It's tough to make a living doing creative work these days. I know--I was supporting myself as a writer, as regular readers know, until suddenly I couldn't. I'm working just as much as ever, but having to squeeze it all in around a day job and a 3-hour round trip commute.
Stepping back in time a minute: I've been a fan of comic books and comic strips basically forever. In high school I had a brief flirtation with the idea of becoming a cartoonist. I met Brant Parker, who was doing The Wizard of Id strip at the time. I had a subscription to a great magazine called Cartoonist PROfiles, which published until 2005 and covered cartooning in incredible depth. I still have some of those issues, from the late 60s/early 70s. I corresponded briefly with Garry Trudeau, and throughout my adult life and career in the book and comic book industries, I've been fortunate enough to meet many wonderful cartoonists. On the wall above my desk is a sketch of Opus that Berke Breathed drew for me, on an invitation to a party in his honor.
I love a lot of the classics, like Peanuts, and the more modern classics (though still decades old at this point) like Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbes, Doonesbury, etc. But my very favorite of recent strips is one called Cow & Boy, which ran in the local paper for a while (but which disappeared from the paper, taking away one of the only possible reasons to read it).
Cow & Boy is by Mark Leiknes, who I've e-mailed with a couple of times but who I don't actually know. Without knowing him, though, I can safely say that we share much in common. Cow & Boy is rife with references to pop culture, especially geek-oriented pop culture. If you read my work, you would probably understand and enjoy the strip's cultural touchstones.
Briefly, the Boy is Billy, a farm kid who's friends with the Cow, whose name, as far as I know, is Cow. Billy talks to Cow, Cow talks to Billy. Sometimes Martin shows up, but mostly it's just those two. Billy's wildly imaginative, Cow a bit more down to earth. Check today's Columbus Day-oriented strip for a good example.
The art's pretty basic, but it's exactly what it needs to be to do the job. The faces, especially Billy's, are expressive, and the humor is more often in the words than the pictures. I read a lot of comic strips, and Cow & Boy is the one that is most likely to get me laughing out loud, sharing with friends, etc. It's a true gem.
But getting back to that initial point, it's tough to make a living doing creative work. And comic strips--in a world where newspapers are folding right and left--are particularly challenged because of that trend. Online comics are great, but hard to monetize until they become hugely successful.
As a result, Cow & Boy is going to be dropped by its syndicate. Mark Leiknes is trying to make a go of it independently, but it looks like he'll have to do what I did--take a day job and cut back on his art. That's a terrible thing. The only saving grace is that he does not intend to stop doing the strip, he just won't be able to do it as often. Unless, of course, it develops a huge audience that enables him to make his living with his cartoons.
That's where you come in.
Take a look at CowandBoy.com and check out the strip on GoComics (it's free to sign up). If you love it half as much as I do, tell all your friends. When Mark announces his fundraising program, whether it's on kickstarter or wherever, pitch in.
We live in a world in which there used to be a lot of brilliant, beautiful comic strips, well printed in newspapers everywhere. Only papers shrank them and shrank them, and cut them, and generally treated them as insignificant filler. Maybe the intertubes are the way to save the art form. It's worth a try.
And supporting one of the best is worth a few bucks and a little of our time. Let's do it.