OSU Festival Of Cartoon Art 2013

John and I had the privilege of attending the 30th Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State last week. As usual it was a fabulous event packed with great presentations, the grand opening of the new Billy Ireland Library & Museum of Cartoon Art, and a screening of the documentary "Stripped".

We toured the current gallery show "Substance and Shadow" curated by Brian Walker and also the Treasures Gallery. For those of you unfamiliar with OSU's fabulous archive they are the world's leading repository of cartoon art originals. Stunningly, I failed to take even one picture of the exhibit! I think A) I was having too good a time ogling the artwork with envy B) I may have had a vague idea that photos were prohibited.

Regardless, photos cannot really do the shows justice, you should simply go to OSU and see the exhibits in person! But, if you insist on searching for exhibit photos Mike Peterson has some good ones - plus an extensive recap of the festival itself - over on Comic Strip of The Day.

There were presentations by Matt Bors, Eddie Campbell, Brian Bassett, Paul Pope, Jeff Smith, Stephan Pastis, The Hernandez Brothers, and Kazu Kibuishi. We saw most of them and greatly enjoyed seeing the process these artists go through to produce their terrific work! UPDATE - thanks to Alan Gardener and Stacy Curtis for helping me identify Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker in the photo below. I remember being introduced but there's always such a huge number of cartoonists to meet at these things I just couldn't remember everyone!

Matt Bors

Eddie Campbell

The festival audience was also given the chance to see the documentary "Stripped" for its first screening. I have to confess I had mixed feelings about the film. It seems to be two films in one. The first is a documentary narrative on newspaper comics  - their place in history and extensive interviews with some of the most famous cartoonists of our time - including the elusive Bill Watterson. (Watterson does not appear on camera but we do get to hear his voice.) I greatly enjoyed this part of the film - especially the heartfelt opening featuring Cathy Guisewite and her memories of reading the Sunday Funnies. The film is extremely well produced - rivaling anything programmed by PBS.

But there is another film inside this documentary that is an editorial comment on the state of the comics business today. I enjoyed seeing the work of popular webcomic artists and hearing their stories but could have done without the editorial tone of the filmmakers. It felt like a film in search of an argument rather than a look toward the future. I also have to wonder if this part of the film will be appealing to general audiences who might be unaware of past rifts between web and print cartoonists.

Despite this I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to fans of comics.

Probably the best part of the weekend, though, is simply the opportunity to eat and drink and hang out with cartoonists - something we did in abundance :-)

Anna Richmond and Ed Steckley

Kevin KAL Kallaugher

Matt Wuerker, Sara Thaves being photobombed by Ed Steckley, and Stacy Curtis

Anne Hambrock and Jeff Keane

Tom Gammill and Michael Kandalaft

Bill Holbrook, Paul Fell, J.P Trostle, Steve Artley

John Lotshaw, Greg Walker, Bill Holbrook


Tom Stemmle, Frank Pauer, Paul Fell

John Hambrock, Eddie Pittman, John Lotshaw

Rally The Troops! Keep Edison Lee In The Oregonian!

Yesterday we heard from several readers of the Oregonian that were disappointed to find Edison Lee had been pulled from the comics line-up. Edison has been part of the Oregonian for over 7 years - almost since its launch - and we know there are a lot of loyal fans out in their circulation area.

The Oregonian is actually soliciting reader feedback and it sounds as though it might actually affect their decision - something rare in a newspaper these days!

So please, if you are an Oregonian reader who wants to see Edison back on your comics page follow this link and make your voice heard!!  Oregonian feedback  (You have to register to comment  - you can also contact editor Therese Bottomly on her facebook page or twitter account)

My Top 5 Comics Biz Sites

If you love comics and cartooning and can't get enough of that inside track stuff - you know, like the commentary on your favorite DVD's - then here are 5 websites (in no particular order) you should be reading daily:

Tom's MAD Blog

Not only has Tom Richmond written a book on caricature that is taking the world by storm (The Mad Art of Caricature - available here) he blogs almost daily with his tips, tricks, inspirations, and, most importantly, business advice for aspiring freelance cartoonists. If you are looking for practical help to improve your cartooning/drawing/marketing skills this is the place to go!

