“Who are these people?”

(Cartoonist’s update: It took me a while to put together the following run-down of the extended family in Arlo & Janis, so I’m going to leave it up for another day for any late-comers. I’ll try to have some fresh content Thursday. By the way, a friend convinced me I need Twitter for communicating with convention-goers at upcoming comic cons. So, with trepidation, I set up a Twitter account, @arloandjanis. If you Tweet, check it out. Maybe you can give me some pointers. I don’t understand it at all. — JJ)
For a comic strip that has been around as long as it has, Arlo & Janis is blessed with a steady influx of new readers, especially on the Web. Occasionally, when events skip from the title characters to their son and his family, many of those new readers are left asking, “Who th’ heck are these people, and where is Arlo & Janis?” Now this will be a snooze for most of you, who’ve been reading A&J for a long time, but I thought it would be fun to take time on the blog today to introduce those other people in Arlo & Janis.

We must begin, of course, with Gene. Simply, Gene is the son of Arlo and Janis. For years in the strip, he was an almost daily presence, playing the role of the precocious little boy. But the characters age in A&J, if not in real time something close to it. Eventually, he went off to college, but he spent his summers working in a seafood restaurant “on the coast” that belonged to the family of a childhood friend. You might rightly ask, “What coast?” It’s never specified, but I grew up visiting the beaches of the northern Gulf Coast, from Gulfport to Apalachicola, so I suppose influence from that area is inevitable. You are free to insert the coast of your choice.

That childhood friend was Mary Lou. Mary Lou grew up on the beach, and she and Gene first met when they both were about 12 years old. They may have been the same age, but when it came to “precocious,” Mary Lou was far beyond young Gene. Yet, they bonded as friends. For several years, Gene would return to the beach with his vacationing parents and renew his acquaintance with Mary Lou. However, “Lou,” as she’s sometimes called, was destined for a life crisis of her own, and the two drifted apart briefly. The age of digital communication being what it is, though, they never lost touch completely, and by the time Gene the college boy arrived to work at her family’s restaurant, they were in love. Having weathered her crisis, Mary Lou played a large role in the day-to-day running of her father’s restaurant and initiated Gene into the demanding business of hospitality.

That “life crisis” was Meg, Mary Lou’s daughter. An intelligent and good-natured only-child, she literally grew up in the family business. She spent many hours doing homework and coloring in her grandfather’s cluttered office, and she sometimes lagged for quarters with the bus boys behind the restaurant. To further amuse herself, she would sit in a booth at slow times and bundle silverware and napkins. To be sure, she inherited the family work ethic, but the child in her took immediately to the child in Gene. They’ve been buds from the time they met. And, no, Gene is not Meg’s biological father, since it often is asked.

Gus is the patriarch of the coast clan, Mary Lou’s father and Meg’s grandfather. Starting from nothing, “Pop” has owned and operated a series of motels and restaurants along the coast. He owned the motel where Gene’s family stayed on several of their vacations, which is why Mary Lou was living at the beach when she and Gene met as children. Actually, Gus’ real business all along was real estate, as he sold one concern and purchased another. That beach property you wish you’d bought back when it was dirt cheap? Well, Gus did buy it, and he’s done quite well. After the kids married, Gus made Mary Lou and Gene partners in his popular restaurant, and when he sold the site to developers he rewarded their hard work generously. It was this largess that is bankrolling their current dream of living for themselves on their small farm. A no-nonsense man with an infinite love for his daughter and granddaughter, Gus is one of my favorite characters.

Well, that’s about it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief recap. I would like to remind everyone that there’s one more week in the Kickstarter campaign to resurrect the parsonage in Camp Hill. If you’re interested, click on the link below. If nothing else, check out the video! I worked a long time on that sucker, believe it or not!

The Return of an Undead Building

Buy the new book, "Beaucoup Arlo & Janis!"Today's "Arlo & Janis!"

56 responses to ““Who are these people?””

  1. First?

    In any free society, the conflict between social conformity and individual liberty is permanent, unresolvable, and necessary. -Kathleen Norris, novelist and columnist (27 Jul 1880-1966)


  2. Above quote is the Thought for Today from Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day, my first online site most days.

    IMO, it’s accurate. The reason, for instance, that I’m comfortable w/ gay marriage but others are not. [Disclaimer: I’m extremely hetero myself, though no longer able to do much about it; the safest flirt in town.]


