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From:  Mark Jackson <mjackson@alumni.caltech.edu>
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Subject:  [FAQ] Frequently asked questions to rec.arts.comics.strips
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This FAQ is posted approximately twice a month. (The subject
should be the same; if you do not want to retrieve it, kill the
subject.) Between postings you can find a reasonably current copy
at http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~mjackson/comicsFAQ.txt. (Who's computer is this?)

Thanks to the following people who, amongst others, have had
contributions culled to make the FAQ:

Amcolor1, J.D. Baldwin, Dave Blazek, Bobcat, Ian Boothby, Charles
Brubaker, Ted Dawson, Anthony Dean, D. D. Degg, Don Del Grande,
Jym Dyer, Thomas Galloway, Guy Gilchrist, Antonio E. Gonzalez,
Brad Guigar, Merlin Haas, Sherwood Harrington, Mykel Hitselberger, Bill
Holbrook, Mark Jackson, Dave Kellett, Heather Kendrick, Ted Kerin,
Laffin101, M8R-ux3d44, Kevin J. Maroney, Mike Marshall, Brooke
McEldowney, Wiley Miller, J. Pierpont Morgan, nancy13g, Boyd
Nation, Robin Netherton, Jim O'Malley, George Peatty, Bruce Pelz, Mike
Peterson, Wes Rand, ronniecat, Steven Rowe, Satan's Little Sister,
ShadZ, Michael Shonk, Thomas Skogestad, Sean Smith, Henry Spencer,
Dave Strickler, Rick Stromoski, Nick Theodorakis, Dann Todd, Vaughner
(now ReFlex76), Bob Vogel.

Apologies to anyone whose name was missed - it's not deliberate!

This FAQ may not have answers to everything you need - it is just a
collection of *frequently* asked questions and their answers.
Corrections and additions are especially welcome; to be sure they
are not lost you can email them directly to
mjackson@alumni.caltech.edu.

The FAQ is divided into several sections
(* = new question; + = significant change to answer):

This introduction

Does anyone remember. . .?
Q. Kelly and Duke?
Q. Arnold?
Q. Conchy?
Q. Is there a good print source for this kind of information?
Q. Is there a good online source for this kind of information?

Mysteries of the strips
Q. What's become of Bill Watterson? It's been years since he
shut down Calvin and Hobbes.
Q. What happened to the Robotman strip and why is something
called Monty in its place? For that matter, what happened
to the Mildes?
Q. Whatever happened to Jon's roommate Lyman in the Garfield
strip?
Q. But wasn't Odie originally Lyman's dog? Was he just left
behind with no explanation?
Q. Why are the mailboxes in For Better Or For Worse red
and not blue?
Q. Where is the comic strip Luann located?
Q. What's the most romantic comic strip?
Q. What's the oldest comic strip?
Q. What are "bunny strips?"

Mysteries of the Internet, including this newsgroup
Q. Is there somewhere I can read My_Favorite_Strip online?
Q. How can I read multiple strips conveniently?
Q. I'm looking for a copy of My_Favorite_Strip on the day when
SoAndSo did ThisAndThat. Anybody got one?
Q. Is Pibgorn archived anywhere online? Is there a print
collection?
Q. Why do different websites carry different One Big Happy
strips on the same day?
Q. Do a lot of syndicated cartoonists read this newsgroup?
Q. Do a lot of successful web cartoonists read this newsgroup?
Q. I saw a big plot development! Should I use a spoiler warning?
Q. What form should a spoiler warning take?
Q. What is top-posting and bottom-posting and which should I do?
Q. What about selling stuff here?
Q. Why do people repeat the same post over and over?
Q. What's this "DS" or "DS Alert" I sometimes see in threads
about Mallard Fillmore?
Q. What do the other abbreviations I see here mean?
Q. What's an "Arlo page"?
Q. What's with "=v=" and "E------r"?
Q. What's a parto?

Cartooning as a craft
Q. What are some tips on equipment and techniques for
hand-drawing comics?
Q. How do you scan your hand-drawn comics to get the best quality
online?
Q. What are some tips on equipment, software, and techniques for
drawing or editing comics on my computer?
Q. Why and how are some daily strips colorized (in print and on
the Web)?

Cartooning as a business
Q. Why is the selection of comics in my daily paper so lame? Why
can't they get rid of some of the stale old strips and replace
them with ones *I* like?
Q. How much does a newspaper pay a syndicate to run a comic strip?
Q. How do I submit my comic to a syndicate?
Q. How many rejections do syndicated cartoonists get before they
get accepted?
Q. OK, then how do I get my comic on the web?
Q. Have any webcomics actually made it into print syndication?
Q. What is the Reuben Award?
Q. What's the National Cartoonists Society?