Mike Lynch Cartoons

A prolific, highly respected, and well, just darned funny gag cartoonist, Mike is also a collector of comic art and old time book collections that he frequently takes the time to scan and post for posterity. He also frequently has his finger on the pulse of the cartooning and creative world and can tip you to great articles like this one. If you've never visited his blog, prepare to spend about 2 days straight reading to catch up with just a smidgeon of the good stuff he posts.

The Daily Cartoonist

Founded in 2006 (just before the launch of Edison BTW) The Daily Cartoonist by Alan Gardener quickly became THE place to go for up to the minute cartooning news. I probably visit this site 2-3 times a day, as do almost all the cartoonists I know.

Comic Strip of The Day

Mike Peterson has been a columnist, an editor, a journalist, in fact, just about any job you can name related to a newspaper and he has probably done it. And it shows. He has a newsman's eye for the most well done, relevant cartoons - both editorial and comic strips - every single day. Not only does he cherry pick some of the day's best 'toons for you, you'll roll on the floor as you read his witty and insightful commentary. His site is also an excellent place to find reviews of, and links to, some of the best comics collections and books on comics history currently available. A "must visit" for the comics lover on your holiday shopping list.

Tall Tale Radio - Tall Tale on Gocomics

Ever wonder what your favorite cartoonists are like up close and personal? Then this is the place for you! Stephan Pastis, Mark Tatulli, Dan Piraro, Sandra Bell Lundy, Bill Holbrook, Jeff Keane, the list goes on and on. Tom has recorded almost 200 top notch interviews with folks in the cartooning business. Set aside some listening time - maybe while you're doing all that social networking stuff - and start catching up on these podcasts.

It looks as though I'm cheating here, and putting 2 sites in the place of 1, but Tom Racine's Tall Tale Radio podcasts are posted both on his traditional site and over on gocomics. The gocomics podcasts tend to be shorter installments of the interviews you'll find on the main site. So if you don't have an hour to spend listening to a great comics interview (which I do regularly when I am coloring for John) then the gocomics version of the interviews is the place for you. You'll want to use the above link - for some reason it's very hard to find on the gocomics site itself.

There are a lot of other great sites - especially for the comic book industry - but these are my current top 5.

The Art Of Trees - Or, "Why John Is Behind"

There is such a thing in syndicated comic strip land known as a "deadline". It is the day "you", the creator, are supposed to have your strips for the week submitted to "them", the syndicate that distributes your work to newspapers.

Because papers like to have the strips for review well ahead of the intended publish date, this deadline can be several weeks before the strip will run. John is supposed to be submitting Sunday strips 9 weeks before publication and Daily strips 6 weeks before.

Well, he isn't.

OK - it's not like he's behind enough to be a huge headache for the syndicate or get fined. (Yes, fined. That's what happens if, like Garry Trudeau, you are turning your strips in a week to 2 weeks before they run. - Although Garry is such a big fish he probably has a contractual exemption or something.)

But 6 and 9 weeks we ain't exactly at.

As a result I am asked an almost weekly question by my lovely spouse. "Why am I so far behind?! Why can't I get back on track?"

I don't always have an answer but this week I do.


Really great trees.

Trees you probably don't see in many other syndicated newspaper comics being produced today.

These trees:

And all the other really cool, gorgeous things John draws in Edison every day.

John is one of those "old school" artists who still produces the strip 100% non-digital. He hand letters every word balloon, draws every "gutter" and "panel" and uses brush and India Ink on Bristol Board. A comic colleague recently told John he considered him one of the finest "brush men" in the business.

I have to agree.

And if all that attention to detail - coupled with top notch writing - means that the strip is a little behind the publishing curve, well, I can live with that.

Until they start fining us, that is :-)

Don't forget to read Edison for free every day here.

My Favorite Strips To Color

Most of you know that I (Anne) color the strip - 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

That's a lot of coloring.

My mother recently gave me a book of Mandalas to color in as a meditative exercise - "Are you serious?! Do you realize I already spend 10 hours a week coloring things? It's like I live in a never ending Kindergarten!" (I did not actually say this to her - but I seriously thought about it.)

But, despite all that coloring, for 7 years now (Edison begins year 8 on November 6 2013) I still LOVE this job.

