Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ted's Top Interior Decorating Tips

"Knock down all interior walls, buy 22 store mannequins, outfit them with helmets and jerseys, magnetize the floorboards and voilĂ ! Life-size electronic football!"

"Put restroom signs on all your bathrooms. Then when a guest asks if they can use your bathroom say, 'Restrooms are for customers only' and demand they buy something or get out."

"Prevent burglars from being able to sneak into your house by replacing carpeting with bubble wrap."

"Can't fall asleep? Attach an adult musical mobile over your bed featuring your favorite soft rock classics. After all, nothing will have you tapping your toes in the land of Nod like 'Eye in the Sky.'"

"Construct one continuous Habittrail through every room in your home. Launch an Estes rocket inside it every hour on the hour."

"Display cases are okay for collectibles. But if you really want to man it up you need to remember two simple words--'curio shelf.'"

"Nothing says, 'I lost everything in the divorce/stock market/grease fire' like black pressboard cabinets. But add a small vase with single carnation on top and suddenly you're exclaiming, 'I'm feelin' fine and makin' do!'"

"Children are a cheap source of framable art."

"If you find yourself Febrezing your couch more than three times a week and you don't have a pet then consult your gastroenterologist immediately."

"If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times--love makes a home but kettle cozies make an impression."

My Week Drawing "Bizarro": Day Four

Three thoughts on today's strip:

1. This probably would have worked better if I had used Snap, Crackle and Pop instead of the Keebler Elves. That said, Ernie does have a might fine Olympia Dukakis vibe going on.

2. I can't quite tell if Ernie is a transvestite of transsexual (knowing so little as I do about the psychological and emotional qualities of cookie spokescharacters). Thoughts?

3. My new, new favorite review of my guest hosting abilities, courtesy of a reader's comment on Piraro's blog: "Replacement sucks is an understatement ....what was Dan thinking calling this guy a genius?....Its fools like this weeks guy however you pronounce his name that makes Jim Davis look like a genius."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Listen, Sal, Murderers Rarely Return to the Scene of the Crime. So Think How Many Psychopaths Won't Return to a House Where 12 People Were Killed!"

I like how reasonable Ted is being in this scenario. After all, there is a rather distinct difference between 12 former residents being killed by homicidal phantoms and 12 former residents dying from simple lethal mishaps. Spirits, sure, you might lose some sleep or you might find your daughter now has an imaginary demonic pig-friend named "Jodie" but outside of a complete structural implosion or encroaching topiary animals you're probably looking at nominal to nil cosmetic damage and upkeep costs. Whereas death by accident almost certainly means the steps on the stairs are loose or the floor is completely warped or the load-bearing wall is made up entirely of graham crackers and thus prone to ill-timed cave-ins and one can only imagine how much that's gonna cost you to bring the house up to code or a safe standard of living or superficial stability in time for a quick resale and speedy getaway.

I also like how I did a family strip about mass murder.

My Week Drawing "Bizarro": Day Three

I'd like to thank all the people who have sent complimentary or congratulatory emails regarding my Bizarro guest-hosting duties this week (you two know who you are). But posting such messages here would be far too bumptious and quite frankly boring to my readers (you two know who you are). So instead here's a comment regarding yesterday's strip:

"I thought the Tonsil Fairy was really gross."

Thus, in order to avoid any further negative reactions or backlash, I present today's strip:

I'm still not crazy about my layout in this panel, but I am quite proud at the nice gradation in the background (which I learned under Dan Piraro's Photoshop tutelage). Somehow, however, I don't think either composition or coloring are going to be the focus of any emails I may receive today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The New Medium Large RSS Feed!

Here it is for all who requested (and a big "Thank you!" to the thoughtful person who created it):


Thank you very much for all your great support and kind words!


My Week Drawing "Bizarro": Day Two

While my first Bizarro regrettably required that the reader to be of a particular age to get the joke (something I hadn't thought of even though it's proven a common dilemma whenever Ted goes off on another pop culture tangent), today's entry immediately speaks to everyone's memory of the fabled Tonsil Fairy, a sprite who never should have dropped out of law school.

I actually like this strip partly because it isn't a pop culture riff and partly because, quite honestly, it made me laugh when I first drew it. I also like how, judging from my shadowing, the light source appears to be a lamp inexplicably turned upright on the floor between the fairy and the sleeping child (which is another way of my saying I fucked up).

