Will anyone who has trouble reading any of the preceding Today's Cul de Sac posts because the text looks screwy please either email me or leave a comment. I fooled around with the last one and hope I've fixed it, but I can't tell as it's always looked fine in my browser (Viewmaster), (no, sorry, Safari).
Thank you, and my apologies for the inconvenience.
A note: for those of you hoping Dill's bug turns out to be a bed bug or stink bug, all I can say is Probably Not. We don't deal in possibly controversial subjects torn from today's headlines, thank you very much. We'll leave that to Hi & Lois. Actually, the sudden newsworthiness of bugs hadn't struck me until Iread this strip today and I kicked myself for not jumping on that whole bed and/or stink bug bandwagon, just as a public service of course.
This is a subject I've been meaning to address for some time- the grocery store gumball machine array. Again, I thought it'd be fun to draw the ranks of gumball machines (and I wish I'd've overdone it a little more in the second panel) but also because those things can loom large in a child's mind. I remember trips to the grocery store when I was a kid where all the grocery shopping was just an irritating prelude to the moment when I got to put a nickel or a dime in a gumball machine. Though not really a gumball machine, as I was more often after some plastic novelty army man or gewgaw. And, of course, I was usually disappointed.
Minivans are not as fun to draw as cars. On various questionnaires I've seen, when cartoonists are asked what they most dislike to draw, the answer is often "cars", which I have to disagree with; I kind of enjoy drawing them up to a point. But minivans are too bland and amorphous in shape, just kind of rounded rhomboids with wheels. (The other subjects often cited as no fun to draw are "crowds", "machinery" and "horses' back legs" and I'll agree with all of those.)
On the other hand, it'd be fun to draw the strip in a Petey's Diorama style, and I might give that a shot. What would an autobio comic from Petey look like anyway?
A poster on GoComics asked where Petey gets all the shoeboxes for his dioramas. Strangely enough I had a small subplot about Grandma unloading a pile of shoeboxes on Mrs. Otterloop, enough to fill the back of the van, but I dropped it. Maybe I shouldn't've as it made for a nice bit of elaboration. God knows where Grandma got all the boxes; from a lifetime of buying shoes, I guess. And of course, she's a hoarder.
These two strips belong together so I thought I'd post them together, and also I didn't get around to posting yesterday. The whole point of Big Shirley is to be large and implacably unthreatening. She's hard to draw too, as she keeps turning into a cat or a pig or a hedgehog if I get too enthusiastic with the pen.
And please note that I drew her twice; no photoshopping a panel in from a previous strip. That's something I'd never do unless it was really, really convenient. Although I did have trouble drawing that first Big Shirley. I put her in deep shade and the whole panel became an amorphous blob of crosshatching.
The lesson here is: next time Grandma gets a canary.
I kept monkeying with this trying to make it funnier. The dialog got shifted from panel to panel and simplified so that it would read as a joke-like artifact, if not an actual joke. That's one problem with doing a strip where the actual jokes are hard to identify; humor is so ineffable that I don't know when it's been reached and I keep monkeying with it. I do know that mayonnaise is funny, so a lot of it's even funnier (Titanic Mayonnaise- Haw!). And I know that "ineffable" sounds like a borderline expletive, so I'll try to slip it into a future strip with Ernesto in it.
Since that paragraph was thin and unproductive, here's an except from an upcoming Cul de Sac, where I sell out with some product placement.
As I was saying, Grandma is pretty much Alice all grown up and then some. Below is her first appearance, in a Post Magazine Cul de Sac from November 20, 2005, exactly four years and ten months ago. Anyone who's read the strip around Thanksgiving will recognize the various situations set forth as I've cannibalized them enough times to feed a couple dozen cannibals, if they ate comic strip gags. Wait, what?
I'll admit that Grandma is physically based on my own Grandma, though mine was much more lovable and fond of staying up all night reading, playing with her two large dogs and at least once making a large tray of deviled eggs. Which she did not then throw at traffic.
Here's another lightning round sprint through the week that was in Cul de Sac.
When I was a kid we had a couple of the Time-Life nature books, Evolution and The Mammals, and one of them had a photo of a pangolin that always stuck with me for no good reason. Pangolins are poorly represented in popular culture, which is unusual as nature is so limited and popular culture is so all-encompassing. So, needing a new animal for Alice's favorite-of-the-moment, I grabbed a pangolin.
This is all true, really.
So is this. Go outside and try it.
Alice and her Grandma have long had issues, probably because they're so much alike.
I like yards with knicknacks and ornaments, especially in a neighborhood where they don't fit in. To show rather than tell, here's a panel from an upcoming Sunday strip-
At last, a post that's about a strip that's actually the strip in today's newspaper (where available)! And that's the problem; I hadn't realized when I drew this (at a table at the beach) that it would run on the annually tiresome Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arrrrgh! So it's an unintentional tie-in, which throws the randomness of Dill's dream a little off. I just meant to make it silly and fun to draw, the latter of special importance because I didn't have my lightbox crutch to lean on. Really, you get so used to using a particular set of tools that it's almost paralyzing when you have to rough it a little bit.