Sure, probably 80% of Edison readers only see my work on Sundays - very few papers across the country run daily comics in color - but I still love doing it. Especially when I see the color on the internet where it is backlit, adding more dimension to the strip. (Except for on Arcamax. They do something funky to the color as is evidenced here:

Note that the purple is more neon as are the blues and greens in panel 2

My absolute favorite strips to color are the ones that happen in the lab. Outdoor scenes require fairly faithful representations of real world color, as do scenes that happen in the family home and school. But the lab can look like ANYTHING. It's also the space where John gives me 100% autonomy over color. (I have 90% over the other scenes - like I said before, they have to be fairly realistic.)

I did not do the color for the first three months of the strip back in 2006 - but once I took over I quickly decided I wanted the lab to be a place that really popped and sizzled. Hence the use of bold primary colors and backgrounds consisting mainly of blue, green, and yellow/orange vignettes. As you can see here in a Sunday page that ran April 11 of 2010 (sadly, this strip could have been published yesterday - still true)

I've been asked where I got the inspiration to color Edison strips this way and my answer is twofold - Marvel Comics and Warner Brothers Loony Toons. I remember as a kid being totally knocked out by the color in Loony Toons - especially the Chuck Jones cartoons with Marvin the Martian and Duck Dodgers etc. And I also remember that the Marvel Comic Books I read had way more fabulous color than Batman or Superman.

So, when you read an average daily comic set in the family living room - sure, I enjoyed coloring that. But when you see the stuff in the lab - I enjoyed the hell out of coloring THAT :-)

Top Ten Kickstarter Mistakes

A while back I wrote a post comparing Kickstarter to Indiegogo that has turned out to be the most popular post on this blog. Apparently people are very interested in advice on crowd funding :-)

Since that post I have contributed to more campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as running a crowd sourced fundraiser independent of both platforms, and I have a new batch of insights you may find helpful if you are considering starting a Kickstarter campaign. Keep in mind that, while I will be using the label "Kickstarter" these tips apply pretty much across the board for crowd funding.

Here, in no particular order are ten of the top mistakes you should try to avoid when using crowd funding:

1) Putting a lot of work into your pitch (video and essay) but then just sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in.

  • Making your pitch is only the beginning. Your project is sure to die on the vine unless you have a coherent plan for publicizing it. A terrific tutorial on publicizing a Kickstarter campaign can be found here.

2) Forgetting that, in most cases, the majority of your money will come from people you already have relationships with.

  • No matter how well you publicize your campaign you will find that your most generous and engaged donors are people you already know. Family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, etc. Make a list of these people before you launch your campaign and be brutally honest with yourself while assessing how much each person is likely to support you - both financially and with spreading the word.

3) Assuming that others will automatically have as great a passion for your project as you do.

  • Just because your friends like you doesn't mean they believe in your project. Work hard to explain your project in an exciting and engaging way. You want your support network going that extra mile for you. Convince them your project has a solid vision and that they can count on you to follow through with it.

4) Asking for 100 % of your project budget via Kickstarter

  • Have other backup sources of income lined up in case you don't make your goal. Consider using Indiegogo if you need a flexible funded campaign rather than the traditional "all or nothing" Kickstarter campaign. Click here to re-read my explanation of the different kinds of campaigns.

5) Neglecting to factor in fees charged by Kickstarter and Amazon Payments

  • Read carefully the page on Kickstarter that explains all the fees and the percentage that Kickstarter takes of your project total. Be sure to add those fees into your total "ask" when you set your Kickstarter goal. It's an awful feeling to think you've raised all the money you will need only to find you have come up short at the end of the fee process.

6) Not putting enough thought into backer rewards.

  • Be sure to offer the best backer rewards you can think of - things that your backers will be excited to receive - but don't overdo it by offering rewards that cost you a lot of money to acquire. Reward items should be donated, or things that cost you very little, whenever possible. 

7) Not factoring in the time and money needed to fulfill backer rewards

  • You can break your budget with shipping costs for heavy items or items that need special handling or special packaging. For example: I had to invest in poster tubes that well exceeded the cost of printing the posters. They were also expensive to ship. I also had trouble navigating the Kickstarter spreadsheets and wound up creating my own reward tracking system. There are now companies that specialize in fulfilling backer rewards. If you plan to use one, remember to add this expense to your project budget. Click here for an article on such companies.

