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What the strip tries to do…

As a cartoonist, it’s always interesting to read someone else’s take on Sheldon. Sometimes you want to hug your critic…and sometimes you want to throw pan-seared tofu cubes at them, for getting their write-up so wrong.

I thought this write-up largely got it right about the form and format of Sheldon (from The Webcomicker):

Some comics never let their characters change or grow. And for a lot of strips, that’s just fine. If you’re doing a gag-a-day, or some light-hearted romp, you can have your characters stay pretty static. And it is possible to create well-rounded, interesting, complex characters that your audience connects with and have them be completely static characters. Sheldon is a good example of this. There’s a lot to the character of Sheldon. He’s a genius, and a huge nerd, and struggles with not having “real” parents (although not too much, it is a humor strip, after all). He’s kind-hearted and generous, and also struggles with awkwardness and occasional feelings of inadequacy. He’s a fully-developed character you can relate to. But he’s definitely static. The Sheldon you see in today’s strip is pretty much the same Sheldon we had at the beginning of the comic. And should the strip continue for twenty more years, it’ll still probably be pretty much the same Sheldon at that time, too. And for a light-hearted humor strip, it works.

Toon Outage

My apologies that Friday’s strip went up a little late. Being on the road sometimes means the site is inaccessible until I can get back to a computer…and that was the case here. I’ve fixed the update hiccup for the next few days, so we should be good to go from here on out.

And on a separate note, a huge thanks to all the Sheldon readers who have come out to see the play in New York. We’ve sold out the first two nights, and the crowds seem to be digging the show. If you’re interested in catching a show, you can pick up tickets here.

Flying on American Airlines

My wife and I flew out to New York on American Airlines…which was the first time in about five years I’ve flown with them.

For those that fly with AA often, you’ll probably know this AA pre-flight routine far better than I…but forgive me if I share it.

The average pre-flight announcements on the average carrier go something like this:
1.) “We’re now ready to start boarding. Passengers with disabilities or small children can start boarding….”
2.) “We’re now ready to start boarding our first-class passengers…”
3.) “We’re now ready to take all the other cattle…”

But American Airlines had this weird litany of classes, ranks, affilitions and sub-affiliations that they used when announcing who could board. And they all seemed to revolve around colors.

“OK, hi, welcome to flight 249 to JFK Airport. We’re now boarding our OneWorld passengers, as well as our First Class, Premium, Silver, Platinum, Sapphire, Ruby, Titanium, Blue Steel and Diamonique members first…”

And on and on these lists of colors and classes went, lasting for a good (I kid you not) 30 seconds. To the point where my wife and I started making up additional classes they should use:

“At this time we’re boarding our Sapphire and Ruby members, as well as anyone chewing Watermelon Hubba Bubba, anyone who’s beaten Pokemon Gold or Silver, 45-year old pear-shaped women wearing yellow sweaters, tan men named “Tony”, and anyone of Scottish descent whose clan can lay claim to one of the following tartans (…at which point the stewardess would hold up various swatches of Scottish plaid).”

American Airlines: Boarding passengers by weird, seemingly random color schemes since 1998.

The Ents

Alas, if you haven’t read The Lord of the Rings, Sunday’s joke will be leave you staring blank-faced at the screen. But if you have — pow! zam! That’s the kind of cutting edge nerd humor we serve up around here. Pow! Ents jokes! Bam!

Next week: jokes about the Riders of Rohan! Pow!

Sidenote thought for Tolkien fans:
Do milk jugs in the Entwood feature “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?” pictures of the Entwives?

Helvetica – The Film

The always funny Ryan North tipped me off to a documentary that I’m now very interested to see: Helvectica.

After working for 8 years in consumer packaging, I developed sort of an odd interest in typography — and this looks right up my alley.

Graphic Designers! Nerd party at my house when this baby comes out on DVD!

In the meantime, it looks like it’s worth checking out at your local arthouse cinema….

Quick Sale Before Postal Rates Go Up

Starting Monday, all US Postal rates go up across most categories: domestic shipping, international shipping, book shipping, etc…

But before they do, I wanted offer up one last chance to get some great Sheldon Stuff at the old postal rate. So here’s what we’re gonna do: all orders received by 8PM PST on Saturday will ship out under the older, cheaper postal rate.

And to add even more encouragement towards taking the plunge before rates go up…we’re throwing in an impromptu sale as well! From now until 8PM Saturday, all original art is $15 off. (Just click on the blue text “Buy Today’s Original Art” under your favorite strip).

So head on over to the Sheldon Store.

Special note: I’d particularly recommend purchases for international Sheldon readers…as the international shipping rate will bump up by 2 to 3 dollars, in some cases.