Does anyone remember. . .?
==========================

Q. Kelly and Duke?
A. Kelly, later Kelly and Duke, ran from 1972 until 1980; Jack Moore
was the cartoonist. Kelly's dog, Duke, was large, cynical, and
spoke with a Southern accent. In one typical story arc Kelly, Duke
and a hipster cat (another recurring character) were trapped in the
backyard by a vicious neighbor dog. Kelly told Duke to go talk to
the other dog, you know - dog-to-dog. Duke's negotiation: "Let me
go and you can eat the kid and the cat." No compilations are
known, but a book of new material, /What is God's Area Code?/, was
published in 1974 as part of the Cartoon Stories For New Children
series.
----------

Q. Arnold?
A. Arnold was a daily and Sunday strip by Kevin McCormick (later a gag
writer for Jim Davis on Garfield) and syndicated by Field Newspapers
from 1983 until 1987. The title character was a smart-alecky junior
high school student and much of the humor was unusually edgy (not
to say mean-spirited) by the standards of the time.

A completely different strip of the same name was drawn by Bill
Johnson during 1961. And yet another strip by the name appeared in
/Simpsons Illustrated/ magazine in the early 1990s, featuring the
title character better-known through the TV series Hey Arnold! and
drawn by creator Craig Bartlett.
----------

Q. Conchy?
A. James Childress' Conchy ran from 1970 to 1977, carried by
Publisher's Hall Syndicate and Field Newspapers and also
self-syndicated at various times. The strip was set on an island
and featured natives and beachcombers; mostly a daily although
some Sundays appeared during the Publisher's Hall run. Three
collections were published: /Conchy: Man of the Now/; /Conchy on
the Half-Shell/; /Conchy: Living In Tomorrow's Past/.
----------

Q. Is there a good print source for this kind of information?
A. There are a number of books put out by comics historians.
/The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics/, by Bill
Blackbeard and Martin Williams, is particularly gorgeous,
as is /The Comic Book Century: Celebrating 100 Years of an
American Art Form/, by Bill Blackbeard and Dale Crain.
Maurice Horn's /100 Years of American Newspaper Comics/ is
especially handy because it's arranged alphabetically. The
recently-published /American Newspaper Comics/ by Allan Holtz,
while expensive, is reportedly THE print source on the subject.

/Hogan's Alley/ is a periodical devoted to comic strips, old
and new. The print edition is still being published, though
infrequently; web updates, back issues, and subscription
information here:

http://cartoonician.com/ (Who's computer is this?)

/Nemo/ was a similar periodical, no longer published, but back
issues are well worth seeking out. /The Comics Journal/ is
predominantly about comic books, though it does print articles
and news about comic strips.
----------

Q. Is there a good online source for this kind of information?
A. Don Markstein's Toonopedia (http://www.toonopedia.com (Who's computer is this?) ) seems to
be up again, although its future is uncertain following Don's.
death this year. You might also try http://www.comicsaccess.com/; (Who's computer is this?)
Dave Strickler, author of /Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists
1924-1995: The Complete Index/, has a listing online of all the
comics that have appeared in the /Los Angeles Times/ through 2001,
with dates and staff. Paul Leiffer and Hames Ware's The Comic
Strip Project, originally found at
http://hometown.aol.com/Comicsproj/index.html (Who's computer is this?) until the sudden
takedown of hometown.aol.com, has resurfaced at
http://www.bpib.com/comicsproj/. (Who's computer is this?) And don't ignore the possible
benefits of a well-crafted web search.
----------

Mysteries of the strips
=======================

Q. What's become of Bill Watterson? It's been years since he shut
down Calvin and Hobbes.
A. According to /Calvin and Hobbes Sunday Pages 1985-1995/ -
published to serve as a catalog to a show of the original art -
he's been doing some painting and pursuing other interests. In
April 2011 Watterson donated a 6"-by-8" oil on board painting
of Petey Otterloop from Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac comic to
a fundraiser for Parkinson's disease research; see
http://wapo.st/e8dM27. (Who's computer is this?) (Thompson is in the early stages of
the disease.)
----------

Q. What happened to the Robotman strip and why is something called
Monty in its place? For that matter, what happened to the Mildes?
A. Originally Robotman was a strip concept (and animated show) to sell
dolls. The animated show was sickly sweet and also starred
Robotwoman. If you find one of the dolls it plays "I wanna be your
Robotman," the theme song.

The character concept was shopped around to various artists
(including Bill Watterson) before Jim Meddick took it up in 1985.
Whatever Meddick's strengths as a cartoonist it is clear that he
doesn't place a high value on continuity.

Initially Robotman was a visitor from outer space who settled in
with the Mildes, a pleasant if phlegmatic suburban family -
mild-mannered, nerdly-like parents, a socially ostracized and
generally repellent teenaged son, and an elementary school-age son
with whom Robotman developed his closest bond.

Around 1990 "Monty" showed up as a shape-shifting alien who became
a roommate of Robotman's; a few strips showed his "parents" as
shape-shifters resembling lava lamps. Shortly thereafter the
Mildes were dropped without explanation, Monty's extraterrestrial
origin was discarded, and the strip concept became "human living
with robot of alien origin." Much later the strip ran an X-Files
parody which "revealed" that Monty was actually an amnesiac
scientist who had built Robotman as part of a failed government
robot soldier project.