Some of you may not know this but there are actually four versions for each and every Bizarro daily strip you see, something I was not made aware of until I accepted Dan Piraro's generous offer to guest host his comic. First there is the example at the top of this post, a panel-size version done in full-color. Then there is the black & white version for newspapers who choose not to print their weekday funnies in color:

In addition to the panel version, there are also black & white and color classic strip versions, which are often far more accommodating for newspaper real estate:

Dan Piraro colors his strips himself and so I had to as well--something else he failed to inform me before I accepted the task. He also told me that he does not get paid in any usual currency but rather in Chiclets, of which I will get some after FICA. He also said I to clean and paint his two-story apartment, feed, care for and--curiously enough--clothe his ever-growing menagerie of sick or motherless animals and do a dance he called "The Humiliation," in which I twisted for six hours straight in a tea dress while he laughed, insulted and filmed me.

Please join me tomorrow for my next guest Bizarro strip, otherwise known as "the one that will get me hate mail."

Let's Do the Time Warp Again...And Again...And Again...

Like most strips, Sally Forth is both stuck in time's frozen pond and yet unmoored from its rocky shores. (How's THAT for a confusing metaphor?). In fact, one look at the funny pages would make it appear as if every comic character was playing out his or her own version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, replete with all the allusions to the Aesthetic Movement, Faustian bargains, gothic horror and hedonism one expects to find in both Oscar Wilde's classic novel and Drabble.

This very time paradox in turn causes numerous narrative inaccuracies. Just like The Simpsons--in which Homer and Marge's dating period is first introduced to the strains of Steve Miller's "The Joker" and last explored to the tune of Bush's "Glycerine"--The Forths are blessed and cursed with a backstory that can constantly be rewritten but never be dependable. Sometimes that's freeing while other times it can be confusing to both author and reader.

Hence today's strip. Sally Forth first appeared in newspapers in 1982. Of course, since Sally says they have been living in the house for ten years, that means they actually moved in sometime in 1972. Which means, naturally, that Ted and Sally are in their seventies and Hilary is a 46-year-old twice-divorced mother of three who just can't lay off the sauce and has a weakness for bad men and good odds at the craps table.

Update: For more on the nebulous time zone that is the comics pages, check out Yellojkt's incisive and hilariously invective Comic Strip Temporal Dynamics.


As of this 10:00 this morning Medium Large is the fastest growing Wordpress blog of the day!

A big "Thank you!" to everyone who checked out the site. And a huge "Grazie!" for the shout-out from that definitive gentleman and scholar himself, Josh of Comics Curmudgeon! Without him no doubt my site would instead be listed as number one under "Author of Blog Presumed Dead or Indifferent to Own Site."

Thanks again, everyone!

UPDATE: Medium Large is now Number 95 in Wordpress's "Top 100 Blogs." Thanks again, everybody!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Return of Medium Large!

After months (years?) of broken promises, shattered dreams and perforated plans, the new Medium Large Comics website launches TODAY! (Just in time to coincide with my week-long stint as Bizarro understudy and the fact that I finished creating said site at around 3:30 this morning).

So why not while away a few minutes, hours or years (should the strip bore you to such a degree you slip into a persistent vegetative state) at Medium Large with brand-spankin' new spankin' daily strips as well as fan-spankin' favorites, the complete spankin' archives of both Teenage Girl President and Victorian-Era Superhero and the never-before-seen, long-promised but not onced aired (in print) of the spankin' "Season One" spankin' episodes of Todd & Son: The Series. Spankin'!

So relive the good times, make some new memories and rejoice in what Sally Forth could be if for some reason I decided to endanger both my job and professional reputation (such as it is).

And a sincere "Thank you!" to all who gave their tremendous support and shared their thoughts online over the years. Without you I never would have had the confidence to relaunch the strip or even scored the Bizarro gig in the first place. I owe you all a beer (hope you guys don't mind sharing one).

Update: Web tracker BuzzFeed highlights Medium Large in their Tech Buzz.

Update 2: Editor & Publisher reports on how the poor, misguided Dan Piraro handed me the keys to his Bizarro kingdom for one week.

My Week Drawing "Bizarro": Day One

Over the course of drawing this week's strips I gradually began to realize I compose comic panels like Kevin Smith composes film scenes: groups of two or three people talking, captured in a medium shot, ad infinitum.