8) Not having a backup plan to accept donations from payment sources outside of Amazon payments

  • This was a real headache for me personally when I used Kickstarter. There were backers that wanted to support the project but, either they wanted to pay me by personal check, or wanted to use a credit card or paypal or other payment method besides Amazon Payments. Not only is Amazon the only way to process Kickstarter payments, Kickstarter has very specific rules that prohibit you from "paying yourself" to reach your goal. Which meant that I could not accept personal checks and then transfer them to the project. When I contacted Kickstarter support about this problem I received the following advice: "You should probably find a friend with an Amazon account who would be willing to process payments on your behalf." I take this to mean that I should have accepted the personal checks and paypal donations personally, found a friend with an Amazon account, written him/her a check for the total amount, and let him/her make the total donation for all those other payments.

9) Not using social networking

  • This seems like a no brainer but you are doomed to fail if you are not already using facebook and twitter and other forms of social networking in your regular life. If you are planning a project a year from now and don't currently use social networking, make your accounts NOW and get busy forming relationships.

10) Not understanding the best level of engagement needed with backers or the proper number of updates.

  • One of my pet peeves when I back a project is being inundated with project updates. Choose your number of updates  - and requests for backers to keep sharing your project with other potential backers - carefully. Too few and you won't create excitement, too many and you will alienate your backers and they will start hiding you from their facebook feed and deleting your emails. I personally feel as though requests for sharing should be posted 1 to 2 times a day - with updated funding totals - but actual "updates" should be saved for really important news. No more than 9 big updates in a 30 day period unless your update news is truly earth shattering.

This post has been long but I hope you will find it helpful as you set off on your crowd funding journey!

The Dangers of Crossover Comics: Edison Lee Meets Pearls Before Swine

The ^&#% is hitting the fan. It's a tiny amount of ^&#% but it's hitting the fan anyway.

We probably asked for it and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Well, we could blame our 22 year old son who chirped brightly one day "Hey, you should put Rat from Pearls into the strip for a cameo!"

We started brainstorming - how would Rat show up, what would he say, what scenario would lure him into Edison in the first place - stuff like that. And, Rat being Rat, it was pretty obvious from the first that  swear words would be involved. Cartoon swear words of course, but to some newspaper editors even cartoon swearing makes them nervous. We knew it might raise some eyebrows but hoped it wouldn't go beyond that.

We went for it.

And came up with todays strip - which, if you've been reading all week, you'll know is a fairly logical culmination of a storyline in which Joules the Lab Rat tires of being Edison's unpaid intern and general dogsbody.

And the strip did indeed raise some eyebrows. And a little more. And, for the first time in the history of the Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, John had to provide a replacement strip without the cartoon swearing.

I wish we could say we're ashamed of ourselves. But we're not. It's Stephan's fault.

Unpaid Interns

A few weeks ago John and I came across this story on internships via Facebook and Rick Kirkman. If you click on the link it will take you to an article about unpaid internships and a cartoon by Matt Bors.

It got us to thinking about internships and how some of them have devolved from the job training and class credit they were designed to be. Many companies now use interns in place of legitimate full or part-time employees. Rather than training the interns, these companies simply hire them to do a job that could be filled by a regular employee but either pay the intern a greatly reduced wage or nothing at all. They offer no guidance, there is no class credit, simply a job opportunity.

Having a nationally syndicated comic strip means that occasionally you have a "bully pulpit" from which you can deliver a message. While Edison cannot be as hard hitting as Matt Bors - after all Edison Lee runs on the newspaper comics pages and is not yet in as many papers as a powerhouse like Doonesbury - Edison's take on the situation will be delivered in a way fitting to the strip.

I'm only posting day one here - for the rest of the series this week you'll have to go to the main website page.

That's A Wrap!!

Prize Drawing for Edison Lee Comment Contest Winner # 2 

The comment contest has come to an end after 8 great weeks of commenty fun! We knew we could be playing with fire by asking for more comments on the strip - you never know what kind of snarky madness you may unleash - but everyone was respectful and most of the comments were really funny. Some weeks it was truly hard to decide on a winner, there were so many good ones.

I think what John and I find interesting is all the different ways other people see the strip and the jokes. When you're producing the strip you tend to see it from a certain point of view and once it gets out there on public display you find out people see all sorts of subtexts - most of which never even occurred to you. I hear this same sentiment from many other cartoonists so I think it is just the nature of human beings and shows how challenging it is to come up with material that interpreted the same way by everyone.