Near the end of the 20th century aliens appeared again in a rather
confused sequence involving alien-cat and alien-human crossbreeding
and the abduction of Robotman. Eventually Robotman chose
extraterrestrial exile with the robot he loved (not, however, the
original Robotwoman). In 2001 the strip was renamed Monty,
featuring a household consisting of the title character, his male
hairless cat Fleshy (formerly the mother of alien-cat hybrids),
and the alien (or alien-human hybrid) Dave-7 (formerly Mr. Pi).
Dave-7 seems to have faded away, his sidekick role having been
filled successively by an escaped laboratory chimpanzee (Chimpy)
and the time-travelling Professor Xavier Xemit's "research
cyber-clone" EB-7. Since EB-7 bears a striking (but doubtless
utterly coincidental) resemblance to Robotman we appear to have
come full circle.

The gocomics.com site has none of this history, indeed no mention
at all of Robotman himself; sadly, now that we've told you the
true story we'll have to kill you. (In a mid-2001 interview with
/Hogan's Alley/ Meddick said he removed Robotman from the strip
at United Media's request. Apparently newspapers that had picked
up Robotman thinking it was a kids' strip would complain when a
more adult joke came along.)
----------

Q. Whatever happened to Jon's roommate Lyman in the Garfield strip?
A. According to the 20th anniversary book, Lyman's purpose was
to give Jon someone to talk to, but as Garfield himself took
over that role, Lyman became obsolete. The book also had a
humorous "Top Ten Explanations for Lyman's Disappearance."
----------

Q. But wasn't Odie originally Lyman's dog? Was he just left behind
with no explanation?
A. Yes and yes.
----------

Q. Why are the mailboxes in For Better Or For Worse red and not blue?
A. Because Lynn Johnston, the cartoonist who writes and draws FBOFW is
from Canada and that's where the strip is set (specifically, in the
province of Ontario). In Canada, your friendly corner Canada Post
mailbox is red instead of the familiar blue U.S. residents are used
to. That's also why you'll sometimes notice an 'unusual' flag flying
on a building (it's the Maple Leaf instead of the Stars and Stripes),
why some holidays are celebrated by the Patterson family on a
different day (Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday in October in
Canada, not in November), and why some holidays have unfamiliar names
(November 11 is "Remembrance Day", not "Veterans Day", and it
incorporates both the commemoration of the victims of war and the
honouring of living and deceased veterans). And back when Michael
and Liz were in high school there were references to Grade 13; this
optional 5th year (Ontario Academic Credits - OAC) for the college-
bound was unique to that province and was abolished in June 2003.
----------

Q. Where is the comic strip Luann located?
A. Near San Diego, but far from Los Angeles. (In 2005 some characters
attended a nearby comics convention; the exterior of the venue - the
very distinctive San Diego Convention Center - was shown in the July
11 strip. On the other hand in December 2011 two characters
traveling to Los Angeles went by plane. Perhaps continental drift
was unusually rapid during the interim.)
----------

Q. What's the most romantic comic strip?
A. Thimble Theatre (E. C. Segar), a shared interest in which led to
the wedding of two RACS regulars in 2012.
----------

Q. What's the oldest comic strip?
A. The Katzenjammer Kids started in 1897 and is still in syndication.
It was created by Rudolph Dirks at the suggestion of William
Randolph Hearst (or perhaps that of Hearst's comics editor, Rudolph
Block), and was inspired by memories of Wilhelm Busch's 19th Century
classic /Max und Moritz/.
----------

Q. What are "bunny strips?"
A. Term coined by Walt Kelly to describe the inoffensive strips (usually
featuring fluffy bunnies) he drew as an alternative for newspapers
unwilling to run Pogo when it was exploring a political theme.
----------

Mysteries of the Internet, including this newsgroup
===================================================

Q. Is there somewhere I can read My_Favorite_Strip online?
A. Several major newspaper sites carry current strips, sometimes
with a rolling archive. The /Houston Chronicle/ ("The Chron,"
http://www.chron.com/entertainment/comics-games/ (Who's computer is this?) ) carries
over 90 strips, some difficult to find elsewhere.

(Three newspaper sites once had syndicate contracts permitting
them to offer a custom page feature; neither the /Philadelphia
Inquirer/ nor the /San Jose Mercury News/ - later BayArea.com -
seemed to have a clue about what to do with this, and both
eventually dropped the service. The /Houston Chronicle/ lasted
longer, but a new web management system broke the custom
feature and it has not been restored.)

Most syndicates have strips online; here's a listing:

* Creators Syndicate, United Media, and the Washington Post Writers
Group shared the Comics.com site until it was folded into
gocomics.com (see below) on June 1, 2011.

* Some Creators Syndicate material not carried elsewhere can be
found at http://www.creators.com/comics.html. (Who's computer is this?)

* King Features Syndicate's business-oriented site
(http://kingfeatures.com/comics/comics-a-z/ (Who's computer is this?) ) provides only
samples and general information. The syndicate's "Comics
Kingdom" service is *very* comprehensive; one can define a set
of favorites and page through them 4-at-a-time. Sites using it
include /The Oregonian/ (http://www.oregonlive.com/comics-kingdom/ (Who's computer is this?) )
and the /Los Angeles Times/
(http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/funstuff/comics/ (Who's computer is this?) ); you can
find others through Google search. Note that hacking the comic
image URL to change the date and see far into the past or into
the near future no longer works.

