Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Burning Question!


Artist: Walt Kelly / Colorist: Thom Buchanan

This is my burning question ('burning', get it?): Would you pay for a comic book that looked somewhat like the cover above, knowing that it had 'fan fiction' by professional cartoonists that have been influenced by Walt Kelly in one way or another over the years, each exploring some aspect of the Whirled of Kelly? 

It might be a new Peter Wheat story, or a new Fairy Tale Parade story, or new whimsical poetry, or (hold your breath) a new Albert and Pogo story, or a really good emulation of Kelly's style venturing into realms unknown. The ideas could be wildly inventive, just somehow touching on the Whirled of Kelly.

As I say, these would be professional cartoonists, commissioned from around the world, with great understanding of the wit and charm of Kelly's art and writing. It wouldn't BE Kelly—of course there was only one Kelly. But think of the different creative teams that have spun their talents on the Disney characters and such. Only in this case maybe there's a story about a kid who collects Pogo stuff, to the befuddlement of her friends. Or Mouse, good ol' mouse, could explore back stage and under the floorboards of the Cirque du Soleil. Or Peter Wheat strays into the Okefenokee.

Securing creative rights and paying good rates for cartoonists would have to be dealt with, but I want to start here, by asking you Friends-in-Kelly for your thoughts. Please, one and all, I need your feedback, both positive and negative about this idea. 

This would be a 'one-shot', something like the old Four-Color Comics series. Number 2 might be Carl Barks, or Bill Watterson, or Alex Schomberg, or Charles Schulz, or V.T. Hamlin, or George Herriman, or etc etc etc. 

I dunno. TALK to me. 

AND, if you would like a high-res (3.5 MB) 8.5x11" jpeg of the cover above without that pesky title type, just email me at Thomas@PictorialArtsJournal.com with "Kelly" in the subject field, and I will burn it over to you. 

Comments, please leave comments!

20 comments:

  1. I would pay! My preference, content-wise, leans toward more Pogo-oriented stuff; but even if it was cover-to-cover Peter Wheat, I would buy a copy or three out of curiosity, as well as out of gratitude for the countless hours (/days/months) of work you've given us for free.

    Having been anointed to Pogo through the apocryphal 1989 strip, I certainly have no problem with other artists working within the world Kelly created. While on some level it's nice that the Okefenokee has been kept "pure" (rather than having decades of watered-down imitations as some strips do), I think it would be fun to check in on the characters in 2014, and maybe even to see a wildly different take on the world by the right artist. (Sergio Aragones and others have drawn the annual Simpsons Halloween comics in their own distinctive styles, and those issues are consistently far more entertaining than the bland monthly Simpsons comics that try to imitate the show).

    And if you were to convince Neal Sternecky to do a little doodling for the issue, that would sure appeal to my sense of nostalgia!

    I hope this pans out for you, Thom. But know that you have my support.

    ~Craig

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    1. Thank you Craig! Very helpful comments!

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  2. Honestly, a the possibility of a project like this has been floating in the back of my hopeful mind for some time, I'll grant, when we ruminated about it last year. I suspect some of what prodded me forwards towards "Gon' E-Choo!" was that yearning for those particular things I was missing that only Kelly really seemed to bring us. Though hardly a well-known cartoonist considering I started publicly in May, you know I'm in, any way I can conceivably help.

    - GG, formally (A).

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    1. GG, formally (A), I had a feeling you'd be in. First thing is to determine if there is a market to make it feasible. I wish I knew how well the Fantagraphics volumes are selling. Have they cracked the market of Kelly fans?

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    2. I do admit I don't have a stable enough life circumstance that I've actually put out for the newer heavy set of books. I'm actually stripping physical possessions out of my life until my fortunes are clear that I am settling for good. I do consider myself anomalous in that regard, as I imagine most Kelly fans are older and more entrenched.

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  3. Sorry, Thom, not my cup of tea...
    I think I never made a secret out of my predilection for the Pogo-strip. Whilst enjoying some of the other Kelly works, for me they are only supporting stuff; others I really do not appreciate. And when it comes to the strip I really limit myself to the Walt K. productions and disregard all the later strips done by epigones.
    Apart from my personal preferences: How about possible copyright issues?

    Hun

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    1. Hun! You wouldn't want to read a graphic novel style story ABOUT Kelly making his rounds in New York, meeting up with Breslin, swapping drinking stories with his pals, heading off to do his Sunday strips in a hurry so he could catch a PanAm flight for a publicity tour? See Kelly and his wit in action kind of stuff.

      Or any of a thousand ideas that are not of the sort you might expect.

      All for the cost of a comic book?

      Oh well.

      Copyright issues...that's what I refer to when I talk about securing creative rights and paying good rates.

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    2. I have to agree there's so much more to this idea than simply 'let's bang out a clone of his work'. Autobiographical interpretations sound intriguing, especially some of the colorful moments with him and Kimball!

