When you’re bright, be loud.

Today’s comic revisits another of the heroes from my #Pintopia campaign! This time, it’s that famous satellite of the planet on which most of us live – Luna, the Moon.

We first heard from this celestial character in the classic comic #302.

I have also gone back through the archives and added the new tag #astronomy to past comics involving our various friends in the heavens.

In doing so, I realized there are also quite a few comics featuring the moon in a supporting role, in the context of werewolfery — but that is another topic altogether.

I will let you know when I have completed the assignment of a #lycanthropy tag.

Meanwhile, the loud round one is also the subject of a brand new pin design, once again part of…


Once again I am including this picture of my brand-new pin designs!

You can read more about all different my pin designs over on the campaign page.

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

I’ve been reading Garfield comics with my son this week.

He’s too young to really follow the narratives — after every strip he pauses, asks what happened, and then says, slowly and calmly, “Why” — but he’s already very fond of the drawings and characters.

We’ve been reading specifically late-80’s strips, since those are the books we have handy. Honestly, I consider this period the creative zenith of the strip; it’s the sensibility that led directly to the Saturday-morning cartoon, which in my opinion still holds up.

I’d read and loved these particular strips as a kid, but haven’t revisited them much in the many years since. Reading them again now, I came to notice things I had never noticed before.

I posted all about it on Twitter yesterday, and thought I would record my thoughts here, too, for the record.

One thing Garfield doesn’t get enough recognition for is truly bonkers, impressionistic color choices. This sidewalk is pink and yellow. Jon wears purple pants. Every panel is like an Easter basket. (Click any image for a closer look.)

On, Twitter, Jim here replied with an observation that the current version of this strip in the Garfield online archive features different coloring:

I find this fascinating — it means that someone, at some point, recolored it.

It makes me curious to know how this strip looked in the paper in ’87. A quick search of instances of the word “corset” in newspapers on September 20, 1987, gives us a clue:

This is a low-resolution image from newspaperarchive.com. I can’t see the full image because I don’t have a paid subscription — because back when I did, I didn’t get anything else done.

It’s hard to tell, but it looks like Jon’s shirt is darker than his pants in the newspaper version — which means it’s more likely to have been colored like the version from my 1989 book, rather than the recolored online version.

It’s been noted before by other commentators that the rooms in the Arbuckle house are never any specific consistent color. The switching colors contributes to the ping-pong effect of the rhythm of the dialogue. The final panel here keeps the rhythm going while not being at all logical! Yet it works.

I’m being serious: it takes chutzpah to have, as a creative ethos, the theory “it doesn’t matter what color anything is, as long as it’s from the Cadbury brand palette.”

Below: is the house purple or yellow? Yes. Is the entryway green or pink (compared to the mailman strip above)? Yes.

The ping-pong walls don’t appear when color is an important part of some other part of the strip. The static choices are still zany, though: yellow floors, pink baseboards:

(Side note: I need more of Gwen, stat.)

Here’s this Gwen strip from above as it appears now on GoComics. The colors are different, but decisions are still being made to make them as bold as possible.

The green of Gwen’s outfit, as seen here, can only exist online — which is to say, in RGB colorspace.

The gray in this graphic shows all the out-of-print-gamut colors (colors that wouldn’t be available on a standard printing press):

This is that strip converted to print-safe CMYK color, meaning, a version that would print just fine:

It still looks just as interesting, and is actually less abrasive to the eye.

Yet, someone at PAWS HQ (or somewhere) is deliberately coloring Garfield strips with super-bright colors such as R122 G255 B0:

It’s just one of the many enormously bright colors in the comic — a color that won’t translate into print, and is much brighter than I think most people would choose to use for any sort of illustration (comics or anything else).

All the online Garfs from this era use these ultra-bright colors:

If you know the Garfield archive colorist, please buy them a drink. They probably need it.

Interestingly, newer comics don’t share this palette! It appears to be only the archives.

There seems to be a shift in style around the year 2000. The 1999 comics are all as bright as the above. The 2001 comics all look pretty “normal,” with a lot more prevalence of muted, darker, and/or desaturated colors.

2000 is a bit of a transitional year in the archive. The start of 2000 looks a lot like the archives, but by the end of 2000, things are looking more like the future. (Though there is still no consistency from comic to comic about the color of, say, Jon’s phone.)

This timeframe coincides roughly to the era when digital coloring began to become the norm, and cartoonists were beginning to submit daily strips already pre-colored to their syndicates (rather than letting individual papers color them via manual means).

So it’s more likely that color versions were already complete and backed up from that point forward, whereas the older black & white comics likely had to be colored from scratch (or recolored, in the case of Sundays) if they wanted to present an entire archive that was in color.

Back to the 1989 book: this dog is one of the very few white (uncolored) things in the whole book.

Note how the concrete is brown, though — a weird choice.

I suspect the entire book was colored from B&W art separately from how they appeared in papers. The whole book is probably colored from the same 20 swatches.

