San Diego Reubens Road Trip

The Legendary Mell Lazarus (Momma, Miss Peach) sports some rockin' guitar glasses at the Awards Dinner

Miles - 4,655
Hours on the road - 68.4
Major Storms - 2
Ridiculous losses - 1
Hotels - 2 good, 1 not so good
Highlights: Spending one night with a long lost cousin, meeting Weird Al Yankovic, seeing friends old and new, huddling in towels for warmth, the deck of the midway, 1 sunny afternoon by the pool.
Best Photo Ops - Scenery in Utah, Weird Al, the usual assortment of "be-tuxed" cartoonists
Photos - Lots, some here the rest on Facebook. Skip to the bottom if you are only interested in Pics (but you'll miss a good brain fart story)
Something We Learned - This country is BIIIIG. And has a lot of barely habitable land.

John and I are back from the Annual Reuben Award Weekend - this year held in beautiful San Diego.

Due to the presence of ACE award winner Weird Al Yankovic we decided to take the whole family to meet him. With airfares being through the roof these days that meant...........


Yes  - you heard that right - a road trip!! Over the course of the week we drove over 4,655 miles spanning 68.5 hours driving time.

The trip was supposed to be closer to 4,200 miles but we had to drive across half of Iowa three times. Why on earth would we do that? That would be due to the brain fart by the weak link in our party (me, Anne) who left her ipad at the McDonalds at exit 292 and didn't discover it was missing until exit 201. Thank the lord for the address on the McDonalds receipt that allowed us to call 411 and find out if that ipad - which has my WHOLE LIFE on it had been turned in. And thank the lord double, triple, quadruple much that the person who found it was honest and DID turn it in. So around we turned and sprinted back 90 miles and then forward 90 miles again. It made for about an 18 1/2 hour drive that first day!

And it wouldn't be a Hambrock road trip without the storms that invariably follow us (read about previous tornado dodging here). The morning we left the Denver area they were hit by a tornado supercell and astonishing hail that had to be shoveled out of the streets.

Luckily all we saw was some ordinary rain with the worst stuff just to the south of our route. On the way back we narrowly missed driving through the area of the huge mudslide in Western Colorado.

One reason we decided to make this drive is that we've never really seen much of the countryside past Lincoln Nebraska. We've sat in airports in Denver and Phoenix and flown into Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But that doesn't really count as having seen the western part of the country properly. As my sister pointed out, our neck of the woods north of Chicago is not truly in the middle of the U.S. It's more like it's 1/3 away from the east coast and 2/3's away from the west coast.

Here's a run down state by state (I use something I call the McDonalds scale to gauge how populous an area is - the more people, the easier it is to find a McDonalds)
  • Illinois - Flat. Some farms.  Easy on the tires and the brakes. Strong Cell Phone signals. McDonalds scale - every 10-20 miles.
  • Iowa - Flat. Occasional hills. Almost all farmland. Barren until mid June. Then all you can see is corn. Easy on the tires and the brakes. Strong Cell Phone signals. McDonalds scale - every 15-25 miles. 
  • Nebraska - Flat. Occasional hills. Almost all farmland. Easy on the tires and the brakes. Strong Cell Phone signals. McDonalds scale - every 20-30 miles.
  • Eastern Colorado - Flat. Occasional hills. Almost all farmland. LOTS of cows grazing openly. Actual tumbleweeds blow across the road. Easy on the tires and the brakes. Strong Cell Phone signals. McDonalds scale - every 30-40 miles.
  • Central to Western Colorado - Mountains. Rocky ones. Tough on your transmission, tires and brakes. Not much farmland. Spotty Cell Phone signals. McDonalds scale - every 30-45 miles. Did we mention the mountains?
  • Utah - More mountains, canyons, and a lot of desert. Full of scrub. Impossible to look anywhere without seeing mountains and mesas. Tough on transmission, tires and brakes. Make sure your cooling system is in good working condition. You don't want to get stranded out here - Spotty Cell Phone signals and long stretches with no signal at all. McDonalds scale - every 75-120 miles.
  • Arizona - We just saw a smidge of the northern corner. Same as Utah
  • Nevada - Look out for highway patrol!!! We saw more people pulled over in this state alone than in all the other states combined! Like Utah but with a lot more power lines and infrastructure. McDonalds scale - every 45-75 miles.
  • California - surprisingly like Utah for the first 150 miles or so. Gradually became more populated. Still plenty of mountains but smaller ones. More trees but still nothing like the midwest. McDonalds scale - every 25-35 miles.
Once we got closer to San Diego things began to look a lot more like they do in the midwest but with mountains. We could see evidence of the wildfires but didn't have to contend with any fires personally. San Diego itself was lovely - though cooler and cloudier than expected. 