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    3. Thom - That idea is perhaps even more appealing to me than original Pogo material! From what I know, Kelly was a fascinating gentleman--generous to a fault, full of childlike wonder and love for his fellow man, and completely unable to control his excesses. A man who loved the modern City--probably couldn't have lived happily anywhere else--but fantasized constantly about a simpler, more rural time when families gathered around the piano every night, and critters could spend half the day floating aimlessly in a skiff.

      Of course, such a project would have to be handled with a precise balance of respect and irreverence, in order to properly honor him. It would be hard to do the man justice. But I'd definitely be intrigued to see the attempt.

      ~Craig

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    4. Guys, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of biographical treatment in an art style that somewhat emulates Kelly's. There are so many possibilities, from his time with Disney to his journalism days to his world travels and of course hanging around New York and his magnificent drawing board time. Little stories that skip around his life and work, all worked up with artistic & poetic license. Wouldn't that be fun to read?

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    5. I've always thought of Kelly as a 'deeper and more complicated' version of Albert, with omnipresent cigar, passionate both in kindness and his anger, true and green to that heritage. Remember the bit about him being with Kimball, talking about Chuck Jones purportedly going over his head to change things and him yelling to the waiter, "FETCH ME ANOTHER BOURBON!" in red-faced frustration? I could see him as Albert there and Kimball as Porky (who I've heard in an interview from Carolyn that Kimball was indeed the model inspiration for the character). At least that's how I see him, though it's been said he put himself in all his characters. But yes, this strikes at illuminating the biographical aspects of his life, which I think are particularly touching.

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  4. Martin Fass6/4/14, 4:43 PM

    I hope what you are considering is an actual book on paper, printed in color. From personal experience this past year, I recognize the high cost involved. Yet, and notwithstanding the many pleasures from the Whirled of Kelly blog, I know that nothing for the rest of my own lifetime can come close to the delight of a book in my hands. Many good wishes.

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    1. Martin, yes indeed—actual paper, actual color.

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    2. Martin Fass6/5/14, 6:42 AM

      To date with a color picture book, we've had printed only one or two hundred hardcovers at a time. First, they were $20 each. Then, we found a place for better quality at $12. Obviously, one could reduce the cost even more through buying five hundred or a thousand.

      Meanwhile, while our budget couldn't really take it, and I always have far too much to read, I bought the first two Pogo books from Fantagraphics. I have no idea how profitable they and several other publishers find it to keep offering beautifully prepared books, or where these "products" fit in their overall business. I suppose a certain number of financially comfortable people want to buy whatever appears.

      Right now, I'm being serious about getting rid of clutter. That might mean dropping the Sunday NYT, too. I do want space for what I'd like to buy--such as whatever you might make available--while knowing our offspring will have no interest in having anything from our shelves when the time comes for someone to clear out our house.

      Wonderful Walt Kelly has a special place in my life. Maybe I would best resolve that from now on, his work will be my slow and delicious reading at least 60 per cent of my time in an easy chair. Maybe even 75 per cent.

      Cheers to you.

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  5. Sounds worthwhile. Much as I agree that Walt Kelly can't be beat, let alone equalled, getting different people to produce new material may help to open up a new audience, and help to keep interest in Kelly's work alive.
    I would be very interested, and based on the quality of your efforts on this site, I would be willing to buy a copy or three sight unseen.
    All the best,
    Mike

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    1. Mike, yes, Long Live Kelly, the world's finest cartoonist, in my slightly humble opinion.

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  6. A fine concept, Thom. Count me in as a consumer of such a project, even if the swamp critter rights couldn't be obtained, expanding on "Peter Wheat," "Skoot" or the Dell Funnies characters in the Kelly style could make for a delightful read.

    The alternative of a biographical treatment is equally fascinating, or shorter, isolated stories illustrating Kelly anecdotes. That would allow TWO books for each artist: biographical stories and material inspired by their work.

    Knowing your dedication and commitment to quality, I'd hold no concern about the content within. A Charles Schulz or Carl Barks volume would be equally intriguing. If I can contribute in any way, I'd be glad to participate. - Dan

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  7. "Would you pay for a comic book that looked somewhat like the cover above, knowing that it had 'fan fiction' by professional cartoonists that have been influenced by Walt Kelly in one way or another over the years, each exploring some aspect of the Whirled of Kelly?"

    No.

    I admire Walt Kelly, and I respect people like you who preserve and promote his work. For this, you have my deepest gratitude.

    On the other hand, I've no need for imitations or fan fictions, and I would go out of my way to avoid them. Kelly's work, and your efforts to promote the real thing, are what matter to me.

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  8. I would definitely pay for this -- I know these "fan fictions" would not be the same as Kelly's work -- but I would like to see more of how his work is viewed by his admirers in the prof cartooning world. thanks!

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  9. I would definitely pay for this -- and would contribute to a kickstarter fund. thanks.

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