The KFS Daily Ink premium service has been relaunched under the
Comics Kingdom label at http://comicskingdom.com/ (Who's computer is this?) with
up-to-date content, a 1-year archive, a custom page feature, and
"vintage" comics from their library; racs regulars who subscribe
to this service ($20/year) generally speak well of it. iPhone
and iPad apps are also offered. Some content is now available
free to non-subscribers as well.

* Tribune Media Services strips can be found on King Features'
"Comics Kingdom" pages and at gocomics.com (see below).

* Universal Press Syndicate comics appear on the gocomics (previously
Ucomics) site (http://www.gocomics.com/ (Who's computer is this?) ); after the UPS takeover of
United Media strips from that syndicate, Creators Syndicate, and the
Washington Post Writers Group that formerly appeared at comics.com
are now found here. (At least some of those strips lost a lot of
their archives in the move.) There's no delay, and Sundays are
generally included. In order to discourage deep linking and image
harvesting some strips cannot be viewed without Flash. Free
archives are limited to 7 days, although manual editing of the date
in the URL will generally get around this. Subscriptions ($12/year)
enable defining custom comics pages and remove the 1-week limitation
on the archives and the need for Flash.
----------

Q. How can I read multiple strips conveniently?
A. See the preceding item for sites that permit you to build a
custom page with only the comics you want. Unless your
taste in comics aligns with their syndicates you'll probably
need to build more than one.

Less official aggregation sites crop up from time to time.
The "Darkgate Comic Slurper" has been operating at
http://darkgate.net/comic/ (Who's computer is this?) for some time.

If you know (or can learn) a little HTML and Javascript it's
not hard to write a web page that sits on your local computer
and, when opened in your browser, loads all the current comics
you want (that have filenames you can predict based on the
date, that is).

Finally, the Firefox browser offers a couple of local one-
click (but not single-page) solutions. If you collect all
your comic bookmarks into a single bookmark folder (or
perhaps a unique folder for each day of the week) you can
use the "Open all in tabs" command to retrieve them all at
once. And you may find the "Morning Coffee" Firefox
extension, with similar functionality, more convenient to use.
----------

Q. I'm looking for a copy of My_Favorite_Strip on the day when
SoAndSo did ThisAndThat. Anybody got one?
A. There are online search tools for a few strips:

* There's a Calvin and Hobbes search engine at
http://michaelyingling.com/random/calvin_and_hobbes/, (Who's computer is this?) but past
experience suggests it may not last long.

* The Dilbert Strip Finder website (http://www.bfmartin.ca/finder/ (Who's computer is this?) )
has a complete keyword search facility returning a brief
synopsis of the matching strips, the dates published, and where
to find them (collection title and page number, and link into
the dilbert.com online archive).

* Pibgorn: An Unofficial Reference (http://image66amarillo.com/pib/ (Who's computer is this?) )
and 9 Chickweed Lane: An Unofficial Reference
(http://image66amarillo.com/9cwl/ (Who's computer is this?) ) provide organized access to
the archives of Brooke McEldowney's two strips elsewhere on the
web, including the initial Pibgorn arc ("A Fairy Merry Christmas").

* Andrews McMeel Universal handles reprint rights for Universal
Press Syndicate comics and editorial cartoons; they have a search
facility covering years of about 40 such properties at
http://www.amureprints.com. (Who's computer is this?)

* The Cartoonist Group has a search facility for their properties
at http://cartoonistgroup.com/properties/properties.php. (Who's computer is this?)

* The Phantom Wiki (http://www.schapter.org/wiki/Main_Page (Who's computer is this?) ) lists
all the daily and Sunday arcs, with dates of newspaper publication.

For other strips you can check archives of the appropriate
syndicate site (see above). Or go ahead and ask; the more obsessive
regulars on racs can sometimes direct you right to a specific comic
collection.
----------

Q. Is Pibgorn archived anywhere online? Is there a print collection?
A. After the strip's run on comics.com ended (at artist Brooke
McEldowney's request) comics.com promptly removed the archives.
The strip reappeared on gocomics.com shortly thereafter;
the archive has been restored but a subscription to their My
Comics Page service is needed to see it. It does not include the
NEA Christmas strips ("A Fairy Merry Christmas" - but see preceding
entry) which introduced the title character and most of the cast.
They're collected in the 64-page /Pibgorn - The Girl In the Coffee
Cup/, released in late 2006; three other books have been published.
----------

Q. Why do different websites carry different One Big Happy
strips on the same day?
A. Rick Detorie has negotiated a relatively restrictive arrangement
for the web. Basically only his syndicate's site (creators.com)
and a couple of others (the Houston Chronicle is one) are
permitted to run the strip that appears in newspapers that day.
Comics.com runs older strips (titled "One Big Happy Classic"),
and *different* older strips run at gocomics.com and elsewhere.
----------

Q. Do a lot of syndicated cartoonists read this newsgroup?
A. Some, and some of them even post from time to time. There are also
some regulars involved with comics syndication and book
publication, and with various aspects of newspaper production. It
would be tedious to keep a listing current so we won't attempt one,
but if you read for a while or browse the archives you'll see some
authoritative responses to questions (particularly polite ones).
Please try not to frighten these folks away.
----------

Q. Do a lot of successful web cartoonists read this newsgroup?
A. Fewer than one might think, it appears. Discussion of web cartoons
is certainly on-topic for racs but most of the big ones have
associated web forums that catch much of the traffic (and the
attention of the cartoonists themselves, it seems).
----------

Q. I saw a big plot development! Should I use a spoiler warning?
A. Spoiler warnings are mandatory - where "mandatory" means people
are going to get mad at you if you don't use them - when you are
revealing or discussing inside information about a future plot
development in some strip.

Spoiler warnings are strongly recommended when you are discussing
the content of a strip first published on the same day you are
posting, particularly if you are posting early in the day (say,
before 4 p.m. UTC).

Spoiler warnings are not at all required if you are engaging in
personal speculation about future plot developments. If you think
you've noticed an especially subtle bit of foreshadowing, you
might decide to add a warning before sharing your insight, but no
one is going to get upset if you don't.
----------

Q. What form should a spoiler warning take?
A. The word SPOILER (in all caps) as the first word in your Subject:
line will do the job. Readers open posts so marked at their own
peril. If you want to go the extra mile, you can write "SPOILER
WARNING" again as the first line of your post, followed by a few
empty lines to set the content off a bit.
----------

Q. What is top-posting and bottom-posting and which should I do?
A. Neither.

Bottom-posting is when somebody includes an entire previous
posting and then writes their own message below it. The classic
example of bottom-posting, as noted in a Dilbert strip, is to
follow up a long-winded message quoted in full with, "I Agree"
or "ME T00!" Top-posting is when somebody includes an entire
previous posting and writes their own message *above* it, so
that readers have no idea what it's in reply to.

Neither works well on Usenet. The dominant style here is to
include only as much of the previous message(s) as necessary
to supply context, being careful to attribute such material to
the correct poster, and have your own message incorporate the
excerpt(s) throughout. (If your reply is directed to a
particular person or person's argument it's polite to include
an unambiguous attribution line even if you quote nothing.)
Even if you prefer another style please consider that *mixing*
styles rapidly produces unreadable messages in long threads.
----------

Q. What about selling stuff here?
A. The overall FAQ for the rec.arts.comics hierarchy firmly
assigns "[a]ny post offering to buy, sell or auction (eBay
users take note) anything comics related" exclusively to
rac.marketplace; they mean it, and so do we. However single
announcements of forthcoming commercial products of interest
are unlikely to provoke return fire particularly if brief;
include a web pointer for more information. And we *like* to
hear about new strips, although repetitive advertising will
probably draw more abuse than pageviews.
----------

Q. Why do people repeat the same post over and over?
A. The most common problem is Google Groups, which seems to go
through periods of misbehavior in which its interface lies to
the user about a post having failed. Those posting through
Google are advised to wait a bit and then check the group
for their message before reposting.
----------

Q. What's this "DS" or "DS Alert" I sometimes see in threads about
Mallard Fillmore?
A. Bruce Tinsley's Mallard Fillmore gets a lot of criticism on racs,
not all of it from our more politically liberal members. In
January 2001 "DS Alert" was suggested by Vaughner as a subject
flag to indicate that (in the original poster's opinion) the
Mallard strip being discussed is particularly ill-considered or
just outrageous. "DS" is the same as "BS," the "D" of course
standing for "duck."
----------

Q. What do the other abbreviations I see here mean?
A. Here are some that you will not generally encounter elsewhere:
9CL or 9CWL = Brooke McEldowney's "9 Chickweed Lane"
A&J = Jimmy Johnson's "Arlo and Janis"
BC = Johnny Hart's "BC" or Berke Breathed's "Bloom County"
or, occasionally, the Canadian province of British Columbia
C&H = Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes"
Chron = the Houston /Chronicle/
CIDU = "Comics I Don't Understand." Regular poster Bill Bickel
maintains a website devoted to the oblique and obscure in the
world of comics at http://www.comicsidontunderstand.com. (Who's computer is this?)
CS = comics synchronicity, the apparently coincidental treatment
of the same topic by more than one strip on a given day
DTWOF = Alison Bechdel's "Dykes to Watch Out For"
FBOFW or FBOW or FOOB = Lynn Johnston's "For Better or for Worse"
FW = Tom Batiuk's "Funky Winkerbean"
GF = Darby Conley's "Get Fuzzy"
IDU = "I don't understand"; usually prefaced by the name of
a particular comic (see CIDU)
KFS = King Features Syndicate, major distributor of daily comic
strips
MF = Bruce Tinsley's "Mallard Fillmore" (see also "DS," above)
MG&G = Mike Peters' "Mother Goose and Grimm"
NSFW = Varning För Snusk!
PI = the Seattle /Post-Intelligencer/
RACS, racs, or r.a.c.s = rec.arts.comics.strips
----------

