Thursday, July 30, 2015


Here's the story I'm reading now. It starts with a vivid description of a lonely, dismal swamp on an overcast day. It's not the kind of place that attracts fisherman or tourists...the only thing it attracts are mosquitoes, dense clouds of them. A deputy drives by and sees a familiar face: Billy, an oddly quiet local boy who doesn't seem to mind the bugs.

That's all I've read so far but I'm amazed that the opening succeeds in being a grabber even though there's not a single original element in it. I guess some situations...the ramshackle mansion buffeted by a lightning storm, the frightened woman walking along a lonely street at night...are innately interesting and are not diminished by repetition. Interesting, eh?

Another story is about a night time driver in rural Louisiana who gets a flat tire and pulls over to the side of the road. He opens the trunk to get his spare tire and discovers...Gasp!...a woman's body. He has no idea who she is or how she got there.

Stranger still, her ID and papers identify her as his girlfriend who he's eloping with.  There's even a photo of the two of them together and that's his signature on the bottom...but how could that be? He's never seen her before.

If he calls the police they'll surely believe he murdered her. If he doesn't call and buries her instead, she'll be discovered and there's not a jury on Earth that would acquit him. What should he do?

The next story is about a suicide jumper in a big 1950s American city. A crowd forms on the opposite side of the street.

Police with a megaphone are unable to talk the guy down so they call his wife and ask her to come out. When that doesn't work somebody gets the idea of calling his mistress. After all, a man often won't listen to his wife, but his mistress...well, that's a different thing. Unfortunately the two women meet and there's only one megaphone.

Here's the last story: A young man breaks a pawnshop window and takes a fist full of diamonds. A passer-by sees the crime, chases the kid and captures him just as the police arrive. The problem is that the kid hasn't got the diamonds on him when he's caught, even though he was never out of the sight of witnesses. His captor doesn't have them either and they're not hidden anywhere. So, where did they go?

I'll give you a hint: broken glass looks the same as diamonds...only there's a lot more to the story than that.

Nifty, eh?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I'm so grateful to Tom Minton and John for introducing me to this song: It's "Thanks a Lot but no Thanks" from MGM's "It's always Fair Weather," sung by Dolores Gray. 
I'll put up a few snapshots and a small sample of the lyrics.

Dolores throws her arm up and a big, brassy orchestral blast kicks in.

There she goes, right into the De Chirico background as the curtains part. 

Her sidemen drop from the sky, somersault, and slide into scene...


 ...until she's surrounded by them. They freeze in place...

...then they leap to their feet and do a manic scramble exit.

Three rush back and strike a cool pose. They're hoping she'll dump her old boyfriend and go out with them.

On the line "Thanks a lot but but no thanks" Dolores banishes the men with a flick of her arm.

Three new sidemen rush in and strike immensely cool poses. I'll dispense with the lyrics so I can concentrate on the visuals.

These guys make a great counterpoint to what's going on in the song. Seeing this reminds me of my promise to myself that if I become rich I'll have a have a troop of chorus girls  follow me around all day, ready to back me up with choreography in case I decide to sing or emphasize a point.

The men do some great moves then Dolores banishes them again with another "Thanks a lot but no Thanks!"

Now (above) some of the sidemen waddle walk back in. Dolores sings about the man she loves.

Some great moves by the side men, then she dismisses them too.

Actually, she shoots them. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

It doesn't do her any good because a whole bunch of new sidemen strut in from behind camera. 

They try to impress Dolores...

...but it's no deal...she's not buying it. She's loyal to the man she loves, who's "like Marlon Brando and Clifton Webb combiiiiined."

She banishes them. too.

Undeterred, new sidemen appear from trapdoors and offer Dolores expensive jewelry.

Nope! She's not interested. Her man has what it takes to top that.

Dynamite! Just the thing to get rid of those pests!


In desperation the horny sidemen make one last appeal, en masse. It's no use. She pulls a lever and the men are banished to the Netherworld.

'Thanks a lot but no thanks!"

Then the big finish: "No...NO...THAAAANKS!!!!!" 

Good stuff, eh?

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I'm a longtime fan of my daughter's caricatures of me. The earliest ones, like the one above, had a particularly sunny and happy quality, and she liked to try different techniques with each one.  Here she gave the whole face beard stubble, including the nose. "Yeah," I think to myself, "why shouldn't a nose have stubble?"

As the years went by she got more polish. Here's (above) one she did in a fast food restaurant. I asked her to draw me looking dignified and intellectual and that's exactly what she did. Haw! 

But...uh oh!...dark clouds were on the horizon. Another year passed and this time (above) I found myself depicted as old and hideous...the personification of a rigid and oppressive authority figure. It was the onset of my kid's teenage angst.

Haw! The sketch wasn't without interest, though. I like the thinning hair at the top being represented by little pubic wire worms. Interesting, eh?

I did this (above) one. It's not a very good drawing but I include it because it captures my kid in the  3 or 4 rebellious years when she stopped drawing and took herself very seriously. She read only the great Russian them in her room with the door closed, I should add.

I was despairing that I'd lost my caricature buddy when one day she asked if she could draw me. I was ecstatic when I saw the result (above). The hormones had obviously receded and my kid's charm and enthusiasm were back. She did another thinking pose, this time using a tiny little hand to convey the intention. Nice. Very nice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I thought I'd take a stab at answering three questions that come up in cartoonists' conversations. The first is, "How dumb should a cartoon character be?" 

The obvious answer is,"VERY dumb! The dumber the better!" That sounds right to me, but when you think about it, most dumb characters to date haven't been completely stupid. 

Okay,  I admit that Tex's dog in "Screwy Truant" comes close, and so does Beaky Buzzard...but I think I detect a few brain cells even in those characters.

Dumb characters aren't usually completely stupid. They're proud to be dumb. 

They're both eager and stupid. They can't wait to get out of bed in the morning and do dumb things. Maybe totally dumb is the wrong way to go...but I admit that nothing else is as funny.

I don't hear any comments so I'll move on to the second question..."Should dumb characters slouch?"

When you think about it, very few live action comedians slouch.

 In the main, they have pretty good posture.

Even the Python 'Gumbies" (above) don't slouch to much.

Classic dumb characters, the kind you see in one-panel print cartoons often slouch, but when you animate them...or in the case of live action, film them a slouch makes them appear lethargic and without goals. That can't be right.

No, in the main dumb characters shouldn't slouch. Er...okay, Beaky Buzzard slouched, and I don't have an answer for that.

The last question has to do with slouching when seated..."Are eager-stupid characters permitted to slouch when seated?" The answer to that is "Yes!" My proof for that is...well, they just are, that's all. It's my blog, and there's an end to it!

Space limits prevent me from addressing other pressing questions like..."How close should stupid characters stand when talking to each other?"

And "Do stupid people have equally stupid friends? Are they loners? Do they like to hang around intelligent foils?" These are important questions but we'll have to return to them another time.