The first night we went to a NCS board dinner where John and Tom Richmond ordered what I came to call "the cauldron o'seafood" It came to the table in some sort of lava rock container that was very, very hot and the contents kept bubbling for a good twenty minutes.

Tom with the Cauldron O'Seafood - click on the video clip to watch it bubbling :-)

On Friday we heard all the wonderful guest speakers - Eddie Pittman, Chris Houghton, Greg Evans and Suzy Spafford.

Then it was out to the rooftop pool area for the cocktail party. It was a tad cooler than expected - as evidenced by the need for some of us to bundle up in pool towels. Ironically everyone wearing a towel was from Canada or the northern U.S.. You'd think us northerners wouldn't be such wimps about cooler weather. We've even got a heater there behind Sandra :-)

From left Terri Libenson, Deborah Peyton, Sandra Bell Lundy
After the cocktail reception folks headed over to the traditional Karaoke night. I never did find out why Stephan Pastis was wearing this cape....

Stephan Pastis and Patrick Dracula McDonnell
Saturday began with the fabulous buffet breakfast and the NCS members meeting. Spouses are not allowed into this meeting but I was given permission to thank the NCS Foundation and the membership for their support of the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning. After a short speech I took my leave and the kids and I did some sightseeing. We missed some of the afternoon presentations due to a get together with family in the area. But the ones we saw were great! And I got to pick up a copy of the new book on Rube Goldberg by his granddaughter Jennifer. Saturday's presentations were: A Rube Goldberg Panel, Sandra Bell Lundy, Gold Key honorees Bunny Hoest & John Reiner, and Milton Caniff lifetime achievement award winner Russ Heath.

Our hotel was great - right next to the convention center where the thundering hoards show up for comic con every year - and also attached to Petco Park Baseball Stadium via a walkway. Also handy to the historic Gaslight district and some great walking and running areas. John did a nice 7K run with Todd Clark, Jef Mallett, Dave Coverly, Jeff Knurek and several others on Saturday morning.

View of the convention center and San Diego Harbor from our room

John in his tux before the awards - if you think he looks different you're right. He has been on a health kick this year and resumed running. He's lost 45 lbs!
In our Black Tie Finery for the awards
Then on to the big awards night. Tom Gammill was in fine form as usual ( I imagine some of the videos will make their way to YouTube presently). It was a great show! My particular highlight of the evening came with the acceptance speech of Weird Al Yankovic. He talked a lot about growing up with MAD magazine - its impact on him and how much he wanted to be a writer for them. Ironically, HE has been the musical equivalent of MAD magazine for our kids. I don't think any of them knew the real words to the songs he parodied until they were in college. 

Al was such a trooper - this pic came after 4 failed attempts to get the camera to work properly! From left - Alex, Al Katherine (Al was 'ponified' for an episode of My Little Pony - Katherine drew him as that character and he signed it for her
Al graciously posed after the awards with all the throngs of cartoonists clamoring around him. He was ESPECIALLY gracious while posing with OUR kids. This isn't because our kids are so special. It's because the camera was set to video mode and it took John three tries to figure out he needed to reset it to still shooting mode. At which time he got the dreaded "change the batteries" message on the screen. Al just stood there patiently smiling until we got it all sorted out and got our gets that pic they wanted so badly! Thanks again Al!!

John, Weird Al, Anne - such a thrill!
After the awards everyone was welcome to attend the Presidents party thrown by NCS president Tom Richmond and his wife Anna. This party used to be a closed door event for nominees and behind the scenes volunteers that work on the million details that go into a Reuben weekend. Opening this party to everyone has been a wonderful thing and I heard a lot of great feedback from folks who appreciated it.

MAD Magazine contributor Jack Pittman
Candorville's Darrin Bell and his lovely Fiance
Alex and Mark Tatulli of Lio, Heart of the City and Desmond Pucket
Ballard Street's Jerry Van Amerongen
Bongo Comics Bill Morrison, his wife Kayre and John

Tom Stemmle, Jerry Van Amerongen, John Hambrock and Linda Houden on the dance floor after the awards
Alex with Emcee Tom Gammill of the Doozies (and The Simpsons)
MAD Magazine's Sam Viviano, Six Chix Isabella Bannerman and John (Isabella took home the coveted "best newspaper comic strip for 2013 award - which John is pointing to)
Sunday was all about the troops. The NCS and the USO have been partnering for a few years now to get cartoonists together with wounded warriors and this year's Reubens were no exception. Sunday morning a group of cartoonists visited the local Veteran's Hospital, in the afternoon more cartoonists drew for troops and the public gathered aboard the USS Midway and finally, Sunday evening, there was more drawing for wounded warriors and their families at the farewell dinner on the deck of the Midway.

