. I am surprised that no mention is made of Gene’s name source, though I think I remember what it was.

    Happy 35th. May the next 35 months be wonderful.

  5. Never had the problem shown above; parents were not demonstrative in anyone’s presence.
    A&J seem wise not to have explained more to Gene; he was too young then to understand the niceties beyond that A&J liked/loved each other.

  6. But Janis IS named for Janis Joplin per Jimmy in past answers.

    Either Jimmy has run some of these strips before here or in his books or I was reading strip from beginning? I remember some of them. No idea when Houston began the strip?

    • Unfortunately, I grew right out of the top of my shocking mane of long curly hair many years (decades) ago?. I’m honored by my connection to Arlo & Janice and our phenomenal hometown cartoonist, Jimmy Johnson.

  7. Jackie just commented that grasshoppers are eating the vegetable plants she set out, especially her basil. I had already noticed an unusual number of them in the area this summer. Perhaps, since the mysterious “seeds from China” didn’t work, orders were given to “Release the insects!”
    In any case, 2020 brings another plague.

  8. I wondered too,about Arlo’s sailing dreams. But to the point of this comment,as a baby boomer and longtime follower of A&J,(I remember the ‘hairdo change)it is interesting how the artwork has grown more refined and,well,more informative of the story line. Example:Cell phones ARE easier to draw!
    As said,being a Boomer similar to Arlo,some of the strips really touch base with my times of years past. Every time I pass an old ramshackle house,the Planting Daffodils one is as fresh in my mind as the day I read it.

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