Dill's dreams have been featured a few times, usually in a Sunday strip where there's more elbow room for his unconscious. Here's one from a year or so ago, and it's more of a nightmare.
Coming up- we try to bring ourselves up-to-date with the daily strips.
Somebody has some catching up to do, and as usual it's me. But seriously, what more need be said about Ernesto? Except that he may possibly exist in a parallel dimension that he may some day rule, and not exactly as a philosopher king. Ernesto Lacuna is the closest I've come to one of those Marvel multiverse things that allows an author to devise plots at will, no matter how silly or untethered, without consequence. From what I've read about Stephen Hawking's new book on the way the universe basically works, this is the way the universe works, so anything goes.
Next- all those missed days from last week. But not consecutively because I'm not into that whole linear thing any more.
This will be your final warning, thankfully. Today's the last day of SPX, and I'll be sitting on one of the hotel's strangely low chairs at the table across from the CBLDF spread, to your left as you enter the room, at these convenient times.
Sunday 12:30PM - 1:30 PM
I'll have books, T-shirts and original art available. And at 2:00 I'll be on a panel called "Brave New Comic Strip" featuring the vocal stylings of Keith Knight, Marguerite Dabaie and your host, Mike Rhode. It may change the future of the medium, hopefully for the better.
Today is the third anniversary of the launch of Cul de Sac as a daily strip, courtesy of the fine folks at Universal Press (who just picked up a strip called "Peanuts" that I've heard nice things about).
The only sensible reply to this is, How nice- where's Today's Cul de Sac with commentary?
Those nice people at SPX have kindly offered a nomadic band of cartoonists, including me, the use of a table to sign things, sell things, and sit at when our feet get tired. Below are the times when I get my turn, subject to change.
I'll have books, T-shirts and original art available, and a bag of greasy carry-out food tucked surreptitiously under the table. So please come on by! Bring your tired feet and get our special 2% tired feet discount!
The whole point of this was to draw something big and looming and monumental, which is hard to do in a puny little comic strip. And of course, medieval war machines are always fun to draw, even for us lapsed Quakers. Here's another looming war machine, from a Washington Post Book World illo for a book about Hans Blix, circa 2004.
Finally, we're up to date. This was fun to do- the silly big box store, the overblown copywriting and such, but I wish I'd staged the final action differently. It might've worked better if Alice had stepped onto the napmat and plunged immediately up to her neck in it, and in the final panel Mom had addressed Alice (whose head was only visible), saying something like, "Let's keep looking, this napmat is too fancy." No big deal, except this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. It's a form of George Lucas syndrome.
Oh well. The whole thread count joke was stolen from an old Poor Almanack, this one a parody of Christmas catalogs. I append the whole cartoon below, so you'll get the full effect and so I can make this post longer with minimum effort.
Just to do some more catching up- Oh, boy! Puppets and dressing up in costumes! Both of these activities come standard with most preschools and I'm embarrassed it took me so long to mention them. My basement has an old puppet theater and a pile of costumes in it, ready to load onto the gypsy circus wagon whenever the economy hits that point where it becomes more lucrative to be an itinerant puppeteer than a newspaper cartoonist, which may be next week.
Really though, every preschool classroom I've set foot in has been furnished and supplied almost entirely by leftovers and hand-me-downs donated by parents. The somewhat terrifying preschool in Toy Story 3 had some of that, though the building and facilities were a lot nicer than the ones I've seen. Another appearance by Sofie (above); I've really got to figure out what her deal is, but shrouding her in mystery seems to work fine for now.
And for what it's worth, I don't think Petey's burgeoning social life is going to change him much, in case anybody was worried that he might suddenly turn normal.
When last we left Petey he was about to step into his 3rd grade classroom for the first time again (again because, of course, he's been stuck in 3rd grade since 2004, the physics of comic strip time dilation/expansion being what they are; but really, no wonder he's neurotic). I think we all know the staggering discomfort of that first entrance into a new classroom. It's the stuff of nightmares, if the stuff is made of your everyday cringe-inducing awkwardnesses. As Petey is so finely calibrated for these things of course his psyche's going to overreact and split in two. I just like the idea that the out-of-body Petey is the aggressive one.
The first time Petey multiplied was in the strip below from late 2005 (I think). Having been a soccer parent, and a pretty lousy one, I can attest to the part about mom not paying attention.
On September 9th (this coming Thursday) I'll be signing copies of the Cul de Sac Golden Treasury at Politics & Prose along with the wonderful Keith Knight, who'll be signing The Knight Life: Chivalry Ain't Dead. For a small fee, we'll switch over and sign each other's book instead. There may be a talky thing beforehand, which I'll let Keith handle as he's vastly more entertaining than I am. More details here.
Next up, Today's Cul De Sac, and the day before's and the day before that's.