Thanks to everyone who commented - we'll be paying more attention to the comments from now on and you never know - if John sees one that really cracks him up he may send you an original drawing out of the blue!

Atmospheric Vortex Engines

Sometimes we here at Edison Lee Inc. thumb our way through twitter looking for little bits of scientific goodness to share with the world. Today's strip came from this story on how inventors are working on atmospheric vortex engines for generating electricity. Fascinating stuff!

Get Deflocked Back Into St. Cloud!

One of our daily reads - both in our newspaper and on our dailyink - is Deflocked by Jeff Corriveau. We think it's not only one of the best new syndicated comics being produced today, it's one of the best syndicated comics being produced today. Jeff has spend many years honing his comedy skills as a writer for such illustrious shows as Seinfeld, Talk Soup, Saturday Night Live, etc.  and it shows.

Recently Deflocked was cut from the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota and Jeff needs the help of fans to get it put back. So if you are a comics fan who gets the St. Cloud Times - start making some noise by contacting the editor - John Bodette - either by email or on his facebook page: jbodette@stcloudtimes.com https://www.facebook.com/sctimesjohn

Sadly, this sort of thing happens all the time and editors turn a deaf ear to the voices of the readers so it's probably going to take A LOT of complaining to reverse this decision. Don't let Deflocked down! Be a pest if you love the strip!

Art For The First Comment Contest Winner

Here is the original art that will be shipped out to the winner of the first Edison Lee comment contest. It goes to "T.G. Riches" who won with this comment on the following strip:

“I can see a pillow sack full of oranges as a cruel weapon of justice in the future!”
As you can see John isn't just sending out random bits of spot art but a hand-colored, personalized piece that reflects the comment. I can promise you these drawings are all going to be one-of-a-kind so get busy commenting today! Only 5 weeks of the contest left!

Qualifying comments must be made on Arcamax, Comics Kingdom, Dailyink, or the official site at edisonleecomic.com

Comment Contest Winner: Week Two

John is entering week 3 of his 8 week comment contest - up for grabs is an original personalized drawing of your favorite Edison character!

The winner for week two came from Arcamax Disqus and was a comment on this strip:

Go to edisonleecomic.com and see if yours was the winning comment!

And keep the great comments coming - we are having a great time reading them :-)

Teaser Panel - On My Coloring Plate Today

Here is a panel from an upcoming strip - I love coloring gadgets. You're welcome to try to guess what this will be. The strip will run August 26th.

Superheroes Unite!!

I don't know if it was the fact that the San Diego Comic-Con was last week or maybe there is something in the water but there are a lot of new superheroes running around the comics pages lately.

In Edisonland Orville has become a pawn in Edison's scheme to turn him into "The World's Best Superhero", Between Friends is in the middle of a story arc surrounding "Hot Flash Woman" and Real Life Adventures got in on the act yesterday as well.

In fact, in our local paper, Edison and Real Life Adventures are right next to each other so the juxtaposition was pretty funny.

Here are some samples - be sure to visit edisonleecomic.com and betweenfriendscomics.com to read the rest of the series. And you can find Real Life Adventures on gocomics here.

Announcing a Contest! Win Edison Drawings!

Exciting News! John has decided to run a contest for the next 8 weeks for the best comment (funny and non-snarky) on an Edison strip running on the following platforms:

1) The official King Features Edison Lee page which you can find by clicking here

2) The Disqus on Comics Kingdom which you can find by clicking here

3) The Disqus on Arcamax which you can find by clicking here

4 Dailyink subscription which you can find by clicking here
(You must be a Dailyink subscriber to comment on Dailyink - which is a steal for about $20 a year and gets you access to ALL King Features comics!)

If we had been running this contest last week THIS is the comment John would have chosen. 
Snidely says: He looks like a mascot for the Baltimore Orioles”.

  • What you can win: A personalized original drawing of an Edison character (you can choose which one you would like)
  • Who will choose the winning comment: John will personally be selecting his favorites
  • Limitations: Winning limited to one time per month per commenter
  • Facebook comments will NOT count - If you are reading Edison on Facebook, please take the time to click through the link to the official Edison site and post your comment there.
  • How to claim your prize: Winning comments will be posted on the official site every Monday by 12:00 noon central time. John will be using your screen name to credit you so you will need to email him at john@edisonlee.net and give him your contact info so that he can send you your drawing.

