Stripped (2014) - full transcript

A documentary on comic strips, with never-seen-before interviews from Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Jim Davis (Garfield), Jeff Keane (Family Circus), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy) and dozens more. The film asks a central question: Where do comic strips go when newspapers die? Everybody loves comics, but will they survive in a digital world?


My favorite memory of comics
is Sunday morning.

You know,
the comics wrap the paper,

and you'd grab
the Sunday paper

that had the comic strip
you loved best on it.

And then the classic
family breakfast

was sitting
with the comic page open

and reading it.

And that's how
you started your day.

And I'd like to read the comics
with my dad.

I'd like to sit in a big chair
with him with his arm around me

and we'd read the comics.

And when I visited
my grandparents, same thing-

sit in a big chair
with grandpa,

put his arm around me
and read the comics.

It's so sad to me
to see newspapers close

and to hear people talk
about them going away

is sad, really sad.

In my fantasy world,

everybody will get sick
of the internet.


People will so long
for something tangible

that newspapers
will come back.


What truly is unique about
comic strips in particular

is they provide
a quick respite

from what's going on
in your daily life.

So, it's allowing that inner kid
inside you to come out.

I'll read
a comic strip a day

just to keep myself sane.

Comics are tasty

in the way that you can just
pop it in your mouth.

It's so concise.

There's nothing extra on them.

They're just exactly
what they need to be.

Just a lozenge of an idea.

All the clutter
has to be eliminated,

and as a result,
the few lines and

the few words that remain
are concentrated.

I think that cuts through
to the essence of things.

In the right hands,

a comic strip attains
a beauty and an elegance

that really I'd put
against any other art.

I feel like words and pictures
are just magical,

been around forever,
just a great,

you know,
a great marriage.


- I was reading comic strips

before I could even read
comic strips.

- Popeye...

- Little Lulu...

- Steve Canyon...

- Pogo...
- Beetle Bailey...

- Peanuts...
- Garfield...

- Hagar the Horrible...
- The Far Side...

- Doonesbury...

- Bloom County...
- Mutt & Jeff...

- Little Lulu
- Ricochet

- Smitty
- For Better or For Worse

- My father loved
Moon Mullins

and on Sunday morning he'd say,
"Go down and get the paper."

And I'd bring it back,

I'd lie in bed next to him,
and he'd read Moon Mullins.

And he would laugh so hard,

the tears
would come down his cheeks.

And I'd lay there just giggling
and lovin' and thinkin',

"Oh boy, I'd love
to do that to people."

- I must have been five.
I couldn't read and...

but I'd follow Henry,
pantomime strip,

bald-headed kid.

And I probably gained
a great appreciation

for physical humor
as a result of being

an avid comics fan
before I could read.

- My first memories of cartoons
were really about the pictures.

- I was fascinated
not so much with the pictures

as with the balloons,
because I could read.

- The moment I read
for the first time

was a little copy

of one of those Peanuts
Fawcett paperbacks.

- Peanuts.
- Peanuts.

- Peanuts.
- Peanuts.

- Peanuts books.

I remember when I was in,

like, third or fourth grade,

the Peanuts books would come out
and we would read them,

and with my friends
we'd act them out.

Some girl would be Lucy,
some girl would be Violet maybe;

and it was Schroeder standing up
on his piano,

declaiming in German,
I had to read that

and I didn't know
what it was saying

but it was like
a little script for us.

More than any strip almost,

the Peanuts characters
were just alive to everybody.

And they were drawn
with so much joy;

he called it 'warmth.'

I mean, they just
radiate warmth.

What is your first memory
of reading comics,

- I think Garfield
was the first one I read.

- The little Garfield books.

My mom bought me the first
collection of Garfield.

In that first strip
Jon was a cartoonist.

So, in my first look
at a person's studio

was that first panel,
was like,

"Hi, my name's Jon.
I'm a cartoonist.

This is my cat Garfield.

- I discovered
Calvin and Hobbes

at the Scholastic
Book Fair once.

And then I had to go
and find all of the rest.

- I remember
when Calvin came in,

it literally
took my breath away.

I mean I hadn't seen
anything like it.

It would have been the first
Calvin and Hobbes collection

with the wagon,

where they're jumping
into the river.

Why does that one
stick with you?

- 'Cause he had a friend.


He had a buddy.

No, I think that had
a lot to do with it,

because I had
an imaginary friends,

and here it was codified--
like here's a kid

who had an imaginary friend
and it's not dumb,

like, and he had a cool friend.


- I started reading
Bloom County

and there was a little boy
in that comic strip who was--

I think his name was Oliver.

So, here was a little
character of color

allowed in the newspaper.

And I started to think,
"Wow, maybe I could do this."

- When I was little
I became a big fan of Foxtrot.

Page would daydream
about some dreamy French man.

And they were my favorite.

- I read Nancy,
kind of the way everybody does.

Just to make sure that it was
still incredibly simple
and dumb.

Because if Sluggo
says something clever,

maybe I shouldn't
leave the house.

Maybe that's like an omen.

- Pogo was a strip
that I used to love

even though I never understood
one word of it.

- I sort of felt like
the rest of the newspaper

was for my parents,
and the comics page was for me.

- My dad would
unfold the newspaper,

chuck out
the comics page to me.

- You could have one sheet
and someone would have another

and like, you'd trade them off.

- Reading the Sunday paper
as a kid, it was bigger than me.

So, you know, I'd have it
spread out on the floor.

- Spread out on the floor
you know,

trying to copy the pictures.
And that was it!

I mean, I was hooked.

- My first memory of reading
comic strips, you know,

my parents took
the Herald Examiner

in Los Angeles,
which is now defunct,

and I remember
this magnificent spread

when they used to
run 'em this big,

and I just was so drawn
into this amazing world

that these guys could create
in this little rectangle.

I was so enchanted
by the idea

that one person
could create

such a compelling world
every day.



- A great many of you
are under the impression

that to be a comic artist,
you have to be crazy.

That is not true.

But it is a big help.

- Cartoonists were more
of a public figure
than they are today.

- I remember walking into a
restaurant with Milton Caniff

and all the heads
would turn around and say,

"There's Milton Caniff,
there's Milton Caniff!"

Milton, how would you
explain the popularity

of the Steve Canyon helmet?

- Well, it was
a carefully planned promotion

every step of the way.

- Everybody knew
all about Rube Goldberg

and his inventions.

- Well folks, there she is.

The Rube Goldberg

- They were famous, you know.
That's what I wanted to be.

Windsor McCay and Little Nemo
provide the nation

with some of its
most innocent nonsense.

- And there were pictures and
there were stories about them

were in the paper
all the time.

- Well, let's let
everybody at home know

exactly what your line is,
shall we?

- They were major celebrities.

- Do you have a strip
that is syndicated?

- Yes, I hope.

- I know you're not Al Capp.


- Both Milton and Al Capp made
the cover of Life magazine.

And they were great guests
on talk shows.

- Mr. Al Capp.


- So I thought this is a career
that has everything.

It, you know,
offers even, dignity.

Two things I wanted in the
world: celebrity and dignity.

And money.
That's three things.

- Once the continuity
comic strip became popular

this would be the 30s
and the 40s, and the 50s,

they were huge.

People would run out
to get the next installment

and find out what happened
to that character.

- I know what's going to happen
for the next two days...

...In "Dick Tracy"

...and I'm sworn to secrecy

and you couldn't get it
out of me even with torture.