The notion that a strip might have been colored differently from paper to paper opens up a whole new world of imagination:

For the online version, they fixed the color of the cement in the dog strip, but made some other, very curious, choices, such as a profusion of bright pinks:

Preliminary research suggests that the version of the strip that ran in (at least some) papers was probably closer to the book version. Note how dark the cement looks, even in this preview:

(I found this page in the archive by assuming, correctly it seems, that it would be one of the only places the word “sucker” would appear in most newspapers on October 4, 1987.)

The part of all this that fascinates me the most is that, when the decision was made to color the comics for the online archive, someone seems to have considered — and then answered in the negative! — the question of whether or not to look back at the previous versions for reference.

One thing I never specifically noticed until now is that the little Garfield books collect the longer Sunday strips, complete with the first two “throwaway” panels.

They’re not colored at all, and you can see how they suffer visually compared to the strips intended to print as B&W (full of spot blacks & halftones):

The color book, however, which is a collection of all Sunday strips, omits the throwaway panels of all the strips — when you’d think that a book would want to present the complete material, not truncated versions.

This is curious to me, because it implies a priority other than presenting absolutely every bit of the content.

My big takeaway from all this for cartoonists is that your work doesn’t necessarily have to have an “official, canonical” version. The same work can be presented in different ways depending on the context.

I suspect that newspaper cartoonists who knew that 1/3 of their strip might get lopped off, or the panels reshuffled, from paper to paper may have a more inherent understanding of the work itself as being modular.

One final observation here is that perhaps I have been far too conservative in coloring Wondermark, when I have made color versions of the strips for my own books.

Here is comic #378 as it appeared in a book, colored by Philip Obermarck, which is lovely — but here is ALSO a proposed version that I did not publish (submitted by Erica Franzmann):

This could be a whole new horizon for Wondermark!

I have a Pepper Tree Problem.

In my back yard, there used to be a giant tree.

It was a Brazilian pepper tree, about thirty feet tall, with a trunk you couldn’t fit your arms around and a canopy that shaded the entire yard.

Branches had even grown around and encased the telephone wire that ran past the house.

Its roots were giant. They could be seen snaking throughout the entire yard, crowning and diving like loops of the Loch Ness Monster in a field that the tree’s immense shade had rendered brown and barren.

Their growth was even starting to crack and buckle the concrete foundation of the garage from underneath.

The tree had stood there for a decade or more, tolerated by the house’s previous residents.

When we moved in, the tree was the first thing to go. Three guys with chainsaws spent three days chopping it up, grinding its stump, and pulling out a few other baby pepper trees (“only” 6 feet tall) growing elsewhere on the property.

We were warned by the arborist that it was an invasive species, and that we would likely see the remaining roots still in the ground try to regenerate little shoots (“suckers”).

His words proved prophetic. A week after the tree was cut down, I found one little red-leafed bundle of nothing, poking its head through the dust in the middle of the yard…

I sprayed it with herbicide and watched its little fronds shrivel.

The following week, there were two new suckers. I sprayed them as well.

Two weeks later, seven more had popped up, and they too got the spray.

Pretty soon I had to stop keeping count.

When the herbicide ran out, I decided to dig some of the roots instead, to pull out the things actually sending the suckers to the surface.

I knew there were a million root structures buried in the earth, and I’d never be able to get them all. But just grabbing the ones that came up easily would be a start.

Here’s one little sucker and the root he rode in on. Pretty big root for just a little guy.

That root connected to another, which connected to another, which forked off to another, which crossed paths with another, until finally, just in the extraction of that one little jerk, I’d pulled up the ground six feet on either side of the original spot where the sucker had arisen.

Some of the roots were as thick as baseball bats.

The suckers look so innocuous on the surface, lush and excited to be here, ready to join the big wide biosphere.

Below, you can see one that looks pretty small on the surface, but that quickly revealed itself to be part of a gigantic root structure — in fact, the very root that had snaked underneath the garage and cracked the concrete pad!

After hours of excavating around this giant root blob — all revealed thanks to the tiny clutch of sky-seeking stems pictured above — the best we could do was chop up what we could see, apply herbicide to the cut ends, and fill in the hole again.

There is a metaphor here, I’m sure.

Maybe it’s something about not being able to judge people from what they reveal on the surface — sometimes they are connected to other things, other people and parts of life, in ways you can’t perceive. You never know who knows whom, that sort of thing.

It also brings to mind my conversation with the makers of counterinsurgency-themed board games. These war games attempt to simulate combat between the traditional military and insurgent or guerrilla forces, which can strike from hidden positions and then melt back into society. Terrorist cells are surely connected in ways that these roots are dramatizing.

Perhaps the roots can teach a lesson about patience — by which I mean, although there are more suckers every day, the more I tear out huge swaths of roots, surely the fewer roots remain in the ground. Isolated root segments might be sending up gasping shoots en masse because, various chunks having been removed by me, they can no longer draw nutrients from the entire network. A huge show of suckers, then, may be a death bloom.

All I know is that I walked through the yard yesterday and counted TWENTY-FIVE tiny new sprouts.

Please. Send help.

Teaching My Boy the Family Business

To those I often see in the Bay Area around this time of year, I’ll be missing Maker Faire this time around. I’ll be staying home with my little dude, who cannot fend for himself and must have everything done for him.