Wonderful enormous VJ day statue in the park below the Midway

Thanks to Tom and Anna Richmond, Phil Pyster of Crow Segal and his team, The NCS Board and EVERYONE who worked to make this a fabulous Reuben weekend!!

(More pics on the Edison FB page by tonight)

Talent + Inspiration And Diligence = Amazing Art


Two years ago you probably would not have pegged our daughter as someone who would go into art. She was passionate about horses and all animals in general and was thinking of becoming an equine vet. Something she still might pursue.

But then we took her with us to a National Cartoonists Society chapter meeting and she heard (and later met) Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Ann Telnaes. And a whole lot of other fantastic artists as well. And they all drew in her sketch book and spent some quality time with her and admired the drawings she was doing at the time. Which were, frankly, mostly something to do when she was bored (having been dragged around to all our grown up events and not being in possession of a smart phone upon which to play Angry Birds).

After that trip she really buckled down and has probably spent 6-8 hours a day (I'm not kidding) drawing and painting. Either on our Wacom Intuos or with traditional materials.

And there must be something to that 10,000 hour thing because the improvement in her work has been astounding. This year she has been named artist of the month of October for her school district, had three pieces featured in the citywide art show - one of which one an award and another was featured on the publicity poster - and won a citywide art contest that netted $100 for her art class and another $100 for herself with the Hugh Laurie sketch pictured above.

I'm not going into all this detail merely to brag about her accomplishments. I'm bringing all this up because
  • A) It just goes to show what a person is capable of when they possess determination and are willing to spend a million hours doing something. 
  • B) It shows what we are losing when we don't allow our kids to be bored and force them to DO something about it other than engage a screen.
  • C) It shows how inspirational it can be to meet the right person at the right time. Hilary Price tells a story about being in a greeting card shop and overhearing a conversation in which she discovered that the artist "Boynton" was actually SANDRA Boynton and was a woman. Until that time she had always assumed the artist was a man and the new knowledge of the artist's gender planted the seed that this was something women could do. For our daughter I really think the catalyst here was meeting an award winning cartoonist and animator that was a WOMAN. Since then she has also gotten to know Sandra Bell Lundy and Terri Libenson and Hilary Price and several other women in art who have certainly been inspiring as well.
Thanks to Ann and all the other artists in our life that have inspired and connected with this girl and thanks also to her splendid art teacher!!

Behind The Scenes: More 2013 Favorites

Two weeks ago I posted some of my favorite Edison strips from 2013 and promised another installment a week later. Forgetting that I was also running an Indiegogo campaign for the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning :-)

Here, a wee bit late, are some more of my fav's from the past year:

Obviously this strip was inspired by the many amazingly stupid commercials John and I are subjected to whilst inking and coloring strips with the TV on.

The Lemonade stand has become a fertile theme for Edison - combine it with his overwhelming need to take advantage of Harley and you get this strip. Years ago we had two young nephews. (we still have the nephews, they're just not that young anymore) One of the boys was older than the other by 5 years and during a family visit I witnessed the older boy saying to the younger boy: "Hey Matt! I'll give you this nice big nickel for that little bitty dime!" Their mother looked at me and said "Whenever I hear the words 'Hey Matt!" I know somewhere that kid is getting the short end of the stick."

That pretty much sums up the relationship between Edison and his cousin Harley.

I'll admit I'm a sucker for vibrant color and insert it into the strip whenever possible. It makes my job even more fun and when I am working on a strip like this one I sometimes am awestruck by the fact that I am married to this phenomenal artist....

Poor Harley - taken advantage of and manipulated once again....

One of John's earliest comedic devices in the strip was his use of Rube Goldberg type contraptions. This is the most recent one.

Edison Lee Perks on Kenosha Festival Of Cartooning Indiegogo!

John has dug through his Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee ephemera and come up with King Features Sales Kits from the original 2006 launch to offer for the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning fundraising campaign on Indiegogo!

