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Reed Jackson
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Today (July 29) marks the 30th anniversary of Arlo and Janis! In honor of this milestone, editor Reed Jackson shares his perspective. According to the several wedding-anniversary gift idea sites that I feverishly read every year, unfailingly a few weeks after my actual wedding anniversary, the theme for the 30th anniversary is pearl. Arlo and Janis, whose strip turns 30 years old today (July 29), were presumably hitched for an unspecified stretch of time before the strip began, and the fuzzy chronology of comic-strip time being what it is, fewer years have passed for the titular couple and their son, Gene, (not to mention their cat, Ludwig, who seems to rival Garfield in eternal youthfulness, if not verbosity,) than for us beleaguered denizens of the real world. While Arlo and Janis have changed a little over the past three decades, the rest of the world has changed a lot. For instance, I've gone from being a 6-year-old kid afraid of public restrooms and carousels to being a 36-year-old man afraid of using public restrooms (I can hang out in them no problem; thanks, years of therapy!) and the people who run carousels. Also, you can watch TV on your phone now! All of this is my long way of saying that while strip creator Jimmy Johnson has done an excellent job of making his characters adapt to the quickly shifting times, he's done an even better job of having them stay true to their core selves throughout the long march of years, and to also note that, though Arlo and Janis may seem like a totally different strip to me as an adult than as a kid, it's because I've changed more than the strip has. For instance, one thing you don't notice about it when you're young: Arlo and Janis can be spectacularly dirty. I don't think anyone else has managed to get so many double entendres and sly allusions to what my schoolmarm referred to as "marital relations" into such a notoriously prudish medium as comic strips -- I don't think anyone has even tried. Johnson's legacy is assured on this material alone. For instance, here are only a select few saucy morsels: I'll give you a second to recover from your steamed-up glasses/contacts and/or extreme blushing. Just think, there are literally hundreds of strips equally as bawdy awaiting the intrepid soul who ventures into the Arlo and Janis archive. It might be a good time to buy glasses-wipe company stocks. But good comic strips, like good marriages, aren't built on the naughty bits alone. Johnson's real genius is the way he precisely captures the long, intricate haul that is wedded lock – the microscopic intimacies, the major irritations, the minor joys and the delicate longheurs – the slow accretion of habit, love, frustration and shared experience that comes from two people throwing in together. Here are a slew of pitch-perfect moments: So for the 30th anniversary of Arlo and Janis, let's reflect on the many pearls of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2015 at Laugh Tracks
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When I was a young, obnoxious child, one of the many treats of visiting my grandparents' house was the chance to read an entirely new batch of comics. This was in the days before the Internet, when newspapers were pretty much the only game in town for comic strips, making a trip to a different town an opportunity to peruse completely different funny pages over the morning bowl of radioactive-colored, hyper-sugary cereal (one of the other treats of visiting my grandparents' house.) One of the comic strips in my grandparents' local paper was The Born Loser. I can't say that I loved it as much as U.S. Acres or Robotman, which it appeared next to, but then, I wasn't really its audience. Pop-eyed talking animals and wisecracking mechano-men were easier for me to relate to than the prosaic, everyday failures of beleaguered tea cozy flack Brutus Thornapple and his family. The strip's stark simplicity, both in its art and its jokes, and avoidance of '80s comic-strip gimmicks (the aforementioned talking animals, Reagan jokes, dangerously overweight cats) did make it stand out on the page, however. Decades later, when comics were available at the click of a mouse and I was old enough to make poisonously vivid cereal my primary source of sustenance, I became the editor of, among many other comics, The Born Loser, thus proving to my family that my six grueling years at the Comic Editing Korrespondence Kollege of American Samoa had not been a total loss. Even though more than two decades had passed since I last read it, I was surprised to find that it had changed not a whit -- the jokes were gentle, the art was gracefully minimal and Brutus Thornapple was still trying to make a go of it in the cutthroat tea cozy industry. The strip's creator, Art Sansom, had died in 1991, but his son, Chip, was ably carrying his legacy forward. Though the strip hadn't changed, I had, and where once I had found the strip less than relatable, now I found the gags about the daily struggles of office work, marriage and finding clean pants to be all too easy to understand. For most of us, adult life is the same thing over and over, and I think part of the reason for the strip's enduring popularity and staying power -- celebrating its 50th anniversary on May 10, it still runs in hundreds of papers and routinely comes in at or near the top in comics polls -- is that it mirrors its subject matter: the familiar and recurring foibles of humdrum life. Of course, there are many other factors at play when it comes to The Born Loser's appeal. There's the Dickensian perfection of the characters' names: Brutus' boss is named Rancid Veeblefester, his son Wilberforce and his dog Kewpie; the staunch middle-classness of the Thornapple milieu and the realistic depiction of the relationship between Brutus and his wife, Gladys, a marriage as full of bickering, annoyances and... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2015 at Laugh Tracks
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We here in the war room of GoComics HQ were struck by this cartoon, but couldn't say exactly why. Sure, there's the strange concept of the U.S. Navy accepting a sentient pretzel-person into its ranks, and the serendipity of this strip running just as the Northeast is buried in a metric butt-load of snow. And don't get us started about using one's own self-produced sodium as a method of de-icing. No, it was none of those run-of-the-mill, prosaic things. Just as we'd resigned ourselves to living forever in mystery and got ready to bed down for our mid-workday nap, we hit upon the reason: the scene's resemblance to several shots of John Wayne in John Ford's classic-smelling western "The Searchers." Here's one example: Framing Mr. Salty through a doorway, just as Ford did Wayne's tortured antihero, brings out the tragic undercurrent that was always lurking in wait. Though Salty's wife (or mistress?) beckons him inside, we know he'll always remain out in the cold, a crunchy snack without a ship, dusting off parts of himself to temporarily melt the hoarfrost of a harsh and unfeeling world. Read more Brevity by Dan Thompson at GoComics. Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2015 at Laugh Tracks
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The only question left unanswered by this comic -- Between the Smith & Wesson in his left pocket and the Colt revolver in his right, which one is the "security system" and which is the "backup"? OK, one more unanswered question: Isn't connecting your suspenders directly to your belt loops a fundamentally "insecure system"? Read more Plugger mysteries here. Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2015 at Laugh Tracks
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Your first reaction to this tasty Brevity cartoon might be to gag, but we rush to inform you that that panini is from a Michelin-star restaurant. If your first reaction was to make a sandwich, we suggest you seek psycholigical as well as gastronomical help. Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2011 at Laugh Tracks
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Jul 1, 2011