I grew up in a family business. I was raised behind the counter of a store; I was stocking shelves by the time I could stand; I was making change by the time I could count.

Most of my childhood, I was surrounded by adults doing work. I think it taught me a lot.

I bristle somewhat when I hear people say “don’t define yourself by your work,” because I like my work, and I think I occasionally do good work, work that feels like an authentic expression of something I care about. And I do not feel entitled to any sort of success without doing work, so I feel like work must be worth something.

Work must be important, otherwise I would just do no work and wait to be successful, and that math doesn’t compute, to me, based on my mindset or my lived experience.

So when my own son was on his way, I pictured myself perkily doing my regular work with him hanging off the front of me in one of those little carriers, cheerily observing and absorbing everything in order to become a creative person of his own one day.

It has not gone quite that way. It may still, but not yet.

He’s here, now, and I don’t know whether he’ll be a creative person, or an entrepreneur, or not; he’s got plenty of time to figure out what those words even mean, much less what to do with his life.

The first thing people ask when they see him is “Are you sleeping at all?” Like it’s a big in-joke that babies will wake you up in the night. Yes, thank you, I’m sleeping. (In little two-hour bites, but yes.)

Our boy is six weeks old — or just one week and change if you correct for his premature arrival — and as of yet he’s basically a houseplant. He stays where you put him, wiggling around like he’s imitating a skydiver. He doesn’t yet understand “objects” or “interaction” or “operating his limbs purposefully” or “responding to anything”. He lives in a world all his own, population one.

We’re also packing up our life to move to a new house, quite unexpectedly as it turns out…and we’ve got a sick kitty who requires a lot of attention…and projects and tasks are stacking up at work. I’ve been trying to wrap up a bunch of complicated projects that I started months ago KNOWING academically that they were going to be impossible to maintain once the baby arrived, but not quite anticipating just how fast the days would slip by, just how hard it would be to accomplish basic tasks in this state of mind.

This will be old news to many (you parents out there) and of little interest to others, I imagine. Remarking on the capital-C Change that the arrival of a child brings to one’s life is so mundane an observation as to be a dull cliché.

I think because of that, I figured it would be different for us, somehow. We would be smarter; we would figure it out.

And we have, so far — but we have withstood it, not bested it, which I understand one never quite does.

I’m grateful that I have the flexibility to stay home with my wife and the kitty and the baby, for a little while at least, and I will beg your forgiveness for the occasional lapse here on the site. This is my conduit to you, and I want to keep it alive, so I will try my best.

I want to make more fun things for you to take home, but I don’t want to shill products more than I provide new comics. People email me every day offering to cram my site full of terrible ads, and I turn all of them down, or ignore them entirely, because that feels gross to me, and disrespectful to you.

I will get back to work soon enough, I hope, with the baby hanging off of me or not. I will imagine myself teaching him all sorts of important things about Business and The World and Adultness, when in reality he will probably be teaching me things. Already, at his knee I have learned much about the subject of Wiggles, and we are working now on a new effort called Groans-And-Moans.

He is issuing creative product of his own, daily, but so far it kind of stinks, and I throw it away in a special can.

I need to become okay with not doing as much work, at least for a bit. But this is also my job, and I have to do some work, or else I don’t have a job.

The solution, of course, is obvious, as my own parents knew: child labor. Work hard, little one, and learn fast. Someday, this will all be yours.

RIP: Richard Thompson, creator of “Cul de Sac”

A few years ago, I wrote a recommendation of the strip “Cul de Sac,” by Richard Thompson, a gentleman I had the privilege of meeting several times. I wrote:

The characters are eccentric in ways that continually delight and surprise. I read individual strips in bits and pieces (here’s the strip’s official online home), but it wasn’t until I sat down with the full books in-hand that Alice, Petey, and their parents and friends took on strange and hilarious personalities. The language is clever and specific; the drawings are weird and delightful…

In 2012, Richard retired from drawing “Cul de Sac”, following the worsening of his Parkinson’s disease. To aid in a fundraising effort for Parkinson’s research, I and many of my cartooning colleagues contributed original art to a book called Team Cul de SacThe next time I saw Richard was in my buddy Dave Kellett’s cartooning documentary Stripped.

This week, Richard passed away from complications from Parkinson’s. He was 58 years old.

Here’s a video that shares a little bit of what made Richard’s art — and his life, and his personality — so marvelous:

I hope everyone takes the time to read some “Cul de Sac”, or his editorial strip, “Richard’s Poor Almanac”. Richard was a phenomenal talent, a cartoonist’s cartoonist whose work overflowed with wit and exuberance, and I hope his voice will endure to inspire generations of artists in the way it has me.

He was also a kind, generous, gentle man whose acquaintance I was supremely honored to have made:

Miss you, Richard.

To David, the genius behind Wondermark, with admiration from your fan —
Richard Thompson, SPX 2010

He did not have to be so kind, but he chose to be. I will always be grateful that I met him, that I got the chance to experience his work, and that I could be a tiny, tiny part of his life.

We will miss you, Richard.