(Here's a tip - your best chance to win is to make John laugh out loud as the comment shown above most definitely did. You needn't be reverent - go ahead and poke fun at the joke or the characters - (although comments like "this strip totally sucks" are not likely to earn you the prize.))

Get out there and comment on Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee comic strips today!!!

Note: These links may take you to the page for 7/29 - use the forward buttons on each site to get current strips

Spot The Mistake

The above is panel one of today's strip. Somewhere in the four panels I made a coloring mistake - can you spot it? Read the whole strip here: http://edisonleecomic.com/comics/july-26-2013/

"The Norm" Book - Michael Jantze's Funding Campaign On Indiegogo

Michael Jantze, animator, director, and creator of the terrific comic "The Norm" has started an Indiegogo campaign to fund a new book collection of "Norm" strips. The campaign is going well so Michael has announced some great new stretch goals if he surpasses his initial funding request. 

This will be a great book and if you would like a piece of the action - and the satisfaction that comes from being a contributor to great creative projects - head on over and pledge today!! (I'm contributing as soon as I finish this post!)

July 13 Pop Up Gallery

A new thing has started in Kenosha. It's called a Pop-Up Gallery and is put on by the Kenosha Art Association. The gallery exists for one night only (hence "Pop-Up") in downtown Kenosha and happens on the second Saturday of the month.

This Saturday John's original art for The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee will be featured along with Mini-book publisher John Porcellino, "Just Say Uncle"'s Dan Pavelich, "Buni"'s Ryan Pagelow and others.

Along with the work on display John will be selling original art, prints, books and some new Edison goodies. There will be something for every budget.

So head on over this Saturday and bring all your friends!!

For full details visit the gallery website here.

New Feature - "Edison Meets"

One of Edison’s favorite things is meeting famous cartoonists. Over the past 7 years he’s put together a pretty awesome photo album of the folks he’s met and John is now sharing them over on his King blog. Click here to see the first one.

From The Archives - Know Your Scales

When this ran back in 2010 it got more mail than any previous individual Edison strip. Why you ask? Is it because it made fun of overweight people?


Because it offended folks who want to colonize the moon?


Because it has the wrong kind of scale for the joke?


Apparently for this joke to work properly the man should have been standing on a pressure sensitive scale - you know, like the average person has in their bathroom. NOT, we were informed, the scale pictured here. THIS type of scale would still be accurate, due to its use of counterweights, even on the moon.

And, if we'd really stopped to think about it, we would have known that. And the point the readers hit us with was that, as a strip that uses a lot of science, we SHOULD have known that.

But the truth of the matter is your run-of-the-mill bathroom scale just isn't that interesting to draw. Nor is it a particularly funny visual.

At the end of the day, Edison is a comic strip and we will probably continue to make little boo boos like this just because the dang doctor's scale is more fun to draw.

Kenosha Festival of Cartooning Mini-fest With Tom Richmond

The Kenosha Festival of Cartooning is taking a year away from its full 3 day event and presenting a terrific 1 day Mini-fest with special Guest Tom Richmond of MAD magazine and The MAD Art of Caricature!

The Mini-fest will take place all day on Saturday November 2, 2013 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Click here to visit the Festival Website for a list of the day's activities.

Last year the festival was tremendously fortunate to successfully raise almost its entire operating budget through Kickstarter but 9% of the total funds raised went to Amazon and Kickstarter for payment processing. This year the festival is hoping to follow the Kickstarter model and offer backer rewards but  skip actually using Kickstarter and use the Festival Paypal account instead. This will save 6% in processing fees and make your donation go farther!!

Head over and donate today!!

Comic Kudos - Pickles UPDATED

Another of my (Anne's) favorite comics is "Pickles" by Brian Crane. I will confess that this strip has become more of a favorite as I approach the age of the main characters Earl and Opal. I'm not sure exactly how old they are - old enough to have grandchildren, bad backs and hearing aids (Earl).

But the humor in Pickles doesn't just lie in jokes about getting older. Most of what I find most endearing about it is the relationship between this married couple. They've been married a long time and are obviously comfortable with one another yet there is quite a spark there. Opal and Earl tease one another on a regular basis with a dynamic that is edgier than Ozzie and Harriet but tamer than Frank and Marie Barone.