Q. What's an "Arlo page"?
A. Jimmy Johnson sometimes draws strips that subtly suggest that
Arlo and Janis maintain a healthy physical interest in each other.
Some of these suggestions have been subtle enough to land the
strip on the "Comics I Don't Understand" site; some of the
resulting explanations have been crude enough that the site
owner felt it necessary to banish the content to what he called
the "Arlo page." Although other strips have landed there the
name persists; references here to heading for, or belonging
on, the Arlo page indicate that the (usually mainstream) strip
in question has unusually, perhaps unintended, racy content.
----------

Q. What's with "=v=" and "E------r"?
A. One of our regular posters prefaced each paragraph with a "=v="
dingbat; he claimed to explain the practice on a webpage that no
longer appears to exist. Another calls the Cincinnati newspaper the
E------r because of its treatment of Judge Parker, which was once
done by a Cincinnati resident, and comics in general. In these
parts such oddities are generally filed under "mostly harmless."
----------

Q. What's a parto?
A. It's an imaginary creature that occasionally appears in RACS
discussions of the strip "Get Fuzzy." In late 2001, the strip had
a story arc that involved a minor injury to the dog Satchel, a
major character. A poster (whose spelling and phrasing were odd
at best) appeared on the group who claimed to have inside
information on the future of the strip. He claimed that Satchel
would die of an anesthetic overdose and be replaced on the strip
by a parrot. However, he spelled the bird "parto" or "parrto," and
the term still reappears as a sardonic reference to the episode.
----------

Cartooning as a craft
=====================

Q. What are some tips on equipment and techniques for hand-drawing
comics?
A. One syndicated cartoonist's practice:
I put tracing vellum over my pencil sketches, and ink with a #0
Rapidograph pen and an Osmoroid cartridge pen. (I use Rapidograph
ink, which is very waterproof. It dries in seconds, and once dry
it's permanent.) The strips are drawn at 13 inches by 3 and three
fourths inches, and I scan them them at 600 dpi and apply the
shading with Photoshop.

Another: Cartoonists can sometimes talk for hours about pens, ink,
nibs, papers and so on, and that can be intimidiating to people who
want to get into cartooning but don't have a lifelong artistic
background. For the record, I draw in mechanical pencil on 8.5" x
11" white paper I buy at Staples. I ink with Pigma Micron pens
that are just a few bucks each, and then I finish everything in a
Mac G4. I draw at the dining room table in front of a huge window,
or out on the deck when the weather is nice. But before you decide
to follow my path, be sure to check out [Bill Holbrook's] art and
notice how much better it is than mine. (Heck, check out the
monkeys at the zoo; their art is better than mine.) Still, there
are syndicated cartoonists who haven't spent their lives in art
school.

We also had a question in early 2006 that drew (so to speak) quite
a few responses. Find the initial message at

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.strips/msg/97a8c7ea991ca165 (Who's computer is this?)
and then show options -> view thread.

----------

Q. How do you scan your hand-drawn comics to get the best quality
online?
A. Don't be a dope like I was. I thought scanning should be like
photo-copying - cram it in and push the button. The poor
reproduction quality of my older cartoons show that that just
isn't so. Now I set the contrast on my scanner interface all the
way up, set the dpi to 200 and use full color. (Remember that
scanning moves a lot of data through memory, and adding memory is
usually a cheap upgrade, so this is worth looking into if this
step is painfully slow.) I typically draw three panel strips (or
variations) in six inch squares, which is very comfortable to me
and do all post-processing at full size in bmp format, using paint
for color fills and paintshop pro to choose exactly what shade of
gray each color filled area should be. And finally, paintshop pro
does the reduction and conversion to jpg. I'm betting there's
hundreds of other ways to get good results, this is just what I
have arrived at. Whether my cartoons are any good or not is
subjective, but I'm getting darn good reproduction quality these
days.
----------

Q. What are some tips on equipment, software, and techniques for
drawing or editing comics on my computer?
A. For drawing, several posters recommend the Wacom Graphire tablet.
It comes bundled with software (Painter Classic and Photoshop LE)
that takes advantage of signals from the tablet about the pressure
you place on the pen, the angle you hold it, etc. This goes a
long way toward making it more like drawing with a real pen or
pencil. Brooke McEldowney has been using one since the mid-1990s
and his Pibgorn and 9 Chickweed Lane demonstrate that the results
can be impressive - at least if you have gobs of talent and work
at it for a decade.

This kind of tablet is strictly an input device - you can't watch
your hand and the resulting drawing at the same time. Some people
find this difficult or impossible to adapt to. Wacom does make a
similar tablet with integral display, the Cintiq, which provides
more natural feedback - but the $3000 pricetag is somewhat
discouraging.

