Archive for April, 2008

April Fools!

nate bowler
For those of you who are regulars to my website, today’s comic may look a bit different to you. That’s because my good friend Nate is the artist responsible for the Special Limited April Fool’s Day Edition of Falling Rock National Park.

Nate’s blog, Stabbone and McGraw, has its own brand of anti-mayonnaise, pro-moustache humor. Today he set that aside to give Falling Rock readers something new.

There are three firsts in today’s strip. This marks Nate’s first foray into published cartooning (via MCT Campus, all copyrights held by the artist). This is also Richard Nixon’s first appearance in a Falling Rock comic. We have mentioned him numerous times in the past, but today he appears in all his body-less glory. Finally, this is the first time I’ve ever seen Pam light her cigarette. I never figured out where she’d keep the lighter once she was done using it. I also assumed that she’d just always light the next cigarette from the used one before it. Here Nate has left his indelible mark on the world of Falling Rock. I doubt it will ever be the same.

Happy April 1st, everybody.

Thoughts on BETSY AND ME

betsyandmebook I primarily know Jack Cole’s work through the short biographical book “Jack Cole and Plastic Man” by Art Spiegelman. Cole’s skillfully drawn elastic crime-fighter stuck with me to the present. It was with interest, then, that I picked up a copy of Betsy and Me, the comic strip Cole drew for a few short months until he took his own life.

In the introduction, Jack Cole comes across as a real artist. His many styles include gag comics, watercolors done for Playboy, the saga of Plastic Man, and finally the restrained comic strip Betsy and Me. Even in the small black & white reproductions, you can tell Cole was able to change his style to suit any occasion.

As is still the case for many a cartoonist, having a syndicated comic strip was Cole’s pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, the gig he strove for his entire professional life. The central question you ask as you read Betsy and Me, then, is why did Cole kill himself so shortly after achieving his dream? The answers, of course, probably have more to do with his private life than the demands and constraints of a daily comic strip. I know the job is hard, but it isn’t worth your life. Nevertheless, I looked for clues to his untimely demise in those little panels.

What strikes me most about Betsy and Me is its incredible banality. After such a diverse career, Cole really had to settle. The central characters are a husband, his wife, and their precocious (and of course genius) son. The strip begins with the father narrating his courtship with Betsy. Soon afterwards, she becomes pregnant. Then they buy a car. Then they move out of the city and into the suburbs. I am not making this up.

Our ideals have changed since Betsy and Me graced the newspapers. Looking at a strip drawn in 1958 from the perspective of 2008, it’s easy to laugh at how people have changed. I can’t help but note, however, that almost all the ideals embodied in Betsy and Me are the complete opposite of my own. It was like I was reading the mirror image of my own aspirations. I can’t help but wonder if a cartoonist, even a cartoonist in the 50’s, would have wanted something at least similar to what I want today. Have the times changed that much?

Maybe cartooning was simply a job to Cole. He did it well and it paid the bills. From today’s perspective, when cartooning jobs are so rare, and paying ones are all but mythical, I find it almost incomprehensible that Cole would idealize the life of a man with nothing interesting going for him.

The art of Betsy and Me is simple, true. In the great comic strip tradition, there is more going on with the drawings than is shown. Much has to be inferred when you have so little space to tell a story. Although backgrounds are all but nonexistent, and the panels are sometimes just talking heads, there is great care invested in defining each character. Betsy’s Madonna-like calm is a contrast to Chet’s worry. Farley, their son, is pompous and even cynical. Their assortment of married friends may be interchangeable, but they all behave like you would expect from characters in their situations. Cole knew how to infer a lot in a little space.

While it is easy to write off Betsy and Me as a historical curiosity, a footnote to the adventures of Plastic Man, there is still much to learn from it. It is a time capsule for the period. The drawing style is understated and well-executed. Finally, it is the last message from a man who was a notable (if not highly noted) cartoonist.
Cole’s final comic strip.cole2

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Because I couldn’t wait

This Falling Rock comic will be published in the coming weeks, but I wanted to give my faithful fans a preview:
I like misrepresenting famous works of art in comic form. If I drew color Sundays for Falling Rock, I would love to make them all panoramas. Patrick McDonnell kind of does this for Mutts; he’ll make his Sunday title panel an ode to an artist or individual piece of art. It’s a guessing game to figure out who or what he is referencing. A fun little art history class every week! Isn’t that why people read the funnies? To learn art history?

I’m working on a Falling Rock project that will hopefully be ready by the end of the month. Stay tuned.

Are you there God? It’s Me, Friday Robots.

friday robot 4-4-08

No moss

I love making mixes. Mix tape, Playlist, call it what you will. I enjoy taking other artists’ work and rejiggering it to make my own statement.

Here is my latest creation. If you listen to these songs in precicely this order, you will be amazed at my good ear for ordering songs.

1. Rocks Off – The Rolling Stones
2. Rip This Joint – The Rolling Stones
3. Shake Your Hips – The Rolling Stones
4. Casino Boogie – The Rolling Stones
5. Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones
6. Sweet Virginia – The Rolling Stones
7. Torn And Frayed – The Rolling Stones
8. Sweet Black Angel – The Rolling Stones
9. Loving Cup – The Rolling Stones
10. Happy – The Rolling Stones
11. Turd On The Run – The Rolling Stones
12. Ventilator Blues – The Rolling Stones
13. I Just Want To See His Face – The Rolling Stones
14. Let It Loose – The Rolling Stones
15. All Down The Line – The Rolling Stones
16. Stop Breaking Down – The Rolling Stones
17. Shine A Light – The Rolling Stones
18. Soul Survivor – The Rolling Stones

I’m thinking of calling it “Exile on Main Street.” The title just seems to fit.

I do have to say, though, the Rolling Stones really aren’t as good as they used to be. The cutoff, for me, is spring of 2006. Their output up to that time was awesome, but since then they’ve been lackluster. Just take a look at their catalogue. Pre-Spring 2006, every album they put out was fantastic. Post-Spring 2006, they’re like a poor Rolling Stones cover band. Maybe it’s time for them to call it a day. But that’s just one man’s opinion.