Question of the Day: Tree Branching

Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been thinking about old-growth sequoias for the last few days.

A decade back, I had the chance to wander a mile into a sequoia grove, and it took my breath away. They’re beautiful, massive trees, and almost completely block out direct sunlight to the forest floor. Walking among them, it feels like you’re stepping into another world.

But it’s that complete lack of sunlight (at lower quarters) that’s raised a question in my mind…and despite some research, I can’t find the answer.

Here it is: For giant trees like these, I would imagine that the treetop photosynthesis is pretty critical. Packed (comparatively) close together, these giants must compete with one another for sunlight as they reach heights of over 300 feet. And since the average sequoia grove allows very light sunlight toward a tree’s base, any extra photosynthesis that the tree can squeeze in must be invaluable..

But let’s suppose that, halfway up a sequoia, a patch of sunlight consistently hits the tree’s trunk for 20 years. No sunlight hits the trunk above or below that spot for 50 feet…but right here…in this one spot…through some accident of placement…sunlight strikes.

Does a tree have a trigger response to that sunlight, such that it will branch out in response? Or is tree branching completely dictated by a set of fixed, geometric rules…and is unwavering? Keep in mind, I’m not talking about a branch bending or leafing toward the light once it’s already started growing: I’m talking about the tree creating a new branch in reaction to light’s presence.

The sign of a good education is the ability to research fields unknown to you. But in this case, my literature/art/propaganda background is failing me miserably.

Is there an aboriculturalist or arborist in the house? I’d love to share the answer with everyone, if you’d like to e-mail me or post in the Sheldon forum.

Drawing Fonts

“Comic Sans” just looks like a font that would have a lisp.

He just seems like the kind of font that would constantly be pushing his glasses back up his nose…and lisping about how he used to love doing “Picture Pages” with Bill Cosby…all the while arranging his Dungeons and Dragons commemorative keepsake cups from Burger King. A class-A doofus, essentially.

In the process of drawing today’s strip, I went through about half a dozen potential sketches of what Comics Sans personified should look like. Mainly, I tried anthropomorphizing the font itself. But a bent and twisted font — especially when hand-drawn — quickly becomes something that looks entirely unlike itself.

So, finally, I just decided that a white, square scrap of paper — with the font name written on it — would have to do. There are times when the simplest of simple character designs are not just the better solution — they’re the only solution. Giving a font anthropomorphized looks, and still maintaining its inherent “fontness”, is perhaps beyond its original design specifications. “Times New Roman” wasn’t designed to wave its anthropomorphized hands around.

Much to my chagrin.

New Yorkers!

New Yorkers! A quick reminder!

I’ll be in NYC next week for a one-week run of “Skirts & Flirts” — the sold-out play that I did in Los Angeles. The play is very, very funny and heartwarming — and I ended up with a great part, so do come out:

PLACE: The Kraine Theatre (85 East 4th St., 10003)

SHOWTIMES: May 16, 17, 18 @ 8PM; and May 19 @ 2PM & 8PM

PRICE: Cheap! Just 18 smackers…which is pretty much the price of a street-vendor hot dog in NYC these days.

TICKETS: Available at the door, but I’d recommend picking up advance tickets *here*, as some shows are goin’ fast.

Cobie Smulders,
Nadine Velazquez,
Joe Manganiello, Scarlett Lam,
Drew Powell,
Matt Carmody,
David Scales,
Maya Parish,
Lara Wickes,
Tressa di Figlia,
Kate Micucci, and
Gloria Calderon Kellett.

Here’s a pic of the cast, proving that I am the least attractive person involved. (This shot came out looking like a Beveryly Hills 90210 promo shot, didn’t it?)

Awesomeness, Texas-Style

The CAPE comics show was an absolute blast. Or rather, the CAPE show, surrounded by a weekend of laughter with my two hosts, Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub, was an absolute blast.

Scott and Kris are two of my favorite cartoonists, and it was great to see how they worked in their shared toonin’ studio, Halfpixel.

Cartooning is a wonderful, wonderful job, but a lot of it is spent in comparative isolation. Long days alone…that sort of thing. So getting the chance to work side-by-side with these two was really fun.

Scott always jokes in a Texas accent, “Come to Texas — we’ll treat you right.” And they certainly did at the CAPE event on Friday. So a hearty thanks also goes out to the folks at Zeus Comics for hosting.

Sheldon readers came from as far as Austin and Mexico, which was awesome. And, this being the first “outdoor tent” comics event that I’ve attended, I was pleasantly surprised to see 3 or 4 Sheldon readers even bring their pugs out. But a huge thanks to everyone that came out — including a lot of Sheldon Forum posters — it was great meeting all of you!