Water, Water Everywhere

August 2, 2010

This week we’re talking about Gene, the son of Arlo and Janis, and the life he grew into somewhere on the coast. This series, from 10 years ago this month, is one of my favorites. Click on the date below the comic to see the entire two-week sequence on GoComics. I get criticism these days for not featuring Gene and Mary Lou and the low-country gang very often, and it is true I don’t. I will admit, those creative forays were fun and often produced good results. The foibles of Gene, et al, are very popular with certain of my readers. However, those readers are a subset, and evidence indicates more people want a daily dose of Arlo and Janis. And I suspect I have fallen into a familiar trap. Whether a writer or a singer or a cartoonist, every creative person who depends upon his or her craft for a living must walk a fine line between giving the people what they want and keeping material fresh. The problem is particularly acute in the age of “comments,” when voluminous and vociferous input from readers is available constantly. Actually, all my readers are important to me, and this so far is something of an excuse. More to the point, I began to get a little overwhelmed with the coastal cast. Big changes and important twists in their lives deserved much attention, and I didn’t feel as if I had the time to do them justice. As a result, nothing really seemed to happen. I did step away, but this is all on me, really. It’s my job as the cartoonist to solve this sort of problem, and I have been negligent. However, all this talk recently has gotten my juices flowing a bit. To be continued…

28 thoughts on “Water, Water Everywhere”

  1. The good news is, the comments both here and on the FB site never veer into ‘vociferous’; rather, they’re uniformly supportive (says the guy who wore his A&J tee to the beach last week). Gene and Mary Lou do deserve more ‘air time’, either here or in print. JJ has managed to work ‘reality’ (i.e., Covid-19) into his strips while most of his peers avoid the topic. Gene, Mary Lou an Meg would, on the other hand, should be going through an existential crisis… out of which should come opportunity through creativity (supplied, I’ll bet, by Meg). A&J has always been about ‘real life’ first and humor second. There is a story to be told; JJ ought to tell it with his special combination of empathy and sharp eyes.

  2. Sometimes we fans forget that JJ isn’t really peeking into our windows, or his characters’ windows, and just documenting what he sees. There’s a LOT more effort involved, especially with story arcs. That’s why we mere mortals can’t do what he does.

  3. Gene and his family are fresh breezes from the coast.They remind me of nieces and nephews who- if I’m lucky- come to visit for a while and then go back to their own busy lives. And forget to write. 🙂

  4. Maybe it’s time for a spinoff strip! OK, not really.

    This strip reminds me that I heard one of my nieces earnestly explain to my sister-in-law “When Uncle Craig says he needs to powder his nose he means he has to tinkle”.

  5. Llee may have provided a solution. In all the years, Gene, MaryLou and Shrimp have never visited Arlo & Janis. It’s always the other way around. And maybe during COVID, it would be understandable if Gene’s family needed to pull up stakes and join his parents for awhile. Just saying, it would be a way to include all the characters on A&J home turf – temporarily. Think of all the disruption! But, it’s just an idea. Yeah, JJ’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. And we’re ok with that.

      • Eh, he’ll do what he wants, and that’s fine, but if they really had to pull up stakes and closed the business (temporarily or not) and they just hung out for 2 weeks not interacting with customers or most anyone else, and took precautions for shopping and such, they’d be fine to come if they had no symptoms showing after that time. Arlo has more risk on his shopping runs than them visiting if they isolated for a little while.

  6. I do miss Gene, ML, “Shrimp”, and Gus. But not as much as I’d miss Arlo and Janis. (Witness recent “retirement” commotion.) So keep on keepin’ on as you see fit, Jimmy.

  7. Heh. It’s more a problem of having too many interesting characters that people care about and not keeping them together in the same place. This is probably why many comics freeze their child characters in time rather than letting them grow up and leave home.

  8. When Walt Disney finished “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the public clamored for more—“dwarfs.” W. D. couldn’t understand it: They had done was all there was to the Snow White story, so how could they do any more? So he moved on to “Pinocchio” et cetera. But the public didn’t think as well anymore in terms of story and culture, but in simply seeing favorite characters. Rather than fairy tales developing by *everyone*, the “folk,” telling them themselves and making up new ones—and telling what they themselves wanted to hear, more about dwarfs, for instance—the public had lately come to expect to have professionals “entertain” them, and the public was indeed forgetting how good stories are done. Now, I admire an excellent professional (and I have striven to be one), and that’s why I’m here. And I defer (I think we all here do) to the professional, Mister J. J., whose choices I find to be consistently excellent, in the category of, say, Percy Crosby, and, oh, Marty Links–the drawing of those two!

  9. To me, the magic of A&J is that it has mirrored the various stages of adult life for those of us who are children of the 50’s and 60’s. Perhaps an annual visit to the Day’s at the shore would be in order.

  10. Fans need to remember we are given the privilege of sharing what the artist/author creates. We are visitors to a world that can abruptly end, frozen in time, for many reasons.

    Two of my favorite strips ended like that, literally to sudden death. Others died suddenly to burn out, while others to long time repetitions of the same jokes.

    We own no part of a creative process that is not our own. Ironically I asked Ghost on Monday why John Lennon was murdered? Why would anyone hate him and his music?

    Ghost answered that the killer loved his music and had been a fan? A fan who thought he was due something more? He wanted Lennon to be what he wanted him to be.

    We are due nothing more than we are given.

    • Jackie-

      Right on target. Rather than expecting (demanding) artists to create more of the same to entertain us, we need to appreciate the art they have shared with us.

      Could you imagine Shakespeare or Michelangelo in today’s internet-driven, immediate gratification environment? “The Sistine Chapel was OK, but now I want to see him do Greek mythology.”

  11. “I did step away, but this is all on me, really. It’s my job as the cartoonist to solve this sort of problem, and I have been negligent. However, all this talk recently has gotten my juices flowing a bit. To be continued…” Oh ow! You’re going to draw out the tension on this aren’t you, you sneaky writer, you! LOL I’ll have you know you had me checking here before I even had my first cup of morning tea today, just to reassure myself that “the kids” (who remind me so much of my adult son and his wife) are still ok in the pandemic and economic storms and hurricanes and . . . hoo boy. All of it. I just want them to be ok.

  12. Finally got my federal tax refund – 5 months after mailing it in. It was for almost $25 more than I had asked. I suppose the difference is interest on the amount. Hope the IRS tells me about it so I can file that tidbit for next spring’s returns.

    emb: I have read that strip from its inception to its end, almost twice. I do not remember that particular gustatory delight. Just as well….

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