A Great Editor is a Cartoonist's Best Friend.
Here's a sneak peek into the process and the cartoons in an upcoming publication.
First let me apologize for missing my Sunday publication. It was unavoidable since the summer sun and outdoor activities are too strong to resist in the usually cloudy and wet Pacific Northwest. Also, I was busy toiling away on an assignment for the next issue of The American Bystander.
When Mike Gerber told me about the upcoming issue’s 1970s theme. He asked me if I had any ideas to pitch for it. Naturally, being a teen during the 1970s, I had a wealth of goofy experiences and content to pull from.
I pitched a few stories to Mike and he bought off on two of them. The first is a story about the local Drive-in that my pals and I would sneak into. That comic you’ll have to wait to see when it’s published. The second comic I pitched, and which Mike was excited to see, is called “70s TV Detectives Using Social Media.”
That’s the one which sucked up all my time this past week. I had to create some revisions and alternates thanks to Mike’s editorial guidance.
Below you’ll see a couple of the panels which didn’t make the cut for the four panel comic.
Oh sure they’re funny, but as Mike said, “Ed, there's too much candy here. The topic itself is ridiculous, so a MAD-like style, AND layering exaggeration and ridiculousness on top of it is...sugar shock.”
His guidance reminded me why a great editor is a cartoonist’s best friend.
My problem is that i was weened on Mad magazines as a kid and that over-the-top meshugas pours out of my head like sewer water in the Gowanus Canal. This problem is compounded by my internal editor which is a ghost of “the usual gang of idiots.” Ergo, the need for a great editor.
A great editor of comedy knows when to throw the cream pie and when to hold back and wait for “the rule of threes.”
The editor also knows that silly and zany isn’t as funny as character and reality, or sometimes painful reality. Which is why most sitcoms and some movies suck six ways to Sunday. Forced gags and premises never reach the true heights of good comedy. Now I know this is going to upset some folks, but just think of how awful were “The United States of Al”, “After MASH”, “Dads”, “My Mother The Car”, or any rom-com starring Sandra Bullock. (Too harsh?)
A good editor knows that a premise may sound funny but there has to be more to it. For example, while “70s TV Detectives using Social Media” is a funny premise the real humor arises from the fact that we know the characters of the TV Detectives.
As we can see in the above panel, while our collective memories of Starsky, Hutch and Huggy Bear help to bring some humor to this gag. It ultimately missed the mark due to the situation being too forced.
I pitched other ideas: Starsky and Huggy laughing at Hutch’s bird shit stained ass from sliding over the car hood too much; A slew of gags based on the “Starsky and Hutch at Playboy Island” episodes, which in themselves violate every comedy rule, but these pitches were also too forced.
“Nad Bracks!” indeed.
The second reject was my attempt at satirizing “Police Woman” Sgt. Pepper Anderson. It definitely tread into the category of forced gags. Plus since Angie Dickinson is still alive it might be a bit too mean. But on the plus side, I got to work in a drawing of Marty Allen, so what’s not to love?
Alas, the moral of this post is that without decent editing a cartoonist is nothing more than a wisecracking, drooling drawing machine hurling ink-stained stink bombs in every direction.
I hoped you all enjoyed this little peak into the process behind what goes into cartoon creation, as well a small tease of what will be appearing in the next issue of The American Bystander.
I hope you have a wonderful week. Please remember to avoid all ink-stained stink bombs.
Have a view of what defines great humor and comedy in comics? I’d love to hear it.