The full color kit, with illustrations on the front and back covers as well as the inside front cover, is on 100 lb card stock with a pocket containing:
  • Character Descriptions
  • Artist Bio
  • 4 Full Color Sunday Strip Samples
  • 24 Black and White Daily Strip Samples
  • The Back Cover Illustration is the same as the poster

He also unearthed copies of a special 14 x14 inch square promotional poster designed especially for newspaper editors - the invention depicted is that of a "Newspaper Distiller" and the joke centers around the relationship between newspapers and TV news.

A limited quantity of these perks are available on Indiegogo - head over and claim yours!!

Behind The Scenes: Anne's Favorite Edison Strips From 2013

Recently I was looking through the Edison strips from the past year and decided I'd like to go back and post some of my favorites.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the strips that made me laugh every time I looked at them along with some of the stories from behind the scenes:

This strip was written after last year's Reuben Award Weekend in Pittsburgh.

The weather was especially hairy on Memorial Day Weekend of 2013 and pretty much every cartoonist who flew to Pittsburgh had an airplane or airport horror story to share. Alex Hallet of Arctic Circle said she actually spent more time getting from NY to Pittsburgh - huge amounts of time on the tarmac included - than it took her to cross the Atlantic Ocean!

And I have a personal hatred of flying that I once wrote about here.

Add to all the bad airport stories our love of Legos and you get a comic strip!

This one we wrote while walking the dogs. We had just watched Young Frankenstein and John knew he wanted to do a strip sort of paying homage to the film - complete with black and white cinema style - but he didn't have a topic. By the end of the walk the dogs were worn out but we had this strip.

I don't know where John got the idea for this one but it makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it...

This is one of those strips set in the lab that I love to color. Especially when John does the weird shapes in the background. It's an example of a strip that I never quite remember what it's about when I'm not looking at it but the words "Mmm, Mmm! Them possum muffins sure do smell good, granny!" are burned into my brain. Our daughter quotes this strip whenever anyone mentions the Beverly Hillbillies.

Orville is a great subject for strips involving sight gags and cluelessness....

This may very well be my favorite Edison strip of all time - it perfectly encapsulates the relationship between Edison and his Mom as well as his relationship with his cousin Harley. All in just two words and a clear visual.

This is my favorite kind of political strip. It sums up the population's general dissatisfaction with our elected officials without pinpointing a specific target.

More of my favorites next week....

Kenosha Festival Of Cartooning 2014

Yes, there WILL be another Kenosha Festival of Cartooning full-on 3 day event in September of 2014.

That is, there will be another festival if we raise the money we need to run everything and still keep the event free to the public. Watch the fabulous video by Tom Racine and get all the details about guest speakers, dates etc.

And then head over to Indiegogo and make a donation - lots of great backer perks are available even if you cannot attend the festival!!

Comic Kudos: Andertoons Mark Anderson

Another cartoonist that never fails to get a laugh from me (and I do mean NEVER fails) is gag cartoonist Mark Anderson of Andertoons. I've been reading Mark's stuff for years and his ability to make yet another cartoon about charts and graphs never ceases to amaze me. But he doesn't just do business room humor, as seen in the animal strips here. Just general all-around funny stuff.

I also love the old style look of minimal line with judicious use of washes.

As with many cartoonists Mark didn't set out to make a living from cartoons - hear all about his cartooning journey over at his interview with Tom Racine on Tall Tale Radio. He's not just funny on paper! (We have another thing in common - a love of Legos - between us we probably have an entire house full of Legos!)

And go subscribe to him on Gocomics so you can read his work every day!!

Kenosha Festival Of Cartooning on Indiegogo

The Indiegogo campaign for the 2014 Kenosha Festival of Cartooning goes live today at noon CST. There are a bunch of great rewards! Subscribe to the official KFOC site to stay up to the minute on details!

Richard Thompson - Perhaps My Favorite Valentine Cartoon Ever

John and I are huge fans of the work of Richard Thompson, creator of Cul de Sac and Richard's Poor Almanac. I opened my gocomics today to find the above gem - perhaps my new favorite Valentine's Day Cartoon of all time. It's a perfect example of Richard's razor sharp, dry sense of humor and his wonderfully scratchy, deceptively simple looking, drawing style. I say deceptively simple because there is a lot of complexity there and he makes it look as though it were tossed off in a matter of minutes.

A couple of years ago Richard drew this beautiful little Alice Otterloop for John. We recently had it framed and it is hanging in state in John's inner sanctum, the innermost section of his studio, where he can gaze it in in awe and resentment everyday. Awe because Richard is a genius and resentment because Richard is too damn good to have had his drawing days shortened by the demon disease of Parkinson's.

