I buy the Washington Post for the comics. Some are like little mini-series (Judge Parker, which I can’t believe I’m admitting I read), some lurch along from one single frame and day to the next (ditto to admitting I read Family Circus), and most fall somewhere in between (Doonesbury, ZITS, Baby Blues, Dilbert, et al). I rant mentally, in nanoseconds, at some of them. Why all the T&A on the women in Judge Parker? Why does nobody in this new strip, Reply All, have a nose? Why is Close to Home so ugly? I don’t read them all (hate Garfield, MUTTS, Prickly City, and numerous others), but I’m loyal as a hound dog to the ones I like.
One of my favorites has always been Dennis the Menace, because it is so well drawn. It has depth of field, tiny details that create place, fluidity in lines to connote motion, cross-hatching for texture. I long thought of writing to Hank Ketchum and saying, ‘I love your art,’ only to discover that he died in 2001 after writing the script since 1951. Dennis runs in 1,000 newspapers, 48 countries and 19 languages—so I’m not alone in my appreciation. But it turns out he didn’t create the strip on his own at a certain point. He surrounded himself with a team of writers and illustrators who contributed to it, and he credited the strip’s longevity to this.
“Anyone in the humor business isn’t thinking clearly if he doesn’t surround himself with idea people,” Ketcham said. “Otherwise, you settle for … mediocrity — or you burn yourself out.”
That’s what I love about storytelling and about theatre. They’re communal. You get good ideas from other people all the time, if you’re open to it. It’s what I love about any community – the give and take, the generosity. I’m wondering how to turn my business life into more of a community. I’m sure it’s obvious to anybody with more business expertise than me, and I know I’ll figure it out.
For now I’m content to at least start my work day with a cast of characters that is both always changing and always the same. My little comic community. Not sure why, but I find it very comforting.