So understanding that I in no way possess the artistic genius and eye for composition of Bizarro creator, good friend and all-around mensch Dan Piraro, I instead sought to compensate with a series of comics on psychoactive drugs, fundamentalism and transgender copyright infingement. I hope it proves to be a fun week for all.

As for today's strip, I'm glad I was finally able to put to use the many hours I spent skimming my roommate's DSM-IV while I was an unofficial student at Cornell Medical School (all made possible by dating a neurology student and somehow winding up with almost unlimited access to the school's library, computers and classrooms). Alas, I never was able to get into the anatomy lab, where two of my now-married best friends first locked eyes over the open corpse of an unclaimed hobo.

Frankly, if that doesn't say "the start of a beautiful relationship" then there may not be hope for any of us.

Please tune in tomorrow when my next Bizarro strip covers break-ins and the elementary school black market.

PS: When I called Mssr. Piraro last night to see how he enjoyed San Diego Comic Con, he was sitting on the front lawn of a Hollywood mansion after an all-star animal rights fete, somewhat inebriated on top-shelf Scotch and chatting with the niece of Dr. Jonas Salk (all the while trying to convince me she has polio). I was sitting on an Ikea couch yelling at Wordpress. Lesson: The famous really do live different than you and me...Well, definitely me...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Next President of the United States?

So sayeth Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post:

"I've given this a lot of thought, and my presidential candidate is Hilary Forth, Ted and Sally's eleven-year-old daughter. Her age might seem to post a Constitutional problem, but that's misleading: Hillary was 11 when the strip debuted in 1982, so she is currently 37. She gets my nod for the simple reason that she is the only character out there with a sense of humor, a sense of humility, a highly cynical streak, and an ability to manipulate others to achieve what she wants, which is the definition of diplomacy. Also, she is just plain cool. Her running mate would the The Flash, obviously. I have researched this and The Flash CAN carry others at the speed of light, allowing him and Hilary an incredible 50-state whistestop campaign."

That's right, an official endorsement by The Washington Post. So on behalf of Hilary Forth may I say she proudly accepts your great support, Gene, and will be delivering an in-depth speech on syndicated strip-webcomic relationships in Berlin later this afternoon. Thank you and Jeebus Bless America.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm Filling in on "Bizarro"!!!

Just wanted to let you know that for one week, July 28-August 2 (with a Sunday strip on August 24), I will be taking over art and writing duties for Bizarro thanks to the kindness of the strip's creator Dan Piraro, who took time off to fight crime or whatever it is he does when he dons a cape and cowl, jumps out his apartment window and says, "Don't wait up."

The strip will still appear under the name Bizarro but will feature my own comics and the website for my webcomic Medium Large (which is still in what web designers like to call in the 'unmitigated disaster' phase of construction). Dan will also be reviewing each strip the day of publication on his blog, where he will surely pepper his critiques of my comics with such bon mots as "mere dilettante," "a national disgrace" and "this bastard has ruined me." I'll also be blogging on the copious mistakes I made with each strip.

This is the first time Dan has used a guest cartoonist in the history of his strip. By the end of my run we'll see if it will be his last.

Once again, I want to thank Dan for asking me and spending several hours teaching me all the wonders of Photoshop, (including the glory that is "multiply" layering) and giving this amateur the inside scoop on the necessities of comic strip publishing. I also want to thank Evelyn Smith for walking me through some color processing issues and dealing with all my questions about formatting. And a big thank you to my editor and head honcho Brendon Burford for giving the go-ahead and always listening to my rambling, circuitous comments and queries. I owe all of you beers.


Today is the birthday of the Josh Fruhlinger, creator and commentator of The Comics Curmudgeon, the indispensable waggish review of all comic strips. Stop by his site today and wish him a happy b-day!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Lost Blog Posts of B.C. Cartoonist Johnny Hart

"Why can a family gesture to themselves and say, 'We're Jewish' but I can't point at them and say, 'The Jews'? What kind of world do we live in where they can teach the Koran in a Muslim Studies class but not the Bible in a Macroeconomics course? When did women start wearing pants and writing things other then the annual family Christmas letter? We live in confusing times, people, and I for one blame hip-hop."

"The war in Iraq, the rise in terrorism, that Italian who got elected to our school board. These are all signs of the coming Apocalypse. Soon the righteous will be taken to God and the rest will see what happens when you no longer have school vouchers to help limit your kids' dating pool."