  3. Debbe: About that cooler and its cooling of the packing room. It’s basically a free-standing fridge for cooling eggs, right? Unless it’s vented to the outside, it heats the packing room. If it’s vented to the outside, it heats the neighborhood, as does your whole workplace. One of my early Bemidji Pioneer columns deals with that. [Free usage lesson in the above cooler info.]

    Mark in TTown on 27 Jul 2016 at 8:56 am # ‘Dale, you are thinking of Ruth.’ I often do; I married her. My bright redhead had never been to Paris, and her parents were a conservative married-for-life couple. Her longest trip was w/ her high school class* to D.C. But Elaine was a very literate genius [and literally so, by IQ definition]. Fortunately, she also had hormones, and, as a freshman coed#, was entranced by a bright sophomore Cornellian’s bass voice, or something, resulting in another married-for-life couple. I was [and am] blessed.

    *She was valedictorian; I was in the top 8th of mine.
    #Two currently non-PC terms of which I’m particularly fond.


  4. Good morning all. I think it is raining but that would require me getting out of bed. I need to find the broken cell phon gthee and go visit AT&T. Why do I hate that so much? Also they own my cable company now and the dish has been off roof for months. Hate going! Hare going!

    And it’s time to chaner day. Mmmge my sheets. I can’t believe I used to hdo that every day. My how widow hood changes us. The dog and I just move to other side of bed where no one sleeps. He has decided to quit kissing me to wake up and moved to back of my knees and gone back to sleep.

  5. I told you Meg was just like Gus yesterday. And here comes the daily to confirm it. Very funny Jimmy, especially the carrot.

    I like Meg by the way and I am curmudgeon who doesn’t like kid strips. I like Gus too and I don’t like old geezer strips either.

    You are doing just fine, keep it real. I don’t tweet or twitter although they keep telling me I have an account.

  6. Ghost to open the plantation shtters and confirm it is raining enroute to bathroom. My bathroom is same size as my bedroom, this being Oklahoma and this being an old remodeled house.

    Bedroom is dark and quiet. It has to storm for rain to get sound through at this end. New apartment where Glen lives only has one roof, metal, so rain can be heard there. I know because that is where I lived while Mike was ill, he lived in front half of house. Pets and I moved to back.

    It’s like a duplex with a big buffering room between. You never see the other resident.

  7. This is old and often rebuilt cottage that grew and grew. My bedroom actually has three roofs and one actually has a second set of rafters and they left that on and built over. We removed the top one and replaced most of plywood on it but Lowe’s left that one on and put metal roof on top of it.

  8. Oh, I see… a house, wrapped in a house, inside a house.

    I should not make fun of what anyone posts just after they awaken, for the same reason I don’t post just before I go to sleep. Hint: Yesterday morning I woke up still wearing one sock.

  9. One of Elaine’s CT relatives had a house like that. Once they had inside plumbing,* they converted a former extra bedroom into a bathroom. Huge. It had a parlor organ in it.

    *MD who delivered our third child announced its gender by saying, ‘This one has inside plumbing.’


  10. That is what one of my friends from Virginia always said about my house, it reminded him of an east coast cottage where generations kept adding on. It rambles. And yes, all bathrooms have been afterthoughts.

    If we make it that far I am adding one out in yard in back by garden. I bought materials about a decade ago but late husband never got tuit. You know those wooden nickles worth a tuit?

    We are currently building a shorter fence across back yard to keep two elderly dogs out of garden. Only one can possibly climb over, other is too fat.

  11. Jack Davis (1924 – 2016), American cartoonist and illustrator, and one of the founding cartoonists of Mad magazine in 1952, has died.

    2016 continues to take its toll.

  12. Jimmy, thank you again for the wonderful bios and portraits! Since you can’t have them up all the time, maybe you could have a button that takes readers to them; on the other hand, I’m sure you thought of that and have weighed having the bother of another button.

    I listened to my first Bill Clinton speech last evening, this being quite an election. At one point he was denigrating a false portrayal of his wife Hillary, falseness of course being something anyone should denigrate. But he likened such a thing to a “cartoon”! A poor thing because it is “two-dimensional,” he said! I almost wanted to turn it off. Cartoons can—and often do—have as much depth as any art form. His speech writer should have known better and given him the word “caricature,” what he really meant.