That's what's hard for people
to realize today

is how important
the comics were back then.

- Even labor strikes
has its lighter moments.

- Here's Dick Tracy!

- Mayor F.H. LaGuardia
reads the comics.

- And she says,

"When are you going to
let me out of here?"

- Have you seen a movie called
How to Kill Your Wife?

The interesting thing
about it--

this guy does
an adventure comic strip.

And he's living in this
beautiful brownstone house

in New York.

- ...with a manservant.

- This would not seem odd
at the time,

that this cartoonist
would be so rich.


- 70s and 80s, and 90s,
you know, comics were huge.

- Merry Christmas
Charlie Brown!

♪ Eep, opp, orp, ah AHH! ♪

- I carry
the American Express card,

and wherever I go,
folks treat me like a fat cat.

You think men or women

are even supposed to
understand each other?

- Well,
it's always the man's fault.

- Oh, I see. I see.

- For Lynn Johnson,

life is more for better
than for worse.

- I can't imagine
a cartoonist Hall of Fame

without you in it.

- Murder She Wrote. Yeah.

- Mrs. Fletcher,
this is Mel Lazarus.

- What a pleasure, Mr. Lazarus.

- How do you do, Mrs. Fletcher?

A comic strip takes
just a few seconds to read

but over the years,
it creates

this surprisingly
deep connection with readers.

The daily deadlines are brutal
for the creator,

but there's a real payoff
to that daily contact.

Seeing the strip every day
is a-- it's a fun little ritual.

And people feel connected
to what you've created.

Even in a few panels,
you can develop characters

and express an outlook
on life as the months go by.

And before you know it,

readers are seriously
invested in the world

that you've created.

So I think
that incremental aspect,

the unpretentious
daily-ness of comics

is a surprising
source of power.

Readers do form an emotional
bond with your strip.


- I remember drawing as early
as 2 and 3 years old.

I was a fanatical drawer.

- I learned how to cartoon
when I was eight.

'Cause, you know,
I actually made comic strips

when I was eight.

I never stopped doing it
since them.

- My first memories
of drawing comics,

it was just copying
a lot of Garfield imagery.

His work was slick.

At the time,
it was kinda like

looking at cartoons
on the page.

- I was asthmatic.
Severely asthmatic, as a child.

And I had to spend
a lot of time in bed.

- I had bronchitis
every winter.

So, I'd miss
about a month of school.

- To entertain me,

mom would give me
pencil and paper.

- She gave me one of those
portable desks, you know,

there's bean bags
in the bottom of it.

- So, I spent a lot of time
with my own imagination.

- And I would sit in bed
and draw.

She said that's when
I started drawing.

- You know,
while asthma worked for me.

I wouldn't recommend it to all
hopeful cartoonists, but...


- When I was really young,
I wanted to be an animator,

and I drew every day.

There's boxes of it
under my bed

that I wouldn't let
anybody see.

Secret boxes of drawings
that were just terrible.

That's why no one was
allowed to see them.

- We had no money,
so we had no money for paper.

But the Christmas cards
at the time,

you'd open them up
and you'd get four squares.

So, I would draw stories in--

you know, starting
in the four squares,

never thinking
that I was actually

mimicking the comics page.

- I submitted a cartoon
to Child Life

or something like that,
and I won a dollar.

And I thought, "Boy,
that's where the money is!"

I dropped out of school.

They couldn't get me
to go back.

I began sending cartoons
around to magazines.

I began selling them.

I think by the time I was 12,
I'd sold over 100 cartoons.

- I wanted to find out which
magazine paid the most money.

I was a real entrepreneur
even at 11.

So, I did all this research

and I found out
there was one magazine

that stood heads and
shoulders above all the others

in terms of payment.

So, I went home,
and at age 11,

and started drawing cartoons
for Playboy.

I've always wanted
to be a cartoonist

since, like, fourth grade.

I know I decided
in fourth grade,

because I know
that my fourth grade teacher

was really supportive of it.

- Teacher in sixth grade gave us
a list of vocabulary words

and she let me draw
a definition

to fit each word.

- When we were assigned
a book report to do,

I did a parody
of Animal Farm .

And my teacher went nuts,
my English teacher loved it.

He wrote,

"You captured the essence
of the Animal Farm perfectly,

but more importantly,

you should be doing
a syndicated cartoon strip."

And that was the first time
I ever heard,

"syndicated comic strip."

- I was drawing this cowboy
in high school

and all the girls wanted it
in their lockers.

- I definitely
drew in high school

for the newspaper.

- You have to find your clique
at a certain point,

and mine was
the high school paper.

- I drew for
the high school paper,

mostly to meet girls.

- Jimmy Carter was elected,
and I drew a White House

with a big smile
where the pillars were,

and I seen that MacNelly
did the same thing,

and I thought, "Hey, maybe
I know how to do this."

- When I was 16 there was --
during the war, World War II.

I had three years
of high school,

and I thought I'd quit
because I knew

at the end of the year,
I'd be going into the service.

And I didn't want to
waste that time.

I wanted to get my career going,
you know?

I wanted to sell something.

And I did.
I sold a couple of gag cartoons.

That was very exciting,

and it was the easiest
three dollars I ever
earned in my life.

Which was probably not
bad money though,

in '40, what? '42, '43?

- It was bad.

INTERVIEWER: It was bad?


- So, I always drew cartoons
for fun when I was little,

but I never thought,

"This is something
I'm gonna do professionally."

- My parents didn't really
understand me, I don't think,

that I saw a career
and a future in cartooning.

They just didn't get that.

And so I don't think I felt it
a hundred percent myself.

- I'm pretty sure I remember
my father actually saying,

"Oh no no no...
These people, these cartoonists,

they do it for fun.

They don't actually
get paid for it."

So, I was like, "Oh, cool,

maybe I could do that
on the side,

and I could like,
be a teacher or something."

- Well, no one ever told me
that I could do comic strips

or whatever as a living.

- I'm sure if you asked me
in High School,

"So, do you
want to do this professionally?"

I would have been like,

"Ha, ha, you can't
make a living doing this!"


- Last time, we showed
how cartoonists

lead rich and varied
social lives.

This week, we show
how they turn their doodles

into oodles of "Do-Re-Mi."

That's right, kids,
you can get paid for this.

- Mr. Spokesman, you mean
the newspapers would pay me

for my funny pictures?

Not the newspapers, Billy,
a syndicate.

- A syndicate?

- What we do every day
at the syndicate is

we take something
that a cartoonist gives us

and we get it
into the newspaper.

You see, and artist
draws a fresh strip every day

and sends it off
to their syndicate.

Gosh! Every day?

Then the syndicate salesmen
drive across the country,

selling the strip everywhere
from Cleveland to Columbus.

- They literally have ties
and tweed jackets.

They go out
and pound the pavement

to sell the stuff
to newspaper editors.

Every paper
they sell your strip to

means more money for you!

Of course, they do take
a tiny slice of the money.

Just 50 percent.

- Wow! That's almost nothing!

- They're constantly out there
with salesmen on the road,

selling your strip,
doing the billing,

sending your strip
to the paper...

- They do all the legal stuff,
they try to get it into books...

- So I can understand
why they need a bigger chunk.

- Now you're on the trolley!

And in no time at all,

you'll be living
in the lap of luxury.

- But couldn't I
just sells my strips

to the newspaper myself?

- I could never reach out
to all the newspapers

that are in the country.

I mean, there are guys
who self-syndicate,

but the difficult thing is

then you've got
to maintain that,

you've got to send them bills
and do all that.