It's feisty but never mean spirited. After meeting Brian Crane for the first time this year I can see why. Brian is an incredibly nice person and was, fittingly named (in an historic tie with Rick Kirkman of Baby Blues) "Cartoonist of the Year" 2013 by the National Cartoonist Society.

Maybe my fondness also stems from the fact that one of my favorite Edison Lee characters is Orville, the grandfather. Although Orville and Earl have very little in common (outside of a mutual love for Gunsmoke). Earl does things. He's relatively clever - gives Opal as good as he gets. Orville is too easygoing and well, let's admit it, lazy to even think up a retort. Plus, I don't think I've ever seen Earl eat a twinkie. Orville would be lost without them :-)

So, if you're not reading Pickles, head over to gocomics and subscribe today!

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that you can see Brian Crane's Studio and learn lots of cool things about how he makes "Pickles" over at the Cartoonist's Studio (click here)

CLARIFICATION: Pickles is one of John's favorite strips too! I just have started to put my name in the blog posts so folks don't get confused about who blogs about what. For John's latest blog post click here.

John's Blog Post About This Week's "Frankenwheat" Series

If you live in Oregon, you've heard about Monsanto's Rogue GM Wheat being discovered growing in the wild. It's a big hairy deal and Edison is having his own problems with some GM wheat he was fooling with in his lab.

Click here to read John's blog post about the series.....

New Twitter Account For Edison

We just set up a new twitter account dedicated to all things Edison-y! You can follow Edison on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/EdisonLeeComics

Tall Tale Radio on GoComics: Sandra Bell Lundy (And a couple thoughts from Anne)

If you want to hear another great interview by Tom Racine, head over to Tall Tale Radio on GoComics and listen to part 1 of his chat with Between Friends creator Sandra Bell Lundy. It's about 30 minutes long.

I'll wait.

Done? Alrighty then - I'd like to visit a couple of points so spoiler alert if you didn't go listen:

Every once in a while a comic artist gets a syndication deal right out of the box but it's hardly typical. John's journey to syndication with Edison took 14 years and involved multiple strip ideas. (And even more multiple rejection letters.) Sandra's path took her a while as well (thankfully not 14 years) and her description of the meanderings her career took are well worth hearing. I especially liked hearing her talk about the time she "cold called" the Editor of the Toronto Star. I've read about it on her blog before but it has a different resonance when you hear her tell it in person.

Sandra also takes some time to talk about a mentoring phone call she got from Lynn Johnston (hilarious set up for this call). I mention it because one of the things I have been most impressed by is how generous cartoonists are to "fans and up and comers".

When I was 20 I wrote to Berke Breathed. I had the nerve to suggest that he market his books and plushies etc. on college campuses since he had so many fans there. (Duh! Did I honestly think he and his syndicate were unaware of this?) Shock of shocks, he actually wrote back! He was not only gracious and undismissive of my idea, his note was funny as well. (This note is saved carefully in a shoebox that has been archived less carefully in that I can't remember where it is. But I know it's somewhere!)

Later, when John began pursuing syndication and it didn't seem to be happening I wrote Cathy Guisewite for advice. Again, shockingly, she wrote back with some great suggestions.

Fast forward to 2005 when John got his syndication contract - we had no idea what kind of lawyer should be reviewing an intellectual property contract. (Although we were pretty sure the neighborhood ambulance chaser was NOT the right choice.) I wrote Lynn Johnston - again, completely out of the blue, never met her - and asked for help and advice. She called John and talked to him for over an hour - going so far as to give him the name of her lawyer - and also called me and gave me about 25 minutes of her time.

To be fair, I don't think you can expect this kind of response every time you contact a comic artist. Especially if you are writing them for an autograph you plan to turn around and sell on ebay. The internet has made it too easy for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to grab an email address and write to a cartoonist. When I was writing you had to go to a lot of trouble to find a syndicate address for the artist and then hope your note would be forwarded into the right hands.

Sandra also talks about her experiences with a less than professional - can we say shady? - syndicate. A cautionary tale for all aspiring creatives. Don't just listen to it - take notes so you can remind yourself what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

And there is some terrific stuff about Jay Kennedy.

So, if you ignored my recommendation at the top of the page, what are you waiting for? Go Listen!!

PS. I'm fairly sure Sandra was peeking in my windows when she wrote this one: