I’m pretty sure that’s how the description went in the gag for this strip. I can’t actually prove it, because in those days, Jerry sent gags to me via fax. Hard to believe we spent the years 4 through 15 with gags being sent as faxes. We’ve since moved into the modern world and use email.
Jerry sends gags to me as little scripts. A brief, not-usually-very-detailed description of the scene, and the dialogue. The panels are numbered. Most of the time, it leaves me some leeway as to the setting, the peripheral action, scene blocking. If it’s really critical for a bit of stage action or direction, he’ll indicate that for the panel. Then it’s just a matter of who says what.
It’s a great system. I’m not too roped into the details of how he sees it, which gives me room to play around with the characters. The nice thing is that he says most of the time, the finished strips look just like he imagined them.
I guess knowing someone for about forty years pays off.
This particular strip, though, was his Halloween “trick” to me. And an early one—we produce the strips several weeks ahead of publication. I wasn’t in the trick-or-treat mood yet. Continue reading →
It recently occurred to me that I had a path toward Baby Blues even before Baby Blues existed—before I even knew I had a path.
In the few years before Jerry and I became syndicated, and before we ever had the idea for the strip, I found myself gravitating toward freelance work that involved drawing kids and parents. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe clients sensed something in how I drew that led them to seek me out for that kind of assignment. You can never really know, but things like that become more obvious when you look back on them. Among those magazine clients, where I was a regular, were Woman’s World, Redbook, Parents magazine and Sesame Street Parents Guide.
So, from Ye Olde Freelance Files, I give you a few of the freelance jobs just prior to the creation and syndication of Baby Blues. You can see a lot of the MacPherson clan showing up in the drawings.
All of the above drawings appeared in Redbook on their back page.
Detail of the hyena family.
(Above and below) Sesame Street Magazine Parents Guide
Click to biggify.
Sesame Street always liked big illustrations that covered the whole page so they could run the headline and the beginning of the story over the illustration. I learned a lot from the work of Elwood Smith, master of the watercolor wash. In the late 70s, I’d attended a demonstration by him showing how he prepared his watercolors and applied washes to his cartoon illustrations. I stole borrowed his little background flecks and added some squiggles of my own.
I wish I had a nickname like Mr. Media (Bob Andelman), although in my case it would probably be something like Mr. Big Nose.
If you like watching other people draw—I know I sure do—or like to see a little of the inside workings of a comic strip, you might enjoy this podcast. This was a strange marriage of hi-tech and very lo-tech. The interview was conducted on my iPad, propped up by a Peanuts book, all sitting on a music stand to get a decent angle. It fell over two or three times, but Bob edited all but one. While drawing, the iPad was attached to my drawing board lamp with a bullgdog clip.
It was 1984. The Macintosh had been introduced by the now-famous Super Bowl commercial from Apple that January. As soon as they had them in a store, my lust for a Mac began. I collected the elaborate, gorgeously printed brochures. I nearly drooled on them in the showroom.
I couldn’t afford one. The price of a Mac and a printer plus a few hundred dollars could buy you a brand new Yugo.
It had been two years since I struck out on my own to become a freelance graphic designer/illustrator. When I saw the Mac, I knew it was the wave of the future, despite the fact that it didn’t even have a grayscale screen. There wasn’t a laser printer for it at the time, just a black and white dot matrix printer with blocky resolution only slightly better than an original Mario Bros. arcade game. But the promise was there. The computer used what approximated real typography on the screen. For a designer back then, that was HUGE. At the time, computers had screen type no better than you saw in the movie “War Games”: green letters on a black background. Black type on a nearly white background was so enticing. The photos in the brochures made the screens look like they had a pleasant bluish glow. It was the glow of the future. And I wanted to be a part of it.