- And you see, that's why
it would be crazy

not to use a syndicate.

- And un-American!

- That's right Billy.

"Comics - They're Drawing
America's Tomorrow...Today!"

- Syndicates
are very discriminating.

- You know,
what it boils down to

is it's a very small group
of comics

that we're capable
of doing anything with.

But we still receive
about 5,000 submissions a year

And they launch two features.

If I'd actually known
how unlikely it was

that I would be syndicated,

I might have just
chickened out

and not gone to the trouble
of mailing stuff off.

- In the 90s, when I was first
submitting to syndicates,

some of the rejection letters
told me

that if I made my characters
either white, animals,

or children,
it would sell better.

- Once I started doing this

and I started getting
the rejection letters back,

I just sort of--
you know, there were times

that I would just give up,
and I wouldn't do it,

or I wouldn't send anything
for a while.

And then a month or two later,

"Eh, I'll draw some more
and send some more,

and give it another try."

- I was so frustrated
that I actually had--

I remember this,
I finished my submission packet

and sent it off of Luann.

And then I boxed up my pens
and my paper and stuff

and I put it up
on a shelf in the closet.

It was like, that's it!
I'm done.

But, I-- you know,
I knew that Luann

was probably
going to get a nibble.

- I got a letter from
Lee Salem's secretary, saying,

"Lee would like to see
another two weeks of strips."

And that's all
the letter said.

And so,
that was a world apart

from the form letters
I'd been getting.

I suddenly get this one
sentence letter, wow!

The day that you found Luann

was going to be syndicated,
what was that day like?

- Have you ever seen someone
actually walk on the ceiling?

♪ Hallelujah! ♪

- I was jumping up and down.
I was thrilled.

I felt like
I won the lottery.

- I jumped up and down,
I picked up my daughter

and we jumped around.

She had no idea
what was happening.

I was just so excited,
so thrilled.

- You hear,
"No, no, no, no, no,"

all throughout your life.

And then you get
this critical, "Yes."

- Probably one of the best
moments of my life.

- And of course,
in no time at all,

I realized that there was
no money in it.


You only get--

you only get paid
for the newspapers

that actually buy
your comics.

And I think by the time
my comic launched,

it was about maybe
seven papers on opening day.


- And it was years
and years and years

before I had enough papers
to quit my day job.

- The strip was launched
in January of 2002.

I was still a lawyer.

Eight months later,
in August of 2002, I quit.

And that was
a scary moment for sure.

I mean, the partner I told,
I remember,

looked at me
like he felt sorry for me.

Like I got a tattoo
of an odd-looking bird

on my face or something.

You know like,
"God, you really want
to do that?"

- It was like a lot of people
who knew I'm funny and stuff,

and they'll say like, "Hey!
What are you working on now?"

And I'll say like, "Oh,
I'm doing a daily comic strip."

And they'll look at me like

I just said
I had a mental breakdown,

and I'm in my basement,
and I'm working on model trains.

You know, it's like,
"Oh, that's so sad."

One of the great Cinderella
stories in the business--

Cathy was an unusual strip
in that we had a contract

out to her the same day
her submission came in.


- After college, I was working
in the advertising business

as a writer.

And I had gained
about 45 pounds in college.

I had this great career going
but a miserable love life

and very low self-esteem,

and I used to write
in my diary every night.

And one day just instead of
writing about my troubles,

I drew a picture
of what I looked like

sitting there waiting for
Mr. Wrong to call, you know.

Eating everything
in the kitchen

and lamenting
my great career.

And I sent the drawing
home to my mom,

to let her know
that I was coping.

And it made me feel so good

to see my kind of
disaster of the day

in picture form,

that I started doing that a lot
and sending the drawings home.

So my mom
went to the library

to research
comic strip syndicates.

Gave me a list of
who to send my work to

in the order
I should send it.

And I sent it
just to get her off my back.

I sent these scribble drawings
to Universal Press Syndicate.

- It just happened to end
up on the top of my inbox.

I just happened to look at it,

wrote a note to Jim Andrews,
who was my boss,

I said, "You know,
the art needs some work

but I love this writing."

And it just
happened to go out,

and it happened to end up
on the top of his inbox,

he happened to look it up,
and he sent me a note back

that said, "I agree, let's
get a contract out to her."

And we literally
mailed her a contract

the same day we got it.

That doesn't happen much.

God, yeah, I'd imagine so.

- It was immediate.
It was...shocking.

They said they had
specifically been hoping

to find a strip that dealt with
a changing world for women.

All the submissions
they had gotten up to mine

were written by men.


And then I just basically
stayed up all night

for three months,

because I would do
my advertising job

in the daytime.

And I told nobody I was
working on a comic strip

'cause I had fought, worked
so hard to establish myself

as an important
advertising person, you know,

at a time when
women working was new.

For anybody to know about this
comic strip that I was creating

which was sort of showing
my most vulnerable side

and my most wimpy, you know?

Yeah, yeah.

- The day the first strip ran,

I hid in the ladies room
at the advertising agency

and just prayed that nobody
would open the paper that day.

Everybody saw it.

In fact, the Detroit Free Press
where I lived at the time

did a whole little thing
about it starting, and so...

It was pretty embarrassing.

- One of the things
about syndicates

is they want to know,
can you produce under pressure?

Can you produce fast,
are you responsible?

Are you reliable,
are you that creative

that you can just
keep on producing?

And so, they put you
under a lot of pressure

right at the beginning.

So, they want it now!

"We want 21 pieces of art,
like, in two weeks."

And then, whaa!

- I went from unemployed

and thinking I had a year
of doing roughs

to being on this treadmill
going full speed.

You know,
and it was a long-term contract

that I signed.

And so, I effectively went
19 years with not much
of a break.

- I think the least joyful part
of it is that, you know,

it is that it's a daily strip
with no vacation.

You know?
And every once in a while,

it'd be nice
to take a month off

and reflect on it.
There's no reflection.

- To a person,
they are workaholics.

And there's no break.

The mind is always going.

I can get away from my desk

and go home and do
whatever I want to do,

and I just don't sense that
on the part of cartoonists.

- I don't even think of that
as work.

- No.

When you first said it,
I was like,

"Well, I'm not a workaholic."

But then when you went on,
I was,

"Well, I'm always thinking
about comics, and making--"

- You know what I mean?

Like, it's just
sort of these things

you don't realize it

because it's such an ingrained
part of your life too.

I'm not an alcoholic,
I just need to have alcohol,

I just need alcohol to live!

I certainly found
drawing a comic strip

to be all consuming work.

I had virtually no life
beyond the drawing board.

But I' know,

I wasn't looking for
a balanced life in those days.

My comic strip was the way
that I explored the world

and my own perceptions
and thoughts.

So, to switch off the job,

I would have had to
switch off my head.

So, yes, the work
was insanely intense,

but that was
the whole point of doing it.

- When you start doing it
every day for your vocation,

doing seven a week,
you have to build up to that.

It's like a muscle.

- This isn't just
a couple of days,

or a couple of weeks gig.

This is gonna hopefully go
'til the day you die.

That's a lot of material.

- The first thing
that made me nervous

earlier in my career

was just the idea of
having to have a joke a day

for the rest of my life,
for X number of years.

And just to think of
that whole thing all at once,

to think of all those years
and days and jokes

just made my head cave in.

So, I'd just would,

you know, you just have
to take it a day at a time.

- Sparky --
Charles Shultz -- said,

"It's a job where you're doing
the same thing over and over,

and never repeating yourself."

- It's so deceptively difficult.

I mean, you'd think,
you know, four panels,

word balloons at the top,
some illustrations underneath,

and how hard could that be?

- It's a tough job
to draw these cartoons.

Make 'em funny every day,
and to create characters

and personalities,
and to keep it up.

- I would wake up
every day of my life

with the countdown
in my brain.

That was always
my first thought

was the countdown
of how many more days

until the deadline.

How many more strips
did I have to do.

- The worst feeling is
when there are weeks were

you just don't feel funny
and ideas are illusive,

and the deadline
doesn't care.

And those are the weeks
that I just hate.

- It's like, "It's going
nowhere, it's time to quit,

I'm gonna start drinking.

I don't know what to do
with my life,

I failed,
everything's a failure."

- One of my favorite lines

is from this artist
Bill Woodman.

And he talked about
that sheet of paper,

he called it
"the blazing island of white."

- You use that blank, you know,
the yawning maw of emptiness.

Like, waiting to suck you in
and plunge into it.

You know, the panic kicks in,
the adrenaline kicks in.

I pace, I walk around,

I'll draw
dumb little doodles and...

frantically hope something funny
comes out.

- The worst is when
you sit there for four hours,

not letting go of one idea.

And even though you should,
and you hang on,

and you have nothing
to show at the end of it.

- When you're a cartoonist,
you're not allowed to have
writers' block.

I used to think
that creativity, you know,

visited you.

And now I realize
in the marathon terms,

you visit creativity.

If this is something
that you do seven days a week,

you can't wait for the muse
to come circling over.

You have to shoot her down.


- It's all about
changing gears.

If you're stuck on
one crappy idea,

or you've got no ideas,

take your mind somewhere else
for a little while.

To really do it,
you can't be like,

"Okay, I'm gonna think about
something else."

You have to actually get up
and walk around

or play guitar
for a little while

or do something
to just get over that bump.

- It's like what
Michelangelo said:

The statue is already there,

you just have to chip away
the extra stuff.

I think the script
is already there

and I just have to
bang it out.

- You can be
a good cartoonist

and a bad writer,
and you'll never make it.

But if you're a good writer
and a bad cartoonist,

you can make it.

I think of gags
all the time -

I've got a little book
that I carry with me -

and I write down the ideas
as they come to me.

- I keep sketch books.
I'm now up to number 101.

- Because you're on a deadline,
you have a routine.

And you know you need work,
the only way to get work

is to think it up,
you go sit down,

and you start to get
into the zone.

- Well, I've got a legal pad
I pull out with a pen

and drink a lot of coffee

and start brainstorming
by myself.

I seem to only be able
to write my strip

when I'm sitting down at my desk
telling myself,

"Now it's time
to write my strip."

So, if I'm at a cocktail party,
I'm not thinking of good jokes.

- If I find
I'm having trouble writing,

I can usually trace it
to not having read enough.

- Just read and read and read,
and think, and hope to God

that something good
will come out of it.

- Yeah, if I have a week
where I read a book a day,

I will never
have trouble writing.

- I call it "brain farming,"
where if you think about it,

you're kind of planting
these little seeds

which are totally worthless.
You can't eat a seed.

And then they sort of grow

and your little brain
flowers explode out

and then you've got an idea
a little later.

- If you work for a whole day

and never came up
with one single idea,

it wasn't a waste of your time
because the next day,

you could write two weeks
just like that.

- I wanted to challenge myself
the other week,

so I did a bunch of research
on the Meech Lake Accord.

This was a failed
diplomatic process

in the early 90s in Canada

that led to
the Quebec Referendum.

And everybody thinks
that's hilarious.

It didn't work out too well.


Sometimes it's just like

I make a point
of doing something

that I never heard of before

or something
that I'm very familiar with,

or if it's been a lot of history
stuff to do like a superhero,

or something autobiographical,
or something after that.

The best writing comes
from your heart.

You need some spark
of inspiration.

Something in your own life

or something you've experienced
that propels it.

- Usually, yeah,
the words do come first.

Usually it's like
hearing voices.

Especially if
it's a specific character

then I start hearing voices.

Which seems to be,
kind of a common thing

which I would worry about

if this was not
a creative process, so--


- Characters do have a way
of telling you

where they're gonna go,
or where they need to go,

or what needs to happen.

I'll tell you what I do,

is there's a moment
I'm sitting there

and I'm just tired,
or there's a little haze,

and I go talk to my muse.

She's in the bathroom.

Her name is Porcelina.


I go, I swear to God,
this sounds ridiculous,

we might as well
get it on tape.

I go to the bathroom,
and I will sit down

and like a lightning bolt
goes through the top of my head,

and just everything's clear.

- I have this one incense

that's supposed to
stimulate creativity.

It's probably bullshit.

But when I have writer's block,
I'll light it up

and even though
it's probably a placebo,

that usually works.

- I'll listen
to depressing music

through headphones
that block out

any happy thoughts
I could have.

Because there's this point
in depression

where your humor kicks in

to save you from
being depressed, I think.

- I'm the only person
I know who writes, not draws,

but writes to exceptionally
loud music, always.


Like in school,
if you're doing really bad,

you can sort of like,
grit your teeth

and force your way
to study harder.

But creativity is more akin
to floating, or balance.

Like, if you grit your teeth,
you're gonna sink.

So, when I listen
to the music really loud

I sort of go there
and I relax,

you know what I mean?
I try not to think.

You can't think
through funny.

I want that logical brain

to just get squished
into nonexistence.


- This was almost like
a meditation type thing

where you could just zone out
and go to that world

and just be totally in touch
with yourself through the page.

That almost Zen Buddhist

When it comes out of my pencil
on the notebook,

when it's being written
and I'm watching it,

and I laugh like,
"Wow, that's good.

I'm glad I was here
to see it."

And I'm not
complementing myself.

I don't feel like I have...
I watched it like you did.

I know that sounds odd,

but I swear
that's the way they're written

when they're written well.

I love thinking of ideas.

There you are sitting here
with a blank piece of paper

and this idea comes,
you write it down. And I think,

"Ten minutes ago,
that idea didn't even exist.

Now it's gonna go
into the comic strip,

and then it's gonna
end up in books,

and people are gonna
be reading that idea

for the next
20, 30, 40 years."

What's the absolute
best moment in your cartooning?

- My happiest moment
was when I found a joke

and when I thought
that I'd said something

in a way that was unique,

but that everybody else probably
had felt the same thing

but wouldn't put it that way.

- I love that I am master
of my universe.

- I'm sort of a control freak.

And so I can make
all the decisions myself,

and sometimes
they're good decisions,

and sometimes
they're bad decisions.

- You have final cut.

In what other media do you have
final cut on your product?

- In comics, you get to do
everything, right?

You get to act
all the parts--

- You're designing clothes,
the environments--

- And you get to
move the camera,

and you get to drive
the narrative voice--

- You want total control,
you know?

And I see a lot of guys
in animation

who are dying to do comics

because they feel like
a cog in the machine.

So, they want that control back
of their story.

- I mean, there's nothing
wrong with thinking,

"I was a part of this."

But it's really cool
to be able to think,

"I did all of this."

- Again, Schulz
said something about

the only place
in the entire world

he feels comfortable
and in charge,

and where he feels like
he knows what he's doing

is at the drawing board.

Everywhere else,
social situations,

he feels like a clumsy klutz,
you know? He's totally inept.

And I feel like,
I know what he's talking about.



- Drawing is magic
and people love watching,

seeing a line,
and then another line,

and then something appears.

Sparky would say, "When I...

at the moment of
drawing the character,

I want to be feeling
what I'm drawing.

And I want it to be

So if I'm drawing a mad Lucy,
I'm thinking a mad Lucy.

And if I'm drawing
Snoopy dancing,

I'm thinking a happy dance."

- You know, a lot of times
I write right where I work,

and in the summer I have
a hammock I like to write in.

Oh, that's good livin'!

Seems like most cartoonists--
it's something your born to do.

I mean, I felt like
I wanted to be a cartoonist

since reading
Pogo and Peanuts.

The nice thing
about making art

is you really lose yourself,
you know?

To me, it's like
prayers and meditation,

it's like
you just lose yourself,

the art comes,

there's always
a peaceful feeling about it.

Even with a deadline.

It's usually the drawing
that gets the ideas going.

Could I put them someplace
different, you know?


- That type of thing.

I'm definitely more of
a sketcher first than a writer.

Doing the sketches
is the toughest part

and the most entertaining part.

Trying to amuse yourself
with ideas and--

I kind of do batches
of three weeks at a time.

So, I sit down
with the sketch book,

and when I
have three weeks worth of jokes,

I stop.

Then it's time
to get to real work.

I always feel like
cartoonists are part dogs,

I mean,
we have definite routine,

we like our little
favorite spots.


- You know, so I think
that's part of doing

a daily comic strip,

you definitely
have to enjoy the routine.

Are you very specific
in your choice of quills?

- Yeah, I've been using
the same pen here,

you can see it,
this one's gonna fall ap---,

I shouldn't jinx it,

It's a fountain pen
that they don't make anymore.

I only have two left.

So, that's when
I'm probably gonna retire.

The day I started
the comic strip

is the day I really felt
like I was home,

that I was doing what
I was supposed to be doing.

And this just opened up my life
in so many different ways.

So, it was definitely
the right move.

How does music inform
your cartooning and vice versa?

- Well, I'm a drummer.
So, I think it's rhythm.

You know,
comics are all about rhythm

and telling a gag,
and how do you time it.

It's all timing.
And improvising, too,

especially when you're doing
a daily comic strip,

you kind of have
the same themes

but it's all about how do you
improvise on those themes.

I feel like cartooning

is a lot like being
a jazz saxophone player.

I mean, you know,

the standard song
you're gonna play,

but each performance,

your solo has to be
a little different.

Doing this for 17 years,

a lot of it
has to do with faith.

You just have a faith
in the creative process.

I really do believe it's about
getting out of the way.

If you can get out of the way,
you know,

the ideas are out there
in the world,

the universe is filled
with ideas,

and you just have
to get out of the way

and let them come.

The moment of creation
when the idea comes

and God, if you can
make yourself laugh,

I mean, that doesn't
happen that often

but when it does,
that's always...

that's always interesting.

Yeah, yeah.

- That's the wonder
of all art.

You don't really know
what's gonna happen,

so I think there's
a lot of happy accidents.

I've always felt comics
were a spiritual place-

a place to find
some comfort and healing.

I think it really
is close to poetry

where you say so much
with so little

that the reader himself can put
more of himself into it.

- My father's generation
thought of themselves

more as entertainers,
you know.

Their job was to help
sell newspapers.


- And so if you talked
to Milton Caniff,

or you talked to
Rube Goldberg,

or Walt Kelly,
or Mort Walker,

or even Charles Schulz...
for them it's just business.

"This is what we do.

We're creative artists,

but our job is to
entertain our readers

and sell newspapers
for the publishers."

- And as long as newspapers
are in business,

there'll be a place
for syndicated comic strips.

- It is a dark day
for the newspaper industry.

The Rocky Mountain News,
the oldest paper in Colorado,

printed its last issue today
after failing to find a buyer.

And other papers
could suffer the same fate.

- After 86 years,
the Albuquerque Tribune presses

rolled for one last time
Saturday morning.

- This is an extremely sad day.

And a big loss for the city.

- I think all of us sort of feel
like we're living

under the proverbial piano
on a rope.

At some point,
that rope's gonna snap

and the piano's
gonna fall on your head.

- The newspaper cartoons are...

may have very well
seen their day.

Imagine if you're us.

I made it in syndication.

I did something that is
a one in a 36,000 shot.

You got in the NBA.

- I got in the NBA.

All of a sudden,
the stadium is collapsing.

- You know the newspaper
industry is...

Well, we all know
they're having a hard time.

It's difficult to gauge
what exactly is going on.

- Without that mass medium
of support like newspapers,

it'd be very difficult

to have something
as culturally significant

as things like
Garfield and Peanuts were

in their day.

- As the mass market
crumbles, the newspaper comics

are losing the huge audiences
they used to have.

And with that they're losing
the huge revenues

and salaries
they once generated.

And most sadly, I think,

the comics are losing
the widespread cultural impact

they enjoyed
for the last century.

- I'm sorry for anyone though
who has the passion that I had

that wants to do
a newspaper comic strip.

And it just seems to be
a dwindling business.

I can't say it's dying,

but it's a lot harder
to get in.

- We used to do
three strips a year, routinely

and now we do maybe
three every two years.

- When you're syndicated,

you get a lot of guys
asking you to look at their work

because they
want to be syndicated.

And I've noticed a change
in the tone of my response.

So, I know
that's how I think.

I cannot with a straight face
encourage them.

It's going to be very hard,

and there's one basic,
specific reason,

and that is the two-paper towns
have gone away.

- It used to be
every big city

had at least two
competing newspapers,

the morning paper
and the evening paper.

And the salesman
would come into town

with the new strip,

and if he couldn't sell it
to this paper,

he'd sell it to that paper.

And it was easy to launch
a strip with 100 papers,

and grow from there.
That's no more.

- The competitive
newspaper market is gone.

And so then
is the business model

that sustains syndicates
for so many years.

- Number two, the comics
pages have cut whole pages out

from Baltimore to Detroit
to Houston,

they have cut a full page.

And they've by and large
hit the young guys.

I guess some of the older guys
would dispute that.

But they've hit
the young guys.

And that's a killer.

- I could really empathize
with any cartoonist

who's trying to sell
a strip to a syndicate.

Newspapers are just clogged up
with Garfield,

and Beetle Bailey,
and Hagar, and Blondie,

and all these strips
have been around for decades.

There's no room
for new talent there.

- I think in a way it's hurt
the creative community

because things that we
used to take a risk on

we're probably
less likely to today.

- I don't know what newspapers
are going to do,

what the solution is.

If I knew that,
then I'd be so wealthy.

I wouldn't even be doing this.

- I think a lot of cartoonists
are facing,

like so many businesses,
a whole new reality.

A whole new financial
business model.

And it's a little scary for us
because we're cartoonists.

We don't know,
we're not financiers,

and we're not entrepreneurs
generally. Except Jim Davis.

But the rest of us aren't.

- This is a frightening time.

Nobody knows
what's going to happen.

But it's certainly
not the death of comics.

They will survive.

It just remains to be seen
in what form.

It was all about
putting in the newspaper.

It was all about
getting syndicated.

- It was initially.

The whole point of putting

my comic on the web

was so that when I submitted
this to the syndicate,

they'd be like, "Oh, yeah.

There's that young, chipper,
talented upstart from..."

"That go-getter"

Yeah, from the
"Cartoonist At Large" website.

Well, I had done a couple of
syndicate submissions,

and of course got rejected,
rejected, rejected,

and so I was taking a look
at this nine weeks I had,

and I thought,
"I'm gonna put it on the web."

And the comic started out

with like me and my mom
reading it.

And then my mom kind of
stopped reading it,

so it was just me.

- I had,
with my previous strip,

been putting it up on a segment
of my family website.

And so I was like,

"Okay, I'll put
one of these up every day

and at least my 40 friends
and family will complain

if I don't get it done."

So I was like,

"Well, I'll just put my comics
on Facebook albums

because then know,
my friends can see it."

We had enough
basic HTML knowledge

that we could "Insert Image"--

like, we could make
a little website.

- So we did,
- ...and we did so.

- So, I made a website,

and a Live Journal
at the same time.

- It was a Geocities account,

and then you were
updating manually,

you were archiving manually,
every night,

because you loved to do it.

- I thought I can either get
a real job or be a cartoonist.

- There was a part of my head
that said

"People are gonna see this
online and then send me money."

- We got those banners
that you can put on your site

and you can click yourself.

- So, we'd just sit there

and click on our banners
all day,

and make
like a hundred bucks.

- I made up stickers
and was selling them,

like five stickers
for two bucks or something.

And the first order
I was so excited.

My first order
I gave her 20 stickers

and shipped the envelope off
and I wrote her,

"Oh my God, I'm so excited!

Thank you
for the encouragement."

And she was like,
"Yeah, I like the comic."

She likes the comic.

Someone likes the comic.


- It seems like
nobody knew who I was

and then like it just
kept getting bigger and bigger

very fast.

- We went from 40 readers
to a thousand readers

literally overnight.

And 3,000 readers
by the end of that week.

- It grew really quickly.

Six thousand
pretty much every day

very shortly after
I started.

- I remember going out with my
wife at the end of that week,

and going,
"Well, things have changed

and this is gonna be more real."

- It started to feel to me

like the early days
of television.

And you felt like, gee,
being on the ground floor

of something like this
is almost like being Bob Hope,

making the transition
from radio to television.

- Television,
well, they finally got me.


- All my nerdy friends said,
"Hey, you should look at

this new web comics thing
that's going on."

Like so many people,
I looked at the early web comics

and said,
"I can do that!"

- So, I saw PVP
and I was like,

"Oh man, that's exactly
what I want to do."

I should just do it.
Just for fun, you know?

- I'm gonna pitch it
to small publishers

but then I was like,

"Maybe I'll do web comics
if that doesn't work out."

- I think we're at a point now
where anything goes.

As long as you pay
for the web-hosting fees,

you get to do
whatever you want!

If you can do something
and people like it,

welcome to the show.

- I don't think that web comics
are the answer.

As soon as you move something
from a piece of printed paper

over to some sort of a screen
or tablet in digital form,

all the money sort of
seems to flow away.

The syndication business model
is a jewel.

It's so brilliant
in its simplicity.

It's a long-term partnership.

You can't find these solutions
very easily

in multiple places,
let alone one place.

- It works so well.

If we leave that behind--

that's dollars,
the web is pennies.

- Obviously they are mad

because people aren't buying
horse and buggies anymore.

It's the same argument
I imagine

that "horses
are so much better.

What's with these cars?"

This is how
people consume things.

That's how they do it.

They don't read
newspapers anymore.

Is that unfortunate for you?


Will being mad about it
change it?


This book is a Harpers Popular
Monthly Collection from 1875.

And in the 1860s
of Post-Civil War era,

it's right where you see
the explosion of popular media.

And a lot of these books
had illustrations in them.

Here's one from 1859.

And when you compare this
with just 20 years later,

you can see how
this art form is evolving.

People just getting
better at it.

And then what happens,
1892 or so,

now you have photographs.

Once you have photographs,

the demand for engravings
just goes through the floor.

Between say 1890 and 1900,

you had an entire
class of craftsman,

tremendously skilled

finding themselves without
a market for their work.

Because technology
just passed them by.

It's sad when that happens,
but it does happen.

And it did happen.

And the best of them
found a new thing to do

with their skills.

This is the birth
of cartooning.

These same illustrators
in many cases

who have the craft of working
in this engraving tradition,

they're all out of a job.

And so they have to adapt.

The ones that do find a new
lease on life in cartooning.

- Profound changes of technology

don't just improve
on the previous one,

it makes the previous one
seem barbaric.

By comparison.

And I think in some ways
the deeper I got

into some of the possibilities
for digital comics,

the more barbaric
it seemed in print.

Like, why?

Why shouldn't I be able
to just pick the right number

of moments for this scene,
and let everything just reflow.

Well, you can
if it's just one long thing.

I was at The Festival
of Cartoon Art at Ohio State

in 1989 when Bill Watterson
gave this famous speech called,

"The Cheapening of the Comics,"
which was really about

how comics in their glory days
were full page sheets.

A Krazy Kat ran at the size
of a whole newspaper page.

I was a big
Bill Watterson fan,

when I saw that, I was like,
"Oh, yeah."

Well, the web
provides the ability

to do whatever you want.

And I was really
inspired by a lot of
Little Nemo in Slumberland,

Slumber Land,
all the Winston McCay stuff.

And so,
I made a conscious effort

to try to bring back
the Sunday strip

using the infinite canvass...

...on the web.

- Your panels are now
the size of your screen.

You can either have
four in a row,

or as many as you like,
or tiny thumbnails,

but you can blow those panels

up to the size
that they should be.

And you can walk right into it
and go for a ride.

- There's no question
that right now,

we're seeing
just a sea change

in the relationship between
artists and their audience.

- When you are in the world
of print comics,

your role is to make the best
print comics you can.

When your job is primarily to be
an interesting person

with an interesting website,

then you kind of
have more options.

- A person is invested
not just in the strip,

they're invested in you.

- They feel a connection
to you as an author.

It's almost a camaraderie

because when you
update your website,

you often talk to your readers
underneath it.

You're like, "Hey guys."

There's a lot of great things
that come with that.

- Get up in the morning
and there's usually one,

two, three, four, five emails
in your inbox

from strangers telling you
that they love your work,

and therefore you.

That's very easy
to wake up to.

- It's a weird kind of dance

because you want them
to be invested.

You want them to be fully part
of what you're doing.

And at the same time
there's only so far you can go.

- People really
do want to know everything

about everything online.

- They read your comics,
they're like,

and "That's good."

And they might Google
your picture right away

and be like,
"That's who it is."

And look up you on Facebook
and try to become your friend

And then it gets creepy...
- And that sort of thing

Don't do that.

- There's this tremendous
curiosity about, you know,

what makes creative people tick
and everything behind that.

- I would love to be able to
fade into the wings.

That'd be a great thing.

But you can't,
you can't and be relevant.

- I'm not as funny
as Garfield ,

I'm not as interesting
as Garfield,

I created Garfield to really
be entertaining, you know.

So, I wouldn't have to.

- Quite honestly,
I tried to forget

that there was an audience.

I wanted to keep the strip
feeling small and intimate

as I did it,

so my goal was just to make
my wife laugh.

After that, I put it out,

and the public
could take it or leave it.

- I think that a lot of people
we're seeing succeed now,

it's because
they have brought in

a segment of the population

who hasn't read web comics
or is not present yet.

And now they are here.

- You have to appeal
to the 80-year-old woman

who's reading the comics page,
and the 5-year-old kid

who's reading
the comics page.

We don't have to do that
on the web.

- There's such a low bar
to entry for cartoons.

Obviously, it does let
a lot of crappy comics in,

but it also lets
a lot of brilliant comics

that wouldn't
make it anywhere else.

- Kate Beaton's a perfect
example of that, right?

She loves history.

How fucking boring is that?

If you told me there was
a comic about books and history,

I would flip you off.

But I read it all
the time. 'Cause she loves it!

And you can't help
but love it too.

These people,
they're their own nations.

There's no longer
the single global village

or whatever of comics.

But I like that,
that's good.

That's true of movies,
that's true of prose,

that's true
of any art form worth its salt

has different communities

that don't talk to each other

- I'm really big into the idea
that web comics

are helping people
discover comics as a medium.

The average person in America,
who doesn't read comic books,

knows comics
through three channels.

They know about Archie comics
from the supermarket,

they know about
Batman and Superman

through general
cultural diffusion,

and they might know
about newspaper strips

if they read in the paper.

Nothing against
those three forms of comics,

but each of these
is a very particular genre.

If you don't like Batman,
you don't like Archie,

you don't like newspaper strips,
you might just say,

"I don't like comics.

Comics are for kids,
comics are stupid,

and they're not for me."

I always have the analogy
of a movie theatre in town

that only ever shows
three kinds of movies.

And this guy who's lived
in this town all his life

and goes to a movie theater
there again and again

and keeps seeing
romantic comedies,

walks out after
his 1,000th romantic comedy,

you wouldn't forgive him
for saying,

"Man, I guess I just
don't like movies."

And web comics, 'cause they're
free and accessible and online,

someone can like
one of your comics

and just shoot a link
to their buddy and say,

"Hey, catch this out.
I think it's funny."

And I get emails
from people saying,

"I don't like comics,
but I like yours."

And I write back saying,

You like comics.
It's all comics."

- There's lots of web strips.

I don't know how these kids,
and to me they're kids,

I'm sorry if they're not kids,
but how you make money.


Cartoonist needs food badly.

What I do is I take a comic
and I put it online for free.

- It's very, very short.
It's very entertaining.

It's usually a series.

So, you're gonna keep
following it because
you get addicted to it.

- Because the comic is for free,

I get a very large number
of readers.

- People always ask me,

"What is your trick
for getting lots of traffic

from social media?"

The disappointing answer
I always have for them

is just make things
that people like.

If you're in the right space,
it'll get picked up.

And if it's likeable
on its own merit

it will get on the front page
of somewhere like Reddit,

and people will read it.

I sort of feel like
the strip being free

is my way of building
an audience

who likes me
and wants to support me.

And then eventually,
will hopefully maybe,

buy something from me,
and support me in that regard.

- I usually talk about
the business model

behind Saturday morning

It is a commercial
for the merchandise.

- 80 percent of my living
comes from merchandise.

Once the audience
is large enough,

I could use
the broadcast television model.

- You have the commercials
in between the TV shows.

So it is the same
as having, you know,

the advertisers
on every side of your website,

whether you like it or not.

- About 20 percent of my living
comes from advertising.

- All I've done is I've
eliminated all the middlemen

between me and the people
who actually command my fee.

- Right.


- And it's enough to actually
make a living from it.

- The future is wearing
20,000 different hats.

- To be famous now,
so to speak, is to be--

you can't be famous
like this anymore.

You've gotta be famous

in a lot of little piles
all around.

A little Twitter,
little blog,

little Facebook,
little in person,

little through
traditional book channels.

- I think cartoonists
becoming businessmen

is rarely a natural step.

- I wouldn't want to do
all the business things.

That would bring me down.

- I think it's usually
a necessary step.

- Those who resist completely
do so at their own peril.

- I think that most of us do it
with some reluctance.

- I just want to wake up

with like a big bag of money
next to me

and not have to ever really
figure out how it happened.

- And some of us, like me,
do it badly.

- I just can't stand that stuff.
That's why I became an artist.

All of it seems like
math homework to me.

- But it's healthy.

It's just--
we just have to do it.

We have to be adults
and figure this stuff out.

- I have a lot of respect
for a lot of the web cartoonists

how much you guys
have to hustle.

I mean, it's a lot of work.

- I compare it a lot
to hip hop.

You know, rappers
selling their CDs

out of trunks
and stuff like that.

To me, it's sort of like

syndicated comics
are McDonalds,

and web comics
are the guy on the corner

with the hotdog stand.

McDonalds is always
gonna be there.

But those hotdogs
better be damn good

or he won't be there
next week.

- But you've self-selected
your audience,

because people
who read your comic

read it because
they like your comic.

I know Rich Stevens described it
as how he can't be fired.

Someone can fire him
by not reading his comic,

but he needs to be fired
by 200,000 people.

- You're taking on that burden
so that you steer it,

and you own it,
and you have something

beyond just 30 years of work

that you have nothing
at the end for.

- You can, to the truest
meaning of the word,

be a self-publisher.

- The only alternative
really is--

meet the new boss,
same as the old boss.

We don't want that.

Right, right, right.

- We've all heard
horror stories of creators,

particularly in comics,
who've depended on somebody else

to do all of that for them.

And so many of those people
have been taken advantage of.

And I never want to be
one of those people.

I always want to know what goes
into making that stuff happen.

- We are Penny Arcade.

Our subject matter is us.

It's not video games.

- They're about video games
because that's what we like.

But they're not always
about video games,

it's about us.

- We tried to make
so many comic books,

but we couldn't do it.

- Because they were
comic books.

We had not settled
on the tasty shape.

- Also, instead of working
on a comic book,

we would just play
video games.

- It did not occur to us

that there was actually
a middle way.

- That's when
the sort of bubble,

the dotcom thing
happened, right?

That's when the whole
eFront thing happened

where we got purchased.

They had tried
to steal it from us.

Somebody before
the company went under

released all of their
internal chat logs.

And I can read the conversations
they're having about me.

Like, "Alright,
we're gonna fire Mike.

We're gonna fire Jerry.
We've got a new artist,

he's already got
two comics done."

It's like watching villains
in a movie plot your death.

- Wring their hands together.

- It's insane!

And watching that I was like,
"You sons of bitches.

This is mine,
I made this."

And I think that,
at least for me,

made me realize
how much I loved it.

After eFront crumbled,
we were like,

"Okay, well, we quit our jobs.

We have no money coming in.

Before we go
try to get our jobs back,

let's just see
if our readers will give us

enough money to live."

And we said,
"We need a couple grand a month.

If you pay us that,

you'll keep getting
Penny Arcade."

- They paid us 10,000 dollars
the first day.

- ...the first day.

- It worked.
It kept working.

But it was not reliable.

- We never knew how much
they would pay us.

So the donation thing was cool,
but you couldn't bet on it.

You couldn't plan on it.

We ran the site
for a year that way.

And that's when
we met Robert.

- I was a big fan
of Penny Arcade,

and I was
a hardcore gamer myself,

and I just loved what they were
doing in terms of content.

- And he came to us
because Penny Arcade

at that point
was huge, right?

- We didn't know.

- We didn't know.

But it was huge.

And what he saw was a way to
actually turn into a company

and really make money.

- Well, he saw a company.

But it was not
a good company.

- In my mind I thought

that these guys
should be millionaires.

- There's people
who make things,

there's artists, right?

And then the people
who know how to make money

off of that stuff, right?

And that's what
the syndicate's were.

For us, Robert
knows how to make money

off the stuff we make.

Penny Arcade's model
is not done evolving.

I think that we've done
some really smart things.

And I'm sure that some of
the things we've done

people can learn from.

But by no means
is this the end game.

- The reality is
that this happened

because we were just
too stubborn to quit.

Any rational person
would have stopped.

I'm so happy with
where we are right now

that I would not change
a minute of it.

What makes you pessimistic
about the future of cartooning?

- I'm not pessimistic about
the future of cartooning.

I just don't know
where it's gonna go.

Well, the paper's gonna go.

I think newspapers
are gonna come back,

even if you have to
print them off a computer.

When people say
"dead" or "dying,"

it's too big of a statement.

Has it taken a huge hit?
No doubt.

- I think for a while anyway

that newspapers
are still gonna be here.

- I don't think we're looking
at any kind of death.

I think that we're looking
at a change.

We're not gonna have
major towns without newspapers.

I don't think
it's gonna happen.

might it be all digital? Yes.

And you have to pay for it?

I'm making a good living
from this.

Now, maybe in 10 years
I'm entirely done,

whether I want to be or not.

But I suspect not.

When's the last time

an entire industry of
entertainment just went under

because people have moved on
to some other technology?

You know, radio never died
because of film and television.

- I read interviews
in the 1920s

where artists
and syndicate people

were talking about radio.

And they're saying, "Oh, radio
is no challenge to us."

And you could sense
the nervousness in their voice.

For years,
the point has been argued,

will radio eventually
supplant newspapers?

I don't think we're looking
at a future without print,

just as I don't think

we're looking
at a future without books.

It doesn't mean the medium
that's coming along

kills the previous medium.

They find their place
side by side.

- If the newspaper
died tomorrow,

comics would not die.

They have survived
for hundreds of years

through different technology,
different means of distribution.

This is a painful one.
It's painful for those of us

that are involved in it
and that love the old format.

But there will always
be cartoons.

There will always be comics.

- The way technology
is advancing now,

it's just crazy
'cause stuff just flips

every two or three years,
you know?

Suddenly, you're just
on to something else.

- Twenty-five years,

who knows how you're
gonna be reading comics.

Cartoonists are compulsively
creative, inventive people

that will come up with
all kinds of new solutions.

And I can see it happening.

They can adapt
to new technology,

they can find new audiences,
they can reinvent themselves.

I've seen it happen over
and over and over,

the history of comics.

Every five years,
comics are doomed.

Every five years.
And they never are.

- I think it's
one of those mediums

where it will
always find a way.

- People are going
to want to read comics.

Words and pictures,
I don't think they're going way.

How do we get it
to the public?

I don't know,
I don't worry about that.

- As long as there are people,
cartooning will be here.

- Well, if anything,
I feel like

we're in a rebirth
of comics right now.

- They're not dead,

if anything I think
they're gaining momentum.

I think they're just changing
into a digital space.

- Cartooning is experiencing
a kind of renaissance.

- I think comics today
have never been better.

And I think it's because
everyone has raised the bar,

because they had to,
because there's more out there.

- I think there's never been
a better time

to be a cartoonist.

- You know, it seems like
once a week,

I find a new comic
that I want to start reading.

- 50 years from now,
25 years from now,

people will look
at what is happening

and will be able to say,

"These are the best comics
ever created."

- They're great
for our time.

They're great attention span.

They fit it perfectly.

Got 20 seconds.

- Where it's going is--
it's so exciting

and I'm looking forward to it

the way a kid
looks forward to Christmas.

Because I don't know
what's out there

and there's so many
wonderful minds

all working at once.

- There is a whole generation
of great cartoonists.

Don't think
the established cartoonists

aren't looking
over their shoulders,

because that's what
we talk about

when we get together.

- More people are interested
in drawing comics right now

than at any other point
in history.

- There is so much exciting work
being done now.

There are so many
talented people

who are unbound
doing work that they love.

They don't know
what's right or wrong.

It's like the young
indie film makers, you know?

And you get this stuff
that no one's seen before,

and it's amazing to me.

And it's like, I think
that's pure cartooning.

- The platform
might at this point

be called web comics,

but you may as well
call them comic strips.

I mean, that's what
they're creating.

They're creating comic strips

no different from what Jim Davis
was creating back in 1978

or what Bill Watterson
was creating in '85.

- I have a great faith in
the versatility of the art form.

I don't worry at all
about the comics ability

to stay lively and relevant.

Comics are such a natural way
to express yourself

that one way or another
I'm guessing

they'll be around
for a good while yet.

- If you really love this,
and this is what you want to do,

just keep doing it.

- The great news is
that the more you do it,

the better you're gonna get.

No one starts drawing
and gets worse.

Everyone gets better.

- Make something,
put it on the web,

it's easy,
anyone can do it.

see what people like,

if they think it's fun,
keep doing it,

if not, change it.

- My advice has always been

to just draw cartoons
for the love of it,

and concentrate on the quality
and be true to yourself.

Also, try to remember

that people have
better things to do

than read your work.

So, for heaven's sake
try to entice them

with some beauty and fun.

- It's a wonderful job.

- It's an amazing job.

- It's the greatest job
on earth, man.

- My day-to-day job
is to be a cartoonist.

And for me, it's the only job
I ever wanted.

- This is a rare
and wonderful occupation,

and I feel so lucky
and so fulfilled and fortunate

that I'm allowed
to do this.

♪ Pictures have been telling
Stories for a long long time ♪

♪ So I'm gonna tell you
All about it with this rhyme ♪

♪ Here we go ♪

♪ If you go to
Lascaux France ♪

♪ You'd see paintings
In a cave ♪

♪ Next came
Egyptian Hieroglyphics ♪

♪ That Egyptians did engrave ♪

♪ The Parthenon has marble ♪

♪ That's carved to look
Like dudes ♪

♪ Okay I might be blushing ♪

♪ 'Cause some of them
Are nude ♪

♪ Then came a column
That was Trajan ♪

♪ Looks like something big
That's also ragin' ♪

Come on, get your mind
out of the gutter:

These pictures are ragin'.

♪ Because pictures
Have been telling stories ♪

♪ For a long long time ♪

♪ Okay to clear your mind ♪

♪ Next came stations
Of the cross ♪

♪ They star a guy named Jesus
He's related to the boss ♪

♪ Then Japanese stories scrolls
Featuring a crane ♪

♪ Then Bayeux tapestries that
Will kind of blow your brain ♪

♪ Then came stain-glass
Windows ♪

♪ Religious. Lots in Italy,
Try the food: Delicious! ♪

♪ You see pictures
Have been telling stories ♪

♪ For a long long time ♪

♪ Then came a revolution ♪

♪ A mass communication
Solution ♪

♪ And it's called
The printing press ♪

♪ So next came all the rest ♪

♪ Newspapers books
And even magazines ♪

♪ Education, entertainment ♪

♪ And some things
That are obscene ♪

♪ These things are
All around us ♪

♪ In the street
And in the air ♪

♪ Down to Swedish
Instructions ♪

♪ That will help you
Build a chair ♪

♪ And consequentially
They work sequentially ♪

♪ To tell you stories
That are essentially comics ♪

They're comics, guys.


♪ Because pictures
Have been telling stories ♪

♪ For a long long time ♪

One more time!

♪ Pictures have been
Telling stories ♪

♪ For a long long time ♪