Now would be a good time to post some important links to all things "Richard-y".

A Contest! Win Comics Kingdom For A Year!

The folks at the new Comics Kingdom site are running a contest on twitter. The prize is a year's subscription to Comics Kingdom Royal (free comic strips with no ads and deep archives, people!).

It's all about retweeting and getting your retweets picked up by people with scads of followers. You can  retweet as many times as you want. Full details are at the Comics Kingdom site

Don't forget, the Edison twitter handle is @EdisonLeeComics . We will be tweeting the strip every day to start things off and give you something to RT. Or you can just tweet straight from the CK site.

Comic Kudos: Rip Haywire

I did not grow up on Terry and The Pirates. And I have to confess that I didn't read Prince Valiant either.

But I did read Steve Canyon religiously from when I was about 8 until I left for college. And I also was a big fan of Dick Tracy.

Which is why I love Rip Haywire by Dan Thompson. If you aren't reading it every day you should be! Not only is Dan a master of the graphic style and pacing of an adventure strip, Rip Haywire has the added advantage of being funny to boot. I don't remember either Dick Tracy or Steve Canyon being particularly funny - they were straight up serial stories with a lot of action and some romance.

I really like the addition of humor to the adventure genre. Think "Star Trek Banter" not Laurel and Hardy slapstick.

Feast your eyes on these gorgeous samples and then head over to gocomics and subscribe to Rip Haywire today!

Edison Meets His Match In Girl Brainiac Katie Franklin

The first appearance of Katie Franklin in September of 2013

Attentive readers will have noticed the addition of a new character to the universe of Edison Lee. Her name is Katie Franklin and she's been a long time in coming.

Where did she come from? Why is she here? What will her future hold?

I'll be honest. I pushed for this character.

I threw the idea out to John one day after reading an article much like this one: New Toys Encourage Girls to be Builders

(It wasn't actually this particular article, we introduced Katie in September of 2013 and this article was published in December. But there have been enough of these articles in the past year to catch my attention.)

We've been feeling for a while now that it would be good for Edison to have another smart kid in the strip to act as a sort of nemesis. (He is clearly outclassing all the members of his family in the brain department and needs someone on his own level for tension) And I suggested that maybe his nemesis should be a girl. A really, really, really smart girl. One that could rock his world.

So we began working on this girl.

And for inspiration we found we had to look no further than our own home.

We have two sons and a daughter. When our daughter was 5 she was invited to a combination Birthday/Halloween party. We arrived and, I kid you not, every girl was dressed as a princess or a fairy (complete with wings or tiaras and sometimes both) and every boy was dressed as The Hulk or Spiderman or some other comic book superhero. I looked around and made the comment: "What we have here is a failure of the women's movement."

Not one of the other moms laughed. They didn't even smile. They looked at me as if I were some sort of lunatic.

Well, our daughter grew up to be just as interested in and talented at science as our boys had been. But when we looked around for positive role models for her in the scientific fields the pickings were slim. Not nonexistent but hardly what you would expect after 50 years of banging on the glass ceiling.

These days that daughter is in high school and pushing back pretty hard on gender stereotypes. In some ways this new character is a tribute to her.

Also the last name comes from the brilliant biophysicist Rosalind Franklin.

In general she exists to challenge Edison and, despite my role in helping throw her onstage with our favorite mad genius, she is primarily written by John. But every once in a while you will probably see something like this:

This strip came to me almost completely fully formed (except for the lines of Edison and Orville at the end) after I received the following "girl" happy meal toy. (Yes, sometimes I still get happy meals - they are small servings and sometimes the toys are fun.)

Not only was this "girl" toy a Glinda the Good Witch figurine that does ABSOLUTELY nothing except stand there and look vacant while being tethered to other Wizard of Oz figurines by a plastic piece of the yellow brick road - that was bad enough - but she is a BABY Glinda the Good Witch to boot. During this promotion the toys for boys were all cool Batman cars and Batman figures and Batman accessories that did stuff.

I immediately felt like Sally from Peanuts after she has wasted her whole trick or treating evening sitting in that danged pumpkin patch with Linus. I went on a tear and wrote that strip.

Katie's most recent appearance was Monday January 6 when she launched the following salvo written by John.

When he gave me this strip to color I almost stood up and applauded. I hope to god our daughter can remain like Katie Franklin and refuse to hide her light under a bushel basket just to make some boy feel better about himself.

I don't know what the future holds for Katie and Edison. But I'm looking forward to finding out!!

PS - Don't miss the strip on January 9 2014 when she makes another appearance!