For editing, it appears that Adobe's Photoshop is still the gold
standard. But the Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program,
http://www.gimp.org (Who's computer is this?) ) is preferred by some, not necessarily
entirely because it is free.
----------

Q. Why and how are some daily strips colorized (in print and on the
Web)?
A. Colorizing for print used to be dominated by an outfit called
Reed-Brennan, who also bear responsibility for much of the
stretching-and-squishing used to fit the maximum number of
comic strip products into a shrinking newspaper page. (*And*
they implement the annoying anti-deep-linking measures and
unreliable delivery of web cartoons from King Features, of
which they are a part.) Colorizing for web and print has
become much more common in recent years; new artist contracts
at KFS, for example, require the delivery of both B&W and color
versions of daily strips. Third-party colorization of dailies
sometimes conflicts with the (artist-specified) colors seen on
Sundays, and may even be inconsistent day-to-day.

Many, perhaps most, cartoonists and racs regulars deplore the
post-facto colorizing of work rendered, and intended by the
artist to be viewed, in black and white. Conversely some argue
that sensitive colorization can enhance even strips not originally
drawn for it, and at least a few respected cartoonists agree.
Awful examples of continuity and jokes spoiled by inappropriate
application of color continue to occur regularly, however, so
it appears that "sensitive colorization" is far from universal,
if not an actual oxymoron.
----------

Cartooning as a business
========================

Q. Why is the selection of comics in my daily paper so lame? Why
can't they get rid of some of the stale old strips and replace
them with ones *I* like?
A. To the extent a comics page reflects conscious planning rather
than neglect, it is generally crafted to help maintain and build
newspaper readership. On that basis it should have something for
everyone. Editors may consider it important, if they cancel a
strip, to replace it within its category, unless they feel they
need to make a move to re-balance the page. In other words, if
Blondie were to disappear, they wouldn't replace it with Boondocks
unless they were actively trying to change a stodgy page and make
it more hip.

Of course some papers only change strips at gunpoint - like when
an existing strip goes out of production. Others actively work to
keep a mix going, rotating out strips that they feel aren't
pulling the readership they want.

Sometimes a new editor or publisher will arrive and find a
particularly hated strip in place or a particularly loved strip
missing and will move to change the situation. But you have to
tread lightly - management HATES loud, angry readers, and you can
light up the switchboard by missing a day, even of Trudy or
Marmaduke. (Maybe even moreso: Guess who's home and has nothing
better to worry about?)

Beyond adding the new boss's favorite strip, adding a strip
generally involves addressing a portion of your target audience.
For example, when papers lost the Far Side because it stopped, a
lot of them looked for a wacky, postmodern (whateverthehell that
means) strip to replace it - so we suddenly have a lot of wacky
panels, because there was a demand. Or you might drop Mary Worth
and pick up For Better or For Worse to try to keep that
continuous, family sort of feel but rev it up from the 1950s to
the 1990s. On the other hand, you might go the opposite, and drop
Apartment 3-G because you feel your readership is simply too old -
so you'd pick up Luann, Foxtrot, Arlo & Janis, something to change
the demographic entirely, or dump Mark Trail in favor of Liberty
Meadows. (Okay, no editor would ever make THAT connection.)

Sometimes a paper asks for input; if that happens in your area,
remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Typically, papers
run a blank for readers to fill out and return: What are your
favorite strips? You don't play, you don't win. Genuine readership
surveys happen, but they're expensive and only the big boys can
afford to do them very often. Besides, this works: If you don't
care enough about a strip to fill out the form, to heck with you.
Of course, it tends to favor fanatics, but that can be the
stay-at-home retiree who just loves Mary Worth, or the young
active types who are willing to campaign for Liberty Meadows or
Zippy.
----------

Q. How much does a newspaper pay a syndicate to run a comic strip?
A. It depends strongly on the paper's circulation, less so on the
popularity of the strip itself, and possibly to some extent on
the degree of competition in the newspaper's circulation area.
We have reports from under $10 per week in a small-towm market
(double it to add Sundays) up to several hundred per week for a
big-city daily (including Sundays).
----------

Q. How do I submit my comic to a syndicate?
A. The National Cartoonists Society (see below) has a "Be a
Cartoonist?" page including information on syndicates and their
submission guidelines. Less up-to-date but with, perhaps, more
depth and breadth: Lee Nordling's /Your Career In Comics/ has
been spoken highly of.
----------

Q. How many rejections do syndicated cartoonists get before they
get accepted?
A. If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

And even if you succeed you may not be able to afford to live.
Newspapers are in retrenchment mode, and one well-connected
cartoonist hasn't "heard of a single cartoonist, newly
syndicated since 2000, who is able to make [his or her] sole
living off the strip. Not one. And let me tell you: as a
lover of the artform, I desperately WANT that statistic to be
wrong."
----------

Q. OK, then how do I get my comic on the web?
A. Just put it there. Perhaps you have server space for a personal
home page bundled with your Internet service; if not there are
some free web hosts out there (although they will insist on
having their ads on your page). Of course nobody may notice
(things like joining web rings can help here), and on the
other hand if lots of people *do* notice and you start to
draw lots of traffic you risk exceeding an explicit or implicit
bandwidth quota and getting kicked off your server.

If you're looking for a more formal service, we know of two.
Comic Genesis (www.comicgenesis.com), formerly Keenspace, offers
free web hosting for comics and the possibility, at least, of
rewarding (with shared ad revenue or even a promotion to their
major league, Keenspot) rather than punishing success.
gocomics.com (part of Andrews McMeel Universal) has a "Comics
Sherpa" service; for around $10/month or $100/year one gets web
exposure immediately adjacent to the syndicated product and
perhaps some increased probability of being noticed; Brian
Anderson's Dog Eat Doug was picked up from there by Creators
Syndicate.
----------

Q. Have any webcomics actually made it into print syndication?
A. It's not so rare as one might think. We know of these:
* Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet (Peter Zale), Tribune Media
Services, ran from June 2000 until "going on sabbatical" in
December 2005; returned to the web in November 2007.
* The Boondocks (Aaron McGruder), Universal Press Syndicate, ran
from April 1999 through March 2006; reruns continued for some
months thereafter.
* Pearls Before Swine (Stephen Pastis), United Feature Syndicate.
* The Humble Stumble (Roy Schneider), United Feature Syndicate,
ran from 2005 to 2008.
* Mudpie (Guy Gilchrist) was with Copley News Service for a
couple of years; the Sunday version (Night Lights and Fairy
Flights) was then self-syndicated for a while with the assistance
of American Color. And Guy's Your Angels Speak started on his
website and was distributed by DBR Media before it folded in
early 2008.
* Dog Eat Doug (Brian Anderson), Creators Syndicate. Promoted
from Comics Sherpa (see previous entry).
* Spooner (Ted Dawson), carried successively by the LA Times
Syndicate, Tribune Media Services, and United Media for
slightly over two years, then retired after a brief period of
self-syndication; reappeared in comic-book form in March 2004.
* Diesel Sweeties (Richard Stevens), less than two years with
United Feature Syndicate before reverting to web-only.
* Argyle Sweater (Scott Hilburn), Universal Press Syndicate,
from April 2008.
* What The Duck (Aaron Johnson), renamed W. T. Duck for print,
Universal Press Syndicate, from January 2009 to July 2011.
* Rip Haywire (Dan Thompson), United Feature Syndicate, from
January 2009.
* Bleeker: The Rechargeable Dog (Jonathan Mahood), which started
on Comics Sherpa (see above) before moving to gocomics.com,
has had at least a limited print run in /Die Zeit/, Germany's
largest weekly, and began syndication with King Features in
January 2011.

There are other web strips that, through self-syndication,
appear in a college or lifestyle paper or two but *those*
artists don't appear on the cover of /People/ so we won't list
them here either. Special mention to those who have made it
into a regular daily or are otherwise notable, however:
* Greystone Inn (Brad Guigar) appeared in the /Philadelphia Daily
News/, where it continues since the strip morphed into Evil Inc.
* Kevin & Kell (Bill Holbrook - who also produces On the Fastrack
and Safe Havens, both syndicated by King Features) appears in the
/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/.
* Bob the Squirrel (Frank Page) appears in the Rome NY /Daily
Sentinel/.
* Day By Day (Chris Muir) runs in the /Knoxville News-Sentinel/,
the /San Diego Union-Tribune/, the San Diego-area /North County
Times/, and the /Hemingford [NE] Ledger/.
* Last Kiss (John Lustig) runs in the /Seattle Times/.
* 44 Union Avenue (Mike Witmer) runs in the /Lancaster [PA] New
Era/.
* 2:15 (Jessica Shea) appears in /The Georgetown [MA] Record/.
* Squid Row (Bridgett Spicer) began appearing in /The Monterey
County [CA] Herald/ in January 2010.
* Haiku Ewe (Allison Garwood) began appearing in the Sunday
/Kansas City Star/ in July 2010.
* Lum and Abner (Donnie Pitchford), based on a classic radio
program, began appearing in the /Mena Star/, the /Saline Courier/,
and the /Amity Standard/ (all in Arkansas) in mid-2011.
* Sunshine State (Graham Nolan) began appearing in the San Mateo (CA)
/Daily Journal/ in October 2011.
* Maximus (Frank Roberson) had a two-month run in the /Sacramento
Bee/ in early 2011.
* Gray Matters (Jerry Resler and Stuart Carlson) began running in the
Arlington IL /Daily Herald/ in April 2014.
----------

Q. What is the Reuben Award?
A. A single award for Cartoonist of the Year, given by the
National Cartoonists Society at their annual gala dinner. At
the same time "various professional divisions are also honored
with special plaques for excellence"; these are sometimes
mistakenly referred to as "Reubens" but are officially "NCS
Division Awards."
----------

Q. What's the National Cartoonists Society?
A. A 50+ year-old organization which limits its membership to
those earning 50% or more of their income by drawing cartoons.
Their website (http://www.reuben.org/ (Who's computer is this?) ) has lots of current
information on syndicates and on getting started in cartooning,
and many useful links (including those to NCS member web pages).
----------

--
Mark Jackson - http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~mjackson (Who's computer is this?)



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