"The great thing about being born again is that guy who commited all those bank heists no longer exits, so I'm in the clear."

"Of course it is well within the right of a parent to hit their children should they be disrespectful. Why, just last week my son spouted some nonsense about 'other religions' and I immediately whipped out my trusty belt ('Buckles') to set him straight. But then his teenage daughter had to go burst into tears and his wife threatened to arrest me for attempted manslaughter, so I put 'Buckles' back on the nail by the front door as a reminder that no one gives credence to Episcopalians under my roof."

"Sometimes when I'm standing on back porch at night I look up at the stars and think I could almost touch them. Then I get up on a chair and give it a try. When that doesn't work I get a broom handle, hoping to knock one down. No luck so far but one day I'll possess Heaven's fire and then no zoning board will be able to tell me where I can and cannot shoot ducks."

"Science is the worst thing to happen to American society since the Bravo Channel. Why must we be forced again and again to hear such untruths as evolution, carbon dating and flightless birds? After all, life--all that we see around us--is the work of a sole, supreme intelligent designer. A designer with limitless power but only so much resources and time. That's why not every one got to be white."

"I think what I like most about 'The Flinstones' is its verisimilitude."

"While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level Christianity holds in our country's heritage. I firmly believe USA's founders expected that Christians--and only Christians--would set the dialogue for our nation, be permitted to run for public office or walk outside after 6 P.M., be allowed dine on home intruders, be awarded as much land as could be traveresed in a fortnight by jetpack, all be named John and be imbued with the power to alter the very physical structure of trees with a simple stare."

"Charlie Daniels should be made our nation's Poet Laureate. He put the devil in its place. Robert Pinsky couldn't even play the fiddle."

"Some people say if gay couples can't be married because of religious doctrine then why can't they have a civil union? After all, some people say, that way their marriages can't be judged solely on one group's notion of sin but rather regarded in legal terms. Some people then go on to say that a lot of straight couples are married outside of the church and yet their marriages are still recognized by society, so why can't the same benefits be extended to gay and lesbian marriages? Some people apparently don't realize that freedom of speech is a gift that's best left unopened."

"When people ask me if B.C. takes place in prehistoric times or in a postapocalyptic future, I always say the same thing--'According to the Bible, comic strips don't exist.'"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hunka Hunka Burning Ted

"You know, I think Ted just might be the virile love machine he says he is. He has the makings.

He’s curious, willing to play with toys, not at all self conscious, open to new ideas and most likely very grateful. I could see him as a power bottom.

It’s just the weeping afterwards that would turn most people off."
--Commentator on Comics Curmudgeon

Ted is what one would call "passively masculine." To look at him you might think he's the type to shriek at the sight of a butterfly (and he has). But in the right situation, in the right environment, with the right odds stacked in his favor, the right tools at the ready and the right side of his opponent felled by a massive stroke, Ted can go at his attacker like Ralphie on Scut Farkus, hurling his tiny fists with wild abandon and cursing like a man possessed before collapsing in sobs and having Sally bring him home to wash his face.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Feel-Good Video of the Day

Given the location footage it's probably best to go here and select "watch in high quality."

You can also read The New York Times article about the video here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Interview with Sequential Tart

Or as it should have been titled, A Very Nice Person Interviews a Raving Idiot.

I want to thank the lovely Rachel Edidin of Sequential Tart for her interest, her thoughtful questions and her unending patience with both my propensity for inane tangents and just how long it often took me to respond to her queries.

For those interested in how Sally Forth relates to French literature and British espionage, please read the interview here.

And make sure to check out the Sequential Tart site, a fantastic weekly webzine about comic art (graphic novels, webcomics and the daily strips), writing, reviews, interviews and everything for anyone who knows that there's absolutely nothing geeky in being a geek.

As for the above photo, I didn't quite know what picture to include with this post. So I opted for the pic that would have served as my Christmas card last year had I actually gotten around to sending out Christmas cards. The caption was to read, "Oh God...the the bed...she's not asleep, is she?"

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ah, The Starland Vocal Band. Has any band better captured the zenith of the pop music charts and the nadir of civilization at the same time? Has any song better encapsulated the very moment social activism gave way to personal indulgence like their hit Afternoon Delight?. Has any group's name better expressed the phrase "Soon to have an animated cameo on The New Scooby Doo Movies"?

