Archive for May, 2008



friday robots are my wonderwall

Friday robots are back! After being preempted for Obama Shirt ’08, we find our heroes in the Pacific Northwest. What are they up to? Where will they be next week? Each episode of Friday Robots always seems to raise more questions than it answers.
friday-robots-5-2-8In a completely unrelated note, I’d like to talk about two other Friday features on the web. There is a feature of the AV Club called Friday Buzzkills. It’s a sweet little post almost every Friday. The AV Club finds news that will bring us all down on this otherwise glorious day of the week. Well, I believe NPR has bested the AV Club for Friday Buzzkills. They have a program called StoryCorps, in which old people talk about their lives and the tapes are all sent to the National Archives in D.C. They play pieces of them on Friday mornings. Sounds like a nice, uplifting way to begin your Friday.

WRONG. StoryCorps specializes in the most depressing kind of stories. Death, racism, poverty: you name it, StoryCorps has it covered. Even in supposedly uplifting stories, there is the discernible odor of tragedy lurking just around the corner. Don’t believe me? Listen to today’s little exercise in darkness.

Falling Rock National Blog assures you that it won’t stoop the the saddest common denominator, like the Great Betrayer NPR. Falling Rock strives to bring you the most uplifting, light-hearted news of any blog in its vicinity. Stay back, Mr. Death! Falling Rock is here.



Drawing Falling Rock

Digging into the overstuffed Falling Rock mailbag, I’ve discovered a disproportionate number of people wondering how I create my daily comic strip. At the risk of dispelling the legends that have grown up around my creative process, what follows is a step-by-step account of drawing one Falling Rock comic.

This is a picture of myself in my studio. The comics you see on my desk are merely sketches. One of these will be the strip for the day. The phone is a direct line to the White House.fr-makingof4 Before doing any drawing, each joke is carefully tested in my personal lab. If it gets a rating of 22.43 or higher, it is suitable for my reading public.GPN-2000-000690Me at my drawing table. The sketch, now fully tested, sits in front of me for reference.fr-makingof2 One of my army of assistants spell-checks the comic. He will also add any background detail I’ve forgotten. He is especially good at drawing palo verde trees.fr-makingofThe comic is ready to be shipped. It must be transferred from my studio, to this vehicle for decontamination and rejiggering, and finally to the internet.fr-makingof3 The completed Welcome to Falling Rock National Park comic strip is being delivered to the McClatchy-Tribune Campus website. From there it will be downloaded by millions of subscribing papers worldwide. People will read it, laugh, and move on with their day.nasa-test-planeI hope you’ve found this photographic essay to be educational. It is the aim of Falling Rock Enterprises to not only entertain, but enlighten.

Also, to fight Communists.



National Cartoonist Day

Surprising as it may seem, there is only one Cartoonist Day per year. This is it! Read a comic, hug a cartoonist, and enjoy America’s best invention (after peanut butter): the comic strip.

Me? I’ll be slaving away at the drawing table tonight, working hard to ensure that Welcome to Falling Rock National Park is as fresh and zesty as ever tomorrow. Cartooning is the calling of the few and the proud and the geeky. We take our craft seriously. So very seriously. My brow is furrowed as I type this, indicating my extreme level of seriousness.



Best of Mutts

bestofmuttsMutts, by Patrick McDonnell, is one of the best newspaper strips of all time. It combines the artistic influence of classic strips like Krazy Kat with Buddhist sensibilities. Deceptively simple, an average Mutts daily is much deeper than a quick glance (and they are quick reading) will convey. In the introduction, Mutts is compared to a haiku, and I have to agree. The extreme brevity of each strip is used to convey a deep message that would get lost amid too many words or too many lines. One of my favorite strips from the recently published Best of Mutts contains 17 words total, yet it says more about life than some novels.

Best of Mutts is beautifully designed and fits the visual aesthetic of the strip. A simple cardboard cover (no dust jacket) lets the reader know McDonnell’s commitment to ecological awareness. Even small touches, like leaving off a dust jacket or printing on post-consumer waste paper, make a lot of difference when the print run reaches into the thousands. Inside the front cover there is a collage of Mutts comics, arranged almost like a comic strip crossword puzzle. The single panels are fun to see stripped of their context. You concentrate on the panel composition instead of the dialog.

The book is arranged as a collection of McDonnell’s favorite strips from each year of Mutts. Each year has a small blurb, written by McDonnell, explaining the major themes of that year and what he discovered along the way. It is an interesting way to read about a comic strip, to see how it developed incrementally. When you look at the very first strips, then flip to the end to see the more recent ones, it is clear how much Mutts has evolved. (This book ends in 2004, the tenth anniversary of the strip.)

I especially appreciate the novel idea of reprinting the Sunday strips as photographs of newspaper pages instead of the digital copies send out to newspapers. Mutts has always felt like an analog comic strip, and the warmer colors of newsprint are more fitting than the exact details of digital. It is also a subtle reminder of comics’ place in the world: the best place to read comic strips, even in the age of internet publishing, is still the gray pages of a newspaper.

Daily strips have been reproduced here in varying sizes. Some are printed three to a page, to emphasize each individual strip. Others have been shrunk to smaller than newspaper size, allowing up to six per page, or twelve for a two-page spread. The story of Earl and Mooch attempting to hibernate works particularly well in this format. You can almost read it as one long comic; the smaller pieces joined into one very funny narrative.

I would recommend this collection even if you already own some Mutts books. The commentary by McDonnell, as well as the unique presentation, make this a Falling Rock Favorite.