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Monday, September 13, 2010

Vote for Oh, Brother!

Sometime in early August, I devoured the entire Oh, Brother! collection to date in about 20 minutes. Then I played all the games. And now I am hooked.

With the news of Cathy Guisewite’s retirement, Sunday funny papers across the country will need a replacement.  Pennsylvania’s Patriot News is putting the decision in the hands of readers by allowing us to vote on one of five selections. Internet readers are included, so this means you!  Why not click on this link and vote for Oh, Brother! It only takes a couple of seconds!

If you’re not sure that Oh, Brother! is your first choice, please read on and enjoy this interview with creators Bob Weber Jr. and Jay Stephens.  And remember: if we make the Sunday funnies a happy place for kids, then there will be a future for Sunday funnies.

Oh, Brother! is the best kid’s strip in ages.  It’s sweet and charming, offering a daily peek into the funnier side of sibling relationships. Always funny and never mean, it’s one of the smartest strips I’ve seen in a long while. It really works for all ages. Older siblings can relate to Lily, and younger siblings can relate to her little brother Bud. Parents can smile over their own children all over again.

Oh, Brother! is the result of one of the most welcome collaborations since Parker and Hart brought us The Wizard of Id. The talents of Bob Weber Jr. (Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids) and Jay Stephens (Tutenstein and The Secret Saturdays) have combined to create a loving homage to Charles Schulz and all the comics featuring kids that he inspired. There is not one trace of snark or cynicism here.  Oh, Brother! is pure.

Not only is it the best kid’s strip I’ve seen in forever, it’s perfect for pocket computers. Kids can use their Nintendos or iPods or PS3s or etc. to read the daily strip, play the games, learn to draw, and interact with other readers by uploading photos of their pets and samples of their art.

Yet even though Oh, Brother! takes optimal advantage of new media resources, it honors old traditions, too. While web comics can be in color seven days a week, the Sunday strip is larger in scope and benefits from landscape orientation. It makes a big splash on the screen. All’s right with the world!

Bob and Jay kindly gave us a few moments of their time, so that you can get to know the creators of this delightful and intelligent new strip.

ITCH: What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

Jay: I have a crappy memory, so I’m not sure if I’m recalling this correctly. Plus all those emotionally scarring Marvel comics I had in the 70′s like Son of Satan, Tomb of Dracula, Ghost Rider, and Morbius, the Living Vampire (care of Spider-Man) are messing with my memories by creating a traumatic mind-block of horror. I know I had, and loved, a bunch of those little Peanuts and Family Circus paperbacks. And I remember being enchanted with the early history of animation that Walt would occasionally cover on The Wonderful World Of Disney. I became obsessed with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Felix the Cat and Betty Boop.

Bob: At age 21 I sold my first gag cartoon to American Machinist magazine ($15). I was also inking and writing gags for my father’s comic strip Moose and Molly.

What are you reading right now?

Jay: The IDW Family Circus collections. Hellboy. And Hayao Miyazaki’s Starting Point 1979-1996. Obviously my growth is stunted.

Bob: I’m reading volume 1 of John Stanley’s Nancy comics, published by Drawn and Quarterly. Before that I read Stanley’s Little Lulu collections by Darkhorse Books. Stanley is ‘the man’ right now.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

Jay: I almost hate to admit I heart Harvey Comics. Casper, Hot Stuff, and especially Spooky. The writing is absolutely terrible, but I can’t seem to get enough!

Bob: My guilty pleasure is sitting down for lunch with my wife and watching the daytime soap The Bold and The Beautiful for the last 20 years.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

Jay: Genius Canadian underground cartoonist Chester Brown, I think. Don’t Google that if you’re under 14! Other indelible impressions were made early on by meeting John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy) and Will Eisner (The Spirit).

Bob: The first cartoonist I remember meeting was um… my father. The second cartoonist I remember meeting was the wonderfully talented Orlando Busino. Living in Connecticut gave me the opportunity to meet some of the greatest cartoonists in the country. Within a few miles there was Stan Drake, Mort Walker, Jerry Dumas, Bill Yates, Dik Browne, Gill Fox, Hal Foster, Tony DiPreta, John Prentice, Dick Cavalli, Jerry Marcus, Dick Wingert, Kurt Swan, Whitney Darrow Jr. and more! Every one of them a gentleman and an inspiration!

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

Jay: Ub Iwerks. Oh! And Winsor McCay.

Bob: Bob Clampett

What would you say?

Jay: Thank you.

Bob: Thank you!

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

Jay: Tied for biggest highlight is: 1) Seeing the float based on my cartoon character Tutenstein go by in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and 2) Seeing the Mattel toy line based on my animated series The Secret Saturdays at Toys ‘R Us for the first time.

Bob: There have been three highlights in my career. 1) My first magazine sale. 2) The successful syndication of my Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids comic. 3) The launch of Oh, Brother!

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

Jay: Oh, Brother! is a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to do an old-school daily strip forever! Three of my own pitches were rejected over the years, so I’m glad Bob could make my dream a reality by writing such instantly classic material. We both have older daughters and younger sons and can readily identify with the characters and situations. And we are both passionate about the history of comics and the need for more great all-ages comics in the current scene.

Bob: I am having a blast writing Oh, Brother! and my co-creator Jay Stephens impresses me every day with his beautiful and funny art!

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

Jay: Happy Hooligan. Or Sleepy from the Seven Dwarfs.

Bob: Mr. Peabody’s boy Sherman, from Jay Ward’s Peabody’s Improbable History segments on Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Jay: The power to shift around my base elements a la Metamorpho. Nerd alert!!!

Bob: Flying would be awesome, x-ray vision could be interesting … but I’d settle for being the greatest guitar player in the universe.

Beth here: Sometimes I think if I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to survive without food, water, and shelter, so that I could spend my life doing nothing but reading comics from creators like Bob and Jay!  I know they’re not dead, but thanks, guys!  Thank you!


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One Response to “Vote for Oh, Brother!”

  1. Steve Barr Says:

    Great interview. Although I have to confess to being somewhat biased due to the fact that I’ve known Bob Weber, Jr. for years now, I would have fallen in love with this feature even if someone else was doing it. He and Jay have put together a great feature and a wonderful website. Anyone who loves comics should take a moment or two to check it out each day. The art is beautiful, the writing is perfect, the games on the site are fun and I really enjoy the fact that they let younger kids post their own drawings on their site. Exposure like that helps lead to the development of the next generation of great cartoonists.

I.T.C.H is looking forward to your thoughts. Please, no flame. Thanks!