“Who is this ‘Fig Newton’?”

October 29, 1986


In the early years of A&J, Janis was a very insecure character, to the point of neurotic. Many readers recognized her fragility as dysfunctional, but for a disquietingly large number of others and myself, it seemed normal. Arlo wasn’t perfect either. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I always have said, frequently and recently, that my writing carried the strip in the beginning as I found my way as a graphic artist. I still believe this to be true, but taking a long look at some of the early stuff (after not having done so for a while), the writing wasn’t as strong as I sometimes credit it. There were some gems in the beginning, but I think the writing has become more consistent day to day. Sometimes, I think I am very lucky to be here after 35 years.


74 thoughts on ““Who is this ‘Fig Newton’?””

  1. I stop here first, then get to GoComics, so I’m back. My two aunts and my father all worked at Sears on Homan Ave. in Chicago straight from high school. One aunt who is now 92 years old retired from there, and the other worked on the catalog staff. It should be obvious, but I wonder how many people today know what Arlo is referring to in the strip.

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  2. I think of Janis (Spellcheck is off!) as the Mary Tyler Moore of comics. In the beginning on Dick Van Dyke, she was a bit hysterical but later on MTM, she was much more confident. She made it after all. I have been watching reruns of her 70’s showduring this time of working at home. I saw them enough times that it plays in the background while I work and I only pay attention when I know the scene that I really want to see.

    Arlo is Arlo. He is a little boy in a man’s body, who sees things through that little boy’s point of view.

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    • “Arlo is Arlo. He is a little boy in a man’s body, who sees things through that little boy’s point of view.”

      Or, to put it another way – Arlo is a man………….

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  3. Thank you for arlo and Janis. I appreciate your insights. My favorite over the years is the dying grasshopper realizing he has a Stradivarius. Since I’m 84 now, it helps me with priorities every time I look at it (it’s a little faded now)but still hangs, framed, in my reading room. Thank you again. God bless you for not wasting the talent He has given you.

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  4. I’m enjoying these early strips, ones I’d not seen before. I do have two questions though,
    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.

    Cheers!

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  5. These old strips are great! I was recently able to buy a copy of “Bop ’til you Drop” from Abebooks. (Cheap too, way under a C note.) To might great pleasure I see that these strips you’re posting are of the same vintage as those in the book but are in addition to those. We’re finding some never before seen buried treasure. Thanks very much Mr. Johnson for sharing.

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  6. Jimmy and Arlo and Janis will go down in history as a “comic strip” that covers way more than comedy. It takes us through the growth and changes in all three lives ! Much love to Jimmy Johnson ?

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  7. But isn’t that what makes it a gag, or joke? The fact that Janis’s reaction is so drastic? You’re a cartoonist, it’s one of the arrows in your quiver, like drawing big noses, or bulging eyes.

    *shrug*… maybe I missed the point. That happens to me sometimes. ; )

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  8. When A&J first came out my girlfriend at the time related very well with Janis and was a fan, likely because she was a bit insecure and neurotic herself. Myself, not so much a fan in the ’80s but by probably ’90 I was and have been since. What changed? Probably the fact that I no longer had to deal with any insecure, neurotic to the point of dysfunctional women!

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  9. Janis and I have grown up together. At first she was childlike in her insecurities. Now she’s matured into a self-confident woman. I have followed, loved, and understood her for lo these many years! Thanks, JJ!

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  10. Gomer? Now we know what happened to him since he left the USMC Bird people , what follows is my experience with a hawk trying to remove my eyeballs. We have a glassed in back porch approx 40 by 12. For the last few weeks we have had a small blue bird that has been constantly trying to fly through the glass. He flaps his wings against the glass had enough that we can hear it in the breakfast room.. I think that he is trying to chase away his reflection. A few days ago I heard an unusually loud thump from the far end of the porch and I thought that the bird had probably broken his neck this time. The glass is on top of about two feet of brick and I can walk along the side and look down and see what is close on the outside. I did so until I got to the far end.. There sat a hawk about a foot tall, I didn’t know that they got that big. He was staring up at me with a mean look. I haven’t mentioned that at least three of the cats were on the porch including Spunky who only weighs about ten pounds so he was trying to pick her up I”m sure. I called my wife and she walked up beside me. As we watched him, faster than the blink of an eye he flew up and hit the glass right in front of my face with his claws pointed right at my eyes He landed and we decided to leave him. He apparently wasn’t injured as he soon flew away. I sometimes let the cats out on the front porch and they stay there with me and go back in when I tell them to. I think that we won’t be doing that anymore.

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  11. I just spent an hour typing and correcting a post about a large hawk trying to attack me and it disappeared when I posted it. I don’t have another hour or the patience to type it again.

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  12. Yep, the one I tacked onto yesterday’s page early this a.m. also didn’t show up for a while. Cannot say what the time lag was, but probably less than an hour.

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  13. Being ancient & somewhat decrepit but, I think, still in possession of most of my marbles, has its advantages, disadvantages, joys, & annoyances. One of the latter is, “You’re not 90 years old, you’re 90 years young.” Shove it! Am 90 years OLD, & constantly reminded so by muscular-skeletal difficulties.
    You, Jimmy, are younger, & only immature teens probably consider you old. But you are both a better writer & artist than you were at the start. Also, you are decades wiser, & it shows. Actually, I am wiser also, partly per life in general, but partly per the Village. Am really grateful for many of its citizens, especially those who have provided wisdom & encouragement. Others have taught me other things . Peace,

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    • Read it and luckily my dogs are too big for normal birds of prey. None of the neighbors have small dogs or cats. That is good, since we have two red-tailed hawks (one of the bigger types) and have three(!) great horned owls that hunt in our neighborhood. We are out somewhat in the country. In my yard they all seem to be hunting cicadas and maybe grasshoppers. We also don’t see many snakes, so I guess they are hunting them, too!

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    • Hawks are not a big an issue as owls. I was going to work early one morning and an owl flew in front of my truck. I thought it was carrying a large rat. When I got a better look, it was a cat that it was carrying off.

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  14. Re 7-31-20 real-time cartoon: In 35 months, the date will be June 30, 2023. What can I say? Except…unfortunately, it is true that all good things must come to an end. Also, I wish I could plan my life that far ahead! 😀

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  15. A&J and my wife and I both have anniversaries around the same week. Today my wife and I celebrate our 38th anniversary. 38 more years? That would mean that I would be 101. With everything going on in the world, 38 more months is something to look forward too. Tomorrow is the 36th anniversary of my mother’s fatal car accident. I really wish that she could have laughed with me at Arlo & Janis, as I know that she would find it hilarious.

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  16. Sorry to hear of your mom’s death, Steve; I lost my mom the very same way, back more than 39 years ago. Until now, I never thought of all she missed, including this strip. My mom would have been delighted at presently-available genealogical research, I think.
    Back in the 1940s, I surmise, she wrote out a list of her cousins and their approximate locations; I have it. Unfortunately, she did not indicate the parentage of any of them! Her mom had 11 sibs and her dad had 5 more, so there were a lot of possibilities. Knowing the cousins’ surnames helped only a bit, and not at all for the married female cousins. Mom also wrote down what she knew of her parents and their parents, too, a far as she knew. It was a starting point.

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  17. Ghost will not let the 12# Adventure Dog out in yard even in full daylight. I have had friends lose small dogs even on leashes.

    Big hawks prey on cats here in our area. I know they have attacked some of mine who did not survive injuries. My outside cats often seem afraid to leave the safety of shelter to make run for the house.

    Once had seven identical orange striped Garfields, now just have the two.

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  18. Jimmy if you do retire in three years please consider reruns like other strips have done. I will be 79 then and probably won’t remember reading them the first time! Heck, I am already there I suspect!

    I have enjoyed your anniversary specials with Arlo interacting with us. Great use of old strips.

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  19. I LOVE fig jam and preserves and dried figs and fresh figs. Ditto raspberries and blackberries.

    Unfortunately only blackberries grow easily here in Oklahoma which means I don’t make figgy jams anymore like I once did. Miss the South for figs but the Great Lakes for raspberries.

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  20. This morning, for no reason I can explain, I went to the archive for the week my Mom passed away (12 years and 1 day after my Dad passed). I had no recollection whatsoever of ever seeing the arc that ran during the days just before and just after her death, which of course is not surprising. The arc was one she would have enjoyed greatly, as she was, like me, an animal lover. It was a touching remembrance of Fluffy the Cat. If you don’t remember it, check it out, running from 8-15-2016 to 8-26-2016.

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    • Ghost, I looked this up and read it again. And it hit me when I think of the pets I have had to bury at different houses. It also occurred to me that this started on about the date I was in the hospital for my bypass operation, and that my mom passed away about 2 months after this.

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  21. Cooked Cajun pinto beans and ham for dinner which is similar to red beans and rice but not similar to Okie or Arkie brown beans which I find tasteless. Ghost said his contained vegetables, unlike mine

    I replied mine had six cups of vegetables with photos on Facebook as proof! Now he is cooking his so we can compare. I told you he is like Arlo.

    He came home with some really nice bone in pork chops tonight. I will cook one night, he another. It is something I enjoy. I read recipes like others read novels.

    However most of the bloggers are totally verbosely annoying. I just skip to the recipe. Reminds me of time I edited our church cookbook and six women would send in the identical recipe off the back of the Campbell soup can.

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  22. No, Jimmy. You are not the lucky one. We are the lucky ones for having had Arlo and Janis as part of our lives for the past 35 years.

    The thought of losing them makes me very sad, and I am unemotional as one can imagine.

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  23. I too went back and read Fluffy. Like Mark and Ghost it made me sad, I ended up crying at Ludwig looking out at Fluffy’s spirit.i too have buried too many pets.

    The thought of not having Arlo, Janis and Ludwig, plus rest of family in my life saddens me. I think I need to reread the archives now. I know I may not be here in 35 months but still, it saddens me.

    Jimmy it has been a joyous pleasure following you since moving to Oklahoma on GoComics. I apologize for not being a better fan in the 1980s and early 90s. Those were rough years for me working ungodly hours.

    My apology for being a sporadic reader back then.
    You have done some really inspired and poignant work.

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  24. Jackie, “Reminds me of time I edited our church cookbook and six women would send in the identical recipe off the back of the Campbell soup can” is a keeper.
    Peace,

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  25. Please, please, please put out another book. I go through your first one whenever I could use smiling and laughing – which especially these days seems frequently. And please do not go very far away.

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  26. Jimmy posted this on Facebook: While all the rending of garments is very gratifying, I feel I should explain Friday’s A&J was a statement on the economy in general and newspaper publishing in particular. While I do not expect to be here another 35 years, I have no plans to retire.

    Hooray!!!

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  27. Jimmy also posted this to Facebook this morning: Good morning, everyone. For those of you who visit my blog, aka ‘the ol’ home place,’ household and technical issues–which are not unrelated–are preventing me from updating normally. I will be back next week to continue what I’m going to call “The Summer of 35.” I’ll show some more really old material and talk more about “Arlo & Janis” and its origins, etc. Thank you for being here!

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  28. I’m sure JJ didn’t throw the idea of his retirement out there just to see what response it got. Well, pretty sure. 🙂
    But the response it got probably didn’t hurt your feelings, did it, Jimmy?

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  29. I confess… maybe because the current world has me down a bit, I took the 35 months as the later-explained state of things. My thought was actually, “35 months? I’m wondering about 35 days!”

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  30. Thank you, Jimmy Johnson, for the art you have shared with us. I look forward to seeing more, for as long as you wish to share.

    A&J is like a touchstone. A few moments I can enjoy something that makes sense in a world that often does not. I do not believe that makes either of us smarter or more insightful. Only that years ago I found an illustrator that views life from a peculiar angle. That observer both tickles my funny bone and provides a comfort. It makes me glad there is a person who can see these parts of life, distill them into a few panels, and hold them up for us to see ourselves. Sometimes as we are, and sometimes as we would wish to be.

    I wish you the very best of times ahead.

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  31. Thank you, Steve. I just watched that, and it is indeed fantastic. And Grateful Reader, I totally agree with Jackie. Thank you for your remarks.

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  32. Re 8-3-20 real-time cartoon: As I established recently, this one would have pre-dated the first time I saw A&J, so this is my first look at Janis Slinky-Swimsuit v1.0. Not bad.

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  33. Some years ago, I commented that if I ever did anything noteworthy enough for there to be a movie about it, I waned to be played by Robert Urich. After he passed away in 2002, I observed that if I didn’t do something notable pretty soon, I’d have to be played by Wilford Brimley. Now it’s too late for that, also. And yes, that AoM scene was fantastic.
    RIP, sir. You were my favorite character actor of recent times.

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  34. This [Dustin for 3 Aug 20] took me a while. For newbies, Dustin [getting hugged in the last panel] has a BA w/ an English major, & is a goof-off at home sponging off his parents. That’s his lawyer dad, in all 3 panels, in 3 different locations, in sequence within part of 1 day. We know none of the other people; these are all simply overheard conversations. It took me a while. If you open this after 3 Au 20, you may have to backtrack to see the 3 Au cartoon. IMO, “Dustin” is underrated. All 4 main characters [younger sister, dad, mom, D] are well thought out, as are others,

    https://www.arcamax.com/thefunnies/dustin/

    Peace,

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  35. In most of the comics I read I like the main characters. But there are a few that I tolerate for other reasons, though I’d never want much to do with them if they were real. Dustin is one; Jeremy Duncan of Zits is another. Part of it is they remind me too much of real persons that I haven’t liked. And since we only had daughters, I’ve not had to come up with stratagems to raise any boys up to be upstanding young men of good repute.

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  36. @ John L
    “What was the original date of today’s (8/3/20) strip. And what happened to Janis’s face?”

    According to Arlo the strip is from 1986 – others here are better at narrowing it down.
    As for the last panel — artist shorthand. And probably trying to make deadline.

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