  13. I loved the old Mad. Had totally forgotten Little Anny Fanny. That was funny.

    Cartooning is Art with a capital A. But so is Adultery or has Clinton forgotten that big red letter he wears?

    Or perhaps it doesn’t count if you don’t inhale or swallow?

  14. “Dustin” is usually funny, but I particularly like today’s [27 July]. Those not familiar with Dustin et al. need to know that he has a bachelor’s in English but is still sponging off the folks, his younger sister is a more diligent and also bright, and dad is a [mostly defense] lawyer. Mom, not in today’s strip, has a daytime call-in advice-type radio show, and does not share dad’s weight problem.



  15. Why does the cartoon style look so familiar? Do they have another strip or is derivative?

    Mark, I love your quote. I need to find me a candidate to get behind.

  16. emb, looks like a variation on the old joke about Bill Gates talking to the head of a major auto maker. Bill says, if Microsoft made cars we would be the biggest seller in the country. And the auto maker replies, And they would crash once a day.

  17. Yes, Ghost nailed it. That is strip. Still derivative. I assume they are doing both still?

    Which is what happens when cartoonists try to write and draw two different strips simultaneously.

    It is incredibly hard to come up with a joke a day. I had hard time coming up with two a week and we only published once a week but we needed two spots. Short carreer, I got married and could no longer hang out in beer and smoke filled office with men writing . Same with columns and being funny or at least amusingly clever.

    Jimmy has all my respect, he is a one man show.

  18. Somebody’s confused, or maybe we’re writing / different strips.

    Jerry Scott coauthors ‘Baby Blues’ and ‘Zits,’ but Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker do ‘Justin.’


  19. I had never even heard of Dustin until just now, although I have peripatetically read Zits. Which is why I thought same cartoonist-artist perhaps.

    So I researched and two teams, one writes one draws. Both strip are teams but four different people.this seems common nowadays. But there is an uncanny style similarity. I know both have won awards now but neither appeals to me. Two things struck me, the Times Picayune is apparently gone from print and I got a good idea for Jimmy.

    If you look up those two strip on Wikipedia both have a character rundown similar to Jimmy’s on the page above. Why not use these above in same way with addition of Arlo, Janis and Ludwig? Who writes the A and J page for wikipedia?

  20. Jackie, here’s the relevant part of the quotation. It’s from John 8:44 in the New International Version of the Bible: not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    emb, Parker is doing the art for Dustin, but the other gentleman named writes it. Not too unusual. The writer might not be a good draftsman, or the artist might not be good at writing. So they split their efforts, and maybe one of them can handle drawing more than one strip at a time.

  21. The Times Picayune is still publishing, but its being printed in Alabama, together with the Mobile Press-Register, The Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times. All now belong to the same parent company.

  22. Actually, Ghost, anybody can get an account at Wikipedia and edit it; I’ve had one for several years. JJ, if there’s something you want added to or changed, just make a comment here when appropriate and I’ll be glad to oblige. And, as there’s a url for each comment, there’s no problem with a source as long as I phrase it correctly.

  23. I believe that someone said something like, “Best to remain quite and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Those who marry a, well, I won’t say it, but they shouldn’t live in a glass house and throw stones. What am I saying? He doesn’t have any.

  24. Burns, I have entered factual information of biographical facts on two Wikipedia articles. One was removed at the family’s request for reasons which I came to understand. The other was removed by a celebrity that I went to school with who wants to forget his past.

  25. And some people write their own wiki pages but I consider that pretty uppity since it is usually self promotion.

    But it’s OK to promote A and J, that’s your business and should be promoted.

    Difference in that and “celebrities” who write their own. Meaning famous for being famous. Don’t most celebrities want to forget their pasts?

  26. Mark, didn’t some of staff get laid off from Times Picayune? Do they come out every day or just a couple days? I guess I just saw the part about not printing in New Orleans on a glance and thought they’d stopped all together. I used to love that paper. The Miami Herald and the Houston Chronicle.

    And where is sand and Loon?

    Good night. Going to read awhile.

  27. “The Times Picayune is still publishing, but its being printed in Alabama, together with the Mobile Press-Register, The Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times. All now belong to the same parent company.”

    Strangest thing happened one day in ’49 or ’50, maybe spring ’51. Many students bought papers at Willard Straight Hall, Cornell’s student union. Mostly the NY Times and the Herald Tribune, the two decent morning papers. I rarely did, but often read one someone had left. One day, on the same sheet, I believe in the Herald Tribune, the reverse side was from the World Telegram, a decent afternoon paper. Something amiss at a press both papers used, I guess.


  28. Parker & Hart used to do two strips

    re: http://dustincomics.com/

    While watching a Successful Farming program on auto steer & autonomous driving
    farm equipment, a commentator was worried about the general public on the roads.
    His comment was that people would eventually not know what to do if something
    went wrong and they had to take over manually. Even now there is no training on a vehicle.
    It is “sign here – here are your keys.”

    From observation 75% of people on road are not driving – they are just pointing the car.
    Some professional drivers have told me they think it is higher.

  29. emb, Driver’s Ed was required when I was in High School in 1973. Don’t know about these days. Local dealer supplied cars for training and then sold them. Got everybody familiar with Olds Cutlass.

  30. Old Bear, when Louisiana decided to teach drivers ed they made it a regular class. I was in that kickoff year and I remember us taking an entire school year learning to drive standard transmission. We learned to back for one mile, parallel park. Controlled skids, braking, shifting, lane changes, passing, getting off road with flats, loss power, all sorts of problems (done through dual controls by teacher) We learned to change tires, fix flats, change oil, check fluids, make minor repairs. Lots of car maintenance and hours and hours driving.

    Honestly this was one of most valuable courses I took, this and typing.

  31. When I sold cars no one even asked if I can drive. I asked why and they said it didn’t matter, I could sell.

    Of course I could drive anything back then and had risen hundreds of hours with two daughters as their father couldn’t stand it. This proved useful when I had to teach customers to drive. Yes, we sold people cars and dealership had us teaching to drive!

  32. Elaine’s father taught her to drive. I grew up taking the subway. We didn’t own a car [used ’50 Pontiac] until ’54, Ann Arbor, MI. Elaine, based on experience, refused to teach me to drive. I took driver’s ed at age 24 with younger folks, but it was not a regular HS class. Late afternoons. I was the only one who took the exam soon after class finished, passed, eventually became the more regular driver, but she continued driving ’til she had to stop. Peace,

  33. I was lucky enough to attend a CDL class with only one other student… which meant we took turns behind the wheel and got our required driving hours much faster than the next group with six students.

  34. Yes young man. There used to be something called music and people did something beautiful called singing. And when they did it fast it was what Lawrence Welk (and yes I watched him with my grandparents) called “a real atoe atapper”.

  35. If I recall Driver Ed was part of the Health class (2 weeks?)2 days a week
    It was more written test prep. Took the test in the auditorium with every one
    16 1/2.
    No behind the wheel – (That was came about after I graduated) but I had been
    driving in the hay fields few years already.

  36. We drove Plymouth Belvederes around and around between the cones, but we also had simulaters. (sp?) We watched the screen and slammed on the brakes when someone opened a car door in front of us. It was easy compared to the shooting training I went through later.

  37. I just read an internet piece about the poor newspaper coverage of the convention. How would they know? The wire services put out a mashup of facts and B.S. The papers do a cut and paste. The morning cheerios read the article on tv and everyone pretends it’s news. Those who can write -write. Those who can’t become editors or go into tv. Peas.

  38. Good morning Villagers….

    Emb, maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t quite understand your explanation of the walk in cooler. It’s a blonde moment this morning ๐Ÿ™‚

    Winds coming in from the north the next few days, temps in low 80’s…still high humidity. The heat is bringing out the worst in people.

    We took drivers ed in high school….today it is offered in the summer and it cost me $250 to get Ian ‘trained’! He was eligible to take the test two days before Christmas and the weather forecast was not good. Started snowing the night before, Ian still thought he could take the test….told him to call the license branch, they said they were closing due to the snow. Before it was all over, we had 18 inches of snow in my driveway….I did prepare for it though, shelves and icebox and freezer were full, as well as wrapped packages under the tree. We were snowbound for a few days before they got to plow out our driveway. That was 11 years ago.

    Ya’ll have a blessed day

  39. Good morning. Went and picked up a truckload of compost and manure late yesterday afternoon. Employee out unloading it right now. Don’t know why I thought of that in reference to Ghost’s comment.

    It’s all mud slinging.

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