As it turns out, The Starland Vocal Band did indeed score a television appearance as hosts of their very own variety show (for those who think reality television represents the very worst in television programming, you clearly were not alive when "variety" meant everything was written by Bruce Vilanch, every joke was targeted towards your polyester and wood bead necklace-clad parents, Bob Hope dressed as Darth Vader and Paul Lynde, Pinky Tuscadero, Tim Conway and Florence Henderson starred in a rousing musical salute to, well, music) The band's show--which ran the summer of 1977, long after they had cemented their reputation as a one-hit wonder but sadly before Son of Sam could kill us all--was hosted by a then unknown Good Times comedy writer named David Letterman and featured stand-up comic Jeff Altman, who went on to host his own unforgettable variety show, Pink Lady and Jeff (seen here in an NBC midseason promo).

"Afternoon Delight," by the way, hit the top of the pop charts exactly one week after the Bicentennial. Anyone know what ditty it overtook to score that coveted perch?

"Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney.

Let's just say thank God we had our nation's 200th anniversary to get us through the summer of '76.

And as befitting a Fourth of July Post, yet another history lesson from Schoolhouse Rock:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

VHS Copy of "The Burning Bed" Not Included

I still have the Farrah Fawcett poster I begged my dad to get me:

Not in my current apartment, mind you. That would be a tad disconcerting (I eventually decided after much deliberation and consultation with the very same people who talked this 40-year-old out of covering his walls with Wacky Package stickers). For now it resides in my parents' garage, along with Aurora racetracks, SST Racers, Johnny Bench Batter-Up, Micronaut Tube Station, a Star Trek Control Room playset, several Star Wars action figures and, oddly enough, a S.W.A.T. TV Series toy truck.

But for many years the poster hung in my bedroom not only because I thought Farrah was attractive but also--and more importantly--I thought it made this once fat, painfully shy kid who couldn't breathe in front of girls and didn't kiss one until an embarrassingly late age look just a little more normal. ("Okay, he actually sneaks peeks at his dad's Playboy issues only for the comics but at least there's a chick in a swimsuit on his wall.") In fact, to that end it remained on my wall long after Farrah had left Charlie's Angels, divorced Lee Majors and failed to ignite a nation's imagination on fire with Saturn 3. And so what was meant to be proof positive of my impending manhood eventually served as evidence of my all-too-obvious social immaturity.

On the plus at least my dad didn't get me the Miss Piggy poster I also requested. However, my girlfriend does have a signed autograph of Miss Piggy which now proudly resides in our apartment (how a Muppet could actually autograph a photo is a question best left for another day).

I like to think that somehow, somewhere, my eight-year-old self is thinking, "Wow, a girl and a signed Miss Piggy photo?! Well done, Ces. Well done indeed."

And, of course, it wouldn't be Fourth of July Post Week without another history lesson from Schoolhouse Rock:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Fourth Wall Is Structurally Unsound

As promised/threatened, the Forths are about to embark down memory lane to relive the marvels and merchandizing of the U.S. Bicentennial. And in honor of such self-indulgent recollections about the Spirit of '76, I present:

Five Little-Known Facts About the Declaration of Independence

• The official Declaration was actually preceded by several local declarations of independence issued by towns, counties and states during the spring and early summer of 1776. Most notable was that of the small hamlet of Marlborough, Massachusetts which stated, in full, "We're wicked pissed."

• After the enormous success of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson was quickly signed on to write a sequel to capitalize on the buzz. Alas, Declaration II: Philadelphia Nights proved to be a dismal commercial failure, despite Ben Franklin's glowing review that it delivered "arse-kicking good fun."

• The Second Continental Congress was initially established as a "Senior Executive Golf and Spa Retreat" for the colonies' well-heeled leaders, until public outcry for revolution and poor link conditions diverted their attention.

• John Hancock became the first signer of the Declaration only after besting the other representatives in a competition one onlooker described as "a most contentious rivalry of character strength both great and admirable"--otherwise known as bare-knuckle boxing.

• The Declaration was originally conceived to be real aloud in beat to Hadyn and Bach music samples, but the conceit was soon discarded when the rhyming structure proved too unwieldy and references to "hos" and "Cristal Champagne" far too numerous.

And, speaking of the declaring Independence, here's another Schoolhouse Rock history lesson: